- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2010

RUSSIA

Hamas leader visits Moscow, slams U.S.

MOSCOW | Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Monday accused the United States of undermining Palestinian unity efforts and said he saw no chance for peace in the Middle East under Israel’s current leadership.

Shunned in the West because his Islamist group refuses to recognize Israel - a position he said stands - Mr. Mashaal used a hospitable Russia as a platform to blame Washington and Israel’s hard-line government for a lack of progress.

Mr. Mashaal was in Moscow at the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

PAKISTAN

Militants targeting Americans arrested

LAHORE | Authorities arrested six suspected Taliban militants with a suicide vest and hand grenades purportedly on their way Monday to attack a five-star hotel and kill Americans in Pakistan’s cultural capital, police said.

The militants arrested Monday on the outskirts of Lahore included a 14-year-old boy and a prayer leader from Pakistan’s Khyber tribal area near the Afghan border, police said. The prayer leader was wearing a vest packed with explosives. They told police they were targeting Americans at the Pearl Continental hotel. Police seized 26 hand grenades and five detonators from the militants.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Militant group gives up weapons

BELFAST | One of Northern Ireland’s deadliest paramilitary groups has dumped all of its weapons in front of independent witnesses, just ahead of a deadline that marks the latest step in the province’s peace process.

The Irish National Liberation Army and the body overseeing disarmament announced firearms, explosives and other ammunition had been given up.

SUDAN

Court dismisses case of Darfur rebel

THE HAGUE | International war crimes judges dismissed the case against a Sudanese rebel leader Monday, ruling that prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence to put him on trial for the deaths of international peacekeepers.

Bahr Idriss Abu Garda had been accused of planning and participating in an attack on an African Union peace mission in Sudan’s Darfur region in 2007 that killed 12 international troops.

Mr. Abu Garda was charged with three war crimes stemming from the assault on the Haskanita military camp, which prompted the African Union to suspend its mission.

YEMEN

Al Qaeda wing calls for regionwide jihad

SAN’A | The Yemen-based wing of al Qaeda called on Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula to wage holy war against Christians and Jews in the region, a further sign of the group’s ambitions to mount new strikes outside its base.

The wing’s deputy leader, Saeed al-Shehri, made the call in an audio tape posted on a Web site often used by Islamist groups. Al-Shehri, a Saudi and a former inmate at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was one of 30 al Qaeda members that Yemen claimed to have killed in an air strike in December but this was later denied by the global militant network.

WEST BANK

Fatah to hold local elections July 17

RAMALLAH | Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ government decided Monday to hold municipal elections in the West Bank in July, the first voting since Mr. Abbas’ Fatah movement was trounced by the militant Islamic Hamas in national polls four years ago.

Mr. Abbas’ rivals in Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, signaled they will not participate in the July 17 election, virtually guaranteeing that Fatah will reclaim key cities where Hamas won in the last round of local elections five years ago. But a Hamas boycott would also likely exclude Gaza from the voting and diminish the potential of the election to compare the present strengths of the bitter rivals.

Presidential and legislative elections were to have taken place in January, but are on hold because of a deepening Palestinian split.

AFGHANISTAN

Britain’s toll tops Falklands dead

KABUL | Three British soldiers died in a bombing in southern Afghanistan, officials announced Monday, raising Britain’s death toll in the conflict to 256 - exceeding the number of Britons lost in the Falklands war of 1982.

Two soldiers from the Royal Scots Borderers were killed Sunday in an explosion near the Helmand district of Sangin, the Ministry of Defense said. Another soldier working with a specialized bomb unit in Afghanistan was killed in an explosion. Britain’s losses in the Falklands occurred during a 73-day war to drive Argentine forces from the South Atlantic colony they had invaded to affirm their own claim to the islands, which they call the Malvinas.

EGYPT

Three top leaders of Brotherhood held

CAIRO | The No. 2 leader of Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood and two other top figures were arrested by police Monday in a dawn sweep targeting members of the nation’s most powerful opposition group across the country.

Police arrested the new deputy leader, Mahmoud Ezzat, and two other members of the Guidance Council, Essam el-Erian and Abdul-Rahman el-Bir. A fourth member of the group’s top level decision making body was not home when police raided his house.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

World’s tallest tower closed to public

DUBAI | The world’s tallest skyscraper has unexpectedly closed to the public a month after its lavish opening, disappointing tourists headed for the observation deck and casting doubt over plans to welcome its first permanent occupants in the coming weeks.

Electrical problems are at least partly to blame for the closure of the Burj Khalifa’s viewing platform - the only part of the half-mile high tower open yet. But a lack of information from the spire’s owner left it unclear whether the rest of the largely empty building - including dozens of elevators meant to whisk visitors to the tower’s more than 160 floors - was affected by the shutdown.

The indefinite closure began Sunday. In recent weeks, thousands of tourists have lined up for the chance to buy tickets for viewing times often days in advance that cost more than $27 apiece.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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