- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

ISRAEL

No deal possible on East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM | Israel sternly warned the European Union on Tuesday against recognizing East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, saying such a move would damage Europe’s credibility as a Mideast mediator.

The warning came as Jewish settlers in the West Bank confronted government inspectors sent to enforce a ban on new construction on territory Palestinians claim for a future state. No major violence was reported, but the images could boost the efforts of conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to portray himself as amenable to international demands for curtailing settlement construction.

Sweden, the current EU president, is floating an initiative to recognize East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported Tuesday that Sweden will seek approval at an EU meeting in Brussels next week.

IRAN

Intent questioned of British hostages

TEHRAN | Tehran warned on Tuesday that it will take strong action against five detained British sailors if it is proven they had “bad intentions” when their racing yacht entered Iran’s Persian Gulf waters and was seized.

The detention could heighten tensions between Iran and major world powers, including Britain, that are demanding a halt to Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

London rushed to keep the incident from getting tangled up in the two nations’ disputes - wary of how political tensions have snarled attempts to free three Americans arrested by Iran this past summer after they strayed across the border from Iraq, reportedly by accident during a hike.

Britain says the yacht, called Kingdom of Bahrain, drifted inadvertently into Iranian waters Wednesday while en route from Bahrain to a race off Dubai.

IRAQ

Basra lifts ban on alcohol

BAGHDAD | Officials in the southern Iraqi province of Basra have lifted a four-month-old ban on alcohol in a move hailed as an affirmation of personal freedoms in the country’s second-largest city, a provincial spokesman said Tuesday.

The spokesman for the Basra Provincial Council, Hashim Aleibi, said the decision came after opponents argued the ban violated constitutional rights for personal choice and denied non-Muslims the ability to buy and consume liquor.

It also showed the weakened voice of Shi’ite hard-liners who held control over much of Basra until an Iraqi-led offensive in early 2008.

During the Shi’ite militia rule, merchants who sold liquor and other Western products were often targeted for attack or harassment and were forced into underground trade.

Alcohol is available in most Iraqi cities in stores generally owned by Christians. But some liquor stores have been attacked by religious extremists.

TURKEY

Kurdish language allowed at university

ANKARA | Turkey’s government has approved a plan to open the country’s first Kurdish-language department at a university as part of its efforts to reconcile with the Kurdish minority.

Kurds largely welcome the government’s overtures to try to end the Kurdish conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people as rebels fight for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.

Small-scale violence continued Tuesday. For the third day in a row, stone-throwing Kurdish militants clashed with police across the nation in the wake of last week’s anniversary of the 1978 founding of the rebel group.

The Cabinet’s decision about the new university department was published in the Official Gazette on Tuesday in another step toward recognizing the once-banned Kurdish language.


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