Kerry’s first trip to ME, Europe; not Israel

Updated 21 February 2013
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Kerry’s first trip to ME, Europe; not Israel

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry will make his first official trip overseas next week, and his agenda includes meetings in nine nations across Europe and the Middle East. But there will be no stops in Israel or the Palestinian territories.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Kerry is bypassing Jerusalem and Ramallah while Israeli political parties continue to form a government after recent elections.
Kerry departs Feb. 24. He will visit close US allies and partners: Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
His diplomacy will focus on the conflicts in Mali, Syria and Afghanistan.
The 2004 presidential candidate, sworn in to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier this month, is scheduled to return to Washington on March 6.


Malaysia reopens grisly murder case linked to former PM Najib

Updated 13 min 42 sec ago
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Malaysia reopens grisly murder case linked to former PM Najib

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police have reopened an investigation into the grisly murder of a young Mongolian woman in 2006 which has been linked to the country’s ousted leader, reports said Friday.
Altantuya Shaariibuu was shot dead and her body blown up with military-grade plastic explosives near Kuala Lumpur.
The murder was the most shocking aspect in a scandal involving allegations that an associate of recently toppled Prime Minister Najib Razak arranged huge kickbacks for the purchase of French submarines in 2002.
The case captivated Malaysia for years and there have long been allegations that Najib — defense minister at the time of the deal — and his wife Rosmah Mansor were involved. They have steadfastly denied the claims.
Two government bodyguards were convicted of the killing and sentenced to death. One subsequently fled to Australia, where he is in detention, and maintains he was ordered by “important people” to carry out the murder.
Altantuya’s father visited Malaysia this week. He met new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who backed re-opening the investigation, and lodged a fresh police report about the murder.
“I can confirm we are reopening investigations,” national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun was cited as saying by The Star newspaper.
“We will conduct our duties without fear or favor.”
Eric Paulsen, head of local rights group Lawyers for Liberty, said that Najib should be among the new witnesses to be interviewed by the police.
“We want to know why Altantuya was killed and who ordered her killing,” he said.
Malaysians broke the six-decade stranglehold on power of Najib’s coalition at elections last month, and voted in a reformist alliance headed by 92-year-old Mahathir.
Altantuya was the mistress of Najib’s associate, Abdul Razak Baginda, and was alleged to have demanded a cut in the submarine deal for translating during negotiations.
Abdul Razak was cleared in 2008 of abetting the murder.
The bodyguard who fled to Australia, Sirul Azhar Umar, recently said he is willing to assist any new government investigation into the case, a potential major breakthrough.