- - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

YEMEN

Ruler asks mediator to delay visit

SANAA | Two associates of Yemen’s president say he has asked a mediator from the neighboring Gulf countries seeking to resolve the nation’s crisis to delay his visit indefinitely.

The request is the latest blow to attempts to resolve weeks of anti-government unrest in this impoverished Arab country.

The two senior officials said Tuesday that President Ali Abdullah Saleh sent a formal letter to Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, general-secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), requesting the delay.

The letter was sent Monday, just as Mr. al-Zayani was expecting to meet with Mr. Saleh to ask him to resign as part of the GCC’s initiative to resolve the crisis, the officials said on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

PALESTINIANS

Small factions sign reconciliation deal

CAIRO | Small Palestinian factions signed a reconciliation deal on Tuesday ahead of a formal ceremony this week to celebrate the accord designed to end a four-year rift between the biggest factions, Hamas and Fatah.

Egypt last week brokered the accord between the Islamist Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, and the secular Fatah, which heads the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority and controls self-rule areas of the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians see this reconciliation as crucial for their drive to establish an independent state in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

Israel has denounced the deal, saying Fatah must choose to deal with Hamas or Israel.

The accord calls for creating an interim unity government for the West Bank and Gaza Strip instead of the administrations led by Fatah and Hamas, which currently run each territory.

SYRIA

Regime resorts to intimidation, threats

BEIRUT, Lebanon | Facing international condemnation for its bloody crackdown on protesters, the Syrian regime is expanding a quieter intimidation campaign to keep people off the streets, according to human rights activists.

They report a sharp escalation in arbitrary arrests and unexplained disappearances - including people getting plucked from their homes and offices in the middle of the day.

One example: A prominent activist in an upscale Damascus neighborhood reportedly was bundled into a car after being beaten by security officers.

“Syrian cities have witnessed in the past few days an insane escalation by authorities who are arresting anyone with the potential to stage protests and demonstrations,” said Ammar Qurabi, who heads the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, to the Associated Press on Tuesday.

“The arrests have transformed Syria into a large prison,” he said, estimating that more than 1,000 people had been detained since Saturday in house-to-house raids across the country.

The stepped-up campaign will have its first major test Friday - the main day for protests in the Arab world.

But already there were signs that protests will continue.

Thousands of people gathered Tuesday in the coastal town of Banias, demanding freedom and urging the downfall of Syria’s authoritarian regime, two witnesses said.

LIBYA

Rebels: Regime forces shelling supply route

TRIPOLI | Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi shelled a rebel supply route and a besieged opposition stronghold in western Libya on Tuesday.

Rebels in western Libya, reached by telephone, said loyalist forces fired dozens of rockets at a road Tuesday to disrupt supplies transported from Tunisia through the rebel-controlled Dhuheiba border crossing to rebel towns in a nearby mountain area of Libya.

Shelling has caused the road to close intermittently.

The Libyan leader has been fighting rebels in the east of his vast oil-rich nation since an uprising against his rule began in February. His forces control most of western Libya save for a string of villages along the mountainous western border and the port city of Misrata.

In Misrata, under siege by Col. Gadhafi’s forces for two months, fighting continued on the city’s edges, where regime loyalists have taken up positions.

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