- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

EGYPT

Reformers offer advice on election

ALEXANDRIA — Arab reformers are giving the Egyptian government advice on how to make its first direct presidential election a success: Educate people about why they should vote, and keep security forces away from voters.

President Hosni Mubarak surprised the country last month by ordering a constitutional amendment to allow multi-candidate elections. Until now, Egypt has held presidential referendums in which people vote yes or no for a single candidate approved by parliament.

But specialists at a three-day conference on Arab reform said putting the amendment into practice might be difficult. For one thing, Egyptians are not used to having a voice at the ballot box and might not see it as a civic duty, said Osama el-Ghazali Harb, editor of the quarterly International Politics at the Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies.

“Many people are too busy making ends meet,” he added, and for them voting is an interruption.

YEMEN

Leaders have terror ‘under control’

SAN’A — This country at the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, and a partner of the United States since the September 11, 2001, attacks, thinks it has practically won its war on al Qaeda terrorists.

“Everything is under control. Not 100 percent, but I can say we are around 90 percent in control,” Prime Minister Abdel Kader Bajammal told Agence France-Presse. “Our Western friends are satisfied,” echoed a senior Yemeni official who requested anonymity.

Yemen in the past three years has become a darling of the West, which has boosted both security and development aid to the impoverished country of about 20 million. “Certainly the will is there,” said U.S. Ambassador Thomas C. Krajeski. “The government made a political, security decision to work with anyone willing to work with them to break up the network that was there.”

Weekly notes

A hunger strike by Jordanian prisoners in Israeli jails entered a third week yesterday as their families pressed for their release. Saleh Ajlouni, a spokesman for the prisoners’ families, said one of the inmates ended the strike for health reasons but the remaining 23 continue. Israeli press reports say Tel Aviv might free some of the prisoners during a visit to Jordan this month by Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom, but Amman wants them all freed. … Libyan Deputy Speaker Ahmed Ibrahim, in a speech yesterday to the national student union in Tripoli, accused the United States of distributing forged copies of the Koran to tarnish the image of Muslims and Islam. Mr. Ibrahim went on to say: “The Zionists have ruined America’s dream in establishing a peaceful and stable world. … If the Americans do not get rid of Zionist influence, they will be endangering their interests and future.”

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