- - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

QAA, Lebanon — Syria has accepted a peace plan by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan that includes a cease-fire by the Syrian government, but the bloodshed persisted Tuesday as intense clashes between government troops and rebels spilled across the border into Lebanon, officials said.

Syrian troops did not physically cross the border, according to two Lebanese security officials, but bullets whizzed across the frontier into a rural, sparsely populated area around the Lebanese village of Qaa.

The U.N. says more than 8,000 people have been killed in Syria’s uprising, which began last March with mostly peaceful protests against the regime.

A diplomatic push to end the crisis has largely failed, but Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Mr. Annan, said Tuesday that the Syrian government has accepted the envoy’s six-point plan to end the bloodshed. The plan includes a cease-fire and inclusive talks about a political solution.

Syrian opposition members reacted with skepticism.


Brotherhood eyes fielding presidential candidate

CAIRO — Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was debating Tuesday whether to field a candidate in upcoming presidential elections, a much-anticipated decision that would signal whether the fundamentalist group intends to escalate or defuse rising tensions with the nation’s other political players.

The Brotherhood has emerged as the most powerful political group since Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year, capturing nearly 50 percent of the seats in Egypt’s first post-uprising parliamentary elections.

Its increasing grip on power has fueled concerns among liberals and secularists of the Islamist group’s intentions and whether it aims to govern alone, controlling both the parliament and the presidency.

More than 100 members of the Brotherhood’s senior legislative council were meeting Tuesday to decide whether to field a presidential candidate, according to a statement on the group’s website.

For months, the Brotherhood pledged not to contest the presidency, but officials from the group recently reconsidered, opening the door to a possible presidential run.


Israel’s largest party to choose leader

JERUSALEM — Israel’s largest party, relegated to the opposition after 2009 national elections, was choosing its leader Tuesday in a rematch between a former peace negotiator and a one-time defense chief who directed Israel’s tough response to the last Palestinian uprising.

The race between current Kadima Party chief Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz was expected to be close.

Whoever wins will face the difficult task of trying to wrest power from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader has been riding high in polls, with Kadima tumbling in popularity.

Ms. Livni, 53, served as foreign minister in the previous government.

Mr. Mofaz, 63, was chief of the Israeli military.


Protesters denounce education reform bill

ANKARA — Thousands of people have joined a Turkish opposition rally denouncing a government education reform bill they say is designed to boost the influence of Islamic schools.

The protest was staged Tuesday hours before parliament began debate on the proposal. The bill would extend compulsory education to 12 years from the current eight and pave the way for middle-school students to attend Islamic schools.

The bill reverses a military-imposed move dating to 1997 that closed down religious middle schools, allowing only high school students to attend such institutions.

The issue is so controversial that a legislative committee meeting earlier this month saw a record 12-hour filibuster by a Turkish legislator and ended in scuffles.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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