Saleh Puts Caveats On Return To Yemen

SANAA, Yemen, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will return to Yemen once an investigation into the bombing of his presidential palace concludes, an official said.

Saleh was treated in Saudi Arabia for injuries suffered during a June 3 attack on his presidential palace in Yemen. He remains in Riyadh.

Abdo al-Janadi, the country’s deputy information minister, said Saleh would return to Yemen once the investigation into the attack is completed.

The Yemeni president has faced widespread pressure to step down for most of the year.

Saleh was ready to work with “all national powers in the state or the opposition to end the current crisis and its political, economic and social repercussions,” the deputy minister was quoted by the official Saba news agency as saying.

Janadi added that political transfer should be dealt with through the ballot box and not through violence.

Saleh hasn’t signed a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council to stand down in exchange for immunity. U.S. State Department officials said the Yemeni president, a one-time ally in the fight against global terrorism, is well enough to sign the deal no matter where he is.

Janadi didn’t give any indication regarding when the investigation into the bombing would be completed.

Juror Sentenced For Facebook Mistake

FORT WORTH, Texas, Aug. 29 (UPI) — A Texas judge says a juror who tried to “friend” the defendant on Facebook must serve two days of community service for contempt of court.

Jonathan Hudson, a juror in a July civil case involving a 2008 car accident in Tarrant County, pleaded guilty last week to four counts of contempt of court for trying to contact the defendant and discussing the case on Facebook, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Sunday.

Hudson, 22, tried to contact the defendant, Courtney Downing, on Facebook after the trial had adjourned for the day. Downing told her attorney and Hudson was dismissed the next morning.

The newspaper said Texas gives jurors specific instructions that they are are not to discuss their cases on social networking sites.

Hudson’s attorney said his client is “a nice kid who made a silly mistake,” the newspaper reported.

Nanmadol Makes Landfall In Taiwan

TAITUNG, Taiwan, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Nanmadol, downgraded from a typhoon to a tropical storm, brought heavy rains upon arrival Monday at Taitung in southeastern Taiwan, officials said.

The storm weakened as it moved north-northwest at about 5 mph, Taiwan Today reported.

Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou said all government agencies must remain on high alert and take precautions to keep damage from the torrential rain and winds as low as possible.

“Although no disasters have been reported yet, slow-moving typhoons often bring severe damage,” Ma said. “People must not let their guard down.”

The Central Weather Bureau said nearly all of Taiwan should be prepared for heavy rain and winds.

Ma instructed the Ministry of National Defense to have troops ready for rescue missions and ordered the Transportation and Communications Ministry to oversee use of public roads and bridges, the newspaper said.

Ma said typhoon precautions undertaken by local governments this year improved greatly, singling out the mandatory evacuation of people living in high-risk and sensitive areas, Taiwan Today reported.

“Evacuations beforehand are the most effective and low-cost method to reduce the number of casualties caused by typhoons,” Ma said.

Officials pegged agricultural losses so far at $341,000.

Bomb Attacks In Iraq Kill At Least 35

BAGHDAD, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Several bomb attacks across Iraq killed at least 35 people and wounded scores more, authorities said.

An Interior Ministry official said least 28 people died, including lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawi, in a suicide bombing attack in a Sunni mosque in western Baghdad Sunday, CNN reported. At least 37 others were wounded in the attack.

North of the Iraqi capital, two people were killed and five wounded when a bomb exploded near a Sunni mosque in Tarmiyah, the government spokesman said.

A bomb explosion Sunday killed two people in the Baghdad’s Jadriya neighborhood, the Interior spokesman said.

In separate incidents, three people died in attacks by gunmen, officials said.

Six people, including four police officers were injured Monday in two bomb explosions in southeast Baghdad, Aswat al-Iraq reported.

Officials told Aswat al-Iraq the bombings targeted a police patrol in the Zafaraniyah area.

Six roadside bombs exploded in Mosul’s center, wounding five police officers and two civilians, officials said. On the highway that links Mosul to Syria, a roadside bomb exploded, injuring two members of an Iraqi army convoy, CNN reported.

Drought Makes It Hard To Feed Okla. Cattle

MUSKOGEE, Okla., Aug. 29 (UPI) — Extreme drought conditions across Oklahoma dried up hay and forage crops, making it necessary for ranchers to find new ways to feed livestock, officials said.

Sowing cool-season grasses and weaning calves earlier are among options for feeding livestock through the winter, said Andy Qualls, technician at the Muskogee County Conservation District.

Ranchers have had difficulty feeding livestock.

The drought and temperatures exceeding 95 degrees have boosted potentially deadly nitrate levels in corn and other forage crops, the Muskogee (Okla.) Phoenix reported.

“The nitrate problem is particularly bad this year,” Qualls said. “Livestock is especially susceptible, and this can cause death.”

High temperatures stunt plant growth, resulting in nitrogen becoming trapped in the plants, Qualls said. Ranchers planning to use crops that have accumulated nitrates are encouraged to have levels tested by the Oklahoma State University Extension Service.

“What we haven’t had are the soaking rains we need to keep it growing,” Qualls said. “What we need is something more like a tropical depression.”

National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sellers said rain is unlikely in the foreseeable future. He said the drought could last for some time, making the normal 12.29 inches of rainfall in eastern Oklahoma from September through November improbable.

“At least not the period we’re willing to stick our necks out on,” Sellers said in reference to chances of substantial rainfall. “The trend for the next three months is favoring below normal precipitation.”

“Farmers have to be the eternal optimists,” Qualls said. “If they weren’t, they would have quit a long time ago.”

Lockerbie Bomber Reportedly Near Death

TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 29 (UPI) — The ex-Libyan officer convicted of plotting the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing and released from a Scottish prison two years ago is near death, officials said.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was near death at his home near Tripoli, CNN reported Sunday, showing images of a weakened man wearing an oxygen mask in bed,

Al-Megrahi, released by Scottish officials for humanitarian reasons because he was dying from cancer, received a hero’s welcome in Libya, which maddened leaders of the United States and other Western governments who have called upon Libyan rebels to extradite him. The rebels’ Transitional National Council has refused the requests, bedeviling its Western backers.

Al-Megrahi’s death would end the possibility of getting his account of the Libyan government’s role in the bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people died, 189 of them U.S. citizens, The New York Times reported.

Al-Megrahi’s family told CNN they were caring for him without help.

“We just give him oxygen,” al-Megrahi’s son, Khaled, said. “Nobody gives us any advice. There is no doctor. There is nobody to ask. We don’t have any phone line to call anybody.”

Rebels Worry About Fate Of Prisoners

TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Libyan rebel leaders say they’re worried about what has happened to tens of thousands of prisoners held in Tripoli by Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

Col. Ahmed Omar Bani, a Rebel military spokesman, said nearly 50,000 prisoners arrested in recent months remain unaccounted-for, the BBC reported.

Although human rights groups reported seeing evidence of people having been massacred near prisons, Bani did not accuse anyone of killing the prisoners.

“The number of people arrested over the past months is estimated at between 57,000 and 60,000,” he said in a news conference in Benghazi. “Between 10,000 and 11,000 prisoners have been freed up until now … so where are the others?”

A mass grave and several dozen charred corpses were found south of the capital in the past few days in an area considered pro-Gadhafi that has had fierce fighting, the Tripoli Post reported.

“It is high time those who claimed to have been too frightened to speak to come forward and testify about the crimes [that] were being committed or they will be considered complicit in these crimes,” Bani said.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council, has said people who worked for Gadhafi would receive fair trials.

He said the reward for killing or capturing the fallen leader could be increased. Last week, a reward reported as either $1.4 million or $1.7 million was offered for Gadhafi’s capture, dead or alive.

Gadhafi’s whereabouts remained unknown.

Rebel forces stormed Tripoli last week and took control of nearly all of the city after two days of fighting.

Gadhafi forces still battled rebels elsewhere in Libya, especially in his hometown of Sirte. Rebel commanders said Gadhafi’s forces were using civilians as human shields, The Guardian reported.

During the weekend, a representative of Gadhafi’s regime offered to open talks with the rebel government, the National Transitional Council, which rejected the offer, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We have no negotiations with Gadhafi and we can offer him only two things: safety and a fair trial,” said Ahmad Darrat, reportedly the incoming interior minister.

“There’s no negotiations,” Mahmoud Shammam, an NTC spokesman in Tripoli said. “There were no negotiations before. There are criminals running from justice. We’re not talking to him. We’re going to arrest him.”

At a meeting of defense ministers in Doha, Qatar, Jalil said Gadhafi was a threat to Libya and the world.

“I call for continued protection from NATO and its allies from this tyrant,” Jalil said. “He is still a threat, not just for Libyans but for the entire world.”

U.S. Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of the NATO Joint Operations Command, said in Doha the alliance’s mission in Libya would continue until at least Sept. 27, when its mandate expires.

“We believe the Gadhafi regime is near collapse and we’re committed to seeing the operation through to its conclusion,” Locklear said. “Pockets of pro-Gadhafi forces are being reduced day by day. The regime no longer has the capacity to mount a decisive operation.”

Tropical Storms Percolate In Atlantic

MIAMI, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Tropical Storm Jose was expected to weaken while an unnamed tropical depression was forming south of the Cape Verde Islands, forecasters said Monday.

No coastal watches or warnings for either storm were in effect, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its 5 a.m. EDT advisory.

Jose was about 340 miles north of Bermuda and about 515 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and moving along a northerly track at 23 mph, the center said.

Jose was expected to veer north-northeast later Monday, lose some of its tropical storm characteristics and dissipate by early Tuesday.

Tropical Depression 12, with sustained winds of 35 mph, was about 395 miles south-southwest of the southernmost of the Cape Verde Islands and tracking west at 15 mph.

The hurricane center said the depression could gather strength during the next two days.

Three NATO Soldiers Killed In Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Three NATO soldiers died in separate attacks in southern Afghanistan, NATO said.

The first soldier died in an insurgent attack, the second was killed by a roadside bomb and the third during an unspecified military operation, all Sunday, the Voice of America reported.

NATO gave no other details.

Separately, three people attacked a NATO reconstruction base Sunday in Qalat, capital of southern Zabul province, injuring two civilians, but the attackers could not breach the base’s defenses, NATO said.

One of the attackers blew himself up outside the base gate, a second was captured but the third escaped.

Also on Sunday, a doctor and another medical worker died in northern Afghanistan’s Takhar Province after their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, the report said.

Gunfire Reported In Syrian Cities

DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Heavy gunfire was reported in Hit, a Syrian village near the Lebanese border, and Rastan, north of Homs, where security forces were deployed, officials said.

There was a report that hostages had been taken and homes destroyed.

The latest developments Monday came amid reports that Nabil al-Arabi the secretary-general of the Arab League announced plans to visit Damascus in an effort to help solve the crisis there, the BBC reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its Web site reports had been received that Syrian security forces took some hostages, destroyed homes and threatened family members of wanted fugitives.

The site said doctors suspected of treating anti-government protesters had been arrested and many pharmacies were shut down to prevent them from assisting injured protesters.

CNN said authorities in Syria imposed changes on the news media, placing restrictions on published material and holding editors and journalists accountable for violations.

Media outlets will be barred from publishing news related to the country’s security forces or content that affects “national unity and national security,” CNN said.