Thursday, August 30, 2012

Seven dead in Iraq as Qaeda claims attacks

Attacks in Baghdad and north Iraq on Wednesday killed seven people, including a general, as Al-Qaeda's front group claimed to have carried out nearly 150 strikes on security forces over the summer.

The unrest came a day after after six soldiers were killed nationwide, including a colonel, as insurgents have sought to target senior security officials with assassinations of three top officers in as many days.
In Baghdad, gunmen killed an Iraqi general on Wednesday morning, security and medical officials said.
The murder of Brigadier General Nadhim Tayeh, the head of police emergency responders in west Baghdad, followed an ambush on the convoy of an army colonel a day earlier and the shooting of a border guards brigadier general in the city on Monday.
"Several armed men opened fire with silenced pistols against Brigadier General Nadhim Tayeh and killed him immediately while he was driving his private car and wearing civilian clothes," an interior ministry official said.
A medic at Karkh hospital confirmed Tayeh's assassination.
Armed men using silenced pistols also shot dead a policeman near Al-Nida mosque in north Baghdad, the interior ministry official and a doctor at Al-Kindi hospital said.
Another shooting in east Baghdad left a Sunni sheikh dead, according to security and medical officials.
A spate of bombings in the disputed northern province of Kirkuk, meanwhile, killed four policemen and wounded six other members of the security forces, police and doctor Abdullah Hassan from Kirkuk city's main hospital said.
Three policemen were killed and three others were wounded by a roadside bomb targeting the convoy of police Brigadier General Sarhad Qader in Kirkuk province, as it passed through Al-Riyadh town southwest of the eponymous provincial capital.
Qader himself escaped unscathed.
Two separate bombings in southern Kirkuk city, meanwhile, killed one policeman and wounded three security force members – a policeman and two Kurdish peshmerga members.
The latest deaths took to 272 the number of people killed in nationwide attacks so far in August, including 107 members of the security forces, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials.
Violence has significantly decreased in Iraq compared to the brutal years of 2006 and 2007, but attacks are still common.
Al-Qaeda's front group the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), meanwhile, claimed in a statement posted on jihadist forums on Tuesday that it was behind 163 attacks in June and July, 148 of which were against police and soldiers, with several others targeting the Sahwa, a Sunni tribal militia.
The claim could not be independently verified.
It comes after the ISI declared a campaign last month to retake territory it had abandoned in the years since the worst of the sectarian bloodshed in the country.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is regarded by Iraqi officials as significantly weaker than at the peak of its strength in 2006 and 2007, but it is still capable of carrying out spectacular mass-casualty attacks.

Syria accuses Egypt of inciting bloodshed

Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi of using his speech at the Non-Aligned summit in Tehran on Thursday to incite further bloodshed in Syria.
Morsi's speech condemning the regime in Damascus, prompting a walkout by the Syrian delegation, amounted to "interference in Syria's internal affairs and ... incites continued bloodshed in Syria," Muallem said, quoted on state television.

Saudi shot dead in Shiite village

Masked gunmen on a motorbike shot dead a Saudi man and wounded another in a Shiite village of the kingdom’s Eastern Province, a security official said on Wednesday.

The gunmen opened fire at the two men late Tuesday near Al-Reef roundabout in Awamiya, a village in Qatif district, local police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ziad al-Rukayti said.

Police were investigating the incident, he said, as locals said the attack appeared to be criminally motivated rather than linked to troubles between Shiites and security forces in the region.

The predominantly Sunni kingdom's two-million-strong Shiite minority is mainly concentrated in the sensitive Eastern Province.

A policeman and an armed protester died in clashes earlier this month, the interior ministry said, and two Shiite protesters were killed in July, triggering attacks on government buildings in Qatif.

Palestinian farmers ordered to leave lands

Israeli authorities have given Palestinian farmers living in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank, to uproot palm trees they have grown and leave agricultural lands within 45 days.
The orders came in the form of letters sent to the farmers in an area known as “Area C” and gave the farmers an October 7 deadline to vacate their lands.  
Shawkat Housheyeh, a farmer who received an official warning letter to uproot his palm trees told Reuters news agency that the measure threatened the livelihood of thousands of farm workers in the Jericho area.
He called on the Palestinian Authority to fight the Israeli threat to Palestinians working on farms in the 3,000 dunams (about 741 acres) of Dier Hijlah and al-Zour.
"I hope that the [Palestinian] Authority will announce an emergency situation because this [the orders] threatens the 2,000 to 3,000 workers who work in this area," Housheyeh said.
Under the terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords, parts of the West Bank are under full or partial control of the Palestinian Authority.
"Area C" falls under full Israeli civil and military jurisdiction. It envelops settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967.
Palestinian Minister of Agriculture Walid Assaf recently visited Jericho and gave assurances that the Palestinian Authority would fight the Israeli authorities' warning to farmers.
“This is a great achievement for the Palestinian farmers in the (Jordan) Valley area as it was a barren land transferred to farms,” Assaf said.
“We should build on this achievement and we will never allow it to be destroyed," Assaf said.
In a written statement to Reuters, COGAT - a unit within the Israeli defence ministry which administers the West Bank - said palm trees in the Jericho area had been planted illegally because they were grown on land the ownership of which was still to be established.
COGAT stated that farmers on these lands were illegally drilling wells and syphoning off water from Israeli hoses. 

23 terrorist suspects arrested, 11 killed in 'Operation Eagle': Defence ministry

The Egyptian armed forces have arrested 23 suspected terrorists and killed 11 in the Sinai Peninsula during an operation to restore calm in the region following a terrorist attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards on 5 August, a military official revealed in a statement on Egyptian TV early Wednesday morning.
During Operation Eagle the armed forces have confiscated a large amount of ammunition, including four machine guns, five boxes of Israeli ammunition, six hand grenades, five anti-tank mines and a BM-21 launch vehicle, according to the statement.

Troops will be redeployed throughout Sinai to restore security in the area, the statement concluded.

Operation Eagle began on 7 August, two days after 16 border guards were killed by unidentified assailants in an incident that laid bare the deteriorating security situation in the Sinai Peninsula since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

The operation, which was originally aimed at securing vital establishments in the Sinai Peninsula, became a combat engagement with militants that will continue until "all terrorist and criminal activity is quashed."

Free Syrian Army claims downed fighter jet in Idlib

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed Thursday that it had downed a Syrian military fighter jet in the northwestern province of Idlib.

In the video, which was exclusively obtained by Al Arabiya, a crowd of Syrian rebels shout “Allah Akbar” -- “God is great” -- as the airplane falls from the sky, billowing smoke.
Smoke swirls as the fighter jet, downed by the Free Syrian Army, descends in the northwestern city of Idlib. (Al Arabiya)
Smoke swirls as the fighter jet, downed by the Free Syrian Army, descends in the northwestern city of Idlib. (Al Arabiya)
Two pilots can be seen in the video, descending in parachutes after ejecting from the jet.

The FSA also claimed on Thursday that it had destroyed 11 helicopters and a number of tanks around Tiftiaz military airport, in the northern city of Aleppo, where there has been heavy fighting between the resistance and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The rebel forces on Wednesday started targeting the airport, which is considered to be one of the largest bases in the country for military helicopters.

The Syrian army has been bombarding the less heavily armed rebels with helicopters and jets as they fight for control of the country, inflicting large casualties.

On Monday, Syrian opposition fighters made headlines when they downed a helicopter in Damascus.

Morsi criticises Syria at Tehran meeting

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has said it is an "ethical duty" to support the Syrian people against the "oppressive regime" in Damascus.
His speech at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran on Thursday prompted a walkout by the Syrians.
"Our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty as it is a political and strategic necessity," Morsi said.
"We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom."
Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from the summit, said: "Morsi's comments have caused an unease feeling, especially for the Iranians who are close to Syria."
Morsi's visit to Iran is the first by an Egyptian leader since 1979.
NAM was established in 1961 by countries that wanted to counterbalance the dominance of the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War.
It meets once every three years but its relevance on the international stage has declined significantly since the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union.
The crisis in Syria is on the agenda for the two-day summit, as are human rights and nuclear disarmament.
'Overt dicatorship'
Earlier Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, opened the summit by attacking the "overt dictatorship" of the UN Security Council in a speech.
"The UN Security Council has an irrational, unjust and utterly undemocratic structure, and this is an overt dictatorship," he said.
Iran is in a showdown with the UN over its disputed nuclear programme, which has resulted in four sets of Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on it for pursuing uranium enrichment.
Khamenei charged that "the control room of the world [the Security Council] is under the control of the dictatorship of some Western countries" - implying the permanent council members France, Britain and US.
State television showed Ban looking nonplussed as Khamenei delivered his speech.
The NAM has long championed a reform of the UN to take power away from the Security Council and bolster the say of the General Assembly, where its members are better represented.
Khamenei's criticism of the UN's top table followed a meeting he had with Ban on Wednesday in which the UN leader bluntly told Iran to take "concrete" steps to ease the showdown over the nuclear issue.
Nuclear issue
Khamenei also told delegates that "I insist that the Islamic Republic of Iran is never seeking nuclear weapons", calling them "a major and unforgivable sin".
But he said Iran would "never give up the right to peaceful nuclear energy".
Ban urged Iran to comply with UN resolutions, demanding it curb its nuclear activities, saying that heightened international rhetoric over the issue risked degenerating into "war".
He said Iran should build confidence in its nuclear programme by "fully complying with the relevant [UN] Security Council resolutions and thoroughly co-operating with the IAEA."
Otherwise, he cautioned, "a war of words can quickly spiral into a war of violence".
He arrived on Wednesday and met Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president.
Ban has not shied from drawing attention to Iran's human-rights record, expressing "serious concerns" about them.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office says he has dismissed the country's top intelligence official, a move that comes just as he prepares to name new defense and interior ministers.
The changes in three top jobs in Afghanistan's security apparatus come at a crucial time. The U.S.-led coalition is working closely with Afghan officials to train national security forces to fight Taliban insurgents after most international troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
A statement from Karzai's office Wednesday said Rahtamullah Nabil would leave his post as National Directorate of Security director. It said the decision came because Nabil had served out his two-year term. It did not name a replacement.
Earlier Wednesday, lawmaker Abdul Qadir Qalatwal said Karzai will nominate new Defense and Interior ministers "today or tomorrow."


MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Somalia's parliament Tuesday elected former labor minister Mohamed Osman Jawari as the new speaker, a key step toward the election of a president and the country's transition from a failed state to a nation with an effective government.
The process to select Somalia's next government has been criticized for corruption and threats of violence, international observers say. Nonetheless, some praise it as a watershed moment in the Horn of Africa nation's road to peace and stability.
While Somalia has had transitional administrations since 2004, it has not had a functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and turned on each other, plunging the impoverished nation into chaos.
The last day of the eight-year U.N.-backed transitional government was Aug. 20 and the U.N. wanted a new president in place by then. But political bickering, violent threats and seat-buying schemes delayed progress toward the selection and seating of 275 members of the new Parliament that will select a president.
Jawari was elected the speaker of Parliament on Tuesday by just 228 legislators.
A group of Somali elders has been tasked with selecting the full list of 275 parliamentarians, but the election of the speaker went ahead without the complete number.
Jawari was challenged by Ali Khalif Galaydh, who had been Somalia's prime minister in 2000-2001 but led in the first round of voting. Galaydh pulled out in the second round, saying he favored Jawari for the post and Jawari was then declared the winner.
The U.N. special representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, called Tuesday's election of a speaker "a moment of progress and optimism" and "an important step on the road to restoring accountable and participatory governance."
He said that some 260 members of Parliament have either been sworn in or are pending imminent ratification, and he urged that the 15 remaining lawmakers be selected and seated quickly so the election of a new president can take place "within 10 days."
Mahiga said the election of deputy speakers of Parliament will take place in the immediate future.
"The new federal Parliament must be allowed to exercise its authority with independence, transparency and free from undue influence and coercion," he said in a statement.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the final months of the transitional government were "fraught with setbacks" but also characterized by formidable Somali and international efforts to establish "a more legitimate and representative government with new leadership and representative government with new leadership and institutions."
He said the election of the speaker, deputy speakers and a president "will offer Somalia a leadership with a new mandate to continue working on the peace process and the reconstruction of the country."
But Ban predicted "a rough and unpredictable road ahead" and expressed serious concern at reports of "corrupt practices and intimidation by those seeking to influence the political process."
The secretary-general warned that "establishing and maintaining stability and security in Somalia will not be easy."
"Many spoilers fear that an orderly society with established institutions of governance and rule of law will compromise their ill-gained privileges," he said.
Ban urged Somalis "to rise up to the challenge and, jointly with their leaders, start building a peaceful and prosperous country."

FSA says military airport targeted in Aleppo; bomb hits funeral of Assad-supporters

Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons in the al-Amreeyeh neighborhood of Syria’s northwest city of Aleppo. (Reuters)
The Free Syrian Army on Wednesday said it has surrounded Tiftinaz military airport in the northern city of Aleppo and claimed the capture of a missile-warehouse in Damascus, Al Arabiya TV reported.

FSA on Wednesday said it targeted sites surrounding the military airport and added that the airport is considered to be one of the largest bases for military helicopters, the Sham News Network reported them as saying.

Later, Sham News Network said it has also targeted Abu al-Thuhour military airport and Nairib military camp in Aleppo as well.

Syrian regime’s missile-warehouse

Meanwhile, the rebel army broadcasted a video on YouTube, also shown on Al Arabiya on Wednesday claiming it to be a missile-warehouse belonging to the Syrian regime. It said it has seized 10 missiles it found in the captured warehouse located in the Ghuta area in eastern Damascus, home to some of the fiercest and best organized rebel groups.

“God is great! Ten missiles! Oh God!” said an unidentified cameraman filming missiles seized by rebel groups.

The amateur video posted on YouTube showed a tank burning in a field, as well as several armed men.

It also showed a warehouse storing missiles which the rebels apparently seized from the hands of the army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

On Monday, activists said that the Syrian regime’s forces have opened up a new front against the rebel army in and around Damascus to target key eastern areas.

The rebels, meanwhile, were trying to shift the battle against Assad’s forces back into Damascus while regime’s forces attempt to target the Ghuta area.

Activists say are operating under the name of the Gathering of Ansar al-Islam (partisans of Islam) Battalions from Ghuta area.

“The operation was staged by the Gathering of Ansar al-Islam, which works closely with the Military Council,” according to Ahmed al-Khatib, spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army’s Military Council for Damascus and its province.

“It is one of the largest (rebel) groups in the province, though it operates in other areas of the country too,” Khatib told AFP via Skype, who added that it comprised “several experts in missiles.”

Car bomb kills 27 of Assad supporters

In a related story, a car bomb that targeted a funeral killed 27 people Tuesday in the mainly Druze and Christian suburb of Jaramana on the southeastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, a watchdog said.

“The number of people killed in a funeral held for two supporters of (President Bashar al-Assad's) regime has risen to 27,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Hours earlier, state television had put the toll at 12, adding that another 48 were injured.

“At around 3 pm (1200 GMT), a funeral procession was making its way to the cemetery, when a car parked on the side of the road exploded, killing and injuring many people,” an army official told AFP.

The funeral was held for two supporters of Assad who were killed in a bomb attack on Monday, the Britain-based Observatory said.

The force of the blast completely destroyed the facade of one building, while others suffered heavy damage, an AFP photographer reported.

State media blamed rebel fighters for the bombing, which came amid an intensified bombardment by government troops of eastern districts of Damascus that shelter some of the FSA’s best organized battalions.

But the opposition Syrian National Council accused Assad’s regime of staging the bombing against its own supporters in a bid to divert attention from the killings of hundreds of people during an army assault last week on a largely Sunni Muslim suburb of the capital.

“The regime wants to cover up for its massacres,” SNC spokesman George Sabra said, alluding to the deaths in the town of Daraya that sparked an international outcry.

“It also wants to punish residents of Jaramana -- who are of mixed religious backgrounds -- for welcoming people who were displaced from nearby towns,” Sabra told AFP by telephone.

“The regime’s fingerprints are clear,” charged Sabra, himself a Christian. “The regime does not want anyone to welcome refugees from other cities. And it wants to turn the revolution... into a bloody civil war fought along sectarian lines.”

Some 80 percent of Syrians are Sunni Muslim, while around 10 percent belong to Assad’s Alawite community, five percent are Christian, three percent Druze and one percent Ismaili.

The opposition draws much of its support from the Sunni majority, who have borne the brunt of the government’s deadly crackdown.


CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's state news agency says prosecutors have charged one of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak's most trusted men with corruption.
MENA quoted a judicial official as saying on Wednesday that Safwat el-Sherif, Mubarak's minister of information for nearly two decades, illegally appropriated villas, lands and apartments originally owned by the state. The official said Sherif had also received gifts worth millions of Egyptian pounds from chief editors in the state media in return for keeping them in their positions.
The charges are the latest allegation to emerge about Mubarak's regime, whose reputation for corruption was one of the main drivers behind the uprising that forced him from power last year.
El-Sherif, the official says, will have to pay 900 million Egyptian pounds in fines - nearly 1.5 million dollars.


ISTANBUL (AP) -- In 2003, Turkey barred U.S. forces from opening a northern front in the war against Iraq in a stunning rebuff to Washington that raised questions about whether the politically powerful Turkish military had undercut a civilian-led initiative to help the Americans. As Turkey and its allies mull possible intervention in Syria, the Turkish military, broken as a political force, is likely to move in step with the civilian commanders it once viewed with disdain.
Questions about the military of NATO member Turkey are critical to international debate about how to handle Syria, now locked in civil war, because any move by an allied coalition to impose a no-fly zone or a buffer zone to protect displaced Syrians from attack by regime forces would rely heavily on troops in Turkey, which shares a long border with Syria. Such intervention with a U.N. mandate does not appear imminent, but Turkey, which hosts about 80,000 Syrian refugees, says it is approaching the limit of its capacity to provide shelter on its side of the border.
Turkey is also concerned that Kurdish militants are taking advantage of the chaos in Syria to organize there, deepening a threat to national security for Turkish officials who blamed a deadly bombing near the Syrian border on Aug. 20 on the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. In such a fragile context, the Turkish government and the military, which once sparred openly over the direction of the country, need each other and have forged a means of cohabitation - with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the boss - amid the traditional mistrust.
"What's really exited the scene in terms of civilian-military relations is that sense of hostility," said Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "That's really new."
He said the two sides listen to each other in a way that they did not before, and speculated that the military could be "putting mild breaks" on the government in terms of what may be militarily feasible if the moment for intervention comes. Turkey's decision to open its borders to refugees, while lauded on humanitarian grounds, has drawn some criticism from some opposition figures who say authorities can no longer thoroughly monitor whether militants are operating in the area.
Hundreds of active and retired military officers are in jail on charges of plotting to overthrow the democratically elected government, which is led by pious Muslims suspected by opponents of seeking to dilute secular ideals imposed by Turkey's national founder, former army officer Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The arrests raised concerns about morale in the mostly conscript force as well as its effectiveness as a fighting force, but the new military commander, Gen. Necdet Ozel, is regarded as a cooperative professional untainted by alleged links to military coups over the decades.
The relationship was tense in 2003, when Turkey's parliament rejected a resolution that would have allowed American forces to invade Iraq from Turkish land in the campaign against dictator Saddam Hussein. Newly elected Erdogan had backed the resolution despite its unpopularity, while the military - still a big factor in Turkish politics - did not robustly support it, a factor that some analysts cited as contributing to its failure.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Istanbul earlier this month as part of efforts to coordinate Syria policy with Turkey, which supports the Syrian opposition and acts as a conduit for supplies to anti-Assad groups. Senior diplomatic, military and intelligence officials from both sides met last week to go over detailed operational plans for "the full range of contingencies," according to the U.S. State Department.
Turkey and its allies are averse to intervening in Syria because of fears it could ignite a wider conflict, though Turkish government rhetoric against Syria has been among the harshest, notably after the deaths of two Turkish pilots whose jet was shot down when Syria claimed the plane was violating its airspace. Turkey disputes Syria's claims, and the Turkish military continues its investigation.
In the wake of that incident, Cagaptay said, Turkey may have "slowed down its rhetorical response" at the urging of the U.S., "realizing that it could be left alone in a conflict situation against the Assad regime."
Henri Barkey, a Turkey analyst at Lehigh University in the United States, said the Turkish military "would not mind doing something heroically and therefore cleanse their image," but he noted that it is already burdened by a low-level war with Kurdish rebels who seek self-rule. That conflict has dragged on since the 1980s without a clear result, and there are questions about whether Turkey can handle the threat from Syrian forces armed with jets and tanks, even if they are overstretched with their fight against the Syrian insurgency.
Additionally, there is no public clamor in Turkey for intervention in Syria, and a general aversion to casualties, particularly when it comes to the idea of Turkish soldiers dying to protect Syrian civilians. Turkey, Barkey said, has yet to find a strong enough justification to go into Syria without the participation of a multilateral or U.N.-sanctioned force, and its military, stripped of political clout, is on board with that cautious perspective.
"They are now subservient to the civilians and there's a very funny way in which Erdogan is now emerging as a protector of the military," he said. In this new scenario, according to Barkey, the prime minister views the military "no longer as a potential opponent but rather a child in his ward."
Against the backdrop of worries over intervention in Syria, the Istanbul funeral this month for Ozkan Atesli, a Turkish soldier killed by alleged Kurdish rebels in an attack on a military vehicle, reflected the national sense of exhaustion and bitterness at the seemingly open-ended conflict that has afflicted Turkey for so long.
Egeman Bagis, a government minister, arrived at a mosque to pay his respects at the ceremony. According to video posted by the Hurriyet Daily News newspaper, a distraught woman interrupts: "We are in great pain. We feel like revolting."
"This is a place to pray, not to revolt," Bagis says. "Ozkan needs our prayers now."

Deported Bahraini activist decries 'intimidation' by Cairo airport authorities

Bahraini activist Miriam Al-Khawaja, who was denied entry into Egypt and deported from Cairo International Airport on Sunday, has accused airport security officers of "intimidating" her prior to her deportation the same day.

"My Egyptian attorney insisted on knowing why I was considered a 'threat' to Egypt's national security, and how they [they authorities] could deny me entry after stamping my passport," Al-Khawaja said in an open letter to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
"We were told that, if I refused to leave voluntarily, I would be forcibly deported to Bahrain,'' the activist added. "To intimidate me further, I was also informed that the Bahraini government had issued an arrest warrant for me."
Al-Khawaja is a prominent Bahraini human rights activist and head of the foreign relations office of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). The BCHR was originally founded by her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is currently serving a life sentence in Bahrain for so-called crimes against the state.
She was deported from Cairo International Airport on Sunday within hours of her arrival to Egypt. Airport security sources had told Egyptian state news agency MENA that Al-Khawaja's name had been put on the airport's entrance-ban list by Egyptian security authorities.
Al-Khawaja had come close to being deported during a previous visit to Egypt in April, but Cairo airport security had ended up allowing her entry into the country at the last minute.
"Not long ago, Mr. President, you were personally on the receiving end of these arbitrary and unjust practices as a dissident," Al-Khawaja's letter read. "I respectfully ask you today, sir, as a fellow Arab: How can such blatant disregard for the law and basic human dignities continue under your watch?"
She added: "As the acting president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, I write to inform you that I am gravely concerned, as a human rights defender, by the unjust and hostile treatment I was subjected to in the Cairo airport."
Following last year's Tahrir Square uprising, a number of activists and journalists were banned from entering Egypt for undisclosed security reasons, a practice that had been routinely employed by the authoritarian regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
President Morsi – who hails from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood – was sworn in as the country's first freely-elected head of state on 30 June after winning Egypt's first post-Mubarak presidential election.
During the Mubarak era, Morsi was detained by security forces on more than one occasion due to his association with the Brotherhood, which had been formally outlawed since the 1950s. Membership in the group was finally decriminalised in the wake of Mubarak's ouster.

West urges Arabs not to target Israel at U.N. nuclear meet

Western envoys are urging Arab states not to berate Israel over its assumed nuclear arsenal at the U.N. atomic agency’s annual conference, fearing this could imperil wider efforts for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, diplomats say.

A senior diplomat said Arab countries would criticize Israel but were divided over whether to submit a resolution on the issue to next month’s annual General Conference of the United Nations’ 154-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a surprise move at last year’s IAEA gathering, the Arab group refrained from singling out Israel in this way in what was called a “goodwill gesture” ahead of planned talks in 2012 on creating a zone without nuclear arms in the Middle East.
Israel welcomed this as a “positive” move, in a rare conciliatory exchange in an otherwise heated debate that underlined deep Arab-Israeli divisions on nuclear issues.

Diplomats said Arab states had not yet decided whether to propose a non-binding but symbolically important draft text criticizing “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” at this year’s week-long meeting that starts on Sept. 17.

They expressed concern that an Arab move against Israel would discourage the Jewish state from attending the talks due to be held later this year on a nuclear arms-free Middle East.

An Egyptian plan for an international meeting to lay the groundwork for the possible creation of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction was agreed at a review conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2010.

Bruising battle

But the Western official organizing the conference, Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava, said in May he had yet to secure the needed attendance of all countries in the region.

It was a sign of the difficulties involved in getting Israel, its arch-foe Iran and other Middle East nations to sit around a table this year to discuss the divisive issue.

“It is a very fragile process that needs to be launched,” one European diplomat said. “Singling out Israel would not at all be helpful, would be counterproductive.”

Israel is widely believed to possess the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, drawing frequent Arab and Iranian condemnation.

The Jewish state is the only Middle Eastern country outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Israel and the United States regard Iran as the world’s main proliferation threat, accusing Tehran of covertly seeking a nuclear arms capability, something the Islamic state denies.

Arab states scored a diplomatic victory in 2009 when IAEA members narrowly endorsed a resolution urging Israel to join the NPT and place all its atomic sites under agency supervision.

Brought up again in 2010 to keep up pressure on Israel, the resolution was defeated after a bruising diplomatic battle, in which Washington and its allies argued that zeroing in on Israel would harm any hope of banning nuclear arms in the region.

In June this year, Arab states asked for the “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” issue to be put on the conference agenda, but it remains unclear whether they will follow that with a proposed resolution or refrain, as they did in 2011.

Israel’s refusal to become party to the NPT or to place its nuclear installations under IAEA safeguards is “exposing the region to nuclear risks and threatening peace,” they said.

Israel has never confirmed or denied having nuclear weapons under a policy of ambiguity aimed at deterrence.

It says it would only join the NPT after a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement. If it signed the 1970 NPT pact, it would have to renounce nuclear weaponry.

An Arab resolution aimed at Israel would “undermine any genuine attempt to promote confidence and security in the Middle East,” Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. nuclear body, Ehud Azoulay, said in a letter to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

U.N. chief arrives in Iran for the non-aligned summit: official

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tehran on Wednesday on the eve of a two-day summit of Non-Aligned Movement states, the Iranian government media service and state media said.

Ban was to see Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and other officials later Wednesday, according to state media.

On Thursday and Friday, he was to attend the NAM summit as an observer, at Ahmadinejad’s invitation.

His presence has been criticized by the United States and Israel, which are locked in a showdown with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

The summit is to gather leaders and senior officials from 120 states which account for nearly two-thirds of the U.N. member countries.

A spokesman for Ban said on Tuesday that the U.N. secretary general would press Iran’s leaders over “urgent” issues troubling the international community, particularly the Islamic republic’s nuclear activities and human rights record.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Iran 'will never stop' uranium enrichment: official

Iran "will never stop" its controversial uranium enrichment, the country's envoy to the IAEA said on Tuesday, on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement ministerial meeting in Tehran.
"Our enrichment activities will never stop and we are justified in carrying them out, and we will continue to do so under IAEA supervision," Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters.
"We will not give up our inalienable right to enrichment," he said.
The defiant reaffirmation of Iran's position underscored a showdown between the Islamic republic and the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, and the UN Security Council.
The Security Council has repeatedly demanded Iran cease its uranium enrichment and has imposed four sets of sanctions on the country, which have been greatly reinforced by separate US and EU sanctions.
The five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, also this year engaged in three rounds of face-to-face negotiations with Iran on the issue, but they ended in an impasse, with contact downgraded to telephone calls between Iranian and EU officials.
Iran's enrichment is to again be raised this week, when the IAEA is expected to release its latest report based on its ongoing inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.
Some of the report's findings have already been leaked to Israeli and US media, mainly those confirming a July 25 statement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that hundreds more uranium enrichment centrifuges had been installed.
Iran's refusal to allow inspectors into a military base outside Tehran, Parchin, could also form part of the report.
Western diplomats last week told AFP that months of clean-up work detected at Parchin suggested the site had been "sanitized" to such an extent that a nuclear inspection would now be pointless.
Soltanieh responded by saying that Parchin "has been blown out of proportion" and said claims of nuclear warhead design tests there were "fabricated by foreign intelligence."
He said Iran was demanding to see the documents the IAEA was using to pursue its suspicions about Parchin and urged the agency to "close this chapter."
He also said Iran has complained to the IAEA about the leaks.
On Iran's intent to continue enriching uranium, Soltanieh noted that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA's statutes made no explicit mention of levels of enrichment.
"The level of enrichment and how much to enrich has not been fixed in either of those. There is no limitation," he said.
"Everything we do is under the supervision of the agency," he stressed.
The United States and its Western allies, and Israel, suspect that Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons "break-out" capability.
Iran denies that, saying its nuclear programme is purely for civilian use.

Morsi's spokesperson says change in foreign policy is underway

Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali says that Egypt's post-January 25 foreign policy under a new president will be different from that under the Mubarak regime.

In a press conference held on Sunday with foreign reporters, Ali stated that President Mohamed Morsi's visit to China aims at creating opportunities for deepening economic relations between the two countries, while the visit to Iran is to attend the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement summit to transfer the bloc's rotating leadership to Iran.
President Morsi is heading to China on Monday for a three-day visit, before he heads to Iran on 30 August.
With regard to his visit to China, Morsi's spokesperson denied that there was any intention of discussing the building of new dams in the Nile basin.
Ali also added that Egypt's initiative to hold talks with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran comes from its refusal to see more bloodshed in Syria. He explained that it was necessary to include Iran, because it is a key actor in the crisis.
On Sunday, Egyptian officials unveiled a plan to resolve the Syrian issue through bringing together all elements involved, including Iran, a key supporter of the Assad regime.
President Mohamed Morsi is also scheduled to visit the United States on 24 September to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
The spokesperson further added that Morsi is planning to visit a number of Latin American countries including Brazil.
Ali stressed that Egypt's foreign policy will be crafted according to the principles of the January 25 Revolution, aiming at pushing Egypt's economy forward, and reconsidering how best to achieve Egypt's national security.

Yemen presidential advisor says survives attack

An advisor to Yemen’s president said he survived an apparent assassination attempt on Monday when armed men opened fire on a car carrying him in Sanaa.

The impoverished Arabian Peninsula state has been in turmoil since an uprising last year which eventually forced veteran ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in February.

“The car stopped at a road block thinking it was a checkpoint, but then armed man tried to storm the car. When the driver sped off they opened fire,” Yassin Said Noman told Reuters.

Islamist militants gained ground during the unrest, that was inspired by revolts across the Arab world, taking control of some towns in south Yemen.

The army, with backing from the United States, has forced them out of some areas this year but they have hit back with a series of suicide bombings targeting government institutions.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen and has also attempted to stage operations in neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Noman is head of Yemeni Socialist Party and one of three advisors to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who succeeded Saleh.

The minister of transport, another socialist party official, escaped an assassination attempt on Saturday in the southern port city Aden.

President Morsi considering new emergency laws: Justice Minister

President Mohamed Morsi is considering new emergency laws to combat thuggery, Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki has told MENA, the state news agency.
The president has the right to impose an emergency law against thugs, Mekki had earlier told Al-Gareeda newspaper, and such measures would be popular.
The emergency law will be discussed with rights activists and civil society organisations, he added.
Such a law could allow the president to impose a state of emergency for one week and allow law enforcement officers to arrest those who threaten public safety, Mekki said.
The law would not be used to stifle freedom of expression like the Mubarak-era emergency law, he said.
In addition, negotiations are taking place between the government and media representatives about new media laws, which would impose administrative and financial punishments on journalists and newspapers as an alternative to jail terms.
Journalists have recently condemned what they describe as attacks on freedom of expression. Tawfiq Okasha, talk show host and head of the Fareen satellite channel, was convicted of inciting violence against the president in early August and his channel was forcibly closed down.
Moreover, editors-in-chief at state-owned newspapers were replaced in a major reshuffle in early August. A number of their replacements were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group of which President Morsi was a prominent figure before his election.
Emergency laws were in place throughout the 30-year reign of former president Hosni Mubarak. Abolishing such laws was among the key demands of the January 2011 uprising. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) cancelled the laws during its period of rule.

Air strikes near Damascus kill dozens

Activists say Syrian fighter jets made rare sorties on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, killing at least 60 people in its eastern suburbs, the same day a Syrian military helicopter crashed while under rebel fire.
They said aerial attacks by at least two fighter jets late on Monday targeted the neighbourhood of Zamalka, and the more easterly suburb of Saqba, where Free Syrian Army fighters had attacked and overrun several army checkpoints earlier in the day.
Both suburbs are poor and inhabited predominantly by Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority of Syria's population and have been at the forefront of the fighting against  Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president.
Video footage seen by a Reuters news agency reporter of the aftermath of an attack by one of the jets firing rockets at an apartment building showed people running away with their children and the six-storey building collapsing like an accordion.
Monday's air raids came as Turkish officials say up to 10,000 Syrians are waiting on the Syrian side of the border while Turkey rushes to build more camps to accommodate the influx and carries out more stringent security checks on the newcomers.
Clashes return to Damascus
The focus of the 17-month struggle appears to have returned to the outskirts of Damascus after weeks of battles centred on the northern city of Aleppo.
Activists also reported that a bombing in a Damascus suburb on Monday night, which killed two people, described as regime loyalists; and an improvised explosive device that went off in the suburb of Jaramana, injuring several.
Opposition activists said at least 62 people were killed in an assault on the suburbs of Damascus on Monday, some summarily executed.
The crackdown occurred a day after they accused Assad's troops and pro-government militias of massacring hundreds of people in the neighbouring town of Daraya.
At the UN, Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, condemned the Daraya killings as "an appalling and brutal crime" that should be independently investigated immediately.
Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi, preparing to make his debut on the stage of world diplomacy, called on Monday for Assad's allies to help push the Syrian leader out of power.
"Now is the time to stop this bloodshed and for the Syrian people to regain their full rights, and for this regime that kills its people to disappear from the scene," he told Reuters in his first interview with an international news organisation before embarking on a trip to China and Iran.
"There is no room to talk about reform, but the discussion is about change," Mursi said.
Helicopter downed
Syria's state television confirmed that a helicopter had crashed in Damascus on Monday but gave no further details.
Opposition activists said rebels had shot it down; video footage showed a crippled aircraft burning up and crashing into a built-up area, sending up a pillar of black smoke.

However, even more intense army bombardments followed the helicopter crash, witnesses said.
The possible shooting down of the helicopter, the latest of several such successes claimed by lightly armed rebel fighters, bolstered morale in their 17-month struggle battle to bring down Assad.
"It was flying over the eastern part of the city and firing all morning," an activist calling himself Abu Bakr told Reuters from near where the helicopter came down in the eastern suburbs. "The rebels had been trying to hit it for about an hour," he said. "Finally they did."
Activists said 11 of Monday's dead were killed in the district of Jobar, where the helicopter came down. Five of the Jobar victims had been captured and summarily executed by security forces, and the others died when their homes were hit.
Later footage showed a fighter jet swooping on a built-up area. An explosion is heard and a voice says: "It is firing rockets." Activists said it had struck targets on the eastern outskirts of the capital.
"This is the first time a warplane strikes the edges of Damascus," a Damascus-based activist told Reuters by Skype. "This plane was swooping over the area all afternoon."
Activists said that at least two fighter jets had caused the casualties in the eastern suburbs.
Turkish camps full
The surge in fighting around Damascus comes amid reports that all nine Turkish refugee camps along the border with Syria are full. Turkey has so far taken in more than 80,000 Syrian refugees.
Until recently, newcomers were being housed in schools, dormitories or sports centres near the border while Turkish authorities tried to construct four new camps that will increase Turkey's capacity to 100,000 refugees.
The refugees still stuck on the Syrian side will be allowed in "within a day or two" when a new camp near the border becomes operational, a Turkish official said on Monday.
Turkey's Red Crescent organisation was providing emergency aid to the refugees as they wait to cross into Turkey, the official said.
Another official said Turkey was also carrying out more stringent security checks on the refugees, adding to the delay in bringing them across the border.
The tighter checks come amid Turkish fears that Kurdish fighters in southeast Turkey may be coming in through Syria.
There are also concerns that foreign jihadists are moving in and out of Turkey to fight the Assad government.
Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, has said the UN should establish refugee camps inside Syria and that his country would struggle to cope if the refugee numbers rise substantially.
"Turkey is carrying out its humanitarian duties towards the Syrian people with whom it has historic brotherly ties," Davutoglu said on Monday.
"On the other hand, the increasing numbers are becoming an encumbrance. The international community must help share this burden."

Egypt's Morsi steps out onto world stage

Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's newly elected president, will arrive in China on Tuesday for the first leg of a high-profile foreign trip that will also take him to Tehran.
Morsi will spend three days in Beijing meeting with officials, including his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, for talks focused mostly on business and investment. He brings with him a delegation of seven ministers and several dozen Egyptian businessmen.
Morsi will sign a number of development contracts while in China, according to a report in the state-run Al Ahram. They include plans for a new power plant, a water desalination plant, and dozens of grain silos and bakeries.
His spokesman, Yasser Ali, told China's official Xinhua news agency that the trip "has a political aspect, including finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, and an economic aspect, including increasing the Chinese investments in Egypt".
Trade between the two countries has increased exponentially over the last few years, and now totals nearly $9bn, most of it Egyptian imports from China.
'Balanced' foreign policy
Morsi then travels to Iran on Thursday to attend a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, the first visit by an Egyptian president since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
The two countries do not have formal diplomatic ties, but Morsi has shown early signs of wanting to thaw their long-frosty relationship.

Morsi articulated a bit of his foreign policy in an interview on Monday with Reuters news agency, saying he wanted a "balanced" foreign policy that was not "against anyone".
He denounced the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, saying that his regime should "disappear from the scene". And he tried to reassure Israel, which has recently expressed concern about a military buildup on the Sinai Peninsula, which Egypt says is necessary to hunt down militant groups.
"Egypt is practicing its very normal role on its soil and does not threaten anyone," Morsi said, "and there should not be any kind of international or regional concerns at all from the presence of Egyptian security forces."
Morsi is scheduled to visit the US next month to attend the UN General Assembly meeting. He will also meet President Barack Obama on his trip.
Ali said Morsi also intends to visit several countries in Latin America, including Brazil.

Israeli army cleared in Rachel Corrie death

An Israeli court has ruled in a civil case that the Israel army was not at fault in the bulldozer death of American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie nearly 10 years ago.
Corrie was 23 years old when she went to the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip as part of a group of activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
They were acting as human shields to try to stop the Israeli army demolishing Palestinian homes and clearing land around Rafah.
"I reached the conclusion that there was no negligence on the part of the bulldozer driver," Judge Oded Gershon said, reading out his verdict on Tuesday at the Haifa District Court in northern Israel.
Cindy Corrie discusses Israeli court's ruling
"I reject the suit. There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages."
The Corries had requested a symbolic $1 in damages and legal expenses.
Gershon said Israeli soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site.
"The deceased put herself into a dangerous situation, she stood in front of a giant bulldozer in a place where the operator could not see her. She did not distance herself as a reasonable person would have done," he said.
"Her death is the result of an accident she bought upon herself."
He also said that a 2003 israeli military police investigation - which found Rachel Corrie had been killed by falling earth as a result of her own irresponsible behaviour and which had been criticised by senior US officials - had been properly conducted.
Family 'hurt'
The civil case is the latest in a series brought forward by Rachel Corrie's parents.
Cindy and Craig Corrie, who once again made the trip to Israel from the US to pursue their case, were upset after the ruling was read out.
"I am hurt," Cindy Corrie said after the verdict was read.
Life Of Rachel Corrie
 Was a student at Evergreen State College in her local town of Olympia in Washington state.
 Went to Rafah, in Southern Gaza as part of  the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in 2003.

 Was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in March 2003.

 Died in hospital on March 16, 2003, from injuries sustained. She was 23.
 Her story was dramatised on stage in a dozen countries and told in the book Let Me Stand Alone.
"We are, of course, deeply saddened and deeply troubled by what we heard today from Judge Oded Gershon."
Al Jazeera's Cal Perry, reporting from Haifa, said: "The family are disappointed that there was no criticism at all towards the Israeli army.
"Israel is known for not giving an inch in cases like this at all."
Corrie was a committed peace activist even before her arrival in the Gaza Strip in 2002.
She arranged peace events in her home town in Washington state and became a volunteer for the ISM.
Pictures taken on the day Corrie died - March 16, 2003 - show her in an orange high-visibility jacket carrying a megaphone and blocking the path of an Israeli military bulldozer.
Witnesses said Corrie was hit by a bulldozer which was razing Palestinian homes.
The army said the operation was needed to deny guerrillas cover.
Israel's far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing coalition, heralded the verdict, calling it "vindication after vilification."
In its inquiry, the army suggested that the fatal blow came from a falling slab of concrete.Corrie's death made her a symbol of the uprising.
While her family battled through the courts to establish who was responsible for her killing, her story was dramatised on stage in a dozen countries and told in the book Let Me Stand Alone.
An aid ship intercepted by the Israeli military in 2010 while trying to break the blockade of Gaza was named after her