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THE INDEX — August 5, 2009

Despite the July 31 expiration of their official status as refugees, close to 14,000 Rwandans remain in refugee camps in Uganda, having fled there over a decade ago to escape the 1994 genocide. Since the majority are ethnic Hutus, the Rwandan refugees fear the possibility of renewed persecution if they return. But according to Uganda's minister of disaster preparedness and refugees, Tarsis Kabwengyere, his country cannot afford to maintain so many refugees any longer. "We have been pushed to the limits, there is no justification for them to remain in Uganda," Kabwengyere told journalists, adding that the Ugandan government is running low on money to sustain its growing refugee camps. These camps recently have been filling up with thousands fleeing violence in eastern Congo. Rwandan officials say they are ready to repatriate refugees, hoping to put an end to the regional crisis and to restore stability in their country. Under the auspices of the United Nations, 3,000 Rwandans have already been repatriated since June. Two Russian nuclear attack submarines patrolled waters along the East Coast of the United States in recent days, sparking some concern among Washington officials over what Russia's intentions might be. Though the U.S. Navy did not indicate any concern about possible conflict, a Defense Department official told The New York Times that "any time the Russian Navy does something so out of the ordinary it is cause for worry." But speaking to the press on Wednesday, the deputy chief of staff of the Russian armed forces called the submarine patrols routine and in line with international law. "The fleet shouldn't sit on its hands and be idle," said Anatoly Nogovitsyn, indicating that U.S. officials were aware of this possibility and were playing up their alarm. One of the submarines docked in Cuba on Tuesday. 2,000 delegates from Fatah, the political group of the Palestinian Authority (PA), have met in the West Bank town of Bethlehem for the second day of a conference aimed at ending party in-fighting and drafting a new policy towards Israel. Delegates to the Fatah congress will also elect a new central committee and ruling council, with leader Mahmoud Abbas hoping the changes will placate young Palestinians critical of Fatah's conciliatory policy towards Israel. In the opening ceremony of the conference yesterday, Abbas stressed that peace must be pursued with Israel but noted that Fatah "reserved the right to resistance, legitimate under international law." The conference got off to a rough start after Abbas and several of his senior Fatah officials were accused of embezzlement by Farouk Kaddoumi, a co-founder of the political group. Kaddoumi released a written statement criticizing PA leaders of traveling in private jets and collecting taxes "for their own pocket." Fatah, long the ruling power in Palestine, has lost much of its legitimacy since 2006, when it lost overwhelmingly in elections to Hamas, a militant political party. In 2007, Hamas seized Gaza and removed Fatah forces from the territory. Hamas has refused to allow 400 Fatah delegates, based in Gaza, to attend the conference, citing the PA's imprisonment of Hamas members in the West Bank. This conference is the first meeting of Fatah delegates since 1989, when the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat chaired the congress in the Tunisian capital of Tunis. Efforts by Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to form a power-sharing government have stalled after his key ally, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt unexpectedly decided to leave Hariri's "March 14" coalition movement. On Monday, Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, announced his move to supporters, saying that the pro-West, anti-Syria, March 14 movement had lost its raison d'être. Jumblatt was a key player in the "Cedar Revolution" of 2005 that forced Syria to remove its troops from Lebanon following the assassination of Hariri's father, Rafiq Hariri. The younger Hariri was expected to form his government this week but the process is now expected to be prolonged while March 14 rearranges its ranks. Lebanese Druze, a small minority that practices a religious offshoot of Islam, have always played a salient role in Lebanese politics. During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90), Druze rallied against Maronite Christians leading the Lebanese front in support of pan-Arab and Palestinian forces. However, more recently, the Druze supported Maronites against Syrian infiltration into Lebanon. Many experts note that Jumblatt's latest move away from the anti-Syria March 14 is indicative of larger Western and Middle Eastern trends favoring a new engagement with Iran and Syria. Hariri is now vacationing in France where he is "reflecting and thinking quietly" about the new government.

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