- - Sunday, May 23, 2010

EGYPT

Cleric advocates killing U.S. civilians

CAIRO | An American-Yemeni cleric whose Internet sermons are believed to have helped inspire attacks on the U.S. has advocated the killing of American civilians in an al Qaeda video released Sunday.

Anwar al-Awlaki has been singled out by U.S. officials as a key terrorist threat and has been added to the CIA’s list of targets for assassination despite his American citizenship. He is of particular concern because he is one of the few English-speaking radical clerics able to explain to young Muslims in America and other Western countries the philosophy of violent jihad.

The U.S.-born al-Awlaki moved to Yemen in 2004 and is in hiding there after being linked to the suspects in the November shooting at an Army base in Fort Hood, Texas, and the December attempt to blow up a U.S. jetliner bound for Detroit.



“Those who might be killed in a plane are merely a drop of water in a sea,” he said in the video in response to a question about Muslim groups that disapproved of the airliner plot because it targeted civilians.

Al-Awlaki used the 45-minute video to justify civilian deaths — and encourage them — by accusing the United States of intentionally killing a million Muslim civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

American civilians are to blame, he said, because “the American people, in general, are taking part in this and they elected this administration and they are financing the war.”

He added that the Prophet Muhammad also sent forces into battles that claimed civilian lives.

GEORGIA

Russia seen losing in bid to reclaim country

Russia is actively seeking to recolonize former Soviet bloc countries before they become too democratic but is losing the race, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Sunday.

Asked in a CNN interview if Russia, which fought a bloody war with Georgia in August 2008, was trying to reassert itself, Mr. Saakashvili said yes and lashed out at his enemy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“They want to do this before we really become a full-fledged, successful democracy. We are on the way to becoming one.

“He [Mr. Putin] restored the Soviet anthem. He certainly is very fond of some of the Soviet symbols, and certainly he thinks that there is a [rightful Russian] sphere of influence,” said Mr. Saakashvili. “When you have this kind of closed society, when you have authoritarian kind of rulers, the biggest thing they hate is open society, transparency, efficiency, non-corrupt systems.”

Georgia, which gained sovereignty with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has sought to distance itself from its Soviet past since Mr. Saakashvili came to power in the 2003 pro-Western “Rose Revolution.”

Russia refuses to have any dealings with Mr. Saakashvili, and ties have been frozen since a five-day war in August 2008 over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

INDIA

Crash investigators find voice recorder

MANGALORE | Investigators sifting through the charred wreckage of an Indian passenger plane that plunged into a ravine, killing 158 people on board, found the cockpit voice recorder on Sunday.

The Air India Express Boeing 737-800, carrying 160 passengers and six crew on a flight from Dubai, careered off the “table-top” runway at Bajpe airport on Saturday and ploughed into a forested gorge, bursting into flames.

Some of the eight people who survived the crash about 12 miles from the southwest coastal city of Mangalore told how they had escaped as the fuselage broke into pieces and filled with thick smoke.

Arvind Jadhav, chairman of Air India, said at a press briefing in Mangalore on Sunday that all 158 bodies had been recovered but that 12 remained unidentified.

IRAQ

Top Shiite cleric calls for unity

BAGHDAD | The leader of the Sunni-backed coalition that won the most seats in Iraq’s March election said the country’s most influential Shiite cleric assured him in a meeting Sunday that no group would be excluded from the new government.

There are concerns that Sunnis will be largely excluded after the two Shiite blocs that came in second and third in the parliamentary vote formed an alliance likely to lead to another Shiite-dominated government, much like the current one. The Iraqiya coalition, led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, is not part of the alliance.

Mr. Allawi met Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, where the cleric lives. He said Mr. al-Sistani said the next government should serve without “excluding and marginalizing any group,” an apparent reference to minority Sunnis who have felt politically sidelined since 2003.

“Al-Sistani stressed national unity and … the importance of forming the government as soon as possible,” Mr. Allawi, a secular Shiite, told reporters after the meeting.

Mr. Allawi’s list won 91 of 325 seats to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s 89. For either to form a majority government, they need to partner with other parties.

SURINAME

Former dictator set to make comeback

PARAMARIBO | Suriname’s former dictator, Desi Bouterse, is set to make a comeback in parliamentary elections in the South American nation on Tuesday, even as he is on trial for murder.

Mr. Bouterse, 64, and chairman of the National Democratic Party is part of the four-member political bloc “Mega Combination” (MC) and leads the majority of the opinion polls held in several districts in this former Dutch colony.

MC leads with 41 percent according to opinion polls held in the capital Paramaribo among 315 voters, published last week by Foundation Scientific Information.

Next in line is ruling government Nieuw Front, with 22.5 percent led by President Ronald Venetiaan, 73, who has said he would not seek the presidency again.

In 2009, Mr. Bouterse said he would seek the presidency if his party gains enough seats.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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