- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

LIBYA

Blair, Gadhafi meet as BP seals pact

SIRTE — British Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to Libya for talks with Col. Moammar Gadhafi yesterday as BP PLC sealed a big energy accord with Tripoli, further increasing the West’s ties with the once-isolated North African state. Making his second trip to Libya as prime minister, Mr. Blair arrived in Col. Gadhafi’s hometown, and was to meet with the Libyan leader in a tent in the desert.

Mr. Blair also was expected to meet with representatives of families of hundreds of HIV-infected children at the center of a case in which five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor have been sentenced to death by a Libyan court. The trip is Mr. Blair’s last to Africa before he resigns as prime minister on June 27 after a decade in power.

In a developing economic relationship between Britain and Libya, BP negotiated an agreement to explore for natural gas in Libya, an official of that country said. “There is a natural gas exploration deal worth $900 million,” Shokri Ghanem, the chairman of state-owned National Oil Corp., told reporters.

LEBANON

Troops, militants escalate clashes

BEIRUT — Heavy clashes erupted yesterday between Lebanese troops and Fatah militants in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

Sporadic exchanges of gunfire have continued daily since a weeklong truce ended three days of heavy fighting. But the renewed fighting before sundown, with the Lebanese army using artillery to silence the militants’ fire, has been the sharpest escalation.

Lebanese army artillery struck positions on the northern edge of the camp and near the Mediterranean shore, apparently seeking to prevent any attempt by militants to flee by sea. The fighting erupted hours after the death of a soldier hit in the head by sniper fire on Monday.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

U.S. talks with Iran worry Arab neighbors

DUBAI — Arab officials and commentators said yesterday that they fear the budding dialogue between Washington and Tehran could cut them out of the debate over the future of Iraq, one of the region’s most important countries.

Many of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim-dominated neighbors worry that the dialogue between Washington and Tehran could boost Iran’s already enormous influence over the Iraqi government and security forces. Iraq and Iran are both majority Shi’ite nations, but unlike Iran, which is Persian, most of Iraq’s people are Arabs.

“Iraq should not be stripped of its Arab identity, especially as Iraq is one of the outstanding members and founder of the Arab League,” Ahmed ben Heli, the Arab League’s undersecretary general, told reporters in Cairo yesterday. The meeting broke a 27-year diplomatic freeze between the U.S. and Iran.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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