Rafsanjani to run Iranian clerical body

Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and longtime Machiavellian figure in Iranian politics, was picked Tuesday to head a powerful clerical body – another defeat for the current president’s faction.

Rafsanjani’s election as chairman of the Assembly of Experts means the charismatic cleric will oversee the secretive body that chooses or dismisses the Islamic Republic’s ultimate authority, its supreme leader.

The election focuses new attention on Rafsanjani, a complex figure who at various times has been viewed more as a hard-liner and at other times as a pragmatist. It also is sure to strengthen his image, tarnished by his loss to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential runoff.

Rafsanjani, who is considered more moderate than Ahmadinejad, brokered the deal that made Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supreme leader in 1989.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Danes arrest terror suspects

Eight men with alleged links to leading senior al-Qaida terrorists were arrested in the heart of Denmark on Tuesday, the country’s intelligence service said, claiming to have thwarted a bomb plot.

The pre-dawn raids sent jitters through a country that stirred Muslim anger and deadly protests last year after a newspaper printed 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

“This could indicate that (al-Qaida) now is able to pick up the phone and order a terror act in Denmark,” said Hans Joergen Bonnichsen, who retired as operative head of the PET intelligence service in 2006.

However, Jakob Scharf, head of the PET, said the foiled terror plot was not connected to either the uproar over the prophet cartoons or Denmark’s involvement in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

The suspects – six Danish citizens and two foreigners with residence permits – had been under surveillance for some time when they were arrested.

The suspects, ages 19 to 29, were not identified, but Scharf described them as “militant Islamists with connections to leading al-Qaida persons.”


West Bank barrier to be rerouted

In a closely watched ruling, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the government Tuesday to reroute a mile-long segment of its West Bank separation barrier, effectively restoring hundreds of acres of agricultural land that had been taken from a Palestinian village to give to Jewish settlers.

The decision set a precedent by rejecting the government’s argument that the barrier’s routing could be justified to protect homes in a settlement that was planned but not yet built.

Israel’s Defense Ministry said it would “study the ruling and respect it.”

The decision was the fourth of dozens heard by the court to uphold a Palestinian challenge to the planned 490-mile route of the barrier, a combination of electronic fences, concrete walls, patrol roads and trenches that is about two-thirds complete.

Legal experts said the precedent could affect at least one similar challenge now under litigation and serve as a lesson to commercial developers about the risks of seeking profit from seizures of West Bank land for settlements.

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