- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Sarkozy wants Lieberman fired

JERUSALEM | The president of France advised Israel’s prime minister to fire Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, two senior Israeli government officials said Tuesday.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not free to disclose the contents of private conversations.

Mr. Lieberman’s appointment has been ill-received internationally because of his hard-line positions on peace and Israel’s Arab population, among other issues.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “you must get rid of that man” and replace him with the more moderate former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the officials said.

Mr. Netanyahu told the French leader that in private meetings Mr. Lieberman “sounds differently” than he does in political speeches, but Mr. Sarkozy retorted that in private talks Jean-Marie Le Pen - the far-right French politician - is “a very nice man,” the officials said.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal declined comment.

Mr. Lieberman’s spokesman, Tzahi Moshe, said: “If the things attributed to the French president are true, then the interference of the president of a respected democratic country in the affairs of a different democratic country is very serious and intolerable.”


President pardons American lawyer

MINSK | An ailing American lawyer who was imprisoned in Belarus last year on charges of using fake documents and attempted industrial espionage has walked free after a presidential pardon.

Emanuel Zeltser, 55, a diabetic, was sentenced to three years in prison in August after being convicted on charges his supporters called politically motivated.

In November, Mr. Zeltser was placed in a prison hospital after arriving at a penal colony in eastern Belarus, where he was denied medicine, according to lawyers.

On leaving the prison clinic in the eastern town of Mogilyov on Tuesday night, Mr. Zeltser said: “I am glad about my freedom.”

Earlier in the day, President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree pardoning Mr. Zeltser.

Belarus and its authoritarian leader are courting better political and economic ties with the West, and Washington had said Mr. Zeltser’s release would help the process along.


Train derails; 14 dead, dozens hurt

VIAREGGIO | At least 14 people were killed and dozens injured when a freight train hauling liquefied petroleum gas derailed and exploded as it passed their homes, officials said Tuesday.

The 14-car train was traveling from the northern city of La Spezia to Pisa when a rear car plowed into a residential neighborhood beside the train station in the Tuscan seaside town of Viareggio just before midnight Monday.

A train car filled with liquefied natural gas exploded, collapsing five buildings and setting fire to a vast area. Homes collapsed or burned, killing residents as they slept.

The exact death toll was unclear as hundreds of rescuers searched through the rubble for survivors.


14-year-old girl survives plane crash

MORONI, Comoros | A 14-year-old girl was found alive in the sea off the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros after a Yemenia Airbus A310-300 crashed Tuesday with 153 people on board, officials said.

“A doctor from the military hospital aboard one of the rescue boats called the Mitsamiouli hospital to tell them a child had been rescued alive,” Halidi Ahmed Abdou, a doctor at a medical center opened for survivors, told Reuters.

Ibrahim Abdourazak, an official at a crisis center in Comoros, told Reuters the 14-year-old girl was from a village in the center of the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Red Cross spokeswoman Ramulati Ben Ali told Agence France-Presse the girl’s condition was “not worrisome.”

Comoros Communications Minister Abdourahim Said Bakar said he thought she was the only survivor.

French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau, meanwhile, said French aviation inspectors had found a “number of faults” during a 2007 inspection of the crashed plane.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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