Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Karzai warns NATO against airstrikes

President Hamid Karzai says Afghanistan will no longer tolerate NATO airstrikes on civilians

Source: Press TV

Afghan president Hamid Karzai has once again warned the Western military alliance force in Afghanistan against carrying out air strikes in civilian areas.

"NATO must learn that air strikes on Afghan homes are not allowed and that Afghan people have no tolerance for that anymore," Karzai told a news conference in Kabul on Tuesday, a Reuters report said.

The fresh warning comes immediately after an announcement by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that the western alliance is not going to stop night-time airstrikes in Afghanistan.

NATO claims that dozens of militant are killed and detained each month in its night-time raids.

This is while, according to local and international sources, many civilians lose their lives during such nightly NATO airstrikes.

On Saturday, at least 14 civilians, including five girls, seven boys and two women were killed during one of NATO's night raids in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.

A day after the attack, Karzai issued a final ultimatum to the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, saying all unilateral military operations and night raids must come to an immediate stop.

Calling the attack “the murder of Afghanistan's women and children," the Afghan President then ordered the Defense Ministry to take control of the US-led night raids.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO attacks have been a major source of tension between Karzai and the US-led alliance.

Thousands of Afghans have so far lost their lives due to military operations by the US-led foreign troops since the 2001 occupation.

The US invaded Afghanistan with the official objective of curbing militancy and bringing peace and stability to the region. However, after nine years, the region remains unstable and militancy has now expanded towards Pakistan.

'Israel plans Mubarak's escape'

Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

Source: Press TV

Egyptian Minister of Justice Mohammad Abdul Aziz al-Jundi has said that Israel plans to pave the way for the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to escape from the African country.

In an interview with the Egyptian newspaper al-Wafd, Jundi also accused Israel of making efforts to spark a civil war in the North African state, noting that Tel Aviv is seeking to destroy the Egyptian revolution.

Mubarak, who was toppled in February following weeks of anti-government protests, could face the death penalty if found guilty of killing anti-regime protesters during the revolution.

Former Egyptian president is currently in police custody in an Egyptian hospital. He has reportedly experienced several heart attacks during interrogation.

Mubarak ruled Egypt for 30 years under direct support of the United States and Israel.

The revolution has put in danger the relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv. The crippling Israeli blockade against the Gaza Strip and Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel are the main concerns for Tel Aviv.

Gaddafi agrees to AU ceasefire plan after talk with Zuma

Gaddafi talks with Zuma at an undisclosed location. It was the first time the tyrant leader has been seen by the world since May 11

Source: CNTV

South African President, Jacob Zuma, has made a breakthrough in talks with Muammar Gaddafi by getting the Libyan leader to agree to an AU-brokered ceasefire. The truce could pave the way for peace to return to the troubled North African country.

Libyan state television showed Gaddafi's first public appearance in nearly three weeks as he met with Zuma in Tripoli. Delegations from both sides sat in a large room and talked. After their meeting, Zuma said that Gaddafi accepted the AU roadmap aimed at bringing the conflict there to an end.

Zuma said, "Muammar Gaddafi confirmed that he's ready to implement the decision of the African Union. There must be a ceasefire, which is unconditional. That includes bombing by NATO coming to an end. A ceasefire must include everyone. Also, he made the point that Libyan people be given the chance to talk among themselves to solve their problems. Therefore, he's ready to implement the roadmap of the AU. Those were the highlights of our discussions."

South African president says Gaddafi ready to implement AU roadmap

Source: CNTV

Visiting South African President Jacob Zuma said on Monday that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is ready to carry out an African Union (AU) roadmap for solving the crisis in the North African country.

"I can say that the Libyan leader is ready to implement what is in the roadmap by the AU," Zuma said at a press conference shortly before leaving Libyan capital Tripoli.

Zuma, during his several hours' visit to Tripoli, held what he described as a "detailed and long" talk with the embattled Libyan leader, during which he informed Gaddafi "recent steps and measures taken by the AU," and iterated an AU call for dialogue between the Libyans.

The South African president, who arrived earlier in the day and was greeted by Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abul Ati al-Obeidi at the Tripoli airport, said he came to meet Gaddafi as a member of a high-level committee formed by the AU on the Libya crisis.

The Libyan government has accepted the Union's initiative and the African roadmap, Zuma said, adding Gaddafi assured him "the importance of the ceasefire proposed by the AU on condition that NATO and (others) stop bombing and give the Libyan people a chance to solve their problems by themselves."

The AU formed a special committee on Libya before France, Britain and the United States took the lead in launching airstrikes on Libya in March, hoping to solve the crisis by peaceful means.

The high-level committee proposed a five-point roadmap for peace, calling on conflicting parties in Libya to protect civilians, stop hostilities and provide humanitarian aids equally to both the Libyans and the immigrants, especially African ones. The committee also called for political dialogue to end the crisis, a transitional period and necessary political reforms to meet the demands of the Libyan people.

The African initiative received positive response from the Libyan government, but was rejected by the Benghazi-based rebels who said it doesn't address their major demand, namely, the departure of Gaddafi.

NATO captures TTP leaders in Pakistan

This file photo shows supporters of the hardline Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan shouting anti-US slogans in Quetta, Pakistan

Source: Press TV

US-led NATO forces have captured five Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders in Pakistan and taken them to Afghanistan without informing Pakistani officials.

NATO troops conducted the attack in the Gorvaid region of North Waziristan, Pakistani intelligence sources said.

The militants were reportedly taken away to Afghanistan by two NATO helicopters, AFP reported.

If confirmed, this would be the second time in less than a month that foreign troops have conducted operations inside Pakistan without informing its government.

On May 2 (May 1 Washington time), US forces conducted an attack in the northwestern city of Abbottabad in which al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was allegedly killed. Islamabad condemned the attack as a violation of its sovereignty.

Afterwards, US President Barack Obama said he would order another military operation inside Pakistan if another al-Qaeda or Taliban leader was found there.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad became tense after the attack on Abbottabad.

The Pakistani government said the attack was conducted without its prior knowledge or authorization.

At the time, some US officials said Pakistan had been aware of bin Laden's whereabouts for years.

NATO vows longer stay in Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Source: Press TV

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for an increase in the military budget of member states to extend the US-led presence in Afghanistan.

On Monday, Rasmussen called on NATO member-states to increase military budgets and keep up their contributions to the mission in Afghanistan. He claimed that a rapid exit from Afghanistan would still be premature.

"The Afghan society is not yet prepared to take full responsibility for the security," he said.

Rasmussen was addressing a session of NATO's parliamentary assembly in Bulgaria.

His comments come despite rising calls for a faster draw-down by critics of the US war strategy. Foreign troops are preparing to begin handing over security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

However, senior US and NATO officials have signaled that foreign troops will remain in the country beyond 2014.

Washington says the transition does not mean that Afghan forces will be in charge everywhere.

US President Barack Obama has promised to keep American forces in Afghanistan even after other Western countries withdraw their troops.

This is while Obama had pledged a major drawdown from Afghanistan by July 2011. Experts have described the new contradictory transition dates as a devastating truth for Americans.

Thousands of Afghans have so far lost their lives due to military operations by foreign troops since the 2001 US-led invasion.

The US invaded Afghanistan with the official objective of curbing militancy and bringing peace and stability to the region, however, after nine years the region remains unstable and militancy has expanded towards Pakistan.

Analysts say the US is looking for an excuse to expand its military operations in the troubled South and Central Asian region to secure bases near Russia and China.

UK trained Bahrainis during crackdown

The British military trained five Bahraini officers, including the son of the Crown Prince, at Sandhurst during the crackdown of pro-democracy protests.

Source: Press TV

Bahrain's army officers have continued receiving training in the UK even months after the ruling regime began a brutal crackdown against peaceful anti-government protesters.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request has led to the disclosure that the British military continued training five Bahraini officers at Sandhurst, the elite military academy in Surrey, as recently as last month, prominent daily The Independent reported.

Bahraini people staged a major uprising in February against the country's royal family, which has been ruling the tiny Persian Gulf island since it gained independence from Britain.

The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) has also been criticized for dispatching its army personnel to Saudi Arabia to train the Kingdom's National Guard.

The Saudi National Guard has been deployed in neighboring Bahrain to help crush the popular uprising in the tiny Persian Gulf island.

The most recent Bahraini military trainees at Sandhurst, who have since returned home, included Sheikh Mohammed bin Salman Al Khalifa, son of Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Sandhurst has a long tradition of training military officers from Bahrain. The King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is a Sandhurst graduate as well. He also remains a patron of the Sandhurst Foundation, a charity for trainees, to which he has donated £70,000. According to official figures, 61 Bahrainis have been trained at the academy since 1995.

The former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said it was "surprising" that the links had been kept up despite the violence in Bahrain.

"At the very least these arrangements should have been suspended pending the outcome of the political changes," he said.

"It is astonishing we invade Libya claiming we're defending protesters, while at the same time training the forces who are murdering protesters in Bahrain", said Nishma Doshi, the campaigner who submitted the FoI request.

Separate FoI requests disclosed that up to 20 British teams are dispatched to Saudi Arabia each year to offer instruction in "weapons, field craft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training".

"Britain's important role in training the Saudi Arabian National Guard in internal security over many years has enabled them to develop tactics to help suppress the popular uprising in Bahrain,” said Nicholas Gilby of the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Turkey marks Flotilla attack anniversary

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian activists mark the first anniversary of Israel's deadly attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, May 30, 2011

Source: Press TV

Large crowds of people have gathered in Istanbul to mark the first anniversary of the deadly Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla.

Tens of thousands of protesters in Istanbul's Taksim Square denounced the attack by Israeli naval forces on the civilian convoy, the Press TV correspondent in Istanbul reported.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked the six-vessel Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters to prevent the convoy from accomplishing its blockade-busting mission.

In the assault, nine Turkish nationals, including a teenager with Turkish-US dual citizenship, were killed and dozens were injured.

The demonstrators expressed support for the families of the people killed in the incident and also demanded that Israel lift its illegal siege of the Gaza Strip.

Earlier on Monday, peace activists gathered on the deck of the Mavi Marmara -- the ship where the nine people were killed and which is now preparing to sail for Gaza again next month -- and warned Israel not to interfere with the next flotilla.

The convoy, which has been named the Freedom Flotilla II, will comprise some 15 aid vessels and over 1,500 activists of around 100 different nationalities.

According to the organizers, the ultimate mission of the flotilla is not only to provide humanitarian assistance but to draw the attention of the international community to the plight of Gazans, who have been cut off from the outside world for years due to the Israeli siege.

Nine flotillas have attempted to break Israel's illegal stranglehold since August 2008, but only five made it into Gaza. The Israeli military violently intercepted the fleets on the past four voyages, including the May 2010 flotilla, which was organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition.

The Freedom Flotilla II organizers say the move is an act of nonviolent disobedience meant to persuade the international community to fulfill its obligations toward the Palestinian people and to put pressure on Israel to end its siege.

Flotilla II to sail for Gaza in June

The Mavi Marmara led the first Freedom Flotilla to Gaza in 2010

Source: Press TV

International activists say the second Freedom Flotilla will set sail for Gaza in late June, challenging Israel's deadly blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

In a news conference held in Istanbul on the deck of the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the first flotilla, a coalition of 22 activist groups said on Monday that 15 ships with some 1,500 activists from about 100 countries onboard will leave for Gaza from various Mediterranean ports around June 20.

"While we wholeheartedly welcome the decision of the Egyptian government to regularly operate the Rafah crossing... Israel's unlawful blockade remains in effect," Vangelis Pisias, the Greek coordinator of the initiative, told reporters.

"Israel still prevents Palestinians from using their sea, and controls and severely restricts all goods entering and exiting Gaza. As such, we must continue to challenge this blockade," he added.

The vessels will carry humanitarian aid, medical equipment, school supplies and construction materials, including up to 700 tons of cement, said Hussein Oruc, a senior member of the Turkish Islamist charity the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), adding that the ships would meet in international waters south of Cyprus before heading to Gaza.

The activists made the remarks during a gathering on board the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara to mark the first anniversary of the deadly ending to the ship's first mission to break Gaza's blockade.

At least nine Turkish activists were killed and many others wounded after Israeli commandos attacked the aid flotilla in international waters on May 31 last year.

Hundreds of Palestinians also gathered at the port in Gaza city on Monday to commemorate the anniversary of the attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

The activists have also called on government to ensure that the deadly incident would not happen again.

IHH has said it expects the convoy to be at least twice as big as the previous one.

Israeli military officials, however, have confirmed that preparations are under way to stop any new flotilla.

Putin: IMF head victim of conspiracy

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Source: Press TV

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says the sexual assault case against former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn could be a conspiracy to tarnish his image ahead of French elections.

Putin said the controversial charges against the former director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is hard to accept, adding that he is worried that Strauss-Kahn might be the victim of a plot to discredit him and stop him from running for president in France.

"It is hard for me to evaluate the real political underlying reasons and I do not even want to get into that subject, but I cannot believe that everything is as it seems and how it was initially presented," Putin told Interfax news agency, quoted by the Daily Telegraph.

"It does not sit right in my head."

A French politician earlier claimed that Strauss-Khan, just days before his arrest, had said he believed Putin was plotting to oust him from his position as head of the IMF.

"He said the Russians and notably Putin had allied themselves with France to try to have him fired from the IMF to stop him running for (French) president," Claude Bartolone, a socialist politician, said, according to the Telegraph.

Strauss-Kahn is awaiting a grand jury decision on whether to indict him on charges of sexual assault and attempted rape of a 32-year-old Manhattan hotel chambermaid.

Strauss-Kahn was arrested on May 14 over allegations that he had sexually attacked the cleaning lady at a luxury hotel near Times Square.

He was expected to declare his candidacy for the French presidency soon and considered as a strong contender to defeat President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's elections.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, could face 5 to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Israel concerned over Lockheed attack

An F-35 fighter jet manufactured by US Lockheed Martin

Source: Press TV

The Israeli military has expressed concerns over its security systems after US aerospace company Lockheed Martin came under a cyber attack.

The military said in a statement that “the attack on Lockheed Martin has raised concern for Israeli high-tech institutions,” Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Sunday.

Israel has ordered 20 F-35 fighter jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin whose information systems network was attacked by hackers last week. Lockheed Martin provides Israel with a variety of fighter aircraft including F-16, F-22 and F-35.

The Israeli military is concerned about an expected delay in delivery of the planes. It also stated that the scope of adverse effects of the attack on Israel's security systems is yet unknown.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Defense said in a statement late Saturday that it was working with Lockheed to determine the extent of the attack.

Also in 2009, hackers broke into Lockheed's computers holding data on the F-35 fighter program worth an approximate $380 billion.

The Israeli Air Force has selected F-35 planes as the back bone of its future strategic fighters, and there are no plans for an alternative if the American program is discontinued due to cyber threats.

Lockheed Martin's IT network attacked

Lockheed Martin headquarters is Bethesda, Maryland

Source: Press TV

US defense contractor Lockheed Martin has confirmed that its team detected a threat a week ago and took swift action to protect all systems and data.

"Lockheed Martin detected a significant and tenacious attack on its information systems network," said a company statement, stressing that its systems are now secure, AFP reported.

The US Defense Department says it is working to determine the scope of the attack. It has not so far commented on what information may have been compromised or where the cyber-attack may have originated.

"As a result of the swift and deliberate actions taken to protect the network and increase IT security, our systems remain secure," the statement said.

The Pentagon says the impact on its operations is minimal.

Lockheed Martin - with its headquarters in Bethesda, a Maryland suburb of Washington - is an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company with worldwide interests.

It is the world's biggest aerospace company and the Pentagon's number one supplier by sales. In 2009, about 74 percent of the company's revenue came from military sales.

The contractor's network contains technical specifications on weapons under development as well as those deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lockheed Martin will also design and build a new spacecraft for NASA to carry humans into deep space, the US space agency said last week.

Germany sacks ambassador to Libya

German Embassy in Tripoli shut its doors in wake of the popular uprising in Libya that began in March

Source: Press TV

Germany has dismissed its ambassador to Libya after he made a private visit to the troubled state's capital of Tripoli without notifying his superiors.

German authorities said Matthias Meyer's visit to Tripoli in the wake of the popular uprising against Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi violated regulations of the German foreign ministry, German daily Bild am Sonntag reported.

The German envoy reportedly returned to Tripoli in order to pick up his private possessions from his residence but did not inform his superiors at the foreign ministry.

In wake of the political unrest that started in the North African state in March, Germany shut down its Tripoli embassy and withdrew its diplomats from the country. The website of the German embassy in Libya, however, said the closure was temporary.

Earlier last week, Germany pulled out of NATO operations in the Mediterranean due to disagreements over the forces' mission in Libya.

A ministry spokesman said two frigates and two other ships with a crew of 550 would be reverted to German command.

Some 60 to 70 German troops participating in NATO-operated AWACS surveillance operations in the Mediterranean would also be withdrawn, according to the ministry.

Syria slams West over meddling

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad

Source: Press TV

A top Syrian official has accused Britain, France and the US of interfering in Syria's internal affairs in a bid to bring the country back to the colonial era.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad said on Monday that Western powers are trying to dominate Syria with the support of the United Nations Security Council.

The Syrian official also denounced the Western countries' efforts in the UN Security Council to condemn Syria's response to the current unrest in the country, Syria's official news agency, SANA, reported.

"It is about imposing hegemony on Syria and using the United Nations as a way of re-establishing colonialism and to justify interference," Miqdad said in Beijing during talks with his Chinese counterpart, adding that the recent unrest in Syria was "an attack on Syria that is aimed at destabilizing and weakening the country."

He also accused "extremist groups with foreign backing of spreading violence, terrorism and destruction... and murdering innocent Syrian citizens."

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal believe they could get nine votes to pass a UNSC resolution against Syria but still fear a veto by China or Russia, two of the five permanent members who can block any resolution, diplomats said.

Since the beginning of unrest in Syria in mid-March, hundreds of people, including security forces, have been killed.

The opposition accuses security forces of being behind the killings. But the government blames armed gangs for the deadly violence, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad.

Damascus has announced the arrest of several members of armed terrorist groups, saying that they have confessed to receiving weapons and money from foreign organizations to kill civilians and security forces in a bid to cause chaos in the country.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to bring those behind the killings to justice.

Meanwhile, three more people were killed and many others wounded in a new round of clashes in the Syrian city of Homs on Monday, opposition activists said.

Syrian rights activists say they were killed by Syrian security forces in the town of Tablisah. The killings have brought to 14 the number of people killed in Tablisah.

The Syrian military has confirmed that its troops clashed with what it called terrorists in the region. It says several Syrian troops were also killed in the fighting.

Egyptian delegation arrives in Iran

Source: Press TV

An Egyptian delegation, comprised of social, cultural and religious figures, has arrived in the Iranian capital of Tehran on a five-day visit.

The 45-strong delegation includes social, cultural and revolutionary figures as well as clerics from Egypt's al-Azhar University, IRIB website reported Tuesday.

Iran and Egypt have expressed readiness to resume ties following the ouster of Egypt's US-backed ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Sunday that Tehran and Cairo were taking steps to resume diplomatic relations but stressed that the improvement of ties should be pursued “with patience.”

The Islamic Republic and Egypt have not had diplomatic relations since 1980. Iran severed ties with Egypt after Cairo signed the 1978 Camp David Accords with the Israeli regime and offered asylum to Iran's deposed dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

As part of efforts to resume diplomatic ties, Salehi and his Egyptian counterpart Nabil al-Arabi met last week on the sidelines of the 16th conference of foreign ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement on the island of Bali in Indonesia.

Salehi said better Iran-Egypt ties would benefit the entire region and called on the two countries to clear any possible misunderstandings.

Al-Arabi, for his part, expressed his country's readiness to enhance ties with the Islamic Republic

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Abbas to push for UN recognition

Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas

Source: Press TV

Acting Palestinian Authority (PA) Chief Mahmoud Abbas has told the Arab League (AL) that he seeks the UN recognition of an independent Palestine as his only option.

Addressing an AL meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Saturday, Abbas said there were “no shared foundations” for negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestine's “only option” was to go to the United Nations, Reuters reported on Saturday.

“We see from the conditions that Netanyahu laid out that there are no shared foundations ... for negotiations. Our fundamental option is to go to the United Nations,” Abbas said in his opening remarks.

“This is no secret, we have said it to the Americans and the Europeans and the Israelis, our only option is to go to the United Nations,” he emphasized.

Abbas' comments referred to Netanyahu's last week speech at US Congress, during which he refused to accept US President Barack Obama's proposal that Israel return to borders set before 1967 Israeli-Arab war.

Netanyahu pledged to keep under control key parts of the occupied West Bank, including East al-Quds (Jerusalem) -- which is widely regarded as the future capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Abbas touched upon a recently sealed reconciliation treaty between his Fatah party and rival Hamas, expressing fear that the recent diplomatic step could lead to financial sanctions on Fatah, which is already dependent on international donors, including the United States and the European Union.

The Fatah movement came under severe attack in the wake of signing the unity deal with Hamas. The US threatened to cut aid to the party and Israel said Fatah must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas.

Currently more than 100 countries have so far officially recognized Palestine as a state based on the 1967 borders, the boundaries that existed before Israel captured East al-Quds, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

Russia accepts mediation in Libya

US President Barack Obama (c) , French President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev greet as they arrive in France for G8 summit on May 26

Source: Press TV

Russia has accepted to play a mediation role to end the crisis in Libya, a day after Moscow was urged to step up diplomatic efforts in the North African country.

"Our task is to find such a formula under which both sides would find it acceptable to agree to an immediate ceasefire, which for its part would pave the way for the end of the coalition's military operation," AFP quoted Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Friday.

In accordance with a UN mandate passed in April, NATO has carried out hundreds of airstrikes to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to guarantee the protection of civilians.

Russia has been critical of the Western alliance's military operations, saying the attacks have caused civilian casualties.

In bilateral meetings between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his French and US counterparts during a summit of the Group of Eight (G8) in France, Moscow was asked to mediate the Libyan crisis, Moscow's special representative to Africa, Mikhail Margelov, said.

Despite talks of mediation, US President Barack Obama said after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday that Washington and Paris are determined to “finish the job” in Libya.

The US, France and Britain have said they will continue the military operations in Libya until Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi quits power.

A statement by G8 members emphasized that Gaddafi must relinquish power since his regime has lost all legitimacy.

Libyan government has rejected decisions by the G8 members, saying any initiative to resolve the conflict in Libya should go through the African Union (AU). The Gaddafi regime has also dismissed Russia's mediation.

The AU has once again called for a political solution to the crisis in Libya. However, revolutionary forces have rejected the AU's ceasefire plan, saying they will continue fighting to see Gaddafi out of power.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Obama 'to finish the job' in Libya

US President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV

US President Barack Obama has announced at the annual G8 summit that the US and France are determined to see the military intervention in Libya through.

"We are joined in our resolve to finish the job," Obama said on Friday in the French resort of Deauville.

He made the remarks after talks with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy Deauville, where the leaders of the Group of Eight developed nations are meeting.

Meanwhile, Russia has agreed to act as a mediator and help resolve the crisis in Libya after initially declining the offer.

NATO has been bombing Libya since March. Under a UN mandate, the alliance must protect civilians caught up in the battle between the opponents of Muammar Gaddafi and his loyalists.

However, many civilians and even anti-Gaddafi forces have been killed since the Western-led war on Libya began in March.

Libyan troops have also killed thousands of civilians since the revolution against Gaddafi began in mid-February.

Critics have condemned what they call the West's hypocrisy over the offensive on Libya, along with its silence towards the brutal crackdowns on similar anti-regime movements elsewhere in the Arab world, such as in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Experts say the main motive behind the Western attack on Libya is the vast oil reserves in the North African country. This is the biggest Western military intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Libya war entering new phase: UK PM

Source: Press TV

The British government has defended its decision to deploy Apache helicopters to Libya, saying the NATO-led war in the North African country is entering a “new phase.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron told the Group of Eight (G8) summit in France that Britain was making "the right decision" to mount the pressure on Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi by sending Apache helicopters into the battlefield.

"Now there are signs that the momentum against Qaddafi is really building. So it is right that we are ratcheting up the military, the economic and the political pressure," Cameron said.

Cameron's comments on the Libya war followed earlier reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered to negotiate Qaddafi's resignation.

Senior Russian officials have said Moscow was ready to mediate in Libya, following a request from its G8 partners, and said Russia had contacts in Qaddafi's entourage with whom it could try to negotiate his departure.

"There have been many offers to mediate. I don't particularly recognize a Russian offer to mediate, that wasn't something I discussed in my meeting with Dmitry Medvedev," Cameron said.

"I think the most important thing is to send the same message back down the pipe, as it were, every time one of these offers appears. The message is Qaddafi has to go," he added.

The UK premier also referred to fuel shortages, growing unrest in the Libyan capital city of Tripoli and an increase in foreign military presence in Libya as signs that the conflict was entering a "new phase."

"All of these things add up to growing pressure, growing momentum and the sense that the regime is on the back foot," he said.

Britain and its Western allies invaded Libya under the pretext to protect the country's civilian population from being killed at the hands of Qaddafi troops, but are now openly describing a regime change in the country as to their best self-interest.

Libya rejects G8 call, accepts AU plan

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim

Source: Press TV

The Libyan government has rejected the calls for ruler Muammar Gaddafi to step down made by world leaders gathered at the Group of Eight (G8) meeting in France.

“The G8 is an economic summit. We are not concerned by its decisions,” AFP quoted Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim as saying late on Friday.

He added that any initiative to resolve the crisis in Libya would have to go through the African Union.

On Thursday, the African Union called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis as the Western alliance increases the pressure on the Libyan regime to relinquish power.

The members of the G8 on Thursday demanded that Russia assume a mediation role to help bring an end to the war in Libya.

The Libyan deputy foreign minister also rejected Russian mediation and said Tripoli would "not accept any mediation which marginalizes the peace plan of the African Union."

"We are an African country. Any initiative outside the AU framework will be rejected,” he stated.

At the end of the two-day summit in Deauville, France, the G8 members issued a statement, saying “Gaddafi and the Libyan government have failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go."

NATO, in accordance with a UN resolution, is tasked with protecting the lives of civilians through the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya.

However, numerous civilians have been killed and injured during attacks by the military alliance, although NATO claims that all the targets are “military in nature.”

Rivals in Yemen agree on ceasefire

Head of Yemen's powerful Hashid tribe Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar (C) walks with his bodyguards near his house in Sana'a, May 26, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Yemeni security forces and members of the powerful Hashid tribe have agreed to a ceasefire after days of fierce clashes in the capital killed more than 100 people.

The ceasefire was declared on Friday, the fifth day of heavy streets battles in Sana'a between forces loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and tribesmen demanding his immediate ouster.

"We are now in mediation and there has been a ceasefire between the two sides ... But if Ali Abdullah Saleh returned (to fighting) then we are ready," Reuters quoted Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashid tribal federation, as saying.

Sana'a residents say shots and explosions are still heard but the fighting is not as intense as it was in previous days.

The agreement came shortly after tribesmen seized a Republican Guards checkpoint outside the capital.

Tribal sources say at least 15 tribesmen and tens of troops, including the base commander, were killed in the fighting which saw Yemeni air force planes attacking tribesmen.

Tribal leader Sheik Ali Safi said his forces stormed the camp to prevent government forces from sending reinforcement to the capital, where forces loyal to the Yemeni president and tribesmen opposing his rule were fighting a fierce battle since Monday.

More than 100 people have been killed and many others were wounded during five days of heavy clashes in Sana'a.

The battle also forced hundreds of Yemenis to flee their homes in the capital, seeking refuge elsewhere.

Meanwhile, thousands of anti-government protesters poured into the streets in major Yemeni cities on the "Friday of Peaceful Revolution," demanding Saleh's departure.

The isolated Yemeni president, who has been in power for almost 33 years, has repeatedly refused to sign a power transition deal that would see him resign in return for immunity from prosecution.

'Jordan must cut ties with Israel'

Jordanian anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration after Friday prayers in the capital Amman (file photo).

Source: Press TV

Protesters in Jordan have once again poured into the streets, calling on the Jordanian government to cut ties with Israel and demanded the fall of the government.

Furious over their country's peace treaty with Tel Aviv, hundreds of protesters burnt an Israeli flag after Friday prayers in Jordan's Tafileh province, AFP reported.

The demonstrators also slammed “racist and provocative” remarks by Israeli Knesset member Arye Eldad.

Last week, Eldad urged Jordanian King Abdullah II to set up a Palestinian state in his country instead of in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Jordan's 120-member Lower House also issued a statement on Thursday, condemning Eldad as a racist, provocative radical.

“We call on the government to take a firm position against these harmful statements to Jordan and its people,” the statement read.

It added that Jordan will never stop calling for the creation of an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian national soil with al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital.

Meanwhile, the protest group calling itself “The Youth of Tafileh” demanded the resignation of Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit's government and the dissolution of the Lower House of the parliament.

The group accused Bakhit of having no intention of implementing reforms in Jordan.

The protesters chanted slogans such as “We will not be silent and continue to expose corruption,” and “Destiny will help the people who want to survive.”

A similar rally was staged in the Jordanian city of Ma'an after Friday prayers.

Since January, Jordan has been facing a protest movement demanding political and economic reforms in the Middle Eastern country, and an end to corruption.

In response, King Abdullah was forced to dismiss his cabinet and Prime Minister Samir Zaid al-Rifai in February in an attempt to curb the spate of protests.

He then asked Marouf al-Bakhit, a former army general, to form a new cabinet as soon as possible.

Amidst intense calls for the limitation of his exclusive powers, the Jordanian monarch also created a commission on April 26, to propose constitutional reforms.

The series of concessions managed to quell the raging protests across the country to some extent.

However, analysts attribute the drop in the number of protests to a wait-and-see approach by pro-reform groups and a couple of violent incidents during the three-month-long demonstrations, which left at least two people killed and hundreds of others injured

Obama signs surveillance law extension

US President Barack Obama

Sources: Press TV

US President Barack Obama has signed into law three key provisions of the controversial anti-terror Patriot Act shortly before they were set to expire at midnight.

The White House said on Friday that President Obama used an "auto pen," which replicates his signature, to beat the deadline and sign the Patriot Act extension, AP reported.

The US president, who is currently in France, said he was pleased the act had been extended.

"It's an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat," he said after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Obama acted shortly after the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Democratic-led Senate approved the bill overwhelmingly. It passed the House 250-153, hours after it cleared Senate 72-23.

The provisions empower the US government to use roving wiretaps on multiple electronic devices; and get court-approved access to business records relevant to terrorist investigations.

The third provision permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-US individuals who are not believed to be connected to any foreign power.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has leveled criticism at the increased surveillance powers of the Bush-era Patriot Act.

"Congress has once again chosen to rubberstamp the Patriot Act and its overreaching provisions. Since its passage nearly a decade ago, the Patriot Act has been used improperly again and again by law enforcement to invade Americans' privacy and violate their constitutional rights," said Laura Murphy of the ACLU in a statement.

The chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Patrick Leahy, also argued that the so-called anti-terrorist law violates protections against unwarranted search and seizures.

"The extension of the Patriot Act provisions does not include a single improvement or reform, and includes not even a word that recognizes the importance of protecting the civil liberties and constitutional privacy rights of Americans," Leahy said.

This is while the Republican leader in Senate, Mitch McConnell, said, "The invaluable terror-fighting tools under the Patriot Act have kept us safe for nearly a decade, and Americans today should be relieved and reassured to know that these programs will continue."

According to a senior Justice Department national security official testifying to Congress last March, the US government has sought roving wiretap authority in about 20 cases a year between 2001 and 2010.

Moreover, Washington has on average sought warrants for business records less than 40 times a year.

This comes as the ACLU also points out that court approvals for business record access jumped from 21 in 2009 to 96 last year.

The organization argues that the Patriot Act has failed to draw a clear-cut distinction between investigations of those suspected of terrorism, and those who have not done anything wrong.

Egyptians call for 'second revolution'

Protesters perform Friday Prayers in Cairo's Liberation Square on May 27, 2011

Source: Press TV

Thousands of Egyptians have gathered in Cairo's landmark Liberation Square to stage what they call a "second revolution" in the North African country.

The rally has been organized by the Coalition of the Revolution Youth that includes several movements behind the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.

Thousands of Egyptians converged on the landmark square after the Friday Prayers to push for more reforms and the speedy trial of Mubarak.

Protesters have staged nationwide rallies for a quick transition to full democracy following their revolution. They are calling for a new constitution and a civilian government.

The protesters want an end to political corruption and the removal of former regime figures from top government posts.

The organizers have dubbed Friday the "Second Day of Anger" after Egypt's first Day of Anger on January 28th triggered the country's revolution.

"I want a presidential council. The military council is not doing anything," AFP quoted one of the participants as saying.

The protests come weeks after Mubarak handed over power to Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is headed by Defense Minister Gen. Mohammed Tantawi.

The angry demonstrators also cast doubt on the ability of Tantawi and military chief of staff Sami Enan to pave the way for political reforms.

"Tantawi and Enan were with Mubarak for two decades, we are the ones who removed him, not them," they said.

Egypt's army has recently promised to lift a 30-year-old state of emergency ahead of the slated parliamentary and presidential elections.

Egyptians say that they are skeptical about a rapid transition towards democracy and civilian rule and maintain that demonstrations will continue until all their demands are met.

Activists demand the release of political prisoners, the lifting of the emergency rule and the disbandment of the military court.

They are also chanting slogans demanding the speedy trial of former officials, especially Mubarak and his family.

'Rafah border opening to ease siege'

A Palestinian man waits before crossing into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, May 26, 2011

Source: Press TV

The new Egyptian government says that the permanent opening of the Rafah border crossing will ease the Israeli siege on the suffering Gazans.

Egypt's Ambassador to the West Bank Yasser Othman said that by opening the crossing, 70 percent of the population in the Gaza Strip will be able to cross into Egypt without visa or security permission, a Press TV correspondent reported from Gaza.

"The new move Egypt has approved will end Gaza's siege," Othman said, adding that the crossing is scheduled to be opened on Saturday.

However, the Press TV correspondent said that “This does not mean that the complete blockade will be lifted.”

This is only lifting a part of the blockade, he said, adding that, “We still have commercial crossings, other entries are closed, the marine blockade by the Israeli navy, and we also have the air blockade.”

“It is very important that the people realize this is not lifting the blockade,” he further explained.

“This is the first step of lifting the blockade,” as people can cross the border for medical purposes, education and even travel to other countries, seeking jobs,” he went on to say.

Once the crossing opens, people between 18 and 40 will require security clearance to pass, he added.

Ties have improved with the Hamas government in Gaza since the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and formation of the new government in Cairo, he went on to say.

The United Nations has called the Israeli siege illegal and has repeatedly demanded that it be lifted.

The border has remained largely closed since June 2007, when Israel imposed a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Hezbollah slams attack on UN troops

Lebanese army soldiers stand guard next to a destroyed Italian UN peacekeeper vehicle that was struck by a roadside bomb on Friday, May 27, 2011

Source: Press TV

Lebanon's resistance movement, Hezbollah, has condemned an attack on a United Nations peacekeeping patrol in the south of the country, which left at least eight people injured.

“Hezbollah considers this a criminal act and calls on the Lebanese specialized services to investigate and uncover the perpetrators and hold them accountable,” Press TV quoted a Hezbollah statement on Friday.

An Italian patrol from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was targeted by a roadside bomb on Friday, while on a highway leading to the coastal city of Sidon.

At least six Italian soldiers and two civilians were injured in the attack.

According to Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa, two of the peacekeepers are in grave condition.

An earlier report from the Italian news agency ANSA citing defense ministry sources had said that one Italian soldier was killed in the blast.

“This is a despicable act that is clearly directed at undermining UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and stability in Lebanon,'' said Neeraj Singh, a spokesman for the UNIFIL peacekeeping force.

He was referring to the resolution that ended the Israel's 33-day war against the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah in 2006, which claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians.

UNIFIL has now launched an investigation into Friday's incident.

The latest attack against UNIFIL troops was in January 2008, when a roadside bomb struck a UN vehicle traveling along the coastal highway south of the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Two peacekeepers were wounded in the blast.

The deadliest attack against UNIFIL was in June 2007, when six Spanish peacekeepers were killed after a bomb hit their convoy near the Israeli border.

New leak seen at Japan quake-hit plant

An aerial picture of Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant (file photo)

Source: Press TV

A new leak of radioactive water has been found at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, adding to the woes of the Asian country's nuclear crisis.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, said on Thursday that up to 57 tons of contaminated water has leaked from a storage facility, Reuters reported.

The environmental group, Greenpeace, has criticized the Japanese government's assessment of the contamination level, saying, “Radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion of materials, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life.”

“Our data show that significant amounts of contamination continue to spread over great distances from the Fukushima nuclear plant,” the group added.

Greenpeace has also accused TEPCO of covering up the actual severity of the disaster in the Asian country.

More questions were raised on Thursday when TEPCO changed an initial report about how it tried to tackle the Japanese crisis.

The company said it continued to inject seawater into reactor number one immediately after the tsunami. Earlier, the firm had said they had stopped the injection under pressure from Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has launched a ten-day investigation into the nuclear crisis since Monday.

Kan told G8 leaders on Thursday that Japan will lessen its reliance on nuclear power and will instead increase its share of green energy to 20 percent of total power supply by 2020.

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan on March 11, setting off a nuclear crisis by knocking out power to cooling systems of reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and causing radioactive leaks.

Anti-govt. protests injure 100 in Spain

Policemen clash with protesters while trying to dismantle a camp set up in Catalunya square in Barcelona on May 27, 2011.

Source: Press TV

At least 100 people have been injured after police clashed with demonstrators in Barcelona amid protests against the economic crisis and sky-high jobless rate in Spain.

Policemen swiped at protesters with batons, dragged them on the ground and even fired rubber bullets on Friday as they sought to disperse demonstrators and also dismantle their camp in the city's Catalunya square.

"As soon as police entered Catalunya square, they used excessive force to clear a makeshift camp set up there," Jordi Relano, a protester in Barcelona, told a Press TV correspondent on Friday.

He also denied that the protesters did anything to provoke police forces.

"Police entered the square only to stop our movement," he said.

"What police did today was simply meant to break up our gatherings. They just entered the square and started beating us," Hector Huerga, another protester, told our correspondent.

Police said they had to clear the square for the celebrations that will spark if Barcelona beats Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League's final match on Saturday.

This is while activists say cleaning the square was only a pretext to violate their democratic rights and have vowed to come back.

"They are making us leave because of the match but we will come back again here or somewhere else because our match is more important," 42-year-old Albert Bonet, who took part in the protest, said.

The situation remains tense and some 200 people are still at the square and hundreds in the surroundings.

Since mid-May, Spain has been witnessing nationwide demonstrations against the government's austerity measures and economic policies.

The protesters form part of the M-15 movement, which brought thousands of people to the streets ahead of Sunday's local and regional elections.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's ruling Socialist Party suffered heavy losses in the elections.

Massive protests sparked across Spain after the government of Zapatero introduced a slew of drastic austerity measures, including the cutting of civil servant wages, as part of its plan to curb the budget deficit from 11 percent a year earlier to within three percent of the GDP by 2013.

Spain has the highest jobless rate in the eurozone with 21.3 percent and is saddled with a record 4.9 million people unemployed.

Although Spain has so far managed to stave off a bailout, economists expect that the eurozone's fourth largest economy will inevitably follow Portugal, Ireland and Greece, and will be forced to accept a financial rescue package.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Egypt to open Rafah crossing into Gaza

The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Egypt says it will reopen the Rafah border crossing permanently to ease the four-year long Israeli siege on Gaza and the humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian residents of the impoverished enclave.

According to Egypt's official Middle East News Agency (MENA), the Rafah crossing will be opened permanently starting Saturday, allowing Palestinians with passports to cross into Egypt every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the exception of Fridays and holidays.

The reopening of the border would again allow Palestinians living in Gaza a much-needed entry point to the outside world to access basic goods and supplies, which have been denied to them by the brutal Israeli blockade of the territory.

Enforcing the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, the regime of the ousted, US-backed ruler of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, had refused to open the Rafah crossing since June 2007 despite its full sovereignty over the area.

The former Egyptian regime was under pressure from the public and some Arab countries for refusing to open the crossing even during the Israeli deadly offensive into Gaza in 2008, in which nearly 1,400 people lost their lives.

The 22-day Israeli offensive deteriorated the already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza as many civilian infrastructures were knocked out during the invasion. Gazans have since been facing harsh conditions with minimal supply of food, water, fuel, and electricity.

The reopening of Rafah is likely to rattle the Israeli regime, which earlier said it was "worried" by Egypt's plans to reopen the crossing.

The UN has called the siege illegal and repeatedly demanded that it be lifted.

The new Egyptian government has been keen to review its policy on Gaza since Mubarak was overthrown in February.

Syria nabs Israeli-backed terrorist

Source: Press TV

Syrian authorities have arrested the son of a senior Sunni cleric and Iraqi tribal leader on charges of involvement in terrorist activities in Iraq and Syria and having ties with the Israeli regime.

Informed sources said on Thursday that Muthanna al-Dhari, son of the Chairman for the Association of Muslim Scholars Sheikh Harith Sulayman al-Dhari, has been arrested for terror activities and links to the Tel Aviv regime.

Damascus charged al-Dhari with involvement in provocative campaigns as well as cooperation with Israeli agents in their terrorist attacks.

The suspect, who has set up a base in Jordan, had reportedly met with a representative of exiled former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam in Jordan and traveled to Syria a day later.

Muthanna, whose father leads Iraqi Sunni Muslim tribe of 'Zoba', was also accused of contacts with extremist Salafi figures before his arrest.

Israeli media outlets have repeatedly reported Muthanna al-Dhari's meetings with Israeli leaders in Tel Aviv while Israeli Channel 2 has broadcast a number of interviews with Khaddam.

US arrests hospitalized peace activist

CODEPINK peace activist Rae Abileah at George Washington University Hospital

Source: Press TV

The US police have arrested a peace activist who was hospitalized after being severely assaulted by a pro-Israeli pressure group for interrupting the Israeli premier's speech at Congress.

Police apprehended CODEPINK peace activist Rae Abileah at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C., the group reported on its website.

Abileah interrupted Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at US Congress on Tuesday, with a banner that read, "Occupying Land Is Indefensible" and shouting, "No more occupation, stop Israel war crimes, equal rights for Palestinians, occupation is indefensible."

When Natanyahu began to speak about the global movement for more democracy, the 28-year-old Jewish American woman rose up to speak out for the human rights of Palestinians, but AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) members of the audience assaulted her and tackled her to the ground.

AIPAC is one of the most powerful political pressure groups in the US that spends large sums of money on US lawmakers to ensure unconditional and comprehensive support for the regime in Tel Aviv.

Following the attack, the severely-battered Abileah was immediately transferred to hospital.

In his Tuesday speech, Netanyahu once again rebuffed the US call for Israel's retreat from a part of Palestinian lands.

He also implied that contrary to Iran, Israel respects freedom and allows opposition groups to express their views.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been expelled from their homeland to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as countries in the region and worldwide since the 1948 Israeli occupation.

Consequently, Israel has encouraged the immigration of Jews from all over the world to the occupied Palestinian lands.

"I am in great pain, but this is nothing compared to the pain and suffering that Palestinians go through on a regular basis," said the CODEPINK activist from her hospital bed.

CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end US-funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect resources into humanitarian projects.

US lawmakers: Libya war illegal

US Rep. Ron Paul participates in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing about the War Powers Act on May, 25, 2011 in Washington, DC

Source: Press TV

US President Barack Obama has come under fire for violating the 1973 War Powers Act by continuing military operations in Libya without Congressional approval.

The Act authorizes the US president to commence military operations without consulting with US Congress. However, within 48 hours Obama must confer with Congress that will afterward have an additional 60-day period to vote on whether military operations are to continue.

Sixty days have now passed and Congress has not approved the military operation, making the Libya war illegal, a Press TV correspondent reported on Friday.

Dan Burton, the Indiana representative, says Obama “has received no authorization whatsoever from the Congress of the United States. And it is in violation of the War Powers Act.”

“The president is not a king, and he shouldn't act like a king,” Burton added.

On his London visit, the US chief executive reinforced his commitment to the military operations in crisis-hit Libya.

This is while the Congress is discussing bills that could limit the president's power in deploying the US military without prior congressional approval, and end the funding for the Libya war until Congressional authorization has been given.

"I think that there is significant question as to whether or not you have congressional support ... I can tell you that I believe that if you placed a resolution on this floor today for a vote for approval, that I doubt that it would pass...," Michael Turner, the Ohio representative said.

UK govt. orders protest footage censored

Source: Press TV

The internet video sharing website YouTube has censored the footage of protests outside Birkenhead county court based on a request by the British government.

Some 600 activists from the British Constitution Group staged protests against a ruling on former member of UKIP Roger Hayes who has refused to pay council tax outside Birkenhead county court.

Hayes had challenged the local council to protest the government's moves which he sees as sacrificing Britain to globalist interests.

He has also attempted to prove that council tax is illegal.

Demonstrators chanting “freedom” and “arrest that judge” said they put Judge Michael Peake “under civil arrest” by surrounding him when he was going out of the court building him before police officers intervened and wrestled the judge away from the protestors.

Roger Hayes argued in the court that he has no contract with the government to pay council tax as there is an intricate distinction between himself as an individual and as a corporation, arguing that, therefore, council taxing is illegal.

Censorship of the YouTube footage related to the incident shows the government's fears of wide circulation of such information that could lead to national unrest similar to the 1990 troubles.

Back some 20 years ago, Britons staged massive poll tax riots, and forced Margaret Thatcher's government to end poll taxes.

Viewers trying to access the footage on YouTube receive the message “This content is not available in your country due to a government removal request”.

Those who follow up the message to learn more are told “YouTube occasionally receives requests from governments around the world to remove content from our site, and as a result, YouTube may block specific content in order to comply with local laws in certain countries”.

Analysts say the “local laws” commitment of YouTube allows the British government to limit, if not violate, its citizens' rights to express themselves.

UK PM to visit Russia to improve ties

Source: Press TV

The British prime minister will visit Moscow in September, as the two countries plan to end years of tension following the murder of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in England.

The official announcement by the Russian Embassy in London comes after David Cameron previously said he had received an invitation from the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in November.

The two countries are trying to improve their diplomatic relations that was marred after the assassination of the high-ranking intelligence officer in 2006.

Charge d'affaires at the Russian Embassy in London, Alexander Sternik, said that Cameron is expected to travel to Moscow in early September.

"We hope it will be a very significant step forward in improving our relationship," he said.

"We are ready, as soon as London is ready, to re-establish full-fledged co-operation in all areas."

It will be the first visit to Moscow by a British premier since Litvinenko was killed.

Accordingly, the diplomatic relations fell to a post-Cold War low after Moscow declined to extradite the man the British government wanted to put on trial for the murder.

A delegation of business leaders will accompany Cameron to Russia where they are expected to partake in the meeting with Medvedev.

Sternik said that Cameron and Medvedev's talks in Deauville would be "heavily dominated with economic, trade and investment cooperation issues" along with discussing about the prospects for developing dialogue on political issues.

Russia urged to mediate in Libya crisis

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrives for an evening dinner function at the G8 summit in Deauville, France on May 26, 2011

Source: Press TV

Russia says the Western members of the Group of Eight (G8) have demanded that Moscow assume a mediation role to put an end to the war in Libya.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's “partners in all bilateral meetings called on Russia to assume a mediation mission in Libya," Reuters quoted the Russian president's spokeswoman, Natalia Timakova, as saying on Thursday.

The spokesperson did not say how or whether Russia has reacted to the proposal.

Medvedev held bilateral meetings with French, US and British leaders during the G8's annual summit which will end on Friday.

Russia has been critical of NATO's operations in Libya, saying airstrikes go beyond the UN resolution which mandated a no-fly zone over the North African country.

Libyan Prime Minister Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi said on Thursday that Tripoli was ready for an immediate UN-monitored ceasefire. The Libyan regime had previously announced readiness for a ceasefire but has continued fighting against revolutionary forces.

The mediation requests from Russia come as the British government has approved the deployment of Apache helicopters to Libya. On Monday, France said it would send attack helicopters to the North African country.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has said there will not be “a let-up in the pressure” against the Libyan regime until Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi quits power.

UK PM to ponder Apache deployment

Source: Press TV

The British premier says he will look for more information about the risks of deploying attack helicopters to Libya amid rising concerns over UK's role in the Libya war.

David Cameron's remark followed a Thursday meeting of the cabinet and the national Security Council, where the ministers were to discuss about the deployment of Apache attack helicopters to Libya.

Analysts have considered the move as significant step to increase the role of the British government in the Libya war -- the government denied such a role.

The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, said that deploying Apache ground attack helicopters could be part of "ratcheting up" the pressure on Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

According to sources, the helicopters and their pilots are presently exercising in the Mediterranean, preparing to be deployed to Libya.

The helicopters can swiftly attack small targets in the urban areas, which are not possible by the currently used jets.

The French government has also announced that it will be deploying the French Tiger attack helicopters to Libya, in a move to increase military pressures on Gaddafi.

Saudi Arabia incites civil war in Yemen

Tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar (C) walks with bodyguards outside his house in Sanaa on Thursday

Source: Press TV

A Yemeni political analyst has warned against a Saudi Arabian plot to deflect Yemen's revolution, as clashes between tribesmen and pro-government supporters gain steam.

“Saudi Arabia is making every effort to wage a civil war in Yemen with the aim of diverting the country's revolution,” said Naif Alsharabi, a member of the founding board of Yemen's public committees, in a Thursday interview with Iran's Arabic-language news channel al-Alam.

Alsharabi added that Saudi Arabia and the United States are conspiring to support Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh and avert his ouster.

He pointed out that Yemen's revolution comes as a blow to the United Sates and called for the continuation of public protests until the downfall of the regime.

Earlier on Thursday, Yemeni aviation sources reported that clashes in the Arhad district, north of Yemen's main international airport, have disrupted flights.

According to tribal sources, at least 12 members of Yemen's Republican Guard were among the casualties.

Saleh ordered the detention of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, a son of the late leader of the Hashid tribe, and his nine brothers on Thursday, according to Yemen's defense ministry.

Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar succeeded his father, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar, after he died in 2007.

The clashes in the Yemeni capital have left more than 70 people dead since Monday, when the violence escalated after Saleh refused to sign a power transition deal brokered by the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC).

Saleh also stated on Wednesday that he is prepared to escalate the campaign against anti-regime tribesmen that have called for his immediate ouster.

Hundreds of anti-government protesters have been killed and many others injured during clashes with riot police and armed individuals loyal to the Yemeni president since the anti-regime demonstrations began in late January, according to local reports.

45 holy sites attacked in Bahrain

Bahrain has destroyed more holy sites, including 28 mosques

Source: Press TV

The head of Bahrain's Ja'afari Endowments, Ahmed Hussein, has said that the regime forces attacked 45 holy sites over the past days.

In a letter to Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Hussein said that the troops had demolished 28 mosques.

He added that seven mosques, eight Hussainias and two tombs were also attacked and damaged in the country, IRNA reported on Wednesday.

He expressed hope that the Bahraini regime would take necessary measures to reconstruct the destroyed mosques and compensate for the damage.

The regime has begun destroying mosques as well as houses of some dissidents since dispatch of Saudi Arabia's military forces to the country.

Anti-government protests against the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty in Bahrain began in mid-February.

Since then, the Manama regime has unleashed a massive brutal crackdown on the protesters.

Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested in the Saudi-backed crackdown on peaceful protests in the Persian Gulf state -- a longtime ally of Washington and home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

'Mubarak aware of shooting protesters'

Former Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman

Source: Press TV

The former Egyptian intelligence chief has revealed that ousted President Hosni Mubarak had full knowledge of every bullets fired at protesters during the demonstrations.

"Mubarak had complete knowledge of every bullet fired at protesters, and the number of those killed or wounded," Omar Suleiman, Egypt's former intelligence chief, was quoted as saying in his testimony published in Al-Akhbar daily on Thursday, AFP reported.

Facing accusations of killings of anti-regime protesters and the abuse of power, Suleiman is reported to have told Egyptian prosecutors that he relayed to the president hourly updates on the police's fatal response to the nationwide protests.

"The reports included all instances of firing live ammunition and rubber bullets at protesters in an attempt to abort the revolution," Suleiman told the prosecutors.

Reports say that prosecutors partly relied on testimony provided by the former Egyptian spy chief to charge the 82-year-old Mubarak with premeditated murder.

According to an official investigation, over 840 people were killed during the revolution that began on January 25 and led to the eventual fall of Mubarak on February 11.

The testimony strikes at the heart of the ongoing investigations into crimes perpetrated by Mubarak himself and several elements of his regime, many of whom have been tried and convicted of corruption charges.

Egypt's public prosecutor said in a statement on Tuesday that Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa will face criminal court on charges of killing protesters, abuse of power and wasting public funds.

The former president is currently in police custody in an Egyptian hospital in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. He is reportedly suffering from repeated heart attacks that occurred during interrogations.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

NATO concerned about Pakistan nukes

An image of Khushab nuclear complex, located about 140 miles south of Islamabad

Source: Press TV

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has expressed serious concerns about the security of Pakistani nuclear facilities amid growing militancy in the country.

Rasmussen said on Tuesday that NATO has the right to be concerned about the security of the violence-hit country.

"I feel confident that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is safe and well protected," said Rasmussen. "But of course it is a matter of concern and we follow the situation closely."

The security of Pakistan's nuclear facilities has been questioned by the Western military alliance following a recent militant attack on a naval base in southern port city of Karachi.

The militants set off several high intensity explosives and destroyed two surveillance aircraft in Karachi on Sunday night. Fighting continued into Monday morning.

Despite an offensive by the Pakistani government against pro-Taliban militants, they have spread their influence in various regions, killing people and security forces every day.

Western leaders fear Pakistan's nuclear weapons can fall into the hands of militants.

Senior officials in Islamabad have repeatedly dismissed such concerns, saying Pakistani nukes are in safe hands.

Analysts say the US and its Western allies are preparing the grounds for widespread military presence in Pakistan.

They also believe the US is looking for an excuse to expand its military operations in the troubled southern and central Asian regions to secure bases near Russia and China.

This comes as India and Pakistan have been locked in intense rivalry since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

India and Pakistan have occasionally tested conventional and unconventional weapons over the past years.

New Delhi conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, followed by five more in 1998. Islamabad conducted its sixth nuclear tests in 1998.

Both neighbors have refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other international treaties that restrict the development or testing of nuclear weapons.

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