- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Moscow holds war games in Caucasus

MOSCOW | Thousands of troops, backed by hundreds of tanks, artillery and other heavy weaponry, began rumbling through the North Caucasus on Monday, as Russia began its largest military exercises since last year’s war with Georgia.

The Caucasus 2009 war games are being seen by many analysts as a warning shot for nearby Georgia, where the government says it has rearmed armed forces and where NATO recently wrapped up its own exercises.

Specialists say the exercises may also be a signal to the United States that Russia will give no ground on its efforts to maintain an exclusive sphere of influence in Georgia and other former Soviet republics. The games run through Monday - the day that President Obama arrives in Moscow for a highly anticipated summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.


Construction OK’d for West Bank settlers

JERUSALEM | Israel has approved 50 new houses in a West Bank settlement just as Israel’s defense minister left Monday for Washington to try to defuse growing tension with the Obama administration over such construction.

The U.S. wants settlement construction to stop completely to help revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak hopes to work out a compromise.

Barak aide Eitan Broshi told Army Radio on Monday that approval has been given to build 50 houses in the settlement of Adam for settlers from an outpost called Migron, which will be removed. Migron was built without approval on private Palestinian land. Israel has said it is committed to removing two dozen similar outposts.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says peace talks cannot resume until settlement construction comes to a complete halt.


Appeals court bars 2 Suu Kyi witnesses

YANGON | Myanmar’s highest court rejected an appeal Monday by Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers to reinstate two key witnesses in a trial that could send the pro-democracy leader to prison for five years.

High Court Judge Tin Aung Aye rejected the appeal because it was “intended to disturb and delay the trial,” court officials said on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The court’s ruling means only two people will testify in Mrs. Suu Kyi’s defense at her trial, which resumes Friday, and that a verdict could be reached in a week or two.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will return to Myanmar later this week on a diplomatic bid to win the release of Mrs. Suu Kyi, U.N. officials announced Monday.

The 64-year-old Nobel Peace laureate is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest when an uninvited American man swam secretly to her lakeside home and stayed for two days.


Tsvangirai’s party to boycott meeting

HARARE | Zimbabwe’s former opposition party said Monday it would boycott the next Cabinet meeting and was considering disengaging from a troubled, four-month-old unity government with President Robert Mugabe.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has complained about continued harassment and arrests of Mr. Mugabe’s opponents and his unilateral appointments of top officials.

MDC Vice President Thokozani Khupe said the latest irritant came Monday, when Mr. Mugabe rescheduled the weekly Cabinet meeting from Wednesday to Monday because he was going to be out of town for an African Union summit in Libya. At a news conference, Ms. Khupe depicted that as a snub to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, her party’s leader, saying he should have chaired the meeting in Mr. Mugabe’s absence.

From wires dispatches and staff reports

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