- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WEST BANK

Abbas eyes April elections

RAMALLAH | Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in April despite opposition from Hamas rivals who run the Gaza Strip, a senior aide said Tuesday.

“The call for elections will be early January,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo. “The elections will be held three months after.”

Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip last year after routing Fatah forces loyal to Mr. Abbas, opposes holding a parliamentary election in 2009. It could lose support owing to worsening economic conditions in the Israeli-blockaded enclave.

Speaking to reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, Mr. Abbas said: “[Hamas has] to understand that at the end of the day there will be elections.”

The Islamist group insists Mr. Abbas’ term must end on Jan. 9 and has said that it will not recognize his legitimacy after that date. Mr. Abbas says his terms ends in 2010.

LEBANON

Iran urges ally to confront Israel

TEHRAN | Iran, a main backer of Lebanon’s Shi’ite group Hezbollah, urged the Lebanese people on Tuesday to unite to confront Israel, the Islamic Republic’s arch foe.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comments to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman during a visit to Iran that included touring an exhibition by the Defense Ministry, Iranian media reported.

“Iran believes the capability of all Lebanese groups should be at the service of [Lebanon’s] power and unity to confront the danger of the Zionist regime,” Ayatollah Khamenei told Mr. Suleiman, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Mr. Suleiman, a Maronite Christian, was elected president in a May parliamentary vote after an 18-month standoff between the U.S.-backed government and the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Tehran has often praised Hezbollah, which has a formidable guerrilla army, for fighting Israel in a 34-day war in 2006. Israel has accused Iran of supplying weapons to Hezbollah, but Iran insists it only provides moral and political support.

YEMEN

Militants accused of tourist attack plan

SAN’A | Eight purported members of al Qaeda cells have been brought before a special terrorism court, accused of plotting to attack tourists and government facilities, a judicial source said Tuesday.

Four suspected members of one cell made their first appearance before the court on Monday while the trial of the second group, also comprising four members, began on Tuesday, the source said.

Members of the first cell are accused of “forming an armed group with the intention of attacking tourists and hotels as well as government installations,” the charge sheet stated.

Yemen has witnessed a series of attacks claimed by al Qaeda in recent months against oil facilities and security forces.

KUWAIT

Emir postpones Cabinet resignation

KUWAIT | Kuwait’s ruler decided to put on hold the resignation of the OPEC country’s Cabinet on Tuesday, leaving his options open for intervention to end a crippling crisis between the government and parliament.

The Cabinet tendered its resignation as parliament was about to look into a request by three legislators to question the prime minister, a member of the royal family, over the visit of an Iranian Shi’ite cleric accused of offending Sunni Muslims.

But the three deputies had also wanted to question Sheik Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah over a wide range of accusations including corruption and mismanagement in the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter.

The impasse jeopardizes crucial economic reforms such as a plan to set up a market regulator and recent measures to tackle the impact of the global financial crisis by pumping cash into the Arab world’s second-largest bourse hit by a slide.

State news agency KUNA said the Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah ordered ministers to continue to carry out their duties pending a decision.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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