- - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

ISRAEL

Israeli government defends construction

JERUSALEM | Israel on Tuesday hotly defended its new construction plans for disputed East Jerusalem, insisting it never agreed to halt the building and sharpening a crisis that threatens to derail peace talks.

A harsh statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office insisted that “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is the capital of the state of Israel. … Israel sees no link between the peace process and its development plans in Jerusalem.”

The statement followed denunciations of a plan to build 1,300 apartments in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians regard as illegal settlements.

EGYPT

Islamist chief warns of rigged election

CAIRO | The chief of Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday warned the government to “beware” of the people’s anger if it rigs the results of a parliamentary poll this month but ruled out violence by his group.

“We are at a time that must see a rallying of efforts and all forces safeguarding the national ship before the [ruling] National Democratic Party sinks it,” Mohammed Badie said on the group’s website.

The Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition movement despite a ban on religious parties, plans to contest 134 of the 508 seats up for grabs in parliament in late November, with its candidates running as independents.

The group controls a fifth of the sitting parliament.

Egypt’s electoral commission has until Nov. 14 to vet applications from the total of 5,720 candidates for the two rounds of voting on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5.

IRAN

Iran ready to talk but not about nukes

TEHRAN | Iran told world powers on Tuesday it is ready to hold talks in Turkey in late November or early December, but a senior official was quoted as saying Tehran would not discuss its disputed nuclear plans at the meeting.

Western diplomats have made clear they want Iran to address their concerns about its nuclear program in talks that six major powers — the United States, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and China — have offered to Tehran later this month.

In a letter dated Nov. 9, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton that he is ready to meet in Istanbul on Nov. 23 or Dec. 5. He did not spell out what the discussions would focus on.

Ms. Ashton, on behalf of the six powers, has said everything should be on the table, including Iran’s nuclear program.

IRAQ

Talks continue before lawmakers meet

BAGHDAD | Interparty talks to form a new government a full eight months after Iraq’s parliamentary election moved to Baghdad on Tuesday in a race to clinch an elusive accord before a meeting of parliament.

Iraqi leaders in the Kurdish capital of Arbil, northern Iraq, failed to agree on a proposed power-sharing accord on Monday, the first day of all-party talks before members of Parliament convene on Thursday.

Faced with a list of thorny outstanding issues, they gathered on Tuesday at the Baghdad residence of Massud Barzani, president of the Kurdish regional government in the north.

But former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whose Iraqiya party narrowly won the March 7 election, was absent from the meeting, state television reported, adding that Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was also a no-show.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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