- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

IRAN
Parliament approves bill for satellite-TV access
TEHRAN Iran's reformist-dominated parliament approved a bill yesterday to lift restrictions on public access to most satellite television channels.
While the proposal reflects a majority of Iranians' wishes for a more open society, it still must be approved by the hard-line Guardian Council before becoming law. The measure passed after a heated debate broadcast live on Tehran radio, in which hard-liners said it would "legalize sin."
"Lifting the ban on satellite dishes allows people to watch anti-Islamic films," said minority lawmaker Mohammad Razavi. "Many corrupt deeds take place in secret. There is no reason for us to make it easy for people to sin," he said.
But supporter Davoud Soleimani called the bill Iran's last chance to regulate the encroachment of foreign broadcasts.

WEST BANK
Arafat to send delegation to Blair talks
RAMALLAH Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was back in the spotlight yesterday after agreeing to send a delegation to Britain for talks on reforms and urging international powers to restart the peace process.
But Israel, which was left out of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's invitation, gave a cool response to the meeting. Mr. Blair said Monday that he was inviting Palestinian leaders and representatives of the diplomatic quartet on the Middle East the European Union, Russia, the United States and United Nations to London in January to discuss reform of Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority.
A Downing Street spokesman added that representatives of Middle East countries possibly Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan also would be invited.

LEBANON
Dad blocks visit to mother in U.S.
BEIRUT A Lebanese father is blocking his two teenage daughters from spending Christmas with their mother, his estranged wife, in the United States.
Dual citizens Jamie and Jennie Slim, 15 and 16, respectively, took shelter at the U.S. Embassy after the authorities barred them from leaving the country without their father's permission, a U.S. source said yesterday.
Ambassador Vincent Battle interceded with the Lebanese Foreign Ministry yesterday on behalf of the girls, but the ministry backed Mr. Slim, who is also a naturalized U.S. citizen, Lebanese sources said.

Weekly notes
Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, will not attend the annual Gulf summit in Qatar on Saturday, signaling a diplomatic row between the key U.S. allies is far from over, regional sources told Reuters news agency. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal will participate instead. Syrian President Bashar Assad will meet French President Jacques Chirac in Paris today for talks on the Iraqi crisis and the Middle East conflict, diplomats said. Mr. Assad is to stop over in Paris on his way home from an official visit to Britain. He already has voiced opposition to war in Iraq, which he said would create "fertile ground for terrorism."

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