World Digest: Oct. 9, 2013

October 9, 2013
IRAN
Top envoy defends outreach to U.S.

Iran’s foreign minister fired back against hard-line critics of Tehran’s groundbreaking outreach to the United States, accusing opponents on Wednesday of using fabricated news leaks and other tactics to undermine the effort — and even checking himself into the hospital because of stress the strife has caused.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said the political battles had become so tense that it brought on back pain and spasms. He said on his Facebook page that he canceled appointments and went to hospital for a checkup late Tuesday.

The source of his distress: An article in a hard-line newspaper that Zarif said misquoted him on the subject of the outreach.

The image of the U.S.-educated Zarif forced to seek medical attention because of stress underscored the high-level tensions inside Iran’s leadership after the historic exchanges last month at the United Nations, including President Obama’s phone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. The call angered hard-liners.

In another sign of the Rouhani camp’s more moderate course, government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht was quoted by the semiofficial Fars News Agency as saying officials are considering freeing two opposition leaders who have been under house arrest since early 2011.

— Associated Press

WEST BANK
Palestinian school comes under attack

Masked Jewish settlers burst into a school Wednesday, vandalizing cars and torching olive trees during a rampage that forced schoolchildren to remain locked in classrooms to stay safe, residents of a Palestinian village in the West Bank said.

Fawzi Ali, a teacher at the school in Jaloud, said the settlers entered the village and began throwing stones. He said teachers locked classroom doors to protect the school’s 175 students as the doors were pelted. The settlers smashed the windshields of several cars, residents said, and lighted a fire in an olive grove.

Jaloud is next to a hard-line Jewish settlement outpost whose residents have clashed with local Palestinians in the past.

The Israeli military said its forces, responding to complaints in the area, found that the school had been damaged along with seven vehicles. A soldier was wounded by a stone. The military said it arrested four settlers.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said the army “frowns upon such grave actions, which destabilize the region and deviate security forces’ attention from their main mission — combating terror.”

— Associated Press

Chinese tin magnate charged: Chinese authorities have arrested Lei Yi, the chairman of the world’s largest producer of refined tin, Yunnan Tin Co., on charges of accepting bribes, the Yunnan provincial government said. Chinese President Xi Jinping has made fighting corruption a key plank of his new administration, saying the problem is so severe it could affect the ruling Communist Party’s survival.

Bangladeshi politician convicted of war crimes: A special Bangladesh tribunal found a senior member of the opposition guilty of crimes against humanity stemming from the nation’s 1971 war of independence and sentenced him to life in prison. Abdul Alim, 83, of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was found guilty of involvement in the killing of at least 600 people during the war.

E.U. to provide more refu­gee aid to Italy: The head of the European Commission said in a visit to Lampedusa that Italy would receive an additional $40 million in E.U. funds to help settle and receive new refugees, after the sinking of a migrant boat off the Sicilian island killed at least 297 people. Officials also said migration would also be on the agenda of an E.U. summit Oct. 24-25.

Cuba boosts private tourist businesses: Cuba has authorized its state-run tourism industry to contract out lodgings, meals, excursions and other activities to private businesses in a boost to a growing “non-state” sector. While the government has allowed some state contracting to private businesses since 2012, up until now the tourism industry was off limits. Tourism is the country’s largest industry, attracting 2.8 million visitors in 2012 with revenues approaching $3 billion.

Azerbaijan president wins reelection: Ilham Aliyev won a third term as president of the oil-producing ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan on Wednesday in an election the opposition said was marred by voting violations. Aliyev’s control over most levers of power and media outlets made his victory a foregone conclusion for many in the nation of 9 million, even though the fractious opposition united for the first time in a presidential poll behind a single candidate.

— From news services

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