- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Italy says militia attacked embassy

ROME | Italy said dozens of members of Iran’s hard-line religious Basij militia tried to attack its embassy in Tehran Tuesday, but Iranian media described the incident as a student protest and did not mention any violence.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told a Senate hearing: “About a hundred Basij dressed as civilians tried to assault the embassy shouting ‘Death to Italy’ and ‘Death to [Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi.’ ”

He said the attackers hurled stones at the embassy but caused no serious damage. Iranian police had intervened to “stop a full-blown assault.”

Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency said university students had protested outside the French and Italian embassies, condemning both countries’ “interference in Iran’s domestic affairs.” The report made no mention of any violence.

Television footage showed people throwing stones and eggs at the embassies.

Mr. Frattini said Rome would not send its ambassador to celebrations Thursday marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


Official moves to save settler house

JERUSALEM | The Israeli government has stepped in to save a house built illegally by Jewish settlers in a volatile Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, complicating already troubled U.S. efforts to renew Middle East peacemaking.

The move is meant to skirt a court order to evacuate and seal the house, thus easing settler anger over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to slow Jewish settlement construction.

The controversy surrounds a seven-story building built by the ultranationalist settler group Ateret Cohanim in 2004 in the Silwan neighborhood. After years of legal battles, a court last July determined the structure was illegally built and ordered residents to leave.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who opposed the ruling, caved in last month and agreed to evacuate the building where eight families have been living under 24-hour government guard.

But the evacuation orders were abruptly canceled Monday after Interior Minister Eli Yishai reportedly decided to give the house - named for Jonathan Pollard, the American Jew convicted of spying in the U.S. for Israel - retroactive approval.


Faulty elevator blamed for tower shutdown

DUBAI | A faulty elevator was behind the shutdown of the observation deck on the world’s tallest tower that effectively closed the half-mile-high Burj Khalifa to the public, witnesses and a Dubai rescue official said Tuesday.

Visitors who were on the viewing floor at the time of Saturday’s incident told the Associated Press they heard a loud noise, then saw what looked like smoke but turned out to be dust seeping out of the crack in one of the elevator doors.

About 45 minutes later, rescue crews arrived and pried open the elevator door. The faulty elevator was caught between floors, so rescuers hoisted a ladder into the shaft to help those trapped inside get out.

Abu Naseer, a spokesman for Dubai’s civil defense department, confirmed the incident. He said the call for help came in around 6:20 p.m. Saturday evening. Emergency crews used another elevator to reach the observation deck and were able to rescue all 15 people stuck inside the faulty elevator unharmed, he said.


Rights watchdog says police using torture

MANAMA | After abolishing torture more than 10 years ago, Bahrain’s security services are once more resorting to the practice to extract confessions from detainees, including many Shi’ite protesters, said a report released Monday by an international human rights group.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch published an 89-page report, based on interviews with detainees and a review of medical and court records, that claimed the repeated use of torture by security forces since the end of 2007.

The alleged return to such coercive techniques comes as the small Persian Gulf kingdom has seen rising unrest by its majority Shi’ite population, who say they are discriminated against by the Sunni ruling classes.


Court upholds jail for sex braggart

RIYADH | A Saudi appeals court upheld a verdict against an airline sales clerk sentenced to five years in prison and 1,000 lashes for boasting on a television show about his sexual exploits, media reports said Tuesday.

The Jidda court confirmed an Oct. 7 verdict against Mazen Abdul Jawad, who landed in hot water after appearing on a show called “Bold Red Line,” the Okaz daily said.

He had been charged and convicted of offensive behavior under the strict Islamic Shariah laws of the conservative Saudi kingdom.

During his July television appearance on the Beirut-based Lebanese Broadcasting Corp (LBC) show, Abdul Jawad boasted about picking up women, having sex and using sexual aids.

The show outraged Saudi conservatives, who pressed authorities to take action against Abdul Jawad and others involved in the show.

Three friends of Abdul Jawad who appeared on air with him received two-year prison terms and 300 lashes each. Charges brought against three production crew, including two women, were later dropped after the intervention of Saudi King Abdullah.

LBC, owned by Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Rotana group, later axed the show.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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