- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2010

IRAN

Khamenei says U.S. meddling via Internet

TEHRAN | Iran’s supreme leader accused the United States on Tuesday of trying to use the Internet as a tool to confront the Islamic Republic, declaring that such a policy only showed Washington’s frustration.

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton challenged Beijing and other governments to end Internet censorship, placing China in the company of Iran, Saudi Arabia and others as leading suppressors of online freedom.

The Internet has become a battleground during domestic turmoil in Iran after June’s disputed election, with the authorities blocking access to some opposition Web sites and pro-reform Iranians using it to spread word of new protests.

Government officials have portrayed the opposition protests that erupted after the presidential election as a foreign-backed bid to undermine Iran’s Islamic system of government.

“The Americans have said that they have allocated a $45 million budget to help them to confront the Islamic Republic of Iran via the Internet,” state television quoted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying in a speech.

“This decision shows the height of the enemy’s frustration. They have spent tens of billions of dollars in the past [in confronting Iran], but have achieved no results,” he said.

The U.S. Senate voted in July to adopt the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act, which authorizes up to $50 million for expanding Farsi language broadcasts, supporting Iranian Internet and countering government efforts to block it.

YEMEN

Rebels say withdrawal complete

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Yemeni Shi’ite rebels said Tuesday they had withdrawn from Saudi soil as part of a truce offer extended to the oil giant after months of border fighting, but the pullout could not be independently confirmed.

Rebel leader Abdel-Malik al-Hawthi, whose fighters have been battling both Saudi and Yemeni government forces, made the cease-fire offer Monday and Riyadh has said it is mulling it.

“There has been a complete withdrawal from all Saudi positions and territory,” the rebels said on their Web site. However, Yemeni tribal sources alongside the Yemeni government denied the rebels had withdrawn.

The rebels said Saudi air strikes had killed five people and wounded two on Monday evening. They did not specify whether the strikes had occurred before or after the truce offer, which was made before a conference in London to galvanize support for Yemen as it tackles militancy.

EGYPT

Rights group slams treatment of minorities

CAIRO | A New York-based human rights organization criticized the governments of five Middle Eastern countries Tuesday, including close U.S.-allies Jordan and Saudi Arabia, for their treatment of women and minorities.

Human Rights Watch released the chapters of its 2010 World Report that deal with Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, accusing them of poor treatment of women, minorities and refugees.

“Middle Eastern governments need to recognize that the rights of minorities, refugees, and stateless persons need greater protections,” said the group’s Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson.

LEBANON

Pilot didn’t follow tower’s advice

BEIRUT | The pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed into the sea flew in the opposite direction from the path recommended by the control tower after taking off from Beirut in thunderstorms, Lebanese Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi said Tuesday.

But he cautioned against making any conclusions about the cause of the crash, saying it was far too early and investigators still need to find the black boxes.

All 90 people on board were feared dead after the plane bound for the Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, went down in flames minutes after takeoff at around 2:30 a.m. Monday.

Mr. Aridi said the pilot initially followed the tower’s guidance, but then abruptly changed course and went in the opposite direction.

It was not immediately clear why the pilot veered off the recommended path. Like most other airliners, the Boeing 737 is equipped with its own onboard weather radar, which the pilot may have used to avoid flying into thunderheads rather than following the flight tower’s recommendation.

ISRAEL

Israel rebuffs U.N. panel on Gaza probe

JERUSALEM | Israel will rebuff a U.N. panel’s demand for a special investigation into last winter’s Gaza offensive, a Cabinet minister said Tuesday, a decision that could open the government to an international war-crimes inquiry.

Information Minister Yuli Edelstein said Israel would submit a document to the U.N. later this week that deals only with Israel’s own investigations of its conduct during the three-week war.

Those investigations have been conducted by the military, which has exonerated itself of any systematic wrongdoing.

It was not certain that Mr. Edelstein’s comments were Israel’s last word on the subject. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was out of the country, and his office declined comment.

The U.N. report accused both Israel and Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers of war crimes and urged both to independently probe their wartime conduct. The U.N. General Assembly endorsed the report in November, giving the sides until Feb. 5 to respond.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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