WASHINGTON — The U.S. government believes it is highly likely that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei signed off on a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington and bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies here, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.
“This is the kind of operation — the assassination of a diplomat on foreign soil — that would have been vetted at the highest levels of the Iranian government,” said a senior official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive analysis. “We can’t prove that, but we do not think it was a rogue operation in any way.”
At the same time, the officials said they believe Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s intelligence service probably weren’t briefed on the operation, which they allege would have been carried out by the Quds Force, a secretive unit of Iran’s military that has been blamed for sponsoring previous terrorist attacks.
The Quds Force, which the U.S. says supplies arms and training to insurgents who have killed American forces in Iran, reports directly to Khamenei, the officials said.
Iran has called the allegations “a fabrication.”
UN extends Afghan force amid terrorist concerns
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize the 130,000-strong NATO-led force in Afghanistan for another year, expressing serious concern over ongoing terrorist and criminal activities in the country and the increase in civilian casualties.
The resolution adopted by the U.N.’s most powerful body calls for increased training of the Afghan army and police to accelerate progress toward their self-sufficiency and meet the target of gradually transferring security responsibility from the coalition force to the Afghan government by the end of 2014.
The resolution calls on all countries to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to the International Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF, and continue efforts to support security and stability in Afghanistan.
Bombings target Iraqi police
BAGHDAD — Five explosions targeting local police shook the capital within the span of an hour Wednesday morning, two days after Iraq’s leaders requested that at least 5,000 U.S. military trainers remain into 2012 to advise the country’s fledgling security forces.
The bombs killed at least 22 people and injured more than 70, many of them police officers, in attacks across the city. It was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since Aug. 28, when a suicide bomber killed 28 people at the city’s largest Sunni mosque.
Myanmar releases dissidents, keeps many locked up
YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar freed an outspoken critic and a major ethnic rebel as it began releasing 6,300 convicts Wednesday in its latest liberalizing move, but kept some political detaine es behind bars, dampening hopes for a broader amnesty.
It was not clear how many of the country’s estimated 2,000 political detainees were included in the amnesty — one estimate said only 206 of them were freed. But the released included ailing Shan Army commander Hso Hten and comedian Zarganar, who was imprisoned after criticizing the government’s response to Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Those held back included student leaders from Myanmar’s failed 1988 democracy uprising and a blogger serving a 12-year prison sentence.
Western governments, the U.N. and Myanmar’s opposition have eagerly awaited a broad political amnesty as a gesture of liberalization by the elected government after decades of harsh military ru le. A failure to follow through on those hopes could hamper the country’s efforts to burnish its human rights record and win a lifting of Western economic and political sanctions.
Moscow activists demand protection for stray dogs
MOSCOW — Animal rights activists urged Russia’s president Wednesday to reject a plan by Moscow authorities to send 26,000 stray dogs to a facility outside the city that critics say will be cramped, spread disease and mean certain death for many of the canines.
About 50 activists lined up outside the presidential administration building to submit signed petitions to President Dmitry Medvedev denouncing the move.
Dog lovers, including a range of Russian celebrities, have been petitioning City Hall to abandon the plan since February.
Moscow’s plan would have rounded up strays and sent them to a camp in the Yaroslavl region, about150 miles northeast of the city. Its critics say the move would be deadly for the animals and create an atmosphere for the misappropriation of city funds.
Libyan leader hopes to declare victory within week
SIRTE, Libya — Libya’s de facto leader said Wednesday he expected to declare total victory over forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi in less than a week, as the International Committee of the Red Cross warned thousands of civilians were still trapped in the fugitive leader’s besieged home city.
Despite heavy resistance, revolutionary forces are closing in on Gadhafi’s forces in the ousted dictator’s hometown of Sirte, the most important of two major cities yet to be cleared of armed supporters of the old regime.
But humanitarian workers are struggling to help civilians who lack food, clean water and other basic necessities. Red Cross staff evacuated 25 war-wounded and other patients, including a newborn baby in its incubator, from the main Ibn Sina hospital in the coastal city on Monday and Tuesday. Few doctors or nurses remained, the Red Cross said in a statement.