Hezbollah plans anti-government rallies
BEIRUT — Hezbollah’s leader urged his followers to prepare for mass demonstrations to topple the government if it ignores the militant group’s demand to form a national unity coalition.
In a speech broadcast yesterday, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah railed against President Bush’s administration, calling Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a “bloodsucker” and claiming that the Lebanese government is a puppet of Washington.
He did not set a date for the anti-government protests, which he said should be nonviolent. But he told supporters and political allies to get ready to take to Beirut’s streets for days or even weeks to force the resignation of the government.
Constitutional change to open top office
CAIRO — President Hosni Mubarak yesterday asked parliament to amend a constitution article that had been criticized as being tailored to allow his son Gamal Mubarak to succeed him.
Mr. Mubarak said in a speech marking the beginning of a new session of parliament that he wants the legislature to amend Article 76 to make it easier for candidates from various political parties to run as president.
Mr. Mubarak said that the new session will witness “the biggest and widest range of constitutional amendments since 1980.”
Hamas links deal to end of sanctions
GAZA CITY — Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said yesterday that the participation of his Hamas group in a unity government hinged on winning guarantees that Western economic sanctions would end once a new administration was in place.
“We need documentation, and we need a greater assurance. We need to feel that they will be committed to lifting the siege in return for this big step,” Mr. Haniyeh told reporters.
Hamas, which says it has a legitimate right to fight occupation, has rejected Western demands to renounce violence, recognize the Jewish state and accept existing interim peace deals.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Taliban will be target of a winter offensive
DUBAI — The Afghan army will step up counter-Taliban offensives this winter, which could see heavy fighting during a period traditionally used by Afghan fighters for rest and resupply, a U.S. general said yesterday.
Brig. Gen. Douglas Pritt, who oversees the effort to train the Afghan military, said Afghan forces have tripled the number of forward bases to more than 60 and plan to spend the winter harassing Taliban and gathering intelligence from combat outposts deep inside rebel strongholds.
“They’re much better equipped for winter operations than the Taliban. I’m hoping for a lot of snow this winter,” Gen. Pritt said.
Renegade general sought after coup bid
ANTANANARIVO — The government said yesterday that it was hunting for a renegade general whose botched coup attempt led to a shootout two weeks before presidential elections on the Indian Ocean island.
One government soldier was killed in a pre-dawn shootout at a military base on Saturday after Gen. Andrianafidisoa, barred from running in the Dec. 3 polls, declared a new government.
The general, who does not use a first name, had issued leaflets announcing an interim regime led by a military board. Dozens of soldiers were stationed outside his house in the capital yesterday.
From wire dispatches and staff reports