Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Iran says expects nuclear talks on April 13

Iran expects to reopen talks with world powers - that could defuse mounting tensions over its disputed nuclear program - on April 13, state news agency IRNA quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying on Wednesday.

Turkey has offered to host the talks and the location will be decided in the next few days, Salehi said in comments after greeting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on his arrival in Tehran.

A Brussels-based diplomat also said April 13 was the likely date.

The last meeting between Iran and the representatives of the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Britain and China, in Istanbul in January 2011, failed to even agree an agenda.

Since then Washington and the EU have imposed much tougher sanctions on Iran which they accuse of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. Relations with the EU hit new lows when the bloc announced an embargo on Iranian oil and Britain closed its Tehran embassy after it was ransacked by protesters.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected once again to lead the talks on behalf of the group known as the P5+1 because it consists of all five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

Earlier this month the group called on Iran “to enter, without pre-conditions, into a sustained process of serious dialogue, which will produce concrete results.”

The United States and its allies have repeatedly accused Iran of covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says it has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has refused to suspend uranium enrichment.

Yemen urges Pakistan to free Bin Laden’s injured widow

Osama bin Laden’s wife Amal al-Sadeh had entered Pakistan illegally. (File photo)
Yemen urged Pakistan on Tuesday to free one of Osama bin Laden’s injured widows, saying Yemen-born Amal al-Sadeh and her four children were not guilty of any crime.

Pakistan’s interior minister said earlier this month that Bin Laden’s three widows, including Sadeh, would be put on trial for entering and living in the country illegally.

“The Pakistani authorities retracted from their initial position to surrender Amal to the Yemeni government,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told Reuters.

“We continue to call on the Pakistani authorities to transfer her to her home country. We are also concerned about the wellbeing of her young children. The children should not be punished for the mistakes of their father.”
Al-Qaeda leader Bin Laden was shot and killed in May last year by U.S. Special Forces who stormed his house in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad after a decade-long manhunt.

Sadeh, two other wives from Saudi Arabia and an undisclosed number of children were among the 16 people detained by Pakistani authorities after the raid.

Relatives said Sadeh, who was shot in the leg during the raid, entered Pakistan legally.

“She came to Pakistan with her elder brother in 2000 using her passport,” said Hameed al-Sadeh, Amal’s 27-year-old cousin.

“They flew from Sana’a to Karachi. There was nothing illegal about it. The Pakistani authorities have even released a photocopy of her passport,” he told Reuters.

Hameed, who is a journalist in Sana’a, said Amal was being held with her four children in a basement.

“She limps from a bullet wound in her knee and she’s suffering from psychological trauma and very low blood pressure,” he said.

“She hasn’t seen the sun for months, they are kept in the basement below the earth, she and her four children, the eldest is a 12 year old girl, and three boys, the youngest is two.”

Yemeni Human Rights Minister Houriya Mashhour said Amal had committed no crime in Pakistan.

“Just because she was married to him (bin Laden) does not make her guilty,” Mashhour told Reuters.

“What about the children? They have nothing do it with this. They have been kept in captivity for almost a year now. Why should they pay the price?” she added.

Arab ministers want Syria to halt crackdown

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Arab countries, divided over how to stop Syria's bloodshed, plan to call for the Syrian regime to halt its crackdown on civilians, let in humanitarian groups and free detainees, according to recommendations Wednesday by foreign ministers preparing for a summit this week.
Even before Arab heads of state began their Thursday summit in the Iraqi capital, Syria sharply rejected any measures they take. A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdessi, said Damascus would "not deal with any initiative" that might come out of the 22-member Arab League.
The rejection reflected Damascus' refusal to work with the League after the pan-Arab body suspended Syria's membership as punishment for the bloody crackdown on protesters demanding the ouster of President Bashar Assad. The U.N. says that over the past year more than 9,000 people have been killed in the violence.
Arab countries are divided over how aggressively to intervene in Syria's turmoil. Gulf nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are believed to want to start providing weapons to Syria's rebels and even carve out a "safe area" inside the country were the opposition can operate.
Iraq, the host of this week's summit, is more cautious. Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government is close to Iran, Assad's closest ally, and is wary of hurting those ties. On Wednesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Arab foreign ministers gathered in Baghdad that his country rejects foreign intervention in Syria but supports what he called the aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom and democracy.
"We stress our full support to the aspirations and legitimate demands of the Syrian people to freedom and democracy and their right to determine their future, choose their leaders and the peaceful transition for power," said Zebari, a Kurd.
Assad's regime on Tuesday announced its acceptance of an initiative by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan calling for a cease-fire. However, violence continued with clashes between government forces and armed rebels. Syria's opposition is deeply skeptical that Assad will carry out the terms of the peace plan.
Arab foreign ministers on Wednesday were working out recommendations for the heads of state to approve when they meet here Thursday. According to draft recommendations obtained by The Associated Press, the summit would call on Assad to implement a cease-fire, let in humanitarian aid and release all those detained the past year. It also demands he allow peaceful protests, withdraw army troops from urban centers and implement previous Arab League proposals to end the conflict.
Speaking before Zebari, Libya's foreign minister, Ashour Ben Khayil, was much more emphatic about the conflict in Syria, speaking about "the tragedy of our brothers in Syria who are facing a tyrannical regime while the world looks on without doing anything."
Libya, where longtime dictator was ousted and killed last year, chaired the last Arab summit, held in the Mediterranean city of Sirte in 2010. Last year's Arab Spring upheavals prevented Iraq from hosting last year's summit.
Opposition members accuse Assad of agreeing to Annan's plan to stall for time as his troops make a renewed push to kill off bastions of dissent.
"We are not sure if it's political maneuvering or a sincere act," said Louay Safi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council. "We have no trust in the current regime. ... We have to see that they have stopped killing civilians."
Annan's plan calls on Damascus to immediately stop troop movements and use of heavy weapons in populated areas and to commit to a daily two-hour halt in fighting to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuations.
Gulf Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been pushing behind the scenes for more assertive action to end the Syria conflict. Privately, they see little benefit in the Arab League's efforts to reach a peaceful settlement and prefer instead to see a small core of nations pooling together to act on their own.
Among the options they are considering are arming the Syrian rebels and creating a safe haven for the opposition alongside the Turkish-Syrian border to serve as a humanitarian sphere or staging ground for anti-regime forces.
The Sunni-led Gulf countries are hoping that by forcing Assad's fall they can pull Sunni-majority Syria out of its alliance with Iran and break the belt of Tehran's influence that stretches through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean.
A Sunni-ruled Syria would give the U.S.-allied Gulf Arabs a significant victory in their long-running power struggle with non-Arab, mainly Shiite Iran. But that prospect worries Iraq, with its sectarian divides between a Shiite majority that now holds power and a Sunni minority that resents its sidelining.
Shiite-ruled Iraq is hosting the summit to show that it has emerged from years of turmoil and American occupation. But a massive security operation in Baghdad mirrors fears that Sunni militants could try and disrupt the meetings.
Central Baghdad was virtually deserted on Wednesday, with hundreds of heavily armed troops and policemen deployed in full combat gear. The summit venue is a palace once used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and is located inside the "Green Zone," a highly secure area on the west bank of the Tigris River where the Iraqi prime minister's office and the U.S. and the British embassies are also located.

Prominent Pakistani acid victim commits suicide

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistani acid attack victim Fakhra Younus had endured more than three dozen surgeries over more than a decade to repair her severely damaged face and body when she finally decided life was no longer worth living.
The 33-year-old former dancing girl - who was allegedly attacked by her then-husband, an ex-parliamentarian and son of a political powerhouse - jumped from the sixth floor of a building in Rome, where she had been living and receiving treatment.
Her March 17 suicide and the return of her body to Pakistan on Sunday reignited furor over the case, which received significant international attention at the time of the attack. Her death came less than a month after a Pakistani filmmaker won the country's first Oscar for a documentary about acid attack victims.
Younus' story not only drives home the woeful plight of many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, it is also a reminder of how the country's rich and powerful operate with impunity. Younus' ex-husband, Bilal Khar, was eventually acquitted, but many believe he used his connections to escape the law's grip - a common occurrence in Pakistan.
More than 8,500 acid attacks, forced marriages and other forms of violence against women were reported in Pakistan in 2011, according to The Aurat Foundation, a women's rights organization. Because the group relied mostly on media reports, the figure is likely an undercount.
"The saddest part is that she realized that the system in Pakistan was never going to provide her with relief or remedy," Nayyar Shabana Kiyani, an activist at The Aurat Foundation, said of Younus. "She was totally disappointed that there was no justice available to her."
Younus was a teenage dancing girl working in the red light district of the southern city of Karachi when she met her future husband, the son of Ghulam Mustafa Khar, a former governor of Pakistan's largest province, Punjab. The unusual pairing was the younger Khar's third marriage. He was in his mid-30s at the time.
The couple was married for three years, but Younus eventually left him because he allegedly physically and verbally abused her. She claimed that he came to her mother's house while she was sleeping in May 2000 and poured acid all over her in the presence of her 5-year-old son from a different man.
Tehmina Du4rrani, Ghulam Mustafa Khar's ex-wife and his son's stepmother, became an advocate for Younus after the attack, drawing international attention to the case. She said that Younus' injuries were the worst she had ever seen on an acid attack victim.
"So many times we thought she would die in the night because her nose was melted and she couldn't breathe," said Durrani, who wrote a book about her own allegedly abusive relationship with the elder Khar. "We used to put a straw in the little bit of her mouth that was left because the rest was all melted together."
She said Younus, whose life had always been hard, became a liability to her family, for whom she was once a source of income.
"Her life was a parched stretch of hard rock on which nothing bloomed," Durrani wrote in a column in The News after Younus' suicide.
Younus' ex-husband grew up in starkly different circumstances, amid the wealth and power of the country's feudal elite, and counts Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar as a cousin.
Bilal Khar once again denied carrying out the acid attack in a TV interview following her suicide, suggesting a different man with the same name committed the crime. He claimed Younus killed herself because she didn't have enough money, not because of her horrific injuries, and criticized the media for hounding him about the issue.
"You people should be a little considerate," said Khar. "I have three daughters and when they go to school people tease them."
In February, Younus said in one of her last interviews that powerful Pakistanis brutally treat ordinary citizens and "don't know how painful they make others' lives."
"I want such people to be treated in the same way" as they treat people whose lives they ruin, she told Geo TV over the telephone from Rome.
Younus was energized when the Pakistani government enacted a new set of laws last year that explicitly criminalized acid attacks and mandated that convicted attackers would serve a minimum sentence of 14 years, said Durrani. She hoped to return someday to get justice once her health stabilized.
"She said, 'When I come back, I will reopen the case, and I'll fight myself,' and she was a fighter," Durrani said.
Durrani had to battle with both Younus' ex-husband and the government to send her to Italy, where the Italian government paid for her treatment and provided her money to live on and send her child to school. Pakistani officials argued that sending Younus to Italy would give the country a bad name, Durrani said.
Younus was happy when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for her documentary about acid attack victims in February, but was worried about being forgotten since she wasn't profiled in the film, said Durrani.
Durrani said Younus' case should be a reminder that the Pakistani government needs to do much more to prevent acid attacks and other forms of violence against women, and also help the victims.
"I think this whole country should be extremely embarrassed that a foreign country took responsibility for a Pakistani citizen for 13 years because we could give her nothing, not justice, not security," said Durrani.

Saudi diplomat kidnapped in southern Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- A Saudi diplomat was kidnapped on his way to work Wednesday in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, a Yemeni security official said.
It was the first kidnapping of a Saudi diplomat in this impoverished country, where abductions are frequent and where armed tribesmen and al-Qaida-linked militants take hostages in an effort to swap them for prisoners or cash.
The security official identified the diplomat as Abdullah al-Khaldi, the deputy consul at the Saudi consulate in Aden. No more details were immediately available. The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
It was not clear whether the abduction had any political motives.
Saudi Arabia and the rest of Gulf Cooperation Council countries have been heavily involved in a power-transfer deal that forced Yemen's longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to relinquish power after a yearlong turmoil and mass protests against his rule. Saleh stepped down last month and handed power to his deputy.
Yemen's turmoil has caused a security vacuum, which al-Qaida has used to seize large swaths of territory across the restive south.

Ex-army chief to lead Israel's Kadima Party

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Final results released Wednesday in the leadership race for Israel's largest political party showed a former defense and military chief winning a resounding victory over the incumbent, a former lead negotiator with the Palestinians.
Shaul Mofaz captured 62 percent of the votes in Tuesday's race for Kadima Party chief, trouncing Tzipi Livni, who took 37 percent. Early Wednesday, Mofaz spoke confidently of ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel's next national elections, currently scheduled for October 2013.
"We will win the political and national battles we face," he told a cheering crowd. "In the general elections we will replace Netanyahu's government."
Polls show that toppling Netanyahu would be an uphill battle the centrist Kadima and that the party, currently the largest faction in parliament, is losing support to the centrist Labor Party and the dovish Meretz. Kadima would also be expected to lose seats to television personality Yair Lapid, who has not yet formed a political party.
Mofaz is best known for the tough tactics he adopted as military chief and defense minister during the four-year Palestinian uprising that ended in 2004. In 2008, he briefly rattled global oil markets by saying Israel would attack Iran as a last resort if Tehran didn't abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.
But in recent years, he has adopted a more statesmanlike approach, proposing the immediate establishment of a provisional Palestinian state and addressing socio-economic issues and women's rights.
Livni, who just a few years ago was among the country's most popular politicians and who routinely shows up on lists of the world's most influential women, has faced heavy criticism for what is widely seen as an ineffective term as opposition leader.
Kadima was founded in November 2005 by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who defected from the Likud Party with many of its top officials, including Livni and Mofaz, in an effort to move forward more boldly on peacemaking than some Likud members wanted.
Sharon suffered an incapacitating stroke shortly after that, and though peacemaking resumed under his successor, Ehud Olmert, it stalled at the end of Olmert's term and remains moribund.

3 Syrian soldiers die in clashes with rebels

BEIRUT (AP) -- Three Syrian soldiers died in clashes with rebels in the central province of Homs on Wednesday, an activist group said, just a day after President Bashar Assad said he has accepted a U.N. plan to resolve the country's crisis.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting broke out when government forces tried to enter the town of Rastan, which is in the hands of army defectors. The activist group also reported clashes in the Deir el-Zour province along the Iraqi border and said government troops had fired mortars at the city of Homs.
The fresh violence coincides with a new wave of international diplomacy seeking to end the year-old conflict that the U.N. says has left more than 9,000 people dead.
Syria said Tuesday that Assad accepted a peace plan put forward by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. The plan calls for Damascus to immediately stop troop movements and use of heavy weapons in populated areas and to commit to a daily two-hour halt in fighting to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuations.
It also calls for a full cease-fire to be supervised by the U.N. so that all parties can discuss a political solution.
Members of the fractured opposition struggling to end Assad's regime accused him of using the plan to stall for time as his troops make a renewed push to kill off bastions of dissent.
The U.S. and Britain, both of which have called on the Syrian president to step down, said Assad must back his words with action.
Annan said Tuesday during a visit to Beijing that he had received Chinese backing for his plan. As international condemnation of Assad has grown, Russia and China have protected him from censure by the U.N. Security Council. But Russia, too, has endorsed Annan's plan.
Also on Wednesday, the 22-member Arab League is to discuss a new resolution on the Syria conflict at a summit in Baghdad. The body's foreign ministers are expected to ask their heads of state to urge the Syrian regime to halt its crackdown on civilians and allow humanitarian groups into the country. The ministers are meeting in the Iraqi capital on Wednesday and the heads of state will gather on Thursday.
The Syrian uprising began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests as part of the Arab Spring. It turned increasingly militarized after the government unleashed tanks, snipers and troops with machine guns to break up protests - a development that many opposition members say forced them to take up arms. The government denies there is a popular uprising, saying the revolt is being driven by armed groups and others it calls terrorists.
Syria's opposition has failed throughout the conflict to create a unified front against Assad. Hundreds of opposition leaders abroad met in Turkey on Tuesday and discussed how to restructure the Syrian National Council to properly represent the opposition. The body is often accused of ineffectiveness, and prominent members have recently quit, accusing council leaders of not sharing decision-making.
The body has limited control over opposition activities inside Syria or over the various armed groups fighting the government across Syria under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.

Saudi diplomat kidnapped in southern Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- A Saudi diplomat was kidnapped on his way to work Wednesday in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, a Yemeni security official said.
It was the first kidnapping of a Saudi diplomat in this impoverished country, where abductions are frequent and where armed tribesmen and al-Qaida-linked militants take hostages in an effort to swap them for prisoners or cash.
The security official identified the diplomat as Abdullah al-Khaldi, the deputy consul at the Saudi consulate in Aden. No more details were immediately available. The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
It was not clear whether the abduction had any political motives.
Saudi Arabia and the rest of Gulf Cooperation Council countries have been heavily involved in a power-transfer deal that forced Yemen's longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to relinquish power after a yearlong turmoil and mass protests against his rule. Saleh stepped down last month and handed power to his deputy.
Yemen's turmoil has caused a security vacuum, which al-Qaida has used to seize large swaths of territory across the restive south.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Economic talks open Arab League meeting in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Drought and uprisings are threatening to undermine the Middle East's economy, Arab officials said Tuesday as they discussed plans to boost the region's stability at the start of a key summit in Baghdad.
For the first time in a generation, leaders from 21 states gathered in Iraq for the Arab League's annual summit. Iraq is hoping the summit will better integrate its Shiite-led government into the Sunni-dominated Arab world, and has deployed thousands of soldiers and police forces across Baghdad to prevent insurgent threats from upending it.
Economic ministers tentatively agreed to cooperate on proposals for tourism and to deal with water shortages and natural disasters. The proposals, put forward at the summit's opening meeting, still need to be approved by the rulers and heads of government on the final day of the gathering Thursday.
"We are suffering mainly from the lack of finance and some technical problems," Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said at the economic ministers' meeting.
As in Iraq, where the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers are drying up, water resources also are strapped elsewhere across the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates and Jordan say their ground water is rapidly depleting, and the Dead Sea is drying up. Much of the problem is due to the failure of governments in the region to manage growth and use of the major rivers.
In Libya, the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's regime last year halted construction on a $25 billion project to pump water to the country's north, said economic delegation official Giuma Rahuma.
"Many farmers are in the north," Rahuma said. "The (Libyan) revolution stopped the project. Maybe it will start again next year, or in two years."
Kuwaiti Finance Minister Mustafa al-Shamali said his country draws water from the Persian Gulf but "it is very expensive" to treat into drinking water. He said water was one of the economic ministers' top concerns for the region.
A State Department report released last week in Washington found a small risk of water issues leading to war within the next 10 years. But it concluded that water shortages certainly will create tensions within and between states, and threaten to disrupt national and global food markets.
Beyond 2022, the report concluded, the use of water as a weapon of war or a tool of terrorism will become more likely, particularly in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
The report was based on classified U.S. intelligence that said floods, scarce and poor quality water, combined with poverty, social tension, poor leadership and weak governments will contribute to instability that could lead the failure of numerous states.
Iraq is spending at least $500 million to host the summit, and officials believe it's an investment for the country's future. Iraqi Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi said he is calling on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya and Egypt to write off billions of dollars in debts incurred during former dictator Saddam Hussein's regime.
Iraq's government has spared no expense in securing the capital for its visitors. Troops, SWAT teams and undercover police lined streets to protect dignitaries and journalists attending the meeting.
Al-Qaida has threatened to launch attacks during the summit to prove how weak Iraq's security remains, and officials said a suicide bomber killed one policemen and wounded four others at a checkpoint Tuesday afternoon. The attack happened in Baghdad's western Ghazaliya neighborhood, across the Tigris River from the economic ministers' meeting.
Police and health officials confirmed the casualties. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The summit has received a cool welcome from many Iraqis who say they expect to gain little from it. About 150 demonstrators rallied in the Sunni-dominated city of Fallujah, located 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, calling on the League to stop the bloodshed in neighboring Syria.
Syria is expected to top the agenda of a meeting Wednesday among the League's foreign ministers. The economic ministers did not discuss it Tuesday afternoon.
The demonstrators also demanded the Arab leaders to pressure Iraq's government to give more jobs to Sunnis.

Turkish ex-army chief rejects terrorism charges

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- A former Turkish military chief accused of leading an Internet campaign as part of an alleged conspiracy to topple the Islamic-rooted government rejected the allegations on Tuesday as "a comedy of incompetence."
On the second day of his trial in Istanbul, Basbug said the charges brought against him were an attempts to discredit the armed forces and declared he would not defend himself or answer questions in court, the state-run news agency reported.
Basbug, who was arrested in January, is the most senior military officer to be prosecuted in a series of anti-terror probes that began in 2008 and that have netted hundreds of suspects, many of them retired and active-duty military officers.
The government has defended the probes, which have stripped the military of its former political clout, as steps toward enhancing democracy, but suspicions of score-settling, long imprisonments without verdicts and other lapses have tainted the legal process.
Basbug faces life in prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. The charges stem from allegations that the military funded dozens of websites aimed at discrediting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government in 2009 as part of alleged efforts to topple his administration. Basbug, who retired in August 2010, led the military at the time.
Some suspects already charged in the case, including senior generals and admirals, have proclaimed their innocence and said they acted in a chain of command.
Basbug asked to be tried at Turkey's Supreme Court, where senior government officials accused of wrongdoing, are prosecuted.
"I have never acted against the law in my life," the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Basbug as telling the court. "My loyalty to democracy is obvious."
"Despite all this, they are now accusing the commander of one of the world's strongest armies of attempting to stage a coup through the Internet and speeches," he said.
"To try to accuse someone with such an indictment is nothing but a comedy of incompetence," he added.
Anadolu said spectators and fellow defendants applauded his statements.
The alleged conspiracy involving Basbug was first reported by a Turkish newspaper in 2009, which printed a photocopy of an alleged plan to damage the reputation of the government by portraying it as corrupt.
Investigations into the reported conspiracy were inconclusive because the original document, allegedly signed by a navy colonel, could not be found. The probe was revived last year after an unidentified military officer allegedly sent the original document to Istanbul's chief prosecutor.
The military says 58 serving generals or admirals are in jail. Last year, the nation's top four military commanders, including the chief of staff who succeeded Basbug, resigned in protest against the arrests and prosecutions of military officers.
The United States has urged Turkey to handle any prosecution of Basbug or other military officials transparently and responsibly.

Annan: Syria acceptance of peace plan key 1st step

BEIJING (AP) -- U.N. envoy Kofi Annan said Tuesday he has received the backing of both Syria and China for his plan for a negotiated end to the bloody Syrian conflict.
Annan believes Syria's acceptance of the peace plan is an important first step which now needs to be immediately implemented, his spokesman said.
A Paris-based member of the opposition Syrian National Council said it welcomes the Syrian government's decision.
"We hope that we can move toward a peace process," Bassma Kodmani said by telephone.
Annan is proposing a six-point plan that includes a cease-fire by the Syrian government, a daily two-hour halt to fighting to evacuate the injured, and Syrian-led political talks to address the concerns of the Syrian people.
Annan, who is also an envoy for the Arab League, told reporters after meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing on Tuesday that he had received a "positive" response from Syria as well as support from China. He said he received a similar commitment from Russia over the weekend.
"We've had very good discussions about the situation in Syria. And they have offered me their full support," Annan said after the meeting with Wen.
Wen said work on a solution to the crisis is at a "critical juncture," adding that China backed Annan's mediation efforts.
The support from China and Russia may have been important in nudging Syria on the plan, which has been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council in a nonbinding presidential statement.
China and Russia have twice vetoed proposed U.N. sanctions over Assad's crackdown on a yearlong uprising in which more than 8,000 people are believe to have died. The two countries called those proposed U.N. resolutions unbalanced, saying they blamed only the Syrian government and demanded an end to government attacks, but not ones by the opposition.
Annan views Syria's acceptance of the plan "as an important initial step that could bring an end to the violence and the bloodshed, provide aid to the suffering, and create an environment conducive to a political dialogue that would fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people," Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in a statement.
Annan "stressed that implementation will be key, not only for the Syrian people, who are caught in the middle of this tragedy, but also for the region and the international community as a whole," Fawzi said.
About 60 countries, including the United States, are to attend a "Friends of the Syrian People" conference in Istanbul on Sunday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Monday that China was invited but would not attend.
Washington and many of its allies have said Assad has lost all legitimacy and must step down. China says the crisis needs to be resolved through talks.
The conference in Istanbul comes as Turkey edges closer to setting up a buffer zone in Syria to protect civilians. Turkish officials have long been hesitant about the idea, but now say a surge of refugees from Syria might compel Turkey, preferably with international backing, to establish a buffer zone on Syrian soil to guarantee the security of its own southern border as well as the welfare of civilians fleeing violence.
Chinese analysts said Beijing was unlikely to support the buffer zone proposal, especially if the possibility of Western military action against Syria is not ruled out.
"China will not accept that proposal. But it will not openly oppose it either," said Wang Lian, a Middle East expert at the School of International Studies at Peking University,
Wu Bingbing, an expert on Arabian issues at Peking University, agreed China would not back a buffer zone, saying it infringed on Syria's sovereignty.
"A balance must be achieved between promoting the easing of the humanitarian crisis in Syria and ensuring Syria's sovereignty," he said.

Syria accepts UN peace plan but bloodshed persists

QAA, Lebanon (AP) -- Syria has accepted a peace plan by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan that includes a cease-fire by the Syrian government, but the bloodshed persisted Tuesday as intense clashes between government troops and rebels spilled across the border into Lebanon, officials said.
Syrian troops did not physically cross the border, according to two Lebanese security officials, but bullets whizzed across the frontier into a rural, sparsely populated area around the Lebanese village of Qaa.
"There is no Syrian military presence on the Lebanese side of the border," the military official said.
The U.N. says more than 8,000 people have been killed in Syria's uprising, which began last March with mostly peaceful protests against the regime. But the government swiftly unleashed its military tanks, snipers and machine-guns to break up protests, which many opposition members say drove them to take up arms.
Now, as the conflict spirals toward civil war, there are concerns that the violence could cause a regional conflagration by pulling in neighboring countries.
A diplomatic push to end the crisis has largely failed, but Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Annan, said Tuesday that the Syrian government has accepted the envoy's six-point plan to end the bloodshed. The plan includes a cease-fire and inclusive talks about a political solution.
Syrian opposition members reacted with skepticism, however.
Rami Jarah, who was attending an opposition meeting Tuesday in Turkey, said President Bashar Assad is trying to stall for time.
"The Syrian government is going to depend on propaganda as it has over the past few months - propaganda of armed terrorists," he said. The government denies that there is a popular uprising in the country, saying the revolt is being driven by terrorists.
Bassma Kodmani, Paris-based member of the opposition Syrian National Council, said she welcomes the regime's acceptance of the plan. But when asked if she believed the regime would honor the plan, she said: "We hope that we can move toward a peace process."
Also Tuesday, Assad visited Baba Amr, a former rebel stronghold in the key city of Homs that became a symbol of the uprising after a monthlong siege by government forces killed hundreds of people - many of them civilians - as troops pushed out rebel fighters.
Homs has been one of the cities hardest hit by the government crackdown on the uprising that began last March. Assad's forces overran the rebel-held Baba Amr on March 1 but faced resistance from other districts.
In footage aired on Syrian state TV, Assad pledged that Baba Amr would return "better than it was before." He was greeted by residents who shouted, "We are with you until death!"
Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, reported Assad's visit but gave no further details.
The violent conflict in Syria has posed a serious challenge to Assad, but neither side has shown any sign of giving in. The opposition, riven by differences, has failed to present a united front against Assad, which has added to the chaos.
Syrian opposition leaders were meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve their differences and reassure international backers who are frustrated by the lack of cohesion.
The meeting comes ahead of an April 1 conference in Istanbul at which Turkey, the United States and their European and Arab partners will discuss ways to further isolate and pressure Assad, as well as measures to support the Syrian opposition. Some reports indicate that the debate among dozens of countries will include whether the opposition Syrian National Council and affiliated groups should be declared as the sole, legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that "if the majority of participants choose that, we'll do that."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Activists: Syrian troops storm northwestern town

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian troops backed by tanks stormed a northwestern town on Saturday in the latest of a series of pushes by regime forces into rebel-held areas, but faced strong resistance from defending army defectors, activists said.
The British-Based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said the troops entered Saraqeb from the north and were advancing amid heavy shelling.
The Observatory said fighting had reached the central market district where army defectors damaged a tank and three armored personnel carriers. It said several members of the military and a civilian were killed, and dozens more people were wounded.
"Large numbers of residents are fleeing the town," said Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, which has a network of activists inside Syria. "People have been leaving the town for some time but after today's attack the process intensified."
Syria's government has been on the offensive over the past two months and has taken a number of rebel strongholds: the provincial capital and other towns in the northwestern province of Idlib that borders Turkey, the central provinces of Hama and Homs, and the eastern oil-rich region of Deir el-Zour that borders Iraq.
Syria's rebels, who took up arms following the regime's crackdown on protesters, are outgunned by armored units loyal to President Bashar Assad but have opted for hit-and-run raids and ambushes.
The Syrian government cites the rise in such attacks to boost its argument that the uprising is being carried out by terrorist groups acting out a foreign conspiracy.
The LCC said the troops were accompanied by pro-government gunmen known as shabiha and plainclothes security agents who arrived in buses and started conducting raids and detaining people. Calls to the town could not get through. The government is known to cut networks in areas where operations are underway.
Saraqeb, in the northern province of Idlib, had been held by army defectors for months.
The attack came 11 days after troops retook Idlib city, the provincial capital, which had also been under rebel control for months.
The Observatory said Syrian security forces killed 10 people throughout Syria Saturday while the LCC put the death toll at 15.
International condemnation and high-level diplomacy have failed to stop the year-old Syria crisis that the U.N. says has killed more than 8,000 people, many of them civilian protesters.
Earlier this week, a U.N. Security Council statement called for a cease-fire to allow for dialogue between all sides on a political solution. Assad's government played down the statement, saying Damascus is under no threats or ultimatums.
Earlier Saturday, the Observatory and the LCC said troops fired mortar rounds at the rebel-held neighborhood of Khaldiyeh in the central city of Homs in apparent preparation to storm the area.
Abdul-Rahman said the heavily-populated Khaldiyeh has been shelled since early Saturday. The LCC posted a video on its Facebook page showing smoke billowing from a residential area it said was in Khaldiyeh.
The neighborhoods, one of Homs' largest, has been under rebel control for months.
Homs has seen some of the heaviest fighting in Syria's year-long uprising. Government forces crushed a rebel stronghold in Baba Amr neighborhood on March 1.
The Observatory said troops also barraged the town of Qalaat al-Madiq in Hama province with mortars and heavy machine guns. The government has been trying to enter the town for the past two weeks, it said.

Egypt parliament names constitution panel

CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian parliamentarians on Saturday are casting ballots to select a 100-member panel that will draft the country's new constitution, amid deep polarization between liberals and Islamists over the process.
Secularists and liberals fear that parliament's Islamist majority will pack the panel with their supporters and ignore minority concerns.
These fears have spiked over the last week after parliament decided to allocate 50 percent of the seats in the panel to its own members, and when a leading Islamist deputy said that the country's most prominent democracy advocate, Mohamed ElBaradei, would likely not be included.
Egypt's ruling council issued last year an interim constitution that gives elected members of the parliament's two houses the right to select those who will draft the new constitution that will define Egypt's future identity. The old 1971 constitution was suspended after the uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak.
After the panel writes the constitution, it will be put to a vote in a national referendum. However the ruling military council left the guidelines for the process vague enough to spark a hot debate between liberals and Islamists on who should be included.
Egypt's Islamist groups, including both the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Salafis, between them make up nearly three-quarters of parliament after sweeping the vote in the first post-revolution elections that began in November.
They passed a vote last week to appoint 50 of the panel members from inside the parliament, while the rest come from outside.
Liberals, among whom are youth groups and secular parties that led the uprising but performed poorly in elections, say that a permanent constitution should not be written solely by the victors in a single election.
They argue that the constitutional process should include a wide range of members from the country's different ideological trends, professional syndicates and unions, women, and members of the Christian minority. They say that parliament's decision to have its members dominate the process violates earlier Brotherhood pledges to draft the charter by "consensus" and fear it represents a capitulation to the Salafis.
The new constitution is expected to curb presidential powers and give parliament more authority, a drastic change to Egypt's political system. Although the changes are intended to prevent the abuses of power associated with Mubarak, liberals fear that empowering the legislature will also empower the Islamists who have a majority there.
Another key concern is the role of Islamic Shariah law, which is subject to a wide variety of interpretation.
The old 1971 constitution says Shariah is the "main source of legislation," but many in the hardline Salafi bloc that makes up nearly a quarter of parliament's members want specific mention of statutes based on strict interpretations of Shariah: mandating segregation of the sexes, banning banks from charging interest and punishing theft by cutting off thieves' hands.
Another divisive issue is the role of the military and the future of the country's military rulers. The ruling generals want assurances they won't lose their political clout and that parliament will have no say over the military's budget.
Anti-military youth activists fear the Islamists will give the military what they want, in exchange for the generals allowing them carte blanche in the constitution writing.
"We are before a historic mission," said parliamentary speaker Saad el-Katatni, a member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. "There will be no exclusions for anybody," he said, adding that the constitution should not be written by "the majority," but instead by "consensus and partnership."
That pledge however has been called into question by the exclusion of ElBaradei, whom Brotherhood parliamentarian Mohammed el-Beltagi said on his Facebook page Friday would normally be included "only if he didn't oppose the current road map" for drafting the document.
ElBaradei had criticized the parliament - the product of the first open elections after decades of dictatorship - as not fully representative, and the process of drafting the constitution as rushed. He posted in a Tweet that the charter "is not a fast food meal."
Parliamentarians also dropped an earlier proposal to give a quota of 25 seats to representatives of prominent Egyptian institutions, which prompted a young liberal-leaning lawmaker Mustafa al-Nagar to boycott the voting process.
He posted on his Twitter account that he would boycot the selection of the constitutional panel because it is "an exclusion to all Egyptians."
Liberal judges and activists have filed legal challenges to the 50/50 panel makeup.
With drums and chants, youth activists rallied outside parliament against Islamists and military for what they see as sabotaging the revolution.
"No Salafis, no Brotherhood. The constitution is for all Egyptians," they chanted. "We said the military hijacked the revolution ... They (Islamists) said no, the military are sweet like sugar."

Roadside bombing kills 5 in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A roadside bomb detonated by remote control killed five people Saturday in southern Afghanistan, including a former Afghan senator and tribal leader who worked to foster peace and development.
The ex-lawmaker, Khairo Jan, was riding in a vehicle with three Afghan policemen, who served as his bodyguards, and another tribal leader from the area when the bomb exploded on the road as they passed, said Fareed Ayal, a spokesman for the Uruzgan province police chief.
Jan is an elder of the Popalzai tribe, the same tribe that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is from.
The Uruzgan governor's office said Jan worked to unify residents of the province to help bring peace to Afghanistan.
Ayal said the blast occurred about 1:30 p.m. local time about six kilometers (four miles) south of the provincial capital of Tirin Kot.
In the east, a NATO service member died Saturday as a result of a non-battle related injury, the international military coalition said. No other details were released.
On Friday, an Afghan civilian was killed when a NATO vehicle collided with another driven by a local resident in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, the alliance said. The person killed was a passenger in the civilian vehicle. The international military coalition and Afghan officials are investigating the incident.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Egypt’s Brotherhood mulling run for president

Younger Brotherhood members are disobeying the group’s leadership by supporting a former Brotherhood leader, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, who was expelled from the movement after he announced his decision to join the race. (File photo)
Younger Brotherhood members are disobeying the group’s leadership by supporting a former Brotherhood leader, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, who was expelled from the movement after he announced his decision to join the race. (File photo)

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful political group, says it is considering running its own candidate in upcoming presidential elections, dropping its previous decision to avoid direct participation in the race. 

The group appears to be playing one of its last cards in a power struggle against the ruling military council, after it failed to force the military to replace its Cabinet with a new one appointed by the Islamist-dominated parliament.

If a Brotherhood fields a candidate and wins the presidency, the group would control the two main branches of power. In parliamentary elections, the first since a popular uprising unseated President Hosni Mubarak last year, it won nearly half the seats.

Since then, the Brotherhood has sought to allay fears of local liberals as well as Egypt's Western allies about an Islamist takeover by saying it would not field its own candidate for president. Elections are set for May 23-24.

That appears to have changed. Mahmoud Hussein, the Brotherhood’s general secretary, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his group has been “forced to consider the option of fielding a candidate from its own ranks.”

Besides rejecting its demand for a new Cabinet, Hussein charged that the generals are working behind the scenes to persuade presidential candidates to turn down Brotherhood support.

“When we reach out to some people, they either refuse because they feel they are not up to the mission or they come under pressure from the military council,” he said. He declined to give names.

Another factor is that younger Brotherhood members are disobeying the group’s leadership by supporting a former Brotherhood leader, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, who was expelled from the movement after he announced his decision to join the race.

Abolfotoh, a strong presidential hopeful, also has the backing of some liberals, who see him as a reformer.

For the Muslim Brotherhood to field a candidate after expelling Abolfotoh for defying its ban on running would be seen as double standards, said Essam Sultan, a lawmaker from the Wasat, or Centrist, party.

“The Brotherhood is in real crisis over the tremendous support Abolfotoh has among its youth, but it will be in a double crisis if tries to solve this by fielding” another candidate, Sultan said.

The name of the Brotherhood’s deputy chairman, Khairat el-Shater, has been mentioned in local media as the group's likely candidate.

Critics warn the Brotherhood against taking too much on itself just a year after it emerged from decades of operating in the shadows as an illegal organization.

“It would be a fatal mistake, because they would be faced with huge challenges,” said Mohammed Habib, a former deputy leader of the group who quit last year, citing the group's undemocratic policies.

The ruling military council has presidential powers to dismiss Cabinets and form new ones. Under Egypt’s interim constitution, the parliament doesn’t have the power to take a no-confidence vote in the military’s hand-picked government.

In heated parliament sessions, the Brotherhood along with other political parties have harshly criticized Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, a 78-year-old Mubarak-era premier, for failing politically, economically and even over internal security.

El-Ganzouri, appointed in November by the military council, has taken criticism for ineffective handling of explosive issues such as a political spat between Egypt and the United States over U.S.-funded democracy groups, a deadly soccer stadium riot that killed at least 74 people, a surge of armed robberies and other crimes and periodic shortages of fuel and cooking gas.

Sultan said that the government is “fabricating” crises such as fuel shortages in an attempt to reduce the Brotherhood's support among the people.

“The military council, through its government, is telling the people, ‘look, your representatives are not able to solve your problems,’” Sultan said. 

Qaeda gunmen kidnap, kill Yemen intelligence officer

A Yemeni military official confirmed to AFP that “Qaeda militants” had killed a kidnapped intelligence officer by cutting his throat. (File photo) 

Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen killed a Yemeni intelligence officer by cutting his throat after kidnapping him at Mukalla, capital of the southeastern Hadramawt province, a police official told AFP. 

“Commander Faraj Saeed al-Odsani was snatched (Wednesday) afternoon from a road near Mukalla airport by Qaeda gunmen who drove him towards the nearby province of Shabwa,” a Qaeda stronghold, the official said.

Security forces chased the kidnappers and traded gunfire as they fled, said the official, who added that a policeman was wounded and the extremists’ car was damaged in the exchanges.

“The Qaeda militants escaped into nearby farms while the commander was found with his throat cut in the car, which they abandoned,” he said.

A military official confirmed to AFP that “Qaeda militants” had killed a kidnapped intelligence officer by cutting his throat.

The Islamists have exploited the weakening central government in Sanaa to strengthen their presence in Yemen, launching deadly attacks against security forces especially across the restive south and southeast.

The United States says the Yemen-based Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, is the most active branch of the global extremist network. 

EU to ban Asmaa al-Assad from shopping trips after email leaks

European Union states are set to impose a shopping and travel ban on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s wife this week, following the recent publication of several emails obtained by Al Arabiya from the couple’s inboxes.

Asmaa al-Assad became the focus of media attention last week when the emails revealed extravagant purchases under alias emails during the ongoing civil conflict in Syria that has resulted in thousands of deaths since March 2011.
The trove of 3,000 emails came from the private accounts of the ruling couple which were passed by opposition activists to Al Arabiya and other media outlets.

The EU had previously responded to Syria’s violence with a broad range of sanctions, which include a ban on Syrian oil imports to Europe and measures against the Syrian central bank and other companies and state institutions.

But these international sanctions had forced Mrs. Assad to shop online with an alias she used to ask friends to collect jewelry from Paris and receive a delivery of furniture from a friendly shipping company in Dubai. Meanwhile, several emails revealed that the furniture was delivered to a specific address in a Gulf Arab country, but not Syria.

On Friday, the European bloc is expected to take new steps. Foreign ministers are set to agree on a new round of measures, the bloc’s 13th, and impose asset freezes and bans on travel to the EU against 12 people, include Asmaa.

For Mrs. Assad, the bans will mean she will no longer be able to travel to the EU or buy products from EU-based companies, in her own name.

“The text (of sanctions) has gone through,” said one EU diplomat, referring to an agreement reached by envoys in Brussels to a list of new sanctions. Another diplomat confirmed Assad’s wife is included in the list of sanctioned individuals, according to Reuters.

President Assad’s inbox also revealed his fondness for purchasing electronics and mobile applications. He received numerous emails from Apple confirming his purchase of iPad and iPhone applications. One of those emails showed that Assad had bought a game adapted from the famous Harry Potter movies.

Asmaa, a British-born former investment banker who had once cultivated an image of a woman inspired by Western values, has become a hate figure for many Syrians.

She has stood by her husband during a year-long crackdown on the popular unrest in which the U.N. says at least 8,000 people have died.

However, despite the seemingly normal life of the First Couple, under the ongoing crisis, the leaked emails showed that the First Lady was slightly worried.

She kept buying bullet proof vests; she held contacts with a fashion-designing company for lining normal clothes with bullet proof material. She later chose some of these designs and emailed them to President Assad for his review.

New foot and mouth disease strain hits Egypt

A new strain of foot and mouth disease (FMD) has hit Egypt and threatens to spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, jeopardizing food security in the region, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday.

There have been 40,222 suspected cases of the disease in Egypt and 4,658 animals, mostly calves, have already died, the FAO said in a statement citing official estimates.

“Although foot-and-mouth disease has circulated in the country for some years, this is an entirely new introduction of a virus strain known as SAT2, and livestock have no immune protection against it,” the Rome-based agency said.
Vaccines are urgently needed as 6.3 million buffalo and cattle and 7.5 million sheep and goats are at risk in Egypt, the FAO said.

“The area around the Lower Nile Delta appears to be severely affected, while other areas in Upper Egypt and the west appear less so,” Juan Lubroth, FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer, said, calling for strong action to prevent the spread of the disease.

FMD is a highly infectious and sometimes fatal disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo and pigs. FMD is not a direct threat to humans.

Meat and milk from sick animals are unsafe for consumption, not because FMD affects humans, but because foodstuffs entering the food chain should only come from animals that are known to be healthy, the FAO said.

Egypt has some reserves of its own vaccines, but these do not protect against the SAT2 strain. The country could need regional support in mobilizing effective ones, the FAO said.

With vaccines sometimes taking up to two weeks to confer immunity, joint efforts to boost biosecurity measures to limit the spread of the disease are urgently needed, said the FAO whose emergency team visited Egypt last week.

Such measures include limiting animal movements and avoiding contact with animals from other farms; avoiding purchasing animals in the immediate term since they could have come from contaminated sources, preferably by burning carcasses.

West Bank farmers frightened away from water springs by Israeli settlers

According to a report issued by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel controls 30 out of 56 water springs located near the West Bank settlements while the rest are threatened with seizure by Israeli settlers. (File photo)
According to a report issued by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel controls 30 out of 56 water springs located near the West Bank settlements while the rest are threatened with seizure by Israeli settlers. (File photo)

Constant attacks by Israeli settlers have made a large portion of West Bank farmers unable to irrigate their land from springs around their villages amid concerns over the increased control exercised by the occupation on the water resources in the Palestinian territories.

“I was attacked by dozens of settlers while getting water from a spring next to a land I rented,” Amjad Mazloum, from the village of al-Janiya in west Ramallah, told Al Arabiya.

Mazloum added that they smashed his car and told him that both the spring and the land are theirs.

“This is not the first time they’ve done that. They always come at the end of the week and they are always armed.”
Settlers, Mazloum pointed out, are now partially controlling the spring and have started coming to bathe in it on regular basis.

“Very soon they will have full control on it.”

The increased infringement of settlers on Palestinian water rights forebodes an imminent crisis that might leave land owned and cultivated by West Bank farmers in a state of drought, said Ayman Jarar of the Palestinian Water Authority.

“Israel is waging an unprecedented war on water resources in the Palestinian territories,” he told Al Arabiya.

Jarar added that since 1995, Israel has not permitted Palestinians to get the amounts of water they need even from territories under the full control of the Palestinian Authority.

“Eventually this will lead to the desertification of Palestinian land.”

Israel, Jarar noted, has already seized 350 artesian wells and is preventing Palestinians from using other available resources.

“They are not allowing us to use the water of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River.”

Added to this, said Jarar, many of the wells under Palestinian control have dried out.

“This means that our share of water is diminishing drastically.”

Jarar explained that the water share of each Palestinian individual is estimated at 70 liters per day compared to 320 for each Israeli settler and 230 for each Israeli citizen.

“This means that a settler gets four times and half more than a Palestinian.”
Jarar stated that the water one Palestinian gets is a lot less than international standards while an Israeli settler gets a lot more.

“According to the World Health Organization, the amount of water an individual requires to satisfy all daily needs is estimated at 150 liters.”

According to Jarar, Palestinians get only 15 percent of renewable water sources in Palestine and which is estimated at 2,600 million liters in total.
“Half of this 15 percent we get from wells under our control and the other half we buy from Israel,” he concluded.

According to a report issued by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israel controls 30 out of 56 water springs located near the West Bank settlements while the rest are threatened with seizure by Israeli settlers who keep scaring Palestinian farmers away with constant armed attacks.

Settlers, the report added, have started renovating the areas around those springs in preparation for turning them into national parks for their own use despite the fact that Israel itself admits that 84 percent of the seized wells are owned by Palestinians.

The report called for putting settlers on trial for infringement on Palestinian water rights, construction work without permit, and the terrorization of peaceful civilians. Those acts, the report explained, are not only criminalized by international law but also by Israeli law.

Israeli authorities, however, have not responded to those demands and no measures have so far been taken against the settlers.