- - Sunday, March 13, 2011


Court sets trial for American hikers

TEHRAN | The Iranian government says a second session in the trial of three Americans accused of spying will be held May 11, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.

Ali Reza Avaei, head of Tehran’s justice department, said the upcoming session will likely be closed, as the first one was on Feb. 6.

Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were hiking in northern Iraq near the Iranian border in July 2009 when Iranian forces detained them. Iranian officials have accused them of spying for the U.S., but the Americans deny the charges.

Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal pleaded not guilty in the February session. Miss Shourd was released on bail last September and fled the country. She pleaded not guilty in absentia.


Leading candidates lose ground in poll

LIMA | The three front-runners in Peru’s presidential election race have lost ground to leftist Ollanta Humala and former Economy Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, raising uncertainty ahead of the April 10 vote, a poll showed Sunday.

Former President Alejandro Toledo remained the top candidate, but his support slipped 2 percentage points, to 26.6 percent, in the Catholic University poll conducted across the country between March 4 and March 8.

The poll, which surveyed 1,570 people in urban and rural areas, had lawmaker Keiko Fujimori at 19.3 percent, down from 20.3 percent. Former Lima Mayor Luis Castaneda saw his support inch down to 17.3 percent from 17.5 percent.

Support for the left-wing ultra-nationalist Mr. Humala rose 3.5 percentage points, to 15.5 percent, while Mr. Kuczynski gained 7 percentage points, to 10.6 percent.

“The difference between the first- and the fifth-placed candidate has shrunk. Also, the gap between the second- and fourth-placed is a little under 4 percent, which means the outlook for April 10 is highly uncertain,” the pollster added.


Relatives demand release of protesters

RIYADH | Dozens of Saudis gathered outside the interior ministry in Riyadh on Sunday to demand the release of jailed relatives, two days after a planned day of protests fizzled amid a heavy police presence.

Protests are banned in Saudi Arabia and the interior ministry denied one was taking place. Journalists could not get close to the heavily guarded ministry but saw dozens of men in traditional white robes standing there, while dozens of security forces stood by next to parked buses and police cars.

The men were asking to see Saudi counter-terrorism chief, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, to demand the release of prisoners they say are being held too long without trial, activists said.


Ambush kills 9, threatens peace deal

PARACHINAR | Gunmen ambushed a van and killed nine civilians Sunday in a stretch of northwestern Pakistan covered by a new peace deal among tribes from rival Muslim sects. Security forces responding to the attack killed three suspected gunmen, police said.

The clash does not bode well for the future of the peace accord in the Kurram tribal region, which ended a four-year conflict that cost hundreds of lives.

Police official Mir Chaman Khan said the attack occurred in Hangu district along the main road from Kurram to the city of Peshawar. The road recently had reopened after the Shiite Muslim Toori and Bangash tribes inked the deal with the Mangal and other Sunni Muslim tribes.

The clash occurred in a Sunni-dominated area. The van was coming from Parachinar, a Shiite-dominated town in Kurram.

Mr. Khan declined to speculate on who was behind the attack.

But tribesmen in Kurram also have reported that the Haqqani Network, a fiercely independent branch of the Afghan Taliban and a major enemy of U.S. and NATO forces, had cut a deal with the Shiites so it could use Kurram as a staging ground for fighting in Afghanistan.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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