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LEBANON

Slain soldier called martyr for country

NAHR AL-BARED — A Lebanese soldier was killed yesterday in a clash with Islamist fighters as the army closed in on the extremists’ positions in a bombed-out refugee camp, a military spokesman said.

“We have a martyr today. He was killed in the confrontations” with militiamen of the Islamist group Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon, the spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

The battle that broke out on May 20 has now cost the lives of 101 soldiers, out of a total death toll of about 200. Dozens of militants have been killed, but the exact number is unknown as the group cannot be contacted.

SAUDI ARABIA

Arrest about reform, says Saudi’s family

JIDDA — A Saudi reformer arrested on suspicion of “funding terror” conducted charity work for Iraqis and Palestinians with the Saudi government’s knowledge, his family said yesterday.

Saud Mukhtar al-Hashimi, a well-known Islamist critic of Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy, was detained in February with nine others.

His family told Reuters they believed his calls for a constitutional monarchy and elected parliament were behind the arrests, not his championing of Iraqi and Palestinian causes.

ISRAEL

Blair satisfied with mandate

JERUSALEM — Tony Blair is satisfied with the mandate he has been given as Middle East envoy, his spokesman said yesterday, seeking to put to rest debate over whether he should take on a more direct peacemaking role.

Mr. Blair plans to make his first visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank on Monday in his new role, diplomatic sources said.

Senior Western diplomats who have met with Mr. Blair said he was seeking to play a broader political role that would give him more direct involvement in peacemaking.

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