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Briefly: Middle East

- - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

IRAN

Iran sets conditions for oil to EU nations

TEHRAN — Iran has laid out conditions for future oil exports to other European countries after halting sales to Britain and France this week, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters that Tehran seeks guarantees of payments, long-term contracts and a ban on unilateral cancellation of contracts by buyers. He said all these should be considered if Europe wants continued trade and oil relations.

The remarks came a day after oil prices jumped to a nine-month high of more than $105 a barrel following Iran's announced halts in crude shipments in an escalation of the dispute over the country's nuclear program.

Tehran said Monday it is considering extending the oil embargo to other European Union countries.

The halt in crude to British and French companies was an apparent pre-emptive blow against the EU after the bloc imposed sanctions on Iran's fuel exports, including a freeze of the country's central bank assets and an oil embargo set to begin in July.

EGYPT

Islamists deride government 'failure'

CAIRO — The party belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday slammed the "failure" of the military-appointed government, and renewed its call for a national consensus Cabinet.

"Egypt still suffers increasing economic and security crises which confirms the failure of the current government," the Freedom and Justice Party said in a statement.

The Freedom and Justice Party, which won a crushing victory in recent parliamentary elections, stressed "the need to form a national consensus government that expresses the choice of the Egyptian people in the legislative elections."

The Brotherhood has recently called for the government to be sacked, saying it should govern.

In the statement, the Freedom and Justice Party reiterated its "rejection" of the government's acceptance of a loan from the International Monetary Fund. It said the country could rely on many of its financial resources "before resorting to foreign loans."

Egypt's finance minister said his government would sign a memorandum of understanding with the IMF in March for a previously spurned $3.2 billion loan, state media reported Sunday.

ISRAEL

Israel to free Palestinian hunger striker

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian prisoner Tuesday agreed to end a two-month hunger strike after reaching a deal with Israel that will free him in April, the Israeli Justice Ministry said.

The agreement ended a tense standoff that had drawn attention to a controversial Israeli policy of holding suspected Palestinian militants without charge.

Under the deal, Khader Adnan, a 33-year-old member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, agreed to resume eating immediately, the Justice Ministry said. If "no new additional substantial evidence" emerges against him, he will be released April 17, when a four-month detention order is to expire.

Mr. Adnan was arrested from his West Bank home Dec. 17, and he launched his hunger strike the following day.

SYRIA

Opposition says 16 dead in intense shelling

BEIRUT — Syrian government troops heavily shelled rebellious districts in the resistance stronghold of Homs on Tuesday, killing at least 16 people and compounding fears of a new round of bloody urban combat in a country careening toward all-out civil war.

Activists said the intense shelling of Baba Amr in Homs lasted a few hours but did not seem to be the start of a widely expected military offensive aimed at retaking rebel-held neighborhoods in the central region.

Two of the 16 people killed were children, activists said, warning that Homs already is facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

In the northern province of Aleppo, the government said a Syrian businessman was shot dead in front of his home in the latest incident suggesting armed factions are growing bolder and more coordinated in their uprising against President Bashar Assad.

From wire dispatches and staff reports