Archive for June 21, 2012

By BASSEM MROUE and JAMAL HALABY | Associated Press
(June 21st 2012 Thursday)

BEIRUT (AP) — A Syrian fighter jet made an emergency landing Thursday at a northern Jordanian airbase, a Jordanian government official said.

The official says the Russian-made MiG-21 landed at the King Hussein Air Base in Mafraq, a north Jordanian town near the Syrian border.

He declined to provide other details. Two other officials gave similar accounts.

All three spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, Ahmad Kassem, said the plane had defected to Jordan and that its pilot was seeking political asylum. He said the group had encouraged the pilot to defect.

Syria’s state-run TV reported earlier that authorities have lost contact with a MiG-21 that was on a training mission in the country. The report gave no further details.

Since an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March last year, Syrian troops have refrained from using military warplanes against rebels.


Associated Press writer Jamal Halaby reported from Amman, Jordan

Thu Sep 8, 2011

Iran is to dispatch its twelfth humanitarian aid convoy to famine-hit Somalia as part of attempts to help the people of the Horn of Africa nation, Press TV reported.

Head of Iran’s Red Crescent Society (IRCS) Public Relations Pouya Hajian said that the twelfth humanitarian aid shipment for drought-stricken Somalia has been loaded into a cargo plane at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.

The IRCS official added that the 35-ton aid cargo comprising canned food, tents, legumes, rice and flour will be dispatched to Mogadishu’s Aden-Adde International Airport on Thursday night.

He said that Iran’s eleventh aid convoy for Somalia left Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport for Mogadishu on Thursday.

The 40-ton consignment of the Islamic Republic’s humanitarian aid comprised legumes, flour, rice, tents, moquette and milk powder.

Hajian also pointed out that Iran’s sixth relief camp in Mogadishu was inaugurated in the presence of IRCS Secretary General Zaher Rostami on Thursday.

The camp, which will be used to provide centralized command for other Iranian camps in the Somali capital, will cover 1,000 Somali families and house a field hospital.

Five hundred Somali families have been settled in every Iranian camp in Mogadishu.

The United Nations says that more than thirteen children out of every 10,000 aged less than five die in the Somalia’s famine zone every day.

Reports say that aid agencies can take food supplies to only a limited number of people affected by the disaster since insecurity hinders efforts in much of the country’s south.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew the country’s former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Source: PressTV.

Fri Sep 9, 2011

Parts of the wall recently built around the Israeli embassy in Cairo, to protect the facility from Egyptian demonstrators has been torn down by angry protesters.

Following the Friday Prayers, protesters and activists gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo, demanding the termination of all ties with Tel Aviv.

Egyptians called for the expulsion of the Israeli envoy and chanted anti-Israeli slogans.

However, heavily equipped Egyptian security forces prevented the crowd from reaching inside the embassy compound.

Egyptian protesters were angry at the country’s ruling military council, which had made the wall, saying this is not what they had a revolution for.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, but the situation has drastically changed since the Egyptian revolution which toppled former dictator Hosni Mubarak. A number of Egyptian political parties are now calling for changes to the peace treaty.

Under the US-backed Mubarak regime, Egypt consistently served Israeli interests and objectives by helping to impose the crippling blockade on the impoverished Gaza strip after the democratically elected Hamas took control of the territory in 2007.

The crippling blockade on the territory has triggered a humanitarian crisis. The siege has left nearly one and a half million Gazans in dire need of basic supplies.

Source: PressTV.

In Egypt, work is a way of life for children, even at Tahrir Square protests

CAIRO — Mona was handing out bottles of water, collecting 1.5 Egyptian pounds apiece and placing it quickly into the small little pouch that held the money she had gathered for the day. It was hot, the July sun beating down on thousands of protestors as they staged a sit-in in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square.

Her customers were demanding greater change and social justice. However, for Mona — age 12 and an obvious candidate to benefit from the protestors’ agenda — the mass demonstration was nothing more than a perfect opportunity for her family to put her to work.

“They believe it’s a great chance to make extra money this summer because it’s hot and people need water,” the girl, dressed in an all-black galabeya, told The Media Line. She was one of a number of young workers’ braving the summer heat to earn a few extra pounds. “The money goes to my family, but they don’t come here to help.”

She is one of millions of young children forced into the labor market by their family or by poverty. Without social-support systems in the country, young children like Mona face long work days in order to earn extra money for their families. They don’t see much, if any, of the earnings.

“I’ve sold a lot of water, but when I get home, my father takes the money and goes out. I don’t like it, but they tell me I have to do this,” the young girl, who says she hasn’t attended school in two years and has spent the past three weeks in Tahrir selling water to local activists.

In July, Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) said that their latest national survey revealed the number of working children in the country was at 5.1 million.

The survey included children between the ages of five and 17. With Egypt’s economy in the doldrums and inflation accelerating, it is likely that more children have been joining the workforce this year.

Gen. Abou Bakr Al-Gendy, head of CAPMAS, said at a press conference to release the statistics that 46% of working children are between the ages of 15 and 17 and that 4.87 million of those give their parents the money they earn. A little more than a fifth of working children are female. He added that 120,000 of the working children do not attend school and 487,000 have dropped out completely.

Al-Gendey adds that the largest percentage of the children work in agriculture, where the rate of females is higher, although he did not give a specific number.

Egypt’s under-14 population numbers about 26.8 million, so if CAPSMAS figures are correct about 10% of the country’s children are employed.

Al-Gendey, speaking to The Media Line in late August, said the government is looking to implement a new series of strategies that will tackle the rise in young children working for their families instead of going to school.

“We are currently developing a number of ideas that will hopefully help remove young boys and girls from the streets,” he says. “One of those ways is to improve the minimum wage in Egypt. With such low wages, families often feel they have to have their children on the streets working so they can eat daily, but this can end when the parents are receiving appropriate salaries.”

Ironically, the activists in Tahrir who bought water from the young workers have been calling for greater social justice and an increase in the minimum wage. However, for many of the activists the scene was a sign that change is not going to come, either from the government or what a handful of protesters said was the “hypocrisy of the protesters themselves.”

Farah al-Ghoneim, a 22-year-old university student studying journalism, says she has been a part of the protest movement since it erupted on January 25, but became alienated from it with the anti-military stances taken by the Tahrir sit-in demonstrators in July and from the failure to give priority to Egypt’s poorest.

“I was there because I honestly believe we can have a better country based on democracy and social justice, but when we sit there and chant for democracy and social justice and don’t demand as our top priorities a better life for those who suffer greatest, it hurts and is not useful,” she says.

Mohamed, a 19-year-old carpenter in the Cairo neighborhood of Sayeda Zeinab, agrees. He knows about life on the street and child workers. He spent his teenage years working long hours to help support his parents, who couldn’t find much work for themselves apart from a few odd jobs. When he was 17 years old, he refused to work from sunrise to well past sunset, and decided to leave.

“I knew it would hurt them and they would struggle, but I spent seven years working so much and didn’t go to school. I can barely read. At least now I have work, but it isn’t right,” he explains. “When I saw the revolution start I was so excited because I believed it would help the young people who struggle in this country. But it’s done very little, and more children are on the streets. It isn’t right.”

Mohamed pulls out his hands and reveals massive scaring. He says he had to learn on the job growing up and many times the nail would miss its spot and lodge in his hand. For him, minimum wage and education are part of the battle.

“We need to know that children deserve to go to school and not be working because it is not good,” he says, pointing out that he agrees the military is not doing enough now to change the country. “But the activists aren’t thinking about the people either, they only care about being famous.”

That appears to be the crux of the matter for the younger generation forced to work on the streets for long hours in order to bring home a few extra pounds. With nearly half of Egypt’s 80 million people living on roughly $2 per day, those extra pounds do go far, but at what cost, asked Al-Gundey.

“We have a major problem with working children and it has to be solved. Higher wages and better social problems can ease this, but it takes society to demand change,” he argues.

For Mona, who has moved to the busy Qasr Al-Aini street within stones throw of the square since the military forcibly removed the protesters from Tahrir Square, life remains much as it has for the past few years. She wakes up early, takes what little money her parents give her and heads out, bucket and ice in hand.

“I do this everyday and we usually make around 15 pounds a day,” she says. Asked about friends and school, she turns her eyes to the ground. “I don’t have friends and I don’t go to school. I am very sad.”

By Joseph Mayton on Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Source: The Media Line.


Gulf country plans to develop 45,000 hectares as it boosts food security, will use most technological advances to overcome natural challenges.

Many Gulf countries have been investing in foreign farmland, mainly in fertile Africa, to serve as their bread basket.

But Qatar has recently announced that it was going to boost its own food security and start investing in a master plan to turn 45,000 hectares (111,000 acres) of its own land into farms. The government’s Qatar National Food Security Program says its plan is to achieve self-sufficiency using the most modern technological advances to feed its booming population.

At the moment, Qatar, an arid country of some 1.8 million inhabitants jutting off Saudi Arabia into the Gulf, can only produce about 10% of its food needs and is desperately reliant on imports. Greenhouses are a rarity at the moment and they exist only about 1% of cultivated land, according Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

As a first step, Qatar plans to set up 1,400 farms, according to Mohamed Al-Attiyah, chairman of the Qatar National Food Security Program. He said these will use the latest agricultural technology and train more people to work in the agricultural sector to improve productivity.

Currently, only 1.6 % of Qatar is arable land and agriculture only contributes 0.1% to gross national product, according to the FAO. Attiyah noted that existing farms were working at only 10% of their capacity since it suffered from a lack of qualified staff and water shortages.

Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, issued a decree calling for a master plan to be ready by 2013 and for full food security to be reached within a decade.

“This decree is an important message that demonstrates Qatar’s willingness to overcome one of its main challenges,” Attiyah said.

Pedro Berliner, an expert in dryland agriculture and director of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, said this was feasible, but that Qatar faced many obstacles.

“Technology has been able to overcome many natural conditions. You can desalinate water, and add fertilizer. You don’t even need soil and can grow plants hydroponically. It all depends on the costs,” Berliner told The Media Line. “You could grow wheat in a greenhouse, but it would cost about five times what you’d pay on the market.”

This also would require a very high degree of technological skill and you have to acquire that or seek out the alternatives and bring in trained foreign workers, Berliner added.

Attiyah warned in a recent interview with The Peninsula newspaper in Qatar that climate change and water shortages “could pose a very serious problem for future development.”

According to the World Bank, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states of Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates import some 90% of the food they need to feed their 40 million-strong population at a cost in 2010 of $25.8 billion. Qatar itself imports some $1.3 billion in food annually.

“High dependence on imports makes the GCC food supply very vulnerable and highly dependent on the world food market. In the past, any form of disruption in food imports, either due to policy restrictions by exporting countries or natural calamities has affected the region significantly,” according to a recent report by Alpen Capital Investment Bank.

The oil boom brought a population explosion to Qatar and the rest of the Gulf states and food production has not been able to keep pace. Furthermore, food prices and oil prices are interconnected. As oil prices rose so too did food prices. Wealthy Arab states have been trying to create a food pipeline to stave off riots.

In an effort to improve their food security Gulf state countries have been buying up tracts of fertile, but often underutilized land in African countries like Ethiopia, Sudan and Mozambique. Qatar recently leased 400,000 hectares of farmland in Kenya in the Tana River Delta to grow food for home in exchange for a $3.5 billion loan to the government. This “land grab” has raised alarms by these countries who fear they won’t be left with any food for their own people.

The announcement by the chairman of the Qatar National Food Security Program to improve domestic food production seems to reflect a little paranoia that in times of crisis, it would not be able to import food for its residents.

“This is the opposite of globalization,” said Berliner of the Blaustein Institute. “In a global world everyone provides their best product and they are traded around the world so you have what you need. This is going the other way around. It would seem that they do not want to be affected by globalization.”

Source: The Jerusalem Post.

Tripoli (AFP)
Sept 8, 2011

Nearly all of Tripoli has regained access to running water after nearly two weeks of shortages, the head of a prime ministerial task force told AFP on Thursday.

“Nearly 90% of Tripoli has water again,” Aref al-Nayed said, reporting that engineers had managed to restore the flow from wells in the deep south after an interruption that left four million people in the greater Tripoli area without war.

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator Panos Moumtzis had earlier described the shortages as “serious” and “the most important and urgent and immediate priority” for humanitarian agencies.

Residents of the capital had been without running water as the war forced disruptions to Libya’s state-of-the-art system that draws water from underground aquifers deep in the Sahara.

The United Nations and other international actors had said they were importing about 11 million liters of drinking water to stave off an emergency, as engineers raced to get the system back on line.

Nayed, who head the prime minister’s stabilization team, said the more than 580 wells linked to the Great Man Made River system were again feeding the city.

“They had to reset the systems manually and before, that was not possible. For security reasons, they could not get to the stations.

“There was no major damage but some equipment was stolen,” he said.

Source: Terra Daily.

7 September 2011

According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, the Mujahideen of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula liberated another town, Rowda, on Tuesday.

It is located in the southeastern province of Shabwa, next to the Islamic Emirate of Abyan.

It is to be recalled that the AP reported that the city was already under the control of the Mujahideen. But apparently it was not under the full control, and only a group of the Mujahideen of al-Qaeda was present in the town.

Xinhua report referring to provincial police of the Saleh’s regime that Rowda is located a few kilometers from a base of the French company TOTAL, which is engaged in illegal extraction of natural gas in Yemen.

Another puppet official said that there had been heavy fightings for Rowda, and the Saleh’s troops were supported by combat aviation, but the puppets were forced to retreat under the attacks from the Mujahideen.

For obvious reasons, the Democratic media report very scanty and partial information about the success of the Mujahideen.

It is now known that the Mujahideen started to move towards the port town of Balhaf. The fighters of al-Qaida intend to besiege the Saleh’s troops, who are guarding the headquarters of the French natural gas production giant corporation TOTAL, said a puppet official.

It is to be recalled Shabwa, which is located about 458 km south-east of the capital Sana’a, is yet another bastion of al-Qaeda along with the Islamic Emirate of Abyan.

It is also a home to a famous Islamic preacher Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki.

In the province of Shabwa which borders the IEA, Saleh’s military units have been already fighting with the Mujahideen of al-Qaeda, for several months (since May 29).

More recently, the puppets have taken a massive offensive against the Mujahideen, but thanks to a coordinated action of the Islamic fighters, it was repulsed.

Now the IEA has under its control the towns of Zinjibar (the capital of the Islamic Emirate), Shaqra, and Jaar, as well as large parts of the coastal area of Dovis.

Xinhua added referring to spy sources of Saleh’s regime that the fighters of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula increase the intensity of attacks on Saleh’s troops, stationed in the province Lahj near the border with the Abyan, thus preventing the transfer of soldiers from the largest military base in Yemen, al-Anad, located in the province, to Abyan and Shabwa to support local puppet forces.

Meanwhile, Eurasia Review reports that the puppets once again conducted air strikes on the town of Jaar. They bombed a mosque. As a result, 31 peaceful Muslims martyred.

Department of Monitoring
Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.

Friday 9 September 2011

BEIRUT: A leading human rights group says Syrian security forces have “forcibly removed” 18 wounded people from a hospital in the restive central city of Homs.

Human Rights Watch cited reports from witnesses, including doctors, in its report that was released late Thursday.

The accusations stem from a military siege in Homs on Wednesday, when activists said at least 20 people were killed.

The New York-based rights group also says Syrian security forces prevented medical personnel from reaching the wounded in the city that day.

The UN estimates that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown has killed some 2,200 people since the country’s uprising began in March.

Source: Arab News.

Fri Sep 9, 2011

Anti-government protesters have poured into the streets of the Jordanian capital, Amman, to reject constitutional reforms proposed by the government.

Protesters say the amendments proposed by the Royal Commission do not meet their demanded reforms. Jordanian lawmakers are currently debating the proposed constitutional reforms.

The proposed reforms include the creation of an independent commission to oversee elections, lowering the age of candidates for parliament from 35 to 25 and limiting the jurisdiction of the military state security court.

But the opposition has described the proposed amendments as insufficient, saying they do not meet their key demands for a new electoral law and an elected prime minister.

“We rejected these amendments and we will never admit them as a constitution as long as it does not address the essence of the crisis,” said protester Ali Abu Sukar.

Protesters also demanded Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit’s resignation, an end to government corruption and the dissolution of parliament.

Smaller demonstrations were also reported in other parts of Jordan.

Jordan has faced anti-government rallies demanding reforms and an end to corruption since January.

In June, in a bid to appease protesters, King Abdullah II announced some concessions, including the formation of future governments that were based on an elected parliamentary majority rather than one appointed by the monarch.

However, he later said it may take two to three years to put an elected government in place.

Source: PressTV.

June 21, 2012

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s ruling party has confirmed it will nominate outgoing textile minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin as its candidate for prime minister on Thursday, moving quickly after the former premier was ousted by the Supreme Court for contempt of court, a presidential spokesman said.

Shahabuddin, who is considered a Pakistan People’s Party loyalist, will file nomination papers in parliament by midday, said presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar. The PPP’s coalition has a majority in parliament and barring last minute surprises is expected to be able to vote him into office in a session scheduled for Friday.

Yousuf Raza Gilani was dismissed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday for contempt of court for failing to initiate a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the PPP. That was the climax of a bruising power struggle between the government and activist judges. PPP politicians almost immediately began to circulate Shahabuddin’s name as a replacement.

The next prime minister will likely also face the same order from the Supreme Court to investigate Zardari, meaning political instability will continue until the government’s term ends in March 2013. The Gilani government has been widely criticized for exacerbating or doing nothing to address the massive economic and security challenges in the country.

Stability in Pakistan is seen as vital to American goals of withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014 and long-term victory against international jihadist terrorism. But relations between Washington and Islamabad are strained over a host of issues, including blocked war supply lines to Afghanistan and Pakistan’s alleged support for the Afghan Taliban.

The dismissal of Gilani has made it more likely that polls will now be held before next year, possibly as early as November. Elections in Pakistan must be held under a supposedly neutral caretaker government in place three months before polling day, meaning the current government could be dissolved as early as August.

Shahabuddin, 65, comes from a wealthy, landowning family based in the central Pakistani district of Rahim Yar Khan. His father had served as minister in the cabinets of two Pakistani governments. He also served as minister for finance and health in the current government.