- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MADAGASCAR

Army storms presidential palace

ANTANANARIVO | Soldiers in Madagascar seized a presidential palace and the central bank Monday in a show of force further isolating President Marc Ravalomanana in his power struggle with opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.

Soldiers stormed the buildings in the heart of the capital straight after the security forces publicly backed Mr. Rajoelina, who says the president is an autocrat running the Indian Ocean island like a private company.

Under growing pressure to resign, Mr. Ravalomanana offered Monday to hold a referendum, but Mr. Rajoelina rejected the call and asked the security forces to arrest the president. Mr. Ravalomanana is holed up in another presidential palace six miles from the city center. The army said it had no orders to attack the president’s residence.

CHINA

Bomb thrown at police station

BEIJING | A bomb was thrown into a newly built police station in a predominantly Tibetan area of western China amid heightened tensions and security during a sensitive anniversary period. No injuries were reported, a police official said.

Liu Xiaojun, an official at the police station in Batang county Ganzi prefecture, said the explosion shattered windows in the unoccupied building just after midnight Monday.

Ganzi in western Sichuan province is known for its strong Tibetan identity.

Anti-government riots broke out in Lhasa, the Tibetan regional capital, March 14 last year and spread to surrounding Tibetan communities in the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai.

IRAQ

U.S. shoots down Iranian drone

BAGHDAD | U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone aircraft that ventured inside Iraq last month, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Monday, an incident that highlights deep U.S.-Iranian tensions.

A U.S. military spokesman said U.S. jet fighters shot down the unmanned Iranian aircraft on Feb. 25 about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad.

IRAQ

Iranian opposition under attack

BAGHDAD | Iraqi forces have besieged a camp north of Baghdad housing members of an Iranian opposition group, residents and a government source said, while the national security adviser reiterated a vow to shut it down.

Leaders of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, which is based at the camp, said Iraqi security forces hit residents Thursday with electric batons.

NORTH KOREA

Pyongyang reopens border crossing

SEOUL | Seoul’s Unification Ministry says North Korea has agreed to let South Koreans back across the border to work at factories at a joint industrial zone in the North.

Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said the North relayed a message announcing it will allow cross-border traffic to and from the Kaesong complex.

The full reopening Tuesday comes four days after Pyongyang shut down the border, stranding hundreds of South Koreans who work in Kaesong and live in South Korea.

The North partially reopened the border on Monday but only for South Koreans leaving the North.

Meanwhile, U.N. human rights investigator Vitit Muntarbhorn accused North Korean authorities of committing widespread torture in prisons that he called “death traps.”

SYRIA

Lebanon opens embassy in capital

DAMASCUS | A Lebanese Embassy opened in Damascus on Monday after international pressure on the Syrian government to establish diplomatic ties and treat its smaller neighbor as a fully sovereign country.

The Lebanese flag was raised on the premises in the center of Damascus and the embassy is now staffed with a charge d’affaires, a Lebanese official said.

The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since Britain and France carved them out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in 1920.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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