Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Senate panel OKs US operation in Libya

Sen. John Kerry (L), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, listens to testimony during a committee hearing on Libya in Washington on June 28, 2011.

Source: Press TV

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed a resolution that authorizes continued American participation in the NATO-led war in Libya.

The resolution allows the mission to go on for one year but bans the deployment of US troops on the ground. It also puts the removal of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi on top of US foreign policy objectives.

"When Muammar Gaddafi is bunkered down in Tripoli, when yesterday the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of crimes against humanity, at a moment where our armed forces are supporting a NATO mission aimed at preventing more such atrocities, do we want to stop the operation?" AP quoted the committee's chairman, Sen. John Kerry asking his colleagues.

"In Libya today, no American troop is being shot at," Kerry said in backing the administration argument.

American lawmakers, however, say they are angry that President Barack Obama did not seek congressional authorization to wage the Libya war.

In a separate development, at least eight civilians have reportedly been killed by a NATO airstrike in Libya. Several other civilians were also injured in the air attack, which targeted a market in the town of Tawragha.

Since the start of its air campaign in Libya, NATO has repeatedly targeted civilians and even the revolutionary forces fighting troops loyal to Gaddafi.

Meanwhile, battles are raging on in Libya between pro-Gaddafi forces and revolutionary fighters.

Latest reports say revolutionaries have seized a major complex of weapons bunkers belonging to Gaddafi forces in western Libya.

Scores of civilians have been killed in Libya since US-led forces launched aerial and sea attacks on the North African country.

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

Experts say the main motive behind the Western attack on Libya is the vast oil reserves of the country.

France arms Libyan revolutionaries

Libyan revolutionaries ride a truck loaded with weapons southeast of Zintan June 29, 2011

Source: Press TV

France has provided Libyan revolutionaries with weapons and food in early June to reinforce them in the fight against forces loyal to the country's ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

"There were humanitarian drops because the humanitarian situation was worsening and at one point it seemed the security situation was threatening civilians who could not defend themselves," Reuters quoted France's armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard as saying on Wednesday.

"France therefore also sent equipment allowing them to defend themselves, comprising light weapons and munitions," Burkhard added, stating that they had sent medicine and food, too.

Le Figaro newspaper said on Wednesday that France had parachuted "large amounts" of weapons, including rocket launchers, assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles into the Jebel Nafusa region in the west of Libya.

The French spokesman said the aid aimed at preventing Gaddafi forces from taking control of the Western Nafusa Mountains.

The newspaper added that France had taken the measure without consultation with the NATO partners.

National Transitional Council Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam has said the Libyan opposition organization has not asked for any further military aid.

"We are getting our (military) means from other places," Shammam said.

Qatar has been a major supplier of weapons to Libyan revolutionaries through the opposition-held city of Benghazi in the east of the North African country.

On Wednesday, revolutionary forces seized a major ammunition depot of the regime in a storage site some 32 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of the mountainous town of Zintan, according to their spokesman Gomaa Ibrahim.

Pakistan tells US to leave secret base

A view of a CIA airbase inside Pakistan

Source: Press TV

Pakistan's defense minister has ordered the United States to leave a remote desert airbase in the country's southwestern Balochistan province.

Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar says Shamsi secret airbase is reportedly being used for unmanned drone attacks and will soon be passed onto the Pakistani army.

"We have told them (US officials) to leave the air base," Mukhtar told a group of reporters in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been using the airbase to station its unmanned predator drones.

The strategic location of the base allows US forces to launch the unauthorized drone attacks within minutes of an order.

An investigation by The Times revealed in 2010 that the CIA has been secretly using Shamsi to launch strikes on targets on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan.

The drones have been used to attack targets inside Pakistan's tribal areas killing several hundred innocent civilians.

The base was also extensively used in 2001 when the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began.

The Pakistani military had reportedly allowed the US to use Shamsi, Jacobabad, and two other bases - Pasni and Dalbadin - in its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

The then military government, led by Pervez Musharraf, said the Americans had left the bases in 2006.

Relations between Islamabad and Washington have been tense amid repeated breach of Pakistani sovereignty by US forces.

Pakistani lawmakers have recently passed a resolution condemning the US raid inside Pakistan that allegedly killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in early May.

They have demanded that the government of President Asif Ali Zardari review its ties with the US and other Western countries.

Pakistan has also called on the United States to steeply reduce the number of CIA operatives and halt the non-UN-sanctioned drone attacks on its soil.

Meanwhile, reports say US President Barack Obama has rejected Islamabad's call for more transparency regarding CIA operations in the country.

Mukhtar also said that Pakistan has made many sacrifices in the war against terrorism while payments from the coalition support fund have stalled.

His order to vacate the base comes shortly after he announced Pakistan is reviewing relations with the US in the so-called war on terror.

Britain ups rhetoric over Falklands

Source: Press TV

The British government has threatened to use force to consolidate its claimed sovereignty over the Falkland Islands irrespective of how Argentina would respond.

Defence Secretary, Liam Fox was responding to comments made by Argentine president Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, in which she branded Britain "a crass colonial power in decline".

"Those in politics on the other side of the world can huff and puff but it will not change our resolve politically to retain the independence and the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands nor to come to their defence and to maintain deterrence as best we can”, Fox said.

"We have Typhoons already stationed there. We have a very clear message that we have both the naval power if necessary, and certainly an intent to ensure that the Falkland Islands are kept free and their people enjoy the liberation we fought so hard for 30 years ago", he added.

The rhetoric is yet another sign of growing hostilities between London and Buenos Aires over the issue of the Falklands, known as the Malvinas in Argentina.

Buenos Aires was boosted by the news that the United States had joined with the Organisation of American States (OAS) to request Britain negotiate over the islands. Importantly, the resolution referred to the Malvinas rather than the Falklands.

Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell sought Prime Minister David Cameron's assurance that "negotiations over the Falkland Islands with Argentina will never be acceptable to Her Majesty's government".

"As long as the Falkland Islands want to be sovereign British territory, they should remain sovereign British territory-full stop, end of story". Cameron replied.

That comment, given in the middle of a stormy PMQs session, earned a stern rebuke from the Argentine leader, who accused Cameron of "mediocrity bordering on stupidity".

"In the 21st century, Britain continues to be a crass colonial power in decline because colonialism is outdated and unjust”, she added.

"It's ridiculous to hold sovereignty of something that's 14,000 kilometres away", said Kirchner.

Former PM Margaret Thatcher won huge political support after she committed Britain to retake the Falkland Islands in the 1982 war.

Defence cuts nearly three decades later have led to concerns that Cameron may not have the option to repeat the defence now.

Fresh Cairo protests leave 1,000 injured

Egyptian protesters flee as tear gas is fired at them by riot police during clashes in Libration Square in Cairo in the early hours of June 29, 2011

Source: Press TV

Overnight clashes in the Egyptian capital of Cairo have left over 1,000 people injured as the scuffles between security forces and protesters enter a second day.

New clashes broke out on Wednesday morning in central Cairo as riot police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters who demand the execution of the country's former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly.

Police in riot gear were deployed near the interior ministry building around the Libration Square, which was the scene on clashes on Tuesday as well, AFP reported.

Families of Egyptians killed during the country's historic revolution have also started an open-ended sit-in in front of the country's state TV building, calling on the interim government to bring murderers of their family members to justice.

The protesters are angry over the delays in the trial of Adly. The former interior minister and several other Egyptian officials are still being tried on charges of ordering the killing of protesters.

The protesters say they want the speedy prosecution of officials belonging to Egypt's former regime.

They also demanded the execution of al-Adly for ordering the killing of protesters during the revolution, which led to former President Hosni Mubarak's ouster on February 11.

Egyptian protesters say Mubarak and his associates must be tried for killing more than 800 protesters during the popular uprising.

Activists also demand the release of political prisoners and the disbandment of the military court.

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

US Senate: Veto Palestinian UN bid

Source: Press TV

The US Senate has passed a resolution, calling on President Barack Obama to veto a UN vote on unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

Resolution 185 also asked Obama to “lead a diplomatic effort to oppose a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and to oppose recognition of a Palestinian state by other nations.”

Acting Palestinian Authority (PA) Chief Mahmoud Abbas is set to file a formal request with the UN to recognize an independent Palestinian state in September.

The resolution also threatened to cut aid to the PA if its leaders "persist in efforts to circumvent direct negotiations by turning to the United Nations or other international bodies,” Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported on Wednesday.

“Palestinian efforts to gain recognition of a state outside direct negotiations demonstrates absence of a good faith commitment to peace negotiations, and will have implications for continued United States aid,” the resolution said.

The resolution, co-sponsored by 87 senators, was initiated by Senator Ben Cardin and Senator Susan Collins.

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 (Jerusalem), the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

'Berlusconi government may collapse'

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (L) and Northern League leader Umberto Bossi

Source: Press TV

Italy's Northern League political party leader says Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government risked collapsing over an austerity budget worth nearly EUR 40 billion (USD 57.6 billion).

Umberto Bossi, whose political party is Berlusconi's main coalition ally, says the Northern League may not support the 2012 budget.

Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti has reportedly come under pressure by the ruling coalition to resign over his budget measures.

Berlusconi met with coalition leaders on Tuesday to gain political agreement on the country's annual budget, which includes cuts to ministry budgets, funding for town councils and healthcare, Reuters reported.

Italy, which has found itself in a similar situation as Greece, must come up with EUR 40 billion in budget cuts by 2014 in order to comply with eurozone regulations.

The country's debt burden is currently at 120 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is twice the eurozone limit but still better than other members like Greece.

Analysts believe Berlusconi's unpopularity will trigger fierce protests in the face of the austerity measures and can undermine the premier's government entirely.

IMF urges US to raise debt limit

US President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged US lawmakers to swiftly increase the country's debt limit to avoid a severe shock to a still fragile economy.

In its annual review of the US economy, the IMF on Wednesday stated that the country's growing national debt is unsustainable, Reuters reported.

It further urged the US to increase its existing USD 14.3 trillion borrowing limit by August 2 in order to avoid a default on its loans.

"And of course, the federal debt ceiling should be raised expeditiously to avoid a severe shock to the economy and world financial markets," the IMF said.

Moreover, the IMF suggested that spending cuts and tax increases should be part of the plan.

Republicans and Democrats, however, are currently at odds on how to deal with the matter. So far, little willingness has been shown on either side to faster reach an understanding.

During a press conference on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama predicted that a deal with the Republicans would soon be reached.

Meanwhile, according to a report released on Wednesday, the US has so far spent at least USD 3.7 trillion in its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. And it might end up spending as much as USD 4.4 trillion.

The report also questioned what the US has gained from this multi-trillion dollar investment.

Lagarde named first female IMF chief

Lagarde is widely respected for her leadership during Europe's financial crisis during the past three years

Source: Press TV

France's Christine Lagarde has been named the first ever female chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), replacing scandal-hit Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

"The executive board of the International Monetary Fund today selected Christine Lagarde to serve as IMF managing director and madam chairman of the executive board for a five-year term starting on July 5, 2011," the IMF said in a statement.

The French finance minister replaces Strauss-Kahn, who resigned on May 18 over charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York.

Lagarde is widely respected for her leadership during Europe's financial crisis during the past three years.

Lagarde “is the first woman named to the top IMF post since the institution's inception in 1944,” the statement added.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Libya rejects ICC warrant for Gaddafi

Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi

Source: Press TV

The Libyan regime has rejected arrest warrants issued for embattled ruler Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"Libya ... does not accept the decisions of the ICC which is a tool of the Western world to prosecute leaders in the Third World," Reuters quoted Libyan Justice Minister Mohammed al-Qamoodi as saying during a Monday press conference in the capital Tripoli .

Qamoodi denied the existence of connections between Gaddafi and his son with the ICC warrants by arguing that the two held no “official position in the Libyan government.”

Instead, the Libyan regime has urged the ICC to prosecute NATO for its crimes committed in the North African country.

On Monday, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi on charges of committing crimes against humanity since the Libyan revolution began in mid-February.

The warrants came as a response to ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's call on the court to issue the arrest warrants.

This is the first time the international court has issued arrest warrants during an on-going conflict and the second time it has issued one against a president in office.

NATO launched a major air campaign against the forces of the Libyan regime in mid-March, saying UN Security Council Resolution 1973 gave them a mandate to “protect the Libyan population.”

However, the Western coalition airstrikes have so far claimed the lives of scores of civilians.

China slams NATO action in Libya

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao

Source: Press TV

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has warned against NATO's military action in Libya, calling for a peaceful political solution instead.

After talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London, Wen said China supported efforts towards a peaceful solution for Libya and the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, the Associated Press reported.

“Foreign troops may be able to win war in a place, but they can hardly win peace. Hard lessons have been learnt from what has happened in the Middle East and Afghanistan," the Chinese premier said during a press conference in London.

Following talks with Cameron, Wen said that Beijing supported the UN Security Council resolution which authorized airstrikes against Libya to protect civilians.

However, he insisted that NATO should stay committed to the resolution's guidelines.

"We hope that the issue of Libya will be resolved through political, peaceful means, to reduce the humanitarian harm and in particular the harm of innocent civilians," he said.

Russia has also criticized NATO action in the war-torn country, while accusing Britain and other NATO members of over-stepping the resolution's boundaries.

NATO is conducting airstrikes in Libya to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1973, and says that its air campaign aims at protecting civilians. However, Libyan officials say hundreds of civilians have been killed as a result of the attacks.

ICC issues arrest warrant for Gaddafi

Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi

Source: Press TV

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi on charges of committing crimes against humanity.

"The chamber hereby, issues a warrant of arrest against Muammar Gaddafi," Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng said during a court hearing on Monday.

The ICC also issued warrants for Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi for committing crimes against Libyan revolutionaries since the Libyan revolution in began in mid-February, AFP reported.

The warrants are a response to ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's call on the court to issue arrest warrants for the three influential Libyan figures.

NATO is conducting airstrikes in Libya to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1973, and says that its air campaign aims at protecting civilians. However, Libyan officials say hundreds of civilians have been killed as a result of the attacks.

Experts say the main motive behind the Western attack on Libya is the vast oil reserves of the North African country.

Israel PM orders navy to stop aid flotilla

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Source: Press TV

Israel's security cabinet has ordered the navy to use all possible means to prevent the incoming international aid flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip.

After two days of closed-doors meetings, the ministers committee on security affairs on Monday voted in favor of the navy plans to stop the convoy of vessels known as Freedom Flotilla II from breaching the Israeli-imposed naval blockade on the Palestinian territory, giving the army authority to use “all necessary means” during the operation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

The statement also said that the cabinet has also ordered Israeli troops to operate with "maximal restraint and avoid clashes with activists on board the vessels."

Israeli officials say navy commandos have revised their tactics in the wake of the May 31, 2010 attack, which killed nine Turkish activists on board the leading ship, Turkish-flagged MV Mavi Marmara, and drew international condemnation.

Israeli ministers also said that Tel Aviv and Egyptian authorities have reached an understanding on the issue of aid convoy and that ships participating in the pro-Palestinian flotilla will be directed to the Israeli port of Ashdod or Egypt's El-Arish port to unload their cargo. After inspections the cargo will be transferred overland to Gaza.

The cabinet has also ordered the Foreign Ministry to continue its diplomatic efforts to prevent the flotilla from setting sail to Gaza.

Meanwhile, organizers of Freedom Flotilla II said on Monday that Tel Aviv is pressuring Greece to halt the ships' departure. Greece is being used as a departure point with around seven of the vessels already docked in various Greek ports. The vessels would meet in international waters south of Cyprus before heading to Gaza.

The fleet, with around 350 pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries on board of some 10 ships, would depart for the impoverished enclave on Tuesday in a bid to break Israel's five-year blockade on the coastal territory which is home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

Organizers say the convoy will carry medicine, a fully-equipped ambulance and cement.

Gaza-bound aid convoy to depart Greece

The Israeli military attacked the Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on May 31, 2010. (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Hundreds of activists at Greek ports prepare to board Gaza-bound ships, carrying humanitarian aid to the besieged coastal enclave in defiance of the Israeli blockade.

Around 350 pro-Palestinian activists from 22 countries are set to join the Freedom Flotilla II, seeking to break the Israeli naval siege, AFP reported on Sunday.

Vaggelis Pissias, head organizer of the Ship to Gaza mission, said the boats will leave from various ports in Greece or meet off the coast.

Greece is being used as a departure point due to its geographic position and its “historical, cultural relations with Arab countries,” said Pissias.

In a recent development, the Israeli Navy announced that it would confront the Freedom Flotilla II convoy, which is scheduled to set sail towards Gaza on Tuesday. The convoy will comprise of 15 ships, 22 organizations and around 1,500 activists.

Two cargo boats of the flotilla will carry medicines, a fully-equipped ambulance car and cement to the impoverished Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military attacked the Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on May 31, 2010, killing nine Turkish nationals aboard the Turkish-flagged MV Mavi Marmara and injuring about 50 other activists that were part of the team on the six-ship convoy.

“What happened last year caused us grave concern ... but we are determined to go to Gaza,” Pissias further explained.

Ankara said the Mavi Marmara had been withdrawn this year. There would be no Turkish vessels involved in the operation as boats from several countries, including Greece, France, Italy and Spain, will join the Freedom Flotilla II.

The Israeli regime laid an economic siege on Gaza in June 2007 after an elected Hamas government took control of the strip.

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

Yemen plagued by water shortage

Yemenis waiting to collect water in the capital Sana'a on May 28, 2011

Source: Press TV

Dearth of water reportedly triggered by fuel shortage and power cuts is taking its toll on the public in Yemen's capital -- already a scene of unbridled regime crackdown on protests.

Truck drivers have started refusing to supply residences in Sana'a with water, complaining of insufficient fuel, Xinhua reported on Monday.

The government, meanwhile, blames the water shortage on power cuts for which it holds alleged obstructionists responsible.

"We can live without electricity but cannot without water," said a local female named Um Mahir.

"There has been no water supply here for weeks and we used to buy water recently. The price of water is triply inflated," said Suad al-Salahi, another woman.

The capital is experiencing a brownout, while power outages there and in many other provinces has seriously damaged or shut down businesses.

In coastal areas some hospital patients have died due to the lack of electricity, reports say.

Fuel scarcity has also triggered long queues at gas stations.

The complications come amid continued popular revolution across the country in favor of an end to corruption and unemployment and the ouster of Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh has been in office for nearly 33 years with opposition groups arguing that his long-promised political and economic reforms have never materialized.

The regime has given the government forces and its mercenary's leeway to use excessive violence against the demonstrators.

US nuclear plant hit by floodwater

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power station surrounded by water

Source: Press TV

Floodwater from Missouri River has breached a berm at the Nebraska nuclear power, Fort Calhoun, allowing water to reach containment buildings and transformers.

The plant's officials were forced to shut down electrical power when water surrounded the main electrical transformers, but the flooding had no impact on reactor shutdown cooling or the spent fuel pool cooling, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said on Sunday.

The NRC added that the Fort Calhoun Station shut down in early April for refueling, and there is no water inside the plant, Huffington Post reported.

Head of NRC Gregory Jaczko visited the Fort Calhoun plant on Monday.

In a similar incident in Japan, Fukushima power plant was damaged when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the country's northeastern coasts on March 11.

As a result of the flooding, partial meltdowns occurred at the nuclear power plant when the cooling systems for three reactors failed.

Thousands of Japanese people living within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant were evacuated and the government has declared a state of nuclear emergency for the five reactors.

The Japanese government initially attempted to play down the incident by not releasing accurate radiation data.

Obama tries to raise US debt ceiling

US President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV

US President Barack Obama is making a last-ditch effort to get a bipartisan congressional consensus to raise the country's debt ceiling.

The White House said on Monday that the president is confident that both Democrats and Republicans could make compromises to lift the debt limit to avoid a default, Reuters reported.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "The president told me that everyone in the room believes a significant deal remains possible." He made the remarks after Obama held a discussion with Sen. Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate.

Later in the day, Obama held a meeting with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell but neither made any comments on the outcome.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have showed little willingness to compromise on the issue after the deficit reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden collapsed suddenly on Thursday.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned lawmakers that if the United States does not take the necessary steps by August 2, the country will be at risk of defaulting on its loans.

Earlier in the month, the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives turned down a draft bill intended to raise the country's borrowing limit, which currently stands at a whopping $14.3 trillion.

However, economists say that if the United States refuses to increase its debt limit, it could be devastating for the US and other economies around the world.

Although US lawmakers are engaged in heated arguments on whether to cut spending for public services, such as education and elderly healthcare, increase taxes, or raise the borrowing level, they continue to authorize the US government to spend tens of billions of dollars for military interventions in other countries.

Key Pakistani party quits ruling coalition

Supporters of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) gather during a rally in Karachi

Source: Press TV

The Pakistani government's main coalition partner has quit the administration, raising the prospects of more political instability in the country.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) accuses the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of having an undemocratic and dictatorial approach.

"It is not possible for us to partner with the PPP any further because of its brutal, ruthless and disloyal character to its partners," senior party official Farooq Sattar said.

"The PPP was unwilling to mend its ways leaving us with no option but to quit the coalition government,” he added.

Sattar noted that his party decided to split with the PPP because of differences over regional elections held last week in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

"When we refused to change our stance, the PPP got the elections for Kashmiri migrants residing in Karachi cancelled on the pretext of security issues," Sattar said.

He also reiterated that the government had failed to crack down on violence against its supporters in the southern port city of Karachi. MQM, the dominant political party in Karachi, had earlier expressed its displeasure and anger over ethnic and militant violence in recent months in the city.

MQM has now announced plans to remove its ministers from the federal cabinet and sit in opposition to the PPP in Parliament and provincial assemblies.

Reports say the governor of the southern Sindh Province, who is an MQM loyalist, has also tendered his resignation to the president.

The decision of the MQM to quit the government has raised fresh questions over political stability in Pakistan.

The developments come at a time when the government in Islamabad is trying to tackle growing militancy and the economic crisis in the country.

Monday, June 27, 2011

NATO tries to kill Gaddafi: US General

US Admiral Samuel Locklear

Source: Press TV

A top US commander involved in the military operations in Libya has admitted that NATO forces are seeking to kill Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the NATO Joint Operations Command in Naples, said on Sunday that the military alliance has recently stepped up attacks to kill Gaddafi, The Telegraph reported.

Locklear's remarks were disclosed by the US House Representative Mike Turner, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who has from the beginning of the Libya mission voiced opposition to military intervention in the North African country.

Turner has told Foreign Policy magazine that after a conversation with admiral Locklear, he now believes that NATO is overstepping the UN Resolution1973.

“I believe the scope that NATO is pursuing is beyond what is contemplated in civil protection, so they're exceeding the mission,” Turner said.

The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1973 on March 17, which authorized all necessary measures to “protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack” in Libya.

However, NATO has turned a blind eye to the framework defined in the resolution by carrying out attacks on civilian areas in Libya, killing dozens of people, including children.

Meanwhile, South African President Jacob Zuma has once again warned NATO against exceeding the terms of the UN resolution.

“The intention was not to authorize a campaign for regime change or political assassination” Zuma said in an opening speech at a four-hour closed-door meeting of the African Union panel on Libya in the South African capital Pretoria, according to the text of the speech.

Zuma urged both Gaddafi regime and revolutionary forces to resolve the issue diplomatically to end a deadly impasse which will potentially “destabilize the entire sub-region.”

NATO warned against killing civilians

The South African President Jacob Zuma

Source: Press TV

The South African president voices serious concerns over ongoing NATO airstrikes in Libya as such attacks continue to kill civilians in the North African country.

During African Union panel talks on Libya, Jacob Zuma said continued NATO bombings in Libya is a concern because the UN Resolution 1973 was intended to protect civilians.

"The continuing bombing by NATO and its allies is a concern that has been raised by our committee and by the AU Assembly, because the intention of Resolution 1973 was to protect the Libyan people and facilitate the humanitarian effort," Zuma was quoted by AFP as saying.

Zuma also said that the resolution does not allow NATO to push for “regime change or the political assassination” of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

His comments come one day after Libyan State TV reported the deaths of at least 15 civilians in a NATO strike on a residential area near the key town of Brega.

NATO has deployed its full range of aircraft in the war on Libya. The military alliance says the operations are aimed at protecting civilians.

However, scores of civilians have lost their lives in NATO airstrikes so far. The military alliance has admitted to having mistakenly killed at least nine civilians in just one of its attacks near Tripoli this week.

Experts say the main motive behind the Western attack on Libya is the vast oil reserves of the North African country.

Nigeria bombings kill 25, injure 30

Bomb attacks in northeastern Nigeria killed at least 25 people and injured 30 others on June 26. (file photo)

Source: Press TV

At least 25 people have been killed and 30 injured in bombings at a public area in Nigeria's northeastern town of Maiduguri, officials say.

Military sources said suspected members of the Boko Haram group threw three sets of explosives from the back of motorbikes at around 5 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) on Sunday, Reuters reported.

According to a police officer, the attackers threw bombs and fired indiscriminate gun shots at Dala Kabompi neighborhood, killing at least 25 people and seriously injuring around 30 others.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on police headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on June 16, killing at least two, including a policeman.

Police officers, soldiers, politicians and clerics in northern Nigeria have reportedly been the main targets of attacks by Boko Haram elements in the past year.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who was sworn in for his first full term in office on May 29, has voiced support for a dialogue with Boko Haram.

Yemenis: Saleh sons, aides out

Anti-government protesters march during a demonstration to demand the ouster of Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taizz June 26, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Anti-government protesters in Yemen have held rallies, urging the departure of Ali Abdullah Saleh's sons and aides from the country.

The protests were held across the country's cities, including in the capital Sana'a and cities of Ibb and Taizz, on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

The demonstrators also repeated their call for the resignation of Saleh, who fled to Saudi Arabia for treatment after a June 3 rocket attack on the presidential palace.

In the form of a popular revolution, the rallies have been held in Yemen's major cities since late January, demanding Saleh's ouster besides calling for an end to corruption and unemployment.

The country has been facing months of political crisis triggered by Saleh's refusal to step down.

He is expected to make a media appearance within the next two days.

“Saleh's orphans have to leave the country,” demonstrators said, referring to Salah's sons Ahmed and Khaled.

Ahmed, who was widely suspected of inheriting presidency from his father, before the popular uprising started, heads Yemen's elite Presidential Guard. The force leads a brutal crackdown on the anti-regime protesters.

Khaled also enjoys sway over military units.

They both greatly contributed to the survival of the unpopular regime during Saleh's absence.

Egypt blames US, Israel for sect strife

Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Yehiya al-Gamal

Source: Press TV

Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Yehiya al-Gamal has blame the United States and Israel for being engaged in efforts to incite a religious strife to weaken the African country.

“The US and Israel are behind the religious sedition in Egypt [as] they realize this is the only way to break up the country,” said al-Gamal in televised remarks, quoted in a report by MENA news agency.

"Israel is trying to do this because Egypt is the most important power in the region," he emphasized.

Egypt is entangled with sectarian strife in the country following a historic revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

Sectarian clashes between Coptic Christians and Saudi-inspired radical Salafists in the capital Cairo claimed 12 lives and injured 100 more in March.

Earlier this month, Egyptian officials arrested a US-born Israeli man, posing as a journalist, with a laptop and three cell phones containing top secret information.

The alleged Israeli spy is also suspected of engaging in efforts to incite sectarian tensions among youths in the Egyptian capital during the country's popular revolution, urging them to clash with security forces.

Relations between Israel and Egypt have remained tense since a popular revolution ousted Mubarak from power in February.

Under the US-backed Mubarak regime, Egypt consistently served Tel Aviv's interests in the region.

Israel, US declare war on flotilla

File photo shows a relative reacting during the funeral of a victim of the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla on May 31, 2010

Source: Press TV

Israel and the United States have threatened journalists and human rights campaigners against taking part in a Gaza Strip-bound aid mission.

On Sunday, Oren Helman, director of Israel's Government Press Office, said joining the Freedom Flotilla II convoy could "lead to participants being denied entry into…Israel for ten years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions,” Reuters reported.

The fleet, which includes some 500 activists on board of 10 vessels, would depart for the impoverished enclave on Tuesday.

Tel Aviv claims the fleet would be violating its 2007-present siege of Gaza. The blockade has been depriving the enclave's 1.5-million Palestinians of food, fuel and other necessities.

Helman called the mission a "provocative and dangerous event, the purpose of which is to undermine Israel's right to defend itself and to knowingly violate Israeli law."

The activists are accompanied by at least one reporter for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz named Amira Hass, who is to arrive in Gaza onboard a Canadian vessel known as Tahrir (Liberation).

The Foreign Press Association responded to Tel Aviv's warning, saying, "The government's threat to punish journalists covering the Gaza flotilla sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel's commitment to freedom of the press.”

The United Nations and a number of governments have also warned the flotilla not to set sail.

Washington has called on its nationals to not take part in the protest move.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has branded the move as a 'provoking act.' "We do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza," she has said.

Israel military ordered to stop flotilla

Israeli naval commandos

Source: Press TV

Israel reportedly orders its military to prevent an incoming convoy of vessels known as Freedom Flotilla II from taking humanitarian aid to the Tel Aviv-blockaded Gaza Strip.

The Israeli regime has instructed its forces “to stop a Gaza-bound flotilla from reaching its goal,” Xinhua reported on Sunday, citing official sources.

The fleet, which includes some 500 activists on board of 10 vessels, would depart for the impoverished enclave on Tuesday.

The mission is named after the Freedom Flotilla convoy, which lost nine of its Turkish activists to a violent Israeli attack on May 31, 2010.

Tel Aviv has also warned foreign journalists against joining the cause in an apparent attempt to cover up potential bloodshed by the forces.

The stubborn attitude comes while the siege has been depriving the 1.5-million Palestinians in Gaza of food, fuel and other necessities since its imposition in June 2007.

French ship sets sail to join Flotilla 2

A ship, Dignité, flying the French flag with six people onboard sails off the coast of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica on June 25, 2011 to join the new pro-Palestinian aid flotilla

Source: Press TV

A French ship carrying humanitarian aid and six people on board has set sail from the port city of Corsica to join a Gaza-bound flotilla.

The ship flying the French flag named Dignité (Dignity) headed for the coastal waters of Greece on Saturday to join up with the rest of the participants in the flotilla.

The entire fleet will sail for Gaza next week from various Mediterranean ports, French coordinator Julien Rivoire told AFP.

Ships, including two freighters carrying medical supplies "should reach the port of Gaza at the end of next week," he added.

Activists from more than 30 countries plan to sail aboard the ships to the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian assistance to the besieged people of Gaza in the near future.

The Israeli Navy has already declared that it will not allow the new flotilla to break the blockade on the impoverished Gaza Strip.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed her strong opposition to the second Freedom Flotilla, claiming that it is both a 'provoking act' and 'unnecessary.'

"We do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza," Clinton said.

Israeli Navy head Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom had earlier called on world leaders to "impose all their authority to prevent the departure of this needless, provocative flotilla."

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked the first Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, killing nine Turkish citizens on board the Turkish-flagged M.V. Mavi Marmara and injuring about 50 other people who were part of the team on the six-ship convoy.

Berlin warns Athens over austerity plan

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

Source: Press TV

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says the stability of the entire eurozone would be in danger should Greece fail to pass a new austerity package.

Schaeuble pointed out that Greece will not receive its next tranche of international aid unless its parliament passes the package on June 29.

“If the package is rejected, which nobody expects, it would be a reason for the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the eurozone countries and the European Union not to release the next tranche of aid,” the German minister was quoted as saying by the Associated Press on Sunday.

"We are doing everything to prevent an escalation of the crisis for Europe, but must at the same time be prepared for everything," he further explained.

The Greek cabinet approved the new austerity budget plan on Wednesday to help ease its huge public debt despite massive protests in the country.

Greek lawmakers will vote Wednesday on a €28 billion ($39.8 billion) midterm austerity plan and a draft implementation bill on Thursday.

On Monday, the Greek parliament began deliberations on the unpopular austerity plan.

Without passage of the measures, the EU and the IMF intend to block payment of the fifth tranche of Greece's 110-billion-euro bailout program.

Athens needs the 12-billion-euro disbursement to pay its bills next month and avert the eurozone's first sovereign default.

According to polls, three-quarters of Greece's 11 million people are opposed to the austerity measures.

US lawmakers at odds over debt crisis

US President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV

US Republican and Democratic lawmakers are at loggerheads on how to deal with the country's overflowing 14-trillion-dollar debt.

Ahead of scheduled meetings between both parties and US President Barack Obama on Monday, the only three options on the table for discussion remain to be raising the debt limit, increasing taxes, and cutting spending on public services, AFP reported.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned lawmakers that if the US does not take the necessary steps by August 2, the country will be at a risk of defaulting on its loans.

The meetings come as Republicans walked out from talks regarding the issue, in protest to the idea of raising taxes for the nation's wealthiest.

"I wish they (Republicans) would get beyond their talking points and really get honest with the American people as to what these discussions are about," Democratic Congressman James Clyburn said.

"We ought not [to] have these oil subsidies. We ought not [to] have all these ethanol subsidies. We ought not [to] have all these new breaks for millionaires and billionaires. We ought to be honest with the American people and have an effective tax rate that will be fair to everybody," he added.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, says the country should “cut spending now” as the US is heading towards bankruptcy, according to “president's own trustees”.

“Republicans don't like to raise taxes; Democrats don't like to either,” McConnell noted, adding that the US does not have a problem with low taxes, but that the problem is high spending.

He also stated that his rival Democrats are willing to cut the Medicare health coverage spending for the elderly, adding that such measures could pass at the US House of Representatives.

The White House, however, claims that Republicans are merely looking for ways to secure the current tax loopholes for the rich and corporations, as well as maintaining the subsidies for oil and gas companies.

Earlier in month, Republican-controlled US House of Representatives turned down a draft bill intended to raise the country's borrowing limit, which currently stands at the whopping USD 14.3 trillion.

Experts, however, insist that failure to increase the debt limit could be devastating for the US and other economies around the world.

As US lawmakers continue heated arguments on whether to cut spending for public services such as education and elderly healthcare, increase taxes or raise the borrowing level, they have authorized the US government to spend tens of billions of dollars to engage in military invasion of other countries.

Chavez 'recovering well' after surgery

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (C) is visited by Cuba's President Raul Castro (R) and its revolutionary leader Fidel Castro at a hospital in Havana, June 17, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Venezuelan officials have dismissed reports claiming that President Hugo Chavez is in a “critical condition,” telling his enemies to "stop dreaming" of his death.

Chavez has not made a public appearance since June 10, when went to Cuba to have a pelvic swelling removed, Reuters reported.

Due to his absence El Nueva Herald -- the Miami Herald's Spanish-language sister paper -- released a report claiming he is in a worse condition that what Venezuelan officials have so far said.

"President Chavez is recovering well from his surgery. His enemies should stop dreaming and his friends should stop worrying," Vice Foreign Minister Temir Porras said on Saturday.

"The only thing that has metastasized is the cancer of the Miami Herald and the rest of the right-wing press," he added.

However, US officials and opponents of Chaves have claimed that as his government has not yet released a firm report regarding the matter, they might be hiding the “true picture.”

In response, Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua said "The national and international right-wing are going crazy, rubbing their hands together ... even talking about the death of the president," adding that Chaves would soon return.

Pro-government groups have been prepared for days to celebrate Chavez's return to the Miraflores presidential palace in the capital Caracas.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

US reports Chavez in 'critical' condition

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Source: Press TV

Reports, citing 'US intelligence' claim that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in “critical” condition after undergoing an emergency surgery in Cuba on June 10.

Chavez "is in critical condition; not on the brink of death, but critical indeed, and complicated," reported a US-based anti-Cuban Spanish daily El Nuevo Herald.

According to the report, cited by a number of right-wing news outlets in US, Britain and Israel, Chavez's daughter, Rosines, and his mother, Marisabel Rodriguez, “urgently” left Venezuela within the past 72 hours heading to Cuba in an air force plane.

On Wednesday, the Venezuelan president's brother Adan Chavez announced that President Chavez "as officially reported, is recovering well."

He added that it was not clear when his younger brother would return home but noted that the Venezuelan chief executive is expected to leave Cuba within 10 to 12 days.

Chavez underwent unscheduled surgery for a pelvic abscess during his official visit to Cuba and has remained on the Caribbean island since then to recover.

Opponents of the popular president claim that Chavez may have suffered from something more serious, such as cancer.

Pro-government groups, however, have been prepared for days to celebrate Chavez's return to the Miraflores presidential palace in the capital Caracas.

The Venezuelan leader plans to run for re-election in 2012 and serve at least one more six-year term. He has focused on implementing wide-ranging reforms in the country during his tenure as the chief executive.

Venezuela has recently severed relations with the US, following a US move on May 24 to imposed sanctions against Venezuela's giant oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) for supplying Iran with gasoline and other refined oil products.

Venezuela's Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez, who is also the head of PDVSA, announced on May 25 that Venezuela would continue to maintain good ties with Iran and any other country it wants to, emphasizing that "this is a right we are not going to renounce."

Ever since Chavez was elected into office, the US government has made numerous attempts to incite anti-Chavez revolts in Venezuela and even overthrow the popular president.

Erdogan supports Palestinian statehood

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) and the Acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas attend a news briefing after their meeting in Ankara June 24, 2011

Source: Press TV

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the only solution for lasting peace in the Middle East is the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Erdogan made the remarks after meeting with acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, AFP reported.

"The founding of an independent and viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital is the basic condition for the solution to the (Israeli-Palestinian) issue," Erdogan said.

Abbas travelled to Turkey on Tuesday, on a four-day visit, in a bid to rally support for a possible yes-vote at the United Nations.

Hamas and Fatah have agreed, after signing a unity deal in May, to seek UN recognition as an independent state in the next General Assembly meeting in September.

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 and annexed East al-Quds (Jerusalem), the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Earlier this month, leaked cables revealed that Israel's Foreign Ministry had launched a global campaign to thwart the Palestinian move to seek statehood recognition.

Israeli diplomats have been instructed to lobby the highest possible officials in their respective countries and muster their support to vote against the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Moreover, Israel's closest ally, the United States, has promised to veto any vote for the recognition of the Palestinian statehood.

Hamas calls on UN to protect Flotilla II

Last year's Turkish-flagged ship, MV Mavi Marmara, that Israeli forces attacked

Source: Press TV

Hamas has called on the UN to provide protection for the second Freedom Flotilla, carrying humanitarian aid to the impoverished Gaza Strip.

"The United Nations and all international law organizations should provide protection to the second flotilla that is preparing to sail to the Gaza Strip. The world must stop Israel from intercepting the ships," democratically-elected Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday.

He said the Israeli regime was preparing to commit another crime against the international activists, Xinhua reported.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked the first Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, killing nine Turkish citizens on board the Turkish-flagged M.V. Mavi Marmara and injuring about 50 other people who were part of the team on the six-ship convoy.

This year's flotilla, however, is expected to be nearly twice as large, with some 1,000 activists from over 30 countries.

Israeli officials have already stressed that no boats would be permitted to enter the Gaza coast.

Israeli Navy head Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom had earlier called on world leaders to "impose all their authority to prevent the departure of this needless, provocative flotilla."

Israel's closest ally, the United States, has sided with Tel Aviv claiming that sending a new aid flotilla to the blockaded Gaza Strip would be "irresponsible" and "provocative."

In a statement on Friday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland warned international activists against trying to break the Israeli-imposed blockade on the coastal enclave.

The regime must go, Yemenis say

Anti-regime protesters hold a rally to demand the trial of Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taizz, June 24, 2011

Source: Press TV

Anti-regime protesters in Yemen have taken to the streets in the country's second largest city to repeat their demand for the formation of a transitional council.

On Saturday, Yemeni demonstrators gathered in the streets of the southern city of Taizz to demand an end to the country's political limbo following the departure of longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh, who flew to Saudi Arabia to receive treatment for the wounds he sustained in an attack on his palace in Sana'a earlier this month, has refused to step down and is reportedly planning to return.

Yemeni protesters have been calling for the members of the Saleh regime to be brought to trial for the "crimes" they have committed and the brutal crackdown on anti-regime protesters that began in January.

They accuse the regime of corruption and killing hundreds of people since opposition protests began in January.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis also staged a massive protest rally in Sana'a on Friday.

The protesters chanted slogans denouncing Israel, the United States, and Saudi Arabia and what they called foreign domination of their country.

Yemenis have been holding daily protests demanding the formation of a transitional council since Saleh left the country in early June.

The protesters have vowed to continue their rallies until the Saleh regime falls.

UK cooks Saudi-hatched anti-Iran ploy

Source: Press TV

The Saudi Arabian regime has once again resorted to its old masters, the UK and US, in its desperate bid vis-à-vis a powerful Iran, according to media reports.

In the latest of a series of anti-Iran plots hatched by the Saudi royal family, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal has revealed that his country was working on a ploy to usurp the place of the Islamic Republic at the international oil markets, the daily The Wall Street Journal reported.

Prince Turki, who is a leading member of Saudi Arabia's royal family, has unveiled the plot in a speech to a private gathering of US and UK troops at Royal Air Forces (RAF) Molesworth airbase outside London, said the report.

The prince, a former Saudi ambassador to the UK and US, said “Saudi Arabia is preparing to employ all of its economic, diplomatic and security assets to confront Tehran's regional ambitions”, added the report.

"Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it is there that more could be done to squeeze the current government," said the onetime head of the Saudi intelligence agency.

Iran's "meddling and destabilizing efforts in countries with Shiite majorities, such as Iraq and Bahrain, as well as those countries with significant Shiite communities…must come to an end," Turki al-Faisal claimed in his statement to the troops in the UK.

"Saudi Arabia will oppose any and all of Iran's actions in other countries because it is Saudi Arabia's position that Iran has no right to meddle in other nations' internal affairs", he said.

The prince's allegations came after Saudi king Abdullah sent the country's National Guard into Bahrain and Yemen over the past 18 months to help his allies in Manama and Sana'a in suppressing pro-democracy movements, which were born in the tiny Persian Gulf islands in response to decades of brutal monarchists' rule.

The democratic movements were created following the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia, where long-time dictators who enjoyed Saudis' and certain western countries' support were toppled by people's revolutions and their call for freedom.

Saudis accuse Iran of interfering in its neighbors' internal affairs, while they, themselves, are killing defenseless people in Bahrain, and Yemen as an occupying power like what their old masters are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Saudi Arabian regime, Britain, and the US are also jointly conspiring in secret to hammer out a strategy to destabilize world's oil markets to their own interests.

After failing to force members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase crude output at the organization's recent meeting in Vienna, the Saudi Arabian regime has hinted that it could use its vast energy resources as a strategic weapon.

"To put this into perspective, Saudi Arabia has so much [spare] production capacity-nearly 4 million barrels [per] day-that we could almost instantly replace all of Iran's oil production," the prince said.

UK military faces £10bn budget deficit

Source: Press TV

A big new black hole has emerged in the UK's defence budget, threatening more British troops, aircraft and warships, according to media reports.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) authorities estimated that the military would need at least £10 billion in the coming years to be able to endure consecutive wars and the unforeseen events, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The financial “mismatch” is larger than all the defence cuts announced in last year's Spending Review, the report said.

It has also triggered concerns of another round of painful reductions in the Armed Forces.

The MoD's budget, £33.8 billion this year, is being cut by 8 per cent over four years.

The department has concluded that those cuts will still not be enough to balance the budget, meaning that unless the Treasury increases defence spending to fill the gap, more cuts will be required.

The shortfall concerns the MoD's budget from 2015, but sources said that without a promise of more money now, ministers will soon have to start cutting and cancelling programmes due to be delivered later.

“We are quite close to the point where this will force us to make new cuts,” said a senior defence source.

The huge shortfall has emerged from an internal review of the MoD's financial liabilities over the next decade.

The “three month study” is due to conclude next week, but the precise level of the MoD's shortfall is still the subject of intense haggling between Whitehall departments.

James Arbuthnot, the chairman of the Commons defence committee this week suggested that the MoD was now seeking savings of £8 billion.

But MoD insiders said the new black hole is actually higher than that and likely to be “in the tens of billions”.

Spain protesters begin longest march yet

Anti-government protests in Barcelona in the northeastern Spain on June 19, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Spanish protesters have set off from Barcelona, marching toward the capital, Madrid, on their last and longest march against unemployment, welfare cuts and corruption.

The protesters, who currently number around 50, plan to campaign in every midway city to gather support for the Madrid rally, which is expected to take place on July 24, AFP reported.

The country has witnessed non-stop anti-government demonstrations since May 15.

"First we took to the streets, then the squares, and now the highways," said Rafael de la Rubia, international coordinator of the movement World without War, who is among the demonstrators.

"After that, we will take Europe," he asserted.

Spain is struggling to recover from nearly two years of recession triggered for the most part by the collapse of an overheated real estate sector.

The country's unemployment rate has reportedly surpassed 21 percent in the first quarter of the year -- the highest rate recorded for joblessness in the industrialized world.

Currently, some nine million people suffer from poverty across the country.

Last month, Amnesty International warned that hundreds of thousands of families in Spain are at the risk of losing their homes.

Protests are expected to continue as the Bank of Spain says the crippled economy will likely keep a slow recovery rate and the jobless figure remain high for the foreseeable future

Saturday, June 25, 2011

US House OKs funding for Libya war

The US House of Representatives

Source: Press TV

The US House of Representatives has rejected a Republican move to cut funding for American military operations in Libya but slammed President Barack Obama's decision to go to war.

The bill to limit the use of funds was rejected on Friday as 238 members of the House voted “No” to defeat the effort, AFP reported.

"You can't say 'we would like to remove [Libyan ruler Muammar] Gaddafi, we'd like to support the Libyan people, but we're going to offer up resolutions that are going to stop that from happening," said Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

A total of 180 representatives, including 36 Democrats, voted in support of the bill.

The rejected bill would have prevented the drone attacks and airstrikes but allowed the US to continue involvement in the Libyan war by gathering intelligence, refueling NATO warplanes and reconnaissance.

However, the House voted overwhelmingly, 295-123, including 70 Democrats, to deny Obama the authority to continue the Libyan mission for one year. The plan also prohibited the deployment of US ground forces in the North African country.

“We don't have enough wars going on? The war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, we need one more war?” said Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich, who was opposed to the US involvement in the Libyan conflict.

Obama came under severe criticism for failing to get congressional approval for the Libyan conflict, as well as for not laying out the goal and likely duration and costs of the war.

According to the 1973 War Powers Resolution, US armed forces cannot remain in military actions over 60 days -- with a further 30-day withdrawal period -- without getting consent from the Congress.

The incumbent US president says he does not need additional congressional approval, as US forces are simply supporting NATO.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Obama “failed to fulfill his obligations.”

Analysts say the Republican-led vote against approving the conflict is mainly a symbolic political move.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said after the House vote that she expected a different outcome on the authorization vote but was “gratified that the House decisively rejected” the plan to cut funds.

US House rejects Libya war mandate

Source: Press TV

The House of Representatives in a scathing rebuke to President Barack Obama has rejected a resolution authorizing US military action in Libya for one year.

War-fatigued American lawmakers defeated the measure on Friday with 295 votes against and only 123 votes in its favor, AFP reported.

The congressional action was a swipe at Obama over growing discontent among US lawmakers after a decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that has cost more than a trillion dollars and has helped fuel a USD 1.4 trillion budget deficit.

"We don't have enough wars going on? The war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, we need one more war?" Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich said during Friday's vote.

“This war is a distraction. Our flailing economy demands the full attention of Congress and the president," he noted.

The White House, meanwhile, said it was disappointed by the House of Representatives vote.

"We are disappointed by that vote. We think that now is not the time to send the kind of mixed message that it sends," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.

The United States has conducted hundreds of strike sorties since NATO took over the Libya operation on March 31.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has vowed to intensify the bombing missions in Libya despite Italy's call for an immediate ceasefire to the ongoing fighting.

“NATO will continue this mission because if we stop, countless more civilians could lose their lives,” the Western military alliance's chief said in a video statement on the NATO website on Wednesday.

Earlier, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called for “an immediate humanitarian suspension of hostilities” in Libya.

Embattled Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi has accused NATO of murder, vowing to retaliate for the killing of civilians during air raids by the Western military alliance.

“You said, 'we hit our targets with precision', you murderers,” Gaddafi said in the message broadcast on Libyan television late Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"One day we will respond to you likewise, and your homes will be legitimate targets," he commented.

The Libyan ruler vowed to continue the battle until the West is "wiped out."

He said no agreement can be reached over the crisis in Libya after their children and grandchildren were killed in air attacks.

'Eurozone crisis biggest risk to Britain'

Source: Press TV

The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee (FPC) says the eurozone's fiscal crisis has posed the biggest threat to Britain's financial stability.

“The most serious and immediate risk to the UK financial system stems from the worsening sovereign-debt crisis in several euro-area countries,” the FPC revealed.

Speaking at a press conference, Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King, who also chairs the FPC, said that "greater transparency" from British banks could limit exposure to the eurozone debt crisis, insisting this transparency had to be a "permanent part of major banks' reporting.”

King said that the UK banks' direct lending to eurozone's crisis-hit countries including Greece, Portugal and Ireland was limited.

He cautioned that the banks might be at risk as they have lent to the economically crippled countries' private sector and had extensive claims on assets in France and Germany, where banks are more deeply entangled in the eurozone's weaker economies.

The official also warned that the indirect exposure and a loss of investor confidence would bring about more serious problems for Britain.

"Experience has shown that contagion has spread through financial markets, especially when there is uncertainty about the precise location of exposure," King said.

"Greater clarity about the extent of these exposures would help limit the transition of problems to UK banks,” the FPC governor added.

Accordingly, King urged every bank should make clear what its exposure was, to help the committee make sure all British banks "are being strengthened in terms of their capital reserves and what they can withstand."

EU leaders pass Greece rescue package

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy (R) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso participate in a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on June 23, 2011.

Source: Press TV

As consensus has been reached among EU members, the IMF and the Greek government on budget cuts and tax increases, Eurozone leaders agree on a fresh rescue package for Greece to fend off a financial crisis.

The leaders of all 27 EU member states also called on Greek lawmakers to "complete work on outstanding elements to allow the necessary decisions to be taken by early July," AFP reported on Friday.

Meanwhile, following a two-day summit in Brussels, Athens formally requested financial aid.

"We've got the support of our partners and I think this is not only a green light but also a positive sign for the future of Greece," Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said.

Despite weeks of protests against the government's austerity measures, the Greek cabinet approved a new austerity budget plan on Wednesday to help ease its massive public debt.

The 2012-2015 austerity budget plan has been a key requirement of the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release the next tranche of debt funding worth 12 billion euros ($17 billion), part of a 110-billion-euro rescue package agreed on last year.

The new plan is worth some EUR 28 billion and includes a privatization program aimed at raising EUR 50 billion and further budget cuts as well as tax hikes.

Greece has a debt of over EUR 300 billion, which is equivalent to more than 150 percent of its annual economic output.

Egyptians call for rally to save revolution

Egyptian activists stage a rally in Cairo's landmark Liberation Square

Source: Press TV

Egyptian activists are calling for a mass rally to save the revolution that toppled former dictator Hosni Mubarak and his associates from power.

On a Facebook page called, "The 2nd Revolution of Anger," the activists are urging all Egyptians to take to the streets on July 8.

They say too much attention is being paid to whether elections or a constitution should come first. This comes at the expense of the basic principles of the Revolution such as the "protection of rights and freedoms."

"To all rival political forces debating which should come first, constitution or elections, save your revolution first, save Egypt first. Our revolution is collapsing," the activists said on their Facebook page.

Following Mubarak's downfall, a military council took over in Egypt. Many Egyptians believe it is trying to derail the uprising.

Egyptian protesters say Mubarak and his associates must be tried for killing around 800 protesters during the country's popular uprising which led to his ouster on February 11.

Activists also demand the release of political prisoners and the disbandment of the military court.

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

Clinton opposes aid flotilla to Gaza

Last year's Turkish-flagged ship, MV Mavi Marmara, that Israeli forces attack

Source: Press TV

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed her strong opposition to the second Freedom Flotilla, claiming that it is both a 'provoking act' and 'unnecessary.'

The chief US diplomat made the remarks on Thursday as activist from more than 30 countries plan to sail aboard several ships to the Gaza Strip later this month in a bid to end the Israeli-imposed blockade on Gaza by taking humanitarian aid to the impoverished enclave, AFP reported.

"We do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza," asserted Clinton, a staunch supporter of the Tel Aviv regime.

"And we think that it's not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israeli's have the right to defend themselves," she added.

The Israeli Navy has already declared that it will not allow the new flotilla to break the blockade on the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Earlier in the week, the Navy head Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, called on world leaders to "impose all their authority to prevent the departure of this needless, provocative flotilla."

Last year on May 31, 2010, the Israeli military attacked the first Freedom Flotilla in international waters and murdered nine unarmed Turkish nationals aboard the Turkish-flagged MV Mavi Marmara, injuring about 50 other people that were part of the team on the six-ship convoy.

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