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Briefly: Middle East

- - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SYRIA

Syrian troops extend reach in border areas

BOYNUYOGUN, TURKEY — Syrian tanks pushed toward more towns and villages near the Turkish and Iraqi borders on Tuesday, expanding the crackdown against a 12-week uprising to the north and east as more Syrians flee their homes.

Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to have abandoned all pretense of offering reform - sending tanks, helicopter gunships and only his most loyal forces into population centers to crush dissent.

WEST BANK

Israel arrests Fatah official

NABLUS — Israeli troops on Tuesday arrested an official from Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

A Fatah spokesman in Qalqilya confirmed that Mohammed Walawil, 26, and his brother Tawfiq, 32, had been arrested at their home in the northern West Bank city in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

An Israeli military spokesman acknowledged the arrest of Mr. Walawil and a relative but gave no further details.

The Israeli military has regularly arrested Hamas political figures in the West Bank, including members of the Palestinian parliament. Earlier this month, it detained former Fatah lawmaker Hossam Khader, in Nablus.

LEBANON

New prime minister set to draft policy

BEIRUT — Prime Minister Najib Mikati was preparing on Tuesday to begin the delicate task of drafting his government policy a day after announcing a Cabinet dominated by Hezbollah and its allies.

All eyes are focused on how Mr. Mikati will address the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a U.N.-backed murder investigation that led to the downfall of the previous government.

Hezbollah, arguably the most powerful militant group in the region, first entered government in 2005 and has steadily imposed itself as a key player in domestic politics.

KUWAIT

Leader quizzed about Iran in secret session

KUWAIT CITY — Three opposition lawmakers on Tuesday quizzed Kuwait's prime minister in a secret session of parliament for allegedly harming national security by favoring ties with Iran over Gulf Arab states.

Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, said he was ready to face questioning as parliament accepted a government request to hold the grilling behind closed doors.

The lawmakers accuse the prime minister of damaging ties with Kuwait's partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council by failing to promptly dispatch troops as part of the GCC force to Bahrain to help crush Shiite-led protests in the kingdom.

IRAN

Official: Britain, U.S. 'interfering' in affairs

TEHRAN — Iran's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday accused Britain and the United States of "interfering" in the internal affairs of the Islamic republic.

"It is surprising to witness British and American officials make remarks that clearly interfere in our country's internal affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in his weekly briefing.

He made the remarks in response to a statement by Britain's Foreign Office marking the second anniversary of the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and expressing support for the opposition movement.