- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Iran referendum could curb hard-liners
TEHRAN A reformist leader threatened yesterday to bypass Iran's powerful conservatives and call a referendum on two bills that would give embattled President Mohammed Khatami more power to challenge hard-liners.
The brother of the president, Mohammed-Reza Khatami, told the student news agency ISNA that a nationwide plebiscite would be called if the bills, now being pushed through parliament, fell at the first conservative hurdle.
Under Iran's constitution, legislation must be examined by the 12-member Guardians Council, which rules on whether laws are both constitutional and in line with Islamic law. In the event of a protracted dispute between the Majlis and the Guardians, the Expediency Council, which often sides with conservatives, can arbitrate.

Egypt rights group hits 'Protocols' show
CAIRO An Egyptian rights group has rebuked state television for broadcasting a series based on the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," an anti-Semitic work ruled by several courts to be a forgery.
The series "Horseman Without a Horse" has been shown nightly on Egyptian television for the past two weeks, provoking condemnation from the United States, Israel and Jewish groups for airing the series based on the "Protocols," which describe a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.
Information Minister Safwat El-Sherif defended the program as an example of free expression. But the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said Monday that free expression "should not be abused to propagate events that might incite hatred."
The group urged that the show begin with an admission that "Protocols" is forged.

Jewish nationalists allowed closer to Al Aqsa
JERUSALEM The Jerusalem district court yesterday allowed a group of ultranationalist Jews to demonstrate outside the gates of the Al Aqsa mosque compound, court officials said.
The court backed an appeal by the small group Hai Ve Kayam to demonstrate 15 feet from one of the entrances to the mosque complex. Police had insisted the group get no closer than 50 meters from the wall, fearing it would provoke clashes with Muslim worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan.
Israeli police systematically ban Jewish hard-liners from demonstrating close to the mosque complex, Islam's third-holiest site. Al Aqsa mosque was built in the eighth century on the ruins of the Jewish temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

Weekly notes
Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani is visiting Damascus for talks with Syrian officials, according to his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The KDP shares control of northern Iraq with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, whose leader, Jalal Talabani, also visited Syria early this month to meet officials. Like several countries in the region besides Iraq, Syria has a Kurdish minority and fears that a U.S. attack against Iraq could lead to creation of a Kurdish state. Britain, which said Sunday that it believes al Qaeda operatives are active in Yemen, confirmed that it has closed its embassy there. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw suggested Britons consider leaving Yemen because of the threat of attacks.

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