- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

SYRIA

Syrian city under siege as U.N. urges action

BEIRUT | Syrian soldiers opened fire in the restive city of Homs on Tuesday, and armored vehicles rolled through its streets, activists said, as the U.N. secretary-general urged the world community to take action on Syria.

Ban Ki-moon delivered some of his strongest statements yet condemning the violence, saying President Bashar Assad must take “bold and decisive measures before it’s too late.”

“It’s already too late, in fact,” Mr. Ban said in New Zealand, where he was attending a meeting of Pacific leaders. “If it takes more and more days, then more people will be killed.”

The U.N. says 2,200 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March, inspired by the revolutions sweeping the Arab world. But nearly six months later, the unrest in Syria has descended into a bloody stalemate with neither side willing to back down.

ARAB WORLD

Think tank: Islamists may join politics after Arab Spring

LONDON | Violent Islamist groups may take advantage of a security vacuum caused by the “Arab Spring” uprisings but are more likely to join the struggle for power under a new political order, experts said Tuesday.

A new report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) warned, however, that democracy is not an inevitable outcome of the popular revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and across the wider Arab world.

At the launch of the think tank’s annual “Review of World Affairs,” senior IISS fellow Emile Hokayem said the downfall of tough regimes had provided an opening for violent Islamists.

“I’m not saying that terrorist activities will necessarily happen, but the collapse of security states is certainly something that creates an operational opportunity for these groups,” Mr. Hokayem told a press conference in London.

WEST BANK

Abbas talking with U.S., EU ahead of U.N. bid

RAMALLAH | Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is holding talks with U.S. and European envoys ahead of the Palestinian U.N. membership bid, a senior Palestinian official said Tuesday.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said Mr. Abbas would hold talks on Wednesday with U.S. envoy David Hale and had pledged to coordinate with the EU “up to the last minute” on the U.N. bid plans.

Mr. Abed Rabbo said Mr. Hale was coming to Ramallah for talks to “save what could be saved,” an apparent reference to Washington’s ongoing attempts to persuade the Palestinians to scrap their U.N. bid in exchange for a new round of peace talks.

He said he expected Mr. Hale to “threaten and warn of a financial boycott and measures against the PLO representation at the United Nations.”

Washington has made it clear that it is opposed to the Palestinian plan to seek U.N. membership this month and reportedly is seeking to draft a proposal for peace talks that will be acceptable to Israel, Russia, the European Union and the U.N. - members of the international peacemaking Quartet.

The EU remains divided on the bid, but the Palestinians have pledged to keep the group abreast of their plans, Mr. Abed Rabbo said.

The Palestinians reportedly have pledged to give a copy of their draft resolution to EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton before they submit it later this month.

TUNISIA

Police banned from union activities

TUNIS | Tunisia’s prime minister announced Tuesday a ban on police engaging in union activities, which he said threaten the country’s security ahead of next month’s historic post-revolution elections.

“I have decided from today to ban all union activity among security services in view of the danger that such activity represents for the security of the country,” Beji Caid Essebsi said at a press conference.

He was speaking as hundreds of Tunisian police officers, angered at charges of killing protesters, demonstrated outside the main government building in Tunis.

They called for the immediate resignations of Interior Minister Habib Essid and army chief Gen. Rachid Ammar. They accused the army chief of being behind recent unrest in Tunisia with the aim of seizing power.

At least two people have been killed and scores injured in recent days in the center and southwest of the country, prompting authorities to impose a curfew on three towns.

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