Mentor to Leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq
Is Jailed in Jordan After Brief Release
AMMAN, Jordan -- The spiritual mentor of al Qaeda's reputed leader in Iraq was back in a Jordanian jail Wednesday, days after being let out, and his supporters accused the United States of pressuring Jordan to imprison him.
Isam Mohammad Taher Barqawi, also known as Sheik Abu-Mohammed Maqdisi, was arrested "on charges of making contacts with terrorist groups outside Jordan" since his release a week ago, the deputy prime minister said.
Barqawi is said to have taught radical Islamic ideology to Abu Musab Zarqawi, head of the group known as al Qaeda in Iraq, which has waged a violent insurgency there.
Barqawi's supporters accuse the United States of pressuring Jordan, a longtime ally, to imprison the cleric despite the fact that he recently questioned the tactics used by the insurgency, such as suicide attacks.
* VALLETTA, Malta -- Malta's parliament unanimously ratified the European Union constitution, adding another "yes" vote to the treaty whose future remains uncertain following rejections of the pact by French and Dutch voters.
The vote from the tiny Mediterranean island nation -- about twice the size of Washington, D.C. -- came after the opposition Labor Party decided to support the charter.
All 25 nations must ratify the constitution for it to take effect; with the addition of Malta, 12 have done so. Some nations, including Britain, have put a vote on hold while the E.U. decides how to proceed.
* MAKHACHKALA, Russia -- Police on a raid killed the suspected leader of an armed group and another gunman in an early morning shootout in Dagestan, highlighting a growing wave of violence in the southern Russian region bordering conflict-torn Chechnya. A bystander was also killed.
* KIEV, Ukraine -- Communists and pro-government lawmakers threw punches at each other during an angry debate in parliament over a package of bills needed for entry to the World Trade Organization.
The session ended with only one of the necessary 14 measures being adopted, but President Viktor Yushchenko's government remained optimistic that it would push through the bills that foreign investors have called a critical test of the new government's pro-West ambitions.
THE MIDDLE EAST
* TEHRAN -- Iran's top nuclear negotiator will remain in place at least until the country's new president takes office, his spokesman said, denying a report from the state news agency that said he had resigned.
But the report threw into doubt the future of Hasan Rowhani, considered a moderate, once the new hard-line president takes office early next month. His departure would raise the prospect that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would assemble another team for talks with the Europeans over Iran's nuclear program.
Rowhani and Ahmadinejad met Wednesday to discuss nuclear issues, Rowhani's spokesman said.
During his presidential campaign, Ahmadinejad criticized Iran's negotiators for making concessions to the Europeans -- particularly a temporary freeze in the nuclear program. Since his surprise victory in last month's elections, he has said only that Iran would continue the negotiations despite the deadlock.
* KABUL, Afghanistan -- A human rights group urged Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, to set up a special court to try major war crimes suspects, including some who are part of his government. Such a step is vital for the nation to emerge from a quarter-century of bloodshed, said the report from the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
The report charged that numerous officials and advisers in Karzai's government are "implicated in major war crimes and human rights abuses that took place in the early 1990s," when Afghanistan was embroiled in a civil war.
The report came out after midnight in Afghanistan and the government had no immediate reaction.
Karzai has assembled a government that includes people who fought on various sides in the war. He has vowed to end the influence of warlords, but also has made deals with regional leaders whose support is crucial to keeping the peace in vast swaths of the remote countryside.
* SRINAGAR, India -- A state minister in Indian Kashmir survived an assassination attempt by suspected Muslim rebels who fired on his car and wounded three bodyguards.
Police said Sayed Bashir, the irrigation and flood control minister, escaped unhurt when his car was hit by automatic-rifle fire in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir. Security officials fired back at the gunmen, who fled.
There was no assertion of responsibility.
* SANTIAGO, Chile -- An appeals court ruled narrowly that former dictator Augusto Pinochet can face charges related to the 1975 cover-up of the killings of dozens of leftists, known as Operation Colombo. Judge Juan Escobar of the Santiago Appeals Court said the court voted 11 to 10 to remove Pinochet's immunity in the human rights case. Attorneys for Pinochet are expected to appeal.
* BRASILIA -- President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva named three cabinet ministers from a centrist party to shore up support for his governing coalition, mired in charges of buying votes in Congress.
The three are from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, the largest party in Congress but not a consistent supporter of Lula's government, controlled by his Workers' Party.
* LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Bolivia's caretaker president formalized a call to hold early general elections on Dec. 4, carrying out a legislative pact intended to steer South America's poorest nation out of political chaos.
* PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- U.N. troops raided the base of an illegal armed group in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil and at least five people were killed, witnesses and U.N. officials said. More than 350 U.N. troops in armored carriers stormed a house where gang leader Emmanuel Wilme, known as Dread Wilme, was believed to have taken refuge.
* ACAPULCO, Mexico -- A former official suspected of planning the massacre of 17 Indian peasants 10 years ago was shot to death in this Pacific coast resort. Jose Robles Catalan was killed by two gunmen who shot him from a passing car, state officials said. Police were searching for the killers.
* KHARTOUM, Sudan -- The National Assembly passed a new constitution that steps away from complete Islamic rule and opens the way for a Christian former rebel leader, John Garang, to be inaugurated as first vice president later this week.
Amid shouts of "Allahu akbar," or God is great, and "Hallelujah, hallelujah!" the 286 lawmakers who attended the session stood with their hands in the air to unanimously pass the constitution. It says Islamic law will not be applied in the mainly Christian and animist south, and removes a requirement that the president be Muslim.
-- From News Services