- - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

EGYPT

Muslim Brotherhood plans political party

CAIRO | Egypt’s long-banned Muslim Brotherhood said Tuesday it intends to form a political party once democracy is established, as the country’s new military rulers launched a panel of experts to amend the country’s constitution enough to allow democratic elections later this year.

The military is trying to push ahead quickly with a transition after President Hosni Mubarak resigned Friday in the face of 18 days of unprecedented popular protests that massed hundreds of thousands.

The panel is to draw up changes within 10 days to end the monopoly that Mr. Mubarak’s ruling party once held, which it ensured through widespread election-rigging.

Generals from the Armed Forces Supreme Council, which now rules Egypt, said Tuesday the military wants to hand power to a government and an elected president within six months, the firmest timetable yet outlined.

IRAQ

Protesters demand jobs in countrywide rallies

FALLUJAH | Iraqis protested against corruption and joblessness across the war-ravaged country on Tuesday as anti-government rallies echoed in the Arab world.

Iraqis have long protested against poor basic services and food shortages, but on Tuesday they made direct references to the turmoil that has shaken other parts of the region.

In the mainly Sunni city of Fallujah in western Iraq, about 1,000 protesters gathered near the mayor’s office to demand officials improve services and do more to fight corruption. In the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, about 100 people demonstrated near a provincial council building. About 200 protesters rallied in the southern oil hub of Basra.

Iraq has been slow in improving services almost eight years after the U.S.-led invasion. Infrastructure is old, electricity shortages are persistent and people’s frustration is growing.

But unlike other countries in the region, Iraq’s former autocratic regime already has been swept away by the U.S. invasion, and the new rulers have vowed to rebuild the country.

ISRAEL

4 diplomatic missions closed by threats

JERUSALEM | Israel has temporarily closed at least four diplomatic missions abroad in response to threats against Israeli targets overseas, officials said Tuesday.

The threats appeared to be tied to the third anniversary of the death of a former Hezbollah commander, Imad Mughniyeh, who died in a mysterious explosion in Syria. Hezbollah blames Israel and repeatedly has vowed revenge.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to discuss the nature of the threats, referring only to “extraordinary events.”

On Friday, Israel’s National Security Council warned Israeli and Jewish travelers that they could be targets in Turkey, Egypt, Georgia, Venezuela, Armenia, the Ivory Coast, Mali and Mauritania. It advised travelers to stay away from any areas where Israelis might congregate.

Officials would not say which diplomatic missions were closed, but they said they were located in nations listed in the travel warning.

YEMEN

Yemenis protest for fifth straight day

SANAA | Thousands of people marching for the ouster of Yemen’s U.S.-allied president clashed Tuesday with police and government supporters, and at least three demonstrators were injured in a fifth straight day of Egypt-inspired protests.

Police tried to disperse the demonstrators using tear gas, batons and stun guns, but about 3,000 protesters defiantly continued their march from Sanaa University toward the city center, chanting slogans against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, including “Down with the president’s thugs!”

The procession gained momentum with hundreds of students and rights activists joining along the way.

The unrest comes as ties between the U.S. and Mr. Saleh have been growing recently over rising alarm in Washington about the activities of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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