Leaders Voice Opposition to Settlement Freeze in West Bank

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently met with West Bank leaders to discuss the details of the moratorium on new settlements announced last week. Many of these leaders voiced their opposition to the freeze, explaining that they will nonetheless move forward with plans to continue constructing new housing facilities in the West Bank.

Settlers are expected to continue protesting by holding a planned demonstration on Wednesday in Jerusalem.

Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Iraqi Elections

Despite political bickering that threatened to sidetrack the upcoming legislative elections in Iraq, lawmakers recently agreed to terms that set the stage for next year’s voting. Although Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi vetoed previous election laws, the parliament finally reached an agreement Sunday that should allow for voting to take place early next year.

Sunday was the last possible day for Iraqi lawmakers to reach such an agreement. Otherwise, they would have been forced to revert to procedures used in the 2005 election, a scenario many observers believe could be detrimental to ongoing political development as the country continues to rebuild.

Read more at WSJ.

UK Calls for Pakistan to Improve Counter-Terror Measures

Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently made a statement imploring Pakistani officials to step up efforts to locate Osama bin Laden and other top-level terror commanders. Although he applauded Pakistan’s recent attempts to combat the Taliban, Brown added, “We have to ask ourselves why, eight years after Sept. 11, nobody has been able to spot or detain or get close to Osama bin Laden, nobody has been able to get close to Zawahri, the No. 2 in Al Qaeda.”

Intelligence experts believe bin Laden is hiding somewhere in Pakistan’s tribal regions, close to its border with Afghanistan.

A spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office responded to Brown’s statements by assuring world leaders they are working hard to fight terrorism within their borders.

On a related note, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari transferred some of his military authority to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani amid increasing calls for Zardari to cede power.

Hijacked Greek Oil Tanker on Its Way to Somalia

A Greek oil tanker is on its way to Somalia hours after being hijacked by pirates. The Maran Centaurus was originally headed for New Orleans when pirates boarded the ship and overpowered its crew. Authorities are now waiting for the pirates to contact the tanker’s owner with an expected ransom demand. The ship has reportedly been redirected to the small town of Hobyo, which serves as the base of operations for several Somali pirates.

Iraq Election Remains Uncertain

Iraqi officials continue to work towards resolving major impediments to elections that were expected to be held early next year. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi recently vetoed an election law, an issue which must be resolved at least 60 days prior to the elections. Lawmakers agreed to an amendment Monday that leaders anticipate could face another veto from Sunni officials. The parliament had been at a standstill in its attempts to come to an agreement regarding this and other election-related issues.

The elections must be held by Jan. 31, according to the Iraqi constitution. Shiite leaders in Iraq believe Jan. 23 is the latest the vote could be held without disregarding the deadline.

The scaling back of American military operations in Iraq is largely dependent upon a successful election, which would greatly assist in the transition to Iraqi governmental security.

Read more at WSJ.