Cairo, Egypt Egyptian legislators in one chamber voted Saturday to allow the country’s first presidential elections with more than one candidate.
A week after President Hosni Mubarak surprised the nation by ordering elections with a choice for president, legislators in the parliament’s upper house approved the constitutional amendment sanctioning such a ballot.
The amendment still needs to be approved by parliament’s lower house, and no date is set on when it will meet to discuss the change.
It will be the first time in Egypt’s modern history that the country can vote for more than one presidential candidate. Previously people had to vote “yes” or “no” for a single candidate approved by both houses of parliament.
The upper house, or Shura Council, is half elected by popular vote, half appointed by Mubarak, and is seen more as a rubber-stamping body than an effective legislature.
There has been no independent monitoring of Egypt’s presidential elections since Mubarak came to power in 1981, but human rights organizations said last week that they had formed a group to monitor this year’s vote.
Abbas wants Israel to resume transfer talks
Ramallah, West Bank
West Bank lawlessness won’t end until Israel hands over control of cities there, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday, calling on Israel to return to the transfer talks that were suspended after a Tel Aviv suicide bombing.
Israel had promised to hand over five cities after a Feb. 8 cease-fire declaration but suspended talks after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed five Israelis at a Tel Aviv night club last weekend.
Israeli officials said there would be no more talks until the Palestinians find those behind the Feb. 25 Tel Aviv bombing, and they accused Abbas of dragging his feet. Islamic Jihad leaders claimed responsibility for the attack.
Iran warns against sanctions over nukes
Tehran, Iran Iran said Saturday it will never agree to permanently stop making nuclear fuel and warned that any attempt to haul it before the Security Council for possible sanctions would lead to more instability in the Middle East.
Any effort by Washington to bring Tehran’s suspended uranium enrichment program under Security Council scrutiny is a dangerous path, warned Hasan Rowhani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator.
Rowhani, speaking during a two-day international conference on nuclear technology, also confirmed that Iran was building a tunnel next to a nuclear facility in Isfahan without first informing the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.
A diplomat familiar with Iran’s dossier said last week that parts of the concrete tunnel could run as deep as a half-mile underground and could withstand the severest of air attacks.
5.9-magnitude quake shakes Taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan A strong earthquake jolted northeastern Taiwan early today, the Central Weather Bureau said
The 5.9-magnitude quake was centered 6 miles northeast of the city of Ilan, and about 30 miles from the capital, Taipei, the weather bureau said. The earthquake rocked buildings in Taipei and Ilan.