Archive for February 20, 2014

Sun Feb 16, 2014

The Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, has expressed its opposition to the idea of international troops being stationed in a future Palestinian state under a deal between the Israeli regime and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“From time to time we hear people making offers during the negotiations, primarily about the idea of an international force following the retreat of the (Israeli) occupier,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement released on Saturday.

He added that the presence of an international force in a future Palestinian state would be “just like the Israeli occupation.”

He further urged US Secretary of State John Kerry and others to revise their positions, stressing that Hamas would not let anyone undermine its rights.

This is while the Israeli regime insists on keeping a military presence along the Jordan Valley that runs down the eastern flank of the occupied West Bank, bordering Jordan. However, the Palestinians have rejected such an idea.

“This so-called Kerry plan was put together by the Americans and the Zionist entity to eradicate the Palestinian cause. We will not let such an agreement give away our people’s rights,” Zuhri said, calling for “a united front of factions to reject the talks and their outcome.”

Earlier on Saturday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh slammed the talks and said the Palestinian resistance movement would not be bound by any deal with Israel.

“The so-called American framework is not binding for us,” he added, referring to the US framework for the negotiations.

The US secretary of state is planning to unveil a framework document as part of the US-brokered talks between Israel and the PA.

Since the resumption of the direct talks, Palestinians have also objected to a number of other issues including the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Source: PressTV.


February 15, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s prime minister formed a Cabinet more than 10 months after taking office on Saturday, including a wide range of political groups after bridging serious divisions among them mostly over Syria’s civil war.

Tammam Salam’s 24-member national unity Cabinet was announced at the presidential palace and includes members of the Western-backed coalition as well as those of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies.

Fears of a spillover of Syria’s civil war to its smaller neighbor have intensified pressure on Lebanon’s rival faction to make concessions, facilitating Salam’s job. “This is a unity Cabinet that represents at the present time the best formula for Lebanon with all the political, security, economic and social challenges it is facing,” Salam told reporters shortly after his government was announced. “The national interest Cabinet was formed with the spirit of gathering, not divisions, and meeting, not defiance.”

Salam said the Cabinet aims to “strengthen national security and stand against all kinds of terrorism.” He said that the Cabinet will also face the social issue of nearly a million Syrian refugees who fled for safety in Lebanon, which has a population of some 4 million.

The Cabinet is not expected to remain in office long, as a new government should be formed after President Michel Suleiman’s six-year term ends in May and a new head of state is elected. The Syrian civil war has spilled over into neighboring Lebanon and sharply divided its population, who support rival Syrian groups.

Many Shiite Muslims in Lebanon back Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, while Sunnis support rebels trying to remove him from power. Clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups have killed scores of Lebanese over the past months. A wave of car bombs also claimed the lives of dozens.

Hezbollah openly sent fighters to Syria last year to fight along Assad’s forces while some Sunnis have joined the rebels. The Western-backed coalition, known as March 14, had previously said it will not take part in any national unity government until the militant Hezbollah group, Lebanon’s most powerful, withdraws its members fighting in Syria.

March 14’s leader, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said last month that he is ready to share power with Hezbollah if it helps in ending the Cabinet formation deadlock. Hezbollah has also abandoned an earlier demand that it be given, along with its allies, veto power in the new Cabinet.

In April last year, the vast majority of legislators chose the British-educated Salam to form the Cabinet. He replaced Najib Mikati who abruptly resigned a month earlier over a political deadlock between Lebanon’s two main political camps and infighting in his government.

Mikati, who had served as prime minister since June 2011, headed a government that was dominated by Hezbollah group and its allies. Salam is the son of the late former Prime Minister Saeb Salam, and leans politically toward the Western-backed anti-Hezbollah coalition. He studied in Britain and has degrees in economics and business administration.

He will be holding the top post in the country that a Sunni Muslim can hold. Lebanon’s politics are always fractious, in part because of the sectarian makeup of the country’s government. According to Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim. Each faith makes up about a third of Lebanon’s population.

Salam’s Cabinet included only one woman, Alice Shabtini, who was named Minister of Displaced People. As in the previous government, Hezbollah holds two posts. The U.N. Security Council issued a statement saying that it “appealed to all Lebanese people to preserve national unity in the face of attempts to undermine the country’s stability and stressed the importance for all Lebanese parties to respect Lebanon’s policy of disassociation and to refrain from any involvement in the Syrian crisis.”

Sunday, 16 February

The Libyan “Revolutionaries Operations Room” (ROR) said on Sunday that it acquired “documented information” regarding plots by the UAE and Egyptian military-led authorities to meddle in the Libyan affairs and to abort the Libyan revolution.

In a Facebook statement, the ROR claimed that UAE’s security agencies has recently formed two “cells” to circumvent the Libyan revolution and to stop Libyan oil exports.

The statement read: “We received information that UAE’s security apparatus has formed two high level cells. The first aims at overthrowing the new Libyan regime, the Libyan National Congress, and confronting the rise of Islamists. The second cell is a specialized media one based in Amman, Jordan.”

According to the statement, the “media cell” is primarily tasked with disseminating news that would serve the agenda of the “security cell”. Part of its agenda is to distort the image of Islamists, particularly with their rising popularity in Libya, the statement claims.

The ROR claimed that it obtained all information related to the “security cell” in Libya, and that it is led and funded by the UAE. It claimed that the cell has been operating in Libya since January 26, 2013.

“A high level Libyan source told ROR that a group affiliated with Mahmoud Gebril abducted Abu Anas Al-Libi based on a request from the UAE which immediately handed him over to the American CIA.”

The statement claimed that Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan leads the security cell, while the members of the cell are counter-revolutionary figures in Libya, including Al-Saadi Al-Ghadhafi who managed to escape from the rebels, and a Libyan close to the Egyptian coup leader Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

The ROR affirmed that the “security cell” is based in Abu Dhabi, and convenes regularly with the protection of UAE security.

The cell, claims ROR, has intensified its operations lately with the purpose of overthrowing the Libyan National Congress (LNC) and spreading chaos in the country, with February 2014 as a deadline for the end of the LNC.

Concerning the media cell, the statement added, its main goal is to denigrate the Islamists in Libya. It is led by the Libyan businessman Gomaa Al-Osta, a close aide to Seif Al-Islam Al-Ghadhafi who owns a television channel called “Al-Asema” [the Capital]. Al-Osta has been tasked with the supervision of Libyan news broadcast in a number of UAE-funded channels, including Sky News (Arabia) and Libya Al-Ahrar channel.

The UAE, according to ROR statement, aims at overthrowing the LNC and then assigning the president of the higher court Al-Dahan Zawary to lead a transitional phase. Al-Zawary has visited the UAE recently. After his UAE visit, he has been promoted in the press which indicates that he is being prepared for a specific mission, the ROR claimed.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


February 16, 2014

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahraini activist Zainab al-Khawaja was released from prison on Sunday after nearly a year behind bars for multiple convictions including participation in an illegal gathering.

Friends and supporters greeted her in a coffee shop in a main mall hours after her release. The cafe has served as a gathering point for activists since the small island-nation’s Arab Spring-inspired uprising.

“One year of prison is nothing,” she told journalists defiantly after her release. “We have a cause… This will not stop us.” Bahrain’s majority Shiites have led a three-year uprising seeking a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Al-Khawaja, who is popular online and on Twitter, said international attention should focus on an estimated 3,000 prisoners believed to be behind bars in Bahrain on politically related charges. Her father is prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is among several opposition figures who are serving life sentences. He drew attention to his imprisonment with a lengthy hunger strike in 2012.

Her lawyer Mohammed al-Attiyah said she still faces two trials, one this month and one next month, on charges that include damaging police property, defacing a picture of Bahrain’s king and insulting a police officer.

February 15, 2014

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahraini anti-government activists clashed with security forces as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Saturday, sending tear gas into a major shopping mall and bringing the capital’s streets to a standstill on the same day that authorities said a police officer died of injuries sustained from an earlier bombing.

The Interior Ministry said that the officer was one of two injured in what it called a “terrorist blast” on Friday in the village of Dair, near the country’s main airport. It did not identify the officer. In a second statement, the ministry characterized recent attacks against security forces as “urban guerrilla warfare.”

Chaos in the small Gulf-island nation highlights deeper regional sectarian tensions that continue to roil Bahrain three years after the country’s majority Shiites began an Arab Spring-inspired uprising to demand greater political rights from the Sunni-led monarchy.

Neighboring Sunni-ruled Gulf countries with smaller Shiite populations, led by Saudi Arabia, sent troops to Bahrain in an effort to stem the uprising in 2011. More than 65 people have died in the unrest, but rights groups and others put the death toll higher.

Heeding calls by Bahrain’s main Shiite coalition al-Wefaq, around 15,000 Bahrainis marched in the capital Manama’s streets a day after the three-year anniversary of the start of the anti-government uprising.

The protesters marched for several miles (kilometers) before clashes erupted. Police fired tear gas at the crowd, which included women and children. The protesters carried the red and white Bahraini flag and signs that read “Democracy is the only solution”.

“I came to say that I refuse the way that my government treats people like me with discrimination,” prominent human rights activist Azhar Jaafar said. He was carrying the picture of a 22 year-old protester Nabeel Rajab, who is one of around 3,000 people believed to be behind bars for politically-related charges.

“Allahu Akbar!” or God is great, the crowd chanted as youth protesters erected makeshift barriers to keep police back. They burnt tires to block the effects of the tear gas and threw rocks back at the security forces. Some protesters were seen carrying Molotov cocktails.

Efforts to restart on-and-off reconciliation talks between the Shiite-dominated opposition and the Sunni monarchy and its allies have so far failed to bring an end to simmering unrest in the country, an American ally that hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Activists frequently clash with police. Anti-government factions have been increasingly using small-scale bombs targeting government forces. Al-Wefaq said the protests Saturday were called to demand a democratic transition “in which the people are the source of all powers.” The group said the protest was also called to denounce the “free reign” given to security forces to exercise “heinous violations” against citizens.

The Interior Ministry says police have shown “incredible restraint in their use of force in dealing with violent rioters.” Former member of parliament and opposition figure Abdul-Jalil Khalil told The Associated Press that a “serious dialogue” is necessary, but that it cannot happen so long activists are imprisoned.

“Today’s events come as a result of a culture of denial by authorities who insist on security solutions and refuse to enter into meaningful dialogue,” he said.