- - Tuesday, April 3, 2012

RAMALLAH — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are to hold talks soon in what would be their first public meeting in more than two months, a senior official said Tuesday.

“There are preparations with the Israeli side to have a meeting … in the next few hours or days,” the senior Palestinian official told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.

The last time the negotiators met publicly was on Jan. 25 in Amman, Jordan, in what was the last of five exploratory meetings aimed at finding a way back to direct negotiations. They ended without any progress.


Muslim Brotherhood defends nomination

CAIRO — The Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday defended its decision to run its deputy leader in a presidential election amid splits in the movement and accusations that the Islamists are trying to monopolize power.

The Brotherhood backtracked on an earlier pledge not to contest May’s presidential election by announcing on Saturday that it would field deputy leader Khairat El-Shater.

The Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohammed Badie, dismissed reports that the movement had been almost evenly split on nominating Mr. Shater, a multimillionaire businessman who spent years in prison during President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.


Palestinians honor columnist Helen Thomas

JERUSALEM — The top Palestinian envoy to the U.S. has awarded longtime American journalist Helen Thomas for taking a stand against the Israeli occupation, a senior official said Tuesday.

Ms. Thomas‘ observation that Israelis should get “out of Palestine” forced her into retirement in 2010 and was denounced by the White House and her press corps colleagues.

But Palestinians appreciated her position, and Maen Erekat, the Palestinian envoy to Washington, recently hosted Ms. Thomas at a dinner at his residence, the official said.


Qatar refuses to hand over Iraq’s fugitive VP

DOHA | Qatar has rejected Iraq’s request to hand over the nation’s fugitive Sunni vice president to face terror charges in Baghdad.

Khaled al-Attiyah, Qatar’s minister of state for international cooperation, said the Gulf nation will not extradite Tariq al-Hashemi because such a move would be contrary to diplomatic protocol.

Iraq on Monday asked Qatar to extradite Mr. al-Hashemi. The request likely will further strain ties between Shiite-led Iraq and Sunni Gulf Arab states.


President hosts New Jersey governor

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning president on Tuesday hosted New Jersey’s governor on the second day of his visit to Israel.

Gov. Chris Christie, a rising star in Republican politics, is in Israel on his first official overseas trip. The high-profile visit has raised speculation he could be positioning himself for a run at national office, though he has rejected such suggestions and insisted the trip is aimed at strengthening ties with his state.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Shimon Peres, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, hailed Mr. Christie as “an outstanding friend to Israel.”


Woman held for alleged Facebook insult

RAMALLAH — A Palestinian woman accused of defaming the president on her Facebook page has been detained for two weeks while an investigation is carried out, activists said Monday, in what they say is a growing crackdown on writers who criticize the West Bank government.

Palestinian security forces arrested Ismat Abdul-Khaleq, a West Bank university lecturer, last Wednesday after they found writing on her Facebook page accusing President Mahmoud Abbas of being a traitor and demanding he resign, said lawyer Issam Abdeen of the Palestinian rights group al-Haq.

Ms. Abdul-Khaleq’s detention is the latest in what activists say is the Palestinian Authority’s increasing intolerance of criticism and a worrying trend of mining Facebook to spy on Palestinians.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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