WORLD IN BRIEF
Iran Warns Iraqi Leader U.S. Exit Is Key to Peace
TEHRAN -- Iranian officials told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday that only a U.S. pullout would bring peace to his country and asserted that Tehran was doing its best to help stabilize its neighbor.
Maliki said decisions about an American pullout were between Baghdad and Washington.
The first two days of Maliki's three-day visit, aimed at enlisting Iranian help in pacifying Iraq, appeared to bring no concessions from Iran. Instead, Iranian officials used the spotlight to decry U.S. involvement in Iraq and promote their increasingly close ties with Maliki's government.
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· NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania -- Mauritania has passed a law promising jail time for slaveholders, a key step in the northwest African country's push to eliminate a practice that has quietly persisted despite a 25-year-old ban. The law, adopted unanimously late Wednesday by the legislature, calls for prison sentences of up to 10 years for people keeping slaves, fines for slaveholders and reparations for those who have been enslaved.
· KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan said Thursday it would lift a threat to arrest rebel figure Suleiman Jamous when peace talks begin in the four-year Darfur conflict.
Jamous, who has been virtually imprisoned at a U.N. hospital near Darfur for more than 13 months, is seen as key to uniting fractured insurgents in western Sudan.
In Brussels, the European Union called for a cease-fire in Darfur and urged Sudan's government and rebel groups to support an international peace process.
· South African President Thabo Mbeki fired Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, who had criticized the government's policy on AIDS, without giving a reason. A group of AIDS activists and the country's largest labor federation condemned her removal from office.
· VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican sought to calm Jewish anger over the pope's meeting last Sunday with the Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk, a prominent Polish priest accused of anti-Semitism, declaring that the encounter did not imply any change in the church's desire for good relations with Jews.
The Middle East
· DAMASCUS, Syria -- Syria is facing a violent campaign by radical Islamic fighters, and six border soldiers died after attacks from inside Iraq, a senior Syrian official said. This is the first time Syria has publicly disclosed details of the fight against radicals, which intensified this year.
"We are conducting operations against terrorist cells, and we have taken martyrs," Mohammad Mansoura, head of the political security branch of Syria's intelligence apparatus, said at an international security conference on Iraq. He also said raids had yielded weapons, including "suicide explosive belts."
· MEXICO CITY -- Mexico announced that it is reinstating its ambassador to Venezuela, in a move that would restore full diplomatic relations between the countries nearly two years after a rupture.
In late 2005, relations between Mexico and Venezuela were reduced to lower-level diplomats because of spats between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and then-Mexican President Vicente Fox.
· MANILA -- Philippine troops shelled Muslim rebel positions and raked them with helicopter fire overnight in the south after a day of fighting in which at least 54 people, including 26 troops, were killed. The fighting was the heaviest in the Philippine south for almost three years.
-- From News Services