- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Political showdown approaches in Tehran

TEHRAN Iran's reformers and conservatives drew closer to a political showdown yesterday as deputies allied with President Mohammed Khatami opened debate on a bill aimed at reducing their hard-line rivals' stranglehold on power.

Allies of the pro-reform president discussed whether to strip the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog, of a power that has been used to weed out reformist election candidates.

The reform camp, which controls the Majlis, is eager to push through the bill before municipal, legislative and presidential elections over the next three years. But conservatives, who see candidate vetting as crucial to safeguard key institutions, signaled the proposal was doomed.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the broad outlines of the bill today.


Reversal of election denounced in Beirut

BEIRUT Lebanese newspapers, even pro-Syria ones, denounced yesterday the annulment of a by-election victory for the anti-Syrian Christian opposition as discrediting the judicial system.

"The Constitutional Council, which is supposed to be the country's highest court, has lost all credibility by issuing a preset verdict and nobody can believe anymore that it is fulfilling its mission to preserve democracy," charged As Safir, a daily close to the Syrian leadership.

On Monday, the Constitutional Council annulled the victory of Gabriel Murr on a petition of his defeated niece, Myrna Murr, the government candidate, in the June 2 election and awarded victory to trailing third-place candidate Ghassan Mkheiber.


Snacks for Ramadan come sweet or sour

CAIRO Muslims in the Middle East prepared for a bittersweet Ramadan, a month of fasting and family togetherness that begins today in Egypt.

Here in the Egyptian capital, people were stocking up yesterday on sweet dates called "Leila's eyes," named for actress Leila al-Alwi, and bitter ones named for President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"We feel bitterness this year on this blessed month because of what Bush and Sharon are committing against Muslims," said date vendor Hussein Mohammed Hassanein. He echoed widespread anger at Mr. Bush for his threats of war against Iraq and against Mr. Sharon for his military actions against the Palestinians.


Weekly notes

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi held talks in Tripoli Monday with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Arab and international issues, Libyan officials said. The two were also expected to discuss Col. Gadhafi's threat to withdraw from the Arab League, which he put on hold amid diplomatic efforts to convince him otherwise. Two Kuwaitis went on trial separately yesterday for "broadcasting propaganda at a time of war" and praising two Kuwaitis killed after shooting dead a U.S. Marine last month. One of the defendants, Mohammed al-Mulaifi, expressed his views to Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite-television channel whose Kuwait office was ordered closed this week.

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