- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009


Assad invites Obama visit

BEIRUT | Syrian President Bashar Assad sent a July Fourth message full of praise to President Obama on Friday and invited him to visit Syria - the latest sign Damascus is hedging its bets in Middle East politics and warming up to its rival the United States at a time when its longtime ally Iran is in turmoil.

Mr. Assad has been expressing hopes for better ties with Washington for months, but the latest developments may make dialogue look even more attractive.

Mr. Assad sent a telegram to Mr. Obama on the occasion of the Independence Day holiday, saying, “The values that were adopted by President Obama during his election campaign and after he was elected president are values that the world needs today.”

In an interview with Britain’s Sky News, Mr. Assad invited Mr. Obama to visit Damascus to discuss Middle East peace. “We would like to welcome him in Syria, definitely. I am very clear about this,” Mr. Assad said in English.


Protesters block airport over crash

PARIS | Protesters linked arms across an entrance at Paris’ main airport Friday to keep passengers off a Yemeni flight to Comoros - a route that saw a deadly crash this week, after years of complaints about dangerous conditions on the flight path to the Indian Ocean island nation.

The airline that operated the crashed jet, Yemenia, suspended its service to Comoros in response to the Paris protest and other demonstrations this week, accusing the protesters of “inadmissible violence.”

Many in the Comoran community in France are angry that it took Tuesday’s accident, which killed 152 people on Yemenia airlines’ Paris-Moroni flight, to focus attention on the problems.


Nazi suspect fit to stand trial

MUNICH | John Demjanjuk moved one step closer to another trial after German prosecutors said Friday that doctors had deemed the 89-year-old fit to go to court on charges of being an accessory to murder at the Sobibor Nazi death camp.

Munich prosecutors accuse Mr. Demjanjuk, a retired auto worker who was recently deported from his suburban Ohio home, of being a guard at the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. They claim he was an accessory to murder in 29,000 cases and said they expect formal charges later this month.

But his son, John Demjanjuk Jr., says doctors have given him only 16 months to live, due to his incurable leukemic bone marrow disease.


British cardinal closer to sainthood

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI placed Cardinal John Henry Newman, an influential 19th-century Anglican convert, on the path to possible sainthood Friday by approving a miracle attributed to his intercession.

Cardinal Newman, a hero to many Anglicans and Roman Catholics alike, can now be beatified. A second miracle is necessary for him to be declared a saint - an event which, if it happens, would make him the first English-born saint since the Reformation.

Cardinal Newman, who lived from 1801 to 1890, was one of the founders of the so-called Oxford Movement of the 1830s, which sought to revive certain Roman Catholic doctrines in the Church of England.


Man shackles girl with dogs for 18 years

ADDIS ABABA | Hundreds of women have rallied to demand the death penalty for a man who shackled a girl with dogs for 18 years and abused her, the Ethiopian News Agency reported Friday.

The unnamed suspect from Adama - a town 63 miles east of the capital Addis Ababa - imprisoned the girl from the age of 4, the agency said. The man took custody of her when his mother, who had been caring for the girl, died. The victim’s own mother suffered from mental illness.

The man starved the girl, only throwing her crumbs of bread once in a while, and she was forced to share the dogs’ food to survive, the agency said. Police say the girl, now 22, is suffering from multiple wounds.


African leaders won’t give up Bashir

SIRTE, Libya | After bitter wrangling, Africa’s leaders agreed Friday to denounce the International Criminal Court and refuse to extradite Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The decision at the African Union summit says AU members “shall not cooperate” with the court in The Hague “in the arrest and transfer of President Omar al-Bashir of the Sudan to the ICC.”

Sudan welcomed the move, and other Africans said it was a signal to the West that it shouldn’t impose its ways on Africa. A human rights group said the decision was a gift to a dictator.

In Sudan’s Darfur region, armed men seized two female aid workers, one Irish and one Ugandan, on Friday, a United Nations source said, the third kidnapping of foreign aid staff in the territory in four months.


6 killed in London high-rise blaze

LONDON | Six people were killed and 30 had to be rescued when a fire ripped through a high-rise apartment building in London on Friday, emergency services said.

The London Fire Brigade said the dead were three adults and three children, who included a 3-week-old baby and a 7-year-old. The blaze in the Camberwell area of south London started on the fourth floor and spread quickly to seven floors of the 12-story building, part of a large 1960s public-housing project.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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