- - Monday, March 28, 2011

WEST BANK

Palestinian leader seeks talks with Hamas

RAMALLAH | Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is pushing for reconciliation with Hamas, even if unity would cost him hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from Washington, which lists Hamas as a terrorist group, an aide said Monday.

Azzam Ahmed’s comments indicate that Mr. Abbas may be giving up on stalled peace talks with Israel to reunite the Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas, with the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian Authority. The sides have been divided since Hamas overran the Gaza Strip in 2007, expelling forces loyal to Mr. Abbas.

Mr. Ahmed said Monday the Palestinians need American money, “but if they use it as a way of pressuring us, we are ready to relinquish that aid.”

RUSSIA

Report says corruption soaring under Putin

MOSCOW | Opposition figures claim corruption in Russia has worsened under Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and that his friends and relatives have abused their positions for personal gain.

Ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, former deputy premier Boris Nemtsov and two other opposition figures presented a report on Monday alleging that graft under Mr. Putin increased 10-fold between 2001 and 2005 to well over $300 billion, or one-fourth of Russia’s economy.

Mr. Putin became prime minister in 2008, after serving two presidential terms.

Former lawmaker Vladimir Ryzhkov added that the report by the respected think-tank Indem also found Mr. Putin’s friends and relatives have accumulated fortunes with the help of state companies.

ISRAEL

Israel warns Hamas against rocket attacks

JERUSALEM | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas terrorists in Gaza on Monday that the Israeli military will retaliate, if they resume firing rockets at southern Israeli communities.

Israel will not tolerate even “a drizzle of rockets and missiles” on its cities, he said.

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