- - Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Iraq to remove checkpoints across Baghdad

BAGHDAD | A Baghdad military spokesman said security officials are investigating the possibility of removing some of the hundreds of checkpoints across the city, in a sign of the improving security situation.

Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said Tuesday that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked commanders to evaluate the security situation in Baghdad and decide whether some of the checkpoints can be removed.

The checkpoints are manned by Iraqi troops and designed to catch insurgents, but they also slow down traffic in the already congested city, and many residents complain that they are not effective.

Gen. Al-Moussawi said there are around 870 checkpoints in Baghdad.


Egypt sets vote for September 2011

CAIRO | Egypt will hold its presidential election in September next year and the ruling party will meet by July to choose its candidate, the party’s policy chief — the president’s son, Gamal Mubarak — said on Monday.

The approach of the election has prompted speculation over whether President Hosni Mubarak, who has led the Arab world’s most populous country since 1981, will run for a sixth term.

Analysts say the rules for the election guarantee that the ruling National Democratic Party’s nominee will win. In the 2005 vote, Egypt’s first multicandidate race, Mr. Mubarak won easily.

NDP officials have indicated Mr. Mubarak, 82, is likely to run next year if he is able to. If not, many believe Gamal or a candidate with a military background could run in his place.

“Presidential elections are in September next year,” Gamal Mubarak, 47, told reporters. “You’ll find out who the eventual candidate is when the party convenes some time before the process starts next July and makes its final official decision.”


Asian-backed aid ship set to sail to Gaza

DAMASCUS | An aid ship backed by Asian activists will soon set sail for the blockaded Gaza Strip from Syria, a spokesman for Palestinian groups based in Syria said on Monday.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Asia 1 is awaiting the green light from Egypt to sail to the Egyptian port of El-Arish from where its cargo is to be carried over land to Gaza, Khaled Abdel-Majid told Agence France-Presse.

Several Asian charity organizations, mainly from India, were behind the initiative, and the boat would also carry a dozen activists from Asian countries, Mr. Abdel-Majid added.

More than 100 other activists would fly to Egypt in order to link up with the aid convoy, he said, adding the activists were from countries including Iran, Japan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The boat would carry $1 million worth of medicine, foodstuffs and toys as well as four buses and 10 power generators for hospitals, the Palestinian official said.

Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since Palestinian groups captured one of its soldiers in June 2006.


Fatah suspends strongman Dahlan

RAMALLAH | Mohamed Dahlan, the former Gaza strongman rumored to be out of favor with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was suspended from Fatah’s leadership, the party said on Tuesday.

The central committee of Fatah, Mr. Abbas’ political party, announced the decision after a meeting chaired by the president in Ramallah. The leadership body also said Mr. Dahlan was facing an internal investigation.

The committee decided “unanimously to suspend Mohamed Dahlan from its meetings until the commission of inquiry finishes its work,” a statement issued by the leadership council said.

A member of the central committee told Agence France-Presse that Mr. Dahlan was accused of “subversion against President Abbas and members of the committee” and of having branded them “incompetent.”

The official, who declined to be named, said that the commission of inquiry notified Mr. Dahlan of the accusations and heard his testimony but was still carrying out the probe.

The Palestinian media has reported that the commission of inquiry is looking into the origin of Mr. Dahlan’s alleged fortune, as well as allegations that he attempted to establish a personal militia.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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