- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

EGYPT

Brotherhood aide’s Qatar travel blocked

CAIRO — Egyptian authorities prevented the spokesman of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood from leaving the country yesterday to attend a conference in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar. Essam al-Aryan told Agence France-Presse that airport officials declined to give any reason for preventing his travel. “This is just another way of putting pressure on the Brotherhood,” he said.

Mr. al-Aryan, who was released from detention 11 days ago after being held without trial for more than six months, was to attend the Islamic National Conference opening today in Qatar. “The authorities want to make the Brotherhood feel that their constitutional rights are limited,” he said. “They also don’t want our voices heard at these conferences.”

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, are routinely barred from travel. The movement is officially banned in Egypt, but it fielded candidates as independents in parliamentary elections last year, when it won 20 percent of the seats despite widespread accusations by authorities of fraud.

MOROCCO

Islamic minister wants mosque in Beijing

RABAT — Islamic affairs minister Ahmed Toufiq said yesterday during a meeting with a Chinese official in Rabat that Morocco hopes to build a mosque in Beijing, the MAP news agency reported yesterday.

Mr. Toufiq proposed construction of a mosque in the Chinese capital at a meeting Monday with Abdulahat Abu Drixit, one of the vice presidents of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the parliamentary advisory body. Mr. Drixit, a Chinese Muslim, met Monday with Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou.

The Moroccan minister said a Beijing mosque would demonstrate good bilateral relations and introduce a symbolic dimension to the historic journey of Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta to China. At age 21, Ibn Battuta left Tangiers in 1325, and crossed North Africa and Asia, ending up in China. On his return to Morocco in 1349, he wrote a book about his travels.

Weekly notes …

Iraq is on the brink of total disintegration and could drag its neighbors into a regional war, a leading think tank said yesterday after the Pentagon confirmed that violence there was at an all-time high. The International Crisis Group’s report urged Washington to distance itself from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s beleaguered government and reach out to U.S. archfoes Iran and Syria. … Qatari troops are en route to Lebanon today to become the first Arab contingent in a U.N. peacekeeping force deployed near the border with Israel, the armed forces announced in Doha yesterday. Qatar, a tiny gas-rich Persian Gulf state and close U.S. ally, pledged in September to send up to 300 troops to join the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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