- - Sunday, February 5, 2012

ISRAEL

Prime minister to visit Washington, may meet Obama

JERUSALEM | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to visit the United States at the beginning of March and may meet with President Obama to discuss Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program and unrest in the Middle East.

The visit will come after several rounds of so-called exploratory talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and amid increased speculation over whether Israel is planning to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to address the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that starts on March 3 in Washington, his office said.

Asked whether Mr. Netanyahu would be meeting with Mr. Obama in Washington, an Israeli official told the Agence France-Presse that “it appeared that such a meeting is possible.”

MYANMAR

U.N. praises reforms from army-backed government

YANGON | A top U.N. envoy on Sunday hailed dramatic changes in Myanmar but said April 1 elections will be a “key test” of the army-backed regime’s commitment to reform.

Tomas Ojea Quintana. the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, welcomed a “continuing wave of reforms” since his last visit in August but warned that “serious challenges remain.”

“The upcoming by-elections will be a key test of how far the government has progressed in its process of reform,” he told reporters at a news conference to outline his preliminary observations.

He said he had been told that the use of international observers was “under consideration” for the election, which is likely to see opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi swept into parliament.

AFGHANISTAN

Nine killed in attack on police headquarters

KANDAHAR | Nine people died Sunday in a suicide car-bomb attack on police headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar, a bastion of Taliban terrorism, government officials said.

Seven policemen were among those killed in the blast, which also wounded 19 people, according to the Afghan president’s office.

Kandahar is the largest city in southern Afghanistan and the birthplace of the Taliban, which has been waging a bloody insurgency since being ousted from power by the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001 that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

JORDAN

Islamists call for boycott against Russia, Chinese goods

AMMAN | Jordanian Islamists on Sunday called on Muslims and Arabs to boycott Russian and Chinese products, after Moscow and Beijing vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria over brutal assaults on anti-government protests.

“By vetoing the resolution, Russia and China have shown that they are taking part in the killing of Syrian people,” Hammam Said, the leader of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, said on the group’s website.

“All Muslims and Arabs should boycott Russian and Chinese products in order to support the Syrian people, who demand freedom and dignity. The vetoes were against all Arabs and Muslims.”

Mr. Said described the crackdown, which rights groups say has killed more than 6,000 people since democracy protests broke out in March last year, as “almost the worst in recent history.”

PANAMA

Ex-dictator Noriega hospitalized for hypertension

PANAMA CITY | Former dictator Manuel Noriega was hospitalized Sunday for what police said was “hypertension with a possibility of a stroke,” an official police statement said.

The 77-year-old Noriega, who is incarcerated while awaiting trial for alleged crimes committed while in office, was taken from his prison cell to the Hospital Santo Tomas, police said.

Noriega served 15 years in a U.S. prison after he was convicted for drug smuggling, money laundering and racketeering. U.S. forces detained him as a prisoner of war after invading Panama in 1989.

After serving his U.S. prison term, he was extradited to France where he had been convicted in absentia of murder. He was released to Panama in September to serve a 20-year prison term.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports