Partial election tallies sent for approval
BAGHDAD | Iraq’s election commission announced Sunday that it will send all results of the March vote to the high court for final ratification except for those from Baghdad, where a recount is under way.
Patience has been wearing thin over the delay in announcing final results more than two months after the close of the March 7 parliamentary elections.
“The court sent a message to the commission about the possibility of ratifying results, and the decision of the commission is to send all election results except Baghdad,” said Qassim al-Abboudi, the election commission spokesman.
The votes from Baghdad province are being recounted after charges of fraud by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose coalition narrowly came in second to secular Shiite politician Ayad Allawi, whose Iraqiya bloc was heavily backed by minority Sunni Arabs.
Mr. al-Abboudi said the decision also follows a request from Mr. al-Maliki to ratify the results aside from Baghdad. President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies made a similar request on Tuesday.
Also on hold are results for special party compensatory seats, Christian seats and those whose winners are being vetted for links to Saddam Hussein’s regime by a Shiite-led panel.
Electrical blast causes panic on train
DURBAN | Dozens of panicked passengers jumped from a train in South Africa after an electrical explosion at a station on Sunday, but no serious injuries were reported, police said.
The state-operated train was traveling from the coastal city of Durban when the blast happened at about 5 p.m., police spokeswoman Phindile Radebe said.
“We have established that the explosion came from a nearby electricity box, not from the train. Panicked passengers then jumped out of the train,” Ms. Radebe said.
“Paramedics say no serious injuries had been treated,” she added.
Police earlier said there had been a blast on the train itself and that there were a number of injuries.
Last month, a luxury train carrying foreign passengers derailed outside the capital Pretoria, killing three people.
South Africa is preparing to host the FIFA World Cup, which starts June 11.
Report: Syria, Qatar back Iran plan
ISTANBUL | Syria and Qatar back Turkish efforts for a diplomatic solution to the row over Iran’s nuclear program, Turkey’s foreign minister said after leaders of the three countries met Sunday, a report said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Qatar’s ruler, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, held three-way talks in Istanbul to discuss regional affairs.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Syrian and Qatari leaders both supported Ankara’s efforts to mediate between Western powers and Iran, among them a proposal to host talks over Tehran’s nuclear activities, Anatolia news agency reported.
“The three countries condemned recent rhetoric and actions raising tensions in the region. … They emphasized support for all efforts aimed at regional peace and stability,” the minister was quoted as saying.
Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani also was in Turkey on Sunday for talks with President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul at the start of a three-day visit, but no statement was made after the meeting, Anatolia reported.
Suspicious shoes lead to airport arrest
KARACHI | Pakistani officers arrested a civil engineer at Karachi airport Sunday after batteries and an electric circuit were found in his shoes as he tried to board a plane for the Middle East, an official said.
The bearded 30-year-old suspect told interrogators that he came from Pakistan’s northwestern province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where Taliban and Islamist militants have a presence, and had been scheduled to travel to Muscat by Thai Airways.
Mohammad Munir, spokesman for the Airport Security Force, said the man was arrested when a scanner sounded an alarm at the airport.
“He was on the way to board flight TG 507 for Muscat. After the machine gave the alarm, we checked him manually,” said the spokesman.
“We have recovered four live batteries and a circuit, with a button to switch it on and off,” Mr. Munir said.
U.S. praises Israelis, Palestinians for talks
JERUSALEM | The U.S. praised Israelis and Palestinians for pledging modest steps to create a positive atmosphere for their first peace contacts in more than a year, after the initial round of indirect talks ended Sunday.
President Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, left for home Sunday after multiple meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the course of a week to get the indirect talks under way. Resumption of the peace talks amounts to the first achievement here for the Obama administration.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the talks were “serious and wide-ranging,” and both sides offered initial steps: Israel committed to no building in a housing project in disputed East Jerusalem, and the Palestinians said they would work against incitement.
Over the next four months, Mr. Mitchell will ply the road between the offices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, less than 10 miles apart, to try to narrow vast differences over the terms of Palestinian independence.
Mr. Crowley said that Mr. Mitchell will return in a week for another round of diplomacy.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports