- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2009

IRAQ

More rockets fired as Biden visits

BAGHDAD | Insurgents fired at least two rockets at Baghdad’s Green Zone on Wednesday, just minutes after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. wrapped up meetings with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressing confidence that attempts to destabilize Iraq through violence will fail.

The sound of the rockets being fired could be heard on the side of the Tigris River opposite the Green Zone. People inside Mr. al-Maliki’s office, where the meetings were held, were warned to stay inside.

It was the second such attack in as many nights while Mr. Biden met with American and Iraqi officials inside the Green Zone. After Mr. Biden’s arrival Tuesday, four rockets were fired at the Green Zone in an attack that killed two Iraqi civilians.

The attacks were launched after Mr. Biden had retired for the night following meetings with American officials on the first day of his visit. Three suspects were detained for questioning, but later let go.

IRAN

Reformist replaced for annual sermon

TEHRAN | Iran has replaced a reformist, pro-opposition cleric with a hard-liner to lead the prayer service on a key anti-Israel day this week, according to a state radio report Wednesday.

The announcement is a blow to Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful former president who sided with the opposition in Iran’s postelection turmoil.

It is also an apparent move to sideline Ayatollah Rafsanjani ahead of anti-government rallies on Quds Day, called for by opposition activists. Ayatollah Rafsanjani traditionally hosts the sermon on Quds Day - an annual event that showcases Iran’s anti-Israeli stance and is marked by government-organized rallies in support of the Palestinians and against Israel. Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem.

State radio said Ahmad Khatami - a hard-line cleric and supporter of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - will lead this week’s Friday prayers.

CHINA

Bomb plot foiled in Xinjiang

BEIJING | Chinese security forces uncovered a bomb-making operation in the volatile western region of Xinjiang, foiling plans to carry out attacks including suicide bombings, police said Wednesday.

Forces arrested six suspects and seized large amounts of bomb-making materials in the raids, according to a notice posted on the Public Security Ministry Web site.

Initial investigations showed the suspects had begun making bombs after deadly ethnic rioting in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi in July, the notice said.

LEBANON

Hariri tries to form government again

BEIRUT | Lebanon’s president designated Saad Hariri prime minister Wednesday, asking the Saudi- and U.S.-backed politician to take on the tough job of forming a new government for a second time.

Mr. Hariri was first designated prime minister in June, but stepped down last week, blaming rival politicians including the Iran- and Syria-backed Hezbollah for thwarting his attempts at forging a unity government including all Lebanon’s main parties.

His move triggered consultations this week between President Michel Suleiman and lawmakers that resulted in Mr. Hariri, son of assassinated statesman Rafik Hariri, being nominated again.

HUNGARY

Gitmo detainee to be accepted

BUDAPEST | Hungary said Wednesday it will accept a detainee from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, inching President Obama closer to his pledge to close the U.S. military detention center.

The country will choose from a short list of Guantanamo prisoners in the coming days and the released detainee will participate in an 18-month integration program, Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said.

EUROPEAN UNION

Barroso wins second term

STRASBOURG, France | The European Parliament gave Jose Manuel Barroso another five-year term as European Commission president Wednesday, but its vote bared lingering misgivings about the conservative former Portuguese prime minister.

Mr. Barroso, 53, was the only candidate when the 736-member EU assembly voted 382-219, with 117 abstentions, to back him for a second term as the EU’s top executive. The EU’s 27 national government leaders had unanimously nominated Mr. Barroso for the position in June.

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