- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2009

IRAN

No deal on uranium

TEHRAN | Iran’s foreign minister on Wednesday said his country would not export its enriched uranium for further processing, effectively rejecting the latest U.N. plan aimed at preventing Tehran from building nuclear weapons.

Instead Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran would consider a nuclear swap inside Iran as an alternative plan.

The United Nations last month offered a deal to take 70 percent of Iran’s low-enriched uranium to reduce its stockpile of material that could be enriched to a higher level, and possibly be used to make nuclear weapons.

That uranium would be returned about a year later as refined fuel rods, which would solve the impasse over its nuclear program. Fuel rods cannot be readily turned into weapons-grade material.

ISRAEL

Ground broken for settlement homes

JERUSALEM | Israel broke ground on a new housing complex for Jews in east Jerusalem on Wednesday, brushing off President Obama’s criticism that construction in the disputed part of the holy city undermines efforts to relaunch Middle East peace talks.

The groundbreaking came a day after Israel defied U.S., European and Palestinian demands to stop settlement activity by announcing it will press forward with construction of 900 apartments in another Jewish area in East Jerusalem.

Speaking to Fox News in Beijing on Wednesday, Mr. Obama criticized the plan to build hundreds of homes in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood, saying such moves make it harder to achieve peace in the region and embitter the Palestinians in a way he said could be dangerous.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war - for their hoped-for state.

The Israeli government declined to respond to Obama’s comments. But earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel had no intention of stopping the construction. He called the neighborhood “an integral part of Israel, an integral part of Jerusalem.”

PAKISTAN

Six civilians dead from friendly fire

PARACHINAR | An army shell intended for a militant hide-out accidentally killed six civilians in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, police said.

Dozens of people dragged the bodies onto the main highway running through North West Frontier Province, blocking traffic to protest the killings.

The dead included three women, two children and a man, said a local police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. The accident occurred in Shahukhel, a town in the Hangu district of the province, he said.

Hangu is close to two areas in Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal region where jet fighters also pounded militant hide-outs Wednesday, killing 18 suspected fighters, said intelligence and political officials.

SWEDEN

Maori bones sent to New Zealand

STOCKHOLM | Swedish museum officials returned the remains of five indigenous Maori people to New Zealand on Wednesday as part of a broader move in Europe to repatriate remains taken from burial grounds.

Museum officials said they handed over three skeleton parts, a near complete skeleton and a skull to visiting delegates from the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa.

A ceremony was held at the Natural History Museum in southwestern Goteborg that included songs and prayers.

Te Herekiekie Herewini, repatriation manager at Te Papa Tongarewa, thanked the Swedish museum for agreeing to return the remains to New Zealand.

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