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Briefly: Middle East
Iranian exiles ready to leave Camp Ashraf
Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq houses Iranians dedicated to the overthrow of the Iranian government. They moved into the camp decades ago during the regime of Saddam Hussein, who saw them as convenient allies against Tehran.
U.S. and U.N. officials are hoping to avoid a possible violent standoff with Iraqi authorities, who have vowed to close the facility by year’s end.
The group’s Paris-based leader, Maryam Rajavi, said in a statement Tuesday that camp residents are “in principle prepared to relocate.”
Syria urged to apply Arab deal as deaths mount
DAMASCUS — At least 100 Syrian army deserters were killed or wounded in clashes Tuesday as Damascus faced demands to halt its bloody nine-month crackdown on dissent a day after signing an Arab peace plan.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three civilians were killed Tuesday in addition to the military casualties in northwestern Idlib province in a second day of clashes between loyalist troops and deserters.
The Observatory reported Monday that up to 70 deserters were gunned down as they tried to flee their military posts in the Idlib towns of Kansafra and Kafruwed.
The organization, based in Britain, also reported that three civilians were killed by gunfire from security forces in Idlib province and the flash-point central city of Homs - a day after reporting the deaths of 40 civilians.
Palestinian factions hold key talks
CAIRO — The Palestinian factions on Tuesday discussed the implementation of a reconciliation deal in Cairo but put off any decisions on the key issues of security and an interim government until next year.
“Today’s meeting will reach agreement over the formation of a Palestinian electoral committee, which will prepare for elections,” Mr. al-Ahmed said.
Izzat al-Rishq, a senior official from the Hamas delegation, said he hoped the parties would make progress on the release of political prisoners held by both sides.
Officials from the rival Fatah and Hamas movements have been holding talks in Cairo since Sunday to discuss implementing a landmark reconciliation deal that was signed in May but has not got off the ground.
All the faction leaders belong to the PLO Commission, and Thursday’s meeting is to be attended by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Islamic Jihad head Ramadan Shallah.
Neither faction belongs to the PLO, but discussions are under way to restructure the body to let them join.
Both Mr. Meshaal and Mr. Abbas were expected in Cairo on Wednesday, officials said.
The Gulf Cooperation Council has “decided to create a Gulf development fund which begins by providing support to development projects in the Kingdom of Jordan and the Kingdom of Morocco worth $2.5 billion for each,” the GCC said in statement.
“The supreme council has assigned the finance ministers of its members to study the statute and structures needed to create the fund,” said the closing statement of the six-nation bloc’s two-day summit in Riyadh.
No practical measures have yet been taken to enroll them in the group, despite a GCC proposal in May that both countries join.
Report says Israel not ready for war
JERUSALEM — The Israeli government’s watchdog agency says the country is short on bomb shelters and is ill-prepared to protect its citizens in case of war.
The state comptroller’s annual report, published in part on Tuesday, says Israel has not learned the lessons from the 2006 Lebanon war, when dozens of Israeli civilians were killed by Hezbollah rockets.
The report blames official bodies, including the military and the Interior Ministry, for “serious lapses” in wartime readiness. It says some government bodies are shirking their responsibilities and not investing needed funds in preparedness plans.
The report says there are not enough bomb shelters in schools and public places, leaving hundreds of thousands of Israelis unprotected in case of attack.
Soldiers battle al Qaeda-linked militants
SANAA — Yemeni soldiers battled al Qaeda-linked militants outside the southern city of Zinjibar, which remains partly under the control of militants who seized it more than half a year ago.
Sixteen of the fighters and four soldiers were killed, a military official said Tuesday.
The overnight fighting included intensive artillery shelling from the government side, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with the military regulations.
Al Qaeda-linked militants have overrun swaths of territory, taking advantage of the security vacuum that has developed as a result of the political unrest that continues to roil the fragile and impoverished country on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports
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