- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

RIYADH Thousands of pilgrims are pouring into Saudi Arabia daily as the annual hajj season, which climaxes in mid-February, gets under way at the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina.

More than 4,000 pilgrims entered the kingdom on Monday alone, officials said, as Pakistan International Airlines sent its first 10 hajj flights carrying 3,600 believers. PIA said it will fly in 115,000 pilgrims before Feb. 5 and 10,000 more will travel on Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA).

SAA Director-General Khaled bin Bakr said his airline would bring in nearly 900,000 hajj pilgrims this year, up 26 percent from 2002. It will put on 1,754 hajj flights from 80 destinations, Mr. Bakr said, giving a breakdown of 372,120 Asian pilgrims, 195,433 from the Middle East, 141,872 from Europe and America, and 124,000 Africans flying SAA.


YEMEN

Baptist hospital gets metal detectors

SAN'A The U.S. Embassy has sent metal detectors to the Baptist-run hospital in southern Yemen where three American missionaries were slain, according to an embassy official.

Security patrols have also been increased at the Jibla Hospital following the Dec. 30 attack, when a suspected Islamic militant slipped into the building with a gun and opened fire at a staff meeting, killing three persons and seriously wounding another.

The embassy official said two metal detectors have been delivered to the hospital. The reputed gunman, Abed Abdul Razak Kamel, passed a security checkpoint by concealing his weapon under loose-fitting clothes and making it look as if he was carrying a child.


IRAN

Lawmaker charged for poll on U.S. ties

TEHRAN A reformist lawmaker was charged Monday with misappropriating public funds for an opinion poll that showed strong support in Iran for opening a dialogue with the United States.

Ahmad Bourqani, a former deputy culture minister, was charged with spending $25,000 of public funds to produce the poll conducted by the National Institute of Public Opinion, his lawyer Amir Hosseinabadi said.


Weekly notes

Turkey's top prosecutor said yesterday that Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling party, should not be allowed to run in an off-year election that could see him enter parliament and become prime minister. Mr. Erdogan seeks to overcome a ban from public office and take the helm of government after his Justice and Development Party swept to victory in November general elections. Parliament has passed constitutional reforms to lift the ban, and the former Istanbul mayor is widely expected to run in the Siirt by-election in February or March. An envoy from the Philippines arrived in Kuwait yesterday to prepare for evacuating tens of thousands of Philippine workers in the event of war in Iraq. Roy Cimatu, who heads the Foreign Ministry's Middle East preparedness team, will also visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where foreign workers also do much of the manual, domestic and office work.

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