Brazilian president places wreath on Arafat’s tomb; calls for end to Gaza siege
Silva tells reporters in Ramallah ‘brave steps needed to leave behind 50 years of pain’; calls to dismantle West Bank security barrier. Abbas urges on Israel to live up to Roadmap obligations
Brazil’s president has placed a wreath on the tomb of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, despite criticism from Israel. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited Arafat’s grave Wednesday during a trip to Ramallah, where he called on Israel to dismantle the West Bank security barrier and lift its blockade on Gaza.
“The world cannot accept fences of any kind,” he said.
During a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas, Silva said “brave steps” were needed in order to “leave behind half a century of conflict and pain.”
The Brazilian president said his country decried Israel’s controversial decision to build an additional 1,600 apartments in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their future capital, and called for a complete freeze to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.
Silva said the spat between Israel and the US over the construction in east Jerusalem “could help the sides reach a (peace) agreement.”
The Brazilian leader has said he would like to play a bigger role in Mideast diplomacy. “The region is important to the world and the negotiations are in need of the intervention of new elements, and we can help with this.”
Abbas, for his part, called on Israel to live up to its obligations as specified by the US-sponsored Road Map for peace initiative, and also demanded a halt to Israeli settlement construction in the “Palestinian territories” and in east Jerusalem so that negotiations may be resumed.
Abbas said the Palestinians have no preconditions for returning to the negotiation table. “We simply want the implementation of international resolutions and the Road Map,” he told reporters.
The Palestinian president urged Silva and the international community to work towards lifting the Israeli siege on Gaza and releasing Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
On Tuesday, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he boycotted meetings with Silva because the Brazilian did not visit the grave of Zionist founder Theodor Herzl.
Silva’s office said no such visit had ever been planned.
There was no immediate Israeli reaction to Silva’s visit to Arafat’s grave.
AP contributed to the report
Report: US shipping arms ahead of strike on Iran
Scottish newspaper says US transferred ammunition containers with ‘bunker-buster’ bombs to Diego Garcia in Indian Ocean. Expert: They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran
Hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean ahead of a possible attack on Iran, The Herald reported Wednesday.
The Scottish newspaper said the American government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures, The Herald reported.
The report quoted experts as saying that the bombs are being put in place for an assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
According to the newspaper, although Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, it is used by the US as a military base under an agreement made in 1971.
The report said Superior Maritime Services, a shipping company based in Florida, , will be paid $699,500 to transport many thousands of military items from Concord, California, to Diego Garcia.
The cargo includes 195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs, said The Herald.
Dan Plesch, director of the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London and co-author of a recent study on US preparations for an attack on Iran was quoted by the Scottish newspaper as saying, “They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran. US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours.”
According to Plesch, US President Barack Obama may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel. “The US is not publicizing the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely,” he was quoted by The Herald as saying. “The US … is using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Iran’s actions.”
According to The Herald, the British Ministry of Defense has said in the past that the US would need permission to use Diego Garcia for any attack. It has already been used for strikes against Iraq during the 1991 and 2003 Gulf wars.
The report said about 50 British military staff are stationed on the island, with more than 3,200 US personnel. Part of the Chagos Archipelago, it lies about 1,000 miles from the southern coasts of India and Sri Lanka, well placed for missions to Iran.