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SYRIA

Activist arrested, rights groups say

DAMASCUS — A former political prisoner was arrested as part of a crackdown on opposition activists, human rights groups said yesterday.

“The state security services in Damascus on Monday summoned opposition activist Mohammed Haji Darwish … as part of summonses and arrests of members of the opposition and human rights activists,” the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The arrest brings to nine the number of opposition activists detained since last month.

MOROCCO

Independence forces muzzled, group says

RABAT — A human rights group called on Morocco yesterday to stop “muzzling” independence campaigners in Western Sahara, as U.N.-brokered peace talks on the 32-year dispute began in New York.

Human Rights Watch spent two weeks interviewing the indigenous Sahrawi people in the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and in Algerian-hosted refugee camps across the disputed border.

“Rabat claims the vast majority of the Sahrawi people favors Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara … this claim would be more convincing if Morocco stopped muzzling those who peacefully advocate for an independent Western Sahara,” said the group’s North Africa director, Leah Whitson.

LEBANON

Arab League chief bringing political plan

BEIRUT — Arab League chief Amr Moussa arrives in Beirut today on a mission to persuade rival political leaders to accept a plan aimed at ending the country’s constitutional crisis.

Armed with international support for his initiative, Mr. Moussa will seek the approval of all sides for the three-stage Arab League proposal to hold a vote in order to fill the Lebanese presidency, vacant since Nov. 24.

Arab foreign ministers agreed this weekend in Cairo on a plan that would see Lebanese army chief Gen. Michel Sleiman elected as president, a national-unity government formed and a new electoral law adopted.

IRAN

Police kill drug smugglers

TEHRAN — A policeman and six drug smugglers were killed in a shootout in central Iran, a few days after five drug traffickers were killed in another part of the country, official media said yesterday.

Police seized four tons of opium and heroin after the clash near the town of Abarkouh in Yazd province, the official IRNA news agency said, without specifying when the incident occurred.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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