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Briefly

- - Tuesday, October 5, 2010

IRAN

Opposition leader seeks referendum on president

TEHRAN | Iran's opposition leader says President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's foreign policies are destructive and his performance as president should be judged in a referendum.

Mir Hossein Mousavi says the president's actions on the world stage, such as a speech at the U.N. last month in which he questioned 9/11, have helped deepen Iran's isolation.

The pro-reform politician, who ran against Mr. Ahmadinejad in last year's election, says the president's policies don't represent the views of the Iranian people.

WEST BANK

Hamas fighter sentenced to 20 years in prison

RAMALLAH | The Western-backed Palestinian Authority has sentenced a Hamas fighter to 20 years in prison over a deadly 2009 shootout with Palestinian police, a court official said Tuesday.

The sentence infuriated Hamas and cast a shadow over plans to hold a second round of reconciliation talks in Syria with its Fatah rivals later this month.

Alaa Hisham Diab was sentenced by a military court on Sunday after having been arrested following a May 2009 battle in the West Bank town of Qalqilya that left three Palestinian security forces and two Hamas fighters dead.

IRAQ

U.S. corporate envoys view Iraq's needs

BAGHDAD | With portfolios ranging from airliners to light bulbs, American corporate envoys heard Iraqi pitches for greater investments Tuesday on a trade mission brimming with hopes of future payoffs but confronting current realities such as lockdown-level security and a government in limbo.

Even before the first handshakes, executives from 14 firms — led by Boeing Co. and General Electric Co. — got a firsthand look at some of Iraq's challenges in courting big-ticket foreign investment outside its lucrative oil fields.

The initial meetings — billed by Washington as the first official U.S. trade mission to Iraq in more than 30 years — were held in the tightly secured Green Zone. The Iraqi officials who met them, meanwhile, represent a government caught in a fight for survival.

ISRAEL

Premier convenes forum ahead of Arab summit

JERUSALEM | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday convened ministers in his inner circle, but his office denied widespread press reports that they debated extending the West Bank settlement freeze.

Israeli media said the meeting was to focus on the issue of a 60-day extension of the settlement freeze in exchange for a U.S. deal offering security and other guarantees, details of which were leaked by a U.S. analyst last week.

Army radio had said Mr. Netanyahu was to discuss the reported U.S. proposal in a bid to win over hard-line opponents within the group of seven ministers, which includes leaders of the parties in his largely right-wing coalition.

WEST BANK

Settlers replace burned Korans

BEIT FAJJAR | Jewish settlers on Tuesday gave new copies of the Koran to Palestinians in a West Bank village whose mosque was burned in an attack blamed by Palestinians on militants in the settler movement.

Several copies of Islam's holy book were scorched in the arson attack and threats in Hebrew were scrawled on the wall of the mosque of Beit Fajjar early on Monday.

The village sits on the edge of the sprawling Jewish settlement bloc of Gush Etzion.

Suspicion immediately fell on settler militants opposed to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, in which some settlements would be turned over to a Palestinian state.

From wire dispatches and staff reports