- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 27, 2009


Obama weighs troops request

KABUL | The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has submitted a request for more troops, a spokesman said Saturday, but the Pentagon will hold it while President Obama decides what strategy to pursue.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal hand-delivered his long-awaited request to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, Adm. James Stavridis, after a meeting in Germany, spokesman Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis said.

In a bleak assessment prepared last month and leaked to the media in recent days, Gen. McChrystal wrote that his mission would likely fail if he is not given reinforcements for his force, now more than 100,000 strong, including about 63,000 Americans.

The White House says it wants to review the entire strategy for the region before considering Gen. McChrystal’s request.

Officials have not said exactly how many extra troops Gen. McChrystal thinks he needs, although defense and congressional officials have suggested the request could be for about 30,000.

The war has intensified in recent months. A U.N. report released Saturday said 1,500 civilians had died so far this year, with August the deadliest month of the year and Aug. 20 - election day - seeing the largest number of attacks since 2001.


Drone crashes in north

BAGHDAD | A U.S. military drone crashed Saturday in northern Iraq, hitting a regional office of Iraq’s largest Sunni political party in an area that remains an insurgent stronghold, an American military official said.

The unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle crashed into the local office of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Mosul, an area the U.S. military has called the last stronghold of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Also Saturday, Iraqi security teams recaptured two more prisoners from a stunning jailbreak that included al Qaeda-linked prisoners sentenced to death, police said. At least eight of the 16 fugitive prisoners have been hunted down following last week’s jailbreak. The two men were found near Tikrit, not far from the makeshift prison where the prisoners climbed through a bathroom window late Wednesday.


Merkel ignores threats before vote

BERLIN | Ignoring threats by Islamic militants, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her main rival held their final political rallies Saturday before Germany’s national election, focusing on the key domestic issues of jobs and economic recovery.

Two videos surfaced Friday - one by al Qaeda and another by the Taliban - threatening retaliation for Germany’s military presence in Afghanistan. The Taliban video showed top German landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and Munich’s world-renowned Oktoberfest.

In response, authorities Saturday banned all flights over Oktoberfest until it ends Oct. 4. The annual 16-day beer festival was targeted by terrorists in 1980.


U.N. bars leader from speaking

UNITED NATIONS | Andry Rajoelina, a former radio DJ who seized control of the Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar in a widely denounced coup in March, was barred from giving a speech to the General Assembly on Friday.

U.N. General Assembly President Ali Abdessalam Treki told the Associated Press on Saturday that Mr. Rajoelina’s government was invited to the 192-nation General Assembly’s annual high-level debate by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office. Mr. Treki said he also was advised by Mr. Ban’s legal office that Mr. Rajoelina should be allowed to give a speech.

But in a rare move, the 192-nation assembly somewhat chaotically overruled Mr. Treki on Friday and barred Mr. Rajoelina from delivering any speech. Most nations were absent, however, when the 23-4 vote was recorded. The nations that opposed Mr. Rajoelina speaking were mostly African.


Gadhafi cancels overnight visit

TORONTO | Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi has canceled a planned visit to Canada next week.

A Canadian government official said Saturday that Col. Gadhafi won’t be landing in Newfoundland early next week to refuel his plane and stay for a night. The official said hotel reservations have been canceled and that Libya’s advance team has left.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had planned on sending Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon to meet with Col. Gadhafi to express Canada’s displeasure over the hero’s welcome Libya gave to the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. Col. Gadhafi is attending a weekend Africa-South America summit in Venezuela. He was scheduled to stop in St. John’s, Newfoundland, after that meeting. It was not an official visit to Canada.


Wives urge release of ship’s crewmen

MOSCOW | The wives of four crewmen on the ship Arctic Sea have appealed for them to be allowed home from a voyage still shrouded in mystery after eight other men who boarded the vessel were charged with piracy.

The wives’ plea was in an open letter saying they last had phone contact Sept. 18. when their husbands, including the ship’s captain, told them they were in poor health with little water aboard.

The four crewmen have spent more than two months on the Maltese-registered Arctic Sea, whose disappearance in the Atlantic after being boarded by the eight suspects in the Baltic Sea in July caused a media storm.


Man marries 4 women

WEENEN | Milton Mbhele showed up for his wedding Saturday in a white limousine - with four brides.

The women each received rings and a kiss from the groom at the ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of people.

South African law recognizes traditional polygamous marriages - even President Jacob Zuma has three wives. Yet while polygamy remains common among several tribes, including the Zulus and Swazis, simultaneous weddings are rare.

Mr. Mbhele, 44, a municipal manager in nearby Indaka, said the joint celebration would save money by combining the festivities.

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