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Briefly: Middle East

- - Tuesday, October 18, 2011

YEMEN

Yemeni forces kill 7 in renewed protests

SANAA — Yemeni government forces opened fire Tuesday on protesters in Sanaa, killing seven, a medical official said, a day after the capital witnessed its worst fighting in weeks.

Mohammed al-Qubati, the director of a field hospital at the main protest site in Sanaa dubbed "Change Square," said dozens more were injured in the Tuesday protests demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Sanaa, led by shirtless young men with the words "Leave ... you butcher" scrawled across their chests. The message was a reference to Mr. Saleh.

Soldiers from the Republican Guard, a loyalist unit led by Mr. Saleh's son Ahmed, arrested four female protesters who were ahead of the main demonstration, said activist Habib al-Uraiqi.

Similar demonstrations were held in other parts of Yemen, including the southern cities of Aden and Taiz, protest organizers said.

SYRIA

Turkish officials meet with Syrian opposition

ANKARA, Turkey — Syrian security forces launched raids on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, on Tuesday to crush a 7-month-old uprising as neighboring Turkey held its first formal talks with Syrian opposition leaders, activists and officials said.

Some parents kept their children home from school in areas near the capital out of fear for their safety as armored vehicles took up positions and soldiers made sweeping arrests, said Rami Abdul-Rahman of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a wide network of sources on the ground.

Other bloodshed was reported in the central city of Homs, a hotbed of opposition to the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Syria has banned foreign reporters and restricted local coverage, making it difficult to independently confirm witness accounts. The U.N. says more than 3,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in mid-March.

TUNISIA

Vote panel 'all ready' for landmark election

TUNIS — The head of a panel organizing Tunisia's landmark constituent assembly elections told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday that his team is "all ready" for the weekend vote after a trial run in Tunis.

"We are all ready. All the polling stations have received the electoral materials. We will set up in primary schools at 1 p.m. Friday, install everything and use Saturday for a last review of our troops and material," Kamel Jendoubi said.

Tunisians go to the polls on Sunday to elect the body whose main task will be to write a new constitution. The North African country has been under interim rule since a massive uprising that led in January to the ouster of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled for 23 years.

The army and police will keep order during the vote, which is the first free election for many young Tunisians after decades of dictatorial rule by Mr. Ben Ali and his political party. Members of that toppled regime are not allowed to stand in the current elections.

IRAN

Official: Charges against Iran are 'politically motivated'

TEHRAN — Iran on Tuesday lashed out at "politically motivated" Western accusations against Tehran over U.S. plot claims, its human rights record and nuclear activities.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said fresh U.N. accusations of rights abuses in Iran are part of a Western campaign against the Islamic republic after the U.S. assassination plot allegation and increased pressure over Tehran's nuclear program.

"The nuclear issue and human rights [issue], as well as the newly expressed [U.S. plot] accusations, show that these moves are politically motivated with the sole aim of imposing more pressure on our nation," he told reporters.

He was responding to a report by a U.N. special rapporteur on Iran's human rights situation, Ahmed Shaheed, that highlighted the secret executions of more than 300 prisoners, among a raft of other abuses.

The document was obtained by Agence France-Presse and other media ahead of its presentation to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday.