World Digest


December 31, 2005

Ex-Syrian vice president says Lebanese leader was threatened

BEIRUT, LEBANON -- Former Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, a one-time stalwart of the ruling Baath Party, said yesterday that former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri was threatened by Syria months before he was assassinated.

Khaddam made the claim as he declared a formal break with President Bashar Assad in a television interview from Paris, citing corruption within the regime and its failure to reform.

"Hariri was subjected to many threats from Syria. ... Dangerous things were said. Once he was summoned to Damascus ... and spoken to in extremely harsh words by President Bashar Assad," Khaddam said in the interview with Al-Arabiya, the pan-Arab satellite broadcaster, his first since he left Syria several months ago.

A U.N. probe into Hariri's killing has implicated Syria, but Damascus has denied the allegations.

Associated Press

Haiti elections meet with fourth delay

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haiti's national elections, set for Jan. 8 and hindered by delays and disorganization, will be postponed for a fourth time, electoral officials said yesterday. The presidential and legislative elections - the first since a rebellion ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide nearly two years ago - were to have been held in November and have since been postponed three times. Delays in distributing 3.5 million voter ID cards, disorganized voting centers and problems with the voter database were the main reasons for the latest postponement.

Pinochet loses more immunity

SANTIAGO, Chile --Former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet was stripped of his legal immunity yesterday to face charges of diverting public funds to personal bank accounts. Judge Juan Escobar, president of the Santiago Court of Appeals, said his tribunal voted 21-3 to remove the immunity Pinochet enjoys as a former president. Yesterday's decision is part of a wider corruption-related legal process in which Pinochet also lost immunity against charges of tax evasion and secret overseas bank accounts totaling as much as $28 million.

Indian ex-leader won't run again

NEW DELHI --Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a leading figure in the Hindu nationalist opposition, has announced that he does not plan to run again for office. As prime minister, Vajpayee, 81, asserted India's role as a burgeoning power by openly testing nuclear weapons, yet also started a peace process with longtime rival Pakistan. He will remain in the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Four Afghan police are killed by mine

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan --Suspected Taliban rebels detonated a mine near a police checkpoint in southern Afghanistan, killing four Afghan police officers and wounding seven, authorities said yesterday. The attack occurred late Thursday in Helmand province as the officers were eating dinner, Nazarjusth district police chief Haji Bahadur Khan said. He said the mine was buried in the road near the checkpoint and remotely detonated.

U.S. takes last step in closing base

FRANKFURT, Germany --The U.S. Air Force handed over the keys to Rhein-Main Air Base yesterday to the operator of Frankfurt International Airport, the last step in closing the base, which was host to American forces for 60 years. The 120 buildings on the base are to be bulldozed to make way for a third terminal for Frankfurt's sprawling civilian airport - continental Europe's busiest. It officially becomes German property today. Rhein-Main was once a hub of activity for American forces facing Soviet-bloc forces and tensions in the Middle East. It saw a steady stream of planes fly supplies to West Berliners in the late 1940s during the Soviet blockade of the city.

From wire reports

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