IRAN DISSIDENT: Iranian media say senior Iranian dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has died. The outspoken ayatollah is reported to have died at his home in the holy Shi'ite city of Qom overnight. Ayatollah Montazeri was 87. He was a leader of the Islamic revolution in 1979, and was once expected to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, as Iran's supreme leader. However, the two had a falling out.
Montazeri also had major disagreements with the present leadership, and spent long periods under house arrest. The pro-reform cleric repeatedly accused the country's Islamic leadership of ruling as dictators in the name of Islam. Montazeri was strongly critical of the harsh treatment of protesters following the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this year.
IRAQ-IRAN OIL: Iraqi officials say Iranian troops have withdrawn from a disputed oil well on their border. A government spokesman says the Iranians left during the night. Iraqi officials say 11 Iranian soldiers seized the well (Number 4) in the al-Fakkah oil field in Maysan province Friday, and that Iranian soldiers remained there Saturday. Iran insists the well is in Iranian territory.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman (Ramin Mehmanparast) told Iranian state media that reports of an Iranian incursion were an attempt to harm relations between Tehran and Baghdad. He also said the two sides will seek a diplomatic solution. A joint Iraq-Iran committee is to look at demarcation of the border in the disputed area.
NEPAL-MAOISTS: Maoists in Nepal began a three-day strike Sunday, forcing the closure of shops and businesses, and blocking roads and highways. The former rebels are protesting what they call the unconstitutional actions of Nepal's president in overturning their decision to fire the head of the army. The protest has been largely peaceful, although police say some vehicles have been vandalized, and some protesters have been arrested. Tensions have been high in Nepal since a Maoist-led government resigned in May amid a dispute with President Ram Baran Yadav concerning the army chief. The former rebels have since led a series of protests.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has rejected criticism that his proposed Cabinet does little to overcome the country's many problems, including widespread government corruption. Mr. Karzai told reporters Sunday in Kabul his Cabinet "will be accountable," and that he "will be accountable for removing the problems." There are eight new faces, but most key nominees were in Mr. Karzai's previous government. The only female Cabinet nominee is for the Ministry of Women's Affairs. NATO welcomed the president's nominations, and urged him to build a government based on "integrity and professionalism." Critics say there are no opposition members among the Cabinet nominees, despite Mr. Karzai's pledge to work closely with political opponents.
YEMEN-AL QAIDA: The New York Times reported Saturday that the United States provided firepower, intelligence and other support to Yemen in its strikes this week against suspected al-Qaida targets. The newspaper quoted unnamed officials who said the American support was approved by President Barack Obama and came at the request of the Yemeni government.
Yemeni forces launched pre-emptive airstrikes against suspected al-Qaida cells on Thursday, killing 34 militants and detaining 17 others. Yemen said it launched the strikes after learning that al-Qaida was planning to use suicide bombers to attack schools and foreign-owned targets. In a report Friday, ABC News said the attacks included U.S. missiles. U.S. officials have refused to comment on the report.