- - Sunday, October 7, 2012

DOHA | In a boost to Gaza’s Hamas government, the Gulf state of Qatar has opened the first diplomatic office in the isolated territory since the Islamic militant group took power five years ago.

Qatari officials said the office is not a formal embassy. Instead, it will oversee hundreds of millions of dollars in aid projects Qatar is funding. It is headed by a diplomat with the rank of ambassador and marks a key stamp of legitimacy for Hamas, whose takeover of Gaza in 2007 has never been internationally recognized.

Hamas‘ rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, who lives in the West Bank, is seen internationally as the Palestinian leader. Mr. Abbas has long had rocky relations with Qatar, whose Al-Jazeera satellite channel is often critical of the Palestinian leader.

BELGIUM


NATO extends term of secretary-general

BRUSSELS | The NATO military alliance is extending the term in office of its current chief, allowing him to remain in office until the end of July 2014.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, took office in 2009. He has overseen operations in Afghanistan and Libya.

Ambassadors from the 28 NATO countries took the decision to extend his term last month. NATO chiefs are appointed for four years, but the term is customarily extended by a year.

UNITED NATIONS

Mission to Haiti to be extended

The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti is likely to be renewed but with fewer staff members and refocusing on training Haiti’s police, according to a U.N. diplomat.

The current mandate runs through Oct. 15. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended that its staff shrink from 7,340 to 6,270 and its police force be reduced from 3,241 to 2,601 by June 2013.

Guatemala’s U.N. ambassador, Gert Rosenthal, who leads the Security Council this month, said, “There was unanimity regarding the need for an extension for another year and on the recommendations of the secretary general to move away from peacekeeping towards strengthening the police force in Haiti.”

Haitian President Michel Martelly took the helm of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere in May 2011.

From wire dispatches and staff reports