- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

IRAQ

Election could affect U.S. pullout

BAGHDAD | National parliamentary elections will be held Jan. 30, Iraqi officials announced Monday, sliding the date into next year in a move that could complicate the U.S. timetable for drawing down its forces.

The new parliament will choose a prime minister and Cabinet, a process that could take months. A long and turbulent delay in setting up a new government could force President Obama to revise his goal of removing most American troops from Iraq by the end of August 2010.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will be hoping to build on his success in January’s provincial balloting to form a strong government capable of dealing with the security and economic challenges facing this country as the American role diminishes.



But a recent spate of deadly bombings in Baghdad has tarnished his image, and the threat of more violence could rise as U.S. forces redeploy outside of urban areas by June 30 as scheduled.

BRITAIN

New mea culpa over expenses

LONDON | The most senior official in Britain’s lower house of Parliament apologized to the nation Monday for an expenses scandal among lawmakers that has prompted growing calls for an early general election.

“Please allow me to say to the men and women of the United Kingdom that we have let you down very badly indeed,” Speaker Michael Martin said in a speech to a packed chamber.

Earlier, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for “root and branch” reform to defuse a scandal that has damaged all the main political parties, but appears to be hitting Labor hardest after 12 years in power.

Opposition leader David Cameron, whose Conservative Party is well ahead in opinion polls, urged Britons to campaign for an early general election.

IRAN

Ayatollah urges vote for hard-liners

TEHRAN | Iran’s supreme leader urged the public Monday not to vote for pro-Western candidates in the June 12 presidential election, though he gave no clear indication of whether he is supporting hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The critical election pits Mr. Ahmadinejad against reformist challengers at a time when the United States - under the Obama administration - is pursuing dialogue with its longtime adversary after years of shunning Iran.

The reformists seek an easing of social and political restrictions at home and better ties with the West. They see a strong opportunity to unseat Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has become increasingly unpopular because of Iran’s economic woes.

ANGOLA

Police battle waves of diamond thieves

LUANDA | Hundreds of diamond smugglers are pouring into Angola’s eastern diamond region every day from Congo, a top Angolan general said Monday.

The general, who asked to remain anonymous because of the military’s secrecy laws, said Angola had recently invested $13 million to increase military patrols along the Congo border and stop the flow of illegal immigrants from as far away as Senegal.

“We’re talking about hundreds of men, women - even pregnant women - who try to break through Angola’s border every day,” he said.

Angola, which emerged from an almost three-decade-long civil war in 2002 to become the world’s fifth-biggest diamond producer, allows only companies that partner with state-run firm Endiama to explore for diamonds.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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