OIC slams Syria rebel threats against Christians

Updated 25 December 2012
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OIC slams Syria rebel threats against Christians

JEDDAH: The world’s largest Muslim body on Sunday condemned threats made by rebels in Syria against two Christian towns, warning of fresh confessional strife in the war-torn country.
Such threats “are contrary to the precepts of Islam which calls for tolerance, brotherhood and peace,” said the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation based in Jeddah.
It warned against the risks of “a slide into confessional” conflict.
Rebels, in a video message posted on Saturday, warned Mharda and Sqilbiya in Syria’s central province of Hama that they will be attacked if they do not evict regime forces.
One of seven men armed with Kalashnikovs warned residents to expel gangs of President Bashar “Assad and shabiha (pro-regime militia) from your towns and convince them not to bomb our villages and families,” in the video.
“If not, we will immediately attack the hideouts of Assad’s gangs and shabiha,” added the man, who identified himself as Rashid Abul Fida, head of the Al-Ansar Brigade in Hama.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman said the towns both had pre-war populations in the tens of thousands but that most of their residents have fled.
Some 1.8 million Christians live in Syria.
Many have remained neutral in a conflict that erupted in March 2011 and has killed an estimated more than 44,000 people. Others, fearing a rise of Islamists, have taken Assad’s side.


Lebanese expats in the Middle East cast early ballots for parliamentary elections

Updated 7 min 50 sec ago
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Lebanese expats in the Middle East cast early ballots for parliamentary elections

BEIRUT: Lebanese expats are casting ballots in six Arab countries in the region, ahead of parliamentary elections due in Lebanon on May 6.
The voting abroad marks the first time that expats are allowed to participate in parliamentary elections.
The voting on Friday is being held in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt.
It will be followed by voting Sunday for Lebanese residing in the Americas, Europe, Australia and Africa.
Lebanon’s state-run news agency says the number of registered voters is 82,970.
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tweeted that he was “very proud” to witness the first expat voting in the history of the Lebanese republic.
Lebanon is to hold its first parliamentary elections in nine years next month after parliament postponed elections several times over security reasons.