May 20, 2018
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Latest developments in Arab world

The Associated Press

• Syria’s president on Monday promised a national dialogue to consider political reforms, but his vague overtures to a pro-democracy uprising fell flat as protesters took to the streets shouting “Liar!” and demanding his ouster.

In only his third public appearance since the revolt erupted in March, Bashar Assad blamed the unrest on “saboteurs,” offered modest potential reforms, but gave no sign he’d move toward ending the Assad family’s political domination.

• Libya’s government said a NATO airstrike west of Tripoli on Monday destroyed a large family compound belonging to a close associate of Moammar Gadhafi, killing at least 15 people, including three children.

NATO said the strike hit a “command and control” center.

Gadhafi’s regime has repeatedly accused NATO of targeting civilians in an attempt to rally support against international intervention into Libya’s civil war. The alliance insists it tries to avoid killing civilians.

• In Egypt, ousted President Hosni Mubarak had been treated last year for cancer in his gallbladder and pancreas, and may be suffering a recurrence that spread to his stomach, his defense lawyer said Monday. However, two senior Egyptian medical officials — one of them the head of Mubarak’s team of doctors — say he does not have cancer. Mubarak, 83, has been hospitalized since early April. He is set to face trial in August on charges he ordered the killings of protesters during the 18-day uprising that ousted him Feb. 11. A conviction could carry the death penalty, and activists suspect he may be using health problems as a ruse to sway public opinion and perhaps even win amnesty.

• In Yemen, tens of thousands took to the streets of the capital Sanaa, demanding that the president’s sons leave Yemen, as pressure rises for the wounded leader being treated in Saudi Arabia to step down. Ahmed Saleh, 42, a one-time heir apparent to his father, was badly wounded in an attack earlier this month. Ahmed Saleh commands the elite Presidential Guard, the country’s best equipped and trained military unit.

• Tunisia’s former ruler and his wife were convicted in absentia on embezzlement and other charges after $27 million in jewels and public funds were found in one of his palaces. They were sentenced to 35 years each in prison and fined.

The conviction of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Leila Trabelsi followed a daylong trial before the Tunis criminal court. The couple went into exile on Jan. 14 in Saudi Arabia after a monthlong uprising that sparked a string of other uprisings in the Arab world.

• In Algeria, about 200 former military conscripts demonstrated in downtown Algiers, calling for greater pensions and benefits after taking part in the fight against the Islamist insurgency in the 1990s. The conscripts say they were never properly compensated for their years of service in the bloody battles that claimed an estimated 200,000 lives.

• Iran’s foreign minister was under pressure Monday to dismiss his deputy, part of a burgeoning power struggle involving President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the parliament and the powerful Muslim clergy.

Ahmadinejad is in danger of losing the backing of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran. Also, Ahmadeinejad has been battling his parliament for supremacy, using a series of issues and appointments to promote his position.

Experts say the conflicts are mostly about internal Iranian politics and not about overall policy.

Iranian intelligence and members of parliament demanded that Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi fire his newly appointed deputy, Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, who faces corruption charges. Salehi said he would fire his deputy only if he is found guilty, but the opposition to his appointment appears more ideological or political and less related to the charges.

More than 20 Iranian lawmakers have signed a motion to impeach Salehi if he fails to dismiss Malekzadeh, who is an ally of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff. Hard-liners sharply oppose Mashaei and consider him the head of a “deviant current” seeking to shape the next government after Ahmadinejad steps down in 2013


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