Newsletter : 6fax0207.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Feb. 7, 1996 V4, #23
All the News the Big Guys Missed
Israeli-Syrian Talks will Continue Despite Election
By Ron Pemstein (VOA-Damascus)
Secretary of State Warren Christopher has won the agreement of
Syrian President Hafez al-Assad to continue negotiations with
Israel, even though Israel is expected to announce early elections
next week. The prospect that Israel will have elections in May had
cast doubt on Syria's attitude toward negotiations with Israel.
However, after some delay, Christopher managed to get Assad's
agreement to continue the current negotiations.
"In the last two days, I've had good discussions with President
Assad and Prime Minister Peres in which we've reviewed the progress
made at the talks at the Wye Conference Center in Maryland. Both
of the leaders agreed that headway has been made in the talks and
they should continue. To that end, the talks will resume in
Maryland about the 26th of February in the same format as before."
That format combines Israeli, Syrian and American diplomats with
generals from both Israel and Syria. The secretary of state says
new rounds will start initially on security arrangements to follow
an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and will broaden to
include discussions on normalization of relations and economic ties
that are of special interest to Israel.
Christopher had said the US will continue its mediation role no
matter what scenario is decided in Israel. He told reporters, Assad
feels the same way.
PLO Leadership Postpones Charter Decision
By Peyman Pejman (VOA-Cairo)
Top Palestinian leaders have ended a meeting in the Sinai without
deciding whether to change a controversial clause in the PLO
Charter. Members of the PLO's Executive Committee ended their
talks without settling a question that could have negative impacts
on Middle East peace talks.
A 1984 clause in the Charter, the equivalent of a Palestinian
Constitution, calls for the destruction of Israel, with whom
Palestinians were officially at war until recently. The Israeli
government has said it may suspend future rounds of peace talks
with the Palestinians unless the clause is taken out.
PLO leader Yasir Arafat promised in September he would change the
Charter within two months after the Palestinians convene their
legislative council. The elections were held Jan. 20.
But earlier this week, Arafat seemed to be backtracking, saying he
alone does not have the authority to change the Charter. Instead,
he said he would recommend to the Palestinians parliament-in-exile,
the Palestine National Council, to make the necessary amendments to
But the Palestinian parliament cannot meet unless it is asked to
convene by the Executive Committee. And although Arafat did bring
up the subject in the Executive Committee meeting on Monday, he did
not get all the support he needed from committee members.
In the end, committee members decided to meet again at the end of
February to have further discussions on convening the parliament.
Some members say the entire Charter needs to be rewritten, not
just one clause and that process could take longer than Israel may
be willing to wait.
Egyptian Muslim Divorce Law Strengthened
By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)
The Egyptian Parliament has passed a law to make it more difficult
for fundamentalist Muslim lawyers to get the court to divorce those
they claim have insulted islam. But secular writers and
intellectuals targeted by the fundamentalists say the parliament
has not gone far enough.
Fundamentalist lawyers have turned increasingly to the courts to
censor films and writings and even to divorce those they accuse of
insulting Islam. Now the government is trying to make it more
difficult to use the legal system for ideological motives, at least
in family-law cases.
The new Hesba law, as it is called, requires a lawyer filing for
the divorce of a third party to present his case to the public
prosecutor who will then decide if it warrants court action.
Last year, a group of lawyers convinced the court to separate a
Cairo University professor from his wife on the grounds he is an
apostate and therefore cannot be married to a Muslim. The lawyers
charged Nasr Abu Zeid's writings about the Koran insulted Islam.
The couple read about the lawsuit in the newspapers.
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