India’s president supports Syria’s claim on Golan Heights
Pratibha Devisingh Patil says India recognizes Syria’s “legitimate right” to Heights after meeting Assad in Damascus; Assad blames Israeli policies for “undermining economic development and prosperity” in Middle East. Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil expressed her support for Syria’s claims to the Golan Heights on Saturday, following a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad at the presidential palace in Damascus, according to a report from Indian news agency ANI.
“India has consistently supported all just Arab causes. I would like to reiterate India’s unwavering support for a lasting and comprehensive peace to the Middle East problem, based on relevant UN resolutions. I would also like to reiterate our strong support for Syria’s legitimate right to the Golan Heights, and for its very early and full return to Syria,” she told reporters during a joint address with Assad.
Patil was on a four-day visit to Syria which began Friday and was mostly meant to strengthen business ties between the two nations.
Assad thanked the Indian president for her support on the issue of Arab rights.
“We expressed our hope that Syrian-Indian relations together with international efforts will help put an end to the sufferings of the Palestinian people, blockaded by an apartheid wall,” said Assad.
Assad added that the two nations would cooperate on fighting terrorism.
“We have reiterated our two countries condemnation of terrorism in all its forms. And, on the second anniversary of the terrorist Mumbai bombings, marked yesterday, we renew our support of India in fighting terrorism and in order to arrive at a safe and stable world.”
Assad also accused Israel of hindering economic development in the region.
“The absence of peace in our region due to Israel’s policies… raises tensions and undermines economic development and prosperity,” AFP quoted Assad as saying at the joint press conference.
‘If we win elections, we will work to end ties with Israel’
Ahead of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, Muslim Brotherhood says cutting “illegitimate” relations with Israel will be top priority.
A day before parliamentary elections in Egypt, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, said if his movement wins the election, it will work to sever relations with Israel. “We are certainly not happy with the illegitimate marriage between Cairo and Tel Aviv,” he told the London daily Al-Quds al-Arabi on Saturday.
“The regime’s leaders are well aware that once we rise to power we will change many things in Egypt’s policy, starting with the country’s relations with Israel which have caused us great harm.”
Badie, who’s movement faces slim chances to strengthen in the parliamentary elections, added that, “We will not allow Palestinians to starve while we close the gates on them, and while the Israelis enter Sinai whenever they want.”
The Brotherhood leader said there were three forces who do not want his movement to win the elections: the US, Israel, and the Egyptian regime which “wages a war against the Egyptian people, led by our movement.”
In recent weeks, police and armed gangs have broken up campaign rallies by candidates of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, and more than 1,000 Brotherhood activists have been arrested.
The ruling National Democratic Party holds a powerful majority in the current parliament, but the Brotherhood succeeded in seizing a fifth of the seats in the 2005 vote. Many believe the government is determined to ensure the fundamentalist Brotherhood is squeezed out of the new 508-seat parliament.
Lebanon PM: Cooperation with Iran indispensable
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri intends to firm up military ties with Iran during his state visit.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Friday that cooperation with Iran was indispensable for Lebanon, the Iranian agency IRNA reported.
“We consider cooperation (with Iran) as indispensable for the threats endangering both countries,” Hariri told official news agency IRNA in Beirut ahead if his visit to Tehran.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, November 24, 2010.
Photo by: AP
Hariri is scheduled to arrive in Tehran on Saturday afternoon and meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi and probably also Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Lebanese prime minister said that security among the Arab states in the Middle East was also important for Iran and therefore Tehran would do its best for realizing this security, including in Lebanon.
“The visit by President Ahmadinejad (last month) to Beirut was an opportunity for strengthening bilateral ties and God willing, this aim will be further materialized by my visit to Tehran,” Hariri said in the exclusive interview with IRNA.
Iran supports the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah which however is leading the opposition against Hariri’s Western-backed government.
The rift between the two factions has deepened after reports said that the United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the killing of Hariri’s father was ready to indict Hezbollah members for the murder.
U.S. military chief: Engagement on Iran must be realistic
U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen prefers dialogue with Iran, believing that a military strike would only delay, not halt, its nuclear plans.
The United States needs to be realistic about its efforts to engage Iran, whose leaders are lying about Tehran’s nuclear program and are on a path to building nuclear weapons, the top U.S. military officer said.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in comments released on Friday that the U.S. military has been thinking about military options on Iran “for a significant period of time” but added that diplomacy remained the focus of U.S. efforts.
U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen.
Photo by: AP
“I still think it’s important we focus on the dialogue, we focus on the engagement, but also do it in a realistic way that looks at whether Iran is actually going to tell the truth, actually engage and actually do anything,” Mullen said in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria due to air on Sunday.
Iran has agreed to meet with a representative of the six big powers over its uranium enrichment drive, but diplomats and analysts see little chance of a breakthrough in the long-running dispute.
Still, U.S. officials, including Mullen, have warned that a military strike will only delay, not halt, Iran’s nuclear program and say convincing Tehran to abandon its nuclear program is the only viable long-term solution.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates went further last week, warning a strike would also unite the divided country and saying sanctions were biting harder than expected.
The West believes that Iran aims to use its uranium enrichment program to build atomic weapons, which Iran denies. Both Israel and the United States have said all options remain on the table to deal with its nuclear ambitions, a position Mullen reaffirmed to CNN.
Asked whether he believed Tehran’s vows that its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes, Mullen said: “I don’t believe it for a second.”
“In fact, the information and intelligence that I’ve seen speak very specifically to the contrary,” he said.
“Iran is still very much on a path to be able to develop nuclear weapons, including weaponizing them, putting them on a missile and being able to use them.”
Turkish PM: We will continue to back Jerusalem and Gaza
BEIRUT, (PIC)– Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a visit to the Lebanese city of Akkar that if war broke out in the region the loser will not only be the region’s people, but Israeli citizens will share losses as well.
Erdogan, speaking before thousands in its neighboring state, called on Israel to quit acting provocatively, recant on its blunders, and apologize to the region’s people.
“We in the region will unite and grow for what’s right and for the rule of law, and we will stand in the face of the wrongdoers and in the face of the wrongdoing.”
The Turkish premier assured that his country will continue to back the causes of Jerusalem and Gaza until all rights are restored.
“We will say this strongly in the face of the murderers, yes, your are murderers. Trust fully that we will raise our voices high against the tyranny, and continue to defend what’s right as long as there are people working in piracy on the high seas; and we will defend the rights of the innocent and oppressed.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli security cabinet discussed Wednesday the possibility of reigniting tensions with the Hezbollah group in Lebanon following an expected ruling by the international court in charge of investigating into the assassination of the country’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Senior officials predict that strong tensions between Israel and Lebanon will return if Hezbollah is charged with the 2005 Hariri assassination, Israeli radio said.
Israeli military Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazy said during a visit to Canada last week that Hezbollah may try to stage a coup in Lebanon if handed responsibility for Hariri’s death.
“There is a real possibility that Hezbollah will take control of Lebanon,” Ashkenazi warned.
Hezbollah has accused the international court of being politicized and working for Israel.
No statement was issued to conclude the meeting which was attended by Israeli intelligence agency heads.
Iran: Bushehr nuclear power plant has been fueled up
‘We hope the Bushehr power plant will be connected to the country’s national power grid within the next one or two months,’ says Iranian vice president.
(haaretz) Iran’s nuclear chief said Saturday the country’s first nuclear power plant has been loaded up with fuel required for it to go on line, an incremental step bringing Iran closer to nuclear-generated electricity.
A reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran on August 21, 2010.
Photo by: AP
Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi said it will take another month or two before the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor at Bushehr begins pumping electricity to Iranian cities.
Bushehr is not part of Iran’s nuclear program that is a serious concern to the West, which suspects Tehran of trying to produce an atomic bomb. Iran has been slapped with four rounds of UN sanctions because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a potential pathway to weapons making that is the source of the contention with the West.
Iran denies the charges, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity and nuclear medical radioisotopes needed to treat patients.
“We sealed the lid of the reactor without any propaganda and fuss,” Salehi was quoted as saying by the Fars semi-official news agency. “All fuel assemblies have been loaded into the core of the reactor.”
The fueling up started in August. Now that it’s completed, Salehi said all that remains to be done is to wait for the water inside the reactor’s core to gradually reach a desired temperature, after which a series of tests need to be carried out.
“We hope the Bushehr power plant will be connected to the country’s national power grid within the next one or two months,” Salehi added.
Iran began loading the Russian-built Bushehr with low-enriched uranium fuel in August. At the time, Salehi said the fueling up would take place over two weeks and that the plant could produce electricity by late November.
However, last month he announced a delay in Bushehr’s start up, saying it was the result of a small leak in a storage pool where the plant’s fuel was being held – and not a computer worm that was found on the laptops of several plant employees.
Iranian officials say they have vigorously battled the Stuxnet computer worm, which they suspect is part of a covert plot by the West to damage Iran’s nuclear program.
Salehi again insisted this week that the computer worm has not affected Iran’s nuclear program.
Suicide rate among US soldiers doubles
US National Guard soldiers returning home to face further difficulties.Statistics have revealed that the suicide rate among non-active members of the US National Guard has almost doubled this year.
Nearly twice as many American soldiers, who are not on active duty, have committed suicide in 2010 as the number that took their own lives last year, while the suicide rate among active duty soldiers has not increased, USA TODAY reports.
This growth in suicide rates has been linked to drug abuse, brain injuries incurred during active service, depression, and the country’s current bleak economic situation (home foreclosures, debt and unemployment), said Chris Philbrick, the deputy commander of an Army task force working to reduce suicides.
As of October, 86 non-active soldiers have taken their own lives this year, which is nearly double the entire 2009 number of suicides, which was 48.
There were 252 confirmed or suspected suicides among active and non-active Army members through October of this year. There were 242 such deaths in all of 2009, the report says.
These statistics could reinforce the fact that active-duty soldiers have greater access to programs and mental health resources, Philbrick says.
‘US, Israel behind Yemen bombing’
Yemen’s Houthi group has accused the intelligence services of the US and Israel of planning a car bomb that claimed the lives of 23 Houthi fighters and left 30 others injured.
The bomb explosion targeted a religious procession on Wednesday in Yemen’s northern Al-Jawf province.
According to documents obtained by the Houthi group, “the intelligence services of the US and the Zionist regime (Israel) are behind the Wednesday attack,” said Houthi group’s spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam.
Referring to another car bomb in northern Yemen that left at least two Shia mourners dead, he said, “The car was laden with shells made by the US.”
On Friday, the bomb targeted a convoy of mourners, who were travelling from Dahyan to Saada province to attend the funeral of Badreddin al-Hawthi, the father of the Shia group’s leader, who died on Thursday.
“Killing the Muslims and disintegration of communities and countries are in favor of the US and the Zionist regime,” Abdulsalam said.
On Tuesday, a Yemeni army soldier was also killed and two others were injured when a roadside bomb targeted their military vehicle south of the country.
The Yemeni government launched Operation Scorched Earth on August 11, 2007 to uproot the Shia Houthi fighters, whom Sana’a accuses of seeking a return to the Zaydi imamate overthrown in a 1962 coup.
The northern Houthi fighters have on occasions complained about widespread religious discrimination against them by Sunni fundamentalists who hold sway because of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s cordial relations with staunchly Wahabi Saudi Arabia.
Saada and neighboring Amran province, the strongholds of the Shia Houthi fighters, were frequently pounded by fighter jets and helicopter gunships.
The conflict zones in northern Yemen remained cut off from the rest of the country and the locals were grappling with a pressing shortage of food and other basic supplies.
The United Nations puts the number of displaced people at around 150,000 civilians.
US Navy orders use of the term ‘Arab Gulf’ rather than ‘Persian Gulf’
The US Navy has instructed all its units and forces to use the misnomer “The Arab Gulf” rather than its original and real name, the Persian Gulf.
The United States Navy has ordered all troops under its command to use the fake name The Arab Gulf to refer to the body of water to the south of Iran, IRNA quoted the Israeli radio as reporting on its website.
The order is reportedly posted on the US Navy’s website.
This comes as the body of water is referred to as “The Persian Gulf” in all historical and international documents.
Several international scientific conferences have been held in recent years to discuss the historical roots of the Persian Gulf. Researchers from the most reputable academic centers worldwide are almost unanimous in their agreement that the body of water has been referred to throughout history as the Persian Gulf.
Some regional countries and Western publications, however, continue to distort historical facts by omitting “Persian” from the full name, in an apparent orchestrated effort to eliminate the true ity of the Persian Gulf.
On April 29, Iran held the sixth edition of the Persian Gulf Conference in the southern Kish Island, on the eve of celebrations marking the national Persian Gulf Day.
Israelis injure teenage scrap collector
A Palestinian man stands among debris after an Israeli airstrike along Gaza’s border with Egypt.Israel’s military has shot and wounded a Palestinian teenager, who was collecting debris from the remnants of former Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Medics and witnesses said a 12-year-old came under the fire near the town of Beit Lahia, situated in the north of the coastal sliver, DPA reported.
The scavengers, who include women and children, sell the material to contractors and factories in the strip so that they would be able to cope with Tel Aviv’s siege on the enclave. The all-out land, aerial and naval restrictions have been depriving 1.5-million Gazans of food, fuel and other necessities for more than three years now.
Tel Aviv has, however, declared a “restricted” zone in the border area, occasionally opening fire on the debris collectors.
Highlighting the recurrent shootings, an August study by the United Nations showed, “Palestinians have been totally or partially prevented from accessing land located up to 1,000-1,500 meters” from the border.
The enclave’s medics say 60 scavengers have been wounded and two killed in the zone since January 2009.
Adie Mormech from the Palestinian-led organization International Solidarity Movement told our channel last month that the rubble collectors “are actually the biggest victims of shootings in the buffer zones. The reasons why no one can go there is because Israel shoots on sight and they are trigger-happy.”
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees says “about 80 percent of the Gaza population depends on assistance from UN agencies as unemployment has soared [to] above 40 percent.”
Britain assists Israelis in war crimes