- - Tuesday, November 13, 2012

CAIRO — Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has sharply criticized Israel over its recent airstrikes, which killed seven Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Islamist group said in a statement Tuesday that the Palestinian issue will always be a priority for Arabs and Muslims despite the nations’ mounting domestic issues.

It also called on governments in the region “to stop the Zionist war” that it accused Israeli leaders of pursuing for political points ahead of January elections in Israel.

The latest violence began Saturday, with Israeli airstrikes and rocket attacks from Gaza militants. The violence subsided Tuesday morning.

Also, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood, expressed his “full support” Tuesday for Palestinian plans to seek nonmember observer status at the United Nations during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

IRAN

Iran postpones subsidy cuts

TEHRAN — An Iranian lawmaker said the country’s parliament has postponed the implementation of a second round of subsidy cuts until 2013 over fears of stoking already rampant inflation.

The head of the parliamentary budgetary and planning committee, Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam, told the semiofficial Mehr news agency the second phase of the three-part plan likely would cause a 15 percent jump in the inflation rate, which is officially running at almost 25 percent.

Iran began cutting subsidies on energy and food in 2010. The second phase, which targeted gasoline subsidies, was to take effect in March 2012.

Parliament’s decision on Tuesday officially pushed back the second round of cuts to March 2013.

Iran has been under increasing economic sanctions by the West, which suspects Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

UAE tightens laws on online activism

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday set stricter Internet monitoring and enforcement codes, which include giving authorities wider leeway to crack down on Web activists for offenses such as mocking the country’s rulers or calling for demonstrations.

The measures are another sign of tougher cyberpolicing efforts by Western-backed leaders across the Persian Gulf amid growing concerns over perceived political or security threats since the Arab Spring uprisings.

The Web clampdowns, however, have brought outcries from rights groups and media freedom advocates that claim Gulf authorities increasingly are muzzling free expression in the name of preserving the powers of the ruling clans from Kuwait to Oman.

The new UAE codes — posted on the official news agency WAM — also raise questions about potential new red lines for the country’s huge expatriate workforce in which parodies and pointed criticism of the UAE are common fodder on websites.

It’s unclear, too, whether the codes could put a chill on media coverage of sensitive issues such as the rising profile of Islamist factions.

EGYPT

Rights groups excluded from EU talks

CAIRO — More than 20 Egyptian human rights groups say authorities excluded them at the last minute from a meeting with a visiting European Union delegation aimed at boosting ties with the 27-nation bloc.

The rights groups say that after initially being invited to a meeting Tuesday with the EU, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry abruptly withdrew the invitation.

Organizations focusing on poverty reduction and charity still took part in the talks.

The rights groups said in a statement the decision to exclude them reflects the current government’s shunning of human rights — a continuation of the policy of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak and the country’s transitional military rulers.

The Egyptian official chairing the meeting said Cairo wants to focus on fighting poverty, not building democracy and human rights.

From wire dispatches and staff reports