- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2009

GAZA STRIP

U.N. official backs war-crimes report

GENEVA | The United Nations’ top human rights official backed a report Thursday accusing Israeli forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes during their conflict in Gaza last winter.

Navi Pillay’s endorsement of the report by an expert group led by Judge Richard Goldstone, a South African, came as Israel warned the U.N. Human Rights Council that approving the document risked undermining Middle East peace.

Ms. Pillay told the 47-member council that she supported the report’s recommendations, “including its call for urgent action to counter impunity” - meaning that Israel and Hamas must investigate and prosecute those who committed war crimes.

The 575-page report concluded that Israel used disproportionate force, deliberately targeted civilians, used Palestinians as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure during its Dec. 27-Jan. 18 incursion into the Gaza Strip to halt Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli cities.

LIBYA

Repentant militants freed from prisons

TRIPOLI | The Libyan government released 88 repentant Islamic militants, some of them belonging to a group with suspected links to al Qaeda, a government-funded human rights group announced Thursday.

The release included 45 members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which has been accused of plotting to overthrow Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and has been linked to al Qaeda, but Libyan officials say the group has denied the connection.

The move is the latest effort by an Arab government to address militant movements through rehabilitation programs rather than solely through force. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have pioneered programs to “deprogram” militants and allow them to rejoin society.

ITALY

Rome, NATO deny payments to Taliban

ROME | Italy and NATO on Thursday denied a newspaper report that Italian intelligence secretly paid the Taliban thousands of dollars to keep the peace in an Afghan area under Italian control.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s office called the report in the Times of London “completely groundless.” The Italian defense minister denounced it as “rubbish” and said he wanted to sue the newspaper.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, a U.S. spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan denied the allegations. “We don’t do bribes,” Col. Wayne Shanks said. “We don’t pay the insurgents.”

The newspaper reported that Italy had paid “tens of thousands of dollars” to Taliban commanders and warlords in the Surobi district, east of the capital, Kabul. The newspaper cited Western military officials, including high-ranking officers at NATO, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

NEPAL

Short man seeks Guinness record

KATMANDU | Now that he’s all grown up, 18-year-old Khagendra Thapa Magar of Nepal wants the world to know just how tiny he is.

Mr. Magar, who stands 22 inches tall, has been waiting four years for his chance to take the title of the world’s shortest person. On Thursday, a day after his birthday and becoming an adult, supporters mailed an application package to Guinness World Records in London seeking to stake his place in the record book.

Mr. Magar’s family initially filed a claim when he was just 14 years old but it was rejected because he was not an adult and there was a chance he might grow, said Min Bahadur Ranamagar of the Khagendra Thapa Magar Foundation.

The current record is held by 21-year-old He Pingping of China, who is 29 inches tall.

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