Sunday, July 31, 2011

Obama announces deal on debt limit

US President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV

The US lawmakers reach an agreement on raising the ceiling on the country's public debt limit, which President Barack Obama says is not the deal of his choice.

On Sunday, the chief executive announced the accord, saying "First part of this agreement will cut about one trillion dollars in spending over the next 10 years…cuts that both parties had agreed to early on in this process."

"The result would be the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was president," he added, referring to the 34th US president's 1953-1961 tenure.

"Is this the deal I would have preferred? No," Obama said.

The president urged the lawmakers to approve the plan in the next few days to end, what he called, a crisis imposed by Washington over the rest of America.

The agreement came after interminable wrangling on the Capitol Hill on the period of time the country needs to lift the limit to avoid failing to repay its staggering USD 14.3 trillion debt.

There are just two days left to lift the cap with the prospect of a default threatening to increase interest rates, devaluate the dollar and rattle the economies across the world.

The US officially hit its debt ceiling on May 16.

Washington owes about 47 percent of the money to foreigners. The biggest creditors are respectively China, Japan and the United Kingdom

'Protesters leading Israel into anarchy'

A protester wears a mask of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a rally in front of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem July 31, 2011.

Source: Press TV

The Israeli finance minister has warned that the demands of the protesters would either turn Israel into “anarchy” or bring about an economic crisis like those facing the US or Europe.

The warning on Sunday comes a day after some 150,000 protesters marched in over ten cities across Israel to protest against the high costs of living and social inequalities.

"We see the talk about the debt crisis in Europe. We are even hearing talk of a possible default in the United States … my supreme duty is to ensure we do not reach this situation in Israel," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said.

He further rejected a call by protesters, demanding authorities to stop industry leaders, which they accuse of inflating the price of consumer goods and services, Reuters reported.

"We will not part with our principles. We will not create anarchy here," Steinitz said.

"We will attend to (market) concentration but we will not turn the rich and the business people and the investors and the industrialists into the enemies of the people, because they are part of a healthy economy."

Tens of thousands of Israelis have in the past weeks protested against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's economic and social policies.

The demonstrators have explained that they can no longer afford the sky-rocketing housing prices, which have jumped by 50 percent in recent years, as well as the high cost of fuel, food and healthcare.

The protests revealed the deep frustration of the country's middle-class over the economy.

Additionally, several protesters on Thursday occupied the roof of the Tel Aviv stock exchange in what one of them termed a “symbolic gesture” against Netanyahu's handling of the economy.

"Ten big companies control 80 percent of the stock market and take all the fruits of the growth in the national economy," one of the protestors said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Finance Ministry Director-General Haim Shani announced his resignation on Sunday morning, over differences with Steinitz.

Furthermore, in a bid to quell the protests, Netanyahu is reportedly setting up a team to examine the possibility of lowering taxes.

'Over 100 killed in Syria violence'

Syrian anti-government protesters (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Human rights activists say over 100 people have been killed and several others injured across Syria as President Bashar al-Assad vows to foil plots to divide the country.

"One hundred civilians were killed on Sunday in Hama by gunfire from security forces who accompanied the army as it stormed the city," AFP quoted Abdel Karim Rihawi, head of the Syrian League for the Defense of Human Rights as saying.

Activists further claimed that a number of other people have also been killed in several other cities.

This comes as al-Assad said in a Sunday interview to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Syrian army's foundation that Syria will thwart what he dubs a new chapter of conspiracy, which aims to divide the country as a prelude to splitting the whole region.

Meanwhile, according to the Syrian State News Agency (SANA), six military officers were killed on Sunday by armed men in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor and central city of Hama. It has further reported that scores of gunmen have been seen on rooftops shooting at people.

Additionally, the armed gangs have attacked several police stations in both cities and set up roadblocks and barricades there.

They have also stolen weapons and ammunitions from the police stations.

Damascus says it has deployed troops in the region to hunt down the armed gangs.

Syria has been experiencing unrest over the past months, with demonstrations held both against and in support of the country's President Bashar al-Assad.

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

'Iran-India oil payment row resolved'

National Iranian Oil Company Managing Director Ahmad Qalebani

Source: Press TV

National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) says the $5-billion oil payment dispute between India and Iran has been resolved without any interruption in the crude exports.

NIOC Managing Director Ahmad Qalebani said on Sunday that after intensive negotiations between the Islamic Republic and India, the two sides agreed to clear the debts as soon as possible, Shana -- the official website of Iran's Oil Ministry -- reported.

Qalebani noted that New Delhi will pay off some of the arrears of the past months over the next few days, and the rest is to be gradually paid.

"In the coming days part of India's oil debt will be cleared and the rest will be gradually settled," he said.

India is Iran's second largest client after China, but Indian firms have been struggling for more than six months to pay Tehran because of international banking sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.

Earlier last month, Tehran warned it would halt exports to India from next month unless the payments dispute was resolved.

HSBC expected to sack 10,000 staff

Source: Press TV

Britain's banking giant HSBC is expected to announce 10,000 redundancies in its interim report on Monday deemed to disclose its poor performance in the six months to June 30, 2011.

HSBC officials have refused to comment on the reports but analysts said major job cuts are in view for the bank with reports putting the dismissals at a minimum 10,000.

This comes as interim reports by other banking giants, Barclays, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland are believed to reveal disappointing profits figures.

HSBC's pre-tax profits are expected to fall from £7 billion to £6.7 billion.

The interim report will probably propose that the bank pushes ahead with the multi-billion dollar cost-cutting initiative launched by its chief Stuart Gulliver earlier this year.

HSBC along with four other British industry leaders have been hit hard by the payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling scandal, the fluctuating global economic atmosphere and the plans by Independent Commission on Banking for protection of retail banking operations.

Over the last six months, HSBC has lost 14 percent of its stocks value with Lloyds and RBS seeing their shares plummet by 30 percent and 17 percent respectively.

This comes as, stockbroker Seymour Pierce said Barclays, which has lost 26 percent of its stocks value over the past six months, is now expected to report a £1.8 billion profit that would be 24 percent lower than its former profits report.

Lloyds pre-tax profits are expected to hit £1 billion which is a major loss compared to last year's the £1.6 billion.

The last of the major banks to report its profits would be the Royal Bank of Scotland expected to reveal gains of £611 million in its announcement later on Friday, which would be a 19 percent fall from last year.

UK's Libya policy in jeopardy amid feud

People carry the coffin of Libya's opposition military commander General Abdel Fatah Younis

Source: Press TV

The UK government's support for Libyan fighters battling forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi has hit a snag after a bitter internal feud emerged among opposition front.

The crisis centers around the shocking assassination of the revolutionaries' most senior army commander, who was killed by militia within the anti-Gaddafi camp.

The National Transitional Council's (NTC) oil minister said that General Abdel Fatah Younis had been shot dead by the militia within the opposition.

The revelation provokes fears of future unrest and instability among those fighting the old regime.

It also will raise doubts over the wisdom of the British government's decision last week to recognize the revolutionaries' transitional government officially, declaring that it had proved its democratic credentials.

Only a day later, the bullet-riddled and burnt bodies of Younis and two of his aides were found dumped on the outskirts of Benghazi, the opposition's stronghold.

The news of the deaths led to outbreaks of violence in Benghazi on Friday, with troops loyal to the General and members of the large and powerful tribe to which he belonged, the Obeidis, vowing retribution.

The killings came at a difficult time for Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition government, which also ordered diplomats of the Tripoli regime to leave the UK.

Labor party's former defense secretary Bob Ainsworth said that the murder and the identities of the killers were evidence that the government had not thought through its policy in Libya.

"One of the biggest risk factors in this was our lack of understanding of the people we were working with and I think that lack of understanding still stands," he said.

Bob Stewart, the Tory MP and former British United Nations Commander in Bosnia, said he feared the Libyan conflict would end with "a government we don't like and us getting the blame".

Labor MP John McDonnell called for a peace conference between Gaddafi and the opposition to be enforced.

"The government is treading on a path that is extremely uncertain," he said.

"It is dealing with people of whom it has very little knowledge and this is just an example of the potential there is for disunity", added McDonnell.

In Tripoli, Gaddafi's spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, mocked British support for the revolutionaries, declaring: "It is a nice slap [in] the face [for] the British that the [rebel] council that they recognized could not protect its own commander of the army."

Another blast hits Egypt-Israel pipeline

Source: Press TV

An Egyptian pipeline carrying natural gas to Israel in the Sinai Peninsula has been hit by yet another attack, causing severe damages and halting the gas flow.

Unknown gunmen have exploded the cooling lines at the gas station in Sheikh Zuwayid region north of Sinai.

Witnesses say they have heard heavy gunfire at the station.

There are no reports of casualties. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack -- which is the third of its kind in July.

Previous attacks on the pipeline stopped supplies of natural gas to Israel and Jordan.

Egypt supplies 40 percent of Israel's natural gas demand based on a deal reached between Cairo and Tel Aviv after the 1979 peace accord.

The Egyptian opposition groups are also openly against the new gas deals signed between Cairo and Tel Aviv under former dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2005.

The developments come as Mubarak and his former petroleum minister are being investigated for selling artificially cheap gas to Israel.

This comes after chief prosecutor received evidence that Mubarak and Sameh Fahmy had sold natural gas to Israel and several Western countries for artificially low prices.

Fahmy has recently told investigators that he was just carrying out orders from Mubarak.

Egyptians have held several anti-Israeli rallies in Cairo over the past few weeks. Protesters have demanded that the country's military rulers sever all ties with Israel.

Nigeria to begin talks with Boko Haram

The Nigerian government plans to begin negotiations with the Boko Haram group. (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Nigeria has announced it plans to start negotiations with the Boko Haram group, which is blamed for bomb attacks and shootings in the northeast of the country.

The Nigerian government issued a statement on Saturday, saying a panel will negotiate with representatives of the group and report back to Abuja by August 16, AFP reported.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has named the seven members of the panel, which includes the ministers of defense and labor and the minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

The panel, which will be inaugurated on Tuesday, would act “as a liaison between the federal government… and Boko Haram and… initiate negotiations with the sect,” the statement said.

Boko Haram has increased attacks on government targets since Nigerian security forces killed their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, in custody in 2009.

On July 10, three people were killed in a bomb blast at a church near the capital Abuja. The Nigerian authorities blamed Boko Haram for the deadly incident.

According to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, ethnic and religious conflicts in Nigeria claimed the lives of over 14,000 people between 1999 and 2009.

Iraqi tribal leaders condemn US

Iraqi tribal leaders have condemned the United States for massacring civilians

Source: Press TV

Iraqi local leaders have denounced the United States for killing a tribal chief and members of his family.

On Saturday, US troops in Iraq killed seven civilians, including a tribal leader and members of his family, in an overnight attack in Rufayat, a village 70 kilometers (45 miles) from the capital.

The US military said the attack in the northern province of Salahuddin targeted what it called 'wanted terrorists.' But local officials say the raid targeted the house of tribal leader Sheikh Hamid Hassan and his household, who did not have links with any militants.

The operation drew an angry response from local tribal leaders, who condemned the US forces for their 'massacre' of civilians.

The deadly attack in Rufayat came shortly after another violent incident involving US troops in Iraq.

Earlier, US Special Forces conducted an operation in which they destroyed several civilian cars, damaged nearby houses, and captured a man in the eastern city of Kut.

Almost 10 months ago, Washington formally declared an end to its combat mission in Iraq.

But the US has kept nearly 50,000 troops in Iraq and is putting pressure on the Iraqi government to extend the presence of US troops in the country beyond the December 31 deadline.

Influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has warned that the Iraqi people will take up arms if the US soldiers refuse to leave Iraq.

"Seyyed Muqtada Sadr has said, 'We will not leave weapons if Americans stay in Iraq after 2011,'" Sadr movement spokesman Salah al-Obeidi told Press TV in an interview.

In 2007, US President Barack Obama pledged that he would withdraw all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2009, which was one of a number of ambitious promises Obama failed to keep.

Iraq to buy more F-16 fighters from US

A US F-16 fighter jet (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says Baghdad aims to double the number of F-16 fighters planned to be purchased from the United States.

"A delegation from the Iraqi Air Force along with advisers will travel to revive the contract to include a larger number than the contract had agreed before... We will make it 36 instead of 18," Maliki said on Saturday, Reuters reported.

"We have to provide Iraq with airplanes to safeguard its sovereignty," he added.

Iraq delayed the initial purchase of the jets after putting USD 900 million of allocated funds into its national food program to ease pressure from Iraqis protesting against poor basic services.

Earlier this week, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced that his country would sign more contracts with the US, but Iraq is against the presence of US troops in the Middle Eastern country beyond 2011.

According to a security deal between Baghdad and Washington, all US forces should leave war-torn Iraq by December 31, 2011.

The last US combat brigade left the country in August 2010, seven years after the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Though combat operations have officially ended, about 50,000 US troops will remain in the country until the end of 2011 to "advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests."

Yemenis hold demo in support of council

Yemeni protesters demand the ouster of Ali Abdullah Saleh during a demonstration in the southern city of Taizz. (File photo)

Source: Press TV

Anti-regime protesters have staged a demonstration in Yemen to voice their support for the newly formed transitional council and to condemn foreign interference in the country.

On Saturday, thousands of men and women took to the streets of the city of Taizz, which has been a flashpoint of clashes between Yemeni revolutionaries and forces loyal to the country's longtime dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Earlier in the day, more than 500 dignitaries and tribal leaders gathered at the headquarters of the First Armored Division -- whose leader, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmad, joined the protest movement in March -- to form a 116-member consultative council.

The Taizz protesters pledged their support for the long-awaited council.

For several weeks, Yemeni revolutionaries had been calling for the establishment of such a council to prevent Saleh from remaining in office.

They also rejected US and Saudi domination over their country and the revolution.

The demonstrators, who were carrying banners calling for a boycott of US and Saudi products, accused Washington and Riyadh of attempting to prop up Saleh.

The protesters chanted slogans denouncing Ali Abdullah Saleh's three-decade dictatorship and said the regime's officials should be brought to trial for the killing of hundreds of people during months of anti-government rallies.

The protests have intensified since Saleh vowed to return from Saudi Arabia -- where has been receiving treatment for burns and wounds he sustained in an attack by tribesmen on his palace in Sana'a in June -- to oversee a national dialogue and elections.

The Yemeni revolution began in January, when hundreds of thousands of people turned out for regular demonstrations in the country's major cities to call for an end to corruption and unemployment.

They have been demanding the ouster and trial of Saleh, who has been in office since 1978.

Hundreds of people have been killed and many more injured by forces loyal to Salah in the violent repression of the anti-regime protests.

Yemeni tribes form alliance

Yemeni tribal leaders in the capital Sana'a (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Influential tribal leaders in Yemen have formed an alliance to support the country's revolution, which is seeking to depose Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The creation of the Alliance of Yemeni Tribes was announced during a ceremony on Saturday at the headquarters of Yemen's First Armored Division, whose leader, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmad, joined the revolution in March, AFP reported.

In a statement, the coalition pledged to protect and defend the popular and peaceful revolution of youths, who have been pouring into the streets in their tens of thousands, calling for Saleh to step down.

The coalition's statement also said they would deliver a serious response to any action taken against the Yemeni people.

"Any aggression or threat against the (protest) venues… will be considered an attack against the tribes," the coalition said.

Between 500 and 600 leaders and tribal chiefs attended Saturday's ceremony, during which a 116-member consultative council was established.

One of the most powerful tribal leaders, Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, has also vowed to prevent Saleh, who has been in power for the past 33 years, from staying in office.

Ahmar and his tribesmen have stepped up their efforts to protect anti-regime protesters in the capital, Sana'a -- which has led to sporadic clashes between tribal fighters and Saleh loyalists.

Meanwhile, regime forces reportedly opened fire on protesters in the Arhab district near Sana'a on Saturday, leaving a number of people dead or injured.

Yemeni demonstrators are calling for the prosecution of Ali Abdullah Saleh for the killing of hundreds of people in the regime's brutal crackdown on protesters since the country's popular uprising began in January.

Saleh left the country in early June to receive medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for injuries he received in an attack by tribal fighters on his palace in the capital.

The Yemeni dictator is reportedly planning to return to the impoverished Arab state. But the people have been holding daily demonstrations across Yemen, vowing to continue holding protest rallies until his regime falls.

They have also been calling for the establishment of a transitional council to prevent him from returning to power.

US plans nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia

US President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabia's king Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Senior officials at the White House have said that the Obama administration is planning to resume talks with Saudi Arabia about a potential nuclear cooperation.

A team of US diplomats are expected to visit the Saudi capital of Riyadh to "discuss the possibility of moving forward on a nuclear cooperation agreement," a congressional aide said on the condition of anonymity, AFP reported.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a lawmaker from the Republican Party has criticized the move, saying that "its ties to terrorists and terror financing alone should rule it out as a candidate for the US nuclear cooperation."

"I am astonished that the administration is even considering a nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia," she added.

Washington and Riyadh signed a tentative agreement on developing civilian nuclear technologies in 2008.

The Obama administration, like its predecessor, has sought to promote nuclear cooperation with allies.

Washington also signed a nuclear cooperation deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2009. The deal meant that the UAE would renounce their plans to enrich and reprocess uranium in exchange of having the right to purchase the material from international suppliers.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has also been pursuing nuclear cooperation agreements with South Korea, Japan, France and Russia.

In February, 2011, France singed a nuclear cooperation deal with Saudi Arabia, offering the kingdom nuclear know-how.

US House rejects Democrats' debt plan

The US House of Representatives

Source: Press TV

The US House of Representatives has rejected Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan to avert a US default on its debt by a vote of 246-173.

The vote was held on Saturday, one day after the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected House Speaker John Boehner's plan, AFP reported.

Boehner's plan would impose $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, and establish a select congressional commission to propose an additional $1.8 trillion in savings by Thanksgiving, November 24, 2011. The plan aims for about $3 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.

Reid's proposal, on the other hand, would cut $2.7 trillion in spending, using budgeting gimmicks that include about $1 trillion in savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would not increase taxes and the debt ceiling hike would be extended.

The US debt ceiling is currently capped at $14.3 trillion, up from $10.6 trillion when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, and the administration says that if it is not elevated by August 2, the government will default on its obligations.

Obama says that with Boehner's short-term plan, the country would face the same crisis after five to six months, but Reid's long-term plan can save the US from defaulting on its debt at least until 2013.

Obama told Republicans and Democrats to reach a compromise, saying that “failing to come to an agreement would be inexcusable.”

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thousands call for civilian rule in Egypt

Thousands of Egyptian protesters chant anti-military slogans in Cairo's Liberation Square on July 29, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Thousands of Egyptians have once again taken to Cairo's landmark Liberation Square to demand the formation of a civilian government.

Over a dozen opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have attended the rally dubbed "Friday of Unity and Popular Demand," a Press TV correspondent reported.

Protesters gathered in the square after the Friday Prayers to urge pressing ahead with social reforms.

The protesters are calling for swift change and the ouster of military rulers who have replaced the former President Hosni Mubarak.

Many protesters say they want an Islamic state to replace the military-led transitional government.

One of their key demands is the swift trial of former regime members involved in the killing of protesters during the revolution.

"We essentially came here to achieve the demands that all are agreed on, especially trying the criminal figures. It [has been] six months and there are promises but nothing achieved, we have got bored of this. I can only see promises made thirty years ago which have not been implemented," Reuters quoted a political activist at Cairo's Liberation Square as saying.

Many are also complaining that more and more civilians, a great number of whom were protesters detained during anti-government demonstrations in February that toppled Mubarak, are being tried in military courts while members of Mubarak's regime have not yet faced justice.

Some of the protesters are chanting slogans against the Ministry of Interior and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Others are calling on the de facto president and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to step down.

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

Demonstrators call for an end to the military council's rule and want the military to go back to their barracks and hand over power to a civilian government.

Friday, July 29, 2011

US Senate rejects Republican debt plan

The US Senate rejected the Republican's debt-ceiling plan on Friday.

Source: Press TV

The US Senate has rejected the Republican's debt-ceiling plan by a vote of 51-49, two hours after the House of Representatives approved the short-term bill.

On Friday, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected House Speaker John Boehner's plan after the Republican-controlled House passed the bill by a vote of 218-210, AFP reported.

The two-step plan proposed by Boehner aims for about $3 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years and would raise the US debt ceiling and cut government spending.

US sees weakest post-recession growth

The US economy came close to flat-lining in the first quarter as consumer spending barely rose

Source: Press TV

The US economy has grown 0.4 percent and 1.3 percent respectively in the first and second quarters of 2011 after the Commerce Department revised its previous estimate of first-quarter GDP growth of 1.9 percent.

The combined growth for the first six months of the year is the weakest since the recession ended, AP reported.

The surprisingly weak GDP growth readings on the world's largest economy coincided with a political deadlock in Washington over raising the country's debt ceiling just days before the Treasury says it could run out of money to pay its obligations.

As Congress has failed to reach an agreement, economists and markets are increasingly concerned that missing the August 2 debt deadline will cause the United States to lose its top triple-A credit rating.

Slowdown in growth is broad-based as business spending on equipment and software grew 5.7 percent in the second quarter, down from the first quarter's 8.7 percent and below the double-digit gains posted last year.

Americans are seeing little gain in their incomes. After-tax incomes, adjusted for inflation, rose only 0.7 percent, matching the previous quarter and the weakest since the recession ended.

Complicating an already-weak economy is the debt crisis in Washington. No matter what lawmakers do to resolve that crisis, their decision will likely slow growth in the short term.

Few economists expected growth to be strong enough to lower the unemployment rate and Friday's report, which was below the forecasts, will likely dampen expectations further.

Turkey appoints new army chief

General Necdet Ozel

Source: Press TV

Turkish General Necdet Ozel has been appointed as the new commander of the country's ground forces after several military chiefs resigned.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul approved the appointment of Ozel on Friday, Turkish television networks reported.

The new appointment came on the same day Turkey's armed forces chief, General Isik Kosaner, and the commanders of the army, air force, and navy all resigned.

Kosaner said he quit in protest over the imprisonment of military officers in a variety of court cases.

"It has become impossible for me to continue in this high office because I am unable to fulfill my responsibility to protect the rights of my personnel as the Chief of General Staff," Reuters quoted Kosaner as saying.

However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office denied Kosaner's claims, saying the military chiefs who have stepped down are simply going into retirement.

Forty-two generals and dozens of lower-ranking officers are currently in prison in an investigation of alleged plots to unseat the government led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Turkey's military chiefs resign

General Kosaner was appointed as the head of the Turkish armed forces a year ago.

Source: Press TV

Turkey's army chief of staff General Isik Kosaner along with the heads of the army, navy and air force have resigned over a row with the government, media reports say.

The four generals resigned on Friday reportedly over a row with the government about promotions for generals and admirals held in an alleged anti-government plot.

General Kosaner is reported to have met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan several times in recent days.

The resignations came just a day before the twice-yearly meeting of the Supreme Military Council, which deals with key appointments and decides on promotions for senior officers.

While many Turkish sources say the generals have resigned, CNN Turk quoted the prime minister's office as saying the generals were not resigning but going into retirement.

It is the first time that military chiefs resign en masse in Turkey. So far, there has been no official statement about the resignations.

Bahraini forces surround US Embassy

Bahraini women protest in front of the US Embassy in Manama on March 7, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have massed around the US Embassy in the capital to prevent a scheduled protest sit-in outside the US diplomatic compound.

Bahrain's February 14 Movement has called for a mass sit-in in front of the US Embassy on Friday to condemn Washington's interference in the country's internal affairs.

Witnesses say, so far, only a number of women have been sighted heading to the site of the embassy and there were no reports of gathering there.

Opposition groups and anti-government activists accuse Washington of supporting the ruling Al Khalifa regime and turning a blind eye to atrocities committed by Bahraini authorities against peaceful protesters.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets outside the capital to condemn the results of a National Dialogue, saying it had failed to address people's demands and bring real democratic reforms in the country.

The rally has been organized by the largest opposition group al-Wefaq, which pulled out of regime-led national reform talks in protest.

The leaders of al-Wefaq say they pulled out of the talks after their views and demands were ignored and because the talks were dominated by pro-government representatives.

On Thursday, Bahrain's King Hamad announced that he had approved parliamentary reforms submitted by a state-appointed body called the National Dialogue. But Bahraini opposition slammed the recommendations, saying they do not represent its demands or the will of the people.

"The government thought the results were great. We thought they were nothing. There's no fully elected government, no reforms to the voting system, it's a one-sided deal," Reuters news agency quoted al-Wefaq leader Sayed al-Mousawi as saying.

Al-Wefaq has repeatedly called for an "elected government," an "elected parliament with full legislative powers," and a "fair and independent judicial system" in the kingdom.

UAE to buy uranium for nuclear plants

Nuclear reactors (file photo)

Source: Press TV

The United Arab Emirates is advancing its plans to buy the uranium that will be needed to begin operating nuclear power plants.

The UAE's nuclear operator, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), will issue an international tender to buy nuclear fuel, the Arabic language newspaper Al-Ittihad reported on Friday.

According to the paper, ENEC was expected to complete its negotiations for fuel and sign final contracts by the first quarter of 2012, Reuters reported.

"It is expected that the contracts will meet the amount of imported fuel needed for the future operational period and for the following 15 years," the daily quoted ENEC as saying.

The UAE has said it plans to bring its first nuclear power plant on stream in 2017.

The Persian Gulf state expects nuclear energy to eventually account for 25 percent of its power requirements.

Despite being a leading oil exporter, the UAE has embarked on a nuclear program to meet its domestic demand for power.

Libya revolutionaries' military chief dead

Libya revolutionary forces' commander-in-chief Abdel Fattah Younes (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC) says Abdel Fattah Younes, the revolutionary forces' commander-in-chief, has been shot dead.

"With all sadness, I inform you of the passing of Abdel Fatah Younes," AFP quoted TNC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil as saying at a press conference in Benghazi on Thursday.

He added that fighters arrested the head of the group behind the killing of the general.

The former interior minister had defected from Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's regime to become the military leader of the revolutionary forces.

The death came after Younes and two of his aides were arrested early on Thursday on suspicion of still having ties with the regime of Gaddafi, security officials said.

Younes had been summoned for questioning regarding "a military matter," Abdel Jalil said, adding that Younes and his two aides were shot before they arrived for questioning.

In April, he criticized NATO over what Libyan revolutionary forces call the Western military alliance's inability to prevent regime forces from killing civilians.

US not to probe Israel data theft

Source: Press TV

The Office of the US Trade Representative, USTR, has refused an investigation into Israel's theft and use of classified US industrial data.

In May, the Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy, IRmep, submitted a 62-page petition to the USTR, seeking $4.6 billion in damages from Israel over theft of classified trade data, Business Wire reported.

The petition claimed that Israeli exporters' access to data has materially harmed the US industry.

The USTR argued that the IRmep is not in a position to represent victimized US industry organizations.

It also denied IRmep's argument that the industry data theft constituted an "act, policy or practice of … Israel that might be actionable."

However, the USTR did not question the veracity of the IRmep's evidence based on a series of FBI files.

The FBI files revealed that in 2009, an Israeli cabinet minister admitted to obtaining the classified information and even passing it on to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, for lobbying and public relations in the US.

American industry groups had provided the data in confidence to the International Trade Commission in 1984.

US voices 'strong commitment' to Israel

The US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Source: Press TV

The United States has once again reiterated its “unshakable commitment to Israel's security” during meetings between top US officials and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Washington.

The newly appointed US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has stressed that Washington is strongly committed to military relations with Tel Aviv, AFP quoted Pentagon spokesman George Little as saying on Thursday.

Panetta also stated that the US is dedicated to “ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge."

Israel receives about $3 billion from the US in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America's foreign aid budget.

This is the first time the two officials have met since the former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director was installed in his new post as defense secretary.

Panetta worked closely with Israeli intelligence when he was in charge of the CIA.

The United States gives Israel access to intelligence that it denies its NATO allies and has turned a blind eye towards Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons, reports say.

This is while according to the US General Accounting Office, Tel Aviv "conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the US of any ally."

During his visit, Barak also had a separate meeting with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

'Israel uses banned torture methods'

A man looks at pictures of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails during a protest in the occupied East al-Quds (Jerusalem). (File photo)

Source: Press TV

A Palestinian rights group says the Israeli Supreme Court has allowed Israeli interrogators to use banned methods of torture against Palestinian prisoners.

On Thursday, the Gaza Strip-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said the tribunal has allowed a “loophole” in its definition of torture, which permits practice of “torture with impunity,” the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reported.

Accordingly, the interrogators could ask to be allowed to use the prohibited methods “if they believe a detainee poses an immediate threat to public safety.”

The rights group further said that Israel continues to use administrative detention against an excessively high number of Palestinians and for a prolonged period of time.

The rights body also said that Israeli jailors have practiced torture on Palestinian prisoners 85 times between May 2009 and April 2011.

One Palestinian detainee, Nadedh Ali Abed-Rabbo, says he was bound in stress positions, subjected to sleep deprivation and loud music and was spat on during a 42-day period of interrogation.

Gaza-residing Abed-Rabbo said he fainted four times and lost 12 kilograms during the questioning. He also said the harsh methods had made him seek medical care for loss of hearing, nervous attacks and chronic pain in the head.

There are around 9,000 Palestinians in Israeli detention centers. Their families have for long been calling on human rights organizations and groups to intervene in order to secure the release of their loved ones, many of whom have been incarcerated without charge, trial and sentence.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees, nearly 200 Palestinian inmates have so far died in Israeli confinement either under torture or due to medical negligence.

The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B'Tselem, has recently said that at least 40 Palestinian prisoners have suffered chronic illnesses like cancer, renal failure and strokes.

The Israeli central prisons fail to offer the constant medical care required for the ailing prisoners.

Rights groups say Palestinian prisoners are being denied basic rights and subjected to harsh treatment in Israeli detention.

Dozens killed in fresh Yemen clashes

An injured Yemeni protester is taken to a field hospital after being wounded in clashes with Yemeni security forces, in Sana'a, Yemen, Wednesday, June 1, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Dozens of Yemeni protesters have lost their lives in fresh clashes with the Republican Guards loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen's northeastern province of Sana'a.

The Yemeni opposition sources say pro-regime forces carried out airstrikes and shelling in several villages in Arhab, about 60 kilometers northeast of the capital Sana'a, on Thursday, killing dozens of revolutionaries, Xinhua reported.

According to state media, clashes broke out when opposition-backed tribesmen tried to raid a military base of the Republican Guards, leaving at least 40 soldiers dead.

The violence comes as anti-government demonstrators continue their rallies across the restive country.

Similarly, several people were killed and injured in airstrikes and shelling by the Republican Guard forces in southern Yemen earlier on Thursday, reports say.

On Wednesday, at least four demonstrators were wounded following an attack by regime forces on a protest march in the southern city of Ibb.

Yemeni security forces also opened fire on anti-regime protesters in Ra'da town, al-Baida province, who were calling for the prosecution of Saleh's regime elements still inside the country over the killing of hundreds of people since opposition rallies began in the country in late January.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people have poured onto the streets in the southern city of Taizz and al-Bayda, calling for an end to Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.

The demonstrators voiced support for the new transitional council set up several days ago by anti-government youths to manage the country's affairs and to make efforts to force Saleh to give up power before his possible return from Saudi Arabia.

Yemeni protesters, who accuse the United States and Saudi Arabia of trying to save Saleh's regime, have demanded a ban on US and Saudi products.

Russia: Iran no missile threat to Europe

Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin

Source: Press TV

Russia has dismissed the West's allegations that Iran is a military threat to Europe, describing such concerns as “baseless.”

The Russian president's special envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, on Thursday, rejected claims spearheaded by the United States against Iran's peaceful nuclear program, IRNA reported.

We actively support the Iranian effort in its bid to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and we are closely informed that Tehran does not possess any nuclear weapons to threaten any countries, Rogozin stated.

The Russian official reiterated Moscow's stance on Washington's insistence on deploying a missile system in Eastern Europe near the Russian borders to allegedly counter possible missile threats from Iran and North Korea against Europe.

Russia has long opposed the disputed plan, arguing that the would-be missile system in its "back yard” is not to secure Washington's European allies but is effectively aimed at Russia.

Rogozin said Moscow is aware of Iran's missile programs, adding, "Upon this, raising any prospects of an Iranian missile strike against Poland or Norway is nonsensical and delirious." "It is wrong to label those who bring up such ideas as experts."

Rogozin said the campaign by the US and its European allies to picture Iran as "the bad boy” resembled Hollywood games and is aimed to screen the truth.

Moscow has called for shared control of any anti-missile shield, saying the aim of the Eastern European system is to encircle Russia, but Washington refuses to share the responsibility for protecting NATO member states with any third party.

NATO favors two separate but coordinated missile defense systems that would comprise of the Western military alliance and Russian systems.

However, Moscow insists on a European system together with the alliance, with joint centers for detecting threats and a joint decision-making procedure.

Russia has warned that if NATO pushes ahead with its plans and no agreement is reached with Moscow, it will develop its own missile shield.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

US economic growth slows: Fed

Federal Reserve headquarters

Source: Press TV

The US Federal Reserve has released a new survey showing an economic slowdown in much of the country's twelve federal districts in the summer of 2011.

"Economic activity continued to grow; however, the pace has moderated” in seven of the twelve districts, the US central bank said in its July Beige Book report which was released on Wednesday.

The report links the slowdown to a number of factors such as a weakening in production output, a slower job growth, weaker consumer spending as well as a tighter credit, the Associated Press reported.

Manufacturing has been one of the few bright spots in the US economy over the past two years. So the decline in factories' output is likely to raise concerns.

The release of the survey coincides with a report from the Commerce Department, which confirmed the findings of the Federal Reserve.

The official jobless rate in the US now stands at 9.2 percent. However, when unemployment is measured according to the formula that was used when former US President Bill Clinton took office, it is more likely to be around 20 percent.

Furthermore, teen unemployment rate in the United States stands at 24.5 percent.

The US needs to add about 250 thousand jobs per month to bring down the unemployment rate.

The Fed's Beige Book report is released eight times a year.

UK MPs gloomy about economic outlook

Source: Press TV

British MPs from across the political spectrum fear the economy will not afford to improve its weak performance in the near future, a survey has found.

A poll of 158 MPs from all parties carried out by ComRes, showed they are worried about the outlook for economic growth, inflation and unemployment in the coming 12 months.

The poll commissioned by The Independent found that the pessimism is not limited to Labour MPs whose party would be more than delighted to prove the government's economic policies as inefficient and is widespread among both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Based on the poll, the Tuesday report that Britain is limping close to an economic flatline with a 0.2 growth in the second quarter of 2011 has not been welcome among Lib Dem backbenchers who could pressure government to change course in the coming months.

The poll found 58 percent of Lib Dems believe growth will not change in the next 12 years, against 32 percent who think differently.

Tories predict sunnier prospects for the economy with 64 percent saying growth will improve over the coming months though still 32 percent of them disagree.

In contrast, more than three in five Labour MPs (62 percent) said they expect a worse growth rate in the next 12 months with only 4 percent saying the economy will be back on track soon.

Overall, 35 percent of MPs thought growth trends will plateau in the coming months with 27 percent believing growth will get even worse while 37 percent said there would be a rebound.

The gloom was also felt among Lib Dems when there were questioned on the unemployment.

More than half of Lib Dems (54 percent) answered the jobless figures would not change with 18 percent saying unemployment will deteriorate against 28 percent who believed it will fall.

The survey showed 34 percent of Lib Dems' coalition partners in the Tory camp believe jobless figures will not change, 19 percent believe the figure will rise while 47 percent think less people will be out of employment.

More than 90 percent of Labour MPs said they expect unemployment to get worse.

As for inflation the pessimism was prevalent among both Tories and Lib Dems with 47 percent of the former and 42 percent of the latter saying inflation will not improve against just one in four who though differently.

Forty-seven per cent of Tories and 42 per cent of Liberal Democrats say it will stay the same and only a quarter of MPs in both parties think it will fall.

London to recognize NTC as Libyan government

Source: Press TV

British foreign office has given Libyan embassy staff in London three days to leave saying Britain will officially recognize Libya's National Transitional Council as the "sole governmental authority” in the country.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said London will also unlock £91m of Libyan assets and hand them over the NTC members fighting Muammar Gaddafi regime.

Hague said the British government will expel all remaining Libyan diplomats in London and hand over the embassy to the NTC.

The Gaddafi regime has condemned London's move that followed similar announcements by France and the US with Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled KArim saying Tripoli will use legal channels to reverse the decision.

The international contact group on Libya decided back in July that they should consider the NTC as the legitimate government authority in Libya.

"This decision reflects the National Transitional Council's increasing legitimacy, competence and success in reaching out to Libyans across the country," Hague said.

"Through its actions, the National Transitional Council has shown its commitment to a more open and democratic Libya, something that it is working to achieve in an inclusive political process. This announcement reflects the facts on the ground and to increase support for those fighting and working for a better future in Libya," he added.

This comes as analysts say unfreezing Libyan assets to the NTC officials is a move aimed at indirectly helping the council to access better military equipment to fight back Gaddafi forces that will help western forces in Libya out of the current military deadlock in the North African country.

Foreign countries that are enforcing a supposedly no-fly zone over Libya, which they claim is to protect Libyans from Gaddafi's fierce attacks, are not authorized to arm the NTC.

The foreign forces have been carrying out airstrikes on the country in the hope that they can force Gaddafi to step down but their campaign has only increased Libyans' suffering as several of the attacks have led to major civilian casualties without leading to gains on the ground.

The only alternative that seems to show the foreign forces a way out of the current mess seems to take the fight to Gaddafi forces on the ground that is only possible through arming the NTC, what they claim they are not doing.

Gaddafi: We give our lives to defeat NATO

Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Libyan defiant ruler Muammar Gaddafi has said he is prepared to “sacrifice” in order to defeat the NATO as well as the revolutionary forces trying to topple his regime.

"We are not afraid. We will defeat them," Gaddafi said in an audio message to his loyalists in the town of Zaltan near the Tunisian border, AFP reported on Wednesday.

“We will pay the price with our lives, our women and our children. We are ready to sacrifice (ourselves) to defeat the enemy," the embattled added.

The strongman also asked his supporters to attack the Nafusa mountainous region which is under control of revolutionary forces and demanded that the opposition forces surrender.

Gaddafi made the remarks while the revolutionary forces say they are bracing for a major assault on the strategic town of Ghezaia near the city of Nalut.

At least 20 heavily armed trucks were seen moving towards Nalut near the Tunisian border. About 30 other trucks were congregating further east to join the attack, reports said.

Meanwhile, lack of fuel and cash is making life more difficult in Gaddafi's stronghold of Tripoli.

"What we have seen in Tripoli is the lack of fuel and the lack of cashflow are having a serious impact," said Laurence Hart, humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations.

Hart, who was on a one-week visit of Tripoli, said people rush to banks to withdraw their savings but face withdrawal limitation of around $175 per week per account holder.

Contrary to report of shortage of fuel, British military chiefs say “there is no prospect of Gaddafi running out of oil for military purposes any time soon.”

China protests US spy flights

An American spy plane (file photo)

Source: Press TV

China has called on the United States to stop flying its spy planes near the Chinese coast, saying the move has severely damaged the trust between Beijing and Washington.

"We demand that the US respect China's sovereignty and security interests and take concrete measures to boost a healthy and stable development of military relations," the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said in a statement, AFP reported.

The comments came after reports said two Chinese fighter jets attempted to scare off an American spy plane over the Taiwan Strait in late June.

The report said the American plane was collecting intelligence on China.

Relations between China and the US have become strained over a number of issues.

China has already reduced its military cooperation with the Pentagon over the USD 6.4-billion US arms sales to Taiwan, which China considers as part of its territory.

Beijing has in response imposed unspecified sanctions on US firms selling weapons to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, China is reportedly developing game-changing stealth aircrafts and advanced naval missiles that can pave the way for ending the US dominance at sea.

A powerful military could also revolutionize China's role in the Pacific balance of power and would make it risky for the US to intervene in any potential dispute over Taiwan or North Korea.

Experts say it could also deny US ships' safe access to international waters near China's 18,000-kilometer-long coastline.

'US seeks to obstruct Iran-Egypt ties'

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (C) speaks during a meeting with the Egyptian delegation, July 27, Tehran.

Source: Press TV

Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says the US and Israel seek to obstruct the normalization of ties between Iran and Egypt to save their own interests.

Salehi made the remark in a meeting with an Egyptian delegation in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Wednesday, ISNA reported.

Enemies of the two nations and the US and Israel on top of them will sustain losses if Muslim countries, including Iran and Egypt, foster unity so they do their best to poison the relations between Tehran and Cairo, he further explained.

Salehi pointed out that the interests of the two countries demand that Iran and Egypt move to strengthen unity among Muslim countries and prevent a division among them.

He went on to say that the two countries have fortunately taken important steps toward the normalization of diplomatic ties following the Egyptian revolution.

The Iranian top official said that the Egyptian revolution marked a turning point in international developments and opened a new chapter in regional developments.

Salehi stated that the Islamic Republic considers the recent developments in the region a good omen and added that the developments will finally come to the benefit of regional countries.

This is the second time that a delegation visits Iran following the recent Egyptian revolution.

The first delegation comprised of social, cultural, religious and revolutionary figures visited Iran late May and early June.

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

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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

US general warns Iran on nuclear issue

US Army General Martin Dempsey appears at his confirmation hearing for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington on July 26, 2011.

Source: Press TV

US President Barack Obama's pick to become the top US military officer says Iran will make a "serious miscalculation" should it pursue nuclear activities or sponsor attacks in Iraq.

"With its nuclear activities and its surrogate activities in southern Iraq, there is a high potential that Iran will make a serious miscalculation of US resolve," said General Martin Dempsey in a prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Dempsey, now the US Army's chief of staff, called Iran a "destabilizing force" and stated that Tehran intended to "send a message that they have expelled us from Iraq," AFP reported.

"As long as we've got those soldiers there, we're going to do whatever we have to do to protect them, and I want to make sure that's clear to everyone," he said.

The United States is scheduled to withdraw all of its remaining 47,000 troops from Iraq by the end of this year, under the terms of a bilateral security pact.

The US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement was approved by the Iraqi government on December 4, 2008. SOFA established that US combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and that all US forces would be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011.

The US general's remarks came as Iran regards the US military's presence in the Persian Gulf region and in Iraq and Afghanistan as the main factor behind regional insecurity and instability.

Iran insists that as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has a right to use the peaceful applications of nuclear energy for electricity generation and medical research.

In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence indicating that Iran's civilian nuclear program has been diverted towards military purposes.

China: Israeli settlements obstruct talks

Wang Min, the deputy envoy of the Chinese mission to the UN

Source: Press TV

China says Israel's settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are a major obstacle to the resumption of stalled Palestinian-Israeli talks.

Addressing a routine monthly UN Security Council (UNSC) session on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on Tuesday, deputy permanent representative of the Chinese mission to the UN Wang Min expressed opposition to the Israeli settlement construction in the occupied lands and urged Tel Aviv to halt settlement activities in the West Bank.

“The Israeli settlement is the direct cause resulting in the stalemate of the Palestine-Israel peace talks. It is also the major obstacle for the resumption of the peace talks," Xinhua quoted Wang as saying on Tuesday.

"China is against the Israeli construction of settlement in the occupied Palestine territory. We appeal to Israel to immediately cease its settlement activities and help create conditions for the mutual trust between the two parties and break the stalemate of the peace talks," Wang told the UNSC.

In September 2010, Israel resumed the expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories after a10-month partial freeze, prompting the Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders to break off the US-sponsored talks with Tel-Aviv that had resumed after a lengthy stalemate.

Some analysts believe that the resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank was a pre-planned scheme by some lobbies in Israel in order to hinder the direct talks.

The work on settlements in the occupied East al-Quds (Jerusalem) has drawn international criticism. Israel, however, remains defiant in the face of calls to halt its illegal settlement activities.

The PA insists that Israel must stop all settlement activities in the West Bank and illegally annexed East al-Quds before negotiations can resume.

The Chinese official further called for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue through diplomatic channels on the basis of relevant UN resolutions so that a Palestinian state with full sovereignty will be established.

"China has been resolute in supporting the just cause of Palestinian people in regaining their legitimate national rights and supporting the establishment of a Palestine state with full sovereignty and independence. China appreciates Palestine for its adherence to the choice of peace and will continue to support the just cause of the Palestinian people," Wang concluded.

The PA is to ask UN member states to vote for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state in September.

A majority of member states are expected to back the bid as over 100 countries have so far recognized Palestine based on the 1967 borders.

Dollar plunges amid US debt impasse

Source: Press TV

The dollar has sunk to a three-month low against a basket of major currencies following US lawmakers' failure to reach a deal on the federal government's debt ceiling.

The dollar sank further against the euro on Wednesday both in Asian and European markets, sending the EU single currency to the high levels of $1.4520 and $1.4530, AFP reported.

This comes after the White House threatened that President Barack Obama would veto a Republican plan on raising the debt ceiling.

The plan proposed by House Speaker John Boehner would impose $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, and establish a select congressional commission to propose an additional $1.8 trillion in savings by Thanksgiving, November 24, 2011. The plan, in general, aims for about $3 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.

Democrats including the president himself argue that the Republican deficit plan will enslave the American people by taking benefits away from Social Security, Medicare, education and other social institutions.

So far, no agreement is in sight between the White House and the House Republicans to avoid a debt default, as the continuing impasse has raised the threat of the world's biggest economy failing to service its $14.3 trillion dollar short-term debt on August 2.

Investors are concerned that even if the default is averted, the deadlock will lead to the downgrade of US' credit rating.

The US debt ceiling is capped at $14.3 trillion, up from $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office in 2009, and the administration says that if it is not elevated by August 2, the government would default on its obligations.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged the United States to take immediate fiscal action regarding its debt crisis, as the country is nearing a default.

British economic growth falters again

Source: Press TV

Britain's ranking in terms of economic growth has fallen to the bottom of the international table as evidenced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS data shows the economy expanded by about 0.2 percent between April and June, preparing a situation for the UK to be pushed back into recession.

The gloomy figures embarrassed George Osborne, the Chancellor, who had predicted a 1.7 percent growth for the economy in 2011 in his March Budget.

The Chancellor floated the prospect of tax cuts for business at the weekend but Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out such an approach.

“There's no country, really, that can afford another fiscal stimulus,” the Prime Minister said. “They've all run out of money.

“The right step for an economy like ours is to get on top of your debt and your deficit and then make it a better place for businesses to grow and expand and employ people,” said Cameron.

Confidential documents circulating in Whitehall indicate that the so-called “growth agenda,” drawn up by the Chancellor earlier in the year, is failing to meet several detailed targets.

“The Treasury has been almost entirely focused on reducing the deficit, not promoting economic growth. Jeremy Heywood read them the Riot Act,” said a senior Whitehall source.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has called for an extension of the Bank of England's quantitative easing programme, effectively printing money.

The pressure being placed by Cable and Osborne on the Bank of England to inject money into the economy in the hope of preventing a relapse into recession was condemned by the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls.

"Vince Cable should put his energy into persuading the Chancellor to change course rather than lecturing the Bank of England on how to do its job. I am sure the Business Secretary does not need reminding that he must be careful not to compromise the Bank's independence. But the more fundamental point is that monetary policy alone will not get the recovery back on track after the zero growth we have seen in the last six months. Ministers should not be passing the buck to the Bank of England when it is the government's policies that are to blame," he told The Independent.

The government is expected to blame the figures on international issues, including rising commodity and oil prices, and fears over the eurozone and America.

IMF urges US to take action on debt

Chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde

Source: Press TV

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged the United States to take immediate fiscal action regarding its debt crisis, as the country is nearing a default.

Referring to a recent agreement by the European leaders to save debt-ridden Greece, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said, "I hope that this courageous move will be followed as well in the United States, and that fiscal action will be taken as rapidly as possible," AFP reported.

"To have a default or to have a significant downgrading of the United States signature would be a very very very serious event. Not for the United States alone, but for the global economy at large," Lagarde further said during a speech in New York on Tuesday.

This is not the first time the new IMF chief warns the US against the global consequences of a default since she became the managing director of the IMF.

The US hit its borrowing limit of USD14.3 trillion on May 16, and if the limit is not raised by August 2, the US government will default on its debts.

The Democrats and the Republicans are still at odds over how to curb the country's massive debt and reduce its budget deficit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Obama warns against debt limit standoff

US President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV

US President Barack Obama has warned of “serious” damage to the country's economy if the Republican-Democrat dispute over raising the US government debt limit continues.

“It's a dangerous game we've never played before, and we can't afford to play it now,” Bloomberg quoted Obama as saying on Monday.

“We can't allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington's political warfare,” he went on to say.

The US Treasury Department says the country will not be able to pay all its financial obligations and will default on its debt for the first time in history on August 2, unless the $14.3 trillion debt limit is raised. Yet, no deal is yet in sight between the Republican and Democrat lawmakers in the Congress and Senate over the looming crisis.

On Monday, Republicans proposed a new deficit reduction plan based on the principles of the cut, cap and balance bill, which was earlier rejected by the Democratic-led Senate.

The GOP is demanding a short-term debt limit increase that would force the US president to request more borrowing authority before the presidential election in November 2012.

In contrast, the Senate Democrats, headed by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has backed up an alternative plan which would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion while also cutting $2.7 trillion in future spending, according to a recent statement by Reid.

Obama has rejected the Republican solution to the crisis, pointing out that a partial lifting of the debt ceiling would lead to a similar stalemate next year.

The incumbent US president has urged Americans to step up pressure on Republican leaders to agree with what he calls a "balanced approach to raise the debt ceiling."

However, Republican House Speaker John Boehner, appeared on TV shortly after Obama's speech, stressing the American people would not accept an increase in the debt without significant spending cuts and reforms.

“The president has often said we need a 'balanced' approach -- which in Washington means: We spend more, and you pay more,” Boehner said in his televised response.

“The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. This is just not going to happen,” he noted.

The United States hit its borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion on May 16, up from $10.6 trillion when Obama took office in 2009.

Economic stimuli hopes rejected

Source: Press TV

The British Prime Minister risks facing mounting pressure to introduce a “plan B” for the economy if an expected GDP growth report on Tuesday does not meet forecasts of 0.5 percent.

David Cameron has already dashed hopes that the government would use tax cuts or money printing to spur the economy and growth rates of less than 0.5 percent for the three months to June can put him in a tight spot.

This comes as analysts said they now expect the Tuesday report to put growth at 0.1 or 0.2 percent while several economists even predicted negative growth.

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne have each suggested their own solutions to the problem.

Cable has proposed that the Bank of England uses quantitative easing to stimulate the limping economy with Osborne going for the business tax-cut option.

But both have been snubbed by the PM who has dismissed resorting to fiscal stimulus in the form of tax cuts or public spending rise as well as monetary stimulus in the form of interest rates reduction or printing money.

"There's no country, really, that can afford another fiscal stimulus.

They've all run out of money,” Cameron told a joint press conference in London with his Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Zapatero.

"There isn't some great monetary stimulus you can give when interest rates are as low as they are. The right step for an economy like ours is to get on top of your debt and your deficit and then make it a better place for businesses to grow and expand and employ people," he added.

Cameron further admitted that "our path back to growth is a difficult one and has already been a difficult one".

This comes as Labour has slammed the government's spending cuts and tax increases to tackle the national deficit by the end of the current parliament saying the government is cutting “too far and too fast” that could stall growth.

The opposition who are calling for an economic “plan B” say figures form Office National Statistics show the economy contracted 0.5 percent in the final three months of 2010 while growing by the same rate in the first three month of 2011 that means the economy has been “flatlining” since the coalition took power.

Syria passes bill on multiparty law

Syria has approved a bill on a new multiparty law.

Source: Press TV

The Syrian government has approved a bill that paves the way for a new multiparty law as part of efforts on its declared political reform program.

The bill includes the basic principles that regulate the conditions and procedures for establishing and licensing parties, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Sunday.

The approved bill also contains legislations regarding the resources, funding, rights and duties of political parties. It allows the formation of political parties other than the ruling Ba'ath party.

Syrian Minister of Information Adnan Mahmoud said in a Monday statement that the new law will lay the legislative and legal foundations for political life and party pluralism, which are the basis of a democratic political system.

The Syrian minister added that the law will revitalize political activity and expand proper participation in running the state by establishing a suitable environment for new parties for the purpose of “alternating the possession of power.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised to carry out vast political reforms in his administration. Experts believe the reforms are a positive development in the Arab country.

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