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Poll: Ahmadinejad Leads in Iran's Presidential Election

By Meredith Buel (VOA-Washington)

A new poll of Iranians shows that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the leading candidate in presidential elections scheduled for Friday. The telephone survey of about 1,000 Iranians by Terror Free Tomorrow and the New America Foundation found that 34 percent of those surveyed plan to vote for Ahmadinejad.

His main rival, reformist former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, was favored by 14 percent of the respondents. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed said they are undecided. If none of Iran's presidential candidates receives 50 percent of the vote, the two candidates with the most votes will compete in a run-off election.

Netanyahu Updates Obama on Policy Speech

By Ha'aretz, Reuters &

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone on Monday with President Barack Obama, updating him on his intention to deliver a key policy address next week.

Officials in Netanyahu's bureau said the conversation was a positive one. "In the speech I will lay out my policy for achieving peace and security," Netanyahu told Obama.

Meanwhile, Obama's envoy to the region, George Mitchell, arrived in Israel on Monday night for talks on halting settlement construction. Mitchell, who will meet with Netanyahu, Barak and Lieberman on Tuesday, is also expected to call on Israel to ease restrictions at the Gaza border crossings.

Mitchell said Obama wants "immediate" talks between the Palestinians and Israel to forge a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement. "The President has told me to exert all efforts to create the circumstance when the parties can begin immediate discussions," Mitchell told reporters on Monday at the start of a Palestinian donors' conference in the Norwegian capital.

Mitchell said the aim of such talks was "a comprehensive peace and normalization of relations" between Israel and its neighbors, which would also serve "the security interests of the United States."

Netanyahu will discuss the future of settlement construction and the establishment of a Palestinian state during a major policy address at Bar-Ilan University on Sunday. In the speech, Netanyahu will lay out his plans for Israel's relations with the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries, a source close to the premier said on Sunday.

It remains unclear whether Netanyahu will recognize the principle of two states for two peoples in the speech, which is meant as a response to Obama's address in Cairo last week. Obama stressed the two-state solution, saying it is good for both Israel and the Palestinians.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is pushing Netanyahu to take a conciliatory stance on the two-state solution and to announce that he is committed to the principles of the road map. Barak has told Netanyahu that his meetings with U.S. officials in Washington last week gave him the impression that taking such positions would make it easier for Israel to reach an agreement with the United States about settlement expansion for the purposes of natural growth. "I am optimistic that Netanyahu will accept these positions," Barak said.

Obama's Cairo Speech Quoted Jihad Verse from Quran


In his major address to the Muslim world last week, President Barack Obama quoted a verse from the Quran that is interpreted as urging Muslims to follow Muhammad in waging jihad against nonbelievers. The context of the verse – first noticed by Robert Spencer of the Jihad Watch website – was confirmed by Quranic experts contacted by WND.

"I have pointed to this section of the Quran as showing the importance of jihad and to follow the prophet (Muhammad) in jihad even though a war may be difficult," Abu Abaida Al-Ahmed, the imam of a central mosque in Gaza City, told WND.

Obama quoted the verse in question during a section of his speech where he was stressing a "new beginning" between the U.S. and the Muslim world, and the need for a "sustained effort to listen to each other."

Obama continued: "As the Holy Quran tells us, 'Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.' That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart."

Obama was reading from chapter 9 verse 119 of the Quran, which deals with the theme of not abandoning Muhammad.

The next Quranic passage continues: "Neither the dwellers of the city, nor the Arabs around them, shall seek to stay behind the messenger of Allah (when he mobilizes for war). Nor shall they give priority to their own affairs over supporting him. This is because they do not suffer any thirst, or any effort, or hunger in the cause of Allah, or take a single step that enrages the disbelievers, or inflict any hardship upon the enemy, without having it written down for them as a credit. Allah never fails to recompense those who work righteousness."

The two passages are part of a Quranic section scolding local Muslims in Medina for refusing to accompany Muhammad on a war expedition to Tabouk in northern Arabia, where he was seeking to fight a Byzantine garrison.

Abu Saqer, the head of Jahidiya Salifiyah, an Islamic outreach movement in Gaza, explained there are two main interpretations of the verse cited by Obama: "First that you should follow the truth of Allah, but in specific to follow those who are in jihad with the prophet in spite of the great heat of going to war," he said.

During his speech in Cairo last week, Obama referred to the Quran as "holy" four times and quoted several verses from the Islamic text. He also used Muslim terminology, such as the Quranic obligation of "zakat" or charity.

The speech, in which Obama referenced his Islamic experiences as a child in Indonesia and the Muslim faith of his paternal family, was a major departure from the tone of his campaign last year, when Obama and his team emphasized the then-candidate's stated Christian faith.

Jew Stopped for a Handful of Temple Mount Earth


Israeli police stopped a Jew from taking a handful of Temple Mount earth for his friend's wedding – though they allowed the Waqf to dump the equivalent of truckloads.

The Jew in question is a student at the Elon Moreh hesder yeshiva in the Shomron. He had been asked by his Rosh Yeshiva (dean) to bring back a handful of earth for an upcoming wedding of another student, so that the rabbi could fulfill the usual custom of remembering Jerusalem during the wedding.

The friend, David B., visited the Temple Mount after taking the normal Halakhic [Jewish legal] precautions of immersing in a ritual bath and more. At one point, he bent down to pick up some dirt – and within seconds, a Waqf official was at his side, demanding that he unhand the earth immediately.

David refused. An Israeli policeman then arrived on the scene and said that he must adhere to the Waqf official's orders.

"I refused again," David recounted later. "I told them that I know of no law that prevents me from taking dirt from the site. I know that I am not allowed to pray here or to bow down, but I never heard that I can't take dirt. The policeman told me, `The law here is the Waqf. Do what they tell you and don't cause provocations.'"

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