- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009


Official confirms Iran missile deal

MOSCOW | Russian news agencies cited a top defense official Wednesday as confirming that a contract to sell powerful air-defense missiles to Iran was signed two years ago, but saying no such weapons have yet been delivered.

Russian officials have consistently denied assertions the country already has provided some of the S-300 missiles to Iran. They have not said whether a contract existed.

The state-run ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti news agencies and the independent Interfax quoted an unnamed top official in the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service as saying the contract was signed two years ago.

Israel and the U.S. fear that, were Iran to possess S-300 missiles, it would use them to protect its nuclear facilities. That would make a military strike on the Iranian facilities much more difficult.


Referendum lifts Aliyev rule limit

BAKU | Oil-producing Azerbaijan voted to lift its two-term presidential limit Wednesday, partial results showed, handing President Ilham Aliyev the opportunity to rule for life provided he keeps winning re-election.

The constitutional amendment, adopted by referendum, opens the door to the Aliyev family extending its decades-long dominance of the former Soviet state after Mr. Aliyev’s second term ends in 2013.

The state election commission said 92.2 percent of voters backed scrapping the limit, based on results from 54 percent of polling stations. Mr. Aliyev, 47, has been president since 2003, when he succeeded his father, Heydar Aliyev, who led Azerbaijan first as a communist leader within the Soviet Union then as president.


Bomber hits Korean convoy

SAN’A | A suicide bomber Wednesday struck a convoy carrying South Korean officials sent to Yemen to investigate a bombing earlier in the week that killed four South Korean tourists. No Koreans were reported hurt in the latest attack.

The three-car convoy was carrying South Korean officials and investigators sent to look into a suicide bombing on Sunday that killed the tourists and their Yemeni driver at a historical site.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the convoy was also carrying relatives of the victims of Sunday’s attack, who were in the country to recover the bodies of their loved ones. They were headed to the airport for a flight to return to South Korea when the bomber walked into the road between two of the vehicles and blew himself up, officials said.


Terror suspect wins payout for beating

LONDON | A terror suspect fighting extradition to the United States was awarded thousands of dollars in compensation Wednesday for being assaulted by police during his 2003 arrest.

Computer specialist Babar Ahmad, 34, will receive more than $80,000 in damages after lawyers for Scotland Yard acknowledged he had been subjected to gratuitous violence and religious abuse by officers who burst into his southwest London home in a dawn raid on Dec. 2, 2003.

Mr. Ahmad was released without charge but was re-arrested in August 2004 on a U.S. extradition warrant. He remains in custody. American officials accused the Pakistani native of running Web sites to raise money for the Taliban.


Emir dissolves parliament

KUWAIT CITY | Kuwait’s emir dissolved parliament Wednesday and called for new elections within two months, saying some lawmakers had abused democracy and become a threat to stability.

Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah said the people need to choose another parliament because national unity is in danger.

It marks the second time in a year the emir has disbanded the confrontational legislature, which has a contentious relationship with the Cabinet. The move was largely expected after the Cabinet resigned two days ago to prevent the prime minister from being questioned by lawmakers accusing him of misuse of funds and failing to run the country properly.


Oil industry short of cash

VIENNA, Austria | Iran’s Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said Wednesday his country is diverting funds from other sectors of its national budget to support its oil industry - its main revenue source - suggesting that at present prices the Islamic republic was losing money on its crude.

The comments to the Fourth OPEC International Seminar revealed an extra burden on the country ahead of key elections in which popular dissatisfaction with falling living standards is expected to play a large role.


Militants threaten to behead hostages

MANILA | Al Qaeda-linked extremists threatened Wednesday to behead one of their three Red Cross hostages if the Philippine military engages them in battle again, an official said.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who heads the Philippine Red Cross, said he spoke with Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad by mobile phone Tuesday and Wednesday and was told the hostages were unharmed after two days of fierce jungle clashes that killed three Marines and up to seven Abu Sayyaf members. But Mr. Gordon quoted Mr. Parad as saying a hostage would be killed if another gunfight breaks out.


Assad hopes to meet Obama

ROME | Syrian President Bashar Assad said he hoped to meet President Obama and expressed his willingness to help mediate between the West and Iran.

Mr. Assad, in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica published Wednesday, also confirmed he was ready to resume peace negotiations with Israel, but expressed concern about the political climate there.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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