Archive for August, 2012


By Qusai Ja’roun

AMMONNEWS – The Head of Hamas’ political bureau Khaled Meshaal on Thursday arrived in Jordan coming from Syria on a personal visit.

A source close to Meshaal told Ammon News that the Hamas leader’s arrived in Jordan to visit his mother, who is ill.

Thursday’s visit is the second of its kind since the expulsion of the Hamas leadership from Jordan in August 1999, the latest visit was in 2009 when Meshaal came to Jordan to attend his father’s funeral.

Meshaal has been the main leader of Hamas since the 2004 assassination of Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, and heads the political bureau of Hamas in Syria, where he has been headquartered since 2001.

Minister of Interior Mazen Sakit said on Thursday that Meshaal was allowed to enter Jordan for a limited time upon his request to visit his sick mother.

Source: Ammon News.

August 23, 2012

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels waged fierce battles with regime troops in a town along the Iraqi border on Thursday, capturing a string of security posts and the local police headquarters despite heavy government shelling and airstrikes by warplanes, activists said.

Taking full control of al-Bukamal, located in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour and across the border from the Iraqi town of Qaim, would expand the rebel foothold along the frontier with Iraq. The border crossing point has been in rebel hands since last month, although government troops have remained in control of much of the town, activists say.

The opposition already controls a wide swath of territory along the border with Turkey in the north as well as pockets along the frontier with Jordan to the south and Lebanon to the west, which has proven key in ferrying people and material into and out of the country.

Rebels have been fighting troops for days in al-Bukamal, but over the past few hours have taken over several checkpoints, the main police station and the local command of the Political Security Directorate, one of Syria’s powerful intelligence agencies, according to Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

He added that government troops are still control of the border crossing point leading to Iraq. “There is an attempt to take full control al-Bukamal,” Abdul-Rahman said. The Local Coordination Committees activist group said warplanes bombed al-Bukamal, but Abdul-Rahman said the jets were flying over the town and struck nearby areas, not the town itself.

Abu-Omar al-Deery, an activist in the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour, said by telephone that there are “fierce battles” in al-Bukamal and that “the Free Syrian Army is trying to liberate and clean the city.”

There was no immediate word on casualties. The main battle fronts in the past month have been in the capital, Damascus, as well as the northern city of Aleppo, where regime forces have struggled to stamp out a rebel offensive that began last month and succeeded in capturing several neighborhoods in the city of 3 million people.

In a report released Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International said artillery and mortar fire and airstrikes by government forces in Aleppo are killing mostly civilians, including children. It said air and artillery strikes against residential neighborhoods are indiscriminate attacks that seriously endanger civilians.

Amnesty said that during a 10-day fact-finding visit to Aleppo city in the first half of August, Amnesty investigated some 30 attacks in which more than 80 civilians, who were not directly participating in hostilities, were killed and many more were injured.

Amnesty said that among the dead were 10 members of one family, seven of them children. Their home was destroyed in two airstrikes on Aug. 6. It said bodies of mostly young men, most of them handcuffed and shot in the head, have been frequently found near the local headquarters of the powerful Air Force Intelligence, which is in a government-controlled area.

Activists say more than 20,000 people have been killed since Syria’s crisis erupted in March last year. The uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began with largely peaceful protests but has since morphed into a civil war that has spread to almost all areas of the country.

In the Damascus suburb of Daraya, the Local Coordination Committees activist group said government shelling killed a mother and her five children. It said the six were members of al-Sheik family and had fled from their hometown of Maadamiyeh to escape the violence.

An amateur video showed the five children draped in which shrouds with their faces showing during the funeral. The body of the mother was all covered.


AMMONNEWS – The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the recent adoption of Article 23 (A draft law for the Authority of Anti-Corruption presented by the executive power) by the Jordanian Parliament, which criminalizes publishing information about corruption with a fine of 30,000 to 60,000 Jordanian Dinars (approx. US$42,000 to US$84,600). The article was approved by 56 members out of the 96 who attended the session, which was held on the morning of 27 September.

Under Article 23, “Whoever unlawfully spreads, publishes, refers or helps in the publication of news by any public means about any person accused of the crimes of corruption which is mentioned in Article 5 of this law and that leads to defamation, impacts on his dignity or targets his personality, will be punished by a fine not less than 30,000 Jordanian Dinars and not more than 60,000 Jordanian Dinars.” This means that journalists, bloggers and activists in Jordan will risk prosecution and a steep fine for publishing any news or information about corruption.

ANHRI pointed out that “the adoption of this article by the Parliament is not only considered to be an attack on freedom of expression and gagging of journalists, but is also a violation against the rights of citizens to circulate information on corruption, which must be shared with public opinion as it affects all classes of people directly.”

“This oppressive article that was adopted by the Parliament is considered to be an endorsement for corruption in Jordan. It does not provide any benefit to the people in Jordan. On the contrary, it aims to protect some people in power and could provoke suspicions of corruption against them,” said ANHRI.

“The adoption of this article by the Parliament is shocking, particularly since the main role of the Parliament is to represent the people and express their interests, limit corruption and curb it. This legislative addition makes us wonder because by adopting this article, it went from guarding against corruption to condoning it. The Jordanian authorities must reevaluate the issue of adopting and applying these arbitrary legal restrictions,” ANHRI added.

Source: Ammon News.

Sep 29, 2011

Riyadh – Saudis went to the polls Thursday to elect municipal councils amid a low turnout, according to local monitors.

‘The voter turnout has so far been weak because Thursday is an official holiday in the kingdom,’ said one monitor. Kateb al-Shamri, another Saudi monitor, however, expected the turnout to increase later in the day.

‘It takes around five minutes to cast one’s ballot because organization inside polling stations are good,’ he said. ‘There will be a strong turnout in the afternoon.’

Polling booths opened across the country at 0800 local time (0500 GMT) and were due to close at 1700.

Thursday’s elections, the only ones in the oil-rich kingdom, are the last to be held without women voters.

Municipal elections this year are only the second in the conservative kingdom’s history. The first were held in 2005.

Around 5,000 candidates are running for 1,056 seats at 285 councils across the kingdom, the spokesman for the electoral commission, Jadeeh bin Nahar, said on Wednesday. They are being monitored by some 500 Saudi lawyers and activists.

On Sunday, Saudi King Abdullah decided to allow women to run for the next municipal elections and be appointed as members of parliament.

Source: Monsters and Critics.

Sept. 28, 2011

The confrontation between Israel, Turkey and Cyprus over gas fields in the Mediterranean has worsened as a Turkish research ship began drilling off Cyprus.

LIMASSOL, Cyprus, Sept. 28 (UPI) — The confrontation between the energy-poor states of Israel, Turkey and Cyprus over gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean has worsened as a Turkish research ship began exploratory drilling off war-divided Cyprus.

“We have an economic energy conflict that now is kind of coinciding with a political crisis and it’s an explosive situation,” said Israeli energy specialist Amit Mor.

The vessel, the Koca Piri Reis named after a 16th-century Ottoman admiral, was escorted by a Turkish navy frigate and circling warplanes.

In what appeared to be a deliberate provocation, it started drilling Monday 50 miles off the Greek-controlled southern sector of Cyprus.

That was in retaliation for exploratory drilling by the Texas company Nobel Energy company in nearby waters off the south of the island. Nobel discovered major natural gas fields off Israel in 2009-10 linked to gas deposits off Cyprus.

Israel plans to join forces with the Greek Cypriots to transport their combined gas exports via underwater pipelines to Europe through Greece, Turkey’s longtime adversary.

Turkey was once a strategic ally of Israel but they split over Israel’s 44-year-old occupation of Palestinian land and the killing of nine Turks by Israeli naval commandos who intercepted a humanitarian aid convoy headed for the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip May 31, 2010.

Israel has infuriated Turkey by refusing Ankara’s repeated demands for an apology for the bloodletting in international waters.

Turkey and Greece are historical rivals, even though both are NATO members.

The Turks invaded Cyprus in 1974, seizing the northern part of the island and proclaiming it the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Only Ankara recognizes the breakaway enclave. The Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia is recognized worldwide.

Muslim Turkey, which is striving to become the major power in the region, has threatened to use naval power to prevent drilling until there is a peace agreement between the Cypriot factions, including a sharing of the proceeds from gas exports.

Ankara has also warned that Turkish warships will escort any further aid convoys to Gaza to break the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian coastal enclave.

The Turks have reportedly deployed fighter aircraft in northern Cyprus.

That heightens the threat of a naval confrontation that could impede offshore drilling operations and damage the long-term economic prospects of not only Israel and Cyprus but other littoral states like Syria and Lebanon.

Tiny Lebanon, whose only natural resource is water, is already in dispute with Israel over the rich gas fields found by Nobel Energy off Haifa that contain an estimated 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Both countries, technically in a state of war, have threatened military action.

“The confirmation of hydrocarbon deposits in the Levant Basin has stoked already tense relations between the energy-poor states of the eastern Mediterranean,” Oxford Analytica observed in an analysis Wednesday.

“The prospect these discoveries offer long-term energy security and significant new revenue streams have revived two long-standing disputes over offshore sovereignty — between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey and between Israel and Lebanon.

“Amid a deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations, these developments are forging new alliances and contributing to the reshaping of regional politics,” the analysis noted.

“Turkey will do everything it can to help the Lebanese argument regarding its territorial waters and drilling rights,” said Mor.

“I’m much more worried about possible clashed between Israeli and Turkish ships in the Cyprus area than in the Gaza area.”

The energy stakes are high, which suggests the countries involved could at some point resort to military action to protect their economic prizes.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported in 2010 that the Levant Basin, which encompasses the territorial waters of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Gaza Strip, Cyprus and possibly Egypt, contains up to 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas and perhaps 2 billion barrels of oil.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized Ankara’s determination to enforce its will when he attended the induction of Turkey’s first domestically built warship, a 300-foot corvette Heybeliada, into the navy Thursday.

He pointedly noted that the ceremony took place on the 473rd anniversary of the Battle of Preveza in northwestern Greece, where an Ottoman fleet destroyed a large Christian force.

“I recommend the international community take the necessary lessons from the Preveza victory,” Erdogan declared.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

August 23, 2012

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani officials say heavy monsoon rains that triggered flooding in the country’s north have caused at least 22 deaths.

Sardar Nawaz Khan, a disaster management official, says at least 13 people died on Wednesday in the northeast in Pakistan-held Kashmir. Nine of the dead belonged to three families who were buried alive when the roofs of their houses caved in.

Another official, Adnan Khan, says nine people died Wednesday in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Six of the deaths occurred in Mansehra district, and three in Nowshera district. Both officials spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday.

Pakistan suffered the worst flooding in its 65-year history in 2010. Floodwaters inundated one-fifth of the country, an area larger than England, and killed over 1,700 people. Over 20 million people were affected.

August 22, 2012

BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian civil war has spilled over into Lebanon, bringing with it sectarian street clashes, mob violence and general government paralysis in Beirut.

But it was the dramatic arrest earlier this month of a former Lebanese government minister and prominent supporter of Syria’s embattled president that has suggested the conflict may be causing Lebanon to slip further away from Damascus’ long domination.

The bloodshed in Syria has drawn Lebanon deeper into the unrest — a troubling sign for a country that has gone through its own 15-year civil war and has an explosive sectarian mix as well as deep divisions between pro- and anti-Syrian factions, many of which are armed.

The chaos could give Sunni Muslim fighters in northern Lebanon more leeway to establish supply lines to the rebels inside Syria in their battle to oust President Bashar Assad. Tensions and intermittent fighting in the northern Lebanon city of Tripoli continued Wednesday following two days of clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups that killed at least six people and wounded more than 70.

In New York, United Nations political chief Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council Wednesday that as the crisis in Syria continues to deteriorate, “the situation in Lebanon has become more precarious and the need for continued international support to the government and the Lebanese Armed Forces increasingly important.”

Feltman said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about two-way arms smuggling across the Syrian-Lebanese border, which poses risks to both countries and violates a council resolution that ended the month-long war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanese politics.

Seventeen times bigger than Lebanon and four times more populous, Syria has long had powerful allies here, including the Iran-backed militant Hezbollah group that now dominates the government. For much of the past 30 years, Lebanese have lived under Syrian military and political domination.

That grip began to slip in 2005, when former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in Beirut. Widely accused of involvement— something it has always denied — Syria was forced to withdraw its troops. But the killings of anti-Syrian figures continued and opponents of Assad’s regime say he has maintained his influence through allies who now control the government.

All this made the Aug. 9 arrest of former Information Minister Michel Samaha all the more shocking. Samaha, one of Syria’s most loyal allies in Lebanon who has long acted as an unofficial media adviser to Assad, was plucked from his bed at dawn by special police forces who burst into his summer mountain home. Within hours, various leaks began emerging that Samaha had confessed to having personally transported explosives in his car from Syria to Lebanon with the purpose of killing Lebanese personalities at the behest of Syria.

Two days later, a military court indicted Samaha, along with Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks inside Lebanon. Mamlouk, who was appointed last month by Assad to head Syria’s National Security Bureau, was indicted in absentia on charges he furnished the explosives to Samaha.

According to a senior Lebanese police official, Samaha confessed after he was confronted with audio and video footage taken by a double agent using a camera-equipped pen. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.

The case stunned many in Lebanon, where political assassinations have occurred with impunity for decades. While Syria has been blamed for many of the killings, no one has been held accountable. Syria’s allies in Lebanon — including Hezbollah — were mostly silent following Samaha’s arrest, apparently believing that the evidence against him was solid.

“I think the policy (in Lebanon) has been shifting away from alliance with Syria,” said Ayham Kamel, a Middle East analyst at the Eurasia Group in London. “The Syrian regime has been under intense pressure, so its allies in Lebanon have recalibrated.”

Syria’s opponents in Lebanon cited the Samaha case as proof that Damascus was trying to incite sectarian strife in its neighbor to deflect attention from its own problems, and they called for the Syrian ambassador to be expelled.

In unusually bold comments by a Lebanese head of state, President Michel Suleiman said he expected Assad to explain the situation. “When any relationship with a foreign entity harms Lebanon, we end it. And when the relationship is again in Lebanon’s interest, we reinstate it,” Suleiman said in an apparent reference to Syria. His comments were published in the Lebanese media.

Analysts say Suleiman is aiming to be the new face of a more independent Lebanon, taking advantage of a weakened regime in Syria. Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who heads a government dominated by Hezbollah and pro-Syrian groups, said he isn’t taking sides in the Syria crisis, adopting a policy of “disassociation.” Critics say that has led to a general government paralysis in which authorities are afraid to take sides when it comes to Lebanon’s feuding pro- and anti-Syrian camps.

Mikati commended the security operation that resulted in Samaha’s arrest, saying it saved Lebanon from “major disaster.” “The Syrian regime’s allies are shrinking. The Lebanese government, which was ‘Made in Syria,’ was among the regime’s last allies, and they seem to be losing even that,” said Hadi Hobeish, an anti-Syrian lawmaker.

Syria accuses Sunni groups in Lebanon of trying to establish a supply line to Syrian rebels across Lebanon’s northern frontier, bringing across fighters and weapons. The Lebanese military has been deployed along the porous border area to try to prevent the smuggling efforts, but if Beirut turns against Damascus, such operations could become easier to carry out.

Even Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group backed by Iran and Syria, has sought to distance itself from the turmoil in Syria. When Shiite clans abducted scores of Syrians in Lebanon last week in retaliation for a kidnapping by Syrian rebels in Damascus, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said the mayhem was out of the group’s control.

Analysts say Assad still has the tools and the allies he needs to stir up trouble in Lebanon. “I don’t think the Syrian regime has fully lost influence in Lebanon,” said Kamel, the Eurasia analyst. “But definitely it has less ability and even willingness to intervene on the same level in Lebanese politics,” he added.

Hanin Ghaddar, managing editor of the Lebanon opposition website NOWLebanon, said Lebanon is at a significant crossroads in its relationship with Syria. “Assad’s aura in Lebanon is fading,” Ghaddar wrote last week.

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the U.N. in New York.

August 21, 2012

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Authorities on Tuesday declared a state of emergency around a town in Bosnia’s northeast and a tourist area was evacuated in the country’s south as a heat wave fuelled wildfires across the Balkans and left people suffering heat exhaustion.

Bratunac Mayor Nedeljko Mladjenovic declared the emergency as he said wildfires from several directions were threatening his town. Around 50 residents are helping firefighters and forest rangers fight a blaze creeping towards the suburb of Slapasnica, and the town’s civil protection agency has asked for help from the army and residents.

In the country’s south, firefighters are battling four blazes around the town of Konjic and townsfolk and tourists have begun evacuating houses near Boracko Lake as the extreme heat and strong winds have hindered the extinguishing of approaching blazes.

Many tourists staying at the lake are Bosnians who live in Germany, returning home for the holidays. Zorica Muskovic arrived last week from Munich. “This is really not pleasant at all, I am scared. I want to leave as soon as possible,” she told the AP.

Aida Gakic from the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, who earlier evacuated two of her children from the resort, said she and her husband were unsure of the local fire brigade’s capabilities, so decided to stay put and protect their property.

“We are terrified of the fire and rocks falling down from the mountain. I evacuated my children, and I only stayed behind to defend my weekend house, ‘ she said. Many of the fires swept through fields still dotted with mines from the Bosnian War, which took place in the region between 1992 and 1995. The resort is situated on a former frontline.

Tourists said that they could hear loud explosions from the forest as the mines were set off by the blaze Such fires have been burning in several areas of Bosnia for weeks and the fight to extinguish them has been complicated by the country’s hilly terrain, strong winds, little rainfall and a 40-Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) heat wave which is forcing people to seek medical assistance.

In the Bosnian capital, Dr. Tigran Elezovic of Sarajevo’s emergency service said Tuesday that since the start of the summer, around 600 people have sought daily help for heat-related health problems. “We are constantly instructing people to limit their outdoor activity in the period between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and to finish whatever they need to do outdoors before 10 in the morning,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Balkans, authorities have issued heat warnings, instructing people to stay indoors and drink lots to avoid dehydration. In neighboring Serbia, authorities have warned people to remain inside and protect themselves from high temperatures, while the Croatian Health Ministry warned Tuesday that “only one careless moment is enough for the heat to become fatal,” and urged people to shower often and drink lots of water.

Croatia has also suffered a number of wildfires throughout the summer, and the coastal municipality of Split has urged the government to postpone the start of the school year because of the heat. In Serbia, Belgrade city authorities say they will park water tanks on city squares Wednesday, and doctors have reiterated warnings about the extreme heat.

Jovana Gec from Belgrade, and Amer Cohadzic, Eldar Emriand and Radul Radovanovic from Sarajevo contributed to this report


For 15 years, Ola Abbas presented the news on Syrian state television and radio. After spending months reporting President Assad’s lies and distortions about the uprising, she finally became the first media broadcast host to defect. Now she sees herself as a missionary for the truth.

At about 7:30 p.m. on July 11, Ola Abbas sat down at her laptop in her apartment in southeast Damascus and summoned her courage. She then compressed her rage, which had been building up for months, into 187 words that have changed her life.

At about 10 p.m., she clicked “Send” and posted her message on Facebook. In it, she explains that she now sides with the Syrian rebels and no longer supports Syrian President Bashar Assad. She fled to Beirut the next day and to Paris a week later. Everything has changed since then.

Abbas, 38, was the face and voice of the regime. For 15 years, she presented the news on Syrian state television and radio. Most recently, she spent more than a year telling Syrians that there was no uprising, that the rebels were merely armed terrorists determined to sow chaos, that there was an Israeli-Saudi-Western conspiracy against her country, and that Assad was the protector of the country’s sovereignty.

She presented all these statements to her country. Today, she says she never meant any of it.

Her escape has dealt yet another blow to the regime, and one that is difficult to explain. The firm, smoky voice that listeners had come to love and that is now no longer to be heard on the radio is that of an Alawite who benefited from Assad’s regime throughout her life — and who is now providing insights into the inner workings of the Syrian propaganda machine.

Forced To Lie

Abbas meets with us in an austere, cell-like room in the southern part of Paris. The 10-square-meter (108-square-foot) room is sparsely furnished with a table, a bed and three chairs borrowed from her neighbor, and a bookshelf with an English-language book on it, which she cannot read.

Abbas articulates her words carefully, underscoring the sentences that are important to her by opening her eyes wide and making dramatic gestures, leaving no room for debate. She has retained her announcer’s personality, honed and perfected for 15 years. The content has now changed.

Bashar Assad is a criminal, Abbas says, a monster who is slaughtering his own people. She describes the state-owned media as his vicarious agents, both dependent and obedient. She cuts short any attempt to reproach her by slicing her finger through the air, as she chain-smokes hand-rolled cigarettes.

She says that she had made up her mind that she was against the regime within the first few months of the rebellion, especially after government forces opened fire on peaceful protestors; but she remained silent out of fear.

She drove to work every morning through downtown Damascus to the state television building. “I often sat crying in my car. The thought of having to read Bashar’s messages every day almost broke my heart,” says Abbas.

Like Assad, Abbas is a member of the Alawite religious minority, and thus part of the Syrian elite. Her parents were writers, and her mother, the president of the Arab Writers Union, is a firm supporter of Assad. Abbas’s fiancé is also loyal to the regime.

Only close friends and colleagues knew about her plan to flee the country. It was rarely discussed, she says, and when anyone did talk about it, it was only in hushed tones in a storage room at the office, out of range of the intelligence service’s microphones. The Syrian media have kept silent about her disappearance.

Inklings Of The Truth

For a long time, Abbas told herself that everything would turn out for the best. Whenever Assad appeared in public, she says, she hoped that it was to announce his resignation. But the opposite happened, and things only got worse. With each new instruction that arrived in the offices of the state television and radio network from the Information Ministry, Abbas says, her conscience felt increasingly guilty.

The word “demonstrators” was prohibited in the media from the start. Soon there was no longer just talk of “people who are going into the streets to cause chaos,” but also of “armed groups,” “conspirators” and, finally, “extremists, Islamists and terrorists.” The uprising was dubbed a “conspiracy” and the revolution a “crisis.” As the rhetoric escalated, so did the conflict.

Abbas had gotten used to the fact that none of what her friends were reporting from Daraa and Homs, the centers of the uprising, could be mentioned on air. Neither could the reports she saw every day on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.

She obediently quoted SANA, the Syrian state news agency, which she says gets its information directly from the information office at the presidential palace. She also became accustomed to the friendly nods of the information minister, whom she repeatedly encountered in the hallways at the station. She played along.

Soon notes were posted at the station with the names of singers like Fadl Shaker and Assala Nasri, whose music was no longer to be played. At a certain point, live conversations with listeners were no longer permitted because they couldn’t be controlled.

One day the secret police came and took away a colleague who had filmed a pro-Assad demonstration in way that made it obvious that hardly anyone was there. Abbas hasn’t seen him since. And still she said nothing.

Deciding Between Angels And Devils

When images of the massacres in Houla and Masraat al-Qubair began turning up, images of murdered women and children, and when she started hearing reports about the brutality of the Shabiha militias, she decided to act.

She posted her message, received anonymous threatening phone calls that same evening, packed up her documents and a small amount of money and fled. Friends have sent her the bare necessities, including some clothes and the red pants she likes to wear.

She has talked herself into a rage and, for the first time, she becomes emotional and says: “At a certain point, everyone has to decide between the devil and the angels. I did it, even if it was a little too late. I was driven by my conscience, which, after all, is what separates us from animals.”

Abbas is the first broadcast media host to defect. She might not be the last. She says she knows other journalists in the state-owned media who are sympathetic to the opposition but are still holding out.

She speculates that perhaps it’s because they are unwilling to leave their families or give up a relationship, as she did. Or perhaps they are afraid of what will happen once Assad is gone.

Meanwhile, the dictator is also losing support among those who speak on his behalf. In any case, few people believe what’s reported anymore. Now that the fighting has spread to Damascus, Syrians know that their country is embroiled in a large-scale rebellion.

Stuck In Limbo

In Paris, after being the face of the regime for years, Abbas has now become the face of the revolution. She sees herself as a missionary whose goal is to spread the truth.

She sees Paris as a temporary solution. She doesn’t know her way around, keeps getting lost in her own neighborhood, eats almost all of her meals in a Syrian restaurant around the corner, and speaks little French.

She can’t go back. The secret police would arrest her immediately, she says, and she would be forced to confess, in front of a live camera, that she is a terrorist and that foreign powers paid her to harm Syria. Abbas is familiar with such videos because they’re the ones that are played on state television.

She is waiting for the day when Assad is overthrown. Once that happens, she says, she wants to go back immediately and work as a journalist. “I believe that I can help my country in that way,” Abbas says.

Tue Sep 27, 2011

Pakistani people have staged anti-US rallies across the country to protest at American officials’ recent threats and accusations against Islamabad.

Protesters shouted, “We’ll sacrifice our lives to save Pakistan” and “Death to America” in a demonstration held outside the US consulate in the southern city of Karachi, AFP reported on Tuesday.

Rallies were also held in the town of Landikotal in the Khyber Agency near the common border with Afghanistan as well as the city of Hyderabad in southern Pakistan.

The already-fragile relations between the two sides were further strained last week, when the US military chief accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of “exporting” violence to Afghanistan.

The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the Inter-Services Intelligence was supporting the Taliban-allied Haqqani network of militants that is blamed by Washington for recent attacks on the US Embassy and the US-led military alliance of NATO’s headquarters in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Islamabad has stiffly rejected the accusations.

On Monday, the US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Washington had to consider military action against Pakistan in the event of, what he called, Islamabad’s continued support for militant attacks against the US troops in Afghanistan.

The US says it is considering listing the Haqqani network as a terror group. The potential designation, analysts say, would provide Washington with excuse to go ahead with the attack.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani warned on Tuesday that military course of action by the US inside ‘a sovereign country’ would not be ‘acceptable.’

The premier said the Untied States blames Pakistan for recent attacks in Kabul because “they (the US) have not achieved what they visualized” in Afghanistan, referring to the US-led forces’ failure to defuse tension on the Afghan soil, despite their 2001-present presence there.

Source: PressTV.