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Briefly: Middle East

- - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BAHRAIN

Parliament accepts Shiite resignations

MANAMA — Bahrain's parliament accepted the resignations Tuesday of the last seven lawmakers of the Shiite opposition in a move that could exacerbate sectarian tensions in the strategic Gulf island kingdom.

The move came as senior U.S. diplomats met with Bahrain's foreign and justice ministers, urging them to open dialogue with the opposition in the wake of the deadly crackdown by the country's Sunni rulers that suppressed anti-government protests, mainly by the Shiite minority earlier this year.

The lawmakers' resignation were submitted in February in protest against the crackdown but had not yet been approved by parliament. The resignations of 11 other Shiite opposition members of parliament were accepted previously. They were members of Al Wefaq, the country's largest Shiite party.

Bahrain's 40-member lower house of parliament is left with 22 lawmakers and is controlled by Sunnis. Elections to fill the 18 empty seats are scheduled for September.

YEMEN

Officials: 3 killed in al Qaeda attack

SANAA — Yemeni security officials said two soldiers and a civilian were killed Tuesday when armed men believed to belong to al Qaeda attacked security posts in the eastern city of Mukalla.

Yemen's active al Qaeda offshoot has taken advantage of the months of popular protests calling for the ouster of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step up operations in the country's weakly governed provinces.

In the attack, armed men opened fire on two security posts outside Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, security officials said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity according to regulations. The attack killed two soldiers and one passer-by.

EGYPT

Mubarak's wife released, still faces probe

CAIRO — The wife of Egypt's ousted president was released from detention on Tuesday after giving up assets but is still being investigated, said an official leading a probe into whether she amassed wealth illegally.

Suzanne Mubarak, who denies charges that she abused her husband's influence for unlawful personal gain, was admitted to a hospital on Friday after suffering symptoms of a heart attack. She ws detained in the same hospital as her husband.

Former President Hosni Mubarak, 83, also is being investigated for abuse of power, embezzlement and responsibility for the deaths of some protesters during the 18 days of unrest that led to his overthrow on Feb. 11. He is still in detention.

"Suzanne Mubarak was released pending investigations after she gave up her assets of [$4 million] to the state," Assem el-Gohari, the head of the Illicit Gains Authority, told state radio.

LIBYA

Gadhafi oil minister heads to Tunisia

TUNIS, Tunisia — Libyan Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem, a veteran of Moammar Gadhafi's regime, has left his country across the border with Tunisia, a Tunisian government source told Agence France-Presse Tuesday.

The Libyan rebellion movement said it did not know if Mr. Ghanem had defected and had no contact with him.

Mr. Ghanem, also the chairman of Libya's powerful national oil company, crossed the border by car on Saturday and stayed at a hotel in the southern tourist island of Djerba, the government source said on the condition of anonymity.

The hotel said he had left with his family early Tuesday for an unknown destination.

"Shukri Ghanem has left Libya. He entered Tunisia by car on May 14 across the Ras Jedir border post," the government official said. "Shukri Ghanem is currently in a hotel at Djerba, and he has not tried to contact the Tunisian authorities."

PALESTINIANS

Fatah, Hamas agree on unity deal mechanism

CAIRO — Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas on Tuesday agreed on the mechanisms to implement a reconciliation agreement after talks described by both parties and their Egyptian mediators as "positive."

"Fatah and Hamas held intense talks in Cairo over two days sponsored by Egypt, to define the mechanisms of implementation of a Palestinian reconciliation deal" signed earlier this month, said an Egyptian statement carried by the official MENA news agency.

"The meetings took place in a positive atmosphere, amid cooperation and understanding from both sides which reflects their desire to end their division as soon as possible," the statement said.

President Mahmud Abbas' Fatah faction began talks with rival Hamas on Monday, aimed at hammering out a unity government as agreed under the deal.