Two Islamist groups urge truce with army

Two former Egyptian militant groups have proposed a truce between the military and the ousted president’s Muslim Brotherhood, in a move that highlights the extent to which Islamists have been weakened by a massive security crackdown.

The leaders of the Gamaa Islamiya and Islamic Jihad movements said Monday that their initiative calls for supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi to cease street protests if the military-backed government halts its moves against them.

The two groups, which waged an insurgency against the government in the 1990s but later renounced violence, want the army and Brotherhood to enter into a dialogue. The military deposed Morsi on July 3 after millions took to the street demanding his resignation.

Morsi’s allies have previously insisted on his reinstatement as a precondition to talks, but Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed Abu Samra said the proposed truce has no “red lines.”

While the two groups do not speak for the Brotherhood, the initiative is a new sign of flexibility from the pro-Morsi Islamist camp, whose protest campaign is waning. Hundreds of Brotherhood leaders and organizers have been arrested, and numbers at their formerly massive rallies have dwindled.

The interim president’s office could not be immediately reached for comment. Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-
Beblawi had said earlier that security measures would not be enough on their own and that Egypt “must go down the political path” to work out a democratic transition through reconciliation. He ruled out talks with anyone who had committed acts of violence, however.

— Associated Press

Karzai seeks help on Taliban talks

Afghanistan’s president urged neighboring Pakistan to facilitate peace talks with the Taliban during a visit to Islamabad on Monday, but expectations were low in both countries that much progress would be made in jump-starting negotiations.

Pakistan is seen as key to the process because of its strong historical ties with the Taliban. But Pakistan and Afghanistan have long had troubled relations and view each other with suspicion, especially with Kabul repeatedly accusing Islamabad of providing sanctuary for the insurgents.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was visiting Pakistan for the first time since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office in June. Karzai told Sharif at a joint news conference in Islamabad that he expects the Pakistani government to “facilitate and help” talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban.

On Saturday, however, Karzai described his expectations for progress during the visit, saying, “I am not confident, but I am hopeful.”

Sharif said Monday that he reaffirmed to Karzai “Pakistan’s strong and sincere support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

— Associated Press

Vietnamese dissident pledges continued activism: A Vietnamese dissident released early from prison said Monday she will continue fighting for multiparty democracy in the Communist-ruled Southeast Asian country after the leniency shown by authorities in freeing her. Nugyen Phoung Uyen, 21, was sentenced to six years for distributing leaflets hostile to the ruling party. An appeals court this month changed that to a three-year suspended sentence and freed her after 10 months in jail.

Charges to be sought against former Auschwitz guards: The head of the special German prosecutors’ office that investigates Nazi crimes says a probe of 50 suspected former Auschwitz guards is nearly complete and may result in charges against many of them. Berlin’s taz newspaper reported that more than 40 suspects were found to be still alive in Germany. Prosecutor Kurt Schrimm said Monday that his office planned on recommending charges against most.

Indonesian Islamic group calls for Miss World cancellation: One of Indonesia’s most influential Islamic groups, the Indonesian Ulema Council, is urging the government to cancel the Miss World pageant set for next month, saying exposure of skin by women in a competition violates Muslim teachings, an official said Monday. The pageant is to be held partly on the resort island of Bali, with the final round Sept. 28 near the capital, Jakarta.

Swiss experiment with prostitution ‘sex boxes’: No car, no sex. That’s the rule for an experiment Zurich launched Monday to make prostitution, which is legal in Switzerland, less of a public nuisance and safer for women. Fashionably teak-colored garages, popularly called “sex boxes” by the Swiss media, will be open for business for drive-in customers. The several dozen sex workers expected to make the site their new hub will stand along a short road in a small park.

— From news services