– Fatah has reportedly reached an agreement with its rival Hamas on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election
– The European Union’s push for United Nations condemnation of Syria fails
– U.S. southern storm death toll rises to 178
– The NYT describes how Obama’s Pentagon and C.I.A. picks show a shift in how the U.S. fights
Palestinian factions in reconciliation bid (Al Jazeera)
Fatah, the Palestinian political organisation, has reached an agreement with its rival Hamas on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election, Egyptian intelligence has said.
In February, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a member of Fatah, called for presidential and legislative elections before September, in a move which was rejected by Hamas at the time.
"The consultations resulted in full understandings over all points of discussions, including setting up an interim agreement with specific tasks and to set a date for election," Egyptian intelligence said in a statement on Wednesday.
The deal, which took many officials by surprise, was thrashed out in Egypt and followed a series of secret meetings.
European Union push for United Nations condemnation of Syria fails
A draft proposed by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal was opposed by several within the 15-member council, with Russia insisting events in Syria were not a threat to global peace.
In southern Syria, 200 members of the ruling Baath party are reported to have resigned after violence around Deraa.
Some 450 Syrians have allegedly been killed during six weeks of protests.
At the UN, China and India called for political dialogue and peaceful resolution of the crisis, but stopped short of condemning the violence.
Alexander Pankin, Russia's Ambassador to the UN, warned that a "real threat to regional security could arise from outside interference in Syria's domestic situation".
U.S. south storm death toll climbs to 178; 128 in Alabama (AP)
The death toll from severe storms that punished five Southern U.S. states jumped to a staggering 178 after Alabama canvassed its hard-hit counties for a new tally of lives lost.
Alabama's state emergency management agency said early Thursday it had confirmed 128 deaths, up from at least 61 earlier.
"We expect that toll, unfortunately, to rise," Gov. Robert Bentley told ABC's "Good Morning America."
Bahrain sentences protesters to death (Al Jazeera)
A Bahraini military court has sentenced four Shia protesters to death and three to life jail terms for the killing of two policemen during demonstrations last month, state media has reported. Thursday's verdicts are the first related to the uprising against the Gulf kingdom's ruling family, which begain in February.
NYT describes how Obama’s Pentagon and C.I.A. picks show a shift in how the U.S. fights:
President Obama’s decision to send an intelligence chief to the Pentagon and a four-star general to the Central Intelligence Agency is the latest evidence of a significant shift over the past decade in how the United States fights its battles — the blurring of lines between soldiers and spies in secret American missions abroad….
As C.I.A. director, Mr. Panetta hastened the transformation of the spy agency into a paramilitary organization, overseeing a sharp escalation of the C.I.A.’s bombing campaign in Pakistan using armed drone aircraft, and an increase in the number of secret bases and covert operatives in remote parts of Afghanistan.
Min Xinpin explains why China’s crackdown is selective
For a one-party state that tolerates practically no open defiance of its authority, Beijing’s gentle handling of hundreds of striking truckers in Shanghai who had paralyzed operations at one of China’s largest container ports seems an anomaly. Instead of sending in riot police to break up the blockade last week, the authorities in Shanghai agreed to reduce fees levied on the truckers, who were angry over the charges and rising fuel prices.
Marc Lynch lays out a regional response to Syria
The escalating violence and repression unleashed by Bashar al-Asad against protestors in Syria has been as horrific as it was predictable. It has posed a deep dilemma for the Obama administration, which understands both the strategic significance of upheaval in Syria and the limits of American influence over the outcome. I am outraged, if not surprised, by Asad's brutality, and I would dearly love to see democracy and human rights come to a Syria long oppressed by obsolescent Ba'athist rule. As with Libya, I want to see the international community move strongly to reinforce the norm that using force against citizens will hasten rather than prevent the fall from power of these regimes.
The Washington Post calls on Obama to do more to save lives in Libya
If sustained long enough, the current operation might be enough to turn the tide against the regime. But time means lives. Libyans are dying in large numbers: The U.S. ambassador suggested that between 10,000 and 30,000 already may have been killed. If more steps can be taken to save Libyans — the redeployment of U.S. planes, weapons for the opposition, ground spotters to call in airstrikes — Mr. Obama should authorize them.
Michael Young says it’s decision time for the U.S. on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule
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