- - Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Palestinian Authority warns of ‘new measures’ if talks fail

RAMALLAH — The Palestinian Authority president on Tuesday threatened to take “new measures” against Israel if a much-anticipated meeting in Jordan fails to bring about a resumption of peace talks.

Mahmoud Abbas issued the warning shortly before Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to meet in Amman. The goal of their meeting, the first between the sides in more than a year, is to find an agenda for renewed peace talks.

The Palestinians say Israel must freeze settlement construction and agree to return to its pre-1967 lines for peace talks to resume. The Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip - areas that were captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

Mr. Abbas said that if Israel accepts the Palestinian conditions, “we will go to negotiations.” He said the Palestinians have set a Jan. 26 deadline for talks to resume. “After that date, we will take new measures. These measures might be hard,” he said.

Mr. Abbas said no decision has been made yet.

Palestinian officials have said they are considering resuming their push for U.N. membership as well as ways to isolate Israel at the United Nations.


Five killed in Tripoli clash between former rebel groups

TRIPOLI — Two former Libyan rebel factions clashed Tuesday in hours of gun battles in central Tripoli that left five fighters dead, a Tripoli military council official said.

Former rebels from Tripoli and a separate group of fighters from the city of Misrata fought with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns.

Col. Walid Shouaib, a member of Tripoli Military Council, said the clashes were triggered by the arrest of a Misrata fighter on New Year’s Eve by Tripoli fighters. He was suspected of robbery, and the Misrata fighters were trying to free him, he said.

A Misrata military council member, Mohammed al-Gressa, said he fears a civil war. He said a meeting was taking place between commanders of ex-rebels and the Tripoli military council.

“I am not optimistic because blood has been spilled,” he told the Associated Press. “I feel this looks like a civil war.”

Others said the clashes were not that serious.

Disparate groups of former revolutionary fighters have clashed repeatedly since the end of the eight-month civil war that toppled Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in October.

Disbandment of these armed groups, which are divided by the regions where the operate, has posed a challenge to Libyan authorities.

The militias have played a vital role in overseeing security of key state institutions in the capital. But the uncontrolled ownership of weapons and the absence of a central security administration have given the militias a free hand in ruling areas under their control.


Final round of voting begins in parliamentary elections

CAIRO — Egyptians lined up in front of polling centers in nine provinces to cast their ballots Tuesday in the third and final round of the country’s first parliamentary elections following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Some 14 million voters in a third of Egypt’s 27 provinces are to elect 150 members of parliament.

The two-day balloting is taking place in areas known as strongholds of Islamist parties and is unlikely to change the outcome of the elections.

Islamist parties are expected to consolidate their gains from the first two rounds and win the majority in the 498-seat lower house.

An alliance led by the most influential Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ultraconservative Salafi group have gained nearly 70 percent of the vote in the first two stages.


Sunni lawmakers maintain boycott of parliament

BAGHDAD — Lawmakers from Iraq’s largest Sunni-backed bloc stood by their boycott of parliament when the assembly reconvened Tuesday after a two-week break - another reminder of the deepening political crisis that has revived the country’s sectarian tensions.

The Iraqiya bloc also is considering a pullout from the ruling coalition to protest an arrest warrant issued by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government for the country’s top Sunni politician, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi.

Iraqiya lawmakers accuse Mr. Maliki of hoarding power and they want a greater role in governance, particularly in decisions involving state security forces.

Iraqiya suspended its participation in parliament Dec. 18 - the same day the last U.S. troops left Iraq at the end of a nearly nine-year war - to protest the control of key posts by Mr. Maliki.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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