- - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

EGYPT

Mubarak sets date for parliamentary vote

CAIRO | Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak set Nov. 28 as the date for the country’s parliamentary elections in a decree issued Wednesday.

Authorities have begun a crackdown on the media and government critics in the run-up to the vote by shutting down private television channels and arresting dozens of opposition members.

The country’s leading democracy advocate, Mohamed ElBaradei, has called on politicians and voters to boycott the election. He charges that the conditions for a free vote have deteriorated since the last elections in 2005.

CHINA

Beijing raps report on Darfur bullets

UNITED NATIONS | China is seeking to block a U.N. report that says Chinese bullets were used in attacks on U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur, diplomats said Wednesday.

The report is to be discussed at a U.N. committee that monitors sanctions against Sudan, including an arms embargo against the Darfur region, which has been at war since 2003.

Beijing has threatened to block the report unless the wording is changed, one diplomat said. China spoke out against the panel of experts that monitor the sanctions at the U.N. Security Council last week.

SPAIN

Spain to ban smoking in bars and cafes

MADRID | Spain set the stage Wednesday for a tough new anti-smoking law that will rid the country of its dubious status as one of Western Europe’s easiest places to light up.

The bill passed by parliamentary commission calls for transforming all bars and restaurants into no-smoking zones, bringing Spain in line with the European Union’s strictest anti-smoking nations and many U.S. states that bar smoking in enclosed public places. It’s expected to pass the Senate and become law on Jan. 2.

The law also will make Spain a tougher place to smoke than many other European countries where bars and restaurants are still allowed to have smoking sections, and will prohibit smoking in outdoor places such as playgrounds and the grounds of schools and hospitals.

The current law put in place in 2006 prohibits smoking in the workplace.

AFGHANISTAN

Karzai in talks with Haqqani Network

KABUL | The Afghan government has been in reconciliation talks for months with members of a Taliban faction closely tied to al Qaeda and responsible for lethal attacks on coalition forces and bombings inside the capital, Kabul, according to a member of the Afghan parliament.

The parliamentarian, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said President Hamid Karzai’s government had been in direct contact with Jalaludin Haqqani, the aging leader of the Haqqani Network, which is based in Pakistan and is believed to have close ties to Pakistan’s intelligence service. The network is being run by his son, Sirajuddin.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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