- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

GAZA STRIP

U.N. official fearful for refugees

GENEVA — Four million Palestinian refugees are at a “crucial juncture” after decades of dashed hopes and flagging aid that could turn the increasingly younger population into “gun-slinging militants,” a senior United Nations official warned yesterday.

After reaching and sometimes exceeding regional standards for education and health, the refugees “are now sliding towards the bottom,” said Peter Hansen, head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) dealing with Palestinian refugees.

“The Palestinian refugee population is at a crucial juncture,” Mr. Hansen told delegates from 62 countries at a U.N. conference who pledged not to abandon the refugees, officials said. Though political issues were avoided, increasing house demolitions by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was a major issue at the closed-door meeting.

QATAR

New constitution guarantees freedoms

DOHA — The Persian Gulf state of Qatar issued a new constitution yesterday in the latest move to liberalize the energy-rich Arab country, the official Qatar News Agency said. It keeps power in the hands of the emir, but paves the way for an elected advisory body and guarantees freedom of expression, assembly and religion.

Qatari voters, including women, approved the constitution in a referendum last year.

IRAN

Consortium sought for new oil exchange

TEHRAN — Iran is planning to open an oil exchange in a year and will contract an international consortium to set up the body, a senior Oil Ministry official overseeing the plan said yesterday.

“In addition to oil, other energy products, such as oils and petrochemicals will be sold,” said Mohammed Javad Assemi-Pour.

“As elsewhere, the sales will be made by traders and the ministry will sell oil through them,” he added. Iran is OPEC’s No. 2 exporter, with a daily quota of 3.8 million barrels.

Weekly notes …

Turkey recalled its two top diplomats from Israel, and the prime minister yesterday sharply criticized Israeli military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, calling the violence unacceptable. Turkey is one of Israel’s few friends in the Muslim world and the two have close economic and military ties, but relations have been strained in recent weeks after an Israeli offensive in Gaza that killed more than 40 Palestinians. … Four Islamist extremists and a civil guard have been killed in an operation by Algerian security forces in the Seriana highlands about 265 miles southeast of Algiers, press reports said yesterday. Security forces killed four members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), the Arabic-language daily Ech-Chourouk reported, and a civil guard, hit by several bullets in the clash, died of the wounds.

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