- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2010

YEMEN

Shi’ite rebels agree to end war

SAN’A | The Yemeni government and northern Shi’ite rebels agreed Thursday to end a war that has raged sporadically since 2004 and drawn in neighboring Saudi Arabia, officials from both sides said. A truce was to begin at midnight.

The Yemeni government, simultaneously battling a resurgent al Qaeda and southern separatists in addition to the northern insurgents, had been exchanging proposals with the Shi’ite rebels for several days to end the conflict.

The leader of the rebels, who complain of social, religious and economic discrimination, also ordered his fighters to abide by the ceasefire.

Riyadh was drawn into the conflict in November when the rebels seized some Saudi territory, complaining that Riyadh was letting Yemeni troops use its land for attacks against them. Riyadh declared victory over the rebels last month after insurgents offered a separate truce and said they had quit Saudi territory. Rebels say Saudi air strikes have continued.

IRAQ

Panel bars 2 Sunnis from election

BAGHDAD | An Iraqi panel issued a final ruling Thursday to bar two prominent Sunni politicians from running in next month’s elections, a move that is likely to raise tensions between the Shi’ite-led government and Sunnis who claim they are being politically undermined.

The back-and-forth over a decision to blacklist hundreds of candidates from the March 7 vote because of ties to Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime has threatened to mar the balloting process, which U.S. officials hope could be a milestone in reconciliation among Iraq’s rival religious groups.

Ali al-Lami, head of the Shi’ite-led political vetting committee that drafted the blacklist, told the Associated Press he had been informed by the court of its decision against Sunni lawmakers Salah al-Mutlaq and Dhafir al-Ani.

A seven-judge appeals panel issued the order as part of its review of 177 candidates who have appealed a decision by Mr. al-Lami’s committee to exclude them from the ballot. Election officials had asked the nation’s highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council, for a final ruling on whether to open next month’s balloting to the banned candidates after an appeals court temporarily set aside the initial ban.

CHINA

Court upholds sentence for reform activist

BEIJING | A Chinese court on Thursday upheld the unprecedented 11-year sentence of a prominent academic who called for political reform - the latest in a rash of harsh punishments for activists that underscore Beijing’s refusal to brook any dissent.

The ruling - the third legal defeat this week for veteran Chinese activists - drew a rare public rebuke from the U.S. ambassador, who said Liu Xiaobo should be released immediately.

Liu’s hearing at Beijing’s high court took less than 10 minutes, and the activist was not given a chance to speak. “I’m innocent!” he called out before being taken away.

CHINA

U.S. carrier allowed to visit to Hong Kong

China has cleared a U.S. warship to visit Hong Kong next week, in a surprise concession by Beijing despite rising Sino-U.S. tensions.

“We have received clearance from China for the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to visit Hong Kong in the near future,” said Matthew Dolbow, a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong. At the Pentagon, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Billy Ray Davis confirmed the information.

The U.S. warship’s visit to Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, would come despite strains between the United States and China over planned U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, Internet controls and hacking, trade and currency quarrels, along with a likely imminent visit by the Dalai Lama to Washington.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Beijing did not know about the visit and it was not immediately clear when Beijing granted the clearance, with the port call having been in the works for some time, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Beijing has been known to deny entry to U.S. warships to Hong Kong at politically sensitive moments. In 2007, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk was denied entry to Hong Kong as it neared the city’s waters on the understanding the visit would be allowed, only to find Beijing wouldn’t give final clearance.

ITALY

Court orders Getty bronze confiscated

ROME | An Italian court on Thursday ordered an ancient Greek statue bought by the J. Paul Getty Museum seized, officials said.

The Los Angeles museum said it would appeal the decision to Italy’s highest court and would “vigorously defend” its right to keep the bronze.

The “Victorious Youth” statue, which dates from 300 B.C. to 100 B.C., was pulled from the sea by Italian fishermen in 1964 off the eastern town of Fano, near Pesaro. The Italian government, which has been on an international campaign to reclaim looted antiquities, says it was brought into Italy and then exported illegally.

The Getty maintains Italy has no claim to the bronze and that it bought the statue in good faith in 1977 for $4 million.

UKRAINE

Tymoshenko resists calls to concede

KIEV | Ukraine’s embattled prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, appeared in public for the first time in days Thursday but still resisted calls to concede defeat in the presidential election and resign her post.

Mrs. Tymoshenko, looking tense but determined, appeared before the media for the first time since Sunday’s election to chair a government meeting. She did not comment on the elections directly but took a swipe at the pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, who defeated her by a margin of 3.5 percentage points, according to the final preliminary vote count.

Her refusal to admit defeat signals that Mrs. Tymoshenko is digging in for a long power struggle with Mr. Yanukovych.

WEST BANK

Israel rerouting barrier near West Bank village

RAMALLAH | Opponents of Israel’s contentious separation barrier in the West Bank scored a long-awaited victory Thursday when the government began rerouting the enclosure to eat up less of a Palestinian village that has become a symbol of anti-wall protests and the site of frequent clashes.

The move comes 2 1/2 years after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the barrier must be moved to ease the hardship of Palestinians in the village of Bilin. Some Palestinians welcomed the development but stressed it fell far short of their demand to dismantle the entire enclosure.

Weekly protests near Bilin have become a symbol of the Palestinians’ struggle against the barrier’s encroachment on West Bank land, which they claim for their future state. Six protesters have been killed and dozens injured in clashes with Israeli forces over it.

Also Thursday, an Israeli air strike killed a Palestinian militant and wounded another in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said it struck militants who were about to attack Israel.

SWEDEN

Suspect held in Auschwitz sign theft

STOCKHOLM | Swedish police on Thursday arrested a former neo-Nazi leader that Polish investigators suspect of involvement in the theft of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at Auschwitz.

Swedish Prosecutor Agneta Hilding Qvarnstrom said 34-year-old Anders Hogstrom was detained in Stockholm on a European arrest warrant.

Ms. Hilding Qvarnstrom said Mr. Hogstrom will be appointed a defense attorney and questioned by Swedish investigators before authorities can decide on extraditing him to Poland.

Polish officials have said Mr. Hogstrom is suspected of incitement to commit theft of a cultural treasure.

The infamous sign, which means “Work Sets You Free” in German, was stolen in December from the site of the Nazis’ former Auschwitz death camp in Poland. Polish police found it in the woods three days later cut into three pieces. They charged five Polish men with its theft.

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