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THE INDEX — June 5, 2009

The interior minister of Dagestan was assassinated today at a wedding reception in Makhachkala, the Russian republic’s capital. Preliminary reports revealed that Lieutenant General Adilgirei Magomed-Tagirov was shot by a sniper hiding on the roof an adjacent building. The interior ministry’s head of logistics, Abdurazak Abakarov, was also killed in the sniper fire. This was the third assassination attempt on Magomed-Tagirov, a minister widely known for rooting out terrorists in the southern Russian province. Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has called upon a formal investigation into the murder to be led by Russia’s prosecutor general and interior minister. According to the BBC, a full-scale Islamic insurgency has arisen in Dagestan, a province in southwest Russia, as the result of spill-over fighting in neighboring Chechnya.

The Obama administration's plan to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay received a huge boost Thursday after European Union officials resolved an ongoing dispute, just as the U.S. president landed in Germany for the next leg of his overseas trip. Meeting in Luxembourg, EU interior ministers established an information sharing agreement that would require any country that takes a former Guantanamo detainee to inform other EU members of its plans before the decision is final. The agreement resolves an ongoing debate between those countries that plan on accepting detainees (as France did last month) in order to help the Obama administration break with controversial U.S. policies and the countries that contend that having ex-inmates in an open-border Europe poses a significant security threat. Although the information-sharing agreement does not provide any member state with veto power over another, the EU ministers said that it would allow all states to have full awareness of the background and whereabouts of the former prisoners. On Thursday, Canada reiterated that, unlike the EU, it would not be willing to provide refuge for any detainees.

Paris bureau chief of the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper, Randa Takieddine, believes that Israel prefers a Hezbollah majority win in the Lebanese national elections this Sunday. Takieddine posits that a Hezbollah win would make the militant group “stronger than the Lebanese state” and would “retain a state of war throughout the region.” Yesterday's op-ed hypothesizes that Israel would “see no objection” to a Hezbollah-ruled parliament, a marginalized Christian minority, or expanded extremism in Lebanon because more war would be a distraction from the increase of West Bank settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state. An Israeli military official, however, told the Parliament that a Hezbollah win could put a "radical axis" in control of the country, heightening the already tense security situation. Takieddine also contrasts the recent French and American positions on possible election results: Washington will wait to see the results before deciding whether to recognize the new government  whereas Paris will recognize all results “regardless of who is in power.”

A delegation from the Muslim Brotherhood Association (MB) met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington two months ago in a confidential meeting the Egyptian daily, Al Masry El Youm, reported yesterday. The meeting is said to have dealt with combating terrorism, “power circulation,” and Egyptian democracy (or rather the lack there of). The article cites special sources who said that the MB informed Obama that it is a party based on moderation rather than extremism that vows to bring tolerance to the Middle East and reiterated support for the Camp David agreement currently in place with Israel. After Egyptian authorities were informed of the meeting, the Egyptian high court accused MB leaders living abroad of forming an illegal political party aimed at increasing the power of the Islamic group. (A constitutional amendment made religious-based political parties illegal in Egypt in 2005.) The Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni group, therefore had its members run as independents in parliamentary elections and now holds 20 percent of all seats. It is the largest opposition to the ruling National Democratic Party. Yesterday, MB representatives called Obama's speech to the Muslim world a step in the right direction but were disappointed with the leniency the U.S. president showed towards President Hosni Mubarak's government.

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