- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2008

LEBANON

Syrian troops deployed on border

BEIRUT | Syria has deployed troops near Lebanon’s northern border in an attempt to crack down on smugglers, a senior Lebanese military official said Tuesday.

The official said the deployment has nothing to do with security developments in Lebanon.

Syrian President Bashar Assad recently warned that “extremist forces” - a reference to Sunni militants - were operating in northern Lebanon and destabilizing the country.

“The Syrian army is carrying out activities to combat smuggling and control the border,” the Lebanese official told the Associated Press. He called the deployment an “internal Syrian affair.”

The Lebanese official would not disclose the number of troops deployed on the northern border, but he said press reports of 10,000 troops were “exaggerated and inaccurate.”

Syria pulled out its army from Lebanon in 2005 under local and international pressure after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

EGYPT

Fatah agrees to government plan

CAIRO | Ruling Palestinian faction Fatah has agreed to an Egyptian proposal to create a new government that would be acceptable to the international community, a senior Fatah official said Tuesday.

The announcement by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party came two weeks before members of its Islamist rival, Hamas, boycotted by the international community, travel to Cairo to discuss the Egyptian-mediated plan.

“The proposal is for forming a new government with people accepted by all the organizations, and also by the Arabs and internationally,” Abbas adviser Nabil Shaath told reporters after meeting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Mr. Shaath voiced hope the new government would lift the Israeli-led blockade of Gaza and would unite bitter rivals from the two factions within Palestinian security services and reform Palestinian bureaucracy.

SAUDI ARABIA

Rights group reports sect discrimination

NEW YORK | Hundreds of thousands of Shi’ite Ismailis in Saudi Arabia face state-sponsored discrimination and curbs on their religious freedom, Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday.

The Ismailis, concentrated in the southern province of Najran bordering Yemen, are a Shi’ite sect that has complained of victimization by the prevailing school of Sunni Islam followed by the Saudi state.

The report documented what it called “a pattern of discrimination against the Ismailis in the areas of government employment, education, religious freedom and the justice system.”

The report said Saudi authorities were using “hate speech” against the religious minority, noting that the official Council of Senior Religious Scholars had termed Ismailis “corrupt infidels, debauched atheists.”

TURKEY

Infection led to newborn deaths

ANKARA | An infection spread by intravenous treatment led to the weekend deaths of 13 premature newborns at a hospital in western Turkey, a doctor investigating the deaths told the private Dogan news agency Monday.

The deaths drove the number of babies killed by infections in Turkey to at least 40 in three months.

In July, more than 27 newborns died of an infection at a hospital for high-risk births in the capital, Ankara. Government-appointed doctors investigating the deaths said a staff shortage had increased the risk of infection.

Dr. Recep Ozturk, a doctor at Istanbul’s Cerrahpasa University Hospital, said preliminary results indicated that IV-spread infection caused the latest deaths at Izmir’s Tepecik hospital Saturday and early Sunday, Dogan reported. Dr. Ozturk, who spoke on behalf of the group of doctors investigating the case, said the infection appeared to be spread by intravenous solution.

A local prosecutor was investigating whether neglect may have been a factor.

The bodies of three babies buried over the weekend were being exhumed to help with the investigation, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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