Category: Middle East

Yemen Protests End Incident Free

The planned protests on Thursday by both anti-Saleh and pro-Saleh have concluded peacefully in Yemen’s capital Sanaa. Saleh’s opponents called to observe a “day of rage” onYemen protests Thursday demanding Mr Saleh to step down. Nearly 20,000 people marched in Sanaa asking for political reforms and more rights. They rejected Saleh’s offer of not contesting in 2013 when his tenure ends.

The same numbers of people are reported organizing another rally in another part of the city, Sanaa. They demanded Saleh to remain in power. However, they demand Mr Saleh to fulfill his pledge of carrying out reforms at the earliest. It was reported that the supporters are organized by the government from the nearby villages of the capital Sanaa, after the opponents have called for a “day of rage.”

In an emergency parliament session on Wednesday, Mr Saleh, 64, laid out his plans to move aside, saying he would not seek to extend his presidency when his current term expires in 2013 and pledging not pass on power to his son. The "day of rage" was organised by civil

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Egypt Protesters Do Not Relent for Election Promise

Article first published as Egypt Protesters Do Not Relent for Election Promise on Blogcritics.

Though Mr Mubarak promised not to contest in coming elections in September, hundreds of thousands of protesting Egyptians do not agree to end their protests demanding him to step down immediately. Mr ElBaradei dismissed Mubarak’s announcement as a trick to continue in power. Western news agencies are writing that some sections of the people are accepting Mubarak’s announcement as a reliable stable solution as sudden change “could lead to more drastic consequences.”

Apart from the pressure from Egyptians, leaders of the countries are also suggesting indirectlyEgypt protests Mubarak to step down. Turkey’s PM Erdogan advised Mr Mubarak should take a "different step", US President Barack Obama said transition must begin now in an orderly fashion. Egypt’s army, which had been telling that it would not use force against protesters issued a statement on February 2 asking demonstrators to return to their homes. It said demonstrators succeeded conveying their message and they should now allow life in the country return to normalcy.

It is stated that the government restored internet connection that was cut for days for fear of spreading antigovernment sentiments across the country through social network websites like Facebook and Twitter. Nationwide curfew is also said to be eased reducing it to a lesser time period. According to UN estimates, at least 300 people have died in Egypt alone since the demonstrations began there ten days back.

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Arab Leaders Take Steps to Prevent Unrest in Advance

Successful ouster of Tunisia’s autocratic president Ben Ali and unrelenting unrest on Cairo’s streets in Egypt are forcing the heads of Arab states to offer advance promises to their people to prevent possible unrest against their rule. Jordan president has dismissed his cabinet on Tuesday after protests. Yemeni president has also offered a series of concessions to the opposition, workers and unemployed youth.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen said Wednesday that he would not seek re-electionYemen_Protests when his term ends in 2013. The announcement was a rather stunning concession to protesters and another reverberation of the popular anger that has rocked the Arab world in recent weeks. Saleh said his son would also not seek power either. Yemeni protesters are asking for reforms and a smooth transition of power through elections.

Mr Saleh has been in power for a longest period of 32 years and is a strong alley to the US. The announcement came a day before the planned protests in Sana, Yemen’s capital. “No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock,” Mr. Saleh said Wednesday in a joint session of Parliament boycotted by the opposition. The opposition called to observe a “day of rage” on Thursday, February 3. The organisers are expecting larger turnout than the last week demonstrations.

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Yemenis Demand President to Step Down

Inspired by the Tunisia Revolution, thousands of Yemenis are demonstrating in the capital Sanaa, demanding their president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. Mr Ali Abdullah has been ruling the country for last thirty years. Yemen protests come after a mass uprising in Tunisia on January 14 and country wide protests in Egypt for last three days.

Yemeni opposition members and youth activists organized protests in four partsYemen protest of the city Sanaa including Sanaa University. The protesters are chanting anti-government slogans demanding economic reforms and an end to corruption. Yemenis are worried with soaring poverty and lack of political freedom. There are fears among western countries that Yemen is increasingly becoming haven for al-Qaeda militants.

Protesters gathered in several locations of the city on Thursday morning, chanting that it was "time for change", and referring to the popular uprising in Tunisia that ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month. Counter-protests have also been staged by the party of President Saleh, the General People’s Congress. Government supporters are telling that the dissident protesters are a threat to the country’s stability.

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Hezbollah Backed Sunni Businessman Forms New Government in Lebanon

America educated billionaire Sunni businessperson Mr Mikati is appointed as the new Prime Minister for Lebanon. The new government has the backing of the Shia Islamic group Hezbollah, a key player in Lebanon politics. He replaced the former western supported Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of murdered president Rafik Hariri.

Lebanon’s national unity cabinet collapsed on 12 January after a row over a UNNajib Mikati tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of Rafik Hariri, the father of Western-backed caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Mr Hariri had refused to renounce the UN inquiry that correspondents say will blame senior Hezbollah figures for his father’s murder. Hezbollah says the investigation is politically motivated.

The latest development proves that the Hezbollah group gained strength in Lebanese Parliament, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US government. The US expressed displeasure over the development. The US has said it would have "great concerns about a government within which Hezbollah plays a leading role" as per BBC News.

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Veracity of al-Jazeera Leaked Documents Questioned by Palestinians

Top Palestinian officials are doubtful of the veracity of leaked documents that show offers of major concessions to Israel. The documents, obtained by al-Jazeera, suggest the Palestinians offered Israel keeping major parts of illegally occupied East Jerusalem said to be rejected by Israel. Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the leaks were lies. The BBC said it was unable to verify the documents.

Al-Jazeera says it has 16,076 confidential records of meetings, e-mails,Illegal settlements communications between Palestinian, Israeli and US leaders, covering the years 2000-2010. It was leaked that the Palestinians proposed to handover Islamic holy sites to an international committee and limiting returning refugees to 100,000 over ten years. Mr Erekat questioned the authenticity of the leaked documents speaking with al-Jazeera. He questioned why Israel did not sign the accord if the concessions for actually offered. PA president Mahmoud Abbas, who is to attend talks with Egypt President Mubarak on the peace process on January 24, also expressed same doubts

Hamas spokesperson said the leaks revealed the ugly face of the PA and its cooperation with the occupation. It said Fatah was involved in attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause on the issues of refugees and East Jerusalem. They show "the level of the Fatah Authority’s [sic] involvement in attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause, particularly on the issue of Jerusalem and refugees, and its involvement against the resistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip", Sami Abu Zuhri said, quoted by AFP news agency. Israel occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem on both of the rivals have claims. Israel built settlements for 500,000 settlements that are still continuing.

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Iran Hit by Sanctions, Cut Subsidies

Article first published as Iran Hit by Sanctions, Cut Subsidies on Blogcritics.

Iran, facing four rounds of international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council, has decided on Saturday, November 18 to cut subsidies extended to energy and food items. Iran has been under sanctions regime for a long time imposed due to its nuclear programme, which western countries fear aimed at acquiring nuclear arsenal. Iran has repeatedly cleared that its nuclearIran sanctions programme was not intended to build nuclear programme but for peaceful purposes such as energy and medicine.

Unified Sanctions

However, the US along with its western allies has been pressurising Iran to allow IAEA inspectors to inspect its nuclear enrichment facilities. As a member of the IAEA, Iran allowed several times the IAEA inspectors but latter expelled them, saying IAEA was not sending inspectors but spies. As a result, the US lobbied intensively to slap unified sanctions by the UN Security Council and succeeded to convince Russia and China to that effect. Fourth round of sanctions followed in June 2010.

However, Russia and China preserved their business interests with Iran while negotiating with the United States. Many analysts opined the sanctions were substantially weak due to opposition from Russia and China. Some said it was a victor for the United States for persuading China and Russia to impose sanctions. The sanctions resolution was adopted by the 15-nation Security Council in 12-2 vote with Brazil and Turkey casting no vote and Lebanon abstaining.

Deal Ignored

Prior to the Security Council vote, Brazil and Turkey negotiate a truce to shift Iran’s low enriched Uranium to Turkey in a bid to swap it with reactor ready Uranium rods from western countries. However, the truce negotiated by Brazil and Turkey was effectively ignored by the key world powers. Iran President Mr Ahmadinejad described the sanctions as a used handkerchief demonstrating continued defiance of Iran with the western sponsored sanctions.

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Abused Iraqis Denied Justice in British Court

A British High Court denied claims for a public inquiry by more than 200 Iraqi civilians. The Iraqis demanded public inquiry into the mistreatment by British troops in Iraq. They alleged that the British troops subjected them to sexual, physical and psychological abuse when they were arrested for allegedly having links to militants. The lawyer for the Iraqis said the victims wereyoukilledmyfather bitterly disappointed with the verdict.

Two judges upheld Defence Secretary Liam Fox’s refusal to order a wide-ranging investigation, but said one could be "required in due course". Mr Fox contended that the abuse was not systemic and was only carried out by a few bad apples. The Ministry of Defence has set up a dedicated Iraq historic allegations team to look into claims of abuse by British soldiers.

The lead claimant, Ali Zaki Mousa, alleges he endured months of beatings and other abuse in the custody of British soldiers in 2006-07. He told the BBC World Service in 2006-07 he had been blindfolded and beaten by UK troops after being arrested in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on suspicion of being affiliated with militias.

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Saddam Still Haunts Western Governments

One of Scotland’s largest companies has been fined £3m for breaching UN sanctions on Iraq by doing business with Saddam Hussein’s regime. Glasgow-based engineering firm Weir Group admitted paying kickbacks to the dictator’s government a decade ago to secure lucrativeSaddam Hussain business contracts.

Judge Lord Carloway the High Court in Edinburgh confiscated £13.9m of illegal profits from Weir. The court was told that Weir Group admitted two charges of breaching United Nations sanctions, imposed on Iraq before the 2003 invasion. Charges centred on contracts entered into under the Oil for Food programme between 2000 and 2002. The programme was introduced by the UN to enable exports of Iraqi oil for food, medicine and other humanitarian needs.

The engineering group made payments to the tune of £3.1m to Saddam regime through an agent in order to secure contracts worth about £35m. The agent was also paid money for his services, amounting to £1.4m. In his judgement, Lord Carloway said it was appropriate that the firm should face a penalty for busting UN sanctions.

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Hamas 23rd Anniversary Celebrated

Hamas, a Palestinian faction ruling Gaza Strip celebrated 23rd anniversary on December 15. Hamas was founded in 1987. It defeated Fatah faction lead by Mahmoud Abbas in elections held in 2007. Hamas, an Islamic resistance movement, does not recognize Israeli state.Hamas rally

Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Middle East war. It withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but heightened its blockade on the territory after Hamas came to power in 2007. Hamas is designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU, but it is seen by its supporters as a legitimate resistance movement. It is still holding Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by militants during a cross-border raid in June 2006.

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Senegal Ambassador to Iran Recalled Over Arms Shipment

As Iran failed to offer satisfactory explanation over a ship smuggling arms to Senegal, Senegal decided to recall its ambassador to Iran. The weapons were found hiddenArms smuggling -BBC under building materials on a ship at Lagos in October. Three Nigerians and an Iranian were charged with importing arms from Iran to Gambia. Gambia cut relations with Iran last month on the same reason.

However, it is believed that the actual destination for the arms is a south Senegal region called Casamance where a separatist rebellion has been active supposedly sponsored by the neighbouring Gambia. A peace deal is said to be existing in the region.

Iran has said so far that the shipment belonged to a private company and it was destined to a West African country. Interestingly, Iran’s foreign minister was sacked a few days back when he was visiting Senegal. Senegal said Iran could not provide satisfactory reason for the shipment.

Political Coward EU Postpones Palestine Recognition

The European Foreign Ministers’ statement said they the EU would recognise Palestine state “when appropriate.” The statement emphasised for a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine.

The direct talks began with the US initiative in September failed due to Israel’s denial to extendPalestine temporary freeze of settlement construction for 90 more days. Later the US President offered Israel to supply jet fighters, security guarantee and immediate aid for extension of settlement freeze. However, Israel Prime Minister demanded recognition of Israel as a Jewish state from Palestinians, which was denied by Palestine Authority president Abbas. From then on Abbas is trying to secure unilateral recognition through diplomatic means.

Mahmoud Abbas called on the EU to recognise Palestine based on 1967 borders. It was followed by the EU foreign ministers’ statement. Brazil and Argentina recently issued a statement recognising Palestine state as a legitimate country. At least 100 above countries are believed to recognise Palestine.

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US Abandons Efforts to Persuade Israel Settlement Freeze

Article first published as US Abandons Efforts to Persuade Israel to Freeze Settlements on Blogcritics.

The United States has decided to abandon its efforts of persuading Israel to freeze its settlement construction, saying the tactic has failed. Palestinians’ leadership in West Bank, Palestinian Authority has been demanding total settlement freeze in order to attend direct talks with Israel under the US mediation. Israel’s self-imposed 10-month settlement freeze expired in November last week due to which the direct talks also ended as Israel refused to extend the freeze on illegal settlement construction in occupied territories for 90 more days as requested by the US.

The US offered a proposal with incentives such as supply of jet fighters and security guaranteesIsraeli settleents in West Bank in return to a 90-day extension of a previous 10-month settlement freeze. Israel cabinet rejected the proposal. On the other hand, Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu offered to freeze the construction if the Palestinians recognised Israel as a Jewish State, but Palestinian Authority dismissed the idea.

It is not clear what the US is planning. Israel Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the talks with the Americans were postponed because the US was busy dealing with the result of Wikileaks leakage of diplomatic cables. However, this is denied by the US state department spokesperson P J Crowley. The US made clear that abandoning efforts for settlement freeze does not mean giving total efforts. It said it recognised there was a need to change the tactics to resume the peace talks.

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WikiLeaks cables: US pressured UN climate chief to bar Iranian from job

The US used backstage diplomatic manoeuvres to help block the appointment of a scientist from Iran to a key position on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a leaked diplomatic cable reveals. The US privately lobbied IPCC chair Dr Rajendra Pachauri, as well as the UK, EU, Argentina and Mali representatives, and had put its embassies to work from Brazil to Uzbekistan. It wanted to prevent the election of Dr Mostafa Jafari as one of two co-chairmen of a key working group.

The other co-chair was to be an American scientist, Prof Christopher Field. ThePachauri Rajendra US state department noted that sharing the IPCC position with an Iranian would be "problematic" and "potentially at odds with overall US policy towards Iran". The jobs often involved travel to and extended residencies in each other’s countries, the cable said. The appointment of an Iranian would also "significantly complicate" US funding for the IPCC secretariat for that working group. US diplomats recognised Jafari as "a highly-qualified scientist … but he is also a senior Iranian government employee".

Pachauri today rejected any suggestion he had colluded with the US private approaches, which apparently ended in another candidate, an Argentinian, being appointed to the position to which Jafari had been nominated. A spokesperson for Pachauri said that he, "neither influenced, nor agreed to influence, the election. Not only would such an agreement be outside his mandate as chairman of the IPCC, but it would also be impossible to achieve."

The cable claims: "Prior to arrival in Geneva, the [US delegation] contacted IPCC chairman Dr Rajendra Pachauri (please protect) who agreed to work on this issue to avoid the potential for disruption to one of the organisation’s three core working groups." The phrase "please protect" is used to tell the cable’s recipients not to use a contact’s name publicly.

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IAEA Sending Spies, Not Inspectors –Iran

Article first published as "IAEA Sending Spies, not Inspectors" – Iran on Blogcritics.

Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said that inspectors sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency had engaged in espionage and the Vienna-based agency must take responsibility for their actions, MSNBC news quoted AP. Iran has been critical of IAEA for leaking information of its nuclear programme to the US. In June, Iran banned two U.N. nuclear inspectors from entering the country, claiming they had leaked "false" information about the country’s disputed nuclear program.Iran nuke program

"Among the individuals the IAEA sends as so-called inspectors, there are spies from foreign intelligence services. The IAEA must be held responsible for this," state TV quoted Moslehi as saying. IAEA spokesperson responded to the allegation in Vienna saying it had no comment. Iran’s allegation comes a week after Iran’s nuclear scientist was assassinated and another scientist wounded in a bomb attack. Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili called the assassination of the nuclear scientist as disgrace for the Security Council. He said the assassination was linked to the international sanctions slapped on Iran by the Security Council, the US and the EU, and was a part of the western countries’ covert campaign to sabotage Iran’s nuclear programme.

Iran said the campaign includes abduction of Iranian nuclear scientists, sale of faulty nuclear equipment and placing of destructive computer worms such as stuxnet into the computer systems of the Iran nuclear programme. Computer worms had brought Iran’s nuclear activity to halt for a brief period in November. Iran accused Israel’s Mossad, Britain’s MI6 and the US’ CIA were behind the sabotage activities.

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