Briefly: Group urges Oman to free activists

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OMAN

MUSCAT — A Persian Gulf human rights group is calling on Oman to free more than 30 people including writers and bloggers arrested during crackdowns on protests and pro-reform campaigns in the tightly run Arabian Peninsula nation.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights says 22 people were taken into custody Monday during a demonstration to demand the release of at least nine activists detained this month.

The group’s statement Tuesday said those in custody include poets, writers and social media activists.

Oman has been hit this month by strikes in its oil industry. Last year, protests inspired by the Arab Spring called for a greater political openness.

In response, Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos, gave more powers to a council which until then had been advisory.

LEBANON

New TV station goes on air

BEIRUT — A new Pan-Arab TV station that went on the air Monday courts viewers who see mainstream coverage of the political upheaval sweeping the Middle East as biased against the regimes in Syria and Iran and their close ally in Lebanon, the powerful Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

The Beirut-based station Al-Mayadeen, Arabic for “The Squares,” hopes to counter the influence of regional media heavyweights such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, both funded by oil-rich Sunni Gulf Arab countries that have backed the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

It also promises to support the Palestinian cause and all forms of “resistance” - a term in Mideast parlance usually used to describe Hezbollah and other groups that fight Israel.

EGYPT

Amnesty calls for probe of mob attacks on women

CAIRO — Amnesty International has called on Egyptian authorities to investigate reports of sexual assaults on women protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in order to end impunity for repeated attacks.

The London-based rights group said women are singled out by mobs for sexual harassment and assaults in the epicenter of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year. The group said the attacks are an attempt to intimidate women and prevent them from participating in public life.

IRAN

Red Crescent sending food aid to North Korea

TEHRAN — Iran is planning to send more food aid to North Korea, where millions are suffering from malnourishment in the Stalinist state.

Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency this week reported that the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Abolhassan Faghih, told an official of North Korean Red Cross that Iran will purchase food items including powdered milk from China and ship them to North Korea.

He said Iran also would send medical items and relief to North Korea. The two nations are allies, and both are under fire for their nuclear programs.

ISRAEL

Prime minister injured playing soccer with youths

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu injured his leg Monday playing soccer with Jewish and Arab youths, his office said.

Doctors diagnosed a tear in Mr. Netanyahu’s left hamstring muscle Monday and put his leg in a cast. His office said he was sent home to rest and returned to work Tuesday.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office said he was taking part in the game as part of an international project promoting Israeli tourism.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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