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Iran questions Britons on intent

Tue., March 27, 2007

Iran said Monday it was questioning 15 British sailors and marines to determine if their alleged entry into Iranian waters was “intentional or unintentional” before deciding what to do with them – the first sign it could be seeking a way out of the standoff.

The two countries continued to disagree about where the military personnel were seized Friday, with Britain insisting they were in Iraqi waters after searching a civilian cargo vessel and the Tehran regime saying it had proof they were in Iranian territory.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said they were seized in the Shatt al-Arab, a waterway flowing into the Persian Gulf that marks the border between Iran and Iraq. But the dividing line in the waterway, known in Iran as the Arvand river, has long been disputed.

Iran has refused to say where the captured Britons were being held or allow British officials to speak with them, but assured the British ambassador they were in good health.

CAIRO, Egypt

Turnout low for referendum

Turnout was low Monday in a rushed referendum on amending Egypt’s constitution, changes the government has touted as democratic reforms but critics dismiss as attempts to curtail rights and consolidate the regime’s power.

The amendments would abolish emergency laws, allow election supervision by an independent commission and ban political parties based on religion in this key U.S. ally. On the eve of the vote, President Hosni Mubarak said such changes would “give a new push to political party activity” and “stop the exploitation of religion and illegal political behavior.”

The opposition, led by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, boycotted the vote, saying the amendments would only cement control by Mubarak, who has ruled for a quarter century. They say the changes would weaken election oversight and allow the suspension of civil rights such as requirements for arrests and search warrants in terrorism investigations.

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania

Former official wins first election

A former government minister beat a longtime opposition politician in what was widely seen as Mauritania’s first free presidential election, according to results announced Monday.

Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi received 53 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff election, against Ahmed Ould Daddah’s 47 percent, said Interior Minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lamine.

Abdallahi’s installation April 19 will mark the first time in the impoverished northwest African country’s history that leadership will change hands as the result of an election. The desert nation has been plagued by coups and dictators since gaining independence from France in 1960.


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