BAGHDAD – Only one in five candidates accused of being loyalists to Saddam Hussein’s regime successfully fought an order banning them from running in Iraq’s national elections next month, officials said Sunday.
The Shiite official in charge of the vetting panel that is widely seen as targeting Sunnis also called on parliament to declare the already outlawed Baath Party a terrorist organization.
In his first press conference since the Baathist ballot purge, Ahmed Chalabi said the Accountability and Justice Committee that he heads “managed to reach results supporting (the) constitution.”
The ban, which aims to bar candidates with links to the Baath Party, is threatening to disrupt the March 7 parliamentary elections and could throw the vote results in dispute if there is a broad perception that Sunnis have been politically sidelined.
Lebanese fire on Israeli warplanes
BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanese troops opened fire Sunday on four Israeli warplanes that flew into Lebanese airspace, Lebanon’s army said.
Israeli warplanes frequently fly over Lebanese territory in what Israel says are reconnaissance missions, and the overflights have been a constant source of tension between the two countries. Sunday’s incident comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East following some of the sharpest exchanges in years between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
The Lebanese army said in a statement that its units used anti-aircraft fire Sunday to force the Israeli warplanes out of Lebanese airspace. The army said the planes were in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley in central Lebanon.
Taliban release video of hostages
KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban released a video Sunday of two French journalists kidnapped in Afghanistan in December pleading for their government to negotiate with their captors.
The video was posted on a Web site and the link was provided by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. On it, the two journalists plead for their release and urge French President Nicolas Sarkozy to negotiate quickly with their captors.
The pair disappeared Dec. 30 along with two or three Afghan employees while traveling in Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. French soldiers in the region are fighting the Taliban and other insurgents as part of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.
Commission says Yanukovych won
KIEV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s Central Election Commission says opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych has won the presidential election according to the final official count.
Sunday’s announcement deals a major blow to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s effort to overturn the results of the Feb. 7 vote before they are made official on Wednesday.
A preliminary count of the votes showed Yanukovych defeating Tymoshenko by 3.5 percentage points after last Sunday’s ballot.
Tymoshenko said in a televised appeal to the public Saturday that the vote was rigged and vowed to challenge the results in court.
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