- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ALGERIA

Mitchell meets re-elected president

ALGIERS | The U.S. special envoy for the Middle East has met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as part of a tour of Arab capitals and Israel to try to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Mr. Bouteflika welcomed the visit by George Mitchell, President Obama's Middle East envoy, to Algiers. Mr. Bouteflika called it an “excellent idea to include North Africa in your consultations.”

Mr. Mitchell arrived in Algeria on Tuesday after a stop in Morocco. Mr. Mitchell's weeklong tour will also bring him to Tunisia, Israel, the Palestinian territories and several other Arab states.

YEMEN

Dutch hostages freed by kidnappers

SAN`A | A Dutch couple held for two weeks by armed Yemeni tribesmen were freed Tuesday, and a tribal leader said Yemen's government paid more than a quarter-million dollars in ransom.

The government denied paying the money or meeting any demands and said it was searching for the kidnappers among the Serag tribe in a mountainous region east of the capital.

Tribesmen armed with assault rifles seized the couple from their car in the capital, San`a, on March 31 and took them to an area about 40 miles to the east.

LEBANON

Cleric sees hope in U.S.-Iran talks

BEIRUT | Lebanon's top Shi'ite cleric thinks cooperation is possible between the U.S. and Iran although he discounts any hope of an alliance between the two adversaries.

Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said in an interview with the Associated Press that he thinks that President Obama is sincere in trying to improve what the cleric called America's “ugly image” in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Ayatollah Fadlallah is a former spiritual guide to the Iran-backed Hezbollah and is still influential with many Shi'ite militants.

BAHRAIN

Shi'ites praise royal pardon

MANAMA | Shi'ite opposition leaders praised a royal pardon in Bahrain that freed 22 activists, saying Tuesday that the releases helped defuse tensions that boiled over into clashes between Shi'ite youths and police over the past month in the Gulf island nation.

The pardon by Bahrain's monarch led to the release on Sunday of 178 people imprisoned on security-related charges. Among them were 22 Shi'ite activists who have been on trial since February on charges of seeking to destabilize the government and promote regime change through terrorism.

The arrest of the 22 in December and their subsequent trial had stoked anger among Shi'ites, who make up about 70 percent of the population in a country that is ruled by a Sunni leadership.

WEST BANK

Explosives lab found in mosque

RAMALLAH | Palestinian police say they have uncovered an explosives lab in a West Bank mosque.

Police spokesman Adnan Damiri says eight suspects have been arrested since the discovery several days ago.

West Bank police loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been going after the Islamic militant group Hamas for two years. Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, and Mr. Abbas fears a repeat in the West Bank.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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