Palestinian Leader Names Security Heads
GAZA -- The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, named three new heads for the security forces and forced hundreds of their men into retirement on Saturday, pushing aside top commanders in Yasser Arafat's old guard.
The shake-up brings Abbas closer to meeting Israeli and U.S. demands for reform of corruption-plagued security forces, also criticized by ordinary Palestinians for failing to maintain law and order.
Brig. Gen. Suleiman Helles was named national security forces commander. He replaces Moussa Arafat, a Gaza strongman who is a cousin of the late Palestinian leader.
BRASILIA -- A Brazilian air force jet is to fly Ecuador's ousted president, Lucio Gutierrez, into asylum in Brazil Sunday, Brazil's Foreign Ministry said. Brazil offered to grant Gutierrez political asylum Thursday -- a day after Ecuador's Congress ended his presidency.
HAVANA -- Elian Gonzalez, the young Cuban castaway whose international custody battle ended in his dramatic seizure from a Miami home five years ago, addressed a crowd of thousands Friday, thanking Cubans and Americans alike for fighting for his return to the island.
THE MIDDLE EAST
BEIRUT -- The last Syrian troops will leave Lebanon on Sunday after 29 years, a senior Lebanese military officer said, as Damascus yields to fierce international and domestic pressure after the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
The announcement came as the largest number of Syrian troops to leave Lebanon in one group vacated at least 10 positions in the northern part of Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon.
TEHRAN -- Sharp divisions among Iran's conservatives were exposed when several hard-liners said they would risk splitting the vote by standing against the official conservative presidential candidate.
The infighting plays into the hands of political heavyweight and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a more moderate conservative, who has said he will enter June's presidential race if the spats in the hard-line camp continue.
ROME -- Silvio Berlusconi was sworn in as premier of the nation's 60th government in as many years, after naming a team of ministers that closely resembles the one he led until stepping down days earlier in a power struggle with coalition allies.
By reconstituting his government, Berlusconi aimed to improve his sagging popularity and avoid early elections as polls suggest his rivals have the edge. He received the mandate to form a new government during a Friday meeting with President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, two days after quitting.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan police and forces from the U.S.-led military coalition seized $2 million worth of illegal drugs and detained seven suspected smugglers last week, the U.S. military said.
-- From News Services