- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Cleric warns of U.S. occupation

SAN’A | Yemen’s most influential Islamic cleric, considered an al Qaeda-linked terrorist by the United States, warned Monday that the U.S.-backed fight against the terror group could lead to “foreign occupation” of the country.

Sheik Abdul-Majid al-Zindani’s comments illustrate the pressure Yemen’s government is under to limit the U.S. role here even as Washington ramps up counterterrorism aid and training to help combat al Qaeda’s offshoot in the country.

Branded a spiritual mentor of Osama bin Laden’s by the United States, Sheik al-Zindani is highly influential among Yemenis. The United States has labeled him a “global terrorist,” saying in a 2004 Treasury report that he helped fund and recruit for al Qaeda and that students from his Iman University were involved in past attacks.

Yemen’s government has openly allied with Sheik al-Zindani in the past and still courts his support. The deputy prime minister last week defended the cleric, saying he is not a member of al Qaeda.

Al-Zindani laughed Monday as he dismissed the U.S. terror accusations against him at a press conference at his home in San’a. “It’s become well known among the people that a lot of lies” come out of Washington, the cleric said.


Leader out after wife’s teen affair

BELFAST | Northern Ireland’s leader was forced to step down — at least temporarily — amid outrage following revelations of his wife’s affair with a teenager.

In an emotional statement Monday, First Minister Peter Robinson said he would step aside for a few weeks to answer questions about his wife’s romantic and financial dealings with the 19-year-old for whom she helped raised tens of thousands of dollars when she was 58.

Iris Robinson, also a lawmaker, said last week that she began the affair less than two years ago with Kirk McCambley, now 21, while she was suffering a bout of mental illness and comforting someone after a family death. The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that Mrs. Robinson purportedly solicited $80,000 from people in business so her lover could open a restaurant.


Clinton embarks on Pacific trip

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left Monday on a 10-day trip scheduled to take her to Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with a stop in Hawaii for a policy speech and a one-on-one meeting with her Japanese counterpart.

In Australia, Mrs. Clinton is to be joined by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for talks with their foreign affairs and defense counterparts. Mrs. Clinton makes her first stop in Honolulu. On Tuesday, she is to deliver a speech there at the East-West Center, a research organization founded 50 years ago by Congress to promote relations with Pacific nations.


Al Qaeda offers hostage exchange

CAIRO | Al Qaeda’s North Africa offshoot on Monday demanded the release of four of its members in exchange for a French hostage it kidnapped two months ago. A message posted on militant Web sites gave a 20-day deadline.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said its only condition for freeing Pierre Camatte is the release of four members of the group arrested by Mali several months ago.

In Paris, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages would not comment on the al Qaeda exchange offer, citing a need for discretion in hostage cases.

The militant group announced last month its kidnapping of Mr. Camatte in Mali on Nov. 25 and three Spaniards in Mauritania five days later.


Filmmaker Eric Rohmer dies

PARIS | French new wave director Eric Rohmer, known for “My Night at Maud’s,” “Claire’s Knee” and other films about the intricacies of romantic relationships and the dilemmas of modern love, died on Monday. He was 89.

Mr. Rohmer, also an influential film critic early in his career, died in Paris, said Les Films du Losange, the production company he co-founded. The cause of death was not immediately given.

The director — internationally known for his films’ long, philosophical conversations — continued to work until recently. His latest film, the 17th-century costume tale “Les amours d’Astree et de Celadon,” (“Romance of Astree and Celadon”), appeared in 2007.


McCain honored with Hero order

TBILISI | Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has decorated visiting U.S. Sen. John McCain with a National Hero of Georgia order, recognizing his support in the August 2008 war with Russia.

The Western-friendly president made the award Monday at a ceremony on the Black Sea coast city of Batumi.

As the fighting was raging Mr. McCain announced that “today, we are all Georgians.”

Two Moscow-friendly territories in Georgia declared independence after the five-day war. The West has not followed Russia’s lead in recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia.


Two held in attack on Togo soccer team

CABINDA | Authorities have arrested two separatists in Angola’s restive Cabinda region following a shooting attack on the Togolese national soccer team that killed three people, a prosecutor announced Monday.

According to a brief statement from Antonio Nito, the prosecutor in charge of Cabinda province, two unidentified members of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda forces, or FLEC, were captured Sunday near the site of Friday’s shooting.

A FLEC leader reportedly in exile in France claimed responsibility Monday but said his group had been targeting Angolan troops escorting the Togolese team.


Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank, dies

AMSTERDAM | Miep Gies, who helped the teenage diarists family hide from the Nazis, has died, the Anne Frank Museum said. She was 100.

The Miep Gies Web site said the woman who rescued Anne Franks diary after the family was arrested in 1944, died after a short illness Monday.

Mrs. Gies and several other employees of Anne Franks father provided food and other necessities to the Jewish family while they hid in a concealed apartment for 25 months. Anne Frank died of typhus in a concentration camp.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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