- - Monday, December 10, 2012

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister on Monday accused the international community of “deafening silence” in response to recent vows by the head of the Hamas militant group to fight on until the Jewish state is destroyed, appearing unmoved by global condemnation of his government’s plans to continue settling the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tough words were likely to deepen the rift between Israel and some of its closest allies, particularly in Europe, that has emerged since the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of Palestinian independence last month.

In a sign of the tense relations, European Union foreign ministers were gathered in Brussels to condemn new settlement construction that Mr. Netanyahu has authorized in response to the U.N. decision.

Speaking to foreign reporters, Mr. Netanyahu accused the international community of having double standards, condemning not-yet-built settlements in the West Bank while standing quiet during a historic visit to the Gaza Strip by Hamas’ exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal.

Making his first trip to the Hamas-ruled territory over the weekend, Mr. Mashaal delivered a series of speeches to throngs of supporters vowing to wipe Israel off the map. The visit underscored Hamas’ rising clout and regional acceptance since its eight-day conflict with Israel last month.

Mr. Netanyahu also directed his ire at Hamas’ rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, for not speaking out.


U.S. drone strike kills al Qaeda commander

DERA ISMAIL KHAN — A U.S. drone strike has killed an al Qaeda commander in Pakistan’s northwest, the second member of the Islamic militant network killed in the area in less than a week, Pakistani intelligence officials and a Taliban militant said Monday.

Mohammad Ahmed al-Mansoor died Sunday when drone-launched missiles hit a house in Tabbi village in the North Waziristan tribal area, the main sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the country, the officials and militant said.

Al-Mansoor was a close aide to senior al Qaeda leader Sheik Khalid bin Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan, who was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan on Thursday, said the officials. Al-Hussainan also was known as Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti.


Monti seeks to calm market concerns

ROME — Seeking to calm financial markets, Prime Minister Mario Monti said Monday that he will lead Italy until the next government takes power, insisting there will be “no decision-making vacuum” despite his intention to resign ahead of time.

What happens after the election, however, kept markets on edge, sending stocks and bonds plunging.

Mr. Monti announced Saturday he is resigning because Silvio Berlusconi’s party, Parliament’s largest, yanked its support for his economic policies. The same day, Mr. Berlusconi said he was running to get the premiership back, despite his party’s lagging in the opinion polls.

Italian markets slumped Monday as investors feared a new era of political instability.

Some worry that a return to party politics under an elected government could threaten the reforms that Mr. Monti has been pushing through to restore confidence in the country’s financial future.


Rebels dodge meeting as peace talks falter

KAMPALA, Uganda — Representatives of rebels attending peace talks with the Congolese government dodged a crucial meeting Monday at which the government delegation was to respond to earlier criticism, a development that could jeopardize negotiations to end the crisis in eastern Congo.

The talks, which are being held in the Ugandan capital Kampala, got off to a tense start Sunday, when Francois Rucogoza, leader of the M23 delegation, accused the Congolese government of lacking “visionary leadership” and of corruption and incompetence.

The Congolese government delegation on Monday refused to give its rebuttal as earlier planned, saying they can do so only if the M23 delegation is present to hear their side.

If the rebels dig in and refuse to listen to the rebuttal by the Congolese government, it could end the talks before they even start.

Congolese Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda told Ugandan mediators and reporters that peace talks would not proceed if there is “bad faith” on the part of the rebels.


Kurdish leader visits disputed areas

BAGHDAD — The president of Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdish region visited Kurdish troops Monday in ethnically disputed areas near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a move likely to worsen already poor relations with the country’s central government.

The visit by Massoud Barzani to Kirkuk province was his first since June, according to officials in the city.

Tension between the Kurds and Baghdad flared up over the past two months following a decision by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form a new military command to oversee security forces bordering the Kurdish region. The move has angered the Kurds.

The tensions between the mostly Kurdish region and the central government are just one of the elements of potential instability in Iraq, nearly a year after the last U.S. troops left the country.

Sectarian bombings and shootings rattle the country, and the government is paralyzed by conflicts between Shiite and Sunni Muslim lawmakers.

Brig. Gen. Shirko Rauof, a Kurdish military commander, said Mr. Barzani met soldiers aligned to his region in two areas near Kirkuk. He urged them to be on high alert while avoiding any escalation with nearby forces from the central government.

Control over the surrounding area is disputed by Iraqi Arabs and Kurds, as well as the smaller Turkomen minority.

Mr. Barzani’s latest move drew criticism from the Iraqi government and non-Kurdish provincial officials in Kirkuk.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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