- The Washington Times - Friday, April 16, 2010

UNITED NATIONS

Six powers intensify Iran sanction talks

The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany are accelerating negotiations on a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, U.N. diplomats said Thursday.

U.N. ambassadors from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China met early Thursday and will reconvene later, diplomats said on the condition of anonymity. They will keep meeting in the coming days and weeks.

“The talks are intensifying,” one diplomat told Reuters news agency. Another said the six might begin discussing the issue on an almost daily basis as they work to prepare a draft sanctions resolution for the full 15-member Security Council.

GAZA STRIP

Hamas executes 2 suspected informers

GAZA CITY | The Hamas government on Thursday executed two men accused of collaborating with Israel, signaling an escalation in the militant Palestinian group’s method of controlling the Gaza Strip.

It was the first time the death penalty had been carried out in Gaza since Hamas violently seized power in the coastal area in 2007.

The bullet-riddled bodies of the men, convicted by military tribunals in 2008 and 2009, were dumped by armed men at Gaza City’s main hospital before dawn on Thursday, a hospital employee said.

MYANMAR

Blasts kill 9, injure 94 at festival in Yangon

YANGON | | Three bombs ripped through traditional New Year festivities in Myanmar’s biggest city Thursday, killing nine people and injuring 94 others, officials and state television said, the deadliest such attack in Yangon in five years.

There was no indication who was responsible for the blasts, which occurred about 3 p.m. near some 20 pavilions erected for the celebrations at the sprawling Kandawgyi Lake. Myanmar is celebrating the annual four-day water festival, when people drench each other with water to usher in the Myanmar New Year on Saturday.

State television and radio put the death toll at eight - five men and three women. It said 94 people including 30 women were injured. However, a hospital official said nine people were killed.

SENEGAL

Government criticized for abusive schools

DAKAR | A leading international rights group called on Senegal’s government Thursday to crack down on Islamic schools whose leaders are subjecting tens of thousands of children to forced begging and daily beatings in conditions it says are “akin to slavery.”

Powerful religious leaders known as “marabouts” hold enormous political influence in this mostly Muslim West African nation. Parents often send their children to traditional Koranic schools run by marabouts because they hope their children will receive a religious education and because the schools are free.

But some marabouts have turned the schools into an exploitative, unregulated private industry, banking tens of thousands of dollars in annual profits by forcing droves of children as young as 4 into the streets to beg for change, according to a new report released by New York-based Human Rights Watch.

UNITED KINGDOM

First election debates televised in Britain

LONDON | The three candidates vying to become Britain’s next prime minister sparred in a live televised political debate Thursday - the first such U.S.-presidential-style show in British history.

The clash between Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats focused on domestic issues, including crime and immigration policy.

Two more televised debates on April 22 and 29 will focus on foreign policy issues and the economy, the most significant of all issues in the May 6 election.

BRAZIL

Brazil, China seal pact on steel, other deals

BRASILIA | Brazil and China on Thursday signed several deals on the sidelines of a summit in Brasilia, including a huge investment pact to build a $5 billion Chinese steel factory in Brazil.

The agreements were finalized during a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva before a summit between Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The summit was brought forward a day because Mr. Hu was cutting short his Brazil stay to rush back to China to handle the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.

The other deals signed covered cooperation in culture, agriculture, politics, telecommunications and space research.

IRAQ

Allawi courts Iranian support

BAGHDAD | The Sunni-backed secular coalition that came in first in Iraqi elections tried Thursday to improve relations with powerful Shi’ite neighbor Iran, assuring Tehran that if it heads the new government, it would not let Iraq be used as a launching pad for an invasion.

The Iraqiya alliance led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi edged out his chief rival in the March 7 parliamentary election by just two seats. But neither Iraqiya nor the State of Law alliance led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won enough to form a government alone.

Since the election, Iraq’s political groups have been jockeying to broker partnerships to win control of the parliament - in part by courting the support of Iraq’s neighbors in the Mideast.

ISRAEL

Israel bans import of Apple iPad

JERUSALEM | Israel has banned imports of Apple Inc.’s most popular new product, the iPad, citing concerns that the strength of its wireless receivers and transmitters are incompatible with national standards and could disrupt other wireless devices.

Customs officials said Thursday they already have confiscated about 10 iPads since Israel announced the new regulations this week.

The blanket ban prevents anyone - even tourists - from bringing an iPad into Israel until officials certify that the computers comply with local transmitter standards.

Currently, the iPad is only available for sale in the United States. Apple announced on Wednesday that it would delay international pricing and sales until May 10 - a date that is expected to include several European countries, but not Israel.

COLOMBIA

Gates makes pitch for trade pact

BOGOTA | U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday he hopes to see a renewed effort to finalize a free-trade agreement with Colombia because “it’s a good deal” for both countries.

Mr. Gates met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Defense Minister Gabriel Silva, during which time he said the issue was raised.

The United States negotiated a free-trade agreement with Colombia during the George W. Bush administration. But the measure has stalled in Congress, where Democrats say human rights and American jobs are a concern.

GREECE

Police find caches of far-left group

ATHENS | Greek police Thursday said they had found guns and two hideouts used by a prominent far-left extremist group, Revolutionary Struggle, after having arrested six alleged members last weekend.

Police Chief Lefteris Oikonomou said two 9 mm handguns, bullets and more than 119,000 euros ($162,000) in cash had been found in a backpack stored in the trunk of a car belonging to one of the suspects.

Neither of the guns has been matched to the group’s known attacks, he said.

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