- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009


Israel seizes land to expand settlement

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, has condemned the Israeli government’s decision to confiscate about 650 square miles of Palestinian lands to expand a settlement near Bethlehem in the West Bank.

He said the move was a blow to the peace negotiations, which he said cannot continue in the wake of Israeli settlement activity and “stealing the land from our people.”


Mubarak won’t link Shalit with truce

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has refused linking the issue of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit with the current Egyptian-mediated negotiations over a truce in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Mubarak’s position conflicts with Israel’s, which rejected an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire that entails opening the crossings before Hamas releases the soldier in a separate deal for a swap.


Popular welcome for Cabinet shuffle

Saudi King Abdullah’s decisions to modernize and develop the government’s performance through a Cabinet reshuffle and restructuring the state’s institutions have received a popular welcome in the kingdom.

People interviewed by al-Riyadh expressed optimism that the monarch’s decisions will have positive effects on the political, judicial, educational, media and health sectors in the country, among others.


Zebari: Iraq is not a toy in U.S. hands

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said his country has retrieved its status in the region and is no longer “a toy in the hands of the United States,” especially since Iraq is no longer on Washington’s list of top priorities.

The minister also admitted that Iran has influence in Iraq, but that Tehran does not dictate its positions on his country, which he said was a sovereign nation and deals with other countries as such.


Discord seen between Karzai, White House

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who enjoyed Washington’s sponsorship and was one of its best allies in the past seven years, is coming under growing criticism these days for the “corruption” of his government, as some question whether he has any friends left at the White House.

Mr. Karzai said he was surprised by President Obama’s recent criticism of the Afghan government, adding that the Obama administration does not yet seem to have sufficient information on Afghanistan to pass judgment.

Compiled by Sana Abdallah of the Middle East Times

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