Saturday, April 30, 2011

Press TV signal jammed on Nilesat

Source: Press TV

The signal of Press TV has been jammed on the Nilesat satellite provider, and the operator has failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the electronic interference.

The Iran-based English-language news network has been jammed on the Nilesat satellite since 6:39 p.m. Tehran time (1509 GMT) and has not returned to normal.

The source of jamming is said to be a nearby transponder which sends powerful interfering signals.

When contacted by Press TV, the satellite provider first declined to comment but later said the interference was due to bad weather.

After Press TV said that the jamming has been reported in some other areas, the satellite provider promised to pursue the matter and solve the problem.

The Iran-based Arabic-language Al-Alam network has also reported similar problems.

The Press TV and Al-Alam networks have been widely watched in the Arab world for their comprehensive coverage of the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

US gasoline prices surpass $4

Source: Press TV

As oil companies rake in record profits in the first-quart earnings, the price of gas at the pump has risen to more than USD 4 per gallon in the United States.

In some states, the price of gasoline has risen to more than USD 4.50 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Association's (AAA) Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

With the price of gas continuing to rise across the country, the Big Five oil companies -- ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips -- have announced record earnings totaling USD 34 billion within the first quarter of 2011, The Huffington Post reported.

This is a 42 percent increase in combined profits from last year. Exxon alone reportedly has gained USD 10.7 billion in profits this year, which is up 69 percent from 2010.

The price per barrel of oil is at a record high of USD 113, while producing it costs companies approximately USD 30. This, itself, has added to the companies' record profits.

Additionally, taxpayer subsidies for oil and gas companies are at around USD 4 billion a year.

Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs admitted that speculation on oil and gas stocks has contributed to the rise in the price of oil.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), however, claims that the companies' profits reflect their contributions to the US economy. “The US oil and natural gas industry's strong earnings signal growing strength in our economy,” API President and CEO Jack Gerard stated earlier this week.

Saleh backs away from resignation deal

A Yemeni boy holds up a sign during a rally demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taizz on April 29, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has backtracked on an Arab-brokered deal that would require him to step down in exchange for legal immunity.

Saleh said on Saturday that he would not sign the deal mediated by the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC), the Associated Press cited his close ally Abed al-Jundi as saying.

The deal had been scheduled to be signed in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh on Sunday.

The decision surfaced while (P)GCC Secretary General Abdul Latif Al Zayani was in the Yemeni capital Sana'a to urge Saleh to sign the deal he had earlier said he agreed with in principle.

According to Jundi, Saleh refused to sign the agreement, saying it should be signed by the leader of his political party, the General People's Congress.

Saleh also wanted assurances that he would remain in power during a 30-day transition period after signing the deal.

Opposition leader Mohammed Basnadwa said the opposition had told the Arab mediator that they would not agree to any deal unless Saleh signed it first.

Meanwhile, clashes broke out on Saturday in the southern port city of Aden, where Saleh loyalists, backed by tanks and heavy weapons, pushed out hundreds of demonstrators from a square they had been camping in for about two months.

Four demonstrators were shot dead and several others suffered bullet wounds in the incident, Yemeni activists said.

In addition, hundreds of people held a demonstration near Sana'a University, which has been the hub of anti-regime protests in Yemen.

Saleh, a close ally of the United States, has been facing massive protests demanding that he step down after three decades in power.

'Mubarak could face death penalty'

Egypt's former dictator Hosni Mubarak

Source: Press TV

Egypt's former dictator Hosni Mubarak could face the death penalty if found guilty of killing anti-regime protesters during the revolution, the country's justice minister says.

"Certainly, if convicted for the crime of killing protesters, it could result in the death sentence,'' Justice Minister Abdel Aziz al-Gindi told the daily Al-Ahram on Saturday.

The Justice Ministry is looking into the suspicious deaths of more than 800 people.

The state is looking to prove that Mubarak was an accomplice ordering the use of violence against protesters.

"The only one capable of pardoning Mubarak ... would be the new president,'' al-Gindi noted.

“If I were the president, I will not pardon him for killing 800 martyrs.''

The 82-year-old Mubarak is currently in police custody in an Egyptian hospital. He is reportedly suffering from repeated heart attacks which occurred during interrogation.

Mubarak's sons were also taken into custody over accusations of corruption and abuse of authority.

During his trial, Mubarak's former interior minister, Habib al-Adly has testified that the former president ordered him to use violence against protesters.

At least 846 people were killed during the uprising in the country which led to the eventual fall of Mubarak in February.

Nuclear aide to Japan premier resigns

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan has been under fire over the recent nuclear crisis in the country

Source: Press TV

A senior nuclear adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has submitted his resignation, alleging the government had ignored his advice on radiation limits and failed to follow the law.

Toshiso Kosako, a Tokyo University professor, who was named last month as an aide to Kan, said the Japanese government had only taken ad hoc measures to contain the crisis at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, Al Jazeera reported.

In a tearful press conference, he said the government and its commissions had taken "flexible approaches" to existing laws and regulations, and ignored his advice after he was named an adviser on March 16.

"I cannot help but to think [the prime minister's office and other agencies] are only taking stopgap measures... and delaying the end" of the nuclear crisis, he told reporters.

The expert criticized the government's handling of the crisis and said their action was knee-jerk.

Kosako went on to say that he could not stay on and allow the government to set what he said were improper radiation limits for elementary schools near the crippled plant.

“The expert was particularly critical of the government's nuclear radiation exposure limit. His biggest attack was the government limit for children, which he said was 20 times too high in Fukushima Prefecture."

The expert said the radiation limit for children should have been much lower as they are being exposed to radiation, and that” his recommendations were ignored.”

NATO dismisses Gaddafi's truce offer

A wounded man from Niger walks with a stick as he waits to be evacuated with some 500 refugees near the port of the besieged Libyan city of Misratah on April 30, 2011

Source: Press TV

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operating in Libya has dismissed the country's ruler Muammar Gaddafi's proposal of a ceasefire.

Earlier, Gaddafi asked the NATO member states involved in Libya operations to start negotiations to stop the air attacks, saying he was ready to make oil contracts with Western countries if it was the real motive behind the strikes.

Despite Gaddafi's offer of a truce, his forces continued shelling the besieged city of Misratah, aggravating the humanitarian situation for the residents of the city.

Libyan revolutionaries say Gaddafi tanks took positions on the airport road Thursday night and shelled homes in Misratah, trying to get into the city but were kept back.

Gaddafi regime has threatened to attack any ships trying to get aid to people. Libyan government has said the only possible humanitarian route is by road and under the supervision of the army.

British Brigadier Rob Weighill, director of NATO operations in Libya, says they intercepted several Libyan boats putting anti-shipping mines outside the harbor of Misratah to cut aid route to the city. NATO said they deposed three mines early Friday.

UN chief welcomes Palestinian deal

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Source: Press TV

Despite Israeli efforts for denunciation of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the unity deal.

“The secretary general welcomes efforts being made to promote Palestinian reconciliation and the important contribution of Egypt in this regard," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement on Friday.

“He hopes that reconciliation will now take place in a manner that promotes the cause of peace, security and non-violence,” the spokesperson added.

Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal will meet Fatah leader and acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas at the Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on May 4 to sign the Egyptian-brokered deal.

The Palestinian movements, which have been at odds since Hamas came to power in 2006, reached an initial agreement on all controversial issues, including the elections and the formation of the interim unity government.

They have also agreed to hold the elections within one year.

“The United Nations will study carefully the agreement as soon as the details are available," Nesirky noted.

The agreement, however, has sparked an outrage among Israeli officials, who have threatened the Palestinian Authority with retaliatory measures if the deal is signed.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton recently that Israel expects the EU to adopt a cautious approach in respect to the Fatah-Hamas agreement.

Saudi media face fresh restrictions

The Saudi media is tightly supervised by the ruling Al-Saud dynasty, headed by King Abdullah (center

Source: Press TV

Saudi Arabia has imposed new media restrictions, threatening news organizations that allegedly undermine national security, with heavy fines and closure.

Under a decree issued by Saudi King Abdullah on Friday, the media will be prohibited from reporting anything that contradicts the Islamic law or "foreign interests," an AFP report said.

The rule also requires publishers to stick "to objective and constructive criticism that serves the general interest."

Violators of the new decree face fines of up to 500,000 riyals -- which equals USD 133,000.

Saudi authorities can also ban a writer for life from contributing to any media organization.

The Saudi media is tightly supervised by the ruling Al Saud dynasty and most of the country's leading newspapers are owned by people who are a part of or closely linked to the government.

The new restrictions come as the Kingdom tries to prevent the spread of regional uprisings and revolutions to Saudi Arabia.

This is while, during the past months, Saudi Arabia's oil-rich east has been the scene of anti-government protests.

On Friday, Saudi Arabian riot police attacked a peaceful protest rally in the city of Qatif, injuring at least five people while attempting to disperse demonstrators by force.

The demonstrators have poured into the streets to condemn Riyadh's role in the brutal crackdown on Bahraini protesters.

They are also calling for human rights reform, freedom of expression and the release of political prisoners held without trial for more than 16 years.

Human Rights Watch says more than 160 protesters have been arrested since February as part of the Saudi government's crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Among those taken into custody are two prominent anti-regime bloggers, local activists say.

According to the Saudi-based Human Rights First Society (HRFS), many detainees have been subject to torture both physically and mentally.

Yemenis want immediate Saleh ouster

Anti-government protesters in Sana'a on April 29, 2011

Source: Press TV

Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters take to the streets in Yemen to demand the immediate departure of President Ali Abdallah Saleh, instead of the phased handover of power.

In the capital, some 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets to mark a "Friday of Loyalty to the Martyrs" after attending the funeral of 12 anti-government protesters who were killed by security forces on Wednesday.

“We will continue our revolution forcefully and we will not back down even if we have to offer a million martyrs," a cleric told the crowds.

The protesters also condemned a deal proposed by the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council under which Saleh will receive complete immunity from prosecution in return for transferring power to his vice president and submitting his resignation to Parliament within 30 days.

The agreement is due to be signed in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Many protesters, however, say Saleh cannot be trusted to honor the deal.

In the port city of Hudaydah, plainclothes gunmen attacked anti-government protesters, wounding at least 10 demonstrators.

"Two of them were seriously injured, and they were abducted by what we think were plainclothes security men and put in a car. There was nothing we could do," AFP quoted Abdulhafez al-Hatami, a political activist in Hudaydah as saying.

Similar huge anti-Saleh protest rallies were also held in the cities of Ibb and Bayda.

According to local sources, since the beginning of anti-Saleh demonstrations across Yemen in late January, at least 300 protesters have been killed and many others injured during clashes with riot police and armed forces loyal to the unpopular Yemeni president.

Bahrain deploys tanks in Diraz

Bahraini protesters are calling for an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty

Source: Press TV

Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have deployed tanks and armored vehicles in Diraz, shortly after attacking a peaceful protest march in the western village of Karzakan.

Witnesses say regime forces fired live bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters and that army helicopters have been flying over protesters in Karzakan on Friday. There were no immediate reports of casualties or arrests.

Also on Friday, the regime forces besieged the northwestern village of Diraz with tanks and heavy military vehicles.

Meanwhile, pro-regime thugs backed by police stormed Dair village.

Despite a martial law and the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in several Bahraini cities following the Friday Prayers, demanding an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty.

They also condemned the Manama regime's violent crackdown on demonstrators.

On Thursday, a military court in Bahrain sentenced four anti-government protesters to death and three years to life in prison for their alleged involvement in the killing of two police officers last month.

Bahrain's Center for Human Rights says the charges brought against the four protesters are politically motivated and rights activists have questioned the trial's legality.

The verdicts have also caused international outrage with the European Union and the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah strongly condemning the death sentences, describing them as deplorable.

"Such a judgment is a continuation to the crime committed by the regime in Bahrain against its people," Hezbollah said in a statement.

"The reality of matters shows that these judgments are political and not judicial, the regime's attempt to [show] it is a judicial [matter] will not succeed in hiding the truth of what the Bahrain people are [suffering] from. They are being oppressed because they are demanding their legitimate rights," the statement added.

Dozens of protesters have been killed and scores of others have been injured since the uprising began in Bahrain in mid February.

Many journalists, bloggers, doctors, lawyers and opposition activists have also been arrested as part of a widespread crackdown on anti-regime protests.

Protesters are demanding an end to the 40-year rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty.

Protesters say they will continue their street demonstrations until their demands for freedom, constitutional monarchy as well as a proportional voice in the government are met.

US closes five more banks

Source: Press TV (US Desk)

Five U.S. banks in Michigan, Georgia and Florida have been closed by regulators, bringing the total number of bank failures for the year so far to 39, as the credit crunch continues to take a toll on financial institutions.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) said Mount Clemens, Mich.-based Community Central Bank; Valdosta, Ga.-based The Park Avenue Bank; Dallas, Ga.-based First Choice Community Bank; Brooksville, Fla.-based Cortez Community Bank; and Winter Park, Fla.-based First National Bank of Central Florida were all closed.

The collective failure of the five banks will cost the federal deposit-insurance fund $643.2 million, the FDIC said.


According to FDIC, nearly 340 banks have been seized by the government since 2008. The total number of bank failures in 2011 has so far been 39, compared to 157 in 2010, 140 in 2009, 25 in 2008 and just 3 in 2007. FDIC

More than 10 percent of the U.S.'s 7,760 banks still are in financial trouble. Rawstory

Nearly one hundred banks now being in shaky condition got more than $4.2 billion in infusions from the Treasury Department under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Wall Street Journal

The Federal Reserve's two rounds of asset purchases total $2.3 trillion, including a 600-billion-dollar stimulus. This is the last stimulus of its kind following the previous 1.7-trillion dollar bond purchase by the Fed in 2009. Bloomberg

Many economists believe the U.S. bailout plan will stoke inflation and make it more difficult to get out of the economic crisis. Curious Capitalist

Crude prices continue to surge

Source: Press TV

Crude oil prices have passed 114 dollars a barrel for the first time in 31 months, posting the eighth consecutive monthly rise.

New York's light sweet crude for delivery in June hit $114.18 a barrel minutes before the market closed on Friday, AFP reported.

Experts believe the surge, the highest peak since September 22, 2008, is due to dollar's continuing slide against other major currencies.

The West Texas Intermediate contract finished at $113.93 a barrel, up $1.07 from Thursday's closing, and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery rose to nearly $126 a barrel in London.

The price of the New York benchmark also climbed 6.7 percent against the month of April, and about 25 percent since the beginning of the year.

Both US and Brent crude bounced from early dips after data indicated that inflation in the eurozone rose above the European Central Bank's speculations in April.

Eurozone inflation rose to 2.8 percent in April from 2.7 percent in March, according to a first estimate from the European data agency Eurostat.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Egypt to open Rafah border crossing

Palestinian doctors demonstrate in front of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on April 27, 2011demanding the end of the siege by Israel on the Gaza Strip and the opening of the Rafah crossing. (File photo)

Source: Press TV

Egypt is preparing to permanently open the Rafah border crossing in a move that would allow people and goods to enter and exit the Gaza Strip.

Reports say Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi said in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Thursday that the crossing will be opened within ten days.

Al-Arabi stated that the move is aimed at easing the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip and at alleviating the “blockade and suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Over 1.5 million people in the coastal strip have been living under an Israeli siege since June 2007.

The plan indicates a change in policy following Egypt's recent uprising which ousted the longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Meanwhile, a deal has been reached for a unity government between the Palestinian factions of Hamas and Fatah after negotiations were held in the Cairo. Fatah has presided over the Israeli-occupied West Bank since 2007.

Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since the former won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006.

US warns against Palestinian unity deal

Acting PA Chief Mahmoud Abbas (L) in a meeting with US President Barack Obama (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Source: Press TV

US lawmakers have warned that Washington would halt its aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) should the Fatah party form a unity government with Hamas.

In the wake of an announcement of a unity deal between the two sides by acting PA Chief Mahmoud Abbas, the lawmakers said that US funding could not flow to a unity government, Israeli news source Ynetnews reported on Thursday.

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv before they make their statement regarding the US funding to a Palestinian unity government.

"The Palestinian Authority has chosen an alliance with violence and extremism over the democratic values that Israel represents," said the group.

"US taxpayer funds should not and must not be used to support those who threaten US security, our interests and our vital ally, Israel," said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican chairwoman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

The United States has given an average of about $400 million per year to the Palestinian Authority headed by caretaker Prime Minister Salam Feyadh. Total US funding since 1994 has topped $3.5 billion.

Israel, a close ally to the US, is mainly concerned over an agreement between Hamas and Fatah, two Palestinian factions that have been at odds since Hamas came to power in the 2006 general elections.

Netanyahu said on Thursday that "The Palestinian National Authority needs to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas."

The Israeli premier added that peace with both sides is impossible because Hamas aspired to destroy Israel.

Israel launched a three-week devastating war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in December 2008, leaving 1,400 Palestinians, mostly women and children, dead and thousands of others displaced.

Bahrainis enraged by death sentences

A man looks at a billboard in Muharraq, Bahrain, Thursday, April 28, 2011, demanding no leniency for those who opposed the Bahraini regime.

Source: Press TV

Clashes have erupted between Saudi-backed anti-riot police and anti-regime protesters in Bahrain's eastern city of Sitra as a military court has announced death sentences for four protesters.

Bahraini authorities said on Thursday that the death sentences were issued after the military court found them guilty over the killing of two policemen in recent protests. Three others have been given life sentence.

Reports say that Bahraini troops have shot at the protesters during the clashes.

Earlier, Saudi-backed forces used poison gas on anti-regime demonstrators. One protester is reported to be in serious condition.

On Wednesday, Bahraini forces reportedly raided a medical center in Sitra and detained several doctors.

Rights groups and relatives of the condemned men, all Shias, dismissed the proceedings as a farce.

“They were activists in their villages and we think they were targeted because of their activities,” said Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

“This will deepen the gap between the ruling elite and the population,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

Amnesty International's Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Malcolm Smart, objecting to the death penalty, said that since the accused had been tried by a military court, he fears “about the fairness of the entire process.”

The Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah also issued a statement strongly condemning Bahrain's decision.

“Such a judgment is a continuation to the crime committed by the regime in Bahrain against its people,” it said.

“The reality of matters shows that these judgments are political and not judicial,” the statement added. “The regime's attempt to [show] it is a judicial [matter] will not succeed in hiding the truth of what the Bahrain people are [suffering] from. They are being oppressed because they are demanding their legitimate rights.”

Bahrain is a staunch US ally and is host to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Russia to suspend gasoline exports

Source: Press TV

The Russian Energy Ministry has halted the exports of refined petroleum products for May, 2011, since the country has run out of fuel in some regions.

Since Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested that pump prices be restrained in February, the oil situation in Russia has entered a period of crisis, and fuel companies have sought higher prices in other countries, The Moscow Times reports.

"I think that in May we must satisfy our own demand with the help of export cutbacks. As of today we have made an agreement that oil companies will deliver all volumes [of gasoline] to the domestic market," Deputy Energy Minister Sergei Kudryashov said at an emergency meeting with oil companies.

The amount of Russian petrol exported by rail in the first three months of this year rose to be 40 per cent higher than it was in the same period last year, which, in turn, caused the fuel stations in some parts of the country, including St Petersburg, to start running dry.

Officials have reported scenes of "panic" at filling stations in the Tomsk, Belgorod and Voronezh regions in western Russia, which have been hardest hit by gasoline shortage.

Russia is quite well-known for its exports of crude oil, but in terms of refined oil, the country lacks fame.

Russia exported only about three million tons of refined oil products in 2010 -- a fraction of total oil and gas exports, which are mostly made up of unrefined products.

The Energy Ministry said in a statement Thursday that supplies had been restored in the Altai region, but shortages have also been felt in Lipetsk, Kemerovo and Tula, where supplies of high octane gasoline are down to three to five days, the ministry said.

Other affected regions include Novosibirsk and Sakhalin. It has also been reported that some fuel blends had begun to run out in Smolensk on Thursday.

Oil companies have blamed the shortages on government support for car sales, which resulted in a boom of 1.91 million units sold in 2010, up 30 per cent on 2009, and a simultaneous policy of suppressing gasoline retail prices.

Rosneft and LUKoil -- Russia's two largest oil producers -- plan to set up corporate structures for Arctic transit and offshore exploration projects by August 1 as the companies seek to maintain output.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Russia to set up new nuke deterrence

Russia test-fired the Sineva submarine-launched ballistic missile from a Delta-IV class submarine on Tuesday

Source: Press TV

The Russian Strategic Missile Forces are installing a new sea-based strategic nuclear deterrent system capable of surviving a full-scale nuclear attack, Russian Defense ministry says.

The Sineva submarine-launched ballistic missile, which was successfully test-fired from a Delta-IV class submarine on Tuesday, is being installed by the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said Russia's Army spokesman Colonel Vadim Koval, quoted by Russia Today on Wednesday.

"The missile was launched from the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine from an underwater position in the Barents Sea. The Sineva's warheads reached the Kura range on [the] Kamchatka Peninsula at the planned time," said Russia's Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Igor Konashenkov.

Russian Army officials have not commented on when the process is scheduled to be completed.

The liquid-fuel weapon, with a maximum range of over 10,000 kilometers, can carry four to ten nuclear warheads, depending on the modification.

With the triple-backup communication lines, including satellite, radio and wired lines, the system can operate with no on-site human assistance. It also has a precise automatic self-diagnosis function.

Russia placed Sineva on active duty on July 9, 2007. The system weighs more than 40 metric tons and measures roughly 50 feet in length and six feet in diameter.

The Russian military is undergoing a major development plan with more than USD 700 billion of budget money set to be spent over a decade for procurement of new weapons.

Russia is currently working on the development of its Strategic Missile Forces, including the deployment of RS-24 Yars mobile missiles and construction of a new silo-based missile that would replace the R-36M Voevoda.

UK to deploy troops on Libyan border

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox

Source: Press TV

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox has announced plans to deploy British troops on the Libyan border with Tunisia.

In a parliamentary session on Wednesday, Fox claimed the British troops will be dispatched to the border to enforce “safe havens” for more than 30,000 civilian refugees fleeing from attacks by Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's troops, the Independent reported.

He also asserted that the troop deployment would be within the terms of a UN resolution authorizing military action in Libya.

Defying warnings that the UK may have to prepare itself for a long war, Fox reiterated that British operation in Libya “isn't time-limited.”

However, he rejected suggestions that the Libyan war has reached a stalemate, saying “politically, economically, [and] militarily, we are moving forward.”

Despite economic austerity measures adopted by the British government, the defense minister insisted that the required funds would be allocated to continue operations in Libya for as long as necessary.

“We are not going to be limited by pounds, shillings and pence but we have the resolve to see through the mission,” he said.

Since the revolution against Colonel Gaddafi's regime began in mid-February, tens of thousands have been killed and injured in clashes between Libyan revolutionaries and pro-Gaddafi forces.

US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz estimated on Wednesday that the number of Libyan fatalities since the revolution in the North African country began may be as high as 30,000 people.

Meanwhile, many civilians have reportedly been killed since the Western coalition unleashed a major air campaign against Libyan forces on March 19 under a UN mandate, namely to “protect the Libyan population.”

Israel slams Hamas-Fatah unity deal

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Source: Press TV

Israel has slammed a deal between the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions to form an interim unity government and hold elections within a year.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that "with this accord, a red line has been crossed," AFP reported on Thursday.

Tel Aviv could “freeze the transfer of taxes collected by Israel for the Palestinian Authority,” Lieberman said.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak also commented on the issue saying that "the latest events do nothing but reinforce the necessity of relying only on ourselves.”

He boasted that the Israeli army and security forces “will use an iron fist to deal with any threat and challenge.”

Delegations representing Hamas and Fatah came to an understanding on Wednesday in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, where they resumed unity talks.

Shortly after the deal was announced, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas must "choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas."

The latest deal is expected to be followed by signing of a reconciliation agreement between all Palestinian factions in Egypt.

Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since the former won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006.

Fatah set up headquarters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, with Hamas arguing that the faction works in cahoots with Tel Aviv.

Last year, Hamas complained about an arrest campaign against its members led by the so-called security forces functioning under Fatah's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, declaring that its rival faction works "in close coordination with those of the Israeli occupiers" in the West Bank.

Bahrain issues four death sentences

Source: Press TV

Bahrain's military court has sentenced four anti-government protesters to death, in a move to further crush the ongoing revolutionary movement in the small Persian Gulf country.

This comes while the Manama regime rejects reports by a number of human rights groups on massive rights violations in the country.

According to local sources, Bahraini authorities have raided hospitals, torturing doctors and injuring anti-government protesters in an effort to quell mass protests.

Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and Physicians for Human Rights have charged Bahraini security officials with systematic attacks on doctors and patients.

Physicians for Human Rights say doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Since mid-February, thousands of anti-government protesters in Bahrain, home to the US Navy Fifth Fleet major military base, have poured into the streets calling for an end to Al-Khalifa dynasty, which has ruled the country for over forty years.

On March 13, Saudi-led forces were dispatched to the Persian Gulf island at Manama's request to quell countrywide protests.

According to local sources, dozens of people have been killed and hundreds arrested so far during the government clampdown on the peaceful demonstrations.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

US at risk of war with China, Russia

Source: Press TV
Click the link for Interview with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The US is at the risk of a war with Russia and China as its main objective behind engineering the Libyan war and Syrian unrest is to remove the two world powers out of the Mediterranean, a former US official warns.

“Washington is all for invading against Libya and is putting more and more pressure to intervene in Syria because we want to ... clear China and Russia out of the Mediterranean,” Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary to US Treasury in Panama City said in an interview with Press TV.

On one hand, China has massive energy investments in eastern Libya and is relying on Libya and on the other hand, Russia has a large naval base in Syria and it gives it a presence in the Mediterranean, he pointed out.

“Those two countries are just in the way of American hegemony in the Mediterranean and certainly the Americans do not want a powerful Russian fleet stationed there and they certainly don't want China drawing energy resources,” Roberts added.

“Once Russia and China come to the conclusion that the Americans simply cannot be dealt with it in any rational way and are determined to somehow subdue them and do them damage, all kinds of escalations can result. This is the real danger and we're risking a major war,” the former senior US official cautioned.

Meanwhile, the US does not want to overthrow the governments in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, where both governments are using violence against protesters “Because they're our puppets and we have a large naval base in Bahrain,” Roberts argued.

Many civilians have reportedly been killed since the US-led coalition unleashed a major air campaign against Libya's regime forces on March 19 under a UN mandate to protect the Libyan population.

According to Libya's National Transitional Council, since the revolution against Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's regime began in mid-February at least 10,000 people have been killed and another 30,000 injured in clashes with pro-Gaddafi forces in the North African country, while 20,000 more are still listed as missing.

Elsewhere in Syria, scattered protests have broken out since mid-March. Several people have reportedly been killed in clashes between security forces and armed groups.

Roberts argued that “Washington was caught off guard by the outbreaks of protests in Tunisia and Egypt, but quickly learned that they could use and hide behind Arab protests to evict Russia and China without a direct confrontation ... so they've engineered these protests.”

In recent months, a wave of revolutions and anti-government uprisings has swept the Arab world.

In January, a revolution in Tunisia ended the 23-year ruling of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In February, another revolution led to the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after three decades of authoritarian rule.

Other revolutions have erupted in Yemen and Bahrain, while more anti-government upheavals have swept Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait and Algeria.

Meanwhile, more Arab countries are expected to witness similar revolts.

US OKs oil deals with Libya opposition

Source: Press TV

The United States has permitted oil deals with Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) in an effort to financially push the fight against the country's ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The order, issued by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, will remove legal difficulties pertaining to the ownership of Libya's oil for potential buyers, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The move comes despite sanctions against Libya's oil sections previously imposed by the US and the European Union to pressure Gaddafi regime to stop killing civilians.

Opposition council's oil transactions will be managed by Qatar Petroleum or Vitol group of companies. The first oil shipment is expected to arrive in Singapore on Thursday and is planned to head for China after refueling.

Meanwhile, Russia's Premier Vladimir Putin says Libya's oil resources have been the main objective of the NATO-led military campaign in the North African country.

Washington has not formally recognized the TNC, a measure taken by Italy, France and Qatar. However, President Barack Obama has approved $25 million in non-military aid to opposition people who control the eastern parts of Libya.

US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz says the opposition council is “working through the normal bugs that would be part of any stand-up transitional government ... in a country where you have not had politics for 40 years,” and thus deserves the US support.

US Senator John McCain has warned that the war in Libya could reach a stalemate if Washington does not arm the revolutionary forces fighting against Gaddafi regime. He also voiced opposition to the introduction of US ground forces in Libya.

Another general as head of CIA is 'disquieting'

Source: Press TV (US)

Ray McGovern, Former CIA Analyst, Washington D.C. told Press TV's U.S. Desk in an interview on Wednesday that the prospect of having another general as head of the CIA "was disquieting to say the least."

He said, "The last fellow we had was General Michael Hayden and he was the fellow that proved himself to our vice president by agreeing to violate U.S. law against eavesdropping on American citizens without a court warrant and so having shown that he had complete disrespect for the law, he was named head of the CIA after he was head of NSA. So generals generally do what they're told and often they have very little respect for the constitution or the Rule of Law so if Petraeus acts the same way as General Hayden acted, we are in for serious trouble."

McGovern went on to add that if Petraeus headed the CIA to the degree that CIA and Petraeus have influence, there would be no change.

McGovern continued, "If Panetta is moved to be Head of the Defense Department, there will absolutely be no change because Panetta is a lawyer. He is a creature of congress. He will simply do what lawyers do and try to justify and explain what the Defense Department is doing, just as he did at the CIA. There is no real evidence of a principled stand on anything and that includes things like torture, kidnapping and those kinds of things so Panetta is a very large disappointment to those of us who thought that when he came in to Washington again, that he would have a sense of integrity, that he would have a sense of respect for law."

McGovern said that Panetta served as a mouthpiece for the CIA and that now he would simply be a mouthpiece for the pentagon and for those that the pentagon cultivates, the so called military industrial complex which was one of the main reasons "these wars go on."

"There are many corporations profiteering from these wars. I don't say profiting, I say profiteering and that is the kind of situation that Panetta cannot be expected to address in any sensible way" McGovern concluded.

US Fed frets over unemployment, debt

US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is pictured at a news conference following a Fed meeting at the Federal Reserve in Washington, April 27, 2011.

Source: Press TV

US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has admitted that the country's massive unemployment and debt remain as two major stumbling blocks for a true economic recovery.

For the first time in its near-century of existence, the Federal Reserve has held a press conference after a two-day meeting on the outlook for the US economy, where Bernanke discussed the unemployment issue and the debt crisis, a Press TV correspondent reported on Wednesday.

"Long-term unemployment in the current economy is the worst, really the worst it's been in the post-war period," Bernanke said at the press briefing on Wednesday.

Bernanke acknowledged that the pace of improvement in the ailing US labor market remained "quite slow" and that about 45 percent of those without jobs have been unemployed for six months or longer.

"We know the consequences of that can be very distressing, because people who are out of work for a long time, their skills tend to atrophy," the US Fed chief noted.

Bernanke went on to say that the country's high debt levels are "the most important long-term economic problem facing the US."

Meanwhile, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told Press TV that one of the reasons the Federal Reserve and its chairman have decided to hold these press conferences is to bring awareness to the general public of the high unemployment rate which Bernanke is trying to lower against the wishes of others in the Fed.

The remarks come as US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has forecast that the US will hit its debt limit ceiling of $14.3 trillion on May 16, which means that the government will no longer be able to legally borrow money for its federal spending.

On April 21, US President Barack Obama echoed similar concerns, saying his country faces "unsustainable" financial situation as the national debt and budget deficit continue to weigh so heavily on the American psyche.

The US budget shortage has also hit a record $1.65 trillion this year --10.9 percent of GDP -- according to figures in Obama's 2012 budget.

US Standard & Poor's rating agency said last week that the agency's attitude toward America's overall economic condition has changed from "stable" to "negative," mainly due to US lawmakers' inability to reach a consensus over the ongoing budget crisis.

On April 13, Obama rolled out a wide-ranging deficit reduction plan aimed at slashing the country's budget shortfall by $4 trillion within 12 years, and ever since has been struggling to convince Americans that his plan can solve their financial woes.

12 more Yemeni protesters shot dead

Source: Press TV

Nearly 130 others were also injured on Wednesday after security forces fired live bullets as well as tear gas on anti-government protesters that demanded the immediate ouster of Yemeni ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Ten of the wounded are reported to be in serious condition.

Mohammed al-Ibahi, a doctor at the scene of the shooting, said many of the dead and wounded suffered gunshot wounds to the head and torso, AP reported.

Clashes between protesters and security forces in the southern Yemeni city of Aden also left one protester and two soldiers dead.

The fresh wave of anti-Saleh protests come amidst opposition calls for a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience to bring down Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years.

Witnesses say at least 18 Yemeni cities and towns have so far heeded the civil defiance campaign with shops and schools closed and government offices shuttered.

According to local sources, since the beginning of anti-Saleh demonstrations across Yemen in late January, at least 300 protesters have been reported killed with many others injured during clashes with riot police and armed forces loyal to the Yemeni president.

Hamas, Fatah agree on unity government

A Palestinian woman holds her national flag during a demonstration calling for unity between Hamas and Fatah in the northern occupied West Bank on March 08, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions have reportedly reached an understanding on forming a transitional Palestinian unity government and holding future elections.

Delegations representing the two factions came to the understanding on Wednesday in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, where they had just resumed unity talks, the Egyptian Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported.

The 'complete understanding' came "after talks on all the points, including the formation of a transitional government with a specific mandate and setting a date for elections," it said.

The development is expected to be followed by signing of a reconciliation agreement between all Palestinian factions in Egypt.

Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006.

The dispute marginalized the faction's governance to the Gaza Strip -- a comparably smaller portion of Palestinian territories.

The Israeli regime also reacted to the victory by laying a crippling siege on Gaza and maintaining regular deadly attacks on the impoverished strip.

Fatah, however, set up headquarters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank with Hamas arguing that the faction works in cahoots with Tel Aviv.

Last year, Hamas complained about an arrest campaign against its members led by the so-called security forces functioning under Fatah's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, declaring that its rival faction works "in close coordination with those of the Israeli occupiers" in the West Bank.

Canada's human rights policies slammed

Amnesty International's worldwide leader, Salil Shetty

Source: Press TV

The head of a major international rights group has censured Canada's human rights policies for its deliberate refusal to question Israeli human rights violations.

“The world has always seen Canada as a human rights champion, but it is increasingly ending up on the wrong side of important human rights debates,” Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty said during a March 31 press conference.

Shetty went on to say that Canada's longstanding reputation as a worldwide human rights champion has diminished in recent years and that the country now functions as “part of the problem, rather than the solution,” Embassy news agency reported.

According to a report released by the Amnesty International, the “unflinching refusal” of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to criticize Israel's human rights record has placed the country's reputation on such matters into question.

Canada has limited its support and financial aid to pro-Palestine organizations and avoiding the delivery of any form of criticism regarding Israel.

The report also pointed out that Canada's recent “hesitation and reluctance with respect to Egypt almost certainly reflected the Israeli government's preference that President Mubarak remain in power and minimize the chances that a new Egyptian government might abrogate the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.”

Both Shetty and head of Amnesty International Canada Alex Neve have blamed past and recent Liberal governments in Canada for jeopardizing the country's human rights record. Shetty had also criticized the country's Conservative governments on their human rights policies.

Last August, Salil Shetty also reiterated the Amnesty International's growing concerns over Canada's violation of human rights to the CIVICUS World Assembly.

Shetty pressed Canada to seek the repatriation of a Canadian detainee, Omar Khadr, at notorious US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Shetty slammed his court trial held last year as being unjust and his detention as being unlawful.

The 24-year-old, who spent nine years at the prison, was accused of killing a US soldier during fighting in Afghanistan back in 2002.

Khadr stated that during his detention he was beaten, subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, doused in freezing water, spat on, chained in painful positions, and subjected to sleep deprivation and threats of rape.

Guantanamo house of horrors cover-up

Source: Press TV

Former and current detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba have been repeatedly abused and tortured, according to a new study published online on Tuesday in the open-access journal PloS Medicine.

The two non-governmental experts who wrote the report found that medical and psychological evaluations basically proved the allegations of torture and abuse going on at Gitmo.

Study author Vincent Iacopino, the senior medical adviser to the non-profit Physicians for Human Rights, said that broken bones and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder were consistently glossed over by Department of Defense medical professionals at the camp.

"The pattern of neglecting the physical and psychological evidence of torture is striking. It appears to us that this was an essential component of enabling torture," Iacopino stated.

Iacopino said he hopes the findings will lead to a thorough, impartial investigation of allegations of abuse at Guantanamo Bay.

"Even though there's evidence that these medical clinicians failed to document torture, the responsibility and the failure doesn't end there," Iacopino added. "It's apparent to us that the failure stems from those who made the policy to enable torture and then the failure to develop any policy to recognize it."

According to a statement in the study, “The findings reveal new information about the potential extent of medical complicity in US torture practices, and they highlight the need for a thorough and impartial investigation of all the available information, including relevant classified information.”

Huge blast shakes Egypt gas terminal

Six gunmen targeted the gas terminal in Egypt's North Sinai on March 27 and blew up the pipeline that carries natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan.

Source: Press TV

A massive explosion has rocked a natural gas terminal in North Sinai near Egypt's border with Israel and leapt huge flames into the air.

The blast ripped through al-Sabil terminal near the town of El-Arish, located 344 kilometers (213 miles) northeast of the Egyptian capital of Cairo, at about 3:30 a.m. local time (0130 GMT) on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

The huge blast forced the pipeline to be shut down and gas supplies to Israel and Jordan were halted as a result. There were no reports of casualties and the extent of the damage was not immediately known.

An unnamed Egyptian security official said that "an unknown armed gang" attacked the pipeline.

“Authorities closed the main source of gas supplying the pipeline and are working to extinguish the fire,” he further explained.

The attack was the second on the pipeline over the past few weeks. On March 27, unknown armed men placed explosives at al-Sabil gas terminal to blow it up, but had failed to carry out their act of terror.

The terminal was previously sabotaged on February 5 during a revolution that finally drove 82-year-old Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power. Supplies of gas to Israel to Jordan were disrupted as a result of the attack.

On April 13, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf ordered a review of the pricing deals with Israel because of the low price at which Egypt's gas was sold.

Israel depends on Egyptian gas to generate 40 percent of its electricity.

New aid flotilla to set sail for Gaza

Nine Turkish activists were killed on May 31, 2010, after Israeli commandos opened fire on the aid convoy in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Source: Press TV

International activists are planning to dispatch a new aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the years-long Israeli siege of the impoverished coastal enclave.

The Free Gaza Movement said Tuesday that the target date for the convoy's departure is May 31-- the first anniversary of Tel Aviv's deadly attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the Associated Press reported.

Nine Turkish activists were killed on that date in 2010 after Israeli commandos attacked the aid convoy in international waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

The new 15-ship flotilla will be twice as big as last year's convoy and carry a total of 1,500 people, including activists from Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Canada and the United States, to the coastal sliver.

An international coalition of 22 non-governmental groups is to organize the event.

Israel has already warned that it may again use force against the aid ship to prevent it from breaking the Gaza blockade.

Tel Aviv laid an economic siege on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after the democratically-elected government of Hamas took control of the enclave.

The illegal Israeli-imposed blockade has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the area.

Some 1.5 million people are being denied their basic rights, including freedom of movement, and their rights to appropriate living conditions, work, health and education.

To make matters worse, at the turn of 2009, the Israeli military launched a deadly assault on Gaza, killing at least 1,400 Palestinians including many women and children.

Half of Gaza's infrastructure was destroyed and remains unrepaired as a result of Israel's siege, which includes a ban on the entry of building materials into the region.

Ban urges dialogue on Syrian 'crisis'

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Source: Press TV

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for inclusive dialogue and reform to restore peace and social order in Syria amidst Western media attack on Damascus.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the UN chief called on Syria to respect international human rights and the “legitimate aspirations” of its people, Reuters reported.

He added that he believes only an "inclusive dialogue and genuine reform" could lead to a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria.

Ban also backed a call by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, for an "independent, transparent and effective investigation" into the alleged "hundreds of deaths" in Syria.

The UN secretary general's comments came after a closed-door Security Council meeting on Syria.

European nations led by France, Germany and Britain are struggling to persuade the 15-nation UN Security Council (UNSC) to pass a resolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia, a veto-holding member of the group, has so far posed as the main block to the anti-Bashar statement.

"We are watching events [in Syria] very closely, and with increasingly grave concern," Ban told reporters after leaving the Security Council talks.

Syria's UN Ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, meanwhile, dismissed the recent UNSC talks and called on the world body not to “respond to media reports” on his country.

Speaking outside the Security Council chambers on Tuesday, Ja'afari also pointed out that Syria was perfectly capable of carrying out its own inquiry into the recent violence in the country.

"Syria has a government, has a state," the Syrian diplomat said. "We can undertake any investigation by our own selves with full transparency... We have nothing to hide.”

The UN Security Council is to meet again on Wednesday for talks on the Arab country.

Syria has been grappling with scattered protests over the past six weeks.

According to human rights activists, hundreds of people have been killed since the beginning of the protests in Syria in mid-March.

The Syrian government blames most of the deaths on armed gangs and foreign elements.

Damascus has repeatedly denied allegations that security forces are responsible for the death of protesters, saying they have been given clear instructions not to hurt civilians.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Putin: Who authorized Gaddafi hit?

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) gestures as he speaks during a press conference with his Danish counterpart Lars Lokke Rasmussen in Copenhagen on April 26.

Source: Press TV

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has criticized NATO over its military intervention in Libya, saying the West has violated the UN mandate by trying to kill Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

"They said they didn't want to kill Gaddafi. Now some officials say, yes, we are trying to kill Gaddafi. Who permitted this, was there any trial? Who took on the right to execute this man, no matter who he is?" Reuters quoted Putin as saying on Tuesday.

Putin's remarks come a day after NATO warplanes targeted a building inside Gaddafi's compound in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

After talks with his Danish counterpart Lars Lokke Rasmussen in Copenhagen, the Russian premier said the so-called civilized societies have ganged up against Libya.

He seemed to be tacitly inferring that the West is attempting to gain control of the North African country's vast reserves of oil.

Since the outset of airstrikes against Libya, Russia has repeatedly criticized the West, saying UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorized a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians, is “a call for a crusade” and has backfired by causing civilian casualties.

“Surely people are being killed in these strikes -- Gaddafi is not there, he slipped away long ago, but peaceful civilians are dying,” Putin said.

Russia abstained in the UN Security Council vote which mandated a no-fly zone over Libya.

Meanwhile, in a move that will certainly not go down well at the Kremlin, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently said Italy will expand its role in Libya by allowing its air force to bomb selected military targets.

And on Tuesday, the US and British defense secretaries met at the Pentagon to discuss ways to step up military pressure on the Gaddafi regime, the US Defense Department said

US, UK concur on Gaddafi compound hit

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates (L) and British Secretary of Defense Liam Fox (R) make remarks following their meeting at the Pentagon on April 26.

Source: Press TV

The US and British defense secretaries have said that Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's compound was a “legitimate target” for attacks by NATO warplanes.

“We have considered all along command and control centers to be a legitimate target and we have taken those out elsewhere,” AFP quoted US Defense Secretary Robert Gates as saying on Tuesday.

Gates and British Defense Secretary Liam Fox met in Washington on Tuesday to discuss ways to step up military pressure on the Gaddafi regime, the US Defense Department said.

After the meeting, Fox said that opposition forces have gained momentum in their campaign against Gaddafi loyalists, forcing them to retreat.

"We've seen some progress made in Misratah. And it's very clear that the regime is on the back foot," Fox said.

The remarks come a day after NATO warplanes targeted a building inside Gaddafi's compound in the Libyan capital Tripoli. Several explosions were also heard in central Tripoli earlier and signals of Libya's state TV reportedly cut off after the blasts.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said Italy will expand its role in Libya by allowing its air force to bomb selected military targets.

Senator Lindsey Graham of the US Senate Armed Services Committee has urged NATO and the Obama administration to bomb Gaddafi's stronghold in Tripoli and “cut the head of the snake off.”

The main battlefield is still the besieged city of Misratah, where human rights groups say over 1,000 people have been killed by Gaddafi forces.

Egyptians want to end deal with Israel

Egyptians burn the Israeli flag and wave the Palestinian one during a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo on April 25, 2011, calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and opening of the border with Gaza.

Source: Press TV

An opinion poll has shown that an overwhelming majority of Egyptians prefer that the country terminate a standing peace agreement with Israel.

The results of the poll, which was conducted by the United States-based Pew Research Center, came out on Monday, pointing to a 54% lean towards the scrapping of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, the Associated Press reported. The poll surveyed 1,000 Egyptians countrywide between March 24 and April 7.

The 1979 deal saw Israeli troops withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula -- the part of the Egyptian territory, which Israel had occupied in 1967.

It, however, enabled the stationing of Egyptian security forces there, who would closely cooperate with Tel Aviv's crippling siege of the Gaza Strip. Using the forces, Cairo would keep the country's Rafah border crossing with Gaza -- the sliver's only terminal that bypasses Israel -- closed.

The Egyptians launched a revolution against the previous pro-Israeli regime in January, putting an end to the 30-year-long rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

During the protests, Tel Aviv allowed Cairo to deploy Egyptian troops to the peninsula, despite it only being open to Egypt's police forces in line with the bilateral accord.

After the revolution, the Egyptian protesters rallied outside the Israeli embassy in the capital, setting fire to the Israeli flag and urging the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador Yitzhak Levanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the new Egyptian government could become hostile towards Tel Aviv. He has said he is “especially concerned” over remarks made by Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi, who, along with other senior officials, has reportedly called Tel Aviv, Egypt's "enemy."

Egypt's Finance Minister Samir Radwan has also stressed that Cairo does not need investments from "the enemy," commenting on the possibility of economic ties with Tel Aviv.

The recent survey also showed that only 15% of the respondents favored closer relations with the US -- Israel's oldest and strongest ally -- as opposed to 43%, who thought the two countries could use some distance.

The bilateral peace accord forms a central part of Washington's regional policy.

'Food inflation threatens millions in Asia'

Source: Press TV

According to an ADB report released on Tuesday, domestic food price inflation hit an average of 10 percent in developing Asian countries at the start of the year.

The costs of essentials such as wheat, corn, sugar, edible oils, dairy products and meat underwent a double-digit rise, while the price of rice -- one of Asia's staple foods -- is also expected to peak.

If the situation is not contained, this can push at least 64 million people -- or nearly 2 percent of Asia's 3.3 billion people -- below the poverty line of USD 1.25 a day, the Manila-based bank warned.

Coupled with skyrocketing oil prices the current food price hike could also reduce economic growth in Asia by up to 1.5 percent this year.

While Asian economies have emerged strong from the 2008 global financial crisis, the rising cost of living has become a big concern in the region.

ADB's chief economist Rhee Changyong said Tuesday that if the global food crisis is left unchecked it could even undermine recent gains made in Asia's poverty reduction.

To stem the looming crisis many Asian countries have so far imposed export bans on their products, a practice that is not helping the cause, according to Rhee.

Instead, nations should strengthen social safety nets, increase investments in agricultural infrastructure and expand storage facilities, the ADB's senior economist said.

He added that these measures will ensure that food produce is not wasted, thus helping to keep prices in check.

'Pentagon tops US security threats list'

Source: Press TV

The cash stripped US starts to doubt its extravagant military spending as analysts launch a rare criticism of the army as a budget cancer is threatening the country's security.

“America's military has become the biggest threat to US security,” says Rob Kall, executive editor and publisher of, in an article published recently.

Kall calls on the attention of US leaders -- both military and civilian -- to the military's failure in its foremost mission, which is making the US more secure, and to the threat that it poses to “American security, the American way of life and even America's future.”

The author argues that the 700 military bases the US has across the world not only do not help the country's security, but also impair its economy, weaken its currency and mar the maintenance of vital infrastructure in the States.

The article goes on to highlight the growing, unprecedented anti-US sentiment across the world as the sole fruit of the Washington-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

"We have fallen into a terrible trap, doing exactly what [al-Qaeda leader] Osama Bin Laden wanted us to do," the article cited US Congressman Ron Paul as saying on CNN.

It also criticizes the CIA and FBI as agencies with the least accountability despite the “incredible” funding from drug and arms sale operations, which mostly go unreported, noting the massive military intelligence operations “are even more unaccountable.”

Kall describes as “understandable” the US presidents' fears that prevent them from standing up to the military due to the “institutionalized vote theft” in the country and the rule of multinational corporations, seeking more oil, access to shipping routes, minerals or trade opportunities.

“Traditionally, challenges to the military are greeted with accusations of being unpatriotic,” Kall reminds, but calls for a change in the language as “the US military is no longer serving the needs of the American people.”

“It is serving and has long been serving the needs of the multinational corporations -- the same ones that cut jobs in the US by 2.9 million in the past decade, while increasing non-US jobs by 2.4 million,” he said, citing figures from The Wall Street Journal.

“The US military is the number one threat to US security,” he concludes, blaming the problem on Pentagon leaders that have turned the US defense power into “a cancerous monster that is totally unaccountable and out of control.”

Yemeni groups to sign transition deal

Anti-government protesters clash with police trying to block a demonstration in Taizz

Source: Press TV

The Yemeni government and opposition say they would sign an agreement for transferring power from Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.

Officials from both sides are expected to sign the deal in Saudi capital Riyadh on Monday.

The ruling party said on Tuesday it received an invitation from leaders of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC), who offered the transition proposal, Xinhua reported.

However, the protesters rejected the power transition deal mediated by Persian Gulf Arab states, saying they will continue their rallies and they want President Saleh to stand trial.

Opposition groups on Monday agreed on the deal that requires President Saleh to step down in a month after signing the deal in return for immunity from prosecution for him and his sons.

The transition plan comes after nearly three months of protests demanding president Saleh's ouster.

On Tuesday, troops killed one protester and injured several more in the southern city of Taizz. A number of people were also wounded in another southern city, Aden.

The police and presidential guard controlled directly by the president's eldest son fired bullets and tear gas at the protesters.

Opposition rallies have also been held in the capital Sana'a and several other cities.

According to local sources, hundreds of people have been killed and many others have been injured during clashes with riot police and forces loyal to the Yemeni president armed with batons, knives, and clubs.

1041 protesters arrested in Bahrain

Bahraini anti-government protesters march in Manama on February 22.

Source: Press TV

Bahraini forces have detained 1041 anti-government protesters, including 64 women, since the beginning of the revolution, Bahrain Human Rights Center says.

On Tuesday, people in the city of A'ali rallied in support of the detainees.

As part of a crackdown on opposition protests, Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have raided hospitals and schools destroying dozens of mosques and holy sites.

Also on Tuesday, a woman was injured in the northwestern village of Bani Jamrah. She was among a group of women protesters, who were trying to prevent the destruction of a religious site.

Elsewhere, Saudi-backed Bahraini forces abducted two female students in Bilad al-Qadim, and four female medics in Isa Town.

At a parliamentary session on Tuesday, a group of lawmakers thanked Saudi Arabia for its invasion of Bahrain and supporting it in quelling opposition protests.

Saudi Arabia, which dispatched 1,500 troops to Bahrain, has already come under fire for its brutal crackdown on Bahraini opposition protesters.

People in Bahrain have poured to the streets since February 14 to protest against the Al Khalifa dynasty.

Scores of protesters have also been killed and many others gone missing during the harsh crackdown in the Persian Gulf state.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Russian FM calls for ceasefire in Libya

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Source: Press TV

Russia's foreign minister has called for an immediate ceasefire in Libya amid the worsening humanitarian situation in the North African country.

In a telephone conversation with Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged implementation of UN Security Council resolutions in Libya, Xinhua reported on Sunday.

"It is necessary to unconditionally comply with the relevant resolutions made by the UN Security Council and ensure an immediate ceasefire," the Russian Foreign Ministry quoted Lavrov as saying.

The Libyan premier responded that Libyan officials would like to find a political solution to the conflict, adding that Tripoli is ready to fully observe UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973.

The two officials made the remarks on the same day that forces loyal to Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi unleashed a barrage of shells and rockets at the besieged western city of Misratah, killing dozens of people and injuring several others.

The humanitarian situation in Libya's third-largest city with a population of more than half a million has significantly deteriorated amid shortages of food, water and medical supplies as the result of a seven-week siege.

On March 17, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973, authorizing NATO forces to pound positions belonging to Libyan regime "to save civilians from attacks by Gaddafi loyalists."

This is while NATO air attacks have killed many civilians in the eastern opposition-held areas of the oil-rich country, contradicting its main pledge of protecting people.

Resolution 1970 was also adopted on February 26 by the Security Council, which called for the freezing of Gaddafi's money overseas, as wells as travel bans for him and his family. It also called for a full-scale arms and trade embargo.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Lavrov said Russia is ready to cooperate with international organizations, including the African Union and the United Nations, to mitigate the humanitarian impact of the crisis and promote a peace settlement in Libya.

Lavrov on Thursday warned of "unpredictable consequences" as the "extremely risky" military operations by NATO forces and their allies show no sign of abating in the country.

"We are not happy about the latest events in Libya, which are pulling the international community into a conflict on the ground. This may have unpredictable consequences," Lavrov noted.

Scores wounded in Yemen clashes

Nationwide anti-government protests continue in Yemen

Source: Press TV

Scores of Yemenis have been wounded in shootings carried out by the country's security forces to disperse demonstrators in the southern city of Taiz, while nationwide anti-government protests continue.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters in the critical city faced the security forces who fired bullets and tear gas to break them up, AFP reported Monday.

The protesters, who have been demanding the ouster of the longtime Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh since January, chanted “No rest, no respite for the executioner [Saleh.]”

The Yemeni protesters carried banners that read "No negotiations, no dialogue."

Yemen's Deputy Information Minister Abdoh al-Janadi earlier confirmed at a press conference that Saleh will step down and that the transition of power will take place in accordance with the Yemeni constitution.

The Yemeni opposition has agreed to the deal, which also calls for a unity government to be formed within a week.

The anti-government protesters also demand that the Yemeni incumbent president should be held accountable for the violent crackdown on protesters.

The Yemeni protesters have faced the government's brutal crackdown by riot police and supporters of Saleh, who are often armed with knives and batons.

According to local sources, the death toll in Yemen has surpassed 300 since anti-government protests began in late January.

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