Israel condemns 'Satan' remarks

TEHRAN, Iran -- Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday that Israel was the standard bearer of Satan and that the Jewish state would soon fall apart, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The agency quoted Ahmadinejad as he spoke at a religious conference and did not elaborate on what he meant by Satan. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, however, Iran has regularly referred to the United States as "the Great Satan." Israel condemned Ahmadinejad's statements as harmful to international peace and stability.


British troops face 'ugly' withdrawal

LONDON --An adviser to the U.S. military said British troops have lost control of the Iraqi city of Basra and face an "ugly" withdrawal in the coming months, a British newspaper reported. Stephen Biddle, a member of a group that advised U.S. Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq last year, told the Sunday Times that "insurgents are calling the shots" in the southern city. "I regret to say that the Basra experience is set to become a major blunder in terms of military history," Biddle was quoted as saying by the newspaper. The insurgents "in a worst-case scenario will chase us out of town." British forces have already been moving from a combat role to aiding Iraqi forces in southern Iraq, and Britain is expected to hand over control of Basra to Iraqi troops in the next few months.


Opposition members freed in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia --The government pardoned and freed 32 opposition supporters yesterday who had been arrested and held without charge following an outbreak of post-election violence two years ago, officials said. Their release came nearly a month after 38 other opposition members were freed after appeals from the U.S. and other nations to Ethiopia, a key U.S. ally in eastern Africa. U.S. and European officials said in a statement that the latest release was "a significant gesture and we congratulate all who have worked to achieve this outcome and extend particular commendation to the Ethiopian elders and the government of Prime Minister Meles [Zenawi]."

Maldivians vote on new government

MALE, Maldives --Thousands of Maldivians, many of them fed up with the president's nearly three-decade rule, voted yesterday at schools and makeshift gazebos in the crowded capital and on remote atolls in a poll seen as a referendum on their leader. The vote was technically to choose a new form of government. However, many hailed it as their first expression of democracy and hoped it would lead their tiny Indian Ocean nation to a better future. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is pushing for a U.S.-style political system. The opposition, wary of giving too much power to another leader - or to Gayoom for yet another five-year term - backs a British-style parliament, which would be led by a more accountable prime minister.

Hundreds strip for global warming

BETTMERALP, Switzerland --Hundreds of naked people formed a "living sculpture" on Switzerland's Aletsch glacier yesterday, hoping to raise awareness about climate change. The photo shoot by Spencer Tunick, the New York artist famous for his pictures of nude gatherings in public settings worldwide, was designed to draw attention to the effects of global warming on Switzerland's shrinking glaciers. It said most Swiss glaciers will disappear by 2080 if global warming continues at its current pace. Temperatures during the shoot hovered around 50 degrees.