- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

IRAN

Big powers ready nuke resolution

VIENNA, Austria | Six world powers have readied a resolution critical of Iran’s nuclear program, diplomats said Tuesday, as Tehran pushed forward its own alternatives to a United Nations-backed plan aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons.

Under the U.N. plan, Iran would export its uranium for enrichment in Russia and France, where it would be converted into fuel rods to be returned to Iran about a year later. But Iran is pressing for a simultaneous exchange of uranium for fuel rods on Iranian soil because of fears that the West would renege on the deal.

Iranian officials have not publicly elaborated on what the fate of the uranium would be once they received the fuel rods, but officials have said privately that it would then be allowed to leave the country to Russia or France.

“The creation of a 100 percent guarantee for delivery of the fuel is important for Iran,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday.

Iranian officials have accused the West of breaking past promises to supply it with technology. They say they don’t trust that the West will eventually send back the fuel rods if Iran lets its uranium abroad.

ISRAEL

Netanyahu tempers prisoner swap deal

JERUSALEM | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried Tuesday to temper expectations that a deal to free an Israeli soldier held by Hamas militants for more than three years was close, despite a rash of reports that serious progress has been made.

“There is no deal yet and there might not be one,” Mr. Netanyahu said, as contacts continued over the fate of captured soldier Sgt. Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who would be freed if an exchange takes place.

A Hamas delegation was in Egypt on Tuesday meeting with the German official trying to finalize an agreement. Egyptian officials said a deal was close but was unlikely to be sealed in the next few days.

Sgt. Shalit, captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006, is being held in Gaza by militants affiliated with the territory’s Iranian-backed Hamas rulers. The Egyptian officials said Hamas officials were insisting that two top imprisoned Palestinian leaders, Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat, be released.

JORDAN

King orders new election law

AMMAN | Jordan’s King Abdullah on Tuesday ordered the government to start drafting a modern election law that would advance the country’s nascent democracy a day after a sudden move to dissolve parliament.

The king issued an edict Monday ordering the dissolution effective Tuesday of what is widely considered a rubber-stamp assembly composed of 110 lawmakers, mainly tribal loyalists.

No reason was given for the decision, but the assembly had been accused of inept handling of legislation and obstructing free market reforms crucial to spur the stagnant economy.

King Abdullah was quoted as instructing Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi in a letter circulated by the royal palace to “begin immediate preparations for holding these elections that would be a model for transparency and justice.”

The government has four months to declare new elections, but lawmakers say the constitution allows the king to delay them.

IRAQ

Google documents museum treasures

BAGHDAD | Google is documenting Iraq’s national museum and will post photographs of its ancient treasures on the Internet early next year, Google chief Eric Schmidt announced Tuesday.

The museum was ransacked in the chaotic aftermath of dictator Saddam Hussein’s ouster in April 2003, and only reopened to visitors early this year. Mr. Schmidt, who toured the museum with U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill on Tuesday, said it was important for the world to see Iraq’s rich heritage and contribution to world culture.

Mr. Schmidt said Google has taken about 14,000 photographs of the museum and its artifacts, and the images will be available online in early 2010. The museum holds artifacts from the Stone Age through the Babylonian, Assyrian and Islamic periods.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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