Palestinians set for first vote since 2006
RAMALLAH | The Palestinian government on Tuesday set July 9 as the date for local elections that had been postponed indefinitely in the West Bank, acting as upheaval rocks Egypt over demands for political reform.
The poll was supposed to have been held in July, but disagreement within Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction over who would stand as candidates led to postponement a month before election day.
In December, a court ruled that the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, must allow the local elections to go ahead.
The decision to set an election date was widely seen in the territory as having been prompted by the protests in Egypt.
Opposition: Iran in hands of ‘hooligans’
TEHRAN | Iran’s main opposition leaders charged Tuesday that the Islamic republic was being run by “anti-religion … hooligans” in a statement on the eve of its 32nd anniversary.
The bitter criticism from Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, once seen as pillars of the Islamic establishment, came three days before the anniversary of the Feb. 11, 1979, Islamic Revolution, which toppled the U.S.-backed shah.
“Today, the regime is hiding behind this concern that if it does not exist, religion will vanish, and, by repeatedly voicing alarms, it tries to rally and organize the religious strata behind itself,” the opposition leaders said.
Group warns of continued prison abuse
BAGHDAD | A report by the human rights watchdog Amnesty International concluded Tuesday that widespread abuse in Iraqi prisons will likely continue under the new government as leaders are distracted by violence, the stagnant economy and poverty.
The 12-page report offers a grim view of prison conditions in Iraq, describing state-run detention cells as breeding grounds for systematic torture and sickness.
Torture and abuse have long been part of Iraq’s prison system going back to Saddam Hussein’s regime before he was ousted in 2003 by the U.S.-led invasion. It has since continued, even in U.S.-run prisons, most notably at the Abu Ghraib.
But U.S. forces turned over full control of prisoners to Iraq’s government last year “without any guarantees that they will be protected,” the Amnesty report states.
Ratings agencies lower Jordan’s outlook
AMMAN | Ratings agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s on Tuesday downgraded a host of ratings for Jordan, a move that underscored how massive anti-government protests in Egypt have fueled worries about the economies of other Arab countries.
Moody’s said it revised Jordan’s Ba2 foreign-currency government bond outlook to negative from stable and warned that the sovereign rating may be lowered if “there were disruptive political turmoil that threatened a structural weakening of Jordan’s credit fundamentals relative to rating peers.”
From wire dispatches and staff reports