Monday, February 28, 2011

Yemeni president vows to stay in power

A protester holds up a poster depicting Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh as Adolf Hitler, during a pro-democracy rally outside the Sana'a University in the capital on February 26, 2011

Source: Press TV

Yemen's decades-long president has vowed to maintain his cling on power until his last “drop of blood” in the face of a massive pro-democracy call across the country.

“We, in the armed forces, have served to preserve the republican regime with every drop of blood we have," Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Sunday, AFP reported.

"There is a conspiracy against Yemen's unity and territorial integrity,” he claimed, referring to 11 straight days of popular protests, which have swept the country.

Dozens of people have been killed since the beginning of the protests. The Amnesty International has put the death toll at 27.

Earlier major Yemeni tribes joined protesters and held a demonstration.

Saleh has already been in office for 33 years with several opposition members arguing that his long-promised reforms have not taken place.

To appease the people, he made more pledge-ridden remarks and promised to leave power at the end of his term in 2013 and not to hand over the reins to his son.

Seven Yemeni lawmakers resigned on Wednesday to protest the government's use of excessive violence against the demonstrations.

'People ready to shut Wisconsin down'

A protester inside the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, February 21, 2011

Source: Press TV

Americans who oppose Republican Governor Scott Walker's plan to bust Wisconsin workers' unions are ready to shut the state down before he can take away their collective bargaining right, says an American expert.

“Every person I have spoken to, admittedly people who are supporting these demonstrations, has expressed to me and to many others that they are willing to shut the state down completely before letting Walker and his cronies and his big money supporters to take away the last of our rights as collective bargainers and as individuals in a democratic society,” Jennifer Loewenstein, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin, told Press TV on Sunday.

Protests against Governor Walker's plan to keep a tight rein on Wisconsin workers' unions have spilled into nearly all 50 states of America, including Washington, New York, California, and Nevada.

Tens of thousands of people staged rallies in cities across the United States on Saturday to express their solidarity with people in Wisconsin.

On February 25, Wisconsin's State Assembly passed a controversial bill, proposed by Walker, to curtail the state's labor unions as the ongoing political wrangling between organized workers and cash-strapped state governments spreads across the US.

About 100,000 people converged on Saturday in the Wisconsin State Capitol to air their grievances over the decision by the Republican governor.

In California, the Los Angeles City Hall turned into the focal point of anti-bill demonstrations, as more than 3,000 people attended the rallies, chanting slogans against what has been widely viewed as an "assault" on public sector unions.

Denver saw another demonstration in support of the Wisconsin workers with police estimating that crowd at more than 1,200 people. In Washington, protesters cheered on Saturday during a rally in support of Wisconsin workers, calling for the defeat of the plan.

Hundreds of Kansas labor union members and supporters rallied outside the Statehouse against what they see as political attacks on workers.

“I don't believe the momentum for these protests is anywhere near over. I don't think it has peaked yet,” Loewenstein said.

'US oligarchy attacks middle class'

Protesters cheer during a rally in support of Wisconsin workers

Source: Press TV

The American middle class is being attacked by an oligarchy, who wants to control economy, as Wisconsin protests the plan to constrain public sector unions, a US expert says.

The demonstration against the controversial move to curb power of labor unions and lay off thousands of public servants in the US state of Wisconsin has been driven by the middle classes who say they are witnessing a dramatic decline in unions and are outraged by an attack on public sectors, Jennifer Loewenstein, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Press TV on Sunday.

On Saturday, about 100,000 people converged in the Wisconsin State Capitol to show their anger at the Republican governors' decision to strip public sector unions of most collective bargaining rights in areas of healthcare coverage, pensions and other benefits.

The demonstration, which was one of the biggest rallies since the Vietnam War, has taken place on the character of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt whose autocratic leaders had control of vast areas of the economy in their countries.

When asked about the fact that five percent of the US population control 85 percent of the productive wealth, Loewenstein stated that "It's unbelievable, in fact, how much the middle class… is being attacked by an oligarchy, basically, of people who want to control the nations' economy."

"In Madison, this [problem] came out in the form of a so-called reform bill by our state governor… and this is now the last straw. This is an attack on public sector workers and public labor unions…this is time for a democratic revival in the United States," said Loewenstein, who is also the Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Elsewhere in her remarks, she turned the spotlight on the overhanging issue of the budget deficit of $137 million and a projected $3.6 billion gap over the next two years in Wisconsin, which have often times been referred to as the primary cause of the curb in power of public sector unions.

"The state does not have to cut the collective bargaining rights of the middle class or the lower class in order to repair its budget, what it needs to do is to start taxing corporations, taxing the rich, raising taxes on people who have billions of dollars, and, in addition, we should have long ago realized that the trillions of dollars going towards our overseas military adventures are going to have a profound effect on the US economy," she noted.

"Why don't we cut our defense spending, which is not defensive spending in any case, because we are not fighting defensive wars, we are fighting offensive wars, and ruing, destroying countries overseas with state of the art weaponry, which also has an economic base in the United States,” the American expert emphasized.

She went on to say that "the budget crisis and the attempt by the governor of Wisconsin to grab power in favor of big money, and powers that control our presidential elections are going to wake up our public sector workers and make them realize that we can afford to go off on these adventures overseas."

DNC urges withdrawal from Afghanistan

Source: Press TV

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has adopted a resolution calling on President Barack Obama to withdraw most of the US armed forces from Afghanistan by July 2011.

The resolution, adopted on Saturday during the DNC annual winter meeting in Washington DC, read, “The Democratic Party supports prioritizing job creation and a swift withdrawal of US armed forces and military contractors in Afghanistan which must include a significant and sizable reduction no later than July 2011," The Huffington Post reported.

It goes on to list reasons for withdrawal, including ten years of combat, a cost of more than USD 100 billion per year, lack of public support and non-military intervention as a preferred solution.

"The passage of my resolution places the Democratic Party squarely on the side of American people who overwhelmingly support a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan,” said Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA).

The Obama administration has stated that troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will begin in July 2011, stressing that it plans to fully hand over security responsibilities to Afghanistan authorities by 2014.

In Obama's proposed 2012 budget released on Monday, USD 107 billion was requested for military spending in Afghanistan.

Seventy-two percent of the American public wants faster troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The US Army has recently been accused of psychologically manipulating senators and officials to support the war effort in Afghanistan.

Reports allege that members of a psychological-operations team, known as psy-ops, had unduly influenced politicians into providing increased funding and support for the war effort.

US senators in Cairo discuss developments

Source: Press TV

In the first US senate visit to Egypt after the revolution, congressmen John McCain and Joseph Lieberman met with Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Mussa to discuss the latest developments in Egypt.

However, members of the Muslim Brotherhood have a different idea. They say that under the pretext of support for democratic reforms, the United States is trying to steer the Egyptian revolution in a different direction, one that would protect the long-standing US and Israeli interests. Muslim Brotherhood Leader Esam el Arian had this to say:

Given the misjudgments and miscues of the recent past, many in Egypt are of the opinion that Americans should acknowledge that the U.S. cannot determine what will come next. In its own interests and in the interests of those engaged in their own struggle for freedom and opportunity, the say, the U.S. should get out of the way.

US, South Korea begin joint military drills

South Korea and the United States on Monday morning kicked of their annual joint military drills amid continuing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. (file photo)

Source: Press TV

The US and South Korean militaries have launched their major military drills despite North Korea's warnings that the exercises could lead to an "all-out war.”

The 11-day Key Resolve/Foal Eagle drills are the first regularly scheduled joint drills between Seoul and Washington since a North Korean artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, which left two South Korean marines and two civilians dead.

Pyongyang has denounced the drills as a provocative move and a pretext to invade North Korea, while the US and South Korean officials say the exercise is defensive in nature, AFP reported.

The exercises focus on raising the allies' ability to defend against small, sudden attacks by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), said the Combined Forces Command, adding that the drills are aimed at strengthening the allies' readiness against all potential threats.

However, the North's military on Sunday threatened to retaliate against the drills with a full-scale military attack that would turn Seoul into a "sea of fire.”

"If the aggressors launch provocation for a 'local war', the world will witness unprecedented all-out counteraction on the part of the army and people of the DPRK (North Korea)," the North Korean military said.

"It will also see such merciless counteraction as engulfing Seoul in sea of flames, whereby to smash every move for confrontation with unimaginable strategy and tactics."

A total of 12,300 US troops and some 200,000 service members, including reservists from South Korea, will participate in the joint military drills, according to officials.

In 2010, tension on the Korean Peninsula reached its highest level since the 1950s' Korean War.

On March 2, the 1,200-ton South Korean warship, Cheonan, sank near the inter-Korea maritime border, resulting in the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors.

Though Seoul accuses Pyongyang of involvement in the sinking of its warship, the latter rejects the claim.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tunisia prime minister resigns

Mohammed Ghannouchi announces his resignation on state television, a month after president Ben Ali flees the country

Rallies calling for a new leadership in Tunisia have continued even after the departure of President Ben Ali [AFP]

Source: Al Jazeera

Mohammed Ghannouchi, the Tunisian interim prime minister, has announced his resignation on state television.

"I have decided to quit as prime minister," Ghannouchi told a news conference, saying that he thought carefully before taking the decision which was supported by his family.

Ghannouchi has been leading the country since president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali left the country on January 14 following a popular uprising in January.

Ghannouchi was a longtime ally of Ben Ali, and had pledged to guide the country until elections can be held this summer.

Demonstrations have again erupted in the North African country in recent days, and three people were killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces in Tunis, the capital, on Saturday.

"Three people died from the dozen who were wounded during clashes and were transferred to hospital for treatment," the interior ministry said in a statement..

"Several members of the security forces were wounded to different degrees."

Ben Ali loyalists

Security forces had fired warning shots and tear gas at the anti-government demonstration, and protesters responded by hurling stones, journalists from the AFP news agency said.

An interior ministry official, who declined to be named, told the Reuters news agency that the deaths had occurred after a riot orchestrated by loyalists of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the ousted president.

"Those who were arrested have admitted they were pushed by former Ben Ali officials," he said. "Others said they were paid to do it."

On Friday, tens of thousands of protesters had taken to the streets demanding the resignation of Ghannouchi.

The interior ministry statement said more than 100 people were arrested on Saturday and 88 people had been arrested on Friday.

It blamed the clashes on "agitators" who it said had infiltrated the peaceful demonstrations.

They had used students "as human shields to carry out violent acts, fires aimed at sowing terror among the people and targeting the internal security forces," the statement said.

Ghannouchi announced on Friday that the government will hold elections by mid-July

Anti-govt. protests continue across Yemen

Source: Press TV

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators massed in Yemeni cities, holding their largest demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh since the wave of anti-authoritarian uprising began sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East.

The number of protesters in the capital Sana's Liberation Square increases by the day. They also become more organized in terms of managing the protesters and their tents.

The rally here became part of the protestors' life; you can find them conducting their daily life, even celebrating the wedding of one of the protestors.

The protestors have organized themselves and formed different medical, security and food committees to work on organizing the rally.

Large demonstrations also took place across Yemen's southern port city of Aden, where at least five more people were fatally shot amid reports of snipers being used against protesters. That brought to at least seven the number killed in the clashes with security forces in Aden.

In the capital, Sana, tens of thousands of demonstrators held their largest protest since the uprising began, swelling what started as marches by a few dozen students and activists only a few weeks ago.

Protestors say that they are not affiliated with any party and that they came to this place by their free well.

The protest organizers say that demonstrations will continue for another month. If the president had not stepped down, they said they would move to a month-long, nationwide strike, despite the fractured nature of Yemeni society.

Yemen has witnessed days of anti-government protests that have swept across the country after the revolution in Egypt and Tunisia. Protestors say they are determined to stay at this square. They say they are calling for an end to Saleh's 32-year rule.

Bahrain MPs resign to protest bloodshed

Shia pro-democracy protesters rally in the Bahraini capital, Manama on February 27, 2011

Source: Press TV

Lawmakers from the largest parliamentary bloc in Bahrain have protested at the government-ordered bloodshed of pro-democracy protesters by staging a mass departure.

On Sunday, 18 members of the Shia opposition faction of al-Wefaq officially resigned from the parliament, saying, "We are no longer affiliated with this council (Parliament), which did not lift a finger in front of these massacres," AFP reported.

At least seven demonstrators have been killed during clashes with security forces since the beginning of the popular protests on February 14

Gaddafi forces abandon parts of Tripoli

Source: Press TV

Reports say forces and foreign mercenaries loyal to Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi have surrendered parts of the capital, Tripoli, to pro-democracy protesters.

Residents in some neighborhoods of the capital are barricading their streets and proclaiming open defiance. Demonstrators have also taken control of the city of Zawiyah, some 50-kilometers west of Tripoli.

This comes as revolutionary forces are advancing towards Tripoli. Forces loyal to Gaddafi continue the violent suppression of anti-government demonstrations as protesters are fighting their way into the capital.

More anti-government demonstrations continue across Libya as more cities fall under protesters' control.

They have already seized control of several cities including Libya's second largest city, Benghazi.

Meanwhile, the opposition is planning to form an interim government in cities liberated from Gaddafi's rule, to pave the way for free and fair elections.

The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on the Libyan regime and has refered Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court.

The United Nations' refugee agency says nearly 100,000 people have fled Libya in the past week amid simmering tension in the North African country.

According to the UNHCR, most of the evacuees were foreign nationals.

The agency described the situation as a humanitarian crisis, urging the Tunisian and Egyptian governments to support the evacuees.

Earlier, border security officials at Ra's Jedir crossing said over 38,000 people have crossed Libya into Tunisia since February 20.

The evacuation of foreign nationals has picked up speed since Colonel Gaddafi announced plans to arm his supporters to fight his opponents.

'New Egypt govt. still supports US'

Source: Press TV

Protesters and demonstrators in Libya have one call and that is an end to the long-time rule Muammar Gaddafi.

For more on the ongoing events in Libya, Press TV has interviewed former US ambassador to Iraq, Edward Peck, from Washington.

Press TV: How do you assess the US response up into this point of events that have been unfolded in Libya?

Peck: Well, I don't think there's been actually much of a response that is measurable and therefore, is difficult to comment on, because we have made so much noises and so many words but we haven't really done anything of a concrete nature which makes it difficult to assess what is actually accomplished.

Press TV: What can you tell us about the latest comment by US President Barack Obama who had stated that “Gaddafi must basically leave now?”

Peck: Well, it isn't up to Mr. Obama to decide whether or not Mr. Gaddafi is going to leave. He could make statement like that, but it is basically meaningless. It is just words. In a democracy such as ours, it is partially intended to get the people to do something, but you know it isn't really of a great significance as far as I can tell.

Press TV: Taking into account the behind the scenes calculations, does the US want the fall of another Arab dictatorship with prospects of a democracy for that country in the future?

Peck: Well, that is a tough one. Because would be a democracy, may be yes may be no. It is hard to say in advance. It could be something that resembles the democracy. It could result in the folks that we are considering to be the most important, not succeeding in getting rid of Gaddafi. In which case you could have an extensive of what that involves all sorts of developments which would not be in my mind, in the best interest of the United States. It could go that way just as easily as the way we would like it to. It is hard to predict future.

Press TV: Do you think that the US would have preferred to have Gaddafi stay in power?

Peck: Well, the way it is now, probably not because of what has happened the developments that have taken place. It may have been that when he was there, [they] were happy to have him there because the US has always felt that stability is better than chaos or disorganization, or that kind of development.

Whether it is or it isn't a judgment call and I am not in a position to make that for my government but I think we would have preferred a quiet transition. One in which the people slowly accommodated to doing things, a different way and the government would whistle on that since that seems to be too late now. What the American people would like to see is some sort of development which leads to stable, quiet, peaceful change over to something [that is] perhaps a little bit democratic.

Press TV: Well the Obama administration is considering a range of options from pressuring the Libyan regime. The question that is circulating in everybody's mind is military intervention in Libya. Is it possible or is it on the table basically?

Peck: Oh, that is a really tough one, because what the Americans actually be prepared to consider another invasion of another country. I hate to think so. I recognize that the way the thing are these days, it could happen, but another invasion on an Arab country. Don't do that. That would cause catastrophe I think.

Press TV: There are so many players, such as Britain, France, Italy. What could their objectives be?

Peck: That is something you have to ask them but I guess that the thing that concerns me is that the United states of America has enough going on now in the world of a military nature, in places where some people would suggest we really don't have any right to be, but I think it would be a major mistake to get involved in yet another war anywhere, involving with anyone. So I hope that they have enough understanding to recognize that is definitely not something that should not even think of as a course of action.

Press TV: Looking at the revolutions and uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, now in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, let's say a hypothetical situation. You were working in the US State Department and the Secretary of State asks you what is going on in the Arab world, how would you respond to that?

Peck: well, I think I would feel constraint and would tell him or her that whatever is happening in the Middle East right now may not turn out to be in the best interest of this country. In the sense that there are a lot of people who do not like what is and has been done to the Palestinians. This was one of the things that people of Egypt had against their leaders.

The fact was that he was facilitating what Israel was doing to the Palestinians, which the overwhelming majority of Arabs, Muslims do not support; but he was doing it for whatever reasons. It is not something that I can describe or talk about and that is one of the things that they had against him. So if indeed Mr. Mubarak has gone and that remains to be seen, because it isn't over until it is over. It is highly unlikely in my mind that the government of Egypt is to replace Mr. Mubarak. It is going to be a government which will be continuing that support which they did not think was good before.

Iran to build high-tech fighter jet

Iranian-made Saeqeh fighter bombers

Source: Press TV

The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force has launched a project to design and build the country's most advanced fighter jet.

Brigadier General Mohammadreza Karshki told Fars news agency on Saturday that the Iranian Air Force is cooperating with the Defense Ministry in the project.

He further pointed out that the project is now in the initial phases.

The senior Iranian Air force commander added that the new fighter is a new generation of Iran's first domestically-manufactured jet Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) with enhanced features.

The Iranian fighter jet is similar to the US-built F/A-18, although its appearance is similar to F-5E/F Tiger II.

Iran unveiled its first squadron of Saeqeh fighter-bombers in an air show in September 2010.

The new single-seater bombers have the ability to track down enemy aircraft, engage in combat, target locations on the ground, and carry assorted weapons and ammunition.

Ireland opposition claims election victory

Source: Press TV

As the votes were counted it soon became clear that the ruling party Fianna Faill had been routed. Blamed by the public for Ireland's deep financial crisis, the once dominant Fianna Faill looked set to gain only around 15% of the votes.

By contrast, it was all smiles for the opposition centre-right party Fine Gael party, which won the election with around 36% of the vote.

Later, the prime minsiter elect received a rousing welcome from supporters. And he pledged to rebuild trust between politicians and the people.

Ireland's problems run deep. A few months ago the government took out an 85 billion euro loan just to keep the country running. There are around 500,000 people unemployed, welfare benefits have been cut, and about 1,000 people are leaving the country each week in search of work abroad.

In the face of voter discontent with the ruling party, smaller parties and independents also made significant breakthroughs.

Voters seem to have punished the ruling Fianna Fail party for the country's devastating financial crisis. But they haven't made a radical change away from the policies that brought about that crisis. So the question is: can a Fine Gael government, possibly in coalition with Labour, lead the country to economic recovery?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

UN slaps sanctions on Libyan regime

Security Council unanimously orders travel and assets ban on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle

The council demanded an "immediate end to the violence and for steps to address the legitimate demands of the population" in Libya [Reuters]

Source: Press TV

The UN Security Council has unanimously imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, members of his family and inner circle.

Saturday's resolution adopted by the 15-nation council also called for the immediate referral of the deadly crackdown against anti-government demonstrators in Libya to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for investigation and possible prosecution of anyone responsible for killing civilians.

The council demanded an "immediate end to the violence and for steps to address the legitimate demands of the population" in Libya.

It called for Libyan authorities to act "with restraint, respect human rights and international humanitarian law," and facilitate immediate access for international human rights monitors.

The council called for an immediate lifting of restrictions "on all forms of media" and for the safety of foreign nationals to be assured and their departure facilitated.

Under the arms embargo, UN members will take immediate and necessary measures to "prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Libya ... of arms and related material of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment."

Libya would be prohibited from importing all arms and related material and all UN members should prevent their nationals from exporting them.

The travel ban and assets will target the 68-year-old Libyan leader, his adult children, other family members and top defence and intelligence officials accused of playing a role in the bloodshed.

'Moral support'

Sixteen names are on the sanctions list.

The council said its actions were aimed at "deploring the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including the repression of peaceful demonstrators."

And members expressed concern about civilian deaths, "rejecting unequivocally the incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population made from the highest level of the Libyan government."

The day was consumed mainly with haggling behind closed doors over language that would refer Libya's violent crackdown on protesters to the International Criminal Court, or ICC, at the Hague.

All 15 nations on the council ultimately approved referring the case to the permanent war crimes tribunal.

Council members did not consider imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, and no UN-sanctioned military action was planned.

The Libyan deputy UN envoy described the adoption of sanctions as "moral support" to those resisting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, one of the first Libyan diplomats to denounce Gaddafi and defect, said the council's move "will help put an end to this fascist regime which is still in existence in Tripoli."

Ex-minister forms interim govt. in Libya

Libya's former Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Jalil ®

Source: Press TV

Libya's former justice minister has formed an interim government as several cities are currently under the control of pro-democracy demonstrators.

Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Jalil formed the government in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday, Reuters cited Libya's Quryna newspaper as reporting.

"Muammar Gaddafi alone bore responsibility for the crimes that have occurred in Libya," the paper quoted the former Libyan justice minister as saying.

Libya is bracing for more violence as thousands of pro-democracy protesters, seeking the ouster of the Gaddafi regime, are moving toward the capital, Tripoli.

But foreign mercenaries and troops still loyal to Gaddafi are making every effort to crush the revolution.

The 68-year-old Gaddafi and four of his sons, Saif al-Islam, al-Saadi, al-Mutassim, and Khamis, are reportedly in the Bab al-Azizia military barracks, located west of Tripoli, and fighting against the protesters.

His fifth son, Saif-al-Arab Gaddafi, has joined the revolutionaries, and the Libyan dictator's cousin, Ahmed Qadhaf al-Dam, who was one of the members of Gaddafi's inner circle, has defected to Egypt.

According to the latest reports, demonstrators have already passed through the suburbs of the city.

Tripoli is a strategically important city and home to two million of Libya's more than six million people.

Libyan security forces have reportedly killed over 1,000 people during the recent demonstrations against Gaddafi's four decades of repressive rule.

Libyan protesters at Tripoli's gate

Thousands of Libyans pray for the removal of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Benghazi on February 25, 2011

Source: Press TV

Libya is bracing for further violence as thousands of opposition protesters seeking the ouster of the Gaddafi regime move toward the capital, Tripoli.

Thousands of protesters are on their way to the capital from eastern and western cities.

Some incoming reports indicate that pro-democracy protesters have already passed through the suburbs of the city.

Meanwhile, sporadic clashes continue between protesters and government forces in the capital.

This comes as more and more soldiers are now joining the popular revolution.

The developments also come as the government is losing its grip on more cities in the country's east and west.

Tripoli is home to two million of Libya's more than six million population and strategically important city.

Experts say Tripoli's fall would be a final blow to the embattled regime.

Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi's government are said to be stationed outside Tripoli.

However, Gaddafi remains defiant after nearly two weeks of nationwide protests against his regime. He has even promised to open arms depots to his supporters.

The forces are exhausted for staying on standby for several days.

The aid organization Doctors Without Borders says it is concerned about the condition of the injured in the city of Benghazi.

It says the city is in short supply of medical equipment despite the heavy number of casualties.

The organization says a six-person group of its staff has arrived in the city. It says it cannot reach Tripoli by road despite the dire need for medical help there.

Over 1,000 people have already lost their lives and more fatalities are feared as Gaddafi's regime is trying to crush the popular uprising.

The humanitarian crisis is deepening in Libya as more and more people leave the country in search of safety.

Egypt army apologizes for crackdown

Egyptian military police scuffles with pro-democracy protesters in Cairo's Liberation Square on Feb. 25, 2011

Source: Press TV

Egypt's ruling military council has apologized, after military police used force to break up a recent protest rally in Cairo's Liberation Square.

"What happened late Friday was the result of unintentional confrontations between the military police and the youth of the revolution," the military said in a statement.

But the apology has failed to satisfy Egyptian activists who are calling for fresh protests to denounce violence by the authorities.

Thousands of Egyptians gathered in Liberation Square on Friday, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who was appointed by ousted president Hosni Mubarak toward the end of his rule.

They also called for an immediate release of the remaining political detainees.

But military police surrounded protesters shortly after midnight, beating them with batons and attacking them with tasers.

Activists have also called for the lifting of a 30-year-old state of emergency and the disbandment of military court. They have vowed to continue demonstrations until the Egyptian army agrees to the reforms.

Protesters want the military council to hand over power to a civilian government. They say they do not want any members of Mubarak's ruling party in the post-revolution government.

The developments come as popular revolutions continue to sweep US-backed autocratic regimes across North Africa and the Middle East.

Israeli jets bombard Gaza Strip

An Israeli F16 fighter jet (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Israeli warplanes have once again targeted the Gaza Strip by bombarding two sites in the coastal enclave, Palestinian sources say.

Israeli jets early Saturday bombed two training camps in the southern town of Khan Yunis and the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, AFP reported.

There are no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israeli military refused to comment on the move as Tel Aviv escalated its ground and air strikes on the besieged territory, killing civilians and destroying property.

On Thursday, an Israeli unmanned plane reportedly launched a missile attack on the southern Gaza Strip, inflicting injuries on six Palestinians.

The drone strike hit a vehicle that was travelling in the southern city of Rafah along the coastal sliver's border with Egypt.

It followed several aerial assaults across the besieged enclave, which was reported to have caused no casualties.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel's F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters carried out multiple airstrikes across the Gaza Strip.

In June 2007, Israel and Egypt placed the territory under siege and imposed an unprecedented blockade on nearly all movement and supplies in and out of the coastal strip.

Poverty, unemployment, lack of medicine and medical equipment are the main issues in the Gaza Strip, while most Palestinian children are physically stunted from malnutrition.

The United Nations has repeatedly warned of a humanitarian crisis for Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

Human rights groups have also criticized the international community for its silence on the siege on Gaza and the 22-day Israeli war in December 2008 that shattered the stagnant economy of the territory.

The offensives killed more than 1,400 Gazans and inflicted a damage of above $1.6 billion on the territory's economy.

Time for action on Libya: UN chief

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Source: Press TV

The UN secretary general has called on the Security Council and the international community to take concrete action against the Libyan regime.

Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council to act quickly on a proposed package of UN sanctions to force the Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi to end its violent crackdown on people, the UN News Center reported.

"It is time for the Security Council to consider concrete action," he told the council, noting, "The hours and the days ahead will be decisive for Libyans."

He said that the situation in Libya is deteriorating, adding that the people's will must prevail.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Ban said there have been reports of mercenaries attacking foreigners in Libya.

He went on to say that "clear and egregious" violations of human rights have taken place in Libya, underlining that over 1,000 people have died in the unrest so far.

The UN chief also recommended that Tripoli be suspended from the Human Rights Council.

Ban is scheduled to hold talks on the situation in Libya with US President Barack Obama on Monday.

Earlier on the day, European Union states agreed to impose an arms embargo on Libya, freeze the assets of Libyan officials and consider imposing a travel ban on members of the Tripoli regime.

Earlier on Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said a no-fly zone may be imposed on Libya to protect the lives of protesters from the airstrikes.

Over one thousand people have been killed and more deaths are feared as Gaddafi is brutally crushing the revolt.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pakistani court puts CIA agent on trial

Thousands of Pakistanis have demanded the execution of a CIA contractor

Source: Press TV

A court in Pakistan has adjourned the trial of a CIA contractor charged with killing two Pakistani men, dismissing Washington demands for his release.

The next hearing has been scheduled for March 3.

The US initially claimed that Raymond Davis -- a former US Special Forces officer -- was a diplomat. Washington insisted that Islamabad must repatriate Davis as he has diplomatic immunity.

However, it was later revealed that Davis is a CIA contractor.

If convicted, Davis could face execution for double homicide. Davis claims he acted in self-defense when he shot the men in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.

The killings have inflamed anti-US sentiments in Pakistan, where people are already angry with Washington over its non-UN-sanctioned airstrikes.

The unauthorized strikes, which were initiated by former US President George W. Bush and continued under President Barack Obama, have drastically increased in recent months.

Washington claims the airstrikes target militants. However, according to statistics, the attacks have left hundreds of civilians dead in Pakistan since 2008.

Russia slams EU gas pipeline law

Source: Press TV

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rejects a proposed EU amendment meant to stop the gas monopoly in Europe -- splitting the role of gas supplier and pipeline operator.

"We've been told that those who own the gas should not own the means of distribution. They argue that we must allow a third party to participate, then immediately the price will grow," a Press TV correspondent quoted Putin as saying in Brussels on Thursday.

"The mechanical implementation of this package will lead to an increase of the energy crisis," said Putin, adding that "after these pipes have been separated... they would need to increase the transportation price which will...lead to a greater price for gas."

He noted that the proposed laws discriminate against Russia, are politically motivated, and inacceptable with business.

“Our companies, together with German partners, legally acquired distribution assets,” Putin said, adding that “now they are being thrown out. What is this then? What is this robbery?”

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso insisted that Moscow was not singled out, emphasizing that the legislation applies equally across the board.

"We are very good clients in the European Union, so, I think it is in the interest of both Russia and the European Union to have a predictable approach to those issues," said Barroso.

Barroso added that "we're asking foreign companies to accept the same rules we're implementing," which includes big non-EU gas exporters such as Norway

Russia launches $650bn military plan

A russian aircraft carrier

Source: Press TV

Russia is planning to spend $650 billion on renewing its military equipments, including helicopters, submarines and warships until 2020.

The plan includes the purchase of 100 warships, 8 nuclear submarines, 600 jets and 1,000 helicopters.

Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin says the plan would largely extend the number of modern equipments adding the main task is the modernization of the armed forces. However, Popovkin says Russia is not interested in purchasing any foreign weapons or military hardware.

With only 10 percent of its armed forces considered as “modern,” the Kremlin needs to upgrade its decrepit military by recruiting and training new troops as the country continues to rely on its antiquated equipments and is currently short of manpower. A drive to improve the forces is said to have already begun.

The new S-500 anti-missile system is supposed to back the country's missile defense in the near future. However, on the naval front Russia has failed to regain parity with the US as it has not spent on new aircraft carriers.

An independent military analyst Alexander Golts says “Much of Russia's focus appeared mistakenly aimed at keeping nuclear parity with the United States at a time when the greatest threats to the country's security were coming from North Korea and Central Asia.”

Russian generals sacked without reason

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Source: Press TV

Russia has fired seven senior interior ministry generals without a clear explanation.

The deputy head of Moscow's interior ministry department and the interior ministry's inspector general are among the officials fired on Friday.

Moscow has vowed to track down on terrorism. However, it is not yet clear if the dismissals are in any way related to last month's bombing of Moscow's Domodedovo airport, which claimed the lives of 37 people.

Following the attack, President Dmitry Medvedev fired the head of interior ministry's transport administration for the Central Federal District, warning of further dismissals.

Medvedev's administration has recently witnessed mass protests against what people call Kremlin's stifling of democracy as well as corruption, and rising prices.

Egypt protesters call for civilian rule

Egyptians wave by their flags in Cairo's Liberation Square on Feb. 25, 2011

Source: Press TV

Thousands of Egyptians have taken over Cairo's liberation Square to demand the military council hand over power to a civilian government.

Protesters also want the army to dissolve Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq's cabinet, which was appointed by ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Massive anti-government protests toppled Mubarak's regime two weeks ago. Mubarak handed power over to the high military council, despite millions-plus pro-democracy demonstrations.

Pro-democracy protesters have recently held massive demonstrations in Cairo, calling for a quicker transfer of power from the interim military government to a civilian one.

Reports say tanks and soldiers have remained at intersections in Cairo since Mubarak was toppled in an 18-day uprising early this month.

Activists have called for the release of political prisoners, the lifting of a 30-year-old state of emergency and the disbandment of military court.

They have vowed to continue demonstrations until the Egyptian army agrees to the reforms.

The developments come as popular revolutions continue to sweep US-backed autocratic regimes across North Africa and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, in Jordan, thousands of security forces have been deployed across the capital Amman on a planned 'Day of Anger.'

Thousands of members of Jordan's Islamic Action Front as well as supporters of major political parties are to march and call for reforms.

Jordan holds largest pro-democracy rally

Source: Press TV

Several thousands of Jordanians have taken to the streets of the capital city, Amman, calling for immediate political and economic reforms.

The protest rally organized by the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, and 19 other political parties is believed to be the largest pro-democracy demonstration in Jordan since January.

The protest rally began following the Friday Prayers. Around 3,000 security personnel were deployed across central Amman on Friday, which was dubbed the "Day of Anger".

Jordanian officials say police officers were deployed to protect the rally and to prevent clashes between pro-democracy protesters and pro-government activists.

Protesters, estimated to be over 10,000 in number according to IAF, have called for an elected government, constitutional reforms and the dissolution of the parliament. At present, King Abdullah appoints and dismisses the prime minister.

"We are demonstrating today against the official bullying and to demand reforms. We seek regime reforms. We want a true parliamentary monarchy. The monarchy should not dominate parliament," leading trade unionist Maisara Malas told AFP.

"Reforms have become a necessity that cannot be delayed. We want immediate constitutional change to help create productive governments and a truly representative parliament. These are the demands of all Jordanians,” Hamzah Mansur, chief of IAF told the crowds.

"Aim of this protest is to have constitutional changes to bring elected government and elected parliament that forms government as well as constitutional court. We also want the departure of this government and parliament to lead to constitutional monarchy," said senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Salem Falahat.

Meanwhile, the supporters of the royal family have also gathered in the heart of the capital to protest against opposition demonstrators.

In early February, after week of pro-democracy protests across Jordan, King Abdullah sacked Prime Minister Samir Rifai over the slow pace of reforms and appointed Marouf al-Bakhit as Jordan's new premier.

Bakhit has promised to follow instructions given by the king and carry out "real economic and political reforms," including amending the election law.

But the opposition in Jordan says Bakhit is not a reformist

Yemeni police open fire on protesters

Source: Press TV

At least one person has been killed and many others have been wounded after Yemeni security forces opened fire on pro-democracy protesters in the southern city of Aden.

Witnesses say security forces fired tear gas and live bullets as thousands of protesters from several parts of the city marched towards the tightly patrolled Al-Aroob Square in Khor Maksar neighborhood.

The victim identified as Mohammed Ahmed Saleh, 17, died from gunshot wounds in a hospital in Khor Maksar.

Friday's fatality came after Yemeni officials said on Thursday that Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh had ordered security forces to protect protesters.

Security forces also opened fire to disperse protesters in some other parts of Aden and arrested many of the demonstrators.

Protesters want Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for three decades, to step down. Mass anti-Saleh demonstrations are also being held in other cities across Yemen.

The pro-democracy protesters have dubbed Friday "the beginning of the end" for Saleh's regime, which has been in power since 1978.

In the capital, Sana'a, tens of thousands of protesters poured into a main square near Sana'a University chanting "Out, out!"

Organizers say over 100,000 protesters have attended the demonstration.

The Yemeni President has described the pro-democracy protesters that demand his ouster as "elements of a coup.”

In a bid to contain the protests, Saleh announced that he would leave power after his term expires in 2013. He also promised not to hand over power to his son.

He has also pledged to raise the wages of government employees and to provide 60,000 job opportunities for university graduates.

But the concessions seem to have not been enough for the protesters and they still want Saleh to step down.

Since the beginning of pro-democracy demonstrations in Yemen, at least 25 people have been killed and hundreds of others have been injured in clashes with security forces.

Bahrain holds mass anti-regime rally

Pro-democracy protesters on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 welcome newly released political prisoners to Pearl Square in Manama.

Source: Press TV

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the Bahraini capital, demanding an end to the rule of the country's Sunni regime.

Waving Bahrain's flag and chanting anti-government slogans, protesters from all over the Persian Gulf littoral state are heading toward Pearl Square in Manama, the epicenter of the movement, on Friday, the 12th consecutive day of pro-democracy protests in Bahrain.

The mass rally is held to honor the victims killed in the recent police crackdown. At least seven protesters have been killed during clashes with security forces since the beginning of pro-democracy protests in Bahrain on February 14.

Protesters demand major reform including the election of the prime minister and the creation of a "real" constitutional monarchy.

Many protesters, mainly Shias, have also called for an end to the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty which has ruled the country for almost two centuries.

While Shias represent nearly 75 percent of the Bahraini population, the country has been ruled by a Sunni royal family since the 18th Century.

Protesters have vowed to remain camped out in Pearl Square and have refused to enter talks with the Crown Prince until their demands are met.

In an attempt to contain massive pro-democracy demonstrations, Bahraini authorities on Wednesday released 23 political prisoners after a pardon by King Hamad. Authorities have also announced a minor cabinet reshuffle.

The Friday's mass rally came after Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, paid a short visit to Bahrain, reaffirming Washington's commitment to embattled King Hamad.

Bahrain is a key US ally in the Middle East and home to Washington's Fifth Fleet.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gaddafi struggles to keep control

Pro-democracy protesters takeover eastern part of the country, as state structure appears to be disintegrating

Source: Press TV

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, is struggling to maintain his authority in the country, as vast swathes of territory in the east now appear to be under the control of pro-democracy protesters.

This comes as international pressure mounts on the Libyan leader to stop the violent crackdown on the demonstrators.

European countries have readied a set of economic sanctions against the country, while Barack Obama, the US president, has slammed the use of "outrageous" force against protesters.

A special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council is also set to take place on Friday to discuss the use of extreme force against peaceful protesters.

On Thursday, anti-government protesters appeared to be in control of the country's eastern coastline, running from the Egyptian border through to the cities of Tobruk and Benghazi, the country's second largest city.

Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said on Wednesday that protesters also held the city of Cyrenaica, while reports indicate that the anti-government forces' control could stretch as far west as the city of Misurata, where machine gun and heavy arms fire has been reported.

Other towns that appear to no longer be under Gaddafi's control include Derna and Bayda, among others across the country's east.

There have been reports of clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters in the cities of Sabha in the south, Sabratha, near Tripoli and Az Zawiya in the west, where fierce violence was reported. Reuters news agency, quoting Egyptian nationals fleeing Az Zawiya, reported that anti-government protesters had taken the city.

'People in control'

Soldiers in the cities controlled by the protesters have switched sides, filling the void and no longer supporting Gaddafi's government. In a statement posted on the internet, army officers stationed in Misurata pledged their "total support" for the protesters.

Major-General Suleiman Mahmoud, the commander of the armed forces in Tobruk, earlier told Al Jazeera that the troops led by him had switched loyalties.

"We are on the side of the people," he said. "I was with him [Gaddafi] in the past but the situation has changed - he's a tyrant."

Thousands gathered in Tobruk to celebrate their taking of the city on Wednesday, with Gaddafi opponents waving flags of the old monarchy, honking cars and firing in the sky.

"In 42 years, he turned Libya upside-down," said Hossi, an anti-government protester there. "Here the leader is a devil. There is no one in the world like him."

Armed opponents of the government are also patrolling the highway that runs along the country's Mediterranean coast. Al Jazeera's correspondent said that even in the towns under anti-government forces' control, gangs of pro-Gaddafi militias had been reported to be roaming the streets at night.

"From what I've seen, I'd say the people of eastern Libya are the one's in control," Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera's correspondent who is in Libya, reported. She said that no Libyan officials had been manning the border where Al Jazeera's team crossed into the country.

Capital paralysed

Tripoli, the Libyan capital, meanwhile, is said to be virtually locked down, and streets remained mostly deserted, even though Gaddafi had called for his supporters to come out in force on Wednesday and "cleanse" the country from the anti-government demonstrators.

He described citizens who opposed him as "rats" and "mercenaries".

Libyan authorities said food supplies were available as "normal" in the shops and urged schools and public services to restore regular services, although economic activity and banks have been paralysed since Tuesday.

London-based newspaper the Independent reported, however, that petrol and food prices in the capital have trebled as a result of serious shortages.

'Advisory role'

In the first comments from a Gaddafi family member regarding a post-Gaddafi Libya, Saadi, the Libyan leader's third son, told London-based newspaper the Financial Times that his father would play an advisory role in any new re

"My father would stay as the big father who advises," he said. "After this positive earthquake, we have to do something for Libya... We have to bring in new blood to govern our country."

He claimed that 85 per cent of the country was "very calm" and that army battalions were ready to strike at protesters.

On Wednesday, an army general told Al Jazeera that two pilots had ejected from their air force jet near the town of Agdabia after refusing to bomb civilians in Benghazi, which has been a stronghold of the anti-government protesters.

In addition to desertions by many army troops, Gaddafi has also been faced with several diplomats in key posts, as well as cabinet ministers, refusing to recognise his authority and calling for him to be removed.

Hundreds killed

Foreign governments, meanwhile, continue to rush to evacuate their citizens, with thousands flooding to the country's borders with Tunisia and Egypt. The United States, Britain, France, Italy, Turkey, China, France and India, among others, have made arrangements for their nationals to leave the country.

James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent, reported that there was "a desperate scene at Tripoli's airport". He said that there was a "log-jam" there, with some saying that they have been trying to leave the country for three days.

He said it was "almost impossible to buy a ticket", and that police were beating people with clubs to stop them from getting inside the airport.

"The airport is still very firmly under the control of Gaddafi's people," he reported, adding that secret police are patrolling the area, and several checkpoints have been set up on the road leading there.

While authorities have placed tight restrictions on reporting from the country, rights groups say that hundreds of people have been killed in the violent crackdown on anti-government protests that began on February 17. Witnesses say that government-employed foreign mercenaries have been patrolling the streets of cities, firing indiscriminately at people.

The use of warplanes against civilian targets has also been widely reported.

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights put the number of people killed at 640, though Nouri el-Mismari, a former protocol chief to Gaddafi, and Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, put the number closer to 1,000.

Denying these figures as "fabrications," the Libyan interior ministry on Wednesday said the death toll since the violence began is only 308.

'Industry of extermination'

Alain Juppe, the French defence minister, on Thursday said he "hop[ed] wholeheartedly Gaddafi is living his last moments as leader". He repeated calls for economic sanctions to be imposed on Libya, including halting purchases of oil from the country.

William Hague, the British foreign minister, said that the United Kingdom was seeking an international investigation into the use of violence against Libyan protesters, and that the "odds are stacking heavily against [Gaddafi]". In earlier comments, Hague had suggested that mass desertions and defections from the diplomatic corps and military meant that Libyan state institutions were in danger of collapse.

Opposition parties in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, meanwhile, have made a joint statement on the government crackdown in Libya, calling on their governments to intervene.

"It is a genuine industry of extermination that has been unleashed. We must stand up to it, as any conscious individual would, and do everything to stop this massacre," read the statement.

As condemnations for the crackdown continue to pour in, international oil prices have hit two-and-a-half year high on the back of instability in the country, which is one of Africa's largest oil producers.

World slams Gaddafi brutal crackdown

Libyans prepare to bury their dead after 1,000 pro-democracy protesters were killed in airstrikes on Monday

Source: Press TV

The Libyan regime is facing growing international condemnation over its brutal crackdown on pro-democracy supporters as the death toll from the country's revolution climbs.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday that the 27-member bloc has decided to suspend talks with Libya on the EU-Libya Framework Agreement and promised to "take further measures" in response to the brutal violence against Libyan civilians.

The UN Security Council has also condemned Libya's deadly crackdown on the pro-democracy protesters and demanded an immediate end to the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations against Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's regime and expressed "deep regret for the death of hundreds of civilians."

A statement from the 15-member council called for those responsible for the violence against protesters to be brought to account and said Libya's regime had to "address the legitimate demands of the population."

The African Union (AU) also slammed the brutal crackdown on civilians in crisis-hit Libya, asking for an end to the suppression of the pro-democracy protesters.

The African body said in a statement issued on Wednesday that it "condemns the disproportionate use of force against civilians and deeply deplores the many human lives lost so far."

US President Barack Obama condemned the "outrageous" crackdown by Libyan security forces on protesters and said Washington would work with international partners to hold Gaddafi's government accountable.

"The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters," Obama said in his first public comments on the violence in Libya.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday deplored the Libyan government's violent crackdown on protesters and warned that the unrest could threaten the global economy.

This comes just a day after Gaddafi pledged to fight the intensifying revolution against his four-decade-long grip on power.

As many as 1,000 Libyans have so far been killed by the Libyan forces under Gaddafi's rule.

A total of 130 Libyan soldiers have been executed for refusing to open fire on anti-Gaddafi protesters.

Gaddafi, who came to power 41 years ago in a bloodless military coup, delivered a televised address on Tuesday in which he vowed to fight on to his "last drop of blood" and called on his supporters to take to the streets to confront the pro-democracy protesters.

He also declared that he has no intention of relinquishing power and referred to the protesters as "rats and to be held to account d cockroaches."

Yemeni MPs resign to protest gov't crack down

Source: Press TV

Seven members of Yemen parliament from the ruling people's Congress Party have resigned in response to the heavy crackdown on anti-government protests.

Abdulaziz Jubari, Member of Parliament stated that they are going to form an independent bloc that will fulfill their national duty.

Last week, two other members of parliament stepped down in protest against the government's heavy-handed tactics in quelling protests.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters converged on a square in front of the Sana'a University and called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign for the third consecutive day.

Supporters of the President attacked the square overnight, killing at least two protesters and injuring some twenty others.

Elsewhere in Aden, at least 12 protesters have been killed and around 75 injured following a wave of unrest that started two weeks ago.

President Saleh has been in power since 1978. Saleh says he plans to step down after national elections in 2013, but that has failed to satisfy the demonstrators.

This, as many Yemenis are fed up with corruption within the government and high unemployment.

Anti-government sentiments are running high, while many observers believe that the ruling party and the opposition are poles apart now, so the prospects for sincere negotiations look dimmer than ever.

'Bahrain govt. must resign Thursday'

Bahraini protesters in Pearl Square in Manama (file Photo)

Source: Press TV

Bahrainis will go on a nationwide strike and hold more massive demonstrations if the government does not resign on Thursday, an opposition figure says.

“We have set Thursday as deadline for the government to resign and if it fails to resign on that day, we would expand the protest. If they ignore the call of the people, we will have to take further actions, including a nationwide strike to begin next week,” RIA Novosti quoted a Bahraini opposition activist as saying on Thursday.

This is while, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has agreed to withdraw troops from the streets of Manama and pardon political prisoners.

However, the king has refused to dismiss the government and amend the constitution, which are the opposition's main demands. The demands are also the preconditions for any future talks between the opposition and the rulers.

On Wednesday, more than 100 political prisoners were released; a move that is viewed as Bahraini monarch's latest bid to start talks to end a standoff with the opposition.

Meanwhile, the Bahraini king went to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to discuss the situation in his country with King Abdullah, who has just come back from the US after undergoing medical treatment.

On the other hand, exiled leader of the opposition Haq Movement Hassan Mashaima, who had been scheduled to arrive from the United Kingdom to join Tuesday's demonstrations, has not returned home.

Mashaima had flown from London to Doha, Qatar, but then flew on to Beirut, Lebanon. It was not immediately clear what caused Mashaima to delay his return to the Persian Gulf country.

At least seven people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries in the days of violent government crackdown on Bahrain's pro-democracy protesters

'Iran brushes off Israeli threats'

The Khark vessel transits through the Suez Canal on February 22, 2011

Source: Press TV

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari has downplayed Israel's threats against Iran, saying Tehran will pursue its plans irrespective of Tel Aviv's threats.

“The Zionist regime (Israel) may have caused concern for itself… but we will implement our plans regardless of the regime and in coordination with friend countries in the region,” IRNA quoted Sayyari as speaking to reporters in the Syrian capital city of Damascus on Wednesday.

He made the remarks after two Iranian ships, Khark and Alvand, docked at a Syria port following their passage through the Suez Canal, a strategic international shipping route in Egypt, for the first time since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.

The 1,500-ton patrol frigate Alvand is armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, while the larger 33,000-ton supply vessel Khark has 250 crewmembers and can carry three helicopters.

Sayyari said the two Iranian warships docked in Syria's Lattakia Port “on a routine and friendly visit and carry the message of peace and friendship to world countries.”

The Iranian commander refuted involvement of the ships in any military exercise and noted that the two vessels are on a long-term training mission.

Sayyari noted that the Egyptian government has authorized the passage of the two ships through the Suez Canal and added that they are currently sailing in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Egyptian official news agency, MENA, reported on Friday that Cairo had "agreed to allow the two Iranian warships to transit the Suez Canal."

Israel, however, has placed its Navy on alert, branding the naval movement as a cause for 'concern' and an act of provocation.

On Tuesday, Iran's Deputy Army Commander Brigadier General Abdul-Rahim Mousavi said that Israel has been outraged by the passage of the two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal.

“The Zionist regime was shocked by the presence of Iran's naval ships in the Suez Canal and this is the reason that the regime has made propagandas on the matter over recent days,” he added.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday expressed concerns over the passage of the two Iranian ships through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.

"Israel views with gravity this Iranian initiative and other developments that reinforce what we have said in past years about Israel's security needs," he claimed in a statement released by his office.

"Today we are witnessing the instability of the region in which we live and in which Iran is trying to profit by extending its influence by dispatching two warships to cross the Suez Canal," added the premier.

The United States -- the most influential NATO member -- has also announced that it will be "watching carefully to see where these ships go and the implications of that."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Israeli airstrikes injure 15 Gazans

Source: Press TV

Israeli fighter jets and helicopters have once again attacked the Gaza Strip, injuring 15 civilians, witnesses and security sources say.

Israel's F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters carried out a series of airstrikes on Thursday across the Gaza Strip, a Press TV correspondent reported.

No further details was available on the possible casualties and damage to property caused by the attacks.

Earlier on Wednesday, more than 13 Palestinians, including children, were injured in two separate Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, medics said.

The incident took place during a brief incursion by Israeli forces into the east of Gaza City.

Oil hits new high over Libya revolution

Source: Press TV

The revolution in Libya and concerns over supply disruptions in the country have pushed crude prices to a two-year high of over 100 dollars a barrel.

Brent crude rose above $111 per barrel on Wednesday, while light, sweet crude for April delivery briefly touched $100 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The price hike comes as the Libyan government has lost control to pro-democracy protesters in many cities in the east, where much of its oil producing capacity and port operations lie.

The Libyan crisis is threatening the livelihood of foreign companies with vested interests in the North African nation.

Foreign oil companies, namely ENI of Italy, Spain's Repsol, French energy giant Total, Norwegian Statoil and the oil subsidiary of Germany's chemical group BASF, have halted much of their energy production in Libya and moved personnel out of the country.

Libya has proven oil reserves of 44 billion barrels, the largest in Africa, according to the International Energy Agency and exports most of its crude and gas production to Europe.

But Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi said in a defiant speech on Tuesday that he would not step down and threatened tougher action against protesters.

This has raised concerns that long-lasting supply disruptions or even permanent damage would happen to the OPEC member's oil industry.

'US discards defaced dictator friends'

Source: Press TV

Concerns are rising in the Arab world over the US record of stripping long-time dictator allies of its support after the ouster of the defaced rulers.

The website for Al-Jazeera Arabic published an article on Wednesday which listed Washington's former dictator allies who were appreciated while in power but discarded after their ouster.

The article named Iran's former Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as an explicit example of America's betrayal of its dictator allies. Former US president Jimmy Carter, who had once described Iran as “an island of stability” under the shah, later abandoned support for the monarch. The US even denied him entry for cancer treatment after he lost power in Iran's popular revolt of 1979.

The one-day ruler of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, who had been brought to power by the US in 1965, returned the favor by turning his country into a representative of the United States in South East Asia. But this did not save him from the People Power Revolution led by Corazon Aquino.

Following Sudan's 1986 revolution, the country's dictator Jafaar Nimeiri was also denied political asylum to the United States. This came after his claims of burying American nuclear waste in his country and helping Jews migrate from Ethiopia to occupied Palestinian territories.

Panama's former ruler Manuel Noriega, currently imprisoned in France, also helped strengthen America's control over the country and the Panama Canal.

Back in 2008, former US President George W. Bush abandoned support for his close ally and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf amid uprisings in the country. Musharraf played a crucial role in the Bush's 'war on terror.'

Quite recently, Tunisia's former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, also a former ally of the US, has been faced with the same fate as various media sources claimed that the US was responsible for furthering along his ouster.

Following Ben Ali's ouster, former Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak stepped down after a popular revolution. Mubarak was also a US ally, serving Washington's policies especially in connection with Israel and its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Clashes in Athens at anti-austerity march

Source: Press TV

Greek police clashed with protesters as Athens came to a standstill following a 24 hour general strike.

Tens of thousands of workers, pensioners and students marched to the parliament in protest at austerity policies imposed by the governing socialist party.

The government of Prime Minister George Papandreou has agreed to the austerity measures in return for bailout loans worth 110 billion euros, offered by the European union and the International Monetary Fund. But its policies are met with strong opposition

In front of the parliament, protesters set up a coffin and unfolded a black banner reading "We are dying".

Riot police fired scores of rounds of teargas and flash bombs at protesters hurling petrol bombs and stones against them. The Constitution square and several central streets were choked with tear gas.

According to police, at least two policemen and five civilians were injured, including a journalist slightly hurt by a petrol bomb. Several protesters were detained.

The greek government is determined to go on with the reforms. But the anger among many Greeks is palpable

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