- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2009

IRAQ

Joint raid targets al Qaeda cell

BAGHDAD | A joint U.S.-Iraqi force targeted an al Qaeda cell involved in funneling weapons into Iraq from Syria, arresting three people near the troubled northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said Saturday.

The statement said the cell is led by the Syria-based Abu Khalaf, whose assets were frozen by the U.S. Treasury department on Thursday for his reputed involvement in the flow of money, weapons and militants through Syria into Iraq.

The operation took place in the village of Tal al-Hawa, 50 miles northwest of Mosul.



Meanwhile, a mortar round crashed into a house in eastern Baghdad, killing a 2-year-old child. A U.S. soldier died in combat in southern Iraq, according to the U.S. military, which did not provide further details.

KUWAIT

Kuwaitis vote to elect parliament

KUWAIT CITY | Kuwaitis exasperated by years of battles between the country’s lawmakers and Cabinet ministers voted Saturday in the second parliamentary election in a year, hoping for some political stability in the small, oil-rich nation.

The country’s ruler, the emir, dissolved the legislature in March and called the election after lawmakers sought to question his prime minister over accusations that included misuse of funds and other purported failures in running the country. Many observers and former lawmakers say the claims were unfair.

The Cabinet is controlled by the ruling Al Sabah family, which has been sensitive to such challenges from lawmakers, especially when the ministers quizzed are family members.

BRITAIN

Brown warns party on expense rules

LONDON | Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Saturday that any lawmaker in his party who is found to have broken rules regarding their expense accounts must leave his government.

In an article he wrote for a London newspaper, Mr. Brown offered what amounted to a public apology and a strongly worded rebuke of his own governing Labor Party regarding a deepening scandal about questionable expense account claims that have been made by British legislators in the top three parties.

On Friday, David Chaytor became the second Labor Party member of Parliament to be punished in the scandal. His Labor colleague, Elliot Morley, had been suspended after admitting the same offense.

BRITAIN

Padel voted Oxford poetry professor

LONDON | Ruth Padel, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, was voted Oxford University’s professor of poetry Saturday - the first woman to hold the job since it was created in 1708.

The competition for the five-year poetry professorship was marred by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott’s decision to withdraw from the contest after anonymous letters criticizing him were sent to professors. British newspapers reported that the letters made reference to an allegation of sexual harassment made against the St. Lucia-born poet by a former student in the 1980s.

Ms. Padel, who takes over the poetry professorship from scholar Christopher Ricks in September, was voted in with 297 of the votes cast. Her rival, Indian poet Arvind Mehrotra, received 129 votes.

NIGERIA

Army frees hostages, destroys rebel camp

WARRI | Nigerian security forces said Saturday they rescued 13 hostages kidnapped this week, including nine foreigners, and destroyed a key camp used by militants in the heart of Africa’s biggest oil industry region.

Nigeria’s main militant group has declared an “all-out war” and warned oil companies to evacuate their staffs in the Niger Delta following three days of heavy clashes with the military.

The military on Friday freed nine Filipinos and four Nigerians who were kidnapped two days earlier when their oil vessel MV Spirit was hijacked by militants near Warri in Delta state.

HONG KONG

Acid thrown into crowd, 30 hurt

HONG KONG | Two bottles of acid were thrown into a crowd in a popular shopping district in downtown Hong Kong on Saturday, injuring 30 people, police and news reports said. It was the second such attack in five months in the neighborhood.

Hong Kong cable TV said people in the Mong Kok district had been splashed with acid, though police Superintendent Leung Ka-ming would not confirm what liquid was thrown.

On the same street in December, 46 people suffered burns when two plastic bottles filled with acid were thrown at pedestrians. No one has been detained.

MALAWI

Former president barred from vote

BLANTYRE | Malawi’s constitutional court ruled Saturday that the African nation’s first democratically elected president cannot compete in next week’s election.

The court disqualified former President Bakili Muluzi because he already had served the maximum two five-year terms allowed under the constitution.

The Malawi Electoral Commission on March 20 rejected Mr. Muluzi’s nomination papers. He appealed, saying he has been out of office for the past five years. Mr. Muluzi, who won the first multiparty elections in 1994, led a constitutional conference that decided there should be term limits to deter lifelong presidents.

CURACAO

Dutch island votes for more autonomy

WILLEMSTAD | Curacao residents voted in favor of more autonomy from the Netherlands and a restructuring of the Caribbean island’s foreign debt, but also gave their former colonial rulers sway over economic decisions.

Official results late Friday showed 52 percent voted to be given more say in their home affairs, along with an offer by the Netherlands government to forgive about $2.7 billion in debt, but on the condition of increased Dutch control over the economy.

Opponents say the strings attached to the debt restructuring actually give the Dutch more power over the island in the Netherlands Antilles known as a tax haven and host to a large Venezuelan-run oil refinery.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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