Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Russia activates military radar facility

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Source: Press TV

Russia has officially activated an early warning military radar facility in response to a planned US missile system in Europe.

On Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev inaugurated the facility in the western exclave of Kaliningrad, the Associated Press reported.

"I hope that our partners will perceive this move as the first signal of our country's readiness to respond in kind to the threats, which the missile defense system poses for our forces," Medvedev said, referring to US missile system in Europe.

Medvedev added that in case a cooperation agreement was made, the massive radar could be integrated in a joint NATO-Russia missile shield.

The opening of the radar facility comes days ahead of parliamentary elections.

Earlier, Russia threatened to block NATO's routes to Afghanistan, if the Western military alliance continued to disregard Moscow's concerns regarding the US-led missile shield for Europe.

The US and NATO have also refused to sign a written guarantee requested by Russia, claiming their system does not target Moscow.

The Russian government has long opposed NATO's disputed plan of deploying an anti-missile shield in Europe, arguing that the would-be system in its "backyard” is not to secure Washington's European allies, but is effectively aimed at Russia.

NATO claims that the anti-missile shield is planned to thwart possible attacks from 'rogue' states, and it will go ahead with the plan despite Russia's concerns.

West must end Syria threats: Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Source: Press TV

The Russian foreign minister has called on the US and the European Union to put an end to their threats against Syria, urging Washington and the European bloc to exercise diplomacy on Damascus.

“Right now, the most important thing is to stop acting by means of ultimatums and try to move toward political dialogue,” AFP quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Tuesday.

He further criticized a proposal by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to impose a complete arms embargo on Syria.

On Monday, the UNHRC accused Syria of committing crimes against humanity and called for an arms embargo against the Middle Eastern country.

In addition, the Arab League on Sunday approved unprecedented sanctions against Syria.

The sanctions include cutting transactions with the Syrian Central Bank and an embargo on the investments for projects in Syria.

“We are going to view another embargo, this one against Syria, based on the experience that we gained from the Libyan example,” Lavrov said.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March, with demonstrations being held both in favor of and against President Bashar al-Assad. Hundreds of people, including members of the security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.

Damascus blames “outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” for the unrest, saying that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

President Assad has warned against any foreign attack against Syria, saying the military action will cause instability in the whole Middle East.

Russia threatens to block NATO routes

Trucks carrying NATO supplies to US-led forces in Afghanistan (file photo)

Source: Press TV

Russia has threatened to block NATO's supply routes to Afghanistan, should the Western military alliance continue to disregard Moscow's concerns about the US-led defense shield for Europe, a report says.

Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin warned that Moscow will review its cooperation with the Western military alliance on Afghanistan if the NATO fails to address Russia's objections, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Earlier on Thursday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that direct actions will be taken if his country's concerns are not addressed.

Medvedev envisioned possible missile attacks on Poland, Romania, Spain, and Turkey as a means to disable the counter-missile batteries, if the United States fails to acknowledge the concerns of the Russian defense officials.

He also warned that the country will deploy nuclear weapons to European borders in response to the move.

Russia's threats to suspend the NATO supply lines to Afghanistan coincides with a similar punitive measure taken by Pakistan on Saturday in retaliation to the US-led alliance's recent airstrikes on Pakistani military forces, which killed 24 soldiers.

NATO started using safer routes in Russia to deliver its supplies to its forces since Washington and Moscow reset diplomatic relations in 2009.

The Russian government has long opposed the NATO's disputed plan of deploying an anti-missile shield in Europe, arguing that the would-be system in its "backyard” is not to secure Washington's European allies, but is effectively aimed at Russia.

NATO claims that the anti-missile shield is planned to thwart possible attacks from 'rogue' states, and it will go ahead with the plan despite Russia's concerns.

US refuses to apologize over deadly Pakistan air strike

Source: Press TV

Gen Martin Dempsey, the most senior figure in the U.S. military has refused to apologize for an air strike at the weekend that killed 24 Pakistan soldiers.

The Pakistani army claimed the attack lasted almost two hours, and that it continued even after commanders on the ground contacted NATO to ask what was going on.

In an interview with ITV News, Gen Dempsey said he telephoned the Chief of Pakistan's army General Ashfaq Kayani and “expressed regret”.

“They have reason to be furious that they have 24 soldiers dead and that what killed them was the ordinance of a partner,” he said.

Asked if there was anything apologize for however, Gen Dempsey said: “absolutely not.”

Gen Dempsey also admitted that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, viewed from the outside is “the worst it's ever been.” Telegraph


NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwest Pakistan on November 26, killing as many as 28 troops and plunging U.S.-Pakistan relations, already deeply frayed, further into crisis. Reuters

Pakistan summoned United States Ambassador Cameron Munter to seek clarification over the NATO raid on its military check post. The Nation

Pakistan also ordered a review of all arrangements with the United States and NATO, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence activities, following the deadly cross-border strike. AFP

On November 26, Pakistani authorities gave the United States 15 days to leave the Shamsi airbase, and closed NATO supply lines into Afghanistan in response to the deadly NATO air strike. en.ria.ru

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained following the alleged killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in a raid on the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May, which Pakistan called a flagrant violation of sovereignty. Reuters

Fed secrets in US banks bailout exposed

Source: Press TV

Anti-Wall Street demonstrators shout slogans in front of the Federal Reserve Bank following a march through downtown Los Angels on November 22, 2011.

The details of the largest bailout in American history by Federal Reserve, which paid out multitrillion dollars to major US banks, have finally been exposed after two years of secrecy.

According to the bailout details, some of major US Banks took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans from Federal Reserve in secret while assuring investors their firms were healthy, Bloomberg Markets magazine reported on Monday.

The new report of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 emerged from 29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and central bank records of more than 21,000 transactions.

The newly emerged data shows that US banks reaped an estimated USD 13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed's below-market rates.

Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, however, the secrecy surrounding the funding "enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger."

Federal Reserve never unveiled the details of the bailout to US congress even as lawmakers paid out more money and debated new rules to save the banks who lobbied against government regulations.

The money paid out to JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc. (C), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Morgan Stanley, accounted for 63 percent of the total average daily debt to the Fed.

The latest report comes as the US jobless rate has stuck above 8.8 percent since March 2009 and police have clashed with Occupy Wall Street protesters, who are against government policies which favors the wealthiest citizens.

The Occupy movement emerged after a group of demonstrators gathered in New York's financial district on September 17 to protest the unjust distribution of wealth in the country and the excessive influence of big corporations on US policies.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reasons behind violent crackdown on OWS

Occupy Wall Street protester Brandon Watts lies injured on the ground after clashes with police over the eviction of OWS from Zuccotti Park

Source: Press TV

The brutal US police crackdown on the Occupy movement is “no coincidence,” since the protests touch upon “the third rail of US political class's venality,” a The Guardian editorial reads.

“US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparalleled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS (Occupy Wall Street) protesters in cities across the nation this past week ,” Naomi Wolf wrote in an editorial titled The Shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy on Friday.

Wolf then evoked some of the many instances of heartless US police brutality on protesters, such as an elderly woman being pepper-sprayed in the face; unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police; young screaming women being dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and a young man being stunned and bleeding profusely from the head as a result of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

She further quoted The New York Times as reporting that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering the protests.

She added that what darkens an already dark picture of the event is the admission of the Mayor of Oakland that “the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had participated in an ''18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on how to suppress Occupy protests.”

Wolf then cited Journalist Chris Hayes as having reported on a leaked memo that revealed “lobbyists vying for an USD 850,000 contract to smear Occupy,” and concluded that the crackdown on Occupy protests “was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers.”

“As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels,” Wolf asserted.

While the mainstream media continually claims that the "OWS has no message," Wolf said the results of an online poll, she undertook to understand the real motives behind the demonstrations, “were truly eye-opening.”

Wolf catalogued three post popular demands of the US protesters; namely, first, to get the money out of politics and, second, to reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation.

She added that the third demand is the “most clarifying” of all; to “draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows the members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.”

Wolf contend that it is this third demand that has primarily prompted the congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, to tell the DHS to authorize mayors to order their police forces - pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS - to make war on peaceful citizens.

“DHS does not freelance,” Wolf said, adding, “DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).”

“The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profits is less widely known - and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum,” Wolf said.

“Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams,” she added.

Wolf went on to describe the US crackdown on Occupy protests as a “civil war” in which the “members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organized suppression against the people they are supposed to represent.”

The editorial was closed by drawing parallels between the US protests and the ongoing unrest in Egypt's Tahrir Square.

“Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us,” she said.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pakistan orders US to vacate airbase

Source: Press TV

The Pakistani government has ordered the US to vacate an airbase within 15 days following a deadly air strike near the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Islamabad on Saturday ordered Washington to vacate Shamsi, which is a remote desert outpost in southwest Pakistan.

The airbase was reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone strikes. Pakistan had previously told the United States to leave the site in June.

The new order to vacate came after a US-led NATO air strike killed at least 28 Pakistani soldiers and wounded 15 others in the Mohmand Agency in northwestern Pakistan early on Saturday.

Pakistan also ordered a review of all arrangements with the US and NATO, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence activities, AFP reported.

The decision was taken at an extraordinary meeting of senior cabinet ministers and military service chiefs chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who strongly condemned the strike.

Islamabad also summoned US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter to lodge a strong complaint regarding the unprovoked attack.

Activists with Islami Jamiat Tulba, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami party, staged a protest in the northwestern city of Lahore to denounce the killings of soldiers.

NATO confirmed that the attack has left some Pakistani soldiers dead and has launched an investigation into the incident.

In a retaliatory move, the Pakistani government has blocked dozens of trucks carrying goods and fuel supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly condemned air strikes against its troops near the border with Afghanistan. While the strikes supposedly target militants, they usually claim the lives of civilians and Pakistani soldiers.

Report: US-China Cold War starts

Source: Press TV

The formal organ of China's ruling party has reported that a cold war era has started between China and the US as Washington has stepped up a campaign to counter Beijing's growing clout across the globe.

Reports from Pentagon indicate that the US is gearing up to counter what it calls 'China's capabilities,' IRNA quoted from China's The People's Daily newspaper.

Based on the new roadmap, the US is set to pose a fresh challenge against China through the establishment of new strategic systems in the Asia-Pacific region, the report said.

The paper went on to say that a significant increase in the deployment of the US air forces in Asia-Pacific is considered as a threat which prompts Beijing to enhance its defense capabilities against Washington.

The official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) asserted that Washington's interference in Asia-Pacific will meet a resolute response from Beijing, warning the US against posing any military challenge against China.

Last week, US President Barack Obama announced Washington's new plans to increase its military presence in Asia-Pacific.

On top of the current 28,000 US troops in South Korea, and 50,000 in Japan, the US will permanently deploy 2,500 Marines in Australia.

Washington also plans to increase the traveling of combat aircraft such as B-52 bombers and aircraft carriers to Australia.

Meanwhile, Singapore and Vietnam have promised to provide bases for US combat ships.

Based on Obama's newly announced plan, Washington will supply Indonesia with 24 refurbished F-16C/D fighter aircrafts, and consider proving a second destroyer to Philippines.

The Obama administration has also reiterated its arms commitment to China's regional rival Taiwan.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, Washington has recently unveiled a free trade deal with its allies in Asia-Pacific, named Asia Trans-Pacific Partnership that excludes China.

Iran attacks Turkey's NATO shield, if hit

Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh

Source: Press TV

Commander of the Aerospace Division of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps says in case of a military movement against Iran, NATO's missile shield in Turkey will be Iran's first target.

“The West's missile shield which is being deployed in Turkey by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), is managed by America and the Zionists, but to deceive Turkish people, they call it NATO defense shield,” Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said.

He added that Iran has considerably changed its defense strategy, based on orders by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei], after recent threats by the US and Israel. The change is based on “counter threat by threat” principle, IRNA reported on Saturday.

The commander said that Iran will “use its legal choices and geographical advantages to defend its waters and soil” and will gradually make the situation more difficult for the American troops in the region.

“If the US continues such measures as sanctions as well as economic, political, and cultural mischief against the Islamic Republic of Iran, [the Iranian] armed forces have prepared plans which they will carry out against the US one after the other,” he noted.

Hajizadeh went on to say that Iran is not concerned about possible military actions [against Iran] by the enemy as all their moves are monitored by the Iranian armed forces.

The United States and Israel have repeatedly threatened Tehran with the "option" of a military strike, based on the allegation that Iran's nuclear program may consist of a covert military agenda.

On November 6, Israeli President Shimon Peres threatened that an attack against the Islamic Republic was becoming “more and more likely.”

Iranian officials have promised a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the Middle East.

'Syria turns missiles towards Turkey'

Syrian people hold posters of President Bashar al-Assad outside the foreign ministry in Damascus on November 14, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Turkish sources say that Syria has turned its Russian-made SCUD missiles towards Turkey, Press TV reports.

The sources said that the missiles have been deployed in Syria's Kamisili and Ayn Diwar regions, Press TV's Ankara correspondent reported on Saturday.

The two regions are close to the borders of Turkey and Iraq.

This comes as Turkey has recently stepped up its rhetoric against the Syrian government. Reports have also emerged suggesting that Turkey is harboring Syrian armed opposition groups.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March, with demonstrations being held both against and in support of President Assad.

Damascus says the unrest has been largely incited by elements that are well-paid and armed by foreign powers. Hundreds of people, including members of the security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.

The opposition and Western countries accuse Syrian security forces of being behind the killings in the country, but the government blames what it describes as outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups for the deadly violence, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad.

'Turkey harboring Syrian rebels'

Syrian dissidents in a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey (File Photo)

Source: Press TV

A Turkish news agency claims that Turkey is establishing a “buffer zone” in Syria to provide Syrian rebels with shelter on Syrian soil.

According to Turkish Taraf daily, over 20,000 Syrian dissidents are currently stationed at camps near the two countries border.

The newspaper also pointed out that a number of Syrian opposition groups are currently residing in Turkey.

The claims come as Turkish officials have, on numerous occasions, denied creating a “buffer zone” in Syria.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has already suggested that Ankara might invade the country under the pretext of weeding out Kurdistan Workers' Party terrorists operating from inside Syria.

This is while secret government cables published by US media had earlier revealed Washington has been funding Syrian opposition groups since at least 2005 and continued until today, the article concluded.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March, with demonstrations being held both against and in support of President Assad.

Damascus says the unrest has been largely incited by elements that are well-paid and armed by foreign powers. Hundreds of people, including members of the security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.

The opposition and Western countries accuse Syrian security forces of being behind the killings in the country, but the government blames what it describes as outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups for the deadly violence, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad.

France training rebels to fight Syria

Armed Syrian dissident forces are seen in Homs. (File photo)

Source: Press TV

A Turkish newspaper has unveiled that French military forces are training armed Syrian rebels to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

According to Milliyet, as cited by IRNA, France has sent its military training forces to Turkey and Lebanon to coach the so-called Free Syrian Army -- a group of defectors operating out of Turkey and Lebanon -- in an effort to wage war against Syria's military.

The report added that the French, British, and Turkish authorities “have reached an agreement to send arms into Syria.”

The Turkish daily said that the three have informed the US about training and arming the Syrian opposition.

According to Milliyet, a group of armed rebels are currently stationed in Turkey's Hatay Province near the border with Syria.

The report comes as an earlier report had revealed that the British and French intelligence agencies have reportedly tasked their agents with contacting Syrian dissidents based in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli in order to help fuel unrest in Syria.

Reports also said that French intelligence agents have been sent to northern Lebanon and Turkey to build the first contingents of the Free Syrian Army out of the deserters who have fled Syria.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March, with demonstrations being held both against and in support of President Assad.

Damascus says the unrest has been largely incited by elements that are well-paid and armed by foreign powers. Hundreds of people, including members of the security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.

The opposition and Western countries accuse Syrian security forces of being behind the killings in the country, but the government blames what it describes as outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups for the deadly violence, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad

Israel threatens to cut Gaza water, power

Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon

Source: Press TV

Israel has threatened to cut the supply of water and electricity to the Gaza Strip if rival Palestinian movements, Fatah and Hamas, establish a unity government.

"The foreign ministry is examining the possibility of Israel pulling out of the Gaza Strip in terms of infrastructure," AFP quoted Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon as telling the daily Yediot Aharonot's website on Saturday.

Ayalon, a Knesset (Israeli parliament) deputy for the leftist Yisrael Beitenu party, said a Palestinian unity government “would put an end to any hope for a peace agreement" with Tel Aviv.

On Thursday, acting Palestinian Authority (PA) Chief Mahmoud Abbas (leader of Fatah party) held talks with Hamas Political Bureau Chief , Khaled Meshaal, in the Egyptian capital Cairo, where they announced a new era of partnership between the rival Palestinian factions.

The talks seriously irked Israeli leaders who decided to maintain a freeze on the transfer of tens of millions of dollars in tax monies to the PA, to further increase the strain on Ramallah-based authority.

The transfer of funds, which make up a large percentage of the PA's monthly budget, was frozen in November by Tel Aviv, after the Palestine won full membership of the UN cultural organization, UNESCO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had in January threatened to cut off water and power to the long-blockaded Gaza Strip.

Israel continues to control the supply of water to Gaza and 70 percent of the territory's electrical power. The rest of Gaza's electricity needs are supplied by neighboring Egypt and local power plants, which rarely receive enough fuel to operate under Israel's blockade.

Israel has tightened its crippling closure on the Gaza Strip since 2007, defying international calls to lift the blockade.

Pakistan blocks NATO supplies to Kabul

Source: Press TV

Pakistan has suspended a NATO supply route into Afghanistan following an attack by helicopters belonging to the Western alliance on a military checkpoint in northwestern Pakistan, Press TV reports.

Dozens of trucks carrying goods and petroleum supplies for NATO forces were stopped in the Torkham border area of the Khyber tribal region in northwestern Pakistan. The Pakistani government ordered its forces in Khyber Agency to stop the movement of the NATO supplies

The retaliatory measure was adopted hours after US-led NATO helicopters opened fire on a military checkpoint in the Baizai area of Mohmand Agency early Saturday, killing 28 Pakistani soldiers, including two officers, and injuring 15 more.

Pakistani officials have condemned the attack as "unprovoked and indiscriminate."

Pakistani Foreign Affairs Ministry vehemently condemned the NATO attack, saying the issue will be raised with US officials.

Local media say Pakistan's acting ambassador to the US has also lodged a protest with Washington over the attack.

Egypt officers join anti-junta protesters

Source: Press TV

A number of Egyptian army officials join the chorus of calls for change amid mass demos in Cairo and other major cities demanding the downfall of the ruling junta, Press TV reports.

In Cairo, up to a million people gathered on Friday in and around Liberation Square, the focal point of a popular revolution which toppled the four-decade regime of former dictator Hosni Mubarak in February.

The protesters called for an end to the rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces which took over after Mubarak's ouster, and voiced their opposition to SCAF's nomination of Mubarak-era official Kamal el-Ganzouri as prime minister.

The calls were soon joined by Egyptians army officers, who supported popular demands for a civilian government and opposed the junta choice to head the transitional government.

“The Supreme Council of Armed Forces does not reflect the whole Egyptian army,” said Egyptian Army Captain Ahmed Shouman. “We must be in cohesion with the Egyptian people once again. This is the best way. We must resort to the essence of the revolution,” he stressed.

Shouman expressed regret about the crackdown on anti-junta protesters over the past days and described it as a sign of the despair of the remnants of the Mubarak regime, who want to stay in power.

The captain recalled that the people's demand since the start of the uprising in Egypt has been the establishment of a civilian government. He then called for the formation of a “real parliament” representing the Egyptian people and their demands.

The SCAF has a six-month mandate to help set up a transitional government and hold elections, but the junta is receiving dictations from outside Egypt, Shouman stated, without explaining where the junta receives commands from. "We must represent our people not the outside world," he urged, addressing the military.

On the nomination of Ganzouri, he expressed doubts about whether the former prime minister was the appropriate choice given the current situation in Egypt.

Another Egyptian army official also expressed regret over the killing of more than 41 protesters in the past week, and called for the junta to meet popular demands.

“I have been a military man for a long time,” said Army Major Amr Metwaly, producing his ID card. “It does not matter if we represent the Egyptian civilians or the armed personnel. But most important of all is that we are all from Egypt; we stand side by side with the revolutionaries and we stand in support of the revolution,” he said.

He condemned the killing of protesters as being part of a Western plot to derail the revolution in Egypt. He denounced the junta's stance against the revolutionaries and the use of excessive force against protesters.

Metwaly also echoed his comrade's remark on the presence of Mubarak-era elements in the defense ministry and the ruling military council.

He said Egyptians are against outside intervention from the West and above all the United States, which has made numerous attempts to hijack the Egyptian revolution.

The major called on Egypt's military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to respect popular demand, step down and stand trial in a civilian court. He also urged the junta to hold national referendum for the people to decide on the future of their country.

Metwaly vowed the army personnel would not back off on their pledge to support the Egyptian people and would live up to their duty of maintaining security for the Egyptian public. He expressed hope that the ruling junta would step down in a week's time at longest and people's demands would then be met.

Friday, November 25, 2011

US deploys aircraft carrier off Syria

Newest US aircraft carrier CVN 77, also known as USS George H.W. Bush (file photo)

Source: Press TV

The US has deployed its newest aircraft carrier off the Syrian coast amid mounting speculations of a Washington-led military invasion against the Arab nation.

A US naval task force, led by the USS George H.W. Bush, parked off just outside Syria's territorial waters, just after the US embassy in Damascus urged Americans to “immediately” leave the country, the Daily Caller news website reported on Wednesday.

Media reports also indicated that US ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford, recalled from Syria in October due the mounting anti-US sentiment in the country, will not return later this month as planned.

The developments come amid Western attempts, spearheaded by the United States, to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

The CVN 77, better known as the George H.W. Bush, is capable of carrying up to 70 aircraft, including 48 fighter jets.

Washington has not explained the purpose of the carrier's deployment to the Syrian coast.

Meanwhile, NATO-ally Turkey is seen as likely to launch a military action against Syria.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has already suggested that Ankara might invade the country under the pretext of weeding out Kurdistan Workers' Party terrorists operating inside Syria.

Arab media have also spoken of an impending no-fly zone over Syria, similar to the one imposed over Libya before NATO launched massive missile strikes and aerial bombardments of the oil-rich country earlier in the year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Russia will hit US missile sites if no deal

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and President Vladimir Putin

Source: Press TV

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Russia will target US missile defense sites in Europe if Washington goes ahead with the planned shield despite Moscow's concerns.

Medvedev said on Wednesday that he will deploy strike systems in the west and south of Russia, and deploy Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region in order to counter the risk posed by the European missile defense system, Russia Today reported.

“By my order the Defense Ministry will run in a warning system radar station in Kaliningrad without delay,” the Russian president said.

“In the event of unfavorable developments (in regards to European missile defense), Russia reserves the right to halt further steps in the disarmament sphere and, respectively, weapons control,” Medvedev said.

He added, “Besides, given the inseparable interconnection between the strategic offensive and defensive weapons, grounds may appear for our country's withdrawal from the START treaty.”

The new START treaty, signed by Russian President Medvedev and US President Barack Obama in the Czech capital of Prague in April 2010, replaced START 1, which expired in December 2009.

New START went into force on February 5, 2011. The arms reduction pact would limit Washington and Moscow to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads each.

Russia fears that the plans for missile shields in Europe, including in Romania and Poland, would undermine its nuclear deterrence, and thus has been seeking legally binding guarantees to check it.

During a meeting in Lisbon in late November 2010, Russia agreed to cooperate with NATO on the US-backed pan-European missile system.

Russia's agreement with NATO, however, raised eyebrows as Moscow had traditionally been fiercely opposed to the missile system.

Moscow has called for the shared control of the system but Washington refuses to share the responsibility for protecting NATO member-states with a third party.

Bush, Blair found guilty of war crimes

Source: Press TV

A War Crimes Tribunal in Malaysia has found former US President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair guilty of war crimes for their roles in the Iraq war, Press TV reports.

The five-panel Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal decided that Bush and Blair committed genocide and crimes against humanity by leading the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a Press TV correspondent reported on Tuesday.

In 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq in blatant violation of international law and under the pretext of finding weapons of mass destruction allegedly stockpiled by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Malaysian tribunal judges ruled that the decision to wage war against Iraq by the two former heads of government was a flagrant abuse of law and an act of aggression that led to large-scale massacres of the Iraqi people.

Bombings and other forms of violence became commonplace in Iraq shortly after the US-led invasion of the country.

In their ruling, the tribunal judges also stated that the US, under the leadership of Bush, fabricated documents to make it appear that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

However, the world later learned that the former Iraqi regime did not possess WMDs and that the US and British leaders knew this all along.

Over one million Iraqis were killed during the invasion, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.

The judges also said the court findings should be provided to signatories to the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, and added that the names of Bush and Blair should be listed on a war crimes register.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fresh violence erupts in Egypt's capital

Egyptian protesters gather after clashes with Egyptian riot police at Liberation Square in Cairo November 19, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Fresh violence has erupted in Egypt's capital Cairo a day after deadly clashes between police and protesters left at least three people dead and hundreds wounded, Press TV reports.

Egyptian riot police on Sunday clashed for a second day with protesters demanding a speedy transition of power from the ruling military council to a civilian government.

The police used tear gas against thousands of protesters in and around central Cairo's Liberation Square.

At least one protester was injured in the violence.

Similar clashes on Saturday left three people dead and hundreds more injured in Cairo and Alexandria.

The latest clashes come just over a week before parliamentary elections.

Earlier this month, Egypt's Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Silmi showed a draft copy of a revised constitution to political groups in the North African country. The draft would give the Army exclusive authority over its internal affairs and budget and would also shield the forces from legal scrutiny.

The opposition and democracy campaigners protested at the proposal.

Activists and political groups are increasingly critical of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)'s failure to live up to its promise of handing over power to a civilian ruling structure within six months of the February revolution.

Protesters have also criticized the head of the council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, for his reluctance to implement sweeping changes and dismantle elements of the former regime.

The military rulers have promised to hold presidential elections by late next year.

War crimes tribunal tries Bush, Blair

Source: Press TV

A War Crimes Tribunal in the Malaysian capital has begun its hearing against George W. Bush and Tony Blair, charging the former officials for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Press TV reports.

The tribunal will determine whether the former US president and British prime minister committed war crimes and violated international law during the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal is an initiative by Malaysia's former Premier Mahathir Mohamad, who staunchly opposes US-led military adventures in various troubled regions.

The hearing comes after two years of in-depth investigation, including testimonials from Iraqi war victims by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission.

According to the Kuala Lumpur War Commission, both Bush and Blair had participated in the formulation of executive orders and directives to exclude the applicability of all international conventions and laws.

One complainant told the commission in 2009 that he was mistakenly detained and kept for six years in Guantanamo Bay under harsh conditions.

A notification of the trial was served to known addresses of the two, and to the US Embassy and the UK High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on September 19, 2011.

This comes at a time when the Perdana Global Peace Foundation has mounted a war crimes exhibition in the Malaysian capital.

The exhibition put on display gory images of decapitated bodies, to educate the public about the inhumane effects of war.

The exhibition also featured the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq along with life-sized mannequins to show the abuse and torture of prisoners by the US army.

Millions of people have lost their lives in the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan over the past years.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Russia sends warships to Syrian waters

Russian warships expected to enter Syria. (File photo)

Source: Press TV

Russia is sending its warships to Syrian waters in a move aimed at preventing any foreign attacks against Syrian territories.

According to Russian sources, the recent move conveys the message that Moscow will block any NATO-led attack under the guise of “humanitarian intervention,” The Nation reported.

Russia has been voicing support for Syria, which it says is currently going through a civil war.

The Western military alliance, NATO, has been making efforts to demonize the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his forces, while downplaying attacks by opposition forces.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has also recently warned the West against any 'Libya-style' military intervention in Syria.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March, with demonstrations being held both against and in support of Syrian President Assad.

According to the United Nations more than 3,000 people, including members of the security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.

The opposition and Western countries accuse Syrian security forces of being behind the killings in the country, but the government blames what it describes as outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups for the deadly violence, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad.

UK meets Syrian rebels, fuels unrest

Source: Press TV

British Foreign Secretary William Hague is to hold talks with Syrian rebel leaders in London on Monday as the Syrian people condemn foreign intervention in their country's affairs.

"The foreign secretary is meeting with the Syrian opposition," a spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office told AFP as other government officials have reportedly planned meetings with Syria's opposition figures.

Furthermore, it emerged that the British government has been engaged in a series of behind-the-scenes contacts with Syrian rebel leaders from the Syrian National Council and the National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change over the past months.

“We have had regular contacts with various figures in the Syrian opposition for several months. We are now intensifying these [contacts],” admitted the spokeswoman.

Although Hague has no plans to give the Syrian rebels official recognition, he has appointed Frances Guy, a former ambassador to Beirut, to organize British officials' meetings with exiled Syrian rebel leaders securing the British government an organized intervention in Syria's internal affairs.

Hague's meeting with Syrian rebel leaders comes as thousands of Syrian people have already condemned foreign intervention in their country's internal affairs.

Syria's unrest, which started with people demanding a series of political reforms, turned violent resulting in hundreds of security forces and civilian people being killed.

The Syrian government has blamed foreign-supplied armed gangs and Western countries for orchestrating the unrest.

US military pact raises tensions with China

Source: Press TV

The Chinese premier has warned against external interference in a dispute over the South China Sea, fuelled by Australia's new military pact with the U.S., as world leaders prepare to discuss the issue in Bali.

Under the plan, announced in Canberra on Wednesday, up to 250 U.S. marines will train for six months at a time in the Northern Territory, just 800 kilometers from Indonesia, rising to a full 2500-strong Marine Air Ground Task Force by 2016. AAP


In a ratcheting up of tensions on Friday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao issued a warning against U.S. involvement in the South China Sea dispute. AAP

"External forces should not use any excuse to interfere," he said. AAP

China has saved some of its strongest rebukes for Australia for its part in agreeing to the plan. The state-run People's Daily newspaper lambasted the scheme, warning Australian leaders against getting in the middle of a conflict. globalpost

"Australia surely cannot play China for a fool. It is impossible for China to remain detached, no matter what Australia does to undermine its security," the paper wrote in an editorial. "If Australia uses its military bases to help the U.S. harm Chinese interests, then Australia itself will be caught in the crossfire." globalpost

"The placement of 2,500 U.S. mariners in Darwin would create new tension in ASEAN which has been known as peace zone, not a conflict zone," said TB Hasanuddin, vice-chairman of Indonesian parliament's Commission I that oversees security and foreign affairs policy. chinadaily.com


Darwin, nicknamed the "Pearl Harbor of Australia" after a World War Two Japanese raid dropped more bombs on the city than those on Pearl Harbor, will give the U.S. military open access to East Asia sea lanes and the Indian Ocean. News24

Australia says hosting U.S. troops and the pre-positioning of U.S. supplies in Darwin is not the precursor to a U.S. base, but analysts say rotating more than 2,000 U.S. marines in and out of the northern port city, and more frequent U.S. naval visits, will give Washington a de facto base. News24

The winding down of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has opened the door to greater U.S. attention to simmering tension over the South China Sea, a shipping lane for more than $5 trillion in annual trade that the United States wants to keep open. News24

Friday, November 18, 2011

Russia against US bases in Afghanistan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Source: Press TV

Russia has voiced strong opposition to the US military presence in Afghanistan and Washington's plans to set up large military bases in the Asian country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday expressed Moscow's disapproval of the permanent deployment of United States military bases in Afghanistan and in Central Asia, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We do not understand how the proposed withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan squares with US plans to set up major military bases in Afghanistan,” Lavrov said.

The senior Russian official noted that Moscow has discussed the issue with Afghan and US authorities, but "there are more questions than answers so far.”

“Moreover, information comes in periodically that our American colleagues want to expand their military presence in Central Asia," Lavrov noted.

Meanwhile, loya jirga spokeswoman Safia Sediqi said on Thursday that Washington wants a complete media blackout over the conditions set in its strategic long-term deal with Kabul.

The loya jirga, called by President Hamid Karzai, kicked off in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday. The four-day traditional gathering discusses Afghanistan's relationship with the United States, and is mainly centered on long-term US bases in Afghanistan after US-led foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

Afghan religious and political figures have voiced strong opposition to US plans to set up long-term or permanent military bases in the war-torn country.

The United States has failed to achieve its goals after 10 years of war in Afghanistan. Many parts of the Asian country still remain insecure despite the presence of nearly 150,000 US-led foreign forces there.

Experts believe Washington's new strategy of establishing long-term military bases will only serve to raise anti-US sentiment among Afghans and neighboring countries.

Afghan people are against the plan, dismissing it as a ploy for indefinite neo-colonial occupation.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

US lobbies Russia, China on Iran

US President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV

US President Barack Obama is seeking China and Russia's support for pressing Tehran into abandoning its nuclear activities after the new IAEA report on Iran received a cool reception.

After International Atomic Energy Agency' Director General Yukiya Amano submitted his latest report on Iran's nuclear activities to the 35 members of the Board of Governors last week, the US and its allies called for imposing more sanctions on Tehran.

Russia and China, however, rejected the call for further sanctions as their diplomats expressed "the mutual conviction that the application of new, additional sanctions against Iran will not lead to the desired result," in a meeting in Moscow.

Obama's talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday was purportedly aimed at shaping a “common response" to Iran's nuclear activities and ensuring that Tehran lives by "international rules and norms," the Associated Press reported.

Neither one of the two leaders, however, publicly supported Obama's positions.

The IAEA in its latest report accused Iran of conducting activities related to developing nuclear weapons before 2003, adding that these activities “may still be ongoing.”

This is while Amano's visit to Washington for talks with US officials before the publication of the report had already raised serious questions about its objectivity and sincerity.

Iran has dismissed the report as "unbalanced, unprofessional and prepared with political motivation and under political pressure mostly by the US."

The United States, Israel, and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program.

Iran argues that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA, has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Iranian officials have promised a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the Middle East.

US to upgrade Turkey's F-16 jets

US Air Force F-16 jet fighters (file photo)

Source: Press TV

The United States has reportedly signed a multibillion-dollar contract with Turkish military for upgrading a fleet of Turkish F-16 fighter jets, Press TV reports.

The 2.9-billion-dollar deal involves the refurbishment of just over 210 fighter jets, Press TV's correspondent reported Wednesday from Ankara.

According to provisions of the military contract, the US will also provide Ankara with source codes for the aircraft.

Access to the source code would allow Turkey to use its locally made weaponry and spare parts for the US-made war planes.

Turkey announced in October that it would begin mass-production of a cruise missile -- SOM missile -- that would be mounted on its fighter jets, including its fleet of F-16s.

SOM was first revealed during the 100th year celebrations of the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) at the Cigli Airbase in Izmir on June 4, 2011.

According to the developer, the missile made its first guided flight in August over the Black Sea, covering more than 100 nautical miles, using GPS/INS guidance system. The missile successfully hit its target with high accuracy.

US drones trigger controversy in Turkey

Source: Press TV

Turkey has confirmed receiving Predator drones from the United States, triggering controversy about how Ankara would monitor and restrict the operation of the surveillance aircraft, Press TV reports.

The four US Predator drones have reportedly been stationed in the Incirlik Air Base in the southern Turkish province of Adana, a Press TV correspondent reported on Sunday.

Two of the drones apparently arrived in Turkey on October 16, while the other two were delivered on October 23.

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey would supervise the operation of the drones and set their flight route.

Davutoglu said the drones would fly only when Turkey requests and the footage they capture would be sent to a joint US-Turkish unit.

The latest development comes as there have been doubts over the past days about Turkey's ability to monitor the activity of the US drones. Some commentators say the drones are not visible to the radar systems.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Italian prime minister steps down

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Source: Press TV

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has resigned after 17 years of domination in Italy's political scene, as thousands of people gathered in center of the capital to celebrate his departure.

Berlusconi handed his resignation to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Saturday night after Italy's lower house of parliament approved a package of austerity measures demanded by the European Union, Reuters reported.

Former European Commissioner Mario Monti is expected to replace Berlusconi.

Berlusconi, 75, has been under immense pressure to step down over a series of scandals as well as for mishandling the country's economy.

Berlusconi's popularity rating recently slipped to a record low of 22 percent as his government was unable to address the financial crisis that has engulfed the eurozone. He also faced legal battles over bribery, tax fraud and abuse of power.

Italy's debt is 120 percent of its gross domestic product. In August the country passed a 60-billion-euro austerity package to balance the budget by 2013.

There is growing fear among the EU leaders that Italy might be drawn into the crisis that has already claimed Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Russia warns West against Syria attack

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delivers a speech on Russia's domestic affairs and foreign policies during a meeting with members of the Valdai international discussion group of experts in Krasnogorsk, outside the capital, Moscow, November 11, 2011

Source: Press TV

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned the West against any Libya-style military intervention in Syria, describing any such action against Damascus as unacceptable.

In a meeting with members of the Valdai international discussion group of experts , Putin warned that any action against Syria that could cause the same level of destruction seen in Libya would be “quite unacceptable,” the Independent reported.

The Russian premier also lambasted the US, the UK and France's military involvement in Libya, describing the move as a “complete scandal and a complete affront to the international community.”

Earlier on Monday, Putin accused certain Western powers of hypocrisy in their stances on the recent developments in North African countries.

The Russian premier criticized Western powers for backing the revolutions that led to the toppling of North African regimes they had previously supported.

Russia says it will not support any UN Security Council draft resolution against the Syrian government proposed by the Western countries.

Since March, the United States and NATO unleashed a UN-mandated offensive against the then Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's regime in an alleged attempt to pressure him into giving up power.

Thousands of airstrikes by the Western alliance resulted in the deaths of many Libyan civilians and revolutionary fighters.

Syrian protesters storm Saudi embassy

Syrian protesters raise their national flag on the roof of the Qatari embassy in Damascus on November 12, 2011

Source: Press TV

Syrian protesters have stormed the Saudi and Qatari embassies in Damascus to voice their outrage at an Arab League's decision to suspend Syria's membership in the Pan-Arab body.

The incident occurred late on Saturday when thousands of people poured into the streets of Damascus to stage protest rallies in front of the Qatari, Saudi, Turkish and US embassies.

Demonstrations were also held in Syria's major cities of Aleppo, Raqqa, Lattakia, Tartous, Hasaka and Sweida.

In Damascus, some protesters broke into the Saudi embassy while some accessed the rooftop of the Qatari embassy building and raised the Syrian national flag.

Others pelted the Qatari facility with tomatoes and eggs to protest against Doha for heading the Arab League emergency session, where the suspension was announced earlier in the day.

Chanting slogans in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the protesters then gathered in front of the Turkish and US embassies, condemning the Arab bloc for acting out a plot they said had been hatched by the United States.

A similar protest was held against the Saudi-based Al-Arabiya and the Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channels in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

The angry protesters tried to break into the buildings of news channels, which they blamed for following a US and Israeli agenda against Syria.

The Arab League voted “to suspend Syrian delegations' activities in its meetings” until the peace plan proposed by the body is implemented by the Syrian government.

It also urged Arab countries to recall their ambassadors from Damascus and called for the imposition of economic and political sanctions on Syria.

The announcement of Syria's membership suspension came during an emergency meeting at the League's headquarters in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Syria has been experiencing a deadly unrest since mid-March and according to the United Nations, over 3,500 people have been killed in the violence. Hundreds of Syrian security forces are among the dead.

While the Syrian opposition accuses the security forces of cracking down on what it calls anti-government protesters, Damascus blames the violence on outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups sponsored by foreign countries.

AL suspends Syria, calls for sanctions

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal attends an emergency ministerial meeting at the Arab League's Cairo headquarters on the situation in Syria on November 12, 2011.

Source: Press TV

The Arab League (AL) has announced the suspension of Syria, calling for sanctions to be imposed on the country and inviting the Syrian opposition for transition talks.

AL on Saturday voted “to suspend Syrian delegations' activities in Arab League meetings” until the peace plan proposed by the League is implemented by the Syrian government, APF quoted the Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassem al-Thani as saying.

The League urged Arab countries to recall their ambassadors from Syria and called for the imposition of economic and political sanctions on Syria.

The announcements came during an emergency meeting at the League's headquarters in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

The meeting was held after the AL reached the conclusion that the peace plan, which Syria accepted on November 2, had failed to bring violence to a halt in the country.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March and according to the United Nations, over 3,000 people have been killed in the violence. Hundreds of Syrian security forces are among the dead.

While the Syrian opposition accuses the security forces of cracking down on what it calls anti-government protesters, Damascus blames the violence on outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups sponsored by foreign countries.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crisis in Italy spurs fears of euro zone break-up

A demonstrator waves a flag in front of the Colosseum during a demonstration in Rome, September 6, 2011.

Credit: REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Source: Reuters


(Reuters) - Political and economic crisis in Italy spurred fears of a split in the euro zone with borrowing costs for Europe's third biggest economy near unsustainable levels and the bloc unable to afford a bailout.

The escalating crisis prompted European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to issue a stern warning of the dangers of splitting the zone. EU sources told Reuters French and German officials had held discussions on just such a move.

"There cannot be peace and prosperity in the North or in the West of Europe, if there is no peace and prosperity in the South or in the East," Barroso said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in with a call to arms. She said Europe's plight was now so "unpleasant" that deep structural reforms were needed quickly, warning the rest of the world would not wait. "That will mean more Europe, not less Europe," she told a conference in Berlin.

She called for changes in EU treaties after French President Nicolas Sarkozy advocated a two-speed Europe in which euro zone countries accelerate and deepen integration while an expanding group outside the currency bloc stays more loosely connected -- a signal that some members may have to quit the euro.

"It is time for a breakthrough to a new Europe," Merkel said. "A community that says, regardless of what happens in the rest of the world, that it can never again change its ground rules, that community simply can't survive."

The European Central Bank, the only effective bulwark against market attacks, intervened to buy Italian bonds in large amounts but remained reluctant to go further and Italy's 10-year bond yields shot above 7 percent, a level widely deemed unsustainable, as investor confidence evaporated.

"Financial assistance is not in the cards," one euro zone official said, adding that the bloc was not even considering extending a precautionary credit line to Rome.


Italy replaced Greece at the center of the crisis as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's insistence on elections instead of an interim government threatened prolonged instability.

Having lost his majority in a parliamentary vote, Berlusconi confirmed he would resign after implementing economic reforms demanded by the European Union, and said Italy must then hold an election in which he would not stand.

He opposed any form of transitional or unity government, which the opposition and many in the markets favor, and said polls were not likely until February, leaving a three-month policy vacuum in which markets could create havoc.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said there was no doubt about the resignation of Berlusconi once economic reforms were implemented by parliament within days.

"Therefore, within a short time either a new government will be formed ... or parliament will be dissolved to immediately begin an electoral campaign," Napolitano said.

Even with the exit of a man who came to symbolize scandal and empty promises, it will not be easy for Italy to convince markets it can cut its huge debt, liberalize the labor market, attack tax evasion and boost productivity.

Worries that the debt crisis could be infiltrating the core of the euro zone were reflected in the spread of 10-year French government bonds over their German equivalent blowing out to a euro era high around 140 basis points.


Policymakers outside the euro area kept up pressure for more decisive action to stop the crisis spreading.

Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, told a financial forum in Beijing that Europe's debt crisis risked plunging the global economy into a Japan-style "lost decade."

"If we do not act boldly and if we do not act together, the economy around the world runs the risk of downward spiral of uncertainty, financial instability and potential collapse of global demand."

Berlusconi has reluctantly conceded that the IMF can oversee Italian reform efforts.

Euro zone finance ministers agreed on Monday on a road map for leveraging the 17-nation currency bloc's 440-billion-euro ($600 billion) rescue fund to shield larger economies like Italy and Spain from a possible Greek default.

But there are doubts about the efficacy of those complex plans, and with Italy's debt totaling around 1.9 trillion euros even a larger bailout fund could struggle to cope.

Lagarde said she was hopeful the technical details on boosting the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) to around 1 trillion euros would be ready by December.

Many outside Europe are calling on the ECB to take a more active role as other major central banks do in acting as lender of last resort. German opposition to that remains implacable, seeing it as a threat to the central bank's independence.

"The ECB will be drawn like everyone else by the weight of gravity (to act)," one euro zone official said.


EU sources told Reuters German and French officials had discussed plans for a radical overhaul of the European Union that would involve establishing a more integrated and potentially smaller euro zone.

The discussions among policymakers in Paris, Berlin and Brussels raise the possibility of one or more countries leaving the zone, while the core pushes to deeper economic integration.

In a speech in Berlin, Barroso said Germany's gross domestic product could contract by 3 percent if the 17-member zone shrank and its economy would shed a million jobs.

"What is more, it would jeopardize the future prosperity of the next generation," he said.

Barroso said any push toward deeper integration should not come at the price of new divisions among EU member states.


In Greece, a deal on forming a national unity government collapsed as the country headed toward an economic abyss and revived early on Thursday the chances of former European Central Bank vice president Lucas Papademos heading the coalition.

Papademos made his demands for both major parties to back the bailout package, which includes austerity measures that are likely to prove highly unpopular, amid warnings that Europe is running out of patience with Greece and may cut a financial lifeline that the party leaders seem to take for granted.

On a day that was bizarre and chaotic even by Greek political standards, Prime Minister George Papandreou wished his successor well and headed off to meet the president -- only for it to emerge that there was no successor due to feuding in the political parties.

Papademos, whose candidacy had seemed doomed, insisted that both the socialist and conservative parties sign written undertakings to support Greece's 130-billion-euro bailout, as demanded by the European Union, a government source said.

The outgoing prime minister had agreed to the terms laid down by Papademos, who as Bank of Greece governor oversaw the country's adoption of the euro in 2002, the source said.

(Additional reporting by Dina Kyriakidou and Lefteris Papadimas in Athens, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Kirsten Donovan and William James in London; Writing by Mike Peacock; Editing by Janet McBride and Andrew Roche)

Deal on Greek premier collapses, Papademos re-emerges

Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou holds an emergency cabinet meeting at the parliament in Athens November 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/www.papandreou.gr/Handout

Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - A deal on forming a Greek national unity government collapsed as the country headed toward an economic abyss and revived early Thursday the chances of former European Central Bank vice president Lucas Papademos heading the coalition.

Prime Minister George Papandreou said he was handing over to a coalition that does not exist and then failed to install an old-style politician and personal ally as premier.

On a day that was bizarre and chaotic even by Greek political standards, Papandreou wished his successor well and headed off to meet the president -- only for it to emerge that there was no successor due to feuding in the political parties.

Papademos, whose candidacy had seemed doomed, insisted that both the socialist and conservative parties sign written undertakings to support Greece's 130 billion euro ($176 billion) bailout, as demanded by the European Union, a government source said.

The outgoing prime minister had agreed to the terms laid down by Papademos, who as Bank of Greece governor oversaw the country's adoption of the euro in 2002, the source added.

Papademos made his demands for both major parties to back the bailout package, which includes austerity measures that are likely to prove highly unpopular, amid warnings that Europe is running out of patience with Greece and may cut a financial lifeline that the party leaders seem to take for granted.

Stefanos Manos, a former finance minister, said the behavior of Papandreou and conservative leader Antonis Samaras was undermining Greece's future in the euro and risking a possible return to the national currency.

"The Europeans are sick of us. Papandreou and Samaras don't realize they will stop giving us money and we will return to the drachma," said Manos. "They are going to destroy us. These problems demand decision-making. They can't decide on anything and they are fighting like cat and dog."

Greeks and the nation's international lenders have watched in growing horror for three days as party leaders feuded over a shrinking list of credible candidates to lead the national unity coalition after Papandreou's government imploded.

Greece will run out of money next month unless the new government agrees emergency funding with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, Greece's last remaining lenders.


Earlier, party sources said senior members of the socialist and conservative camps had settled on the speaker of parliament, veteran socialist Filippos Petsalnikos, as the new prime minister -- barring last-minute snags.

Papandreou then gave an emotional television address, supposed to be his last to the nation as premier, saying this deal had saved country's membership of the euro zone.

"I am proud that, despite the difficulties, we avoided bankruptcy and ensured the country stayed on its feet," he said. "I want to wish the new prime minister success, I will support the new effort with all my strength.

"Today, despite our differences -- political and social differences do exist -- we have put aside our fruitless conflict and disagreement," Papandreou said.

Papandreou and Samaras then began talks with President Karolos Papoulias on the new coalition. However, before leaders of smaller parties could join them to seal the coalition, the meeting was abruptly halted.

But snags had indeed emerged, with large sections of Papandreou's PASOK party and the conservative New Democracy refusing to back Petsalnikos.

Party sources said some lawmakers saw him as a pawn of Papandreou. "We wanted a strong a man who could handle all the economic issues," a socialist lawmaker said. "This candidacy is so close to Papandreou's policies, it does not signal the change the Greek people wanted."

The president's office said a meeting of party leaders would be held at 0800 GMT Thursday, although in the current chaotic atmosphere political talks are often delayed or fail to happen at all.

One of the few things that the parties agreed was that early elections be held on February 19. However, the government sources said that Papademos had also stipulated that the coalition's life could extend beyond that date if necessary.

The next government has much to do. As well as winning parliamentary approval for the bailout, it has to pass the 2012 budget and secure the latest 8 billion euro installment of Greece's original rescue that was pulled together last year, to avoid bankruptcy when big debt repayments come due in December.

For its part, the European Union needs to put out the fire in Greece to prove to international financial markets that it can tackle another blaze in Italy, a far bigger economy also in economic and political crisis.

Some lawmakers backed a return to the earlier plan, which had appeared stalled, of recruiting Papademos to give the new government the credibility that politicians lost long ago.

"The only solution is Papademos. If he accepts by tomorrow morning we will be able to form a strong government that will pull the country out of the crisis," socialist lawmaker Spyros Vougias told Reuters.

Papandreou discussed a Papademos candidacy late Wednesday with Samaras, and urged the conservative leader to contact the former ECB policymaker, a government official said.


Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos made a rare intervention in Greek politics Wednesday.

"The uncertainty is hurting the economy and the banking system," Provopoulos told Reuters. "There must be a strong government that will work hard to ensure the country's future in the euro zone."

Greeks have pulled their savings from banks over the past week because of the deepening political crisis and fear of an exit from the euro, banking sources said. [nL6E7M94KI]

They withdrew as much as 5 billion euros -- nearly 3 percent of total deposits -- after Papandreou's shock call last week for a referendum on the euro zone bailout, said one banker, who declined to be named.

"Many people withdrew their money from banks Thursday and Friday and money couriers had a hard time supplying banks with cash to satisfy the emergency demand," said another banking source, who also requested anonymity.

Papandreou provoked uproar with the plan, due to the likelihood voters would have rejected the package, pushing Greece into bankruptcy and casting doubt on its future in the euro. Under intense pressure from home and abroad, he backed down but was forced to make way for the unity coalition.

Many wealthy Greeks moved their money into foreign banks last year as the crisis deepened. Now other people are demanding sometimes large amounts in euro banknotes, fearing that any bank savings might be converted into devalued new drachma if Greece is forced to revert to its national currency.

"We got to the point where customers ordered amounts of up to 600,000 to 700,000 euros in cash to take home -- unbelievable," the first banker said.

(Additional reporting by Harry Papachristou, Lefteris Papdimas, George Georgiopoulos; and Angeliki Koutantou; Writing by David Stamp; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Iran gives NAM data on IAEA report

Iran's envoy to the IAEA Ali-Asghar Soltanieh

Source: Press TV

Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali-Asghar Soltanieh has offered the (Non-Aligned Movement) NAM critical information about Iran's nuclear program amid a publicity hype by the Western media over the latest IAEA report on Tehran's nuclear case.

In an extraordinary session of the NAM, held upon Iran's request on Tuesday, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh answered 20 critical questions about Tehran's nuclear program and a host of related issues.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano's latest report on Iran's nuclear activities was circulated among 35 members of the Board of Governors of the agency on Tuesday evening, almost 10 days ahead of the seasonal meeting of the board, due to take place in Vienna on November 17 and 18.

Amano has reportedly attached a 15-page annexation to his report, which focuses on the issue of Iran's alleged studies in the field of military nuclear activities.

According to some of the Western media speculations, the report makes three claims regarding Iran's nuclear activities, which purport that Tehran is pursuing a covert nuclear military program.

One of the claims has been made over satellite pictures of a steel container supposedly used for testing explosives that might be used to detonate fissile material.

The other claim revolves around Iran's hypothetical attempt to built computer models of a nuclear warhead, still another one conjectures that Tehran appears to have received foreign assistance in its experiments with nuclear material.

Soltanieh on Tuesday provided the NAM member states with detailed answers to 20 key questions about Iran's nuclear program.

Question 1: Has the IAEA detected, after 4000 days of most intensive inspection in the agency's history, even one gram of uranium being diverted for military purposes?

Response: No. Please study all of the reports by the agency's current and former director generals.

Question 2: With respect to nuclear activities and materials which are claimed to have not been declared until 2003, has the IAEA found out that they had been diverted towards military activities?

Response: No. All of these activities and materials were audited by the agency. Please study all the agency's reports to the Board of Governors between 2003 and 2004

Question 3: Was Iran ethically obliged to declare Natanz enrichment facility before 2003?

Response: No. Given that nuclear material had not been introduced into the facility until 2003, Iran was under no obligations to declare it. Particularly since Iran had not signed the Revised Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements, as well as the additional Comprehensive Safeguards (CSA) and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) agreements.

Question 4: Was Iran legally obliged to declare the heavy water research reactor in Arak (IR40) before 2003?

Response: No. Iran was not under any obligation to declare it since no nuclear material had been introduced into it until 2003, particularly since Iran had not signed the Revised Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements until 2003.

Question 5: Had Iran any obligation under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement to report Arak's heavy water production plant to the IAEA before 2003?

Response: No, because heavy water and its products are not covered by the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. Iran started implementing the Additional Protocol in 2003.

Question 6: Was Iran under any legal obligation until 2003 to declare uranium conversion Facilities (UCF)?

Response: No. Since no nuclear material had been introduced into the facility until 2003, Iran was not under any obligations to declare it, particularly given that Iran had not signed the Revised Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements until 2003.

Question 7: Did Iran have any legal obligation to declare uranium mines including Gachin and Saghand mines?

Response: No, because Iran had not signed and implemented the Additional Protocol until 2003.

Question 8: Has the IAEA detected any nuclear material or activity including enrichment in Parchin and Lavizan-Shian, which are claimed to have been part of a nuclear weapons program after the UN agency carried out intensive inspections, including sampling and analyzing?

Response: No. The director general's press statement about Iran on March 6, 2006 reads, “On transparency, I think I mentioned in my report access to military sites, we have been given access to a number of military sites recently, to Parchin, Lavizan, Shian, to dual use equipment, to interview people. These are beyond the Additional Protocol, but they are essential for us to reconstruct the history of the program.”

On November 15, 2004, the director general reported that the agency had been provided access to the Lavizan-Shian military site where the agency took environmental samples. Finally, paragraph 102 of the director general (GOV/2004/83) says, “The vegetation and soil samples collected from the Lavizan-Shian site have been analyzed, and reveal no evidence of nuclear material.” Further information with respect to this issue is available in November 18, 2005 (GOV/2005/87) and February 27, 2006 (GOV/2006/15) documents.

Question 9: Did the IAEA, in its agreed Action Plan (INFOSIRC/711), announce that there is no other issue in addition to what was listed in 2007?

Response: Yes. The paragraph IV of the document (INFOSIRC/711) says that these modalities cover all the remaining issues, and the agency emphasizes that there will be no issues and ambiguities regarding Iran's previous nuclear programs and activities.

Question 10: Was the IAEA bound to submit the documents related to the “Alleged Studies” to the Islamic Republic based on its Action Plan?

Response: Yes. Paragraph III says, “Although the agency will submit the documents to the Islamic Republic, considering the Green Salt Project, experiments of high explosives and carrying missiles with returning abilities, it will also keep them with itself.

Question 11: Did the IAEA fulfill its obligations regarding the submitting of the evidence pertaining to the allegations to Iran?

Response: No. Please study the report by the former director general to the UN Board of Governors, where he correctly criticizes that the certain country that has provided the agency with the evidence on the allegations has not allowed the agency to submit the documents in question to Iran.

Question 12: Has the IAEA confirmed the authenticity of the content of the “Alleged Studies”?

Response: No. Please study the report by the former director general to the UN Board of Governors, where he correctly brought up the authentic problems with the documents. The director general also clearly explained that the nuclear materials and activities in the “Alleged Studies” are not relevant.

Question 13: What was Iran's obligation toward the document INFOSIRC/ 711 regarding the “Alleged Studies”?

Response: In Paragraph III of the document, which was discussed and agreed upon by the IAEA and Iran, and was to be approved by the Board of Governors specifies, “As a sign of the resolve to cooperate with the agency, based on all the related documents received, Iran will study the document and will inform the agency of its evaluation.”

Question 14: Did Iran, under the work plan, have any obligation to hold meetings, interviews or [allow] sampling regarding the “Alleged Studies”?

Response: No. As mentioned in Response 12, Iran was only obliged to inform of its evaluation. Iran has submitted its 117-page evaluation of the past three years. But the agency has not acted on its obligation to end the Action Plan. Accreting to Paragraph IV of the Action Plan, “The agency and Iran agreed that, following the implementation of the Action Plan and the agreed modalities for the negotiation of remaining issues, the implementation of the safeguards in Iran change to continue in the normal and conventional path.”

Notice: Instead of the Action Plan's conclusion, the secretariat introduced new allegations known as “Possible Military Aspects.” But in Paragraph IV of the Work Plan it is affirmed that “no issue has remained and there not any doubts about Iran's nuclear program and previous activities.”

Question 15: Has the Islamic Republic implemented the Additional Protocol?

Response: Yes. Please study the report by the former director general before 2006.

Question 16: Has Iran implemented the Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangement of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement?

Response: Yes. Please study the report by the former director general before 2006.

Question 17: Since when Iran has halted its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and the Modified Code 3.1? Why?

Response: Iran's Majlis (parliament) voted to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and the Modified Code 3.1 (after two years and half) regarding the unfair reference of Iran's technical nuclear case to the United Nations Security Council in 2006. The important point is that the Additional Protocol is not a binding legal tool and the Modified Code 3.1 was merely a suggestion by the Board of Governors and is not part of the legal provisions of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA).

Question 18: Have all Iran's nuclear materials been measured, and are under the complete supervision of the safeguards and remained peaceful?

Response: Yes. Please study the annual Safeguards Implementation Report (SIR).

Question 19: Did Iran itself provide the possibility of unannounced inspections?

Response: Yes. The agency conducted more than 100 unannounced inspections in Iran. The advance-notice for some of them were issued only two hours before the inspection.

Question 20: Why does Iran deem the resolutions by the Board of Governors and the UN Security Council as illegal?

Response: A. In accordance with Article 12 C under the IAEA statute, if the inspectors notice any “non-compliance,” they should report the same to the director general and the later should report to the Board of Governors thereafter. Followingly, the Board will notify the report to the United Nations. None of these procedures have been applied with regard to Iran.

After three years elapsed since 2003, when the issue was raised at the Board of Governors, some members of the Board claimed that there had been “non-compliance” prior to 2003. Nonetheless, the director general did not use the legal term “non-compliance” and instead used the word “failure,” which has also been used with regard to the other countries, which implement the CSA. Based on this agreement, the issue will be considered as concluded after corrective measures are adopted. The former director general clearly confirmed in his report that Iran took all the corrective measures.

B. Article 12 C mentioned in the Board's resolutions speak of “recipient member states,” which have misused the nuclear materials delivered from the Agency. Iran has never received the nuclear materials mentioned in the relevant provisions under the Statute.

C. According to the Statute and the CSA, if the Agency discovers that the nuclear materials have been diverted to military purposes, it will notify the UN Security Council of the same. All the reports submitted by the incumbent and former dire generals so far contain no evidence of nuclear diversion.

D. Based on the CSA, if a member state does not allow the inspectors to enter the country and as a result the IAEA cannot conduct its verification activities, the Agency will notify the UN Security Council of the issue. All the reports by the director general since 2003 have explicitly announced that the Agency is able to continue its verification activities in Iran.

E. The resolutions by three EU member states against Iran from 2003 to 2006 have recognized Iran's move to suspend its uranium enrichment activities as a non-binding, voluntary and trust-building measure. Therefore, the Board of Governors 's resolutions which referred Iran's nuclear issue to the UN Security Council, after Iran decided to suspend its UCF activities voluntarily, are totally in contradiction with the Board's previous resolutions.

It should be mentioned that when the three EU member states proposed the anti-Iran resolutions at the Board of Governors in 2006 with political motives and in an attempt to involve the UN Security Council in an IAEA-related technical issue, enrichment activities in Natanz were still suspended voluntarily.

The last question from peace-seeking nations:

Based on the abovementioned facts, should we allow the IAEA, as the only international body tasked with promotion of peaceful use of nuclear energy for the achievement of peace and prosperity, to be manipulated as a tool by a number of countries which seek to turn the Agency into a watchdog utterly malleable into the hands of the UN Security Council and deprive the developing countries of their “absolute right” to use peaceful nuclear energy as stipulated in the IAEA Statute?

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