- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009


Freed aid workers in ‘good health’

KHARTOUM | Three foreign aid workers kidnapped in Sudan’s lawless Darfur region have been freed and arrived at an airport in Sudan, said the aid group spokesman and members of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force.

Josephine Guerraro, spokeswoman for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, said three aid workers and a Sudanese employee with the Belgian branch of Doctors Without Borders arrived at El Fasher airport, appeared in “good health” and were on their way to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

Erwin Van’t Land from the group’s headquarters in Brussels said his staff in Darfur confirmed the release, but had no further information.

The aid workers were snatched from their compound in northern Darfur late Wednesday night.


Ships depart for anti-piracy mission

TOKYO | Two Japanese navy destroyers left Saturday to join an international anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, despite concerns that troops could be pressed into combat in violation of the country’s pacifist constitution.

The five-month deployment marks the first overseas policing action for Japan’s military, which is limited by the country’s post-World War II charter to defensive missions. The military’s forays abroad have been largely restricted to refueling, airlifting and other humanitarian activities.

The decision to join the fight against piracy has been controversial because opposition lawmakers say Japanese ships could be drawn into combat or protecting foreign ships in an emergency. Ruling party members, however, have argued the battle against piracy is more a crime-fighting operation than a military one and therefore is not barred by the constitution.

The two Japanese destroyers are expected to reach Somali waters in early April. Together, they carry about 400 sailors, including specially trained commandos.


Mugabe, Tsvangirai attend state funeral

HARARE | President Robert Mugabe and longtime political rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai sat side by side Saturday at a state funeral, which was seen as a symbolic step for their parties’ month-old coalition.

The funeral was for former defense forces commander and Mugabe loyalist Gen. Vitalis Zvinavashe and was Mr. Tsvangirai’s first formal attendance at a shrine for fallen guerrillas and political leaders.

Mr. Mugabe had attended Tuesday’s funeral service for Mr. Tsvangirai’s wife, Susan, who died in a car crash south of Harare a week ago.

Most of the nation’s military commanders are former guerrillas of the independence war and have refused to salute Mr. Tsvangirai, a civilian and former labor leader who did not take part in that war.


Oil spill worse than first thought

BRISBANE | Ten times more oil than originally thought leaked from a ship to blacken miles of white sand beaches along Australia’s northeast coast, a government official said Saturday.

Authorities declared a disaster zone along 37 miles of some of Australia’s most popular beaches in Queensland state after they were covered in a blanket of heavy fuel oil, which spilled from a ship hit by rough seas Wednesday.

Queensland state Deputy Prime Minister Paul Lucas told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio Saturday that officials originally thought between 5,300 and 7,900 gallons of oil had leaked from the ship. Mr. Lucas said it is “now apparent” that the amount of oil spilled was about 60,700 gallons. He did not explain how he arrived at that estimate or offer further details.


Investigators find chopper wreckage

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland | Canadian investigators found what they think is the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in the freezing Atlantic with 18 aboard, saying Saturday that their main goal is to recover any of the 16 bodies that may still be inside.

Rescue efforts turned to recovery as officials said there was almost no chance of survival so long after Thursday’s crash.

The Sikorsky S-92 was carrying workers to oil platforms off Newfoundland when it reported mechanical problems and ditched into the sea about 30 miles from shore, officials said.

One survivor and one body were recovered from the water shortly after the crash.


Talabani to serve only one more year

BAGHDAD | Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani will step down in 2010 at the end of his second term in office, an official with his party said Saturday.

“He no longer wants to put his name forward for the presidency,” said Saadi Ahmed Beera, a ranking official with Mr. Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

He said Mr. Talabani, 75, would remain involved in politics. Mr. Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, helped play down ethnic tensions between Kurds and majority Arabs in the northern parts of Iraq and has been president since April 2005. He was re-elected in 2006 to a four-year term.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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