Middle East Melee
Taliban Presence Seen Across Almost All Afghanistan
The Taliban have a significant presence in almost every corner of Afghanistan, data from a policy think tank showed on Thursday, as the country lurches into political uncertainty after a disputed presidential election. A political standoff has deepened since the Aug. 20 poll, with President Hamid Karzai defending the ballot as honest but a U.N.-backed election watchdog invalidating some votes and ordering a partial recount amid widespread accusations of fraud. The uncertainty coincides with the most violent period since the Taliban were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, with record military and civilian deaths testing the resolve of U.S. and European leaders. The election, initially hailed a success after the Taliban failed to disrupt it, has since become a major headache for Washington and a test of President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the militants and stabilize Afghanistan.
'Arab world should arm against Iran'
US allies in the Middle East should strengthen their respective militaries in order to deter Iran from continuing its suspected nuclear weapons program, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in an interview published by Al-Jazeera on Tuesday. "One of the pathways to get the Iranians to change their approach on the nuclear issue, is to persuade them that moving down that path will actually jeopardize their security, not enhance it," he told the station.
Hizbullah offered one-third of new Lebanese government
Hizbullah will take 10 of 30 seats in a proposed list for a new national unity government submitted to Lebanese president Michel Suleiman. Prime minister-designate Saad Hariri said Monday that the Western-backed parliamentary majority would get 15 seats out of the 30-member Cabinet. The Hizbullah-led parliamentary minority would get 10 seats, while the president would choose the remaining five seats. The unilateral submission
Saudi Arabia set to buy 30 Russian military helicopters
Russia is concluding talks with Saudi Arabia on selling 30 Mi-171B helicopters, a source close to the negotiations said on Tuesday. "We are in a final stage of talks on the purchase of 30 helicopters and hope to sign the deal in September," the source told RIA Novosti.
Ailing Mubarak seeks Washington's backing for his son as successor
Mubarak to visit Washington, meet with Obama, American Jewish leaders
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is set to begin his first Washington visit in half a decade this week as he seeks to reset US-Egypt relations and put the years of discord under the Bush administration firmly in the past. Mubarak has a meeting scheduled with Jewish leaders Monday, where he is slated to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the threat of Iran, before discussing these and other topics with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
Putin seeks new Turkey gas deal
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is in Turkey hoping to clinch a deal on Russia's South Stream gas pipeline. Mr Putin is expected to discuss the project in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Russian officials say Turkey has agreed that the pipeline will pass under its territorial waters.
Sudanese woman 'faces 40 lashes'
A Sudanese woman who is due to appear in court in Khartoum says she faces up to 40 lashes for wearing trousers. The woman, Lubna Hussein - a former journalist who now works for the United Nations - has invited journalists and observers to the trial. She was arrested in a restaurant in the capital with other women earlier this month for wearing "indecent" clothing.