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In protest, Iraqiya lawmakers and ministers boycotted parliament and Cabinet sessions, bringing government work to a standstill.

JORDAN

King receives Hamas leader

AMMAN — A high-profile visit to Jordan by the leader of Hamas has revived contacts with the Palestinian militant group, but Jordan will not lift a ban on its activities there, a senior Jordanian official said Sunday.

Khaled Mashaal’s visit was part of Jordan’s efforts to engage with previously shunned Islamists, who have been gaining ground across the region in Arab Spring uprisings.

“It will only break the ice following years of estrangement,” said the official, who was attending talks between Mr. Mashaal and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, “but Hamas will not be allowed to reopen its offices in Jordan.”

Re-establishing contact with Hamas also positions Jordan to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr. Mashaal holds a Jordanian passport, but the kingdom expelled him and four other Hamas leaders in 1999 for “illicit and harmful” activities, forcing Mr. Mashaal to set up camp in exile in Syria, from where he has led his group’s political bureau.

With the harsh Syrian government crackdown on protesters - including some Palestinians in Syria - Mr. Mashaal is looking for a new place to operate.

Jordan blacklisted Hamas after an alleged weapons cache was discovered in the country six years ago.

Since then, Mr. Mashaal was allowed to enter Jordan twice on humanitarian grounds - in August 2009 to attend his father’s funeral, and again last October to visit his ailing mother.

PAKISTAN

Firing of TV host a victory for liberals

ISLAMABAD — In a rare victory for Pakistani liberals, a private TV station decided to fire a popular morning show host after she sparked outrage by running around a public park trying to expose young, unmarried couples hanging out, a taboo in this conservative Muslim country.

Pakistani liberals derided host Maya Khan’s behavior on Twitter and Facebook, comparing it to the kind of moral policing practiced by the Taliban, and started an online petition asking Samaa TV to end this “irresponsible programming” and apologize.

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