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World Scene

- - Thursday, October 20, 2011

UNITED NATIONS

Palestinians to push for membership Nov. 11

GENEVA | Palestinian diplomats are trying to muster support for a U.N. Security Council vote in New York on Nov. 11 on their bid for membership in the global body, a senior Palestinian diplomat said Thursday.

U.N. diplomats said earlier this week that a Security Council committee considering the membership bid would deliver a report on that day, and that ambassadors would then decide on the next steps.

Any member of the Security Council can request a vote on the Palestinian request, but a resolution recommending membership requires a minimum of nine "yes" votes and no veto by one of the council's five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.

Once the 15-member Security Council recommends a country's membership, its application must be approved by a two-thirds vote in the 193-member General Assembly.

Washington, Israel's closest ally, already has pledged to use its veto if Palestinian membership gets the support of nine or more council members.

SYRIA

Arab League delegation to visit Syria next week

CAIRO | Syria has agreed to allow an Arab League delegation to visit Damascus in a bid to defuse the deadly violence there, the 22-member body said in a statement Thursday.

"We have received approval from the Syrian government to receive a ministerial delegation, headed by Qatar on Wednesday, Oct. 26," Assistant Secretary-General Wagih Hanafi said.

The delegation will include Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi and the foreign ministers of Algeria, Egypt, Oman and Sudan.

At an urgent session in Cairo last Sunday, the Arab League called for "national dialogue" in the Egyptian capital between Syria's government and the opposition by the end of the month to help end the violence and avoid "foreign intervention" in Syria.

The proposal was swiftly criticized by Syria's official media.

The United Nations estimates that more than 3,000 people, including 187 children, have been killed in a fierce crackdown on dissent in Syria.

SOMALIA

Kenya advances on city of Kismayo

MOGADISHU | Kenya intends to push its troops to Somalia's insurgent stronghold of Kismayo and will stay until there are no Islamist insurgents left, a Kenyan military spokesman said Thursday, as the militants were pushed back on two fronts by pro-Somali government forces supported by foreign troops.

"We are going to be there until the [Somali government] has effectively reduced the capacity of al-Shabab to fire a single round. ... We want to ensure there is no al-Shabab," Kenyan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir told the Associated Press. "We want to destroy all their weapons."

He said troops have secured a foothold in Ras Kamboni, a town on a peninsula close to the Kenya-Somalia border, and that al-Shabab militants left the town before the Kenyans arrived.

"This provides a vantage point for us to clear al-Shabab and pirates from the Somali coast in Kismayo," he said. "Al-Shabab is in disarray."

CYPRUS

Turkish Cypriots urged to scrap anti-gay law

NICOSIA | An EU legislator urged the leader of Cyprus' breakaway Turkish north on Thursday to repeal a law against gays that has led to the arrest of a former Greek Cypriot Cabinet minister.

Lawmaker Marina Yannakoudakis raised the issue during a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, and a top government official said Mr. Eroglu agreed that the law should be scrapped.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity in keeping with government regulations.

Ms. Yannakoudakis, whose parents are Greek Cypriots, was visiting the island with other European Union legislators for contacts with the Turkish Cypriot community.

"I was horrified when I heard that they hadn't repealed the law," said Ms. Yannakoudakis, a Conservative Party member of the European Parliament for London.

Last week, the law, a leftover from island's British colonial past, led to the arrest of Michalis Sarris, a former Greek Cypriot finance minister, on suspicion that he sought gay sex in the north. The law considers that a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

On Thursday, a Turkish Cypriot court formally charged and released the 65-year-old Mr. Sarris on $63,000 bail and ordered him to appear before a judge next month.