General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the head of the military council in power in Mauritania, pledged to respect the results of consultations, which started yesterday in Nouakchott, calling on parties involved to make efforts to reach a compromise solution and put an end to the crisis in Mauritania, reported the London-based Arabic daily Alsharq Alawsat. In an opening statement, Mohamed Abdelaziz said, "I am relying on the international community to understand our way of dealing with the internal crises. The exchange of views would give an opportunity for the Mauritanian people from all ends of the political spectrum to reflect on the current political situation. That would also provide the opportunity to look into the points of weaknesses and obstacles to progress with a view to avoiding the mistakes of the past." The participants will discuss concepts of how to reach a final solution to the present political crisis and define the supervision mechanisms of the next presidential elections, reported Alsharq Alawsat.
The Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, denied both the postponement and the cancellation of a due visit by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to Tehran, reported the Jordanian newspaper Addustour.
"The visit was neither postponed nor canceled. The visit programme still exists and Maliki will head a high-level delegation in a visit to Iran," Qomi explained. "Talking about postponement or cancellation is not true because a date has not yet been fixed. A high-level delegation headed by Maliki is expected to visit Iran in order to discuss ways of promoting bilateral relations between the two countries."
It was rumoured that Maliki had postponed his visit to Tehran, which had been scheduled after his recent visit to Ankara, for political reasons, most importantly the resignation of the parliament president Mahmoud al Mashhadani. In a related development, Yassin Majid, media advisor to the prime minister, said Maliki's visit to Iran was postponed due to heavy snowfall in Turkey during his visit to Ankara.
Hamas denied Israeli claims that the organisation was secretly taking its leaders away from the Gaza Strip to Egypt through a border tunnel, the pro-government Saudi Arabia Okaz newspaper reported. Leaders of Hamas revealed that they had taken all precautions to prevent any vacuum in its leadership if Israel carries out its threats to assassinate Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that Hamas leaders did not fear death and they were on the battle line against the Israeli occupation. Barhoum noted that Hamas was very much aware of the possibility that its leaders would be targeted by Israel. Hamas had many other figures who could replace the current leaders if they are killed.
The Supreme Committee for Elections and Referendum in Yemen has moved well ahead in its preparations for parliamentary elections due in April which may witness the opposition's boycott and even postponement of the election, reported Kuwait's Aljarida newspaper.
The Committee announced last Friday that the period has expired for lodging appeals regarding lists of registered voters. This was in case the opposition accused authorities of being involved in manipulating the registration process. Aljarida added that government officeholders were asked to resign from their posts should they wish to run for the next parliamentary elections.. Officials at the Yemeni Ministry of Finance told Aljarida that elections could be postponed because of the financialcrisis the country was facing following the sharp decline in oil prices, which constitutes 75 per cent of national income. This forced the government to cut its 2009 budget in half.
* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi email@example.com