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U.S. Says It Is Trying to Free New Jerseyan Jailed in Ethiopia

U.S. officials said Thursday that they were working assiduously for the release of Amir Mohamed Meshal, an American who had been jailed in Ethiopia on suspicion of terrorist activities, and that they hoped he would be freed very soon.

Meshal went to Somalia in December to help the Islamist movement and was captured after Ethiopian forces helped Somalia's interim government defeat the Islamists. U.S. officials said the FBI had determined that no charges should be brought against him.

"He's clean," said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the diplomatic negotiations over Meshal's release. Earlier on Thursday, U.S. officials said that they hoped he would be freed before a court hearing on Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, for several suspects. That looked unlikely on Thursday night.

Ethiopian officials declined to comment.

Human rights groups have cited the Meshal case as evidence that the Ethiopian and U.S. governments are running a secret detention program. U.S. officials have strenuously denied that.

Ethiopia acknowledged Tuesday that it was holding 41 terrorism suspects from 17 countries who had been arrested in Somalia. U.S. intelligence officers have interviewed many of them, but U.S. officials have denied any role in detaining or transporting them.

Members of Meshal's family in Tinton Falls, N.J., said that they had heard from several contacts in Ethiopia that he would be released soon, but that they had received no official confirmation. But when they get it, said Meshal's father, Mohamed Meshal, he will "bring all his brothers and dear friends to the airport, just meet and greet."

Toyota Names First Non-Japanese to Its Board

Toyota Motor announced a management shuffling on Thursday that would elevate the president of its North American operations, James E. Press, to become the first non-Japanese to sit on the automaker's board.

The move comes amid some concerns at Toyota about a possible political backlash in the United States, where Japanese carmakers have prospered while American rivals have struggled. It also reflects the efforts of Toyota, long a solidly Japanese company, to grow more international as it now produces and sells more vehicles overseas than in Japan.

The changes announced Thursday would increase the number of board members to 30 from 25. Press was among nine new members appointed to the board. Four members retired, including the executive vice president, Yoshimi Inaba, a popular executive who had led Toyota's important China operations for two years.

The changes must still be approved at a meeting of shareholders in June, the company said in a statement.

In addition to his new board seat, Press was also promoted to senior managing director, an executive position in the Japanese parent company just two rungs below Toyota's president, Katsuaki Watanabe. Press, 60, is the first non-Japanese to advance to this level in Toyota's 72-year history, the company said.