- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Cabinet told to air Iraq records

LONDON | Records of British Cabinet discussions over the legality of invading Iraq, held in the buildup to war in 2003, must be released to the public, a tribunal ruled on Tuesday.

Publication of the documents could embarrass Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose predecessor, Tony Blair, was accused by critics of glossing over lawyers’ initial reservations about launching the invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Brown’s office said it was considering its response to the ruling, made by a tribunal that decides on requests for documents under freedom of information laws.

The tribunal said it was in the public interest to release minutes of the Cabinet discussions.

The documents from two Cabinet meetings in March 2003 might reveal whether ministers were aware of an apparent change of mind over the invasion’s legality made by the government’s then-senior legal officer, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. Previously released documents have shown he had cast doubt on the legal grounds for war on March 7, days before Mr. Blair ordered British troops in.


Car bomb kills three soldiers

BAGHDAD | A car bomb exploded near a Kurdish party’s office Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul, killing at least three Iraqi soldiers only days before pivotal elections, officials said.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred amid rising tension as the Kurds have been jockeying for power primarily with Sunni Arabs in Saturday’s provincial elections.

The blast occurred near the offices of the Kurdish Democratic Party, which is headed by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani.


Insurgents seize seat of parliament

MOGADISHU | A hard-line Islamic group seized the seat of the Somali parliament and said Tuesday that it will establish Shariah law in the city.

Al-Shabab, which is on Washington’s list of terrorist groups, took over Baidoa late Monday, a day after Ethiopian troops who had been propping up the government ended their unpopular, two-year presence. Al-Shabab, which means “the Youth,” has been gaining ground as Somalia’s Western-backed government crumbles.

The takeover came as Somalia’s parliament meets this week in neighboring Djibouti to elect a new president. It appears unlikely the lawmakers will be able to return to Baidoa, 155 miles southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.


Ex-Little Leaguer accused in kidnap

MONTERREY | A former Little League baseball champion is accused of helping kidnap an 18-year-old who was freed in exchange for a BMW and $300,000 in ransom.

Everardo Daniel Ordonez played first base for the Linda Vista team that won the 1997 Little League World Series. The team is from Guadalupe in northeast Mexico.

Another suspect, Gustavo Gialil Baca Marcos, is the brother of Linda Vista’s star pitcher, Daniel Baca Marcos, who is now a pitcher for the Mexico City Red Devils in the professional Mexican Baseball League.

Mr. Ordonez and Gustavo Gialil Baca Marcos were arrested Friday with two others, and all purportedly confessed to the crime.


25 charred bodies found after riots

ANTANANARIVO | Firefighters have found 25 charred bodies in a looted department store in Madagascar’s capital, a day after demonstrations ended in some of the worst violence in years on the Indian Ocean island nation off the southeast coast of Africa.

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets Monday, burning the state-owned television and radio station. A security source said Monday that two people had been killed.


Singer charged in club fire

BANGKOK | Thai police have charged the singer of a band named Burn with negligence for purportedly setting off fireworks that started a New Year’s Eve nightclub blaze that killed 66 partygoers in Bangkok.

Police said Tuesday that Sarawut Ariya, 28, was performing on stage when he set off fireworks indoors at the Santika Club.

Mr. Sarawut, whose bail was set at $28,600, denied the charge. If convicted of negligence causing death, serious injuries and damaging property, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Fire raced through the two-story nightclub shortly after the New Year’s countdown, sending hundreds of panicked guests running for the main entrance. Among the dead were three Singaporeans, one Japanese and one Myanmar national.


Winds topple Marie Antoinette’s tree

VERSAILLES | It survived the French Revolution and a devastating 1999 storm, but high winds have finally toppled a towering beech tree planted for Marie Antoinette more than two centuries ago at Versailles Palace.

The 82-foot-high purple beech, one of the last trees in a hamlet dedicated to the former queen in the vast palace park, was felled Friday by an unusually fierce winter gust, the park’s head gardener said.

At least 21 people died in the winter storm that pounded France and Spain last week.

The 223-year-old tree’s collapse, which also exhumed a jumble of roots, earth and grass, was the latest blow to the ex-queen’s Versailles vegetation after her most cherished oak tree died in a 2003 heat wave.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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