|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
6 - 12 September 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Substantial involvementRUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday that he wanted his country to play a "substantial" role in ending 11 months of bloodshed in the Middle East, but did not present any new peace initiatives.
Sharon met Putin on the first day of a three-day visit during which he hopes to persuade Moscow to pressure Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to end violence in which more than 600 Palestinians have been killed.
"We are watching with alarm everything that is happening there, especially considering that a large portion of Israeli citizens come from the former Soviet Union and Russia," Putin said.
"We have traditionally had good relations with the Arab world, including the Palestinian Authority. This seems a good basis for Russia to make a substantial contribution to resolving the situation in the region."
Putin did not say how Russia might increase its role in the Middle East, where it is co-sponsor of the moribund peace process with the United States, but plays second fiddle to Washington and, increasingly, the European Union.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Putin had told Sharon the time was not ripe for new peace initiatives because an international blueprint for peace drawn up by a US-led committee was still on the table, Russian news agencies said.
Six million dollar man
A SAUDI philanthropist has donated six million dollars to support the Palestinian Intifada.
One million dollars will be used to expand and equip the medical facilities in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, officials from the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) said.
The remaining five million dollars will be paid into the two Arab funds set up to support the Palestinian Intifada.
The Jerusalem Intifada Fund was created last October to support the families of Palestinians killed or wounded, and the Al-Aqsa Fund to "preserve the Islamic character of east Jerusalem" and support the Palestinian economy. They are both managed by the IDB.
When the funds were created, Arab states pledged a total of one billion dollars. The IDB, which manages the funds, said last month that the 12 Arab donor countries had so far sent $538.2 million dollars.
Opposition leader detained
SYRIA has arrested opposition leader Riad Al-Turk nearly three years after he was released from prison where he spent 17 years. Al- Turk is head of one of three factions of the Syrian Communist Party. His political faction is banned in Syria.
The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Syria (CDHR) said in a statement that Al-Turk, 71, was arrested on Saturday at the clinic of a doctor in the coastal city of Tartous, 300 kilometres north- west of Damascus, where he was undergoing treatment for a heart ailment.
Al-Turk had previously called for human rights reform in Syria, the upholding of the constitution and the lifting of martial law which has been in effect since 1963.
"The CDHR calls on Syrian authorities for the immediate and unconditional release of Riad Al- Turk," it said, adding that Turk who also suffers from diabetes had health problems and needed medical treatment.
The CDHR said the arrest was a "serious setback for the political reforms being adopted by President Bashar Al-Assad."
Al-Assad, 35, took office in July last year after the death of his father the late president Hafez Al- Assad who had ruled Syria for 30 years.
The new president adopted several political reforms and released 600 political prisoners who belonged to various banned political parties. However, diplomats say that the political old guard continues to resist the young president's reform plans.
Optimistic about the Western Sahara
MOROCCO's King Mohamed said on Tuesday he was optimistic a solution would be found to the conflict over the Western Sahara.
King Mohamed said he was tackling the problem of the dispute over the territory that was annexed by Morocco in 1975, by getting the United Nations to discuss giving the region greater autonomy rather than holding a referendum on full-blown independence.
"We are now entering into a new phase of negotiations," he told the French daily Le Figaro. "We are beginning this phase much more comfortably than in the past."
Pressed on Algeria's continued opposition to a plan for greater autonomy, King Mohamed said that while Algeria, which backs a Western Sahara independence movement, refuses such a plan at present, "it might well agree tomorrow. " The solution will take time, one has to let it ripen."
Compiled by Rasha Saad
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