- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

ISRAEL

Secular candidate is Jerusalem mayor

JERUSALEM | Secular candidate Nir Barkat on Tuesday won a mayoral election that turned Jerusalem into a political battleground between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

A Channel 1 television poll showed Mr. Barkat had received 50 percent of the vote compared to 42 percent for ultra-Orthodox rabbi Meir Porush.

Palestinians and the international community do not recognize Israeli rule over occupied Arab East Jerusalem and its claim to all of the city as its capital. Turnout in those areas was very low, reports said.

Mr. Barkat, 49, a centrist city councilor and high-tech entrepreneur, campaigned on a secular ticket but broadened his appeal to a middle constituency of moderate religious voters.

Secular voters make up some 43 percent of the vote and the middle constituency about 30 percent. Ultra-Orthodox voters were estimated at 27 percent of the electorate.

The Jerusalem vote was among the most significant of some 160 local elections held across Israel on Tuesday ahead of a national parliamentary election on Feb. 10.

IRAN

American student freed on bail

TEHRAN | An Iranian-American female student held on security-related charges in Tehran has been freed on bail after almost four weeks in detention, a relative said Tuesday.

The relative, who declined to be named, said Esha Momeni was released Monday. She was detained while visiting Iran from the United States to see family and to research the women’s movement.

The Web site of a campaign lobbying for an end to what activists see as discrimination of women in the Islamic Republic said Ms. Momeni had been kept in solitary confinement since Oct. 15. The site, www.forequality.info, said a deed to her family’s home was posted as bail.

The judiciary last week said Ms. Momeni was accused of acting against national security, a common charge against dissenting voices in Iran.

Women’s rights activists say Ms. Momeni had interviewed campaigners for a film as part of her studies in California when she was detained and transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison.

Activists launched the campaign in 2006 to collect 1 million signatures in support of demands to change laws that they say deny women in Iran equal rights in matters such as divorce and child custody.

EGYPT

4,300-year-old pyramid discovered

SAQQARA | Egypt’s chief archaeologist has announced the discovery of a 4,300-year-old pyramid in Saqqara, the sprawling necropolis and burial site of the rulers of ancient Memphis.

The pyramid is said to belong to Queen Sesheshet, the mother of King Teti who was the founder of the 6th Dynasty of Egypt’s Old Kingdom.

Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass made the announcement Tuesday at the site in Saqqara, about 12 miles south of Cairo.

Mr. Hawass’ team has been excavating the site for two years. He said the discovery was only made two months ago when it became clear that the 16-foot-tall structure uncovered from the sand was a pyramid.

EGYPT

Bedouin seize police near Israeli border

RAFAH | Armed Bedouin attacked a security checkpoint Tuesday in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and seized 11 policemen in a restive area near the border with Israel, an Egyptian security official said.

The tribesmen were angered by a police shooting a day earlier that killed a suspected Bedouin smuggler in the area. Smugglers use the border area to send weapons, drugs and other items into the Gaza Strip, often through underground tunnels. Traffickers also ferry African migrants seeking to enter Israel.

Tribesman Moussa Abu Freh said Bedouin had taken over several other checkpoints near the Egyptian-Israel border.

GAZA STRIP

Israel unblocks fuel supply

JERUSALEM | Israel on Tuesday reopened the terminal that handles all fuel supplies to Gaza to allow delivery of diesel to the Palestinian territory’s sole power plant one day after it shuddered to a halt.

A U.N. agency, meanwhile, warned it will have to suspend food distribution on which a majority of Gaza’s 1.5 million population depends unless Israel also allows in vital foodstuffs.

The Nahal Oz terminal used for oil deliveries “opened at 8:30 a.m. for the transfer of the diesel for the power station,” said military spokesman Peter Lerner.

An official of the Palestinian energy authority in Gaza confirmed that Israel resumed the fuel shipments and said the power plant should restart later in the day.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

SAUDI ARABIA

Royals’ doctor faces 1,500 lashes

CAIRO | Demonstrators in Cairo demanded Tuesday that Saudi Arabia release an Egyptian doctor sentenced to 15 years in prison and 1,500 lashes after he was convicted of malpractice - reportedly after treating a Saudi princess.

His wife said she feared the punishment would kill him.

Dr. Raouf Amin el-Arabi, 53, who has been serving the Saudi royal family for about 20 years, was convicted last year of giving a patient the wrong medication. Egyptian newspapers reported that he was accused of driving a Saudi princess “to addiction.”

He initially was sentenced to seven years in prison and 700 lashes, but when he appealed two months ago, the judge not only upheld the conviction, but more than doubled the penalty to 15 years in prison and 1,500 lashes.

Family members, friends and colleagues gathered at the headquarters of Egypt’s doctors’ union in downtown Cairo and urged Saudi King Abdullah II to pardon Dr. el-Arabi.

The case has drawn nationwide criticism in Egypt and local human rights groups have demanded that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who maintains close ties with the Saudi royal family, intervene to free Dr. el-Arabi.

SYRIA

U.N. aid supply for refugees barred

DAMASCUS | Syria prevented a World Food Program ship carrying rice for Iraqi refugees from unloading at the country’s main port Tuesday because, the government said, its cargo failed tests.

The order to stop the 8,000-ton vessel Genesis at Latakia comes at a time of heightened tension between Syria and Iraq in the wake of a U.S. raid on Syria from Iraqi territory that killed at least eight people.

Iraqi refugees - reliant on food aid distributed jointly by the WFP, a U.N. division, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - said they have stopped receiving rice, the main part of their rations.

Around 194,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria get food aid. A U.N. official in the Syrian capital confirmed that distribution of rice had stopped, but declined to say why.

A Syrian official in Latakia said the decision to stop the vessel was purely technical.

“The percentage of cracked rice in the cargo was higher than allowable under Syrian standards. The ship was ordered not to unload,” he said.

ISRAEL

Blair guard triggers scare in airport

JERUSALEM | A bodyguard for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair triggered a security scare at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport Tuesday when he accidentally fired a shot, police said.

Airport authorities said the incident occurred as Mr. Blair was about to board a plane at the international airport near Tel Aviv with the British guard.

As representative of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet, made up of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, Mr. Blair is a frequent visitor to Israel.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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