- - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

WEST BANK

Netanyahu: Military must stay in West Bank

SARTABA | Israel’s prime minister declared Tuesday that his country must retain a strategic section of the West Bank under any future peace deal - a position unlikely to win Palestinians over to his reported plan to offer them a temporary state.

In a rare visit to the occupied territory, Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel’s security depends on maintaining a military presence in the Jordan Valley - a strip of West Bank land along the border with Jordan. Without troops there, Israel fears militants could smuggle weapons into the West Bank.

“The Jordan Valley is Israel’s line of defense,” Mr. Netanyahu said atop a rocky hilltop overlooking the valley. “There is no alternative.”

Mr. Netanyahu has made similar comments in the past. But the location and the timing - just as officials say he is working on a new diplomatic initiative - were notable, signaling that any new plan would fall far short of Palestinian demands.

KUWAIT

Police block square amid protest calls

KUWAIT CITY | Police barricaded a main square in Kuwait’s capital Tuesday before planned protests for greater political freedoms that could bring another Gulf state into the surge for reforms around the Arab world.

The police cordons around Kuwait City’s central Safat Square were a high-profile warning to demonstrators, but organizers used social media to point to alternative sites in attempts to keep a step ahead of the crackdown.

Although the calls for protests would mark the first in Kuwait since the stunning Arab uprisings, the oil-rich Gulf nation is no stranger to political showdowns.

Kuwait has the region’s most powerful parliament, and opposition lawmakers have waged open battles against the ruling system.

EGYPT

Court rejects appeal of Mubarak fund seizure

CAIRO | An Egyptian court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his family against a top prosecutor’s move to seize funds that could total in the billions of dollars.

The decision clears the way for a criminal investigation and a possible trial of Egypt’s ousted leader.

Mr. Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11 at the end of 18 days of massive protests demanding his ouster after nearly 30 years in power. He, his wife, two sons and their wives also have been banned from travel abroad.

Judicial officials described the decision in closed court to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

IRAN

Officials seek information on agent

TEHRAN | Iran urged the U.S. on Tuesday to provide new information about a retired FBI agent who disappeared inside the country, and said it will keep trying to discover his fate.

“On a humanitarian basis, we will continue our efforts,” to find Robert Levinson, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at a weekly briefing.

“If there is reliable information, relaying it to Iranian officials can turn this into a collective effort,” he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed to Iran for information about Mr. Levinson last week after Mr. Levinson’s family received proof late last year that he was alive.

The State Department issued a three-sentence statement by Mrs. Clinton on Thursday saying there were indications Mr. Levinson was in southwest Asia and asking Iran for help.

Iran has long said it has no information about Mr. Levinson, but U.S. officials say they believe he was taken by Iranian government agents.

YEMEN

Prisoners riot, call for president’s ouster

SANAA | About 2,000 inmates staged a riot at a prison in the Yemeni capital after taking a dozen guards hostage and joined calls by anti-government protesters for the country’s president to step down, a security official said Tuesday.

And for the first time since anti-government protests started in Yemen in mid-February, graffiti against President Ali Abdullah Saleh surfaced in his birthplace, the farming village of Sanhan just outside Sanaa.

The unrest in the central prison in the capital, Sanaa, erupted late Monday when prisoners set their blankets and mattresses ablaze and occupied the facility’s main courtyard, the official said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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