- - Sunday, December 25, 2011


Woman to face death by stoning or hanging

TEHRAN — Authorities in Iran said Sunday they are again moving ahead with plans to execute a woman sentenced to death by stoning on an adultery conviction in a case that sparked an international outcry, but are considering whether to carry out the punishment by hanging instead.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is already behind bars, serving a 10-year sentence on a separate conviction in the murder of her husband. Amid the international outrage her case generated, Iran in July 2010 suspended plans to carry out her death sentence on the adultery conviction.

On Sunday, a senior judiciary official said experts were studying whether the punishment of stoning could be changed to hanging.

“There is no haste. … We are waiting to see whether we can carry out the execution of a person sentenced to stoning by hanging or not,” said Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the head of the justice department of East Azerbaijan province, where Ashtiani is imprisoned.

“As soon as the result [of the investigation] is obtained, we will carry out the sentence,” he said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

The charge of a married woman having an illicit relationship requires a punishment of stoning, he said.


Japan’s premier to confer with Beijing on North Korea

BEIJING — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Sunday that he and his Chinese counterpart have agreed to work together in dealing with North Korea and promoting stability in the secretive Stalinist nation after the death of longtime leader Kim Jong-il.

Mr. Noda’s first official visit to Beijing normally would have centered on bilateral issues, such as squabbles over islands claimed by both countries. But the death of Mr. Kim on Dec. 17 and the announcement of his son, Kim Jong-un, as the country’s “supreme leader” have shifted the focus.

Mr. Noda, the first foreign leader to meet with China’s leaders since Mr. Kim’s death, emphasized the need to get stalled six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program back on track.

“We are currently facing a new situation in East Asia,” Mr. Noda told reporters after mentioning Mr. Kim’s death.

“On this issue, it is very timely to exchange views with the host of the six-party talks and the country with the most influence on North Korea,” he said, referring to China. “Safeguarding the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula is in the common interest of our two countries.”

Mr. Noda was speaking before meeting with his counterpart, Wen Jiabao. He meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday before returning home. His visit to China was planned before Mr. Kim’s death was announced Dec. 19.


Rally denounces killing of protesters

SANAA — Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Sunday in Yemen’s capital, protesting the deaths of protesters and demanding the resignation of the vice president for failing to bring the killers to justice.

Marching past the office of Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the protesters denounced him as a “tool in the hands” of outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The march took place as Mr. Hadi was meeting with U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein. A statement from Mr. Hadi’s office said they discussed Yemen’s crisis, and Mr. Hadi appealed for calm.

Mr. Hadi is heading a transitional government after Mr. Saleh agreed to transfer power following months of demonstrations and turmoil.

Under the U.S.-backed plan, Mr. Saleh won immunity from prosecution, angering many of his opponents. Yielding to pressure to defuse the country’s tensions, Mr. Saleh said Saturday he would leave for the United States.

The U.S. is concerned about months of turmoil in Yemen that have led to a security breakdown because the al Qaeda branch in Yemen has taken advantage of the vacuum to expand its presence in the south of the country.


Opposition calls for U.N. to end crisis

BEIRUT — Syria’s top opposition leader called on the Arab League on Sunday to bring the U.N. into the effort to stop the regime’s bloody crackdown on dissent, as security forces pressed ahead with raids and arrests and killed at least seven more people.

Burhan Ghalioun, the Paris-based leader of the Syrian National Council, made the plea as Arab League officials were setting up teams of foreign monitors as part of their plan aimed at ending nine months of turmoil that the U.N. says have killed more than 5,000 people.

Opposition groups say the Arab League is not strong enough to resolve the crisis, which is escalating beyond mass demonstrations into armed clashes between military defectors and security forces, and a double suicide bombing that shook Damascus on Friday.

The Arab League has begun sending observers into Syria to monitor compliance with its plan to end to the crackdown on political opponents. Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to the league plan only after it warned that it could turn to the U.N. Security Council to help stop the violence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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