- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SAUDI ARABIA

U.S. seeks influence on Pakistani leaders

RIYADH | Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday that the U.S. wants to enlist Saudi Arabia in helping Pakistan stave off extremist threats from militants advancing on Islamabad.

Mr. Gates arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday afternoon after morning meetings in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi.

SYRIA

Ahmadinejad backs Palestinians

DAMASCUS | The leaders of Iran and Syria reaffirmed their support for “Palestinian resistance” Tuesday, a defiant message to the U.S. and its Mideast allies who are uneasy over Washington’s efforts to forge closer ties with the hard-line government in Tehran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and the chiefs of Hamas and other Damascus-based Palestinian radical groups during his visit to Syria. Iran is a strong supporter of Islamic militants in the region, including Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit to Syria comes as the U.S. is trying to improve strained ties with the two longtime adversaries. Two U.S. envoys, Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro, left Washington on Tuesday for Syria for their second visit since March to explore ways to ease tensions between the United States and Syria, the State Department said.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal, in an interview with the New York Times, said the militant group is determined to be part of a solution to the Palestinians’ conflict with Israel, saying President Obama’s “language is different and positive.” But he did not offer any new concessions.

IRAN

Court to hear American’s appeal

TEHRAN | An Iranian court will hear the appeal of an American journalist convicted of spying for the United States next week and will open the proceedings to experts from the country’s bar association, the judiciary spokesman said Tuesday.

The advance notice was the latest sign that Iran may be trying to lower tensions with the U.S. over the case, after Washington called the charges against 32-year-old Roxana Saberi “baseless.”

Iran has already given several indications it is making an effort to conduct the appeal more openly than the trial itself, which was only revealed days after the fact, took place behind closed doors and, the journalist’s father said, lasted only about 15 minutes.

Miss Saberi was convicted last month of passing intelligence to the U.S. and sentenced to eight years in prison. Her father says she has been on a hunger strike for two weeks.

TURKEY

Clan feud led to attack; 8 held

BILGE | Victims of a deadly assault on an engagement ceremony in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast were buried side by side Tuesday, and authorities detained eight suspects accused of killing the betrothed couple - whose wedding they opposed - along with relatives and friends.

The death toll of 44, including three pregnant women, highlighted the grisly lengths to which some tradition-steeped clans will go to defend what they view as the honor of the family or tribe. The killings Monday night happened in a poor, rural region where civilians have endured years of fighting between Turkish soldiers and Kurdish rebels who seek autonomy.

Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency said the masked attackers had wanted the young woman, Sevgi Celebi, to marry one among their own group of friends or relatives but that her family would not allow it.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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