- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Egypt, U.S. try to revive ‘road map’

RAMALLAH — Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher met with Palestinian leaders yesterday to push for a halt to Palestinian attacks against Israelis, a first step toward restarting stalled peace talks.

The visit came amid signs that diplomacy is picking up after months of deadlock over the U.S.-backed “road map” to peace. State Department officials John Wolf and David Satterfield are also in the region this week to discuss the plan.

In Tel Aviv, Mr. Maher met with the U.N. representative to the region, Terje Roed-Larsen, for about an hour, diplomatic sources said. They said Mr. Roed-Larsen expressed concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


Top ayatollah steps in to save Feb. 20 polls

TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, again has stepped in to end a worsening crisis over the mass barring of reformists from next month’s parliamentary elections, a top official announced yesterday.

The intervention appeared to pull the country’s rival conservative and reformist camps back from the brink, with embattled President Mohammed Khatami confidently saying the Feb. 20 parliamentary elections would go ahead as scheduled.

Parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi told official media that he, Mr. Khatami, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahrudi and the all-powerful Ayatollah Khamenei met Monday to forge a way out of the increasingly bitter standoff. “All officials believe that good results will be achieved … by the end of Thursday,” he told the official Islamic Republic News Agency.


Newspaper punished for Gadhafi comment

TRIPOLI — The state-run newspaper Az-Zahf al-Akhdar (the Green March) was suspended yesterday for a week for implicit criticism of Col. Moammar Gadhafi by calling for him to take on the mantle of a conventional head of state, a court source said.

The punishment was for an editorial last week that the court ruled “conflicted with the power of the masses.” The editorial said the “revolution led by Col. Gadhafi is mature. It is time to change the rules and create a model state. The warrior who headed the revolution must now build the state and become its president in reality.”

Col. Gadhafi, who overthrew the Libyan monarchy in 1969, eight years later proclaimed a “state of the masses” governed in theory by a host of elected popular committees. He has no official function, but in fact dominates the system.

Weekly notes

Kurdish politician Leyla Zana, jailed in Turkey since 1994, has urged the European Union to start membership talks with Ankara to keep the country on the path of reform. Mrs. Zana, awarded the Sakharov freedom of thought prize by the European Parliament in 1995, said in a letter this week to its speaker: “I would prefer to be a captive in a Turkey which has started membership talks with the EU to being free in a Turkey to which the EU has closed its doors or a Turkey which is distancing itself from EU values.” … Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority called France’s plan to pass a law banning the Islamic head scarf in schools an infringement on human rights, and said Paris is more concerned with the rights of nudists than Muslims. Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheik also said during a meeting with Saudi academics in Mecca that efforts to relax Islamic norms in Saudi Arabia to allow women to mix more freely with men are “satanic and dangerous.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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