SOFIA: Bulgaria ordered three visiting Palestinian lawmakers from the Islamist movement Hamas to leave the country yesterday, saying they posed a security risk to the EU member state. The expulsion came a week after Bulgaria blamed Hezbollah, a Lebanese Islamist group, for a bomb attack in the Black Sea city of Burgas last July that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver, fuelling an EU debate over whether it should be blacklisted alongside Hamas.
The European Union, like the United States, has branded Hamas a terrorist group for suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis since the mid-1990s. Bulgaria’s National Security Service said yesterday’s move was a “preventive measure”.
“During their stay in Bulgaria we obtained information that their presence was creating a serious threat to national security,” it said in a statement, without elaborating. The three Hamas lawmakers were hosted by Bulgaria’s Centre for Middle East Studies. Its director, Mohammed Abuasi, said police officers showed up at their hotel early yesterday and took them to the airport.
In Gaza, a Hamas statement said Bulgarian police had stormed in to deport lawmakers Salah Al Bardaweel, Ismail Al Ashqar and Mushir Al Masri, who flew to Istanbul. Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said the Bulgarian government had “no connection whatsoever” to the surprise visit by the Hamas lawmakers, which began on Wednesday and was meant to have lasted into next week.
Palestinian protests back striking prisoners
RAMALLAH: Palestinians around the West Bank yesterday staged solidarity events for prisoners held by Israel and on hunger strike, with dozens injured in clashes with Israeli security forces. Near the West Bank city of Ramallah, some 3,000 Palestinians held a protest march to the Ofer military prison that erupted into violent clashes with soldiers.
TEHRAN: Iran has ordered a six-month ban on pistachio exports to try to control the price of the nut, which doubled in the past month. Pistachios are among Iran’s top non-oil exports and widely consumed at home, bringing in an average of $1.5bn a year and providing work for hundreds of thousands of people. Iran was long the world’s largest pistachio exporter, with over 200,000 tonnes a year, but was surpassed last year by the US.Agencies