- - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

IRAQ

22 killed in rare attack in Iraq’s Shiite south

BAGHDAD — Twin explosions early Tuesday near a government compound killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens in a rare attack in the Shiite heartland, Iraqi officials said.

The blasts came as Iraq’s top political factions started to discuss in earnest whether to ask the U.S. to leave some of its troops to stay beyond the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline because of the security situation.

While violence is well below what it was during the years that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, militants are still able to launch deadly attacks. The ongoing violence has led to concerns about what happens when the 47,000 remaining U.S. troops are withdrawn.

EGYPT

Military posts Facebook poll on next leader

CAIRO — Egypt’s military rulers have posted a Facebook poll to gauge the popularity of nearly 20 presidential hopefuls as the North African nation prepares for its first post-revolution parliamentary elections.

The online survey, which had garnered more than 100,000 responses by Tuesday, was an unprecedented test of public opinion as the military rulers try to prove their commitment to a transparent transition to democracy.

Previous elections were marred by fraud and allegations that they were rigged in favor of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

Votes were divided among 18 names, including pro-reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei; the first female hopeful, Bothaina Kamel; and former regime officials, including the country’s former intelligence chief.

As of Tuesday, Mr. ElBaradei was in the lead, with 35 percent of the votes, followed by prominent Islamic scholar Mohammed Selim al-Awa.

Organizers acknowledged the monthlong poll that opened Sunday is not scientific but said it is an opportunity to determine the front-runners ahead of the balloting, which is scheduled for September.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Conservation group urges more Arab natural sites

Story Continues →