THE MIDDLE EAST

Iranian Professor May

Avoid Death Penalty

TEHRAN, Iran -- A Supreme Court judge reviewing a death sentence imposed on a university professor for insulting Islam said it should be thrown out, according to a news report yesterday.

Ayatollah Mohammad Sajjadi, one of three judges examining the sentence against Hashem Aghajari, said capital punishment was inconsistent with the charges on which the professor was convicted, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Aghajari, a history professor at Tehran's Tarbiat-e-Modarres, or Teachers Training University, was sentenced to death on Nov. 6 after being convicted of insulting Islam and questioning the hard-line clergy's rule.

The judges are not considering whether to overturn Aghajari's conviction. If they do throw out the death sentence, a lower court could impose a new sentence or review the entire case.

Reuters

Turks Protest Visit

By Top U.S. General

ANKARA, Turkey -- Thousands of Turks staged an anti-war demonstration as the United States' top general arrived to push for U.S. use of Turkish bases for a possible war with neighboring Iraq.

The United States is pressuring Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member, to agree to let it station troops here as it did during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Turkey has delayed its response, however, as polls show 80 percent of the population oppose another conflict next door.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew into the southern Turkish air base at Incirlik, used by U.S. planes to patrol a "no-fly" zone over northern Iraq.

He then went to Ankara, the capital, where he is to meet with Turkey's army chief, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul on Monday.

In an Ankara park, protesters from far-right, Islamic and left-wing groups chanted "No to war," and "We will not be America's soldiers."

"The government should not allow this dirty war to take place," Mehmet Bekaroglu, a pro-Islamic former legislator, said in a speech. "It should listen to the people because the people are opposed to war."

Associated Press

Jewish Settlers Riot

After Hebron Slaying

HEBRON, West Bank -- Jewish settlers rampaged through the West Bank city of Hebron, smashing the windows of Palestinian homes and setting cars ablaze as they prepared to bury a settler killed by Palestinians.

The violence came nine days ahead of Israel's elections, which polls show Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud party is likely to finish first.

Israeli forces in Hebron braced for possible rioting by settlers during the funeral procession of Nathanel Ozeri, killed by Palestinian gunmen on Friday as he ate Sabbath dinner with his family at their home in an illegal outpost near the city.

Israeli media reported that Ozeri was a member of the outlawed anti-Arab Kach movement and had been jailed for participating in riots during the funeral of another settler in Hebron in July.

Kach seeks the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Reuters

Africa

Sierra Leone Still

Hunting Ex-Leader

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- Sierra Leone declared ex-junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma a wanted man, linking him to an alleged plot to destabilize the West African nation as it recovers from 10 years of civil war.

The declaration came after police raided Koroma's home in the capital, Freetown, on Saturday. Fourteen people were arrested, but Koroma wasn't among them, Sierra Leone's deputy police inspector general, Brima Acha Kamara, told an independent radio station.

Kamara called on Koroma "where ever he is, to give himself up."

The raid on Koroma's house followed a Jan. 13 shootout at a military base in Freetown. Kamara told reporters Saturday that an investigation into the shootout uncovered a "conspiracy to destabilize the security situation of the country."

Associated Press