- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2010

PAKISTAN

Security officials sent to Islamabad

President Obama has sent his top national security advisers to Pakistan to reiterate to the government in Islamabad the importance of cracking down on terrorists in the wake of the Times Square car-bomb attempt.

In meetings with senior Pakistani officials on Wednesday, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta and National Security Adviser James L. Jones are expected to discuss the ongoing investigation into the New York plot.

Mr. Jones and Mr. Panetta will meet with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, and Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.



INDIA

Government offers peace talks

NEW DELHI | India is willing to begin peace talks with Maoist rebels, but only if the insurgents halt all attacks for 72 hours, the home minister said Tuesday.

The offer followed a rebel ambush Monday of a bus in central India that killed 31 police officers and civilians and highlighted the Maoists’ strength despite a government offensive aimed at ending one of Asia’s longest rebellions.

CANADA

Officials campaign against bank tax

OTTAWA | Canada will “resist” a bank tax, Industry Minister Tony Clement said Tuesday as ministers fanned out across the world to raise opposition to the proposal for avoiding another financial crisis.

“Canada is, and will remain, opposed to a tax that would penalize financial institutions that remained strong and prosperous while many of the world’s banks failed,” Mr. Clement told a press conference with Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.

“We will resist the bank tax here at home and we seek to convince other heads of government of the virtue of our position,” he said as senior ministers echoed his message in Mumbai, Beijing and Washington.

Attempts to reach international agreement on coordinated bank taxes at last month’s Group of 20 and International Monetary Fund meetings ran aground.

Nations such as Canada and Brazil, whose banking sectors emerged largely unscathed from the financial crisis, objected to the plan and favored higher capital reserve requirements instead.

IRAQ

Militant details World Cup plot

BAGHDAD | An al Qaeda militant detained in Iraq on suspicion of plotting to attack the World Cup told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he wanted to target Danish and Dutch teams to avenge insults against the Prophet Muhammad.

Iraqi security forces announced the arrest of Saudi citizen Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani on Monday, saying he was suspected of planning an attack in South Africa during the World Cup beginning June 11.

“The goal was to attack the Danish and the Dutch teams and their fans,” the militant said. “If we were not able to reach the teams, then we’d target the fans,” he said, adding that they hoped to use guns and car bombs.

FRANCE

Bill to ban veils would impose fines

PARIS | A bill to ban Muslim veils covering the face to be presented to France’s Cabinet on Wednesday calls for fines and, in some cases, citizenship classes.

The bill turns on the “dignity of the person” rather than security issues as many speculated would be the case, according to a copy obtained by the Associated Press.

Article 1 of the bill stipulates that “no one can wear a garment intended to hide the face in the public space.” The ban covers streets.

The divisive legislation proposed by the conservative government of President Nicolas Sarkozy is to go to the lower house of parliament for debate in July and to the Senate in September. There is little doubt the bill will pass despite opposition.

HAITI

Preval vows to step down

ARCAHAIE | Surrounded by waving banners of blue and red, Haitian President Rene Preval pledged to step down as scheduled next year, rebuking critics who say he is using the post-earthquake emergency to hold on to power.

Mr. Preval told thousands celebrating Flag Day in the seaside town of Arcahaie that he will step down at the end of his term, Feb. 7. The two-term leader sparked protests this month when he adopted a decree that would extend his term by up to three months if a planned presidential election is not held by the end of November.

SPAIN

Judge allowed to work for court

MADRID | The body that oversees Spain’s judiciary on Tuesday approved a request by crusading judge Baltasar Garzon, suspended last week for alleged abuse of power, to work for the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The five-member panel of the General Council of the Judiciary voted 3-2 to grant Judge Garzon a leave of absence to work as an adviser for the ICC for seven months because it found no “legal reasons” to oppose the request.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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