Sunnis in Iraq denounce elections

Iraq’s leading Sunni Muslim clerics said yesterday the country’s landmark elections lacked legitimacy because large numbers of Sunnis did not participate in the balloting, which the religious leaders had asked them to boycott.

Emboldened by the elections, which U.S. and Iraqi authorities cited as a victory for democracy, the police chief in Mosul demanded the insurgents hand over weapons within two weeks or he would “wipe out” anyone giving them shelter.

The level of insurgent violence has appeared to drop sharply after the election.

It is unclear whether the drop is due to disillusionment within insurgent ranks, the effects of the stringent pre-election security measures that are being slowly relaxed, or whether the militants have paused to reassess their strategy in light of the ballot.

“The coming days and weeks will show whether this retreat will continue or whether it is tactical because of the strike against them,” interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told Al-Iraqiya television.


Nepalese King appoints cabinet members

King Gyanendra announced a 10-member Cabinet dominated by his own supporters on yesterday, one day after he dismissed Nepal’s government, declared emergency rule and virtually cut his nation off from the world.

Dozens of politicians have been arrested and many more have gone underground to avoid detention, an opposition figure said, as extra riot police and soldiers patrolled the streets of the capital, Katmandu, where civil liberties were severely curtailed.

Gyanendra will head the newly appointed Cabinet, state radio said in a report that gave few details other than the new body’s members.

“The king has expressed confidence that everyone will support and cooperate with the new Cabinet,” the palace said in a statement.

Shortly after the king swore in his new cabinet, Home Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi said the government would soon be approaching the Maoist rebels to renew talks.


Fed increases interest rates to 2.5 percent

The Federal Reserve yesterday raised interest rates for the sixth time since last June as policy-makers continued their efforts to make sure a strengthening economy does not trigger unwanted inflation.

The Fed announced that it was raising its target for the federal funds rate, the interest that banks charge each other, by a quarter-point to 2.5 percent. Before the Fed began tightening credit last June, the funds rate had been at a 46-year low of 1 percent.

The February increase is not expected to be the last. Analysts think the Fed will push the funds rate up in quarter-point increments through most of this year.


CBS finds temporary replacement for Rather

Dan Rather will be temporarily replaced with veteran “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer when Rather steps down next month as “CBS Evening News” anchor, the network said yesterday.

Schieffer will serve “for a short transition period” until the broadcast gets a new format, CBS News President Andrew Heyward said.

CBS chief Leslie Moonves said last month that he was probably going to install a multi-anchor format for the “CBS Evening News,” which has been a distant third in the ratings behind NBC and ABC.





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