- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ISRAEL

Petitioners urge Arab contacts

JERUSALEM — Dozens of Israeli university lecturers, writers and reserve officers have signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to open contacts with Syria and the Palestinians, including Hamas. It also urged him to “sound out the possibility of secret negotiations.”

Among the 71 signatories were well-known writers Amoz Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, as well as Aaron Ciechanover, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2004, and retired Gen. Shlomo Gazit, a former head of military intelligence.

“The war in Lebanon is behind us, but its results have significantly increased the risk of another war: a new war in south Lebanon, a war with Syria or even a conflict involving the Iranian army,” said the petition seen by Agence France-Presse.

JORDAN

Lawmakers approve control of clerics

AMMAN — Parliament has approved a measure bringing Muslim preachers under government control, despite objections from Islamist lawmakers, a parliamentary source said yesterday.

The legislation, expected to be approved by the Senate today, covers Islamic sermons and classes in mosques, and requires preachers and teachers to obtain written approval from the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The government said the law is “needed to fight terrorism,” the source said.

EGYPT

‘Nasrallah’ dates popular for Ramadan

CAIRO — The nicknames of dates sold to break the Ramadan fast are a key gauge of the political mood on Cairo’s streets. This year’s top pick? The “Nasrallah,” named for the Hezbollah leader. At the bottom: Those named for President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

As the Islamic holy month begins, date stalls here are packed with “Nasrallahs,” costing about $2 a pound. By contrast, “Bush” or “Olmert” dates sell for 11 cents a pound.

Weekly notes …

Saudi Arabia denied yesterday a newspaper report that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a meeting with a senior Saudi royal, calling the story fabricated. Israel’s daily Yediot Ahronot on Monday quoted unidentified sources as saying Mr. Olmert met with King Abdullah earlier this month. A Foreign Ministry source told the official Saudi Press Agency, “There is absolutely no truth to Israeli and Qatari media reports about contacts between Saudi and Israeli officials.” … Turkey’s chief negotiator in its bid to join the European Union will hold talks in Italy and Finland this week as the bloc seeks a way out from a looming crisis with Ankara over the island of Cyprus. The negotiator, Economy Minister Ali Babacan, is to meet tomorrow with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema and International Trade Minister Emma Bonino, his press office said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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