- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009


Morales, Chavez break ties with Israel

LA PAZ | Bolivian President Evo Morales announced Wednesday he was breaking relations with Israel over its invasion of the Gaza Strip and said he would ask the International Criminal Court to bring genocide charges against top Israeli officials.

Mr. Morales’ ally, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, also broke off diplomatic relations with Israel on Wednesday.

Israel launched the onslaught in Gaza on Dec. 27, seeking to force the ruling Hamas militant group to stop rocket attacks on southern Israel. The offensive has killed more than 940 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, according to Palestinian officials.

Mr. Morales met Tuesday with visiting Iranian officials, who gave him a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thanking Mr. Morales for his previously voicing supporting for the Palestinians.


Pakistan dismisses terrorist evidence

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | Pakistan’s prime minister downplayed the significance of an Indian dossier on the Mumbai terrorist attacks, saying it is not evidence, and drawing an angry response from New Delhi on Wednesday.

India says the dossier shows that Pakistani militants staged the November slaughter of more than 170 people. India specifically blames Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant group believed to have links to Pakistani intelligence.

Pakistan only recently acknowledged that the only surviving Mumbai gunman was Pakistani, but it insists none of its state agencies played a role in the attacks. Under international pressure, Pakistan has detained some suspects reportedly linked to the attacks, while repeatedly calling on India to provide evidence to allow legal prosecutions.

The dossier, handed over on Jan. 5, included transcripts of phone calls reportedly made during the siege by the attackers and their handlers in Pakistan.


Militant leader arrested in Kashmir

SRINAGAR | Indian police arrested a senior guerrilla leader and founding member of Kashmir’s largest militant group on Wednesday, dealing a blow to the insurgency in the disputed Himalayan region, police said.

Mohammed Ahsan Dar, former chief and founding member of Hizbul Mujahedeen was arrested in a raid near Sumbal area north of Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital.

Hizbul Mujahedeen, the largest and most active militant group in Kashmir for almost two decades, wants Kashmir to become part of predominantly Muslim Pakistan.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan both claim the region in full, but rule it in part.


Government seizes Jaffna Peninsula

COLOMBO | Sri Lankan government forces seized a final strip of Tamil Tiger rebel-held land Thursday, securing total control of the key Jaffna Peninsula in the north, the military said.

Jaffna, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka’s ethnic-minority Tamils, has long been seen as the symbolic heart of the 25-year-old separatist insurgency on the island.

Taking full control of the territory after nine years is a strategic and symbolic victory for the government.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said all of Jaffna was secured when soldiers captured Chundikkulam village. Last week, troops captured the Elephant Pass base, the insurgents’ final stronghold on the peninsula.

Rebel officials could not be reached for comment.


Suspects acquitted in hormone deaths

PARIS | A court acquitted six people Wednesday in the deaths of at least 114 people who contracted a brain-destroying disease after being treated with tainted human growth hormones.

The verdict followed a 16-year investigation into the deaths from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD.

The case stemmed from a 20-year program that involved collecting hormones from the pituitary glands of human corpses to treat thousands of French children who suffered from a deficiency in the secretion of growth hormone.

The cases were not of the widely known mad cow disease variant of CJD.


Russian warship halts pirate attack

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia | A Russian warship helped foil a pirate attack on a Dutch container ship in the dangerous Gulf of Aden, a maritime watchdog and the Russian navy said Wednesday.

Six pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades Tuesday at the cargo ship, which took evasive maneuvers while calling for help, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy-reporting center in Malaysia.

The pirates chased the vessel for about 30 minutes in the waters off Somalia but aborted their attempt to board after a Russian warship and helicopter arrived, Mr. Choong said.

Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said a Ka-27 helicopter was sent from the Admiral Vinogradov warship on patrol off the Horn of Africa and fired at three suspected pirate speedboats that were trying to attack the Dutch ship.


Brides at age 10 OK, cleric says

RIYADH | Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric was quoted Wednesday as saying it is permissible for 10-year-old girls to marry, and those who think they’re too young are doing the girls an injustice.

The mufti’s comments showed the hard-line clergy’s opposition to a drive by Saudi rights groups, including governmental ones, to define the age of marriage and put an end to the practice of child marriages.

“A female who is 10 or 12 is marriageable, and those who think she’s too young are wrong and are being unfair to her,” Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh said during a Monday lecture, according to the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper.

On Sunday, the government-run Human Rights Commission condemned marriages of minor girls, saying such marriages are an “inhumane violation” and rob children of their rights.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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