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THE INDEX — September 2, 2009

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is denying reports that he did not want the Lockerbie bomber to die in prison and that he made a deal with the Libyan government for his release. On Tuesday, a junior defense minister was quoted as saying that the British government wasn’t “seeking his death" in British custody. Prime Minister Brown is now being accused of “double-dealing” over the bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, by telling the United States they wanted him to stay in prison while signaling to Libya that they wanted him released. Critics are charging a deal for oil, one of Libya’s largest exports, might have provided motivation for the release. "There was no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double-dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to influence Scottish ministers, no private assurances by me to Colonel (Muammar) Gaddafi," said Brown. Al-Megrahi was greeted to a hero’s welcome in Libya on August 20, despite a letter written to the Libyan leader from the prime minster asking for a low-key reception. A judge in Chile issued arrest warrants Tuesday for 129 former security officials for human rights abuses during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The soldiers and police officers were agents of National Intelligence Directorate (DINA), Pinochet's secret police organization during his 1973-90 regime. This group of suspects is the largest so far to face arrest warrants, and many of the accused have never faced charges before. The indictments are related to Operations Condor, Colombo, and Conferencia, DINA's efforts in the 1970s to purge opponents of General Pinochet during Chile's so-called "dirty war." Hundreds of Chilean activists were killed or disappeared during these operations. Judge Victor Montiglio, who issued the warrants, said that "basically we are investigating anyone who was in the barracks, in so far as they participated in, sought to participate in or had knowledge of deprivation of victims' freedoms. We are much closer to the end." Pinochet's regime has been held accountable for many human rights abuses, including an estimated 3,000 deaths or disappearances. Human rights activists laud the latest round of indictments, but prosecutions of the regime long after democracy has been fully established in Chile has been quite controversial. The arrests are expected to begin on Wednesday. The current instability in Yemen’s northern and southern regions has created a vacuum that has allowed Al Qaeda to organize and threaten not only the Yemeni government but neighboring Saudi Arabia. Yemen has recently intensified its three-week-old offensive against the Shiite rebels, which consist mainly of minority Zaidis, also known as Houthis. (Zaidis are a minority in southern Yemen, which is largely Sunni, but constitue a majority in the north.) The rebels aim to overthrow the government and restore Shiite Islamic rule. The crisis has worsened within the last week, with the United Nations saying that up to 150,000 people may be fleeing the fighting in and around the city of Sa'ada. A UN spokesman said a “humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Sa'ada...the situation is deteriorating by the day.” The fighting has given Al Qaeda an opening to regroup in Yemen, according to analysts. In January, the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda joined together to form “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” The presence of the terrorist group in Yemen will allow them to put pressure on the Saudi government, according to Middle East experts. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that “the key and decisive moment” for Middle East peace is here, even as Israeli officials continue to resist calls for a halt to settlement activity in the West Bank. A meeting between Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and U.S. President Barack Obama is schedule to take place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month. Abbas has said that a settlement freeze in the West Bank is a necessary precondition for talks to resume, but an Israeli minister, Yossi Peled, said there would be no halt. “I heard the prime minister say with my own ears that he has no intention of freezing construction in the settlements or in Jerusalem,” he told the Jerusalem Post. Abbas was also quoted as saying he would press ahead with Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections in January even without a reconciliation with Hamas, which currently controls the Gaza Strip. Hamas officials have said an election without a “unity accord” would be unacceptable and that Hamas would not allow ballots to be held in Gaza without one. The European Union will allow more refugees from conflict zones and poor nations to settle in its countries, says European Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot, who is responsible for freedom, security, and justice. Barrot stated that "today the Commission has taken an important step which demonstrates our concrete solidarity with third countries hosting large numbers of refugees." EU countries currently resettle about 6.7 percent of the world's refugees, which according to the Commission "contrasts sharply with the numbers taken in by many other countries in the industrialised world, particularly the U.S., Canada and Australia." The proposed Joint EU Resettlement Programme would strengthen coordination and cooperation among EU member states and promote broader resettlement of refugees. "The European Commission has a duty to remind member states of their obligations," Barrot explained. "We will not solve this crisis by reacting in a xenophobic manner." The initiative aims to decrease the number of illegal immigrants in the region by providing more opportunities for refugees to enter legally. Under the program, EU nations would decide together each year which refugee groups should be given highest priority for resettlement, and a joint fund would support these efforts. Currently ten member states accept refugees annually while others do so on an ad hoc basis.

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