Saakashvili alliesface graft charges

Allies of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili — a former prime minister and a provincial governor — were charged Tuesday with embezzlement and abuse of office in the latest sign of a power struggle between the country’s top two officials.

After dominating Georgian politics for nine years, the pro-Western Saakashvili was humiliated last fall when his party lost a parliamentary election to the Georgian Dream coalition led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who became prime minister.

A constitutional reform further weakened Saakashvili’s hand by shifting the government’s powers from the presidency to Parliament and the prime minister.

The election was the first constitutional transfer of top executive power in Georgia and was hailed as a breakthrough for the post-Soviet region. But problems soon emerged.

Saakashvili’s presidential term does not end until October, so he must serve alongside his arch-foe, Russia-friendly Ivanishvili — a situation that has resulted in an intense battle for power.

On Tuesday, ex-premier Vano Merabishvili, who leads Saakashvili’s party, and former labor minister Zurab Chiaberashvili, now governor of the Kakheti region, were arrested on abuse-of-office and other charges. Merabishvili, the key architect of Saakashvili’s policies, is the highest-ranking member of the president’s inner circle to face such charges.

— Associated Press

13 killed as attacks
persist nationwide

New attacks targeting both Sunni and Shiite communities killed 13 people and wounded dozens in Iraq on Tuesday, officials said, after a bloody day that claimed more than 100 lives across the country.

A suicide bomber set off his explosives-laden vest at a military checkpoint in the town of Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad. Militants then opened fire on the soldiers, killing three, police said.

In the western Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib on Tuesday night, a bomb struck Sunni worshipers as they were leaving a mosque, killing six. In the city of Tuz Khurmatu, 130 miles north of the capital, two car bombs went off simultaneously, killing three civilians.

And in Kirkuk, 150 miles north of Baghdad, three bombs exploded back-to-back at a sheep market, killing one person.

The attacks came as authorities raised the death toll in Monday’s wave of bloodshed to 113 from 95, after many of the injured died.

— Associated Press

N. Korea sends special envoy to China: North Korea on Wednesday sent a special envoy for leader Kim Jong Un to China, its primary benefactor. The North’s official news agency identified the envoy as Choe Ryong Hae, but gave no other details. Choe is the North Korean military’s top political officer tasked with supervising the army. Kim Jong Un has not visited Beijing since he took power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in December 2011. The trip comes as a new leadership in China has shown frustration with North Korea and a greater willingness to work with Washington to harry Pyongyang over its nuclear ambitions. On Tuesday, a Chinese boat owner said gunmen wearing North Korean military uniforms released his fishing boat after holding its crew for two weeks, beating up the captain and stealing the vessel’s fuel.

Attacks leave 14 police officers dead in Afghanistan: A coordinated Taliban assault on checkpoints in southern Afghanistan killed four police officers before a counterattack drove the insurgents back, Afghan officials said, while at least 10 officers died in two attacks in the country’s west. The battle in the southern province of Helmand started two nights ago, and fighting raged for more than a day in the Sangin district before police reinforcements arrived from the provincial capital.

Same-sex marriage bill advances in Britain: Britain’s House of Commons passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales. The legislation, backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, passed by a vote of 366 to 161 and will now move to the House of Lords, where members are to hold their first debate on the matter in July.

Oscar Pistorius’s brother acquitted: One Pistorius brother is free of charges, acquitted of culpable homicide in the death of a woman in a 2008 road accident. His younger brother, Olympian double amputee Oscar Pistorius, still must face his day in court for shooting and killing his girlfriend. Carl Pistorius cried tears of relief Tuesday as a magistrate acquitted him of culpable homicide and negligent driving.

— From news services