- - Wednesday, June 29, 2011

IRAN

President denounces arrest of allies

TEHRAN | Iran’s embattled president fired back Wednesday after a wave of arrests against his allies, claiming it’s part of a “politically motivated” campaign to undermine his government and display the power of hard-line forces loyal to the country’s ruling clerics.

The sharp-edged accusations by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad highlight his stunning transition from favored son of the theocracy to an apparent adversary after seeking to expand the authority of the presidency and challenge the clerics’ grip on shaping politics and policies.

Dozens of the president’s allies have been detained over the past months - including four senior government officials last week - in the evolving power struggle.

“These moves [arrests] are politically motivated. It’s clear to us that it is aimed at pressuring the government,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Mr. Ahmadinejad as saying.

AFGHANISTAN

NATO raid ends hotel assault; 19 dead

KABUL | The first sign that militants were attacking one of Kabul’s premier hotels was an explosion that pierced one guest’s eardrums, prompting him to jump out the window of his room on the first floor into a chaotic scene that quickly turned into a grisly morass of bodies, gunfire and shattered glass.

Nineteen people died - including all eight suicide bombers - in a more than five-hour standoff at the Inter-Continental that ended early Wednesday after NATO attack helicopters fired missiles to kill three suicide bombers on the roof.

It was one of the biggest and most complex attacks orchestrated in the Afghan capital and appeared designed to show that the insurgents are capable of striking even in the center of power at a time when U.S. officials are speaking of progress in the nearly 10-year war.

VENEZUELA

Hugo Chavez back on TV after surgery in Cuba

CARACAS | Hugo Chavez has reappeared in photos and videos on state television, chatting with Fidel Castro in Cuba after a prolonged seclusion after surgery that has left Venezuelans guessing about their president’s health.

The images aired Tuesday night were the first to be released in 10 days and showed Mr. Chavez talking animatedly, both on his feet next to Mr. Castro and seated alongside one of his daughters.

Venezuelan officials again said the 56-year-old Mr. Chavez is recuperating smoothly after pelvic surgery, but they gave no details about his condition or about when he might return home.

“We see him recovering, fully recovering,” Information Minister Andres Izarra said on state television as the short video clips and photographs were shown of Mr. Chavez standing and talking with Mr. Castro outdoors.

Cuban state television also broadcast pictures of Tuesday’s get-together.

SWITZERLAND

Government drops plan to curb assisted suicide

BERN | The Swiss government has dropped a plan to impose stricter rules for assisted suicide.

Switzerland has long permitted “passive assisted suicide,” where someone can give another person the means to kill themselves provided the helper doesn’t personally benefit from the death.

The government said Wednesday that existing laws provide enough safeguards to prevent abuse without giving the impression that the government approves the work of suicide groups such as Dignitas.

Some lobby groups abroad have called on Switzerland to ban what they term “suicide tourism” by preventing foreigners from using the groups’ services.

The government says the current rules strike a balance between protecting vulnerable individuals and safeguarding their right to self-determination.

MYANMAR

Myanmar warns Suu Kyi her tour could trigger riots

YANGON | Myanmar’s state media warned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday that her planned tour to meet supporters outside Yangon could trigger riots.

The commentary published in all three state-run daily newspapers said the government would not stop Mrs. Suu Kyi but appeared to reflect government anxiety over her plans.

The state press serves as a mouthpiece for the government, which otherwise makes few public announcements.

Mrs. Suu Kyi drew large crowds when she last traveled in the countryside in 2003, and her popularity badly rattled the then-military government.

Supporters of the junta ambushed her entourage in northern Myanmar, killing several of her followers. She escaped but was detained. The army denied suspicions it organized the attack.

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