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SHOWDOWN IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Iran | Syria | Libya | Egypt | Saudi Arabia | Yemen | Arab Spring
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Saudis call for arming Syrian rebels, small protest in Morocco and Osamas house demolished 2/25
Published February 26, 2012

Saudi Arabia has said that arming the Syrian rebels is “an excellent idea,” following remarks by US President Barack Obama vowing to use every tool available against Damascus.”I think it’s an excellent idea.
Tunisian police wielding batons beat back several dozen protesters trying to enter the venue of an international meeting on the Syria crisis on Friday, an AFP reporter said.
Hamas’s Gaza premier Ismail Haniya hailed on Friday the “heroic” Syrian struggle for democracy during a rally at Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque, in a departure from the Islamists’ refusal to criticise Damascus.
Tunis conference considers supplying military equipment while strengthening international recognition of the Syrian National Council.
Western and other countries are turning a blind eye to weapons purchases by Syrian exiles who are already smuggling light arms, communications equipment and night vision goggles to rebels inside Syria, a Syrian opposition source said on Friday as Russia called for an urgent ceasefire in the Syrian.
Twelve people were killed on Friday in the bloodiest day yet in protests that have raged across Afghanistan over the desecration of copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO military base with riot police and soldiers on high alert braced for more violence.
The Syrian government kept up its onslaught on Homs and other towns, with at least 100 killed according to human rights campaigners, as the country prepared to hold a referendum on Sunday on a new constitution.
Syria is all set to hold a referendum on a new constitution on Sunday, even as the raging violence in the central city of Homs enters its fourth week.
A senior U.S. official says the Obama administration is in “intense discussions” with Egypt to resolve the legal case against 16 American democracy advocates that has badly damaged ties between the countries.
(AFP) – NATO on Saturday pulled all its staff out of Afghan government ministries after two United States military advisors were shot dead in the interior ministry, as anti-US protests raged for a fifth day.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged Saturday that Washington would help Tunisia rebuild its economy and cement democracy, as the cradle of the Arab Spring struggles with reforms.
Hillary Clinton met Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki as she continued a tour that will also take her to Algeria and Morocco following a global meeting on Syria in Tunis that ratcheted up pressure on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Mali’s main Tuareg rebellion denied accusations of links with al-Qaeda’s North African branch in an interview published by an Algeria paper Friday. “Comparing us to AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) is preposterous,” Mossa Ag Atter, a spokesman for the Azawad Nation.
Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi vowed to press the fight against Al Qaida in Yemen as he took the oath today as the first new President here since 1978 after a year of turmoil and bloodshed.
Yemens new President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi took the constitutional oath before the Parliament on Saturday in presence of members of unity government and chiefs of diplomatic missions in Yemen.
As crude oil prices reached a nine-month high on concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia has increased its crude exports, and the U.S. is pondering releasing oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, according to media reports Saturday. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has increased production in the past week and offered additional output to its largest client states.
Syria lashed out at Saudi Arabia on Saturday, a day after the kingdom’s foreign minister backed the idea of arming the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime, accusing Riyadh of becoming “a partner” in the bloodshed in Syria.
The Speaker of the Shoura Council, Dr. Abdullah Bin Mohammed Aal Al-Sheikh, chaired here Saturday the meeting between parliament speakers of G20 states.During the first session, titled “The Global Dialogue of Followers of Religions, Civilizations”.
A first meeting of the Friends of Syria group has highlighted divisions inside the coalition and among Syrian opposition leaders. Officials and ministers from over 60 African, Arab, Asian nations.
Tourism chiefs in Bahrain said the F1 was ‘the best news ever’ for the industry and were anticipating a $250 million (BD94.5 million) windfall from this year’s Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. Thousands of people are expected to benefit from the three-day event.
Bahrains main opposition formation Al-Wefaq said on Saturday that a woman had died from tear gas inhalation, noting that “violations” by the authorities have increased over the past several months.
Arab-Israelis back Assad: Hundreds of Israeli Arabs and Golan Heights Druze took part Saturday in a conference of solidarity with the Syrian government held in a Haifa theater. Participants in the event claimed that the state of affairs expressed support for Al Assad.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt warned that military intervention in Syria would sow anarchy in that country and neighboring Lebanon. In remarks published Saturday in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
Iran’s defense minister warned that an Israeli attack on the Islamic Republic will lead to the collapse of the Jewish state, state television reported Saturday, in one of the strongest statements from Iran.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), told Al Arabiya TV that there are infiltrators in his close circle who are receiving orders from Saadi Qaddafi from Tunisia. Abdel Jalil said that the Libyan intelligence has “phone calls” as proof.
Syria lashed out at Saudi Arabia on Saturday, a day after the kingdom’s foreign minister backed the idea of arming the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime, accusing Riyadh of becoming “a partner” in the bloodshed in Syria.
Anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attacked Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as a “dictator” hungry for acclaim, a statement and officials from his movement said on Saturday.
Dozens of Iraqis in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square rallied on Saturday to demand reforms, on the first anniversary of demonstrations in which 16 people were killed in clashes with security forces.
Pakistan’s army engineers on Saturday began demolishing the former home of Osama bin Laden, after authorities decided to end prospects of the location “becoming a monument” to the world’s most hunted terrorist.
A few thousand people gathered Sunday in Morocco/ cities to mark the one year anniversary of the North African kingdom’s local version of the Arab Spring uprisings. Moroccan activist and rapper Mouad Belghouat.
SNC outlines post-Assad Syria and other news 2/22 & 23
Published February 24, 2012

Hackers calling themselves the ‘Iranian Cyber Army’ have attacked the website of mainly Muslim neighbour Azerbaijan’s state television station, the communications ministry said on Thursday.
(Reuters) – Turkey is ready to host an international meeting on Syria to follow up one being held in Tunis on Friday to raise pressure on Damascus to end a violent crackdown, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday.
Turkey has that most scarce, yet highly sought-after, attribute among European economies: growth. With this rising tide, is now the time for investors to be contemplating Turkey’s growing Internet economy? Certainly the statistics look good.
Yemen’s outgoing president has left the U.S. after more than three weeks of medical treatment. U.S. officials say Ali Abdullah Saleh departed Boston late Wednesday for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Yemen’s new transitional government is facing an emboldened al-Qaida presence, and the United States and others have pledged to help fight them.
Yemen’s single-candidate election turned into an unexpected expression of choice as the country’s voters widened their options beyond a vote for Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to include a creative assortment of write-in ballots or to opt out altogether.
A prominent Egyptian Islamist and presidential hopeful is in hospital after a carjacking attack overnight on a highway to Cairo.
‘LA Times’ reports highly classified US intelligence assessment indicates that Iran is conducting research that could eventually enable it to develop a nuclear weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.
A fruitless visit to Iran by United Nations (UN) nuclear inspectors heightened tensions as Russia warned of ‘catastrophic’ consequences if it leads to a military attack on its Middle East ally.
President refutes ‘Haaretz’ story saying he would tell Obama he doesn’t “believe Israel should attack Iran” in near future.
Algeria’s elderly first president Ahmed Ben Bella left the hospital in good health Thursday after undergoing medical tests, his daughter said after some reports that the former independence fighter had died.
The outlook for the underequipped members of the Syrian opposition appeared to have grown less bleak Thursday on the eve of a Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis, the cradle of the Arab Spring movement.
The latest events that swept through some Arab nations known, as “ The Arab spring” were at the center of the discussions during the fifth session of the supreme Council of the Arab Woman Organization held here in Algiers.
Somalia should be enjoying an Arab Spring of its own but its Al-Shabab insurgents are fomenting jihad both in and out of the country.
A Lebanese man with links to Hezbollah is being charged by the U.S. military of helping kill American troops in Iraq, the New York Times reported Thursday.
After months of reassuring secularist critics, Islamist politicians in Tunisia and Egypt have begun to lay down markers about how Muslim their states should be — and first signs show they want more religion than previously admitted. Reported by Arab News.
Police in a Tunisian town used tear gas on Thursday to break up a crowd of about 200 hardline Islamists, armed with sticks, swords and petrol bombs, who set fire to a police station, witnesses told Reuters. “The security forces are chasing about 200 Salafists armed with swords and sticks.
(UPI) – The Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing in Egypt isn’t endorsing a presidential candidate until after the registration period closes in April, an official said.
The Somali Islamist group Al-Shabab has said that they have taken over areas seized by the government forces in Bay Region, southwestern Somalia, reported the privately-owned Radio Shabeelle on 23 February.
(UPI) – A Western-Arab meeting will pressure Syria’s Assad regime to let humanitarian aid into hardest-hit areas, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
The head of the main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) sought on Friday to reassure Syrian Kurds they would have a place in a post-Bashar al-Assad country, promising decentralised government.
Western and other countries are turning a blind eye to weapons purchases by Syrian exiles who are already smuggling light arms, communications equipment and night vision goggles to rebels inside Syria, a Syrian opposition source said Friday.
The U.S. and allies from the “Friends of Syria,” meeting today in Tunisia, will ratchet up pressure on President Bashar al-Assad by announcing plans to deploy United Nations peacekeepers after his ouster.
The main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) outlined on Friday its vision for a post-Bashar al-Assad Syria, proposing an interim presidential council of national leaders and a truth and reconciliation committee.
Yemen & Libya vote, Russia wont attend Syrian opposition in Tunis. 2/20
Published February 21, 2012

Iran said on Tuesday that a team of United Nations nuclear officials visiting the country for the second time in three weeks would not inspect nuclear sites.
Two Iranian warships that docked in a Syrian port on Monday were reported on Tuesday to have left, with their cargo and mission still unclear.
Russia, China and Iran showed support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday, days before an international meeting likely to pile more pressure on him to step down.
Russia on Tuesday said it will not attend an international conference in Tunis this week aimed at seeking political change in Syria because the meeting only supported the opposition’s cause for regime change.
Rebel-held areas of the central Syrian city of Homs are coming under intense bombardment from the Syrian army reported BBC.
The Arab League chief said on Monday there were signs that China and Russia could be shifting their stance on Syria after the two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council vetoed a Western-backed Arab peace plan aimed at ending violence there as the European Union said it will likely adopt.
The head of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court says that nominations for presidential candidates will open March 10 and last four weeks.
The royal palace says Jordan’s King Abdullah II has called on lawmakers to speed up reform legislation designed to increase the public’s role in the government process.
Iraq will quickly approve the nomination of a non-resident Saudi ambassador, meaning the kingdom will have an ambassador to Iraq for the first time since 1990, the Iraqi premier’s spokesman said Tuesday.
Yemenis are voting to rubber-stamp their U.S.-backed vice president as the new head of state tasked with steering the country out of a crisis that followed the year-old anti-government uprising.
Residents of the battle-scarred town of Misrata voted on Monday to elect their local council, in Libya’s first poll in more than 40 years and held four months after the killing of Gaddafi.
Iraq’s Sunni vice president on Monday asked for popular support to fight government charges that he commandeered death squads and said he would continue to defy arrest with the help of the nation’s powerful Kurds.
(ANI) – Access to the Internet in Iran was disrupted once again on Monday, sparking worries that the country is stepping up censorship ahead of up-coming national elections.
(AP) – Russia’s top search engine Yandex said Tuesday it has teamed up with Twitter to allow the Russian firm to show the full feed of all public Twitter posts.
China on Tuesday refused to commit to attend an international conference in Tunis this week after Russia said it would boycott the meeting aimed at seeking political change in Syria.
(Reuters) – Iran would take pre-emptive action against its enemies if it felt its national interests were endangered, the deputy head of the Islamic Republic’s armed forces was quoted by a semi-official news agency as saying on Tuesday.
(Reuters) – The third-largest party in Tunisia’s constituent assembly, charged with writing a new constitution, proposed on Monday a draft document based on Islamic law which will likely alarm the country’s secularists.
The Arab League (AL) envoy to Russia, Giuma al-Ferjani, has rejected plans for foreign military intervention in Syria, saying that neither opposition groups in Damascus nor international powers support the idea.
Russia says the United Nations should send a special envoy to Syria to help coordinate security issues and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
UN inspectors in Iran, Egypt rejects Al Assad 2/18
Published February 20, 2012

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned that an Israeli attack on Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities would have “enormous downsides.”
(AP) – U.N. nuclear inspectors arrived in Iran on Monday in the latest push to hold key talks with Iranian officials about how far the country’s controversial nuclear program has come.
Quicker than a succession of slow-acting economic sanctions, expelling Iran from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) banking hub could put a sudden choke hold on its oil-dependent economy. The move was made under strong support of US and Europe.
US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon will travel to Israel for talks with senior Israeli officials on a range of issues, including Iran and Syria, the White House announced.
Iran is being warned that it faces a new ‘cold war’ over its nuclear ambitions. Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that Iran’s recent revelation that it can home-produce enriched uranium, along with fears that the country is developing weapons.
Pointing to the tripartite summit of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which wrapped up in the Pakistani he added that all three countries had a nearly uniform view about regional concerns.
Supporters of Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian on death row in Iran, are calling for international assistance to save him from imminent death.
Egypt said Sunday it would not send its ambassador to Syria back to Damascus amid continuing battles between rebels and government forces.
(Reuters) – Iran ordered a halt to its oil sales to Britain and France on Sunday in a move seen as retaliation against tightening EU sanctions, as a team of U.N. inspectors flew to Tehran.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says it has begun a two-day land military exercise to upgrade its capabilities to defend the country against possible external threats.
China courageously defied the West when it opposed a U.N. resolution that condemns human rights violations in Syria, a ruling party newspaper said.
Somalia’s al-Qaeda-partnered Islamist insurgents vowed to launch a “series of suicide bombings” to coincide with David Cameron’s London conference on the war-torn country this week.
Iranian warships dock in Syria, Algeria halts Libyan weapons cache 2/19
Published February 20, 2012

The U.S. and Britain leaned on Israel to hold off on attacking Iran as the White House’s national security adviser arrived in Jerusalem amid growing international fears of a new war.
Gunmen in Syria staged a guerrilla-style ambush that killed a senior state prosecutor and a judge Sunday in an attack that suggested armed factions are growing bolder and more coordinated in their uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Iran has halted oil shipments to Britain and France, the Oil Ministry said Sunday, in an apparent pre-emptive blow against the European Union after the bloc imposed sanctions on Iran’s crucial fuel exports.
Iran may be preparing to expand its nuclear program at an underground plant near the city of Qom, a diplomat has told the BBC, just days ahead of a visit by United Nations nuclear inspectors.
Lawyer of former Tunisian President Zein al-Abedine Ben Ali, Akram Azouri, said the charges against his client are baseless and stressed that the verdict issued against him will be appealed.
Sudan’s Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi, who is seeking a “popular revolution” in the country, on Sunday accused government intelligence agents of bugging his offices via Alarabiya.net.
Western countries are stirring up a civil war in Syria with their wholehearted support for the opposition, a top Chinese newspaper said on Monday, slamming calls for the country’s leader to hand over power as an incitement to further violence.
Hundreds of demonstrators Sunday marked the first anniversary of a reform movement, born of last year’s Arab Spring, amid calls for more democracy in the Moroccan kingdom. In Casablanca, the country’s second largest city, some 2,000 people gathered.
A suicide bomber killed at least 19 police officers and cadets when a car detonated outside a police academy in Baghdad on Sunday, leaving a further 26 wounded.
Yemen’s sole presidential candidate who will be voted in this week is committed to “destroying” Al-Qaeda, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan said on Sunday in Sanaa.
(Reuters) – After a year of protests, diplomatic wrangling and an assassination attempt, Yemenis will draw a line under Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three-decade rule on Tuesday by voting in an uncontested election to install his deputy as president.
Iran may be preparing to expand its nuclear program at an underground plant near the city of Qom, a diplomat has told the BBC, just days ahead of a visit by United Nations nuclear inspectors.
Security forces shot dead a mourner at a huge funeral on Saturday for demonstrators killed in rare protests in the Syrian capital, as a senior Chinese envoy issued a plea for the bloodshed to end.
Two Iranian naval ships have docked at the Syrian port of Tartous, Iran’s state-run Press TV reported on Monday, in a development likely to raise concern in the West.
A leading Chinese newspaper accused Western countries on Monday of stirring civil war in Syria.
Algerian security forces have found a large cache of weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles, which they believe were smuggled in from neighboring Libya.
(Reuters) – Iran is becoming more active in Yemen and could pose a deeper threat to its stability and security, the U.S. envoy to Yemen said on Monday.
The 11-month uprising against Mr Assad has claimed thousands of lives One of Syria’s leading businessmen says its economy is being crippled by foreign sanctions and that the government is slowly disintegrating.
Syrian activists have called for a “Day of Defiance” after security services fired on mourners in Damascus, killing at least one person, during a funeral that turned into a mass demonstration against President Bashar al-Assad.
At least two police officers have been wounded in the Somali capital Mogadishu after a car bomb exploded next to a police department building, in an attack claimed by the radical al-Shabab group.
Zhai Jun, China’s vice foreign minister, has called on all sides in Syria to stop the violence and for elections to go aheadpeacefully after talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Syria’s state media has said.
Brotherhood courts the West, SWIFT hits Iran 2/17
Published February 18, 2012

Thai police is seeking a fifth suspect and New Delhi is scrutinizing the telephone calls made to the Middle East around the time of the attacks.
At least 26 civilians were killed in Syria on Friday as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to demand President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, a watchdog said.”The toll of martyrs from Popular Resistance Friday has reached 26 civilians,”
In an article he wrote before his death on Thursday, Mr. Shadid examined how a party shaped by repression hopes to act as a regional model after being voted into power in Tunisia as reported by NYTimes.com
(UPI) – Egyptian political activists said they have formed a “revolutionary council” focused on achieving and realizing the 2011 revolution’s goals and aspirations.
An international human-rights organization said Saudi Arabia has reversed its decision to allow women to participate in the London 2012 Olympics.
Iran’s nuclear ambitions could plunge the world into “a new Cold War” with the Middle East, Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned. He predicted a nuclear arms race among rival Middle Eastern states that would carry the dangers without the safety.
SWIFT to ban Iran after pressure from United States on Belgium-based international financial transactions firm to block Iranian banks from network; SWIFT waiting for “clarity” on EU legislation.
Two Iranian warships sailed from the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean the first such trip in at least three decades, eliciting Israeli charges that Tehran is seeking to dominate the Middle East.
Israel has reached a $1 billion preliminary deal to buy 30 Italian military training jets, Israeli defense said.
Syrian troops intensively shelled rebel-held neighborhoods in the restive central city of Homs Friday and killed at least five people, activists said.
An international banking clearinghouse crucial to Iran’s oil sales said Friday that it is preparing to discontinue services to Iranian financial institutions, an unprecedented and potentially devastating blow to Tehran as the West ramps up a campaign to stop its nuclear program.
An American antiwar activist and another Westerner who were leading a women’s protest were detained by the police in the capital, Manama, on Friday.
After winning elections, members of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party have a chance to apply their belief that faith and democracy are compatible, a concept shaped by decades of struggle, theoretical debates and exile.
The Obama administration is trying to shrink market for Iranian oil to deprive Tehran of funds for its nuclear program.
Saudi Arabia mosques called for an end to the bloodbath in Syria, where innocent people are being killed mercilessly.
A senior Israeli official accused Iran’s shadowy Quds Force on Friday of masterminding a string of attacks on Israeli diplomats abroad this week, fleshing out allegations denied by Tehran.
Turkey’s Parliament voted late to stop prosecutors questioning spies without the prime minister’s permission, after a row which analysts said revealed divisions inside the state on ending the war with Kurdish militants.
Upheaval in Egypt hit Jordan’s trade deficit last year, helping it widen by 21 percent to 7.3 billion dinars ($10.3 billion) by cutting off cheap gas supplies, official data showed.
Iran’s top oil buyers in Europe are making substantial cuts in supply months in advance of European Union sanctions, reducing flows to the continent in March by more than a third — or more than 300,000 barrels daily, industry sources said.
European Union lawmakers approved a new trade deal with Morocco that will significantly extend duty-free sales of agricultural, food and fisheries products between the North African kingdom and the 27-nation bloc.
A sharp rise in trading turnover shows money is pouring back into Middle Eastern stock markets, after a year in which the global financial crisis and political turmoil in the Arab world kept most markets depressed.
After years of attacking the West, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is now courting Western businesses to help revive the country’s sick economy.
Bahrain announced the deportation of four foreign activists for “taking part in illegal demonstrations,” bringing to 12 the number expelled over the past week.
US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon will travel to Israel on Saturday for talks with senior Israeli officials on a range of issues, including Iran and Syria, the White House announced.
General Assembly calls for Al-Assad to step down and other news 2/16
Published February 17, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday said all problems in the region were the result of foreign interference, following a two-day summit with his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts.
(UPI) – Libyan oil and natural gas exports through the Greenstream pipeline should return to normal during the second half of the year, Italian energy company Eni said. Much of Libya’s energy sector shut down last year when NATO forces imposed a no-fly zone to respond to Moammar Gaddafis crackdown on an uprising against his regime.
The government of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is emerging as a rare supplier of diesel to Syria, potentially undermining Western sanctions and helping the Syrian government fuel its military in the middle of a bloody crackdown on civilian protests
Police in Thailand are hunting for another Iranian suspected in a failed bomb plot targeting Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.
When German reporter Marcus Hellwig was thrown into an Iranian prison on spying allegations, it struck him as odd that the chair in the interrogation cell had no backrest.
Three Iranians detained for allegedly plotting bomb attacks in Bangkok on Israeli diplomats previously cavorted with prostitutes at a beach resort, Thai police said Friday.
Faiza Aboul Naga, a holdover from the regime of Hosni Mubarak, is emerging as the driving force behind Egypt’s efforts to clamp down on U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups. The female cabinet minister says U.S. aid has been used to shape post-revolution Egyptian politics, stoking widespread xenophobia.
(Reuters) – Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister said he was running for Egypt’s presidency because he had the experience to keep good ties with the generals and ensure a smooth handover to civilian rule.
(AP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a historic visit to Cyprus on Thursday, aiming to strengthen what he declared to be a “natural relationship” between the two countries in a volatile and quickly changing region.
General Assembly votes 137 to 12 for non-binding resolution calling on Bashar Assad to step down; Russia and China oppose Arab League-backed resolution.
Jordan’s Crown Prince Hassan has urged talks with the Syrian opposition – but he told the BBC they could only take place after a halt in the violence.
Formula One boss not interested in cancelling Bahrain GP despite trouble on first anniversary of uprising.
A prosecutor’s investigation of Turkey’s top spy has exposed a deep rift between police and the intelligence agency which could scupper efforts to end a Kurdish separatist insurgency and damage the government’s democratization efforts.
Residents in Homs were “waiting to die of hunger or bombardment,” as government forces carried out their heaviest pounding of the central protest city in the past 14 days, an activist reached by telephone told Al Arabiya on Friday.
New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, who won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Iraq and was detained in Libya for almost a week last year, died on Thursday in eastern Syria while on a reporting assignment.
Libya began celebrating on Friday the first anniversary of the uprising against, with fireworks and slogans, even as its new leader vowed to act firmly against further instability.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon has called on all parties in Bahrain to exercise maximum restraint and urged the authorities to act in accordance with their international human rights obligations.
Syrian security forces today arrested blogger Razan Ghazzawi, an icon of the 11-month uprising in Syria, along with rights activist Mazen Darwish and 12 others.
Syrian government forces began shelling the southern city of Daraa, the city where the first protests broke out.
Hundreds of Somalis fled their homes Thursday fearing clashes after African Union troops attacked holdout Islamist al-Shabaab militia positions on the outskirts of the war-wracked capital Mogadishu.
Iran on Thursday expressed hopes of reviving moribund talks with world powers, a day after the Islamic republic unveiled what it described as major progress in its controversial nuclear program
The United Nations on Friday urged Iran to convince the international community that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful after the nation offered to resume talks on the issue.
Amnesty International reports armed militias threaten the security of Libya with at least 12 detainees tortured to death since September Rebels armed with anti-aircraft guns at their base near Beni Walid.
Opposition activists reported dozens more people were killed in Syria on Thursday as the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly condemned the Syrian government’s “systematic violations of human rights” and backed a plan calling for President Bashar Assad to relinquish power.
An angry Afghan President Hamid Karzai confronted the Pakistani leadership Thursday, demanding that it produce Taliban officials for peace talks and underscoring the distrust between Kabul and Islamabad, which stands in the way of a deal to end the decade-long Afghan conflict.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday said all problems in the region were the result of foreign interference, following a two-day summit with his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts.
Antipathy towards US in Pakistan, Hezbollah denies involvement in bombing 2/15
Published February 17, 2012

There is an antipathy towards the US that transcends the merely political and has in fact “become visceral”, said a Pakistani daily.
(Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Iraq on Wednesday to speed up the transfer of Iranian dissidents at a camp near Baghdad to a temporary facility which the dissident group has compared to a prison.
There have been clashes on the outskirts of Bahrain’s capital, Manama, as the opposition marks the first anniversary of pro-democracy protests.
Britain has continued to sell arms to Bahrain despite continuing political unrest in the Gulf state, new official figures disclose.
There’s ‘no credible or specific’ evidence of an Iranian terror plot targeting the U.S., but officials are closely tracking the threat, the country’s top homeland security official said Wednesday.
Thai police say that two Iranian suspects arrested in Bangkok were likely planning to attack individuals but did not have the capacity to target large crowds or buildings.
(Reuters) – Thai investigators are examining a possible link in a bizarre series of explosions in Bangkok and botched attacks targeting Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia, a senior security official said on Wednesday.
BEIJING—Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and other senior leaders defended Beijing’s handling of the crisis in Syria amid growing international criticism that threatens to cast a shadow over a visit to the U.S. by Vice President Xi Jinping.
Iran halted crude exports to France and the Netherlands and threatened to stop shipments to four other European countries, state-run Mehr news agency reported, citing an unidentified official at the National Iranian Oil Co.
The U.N. General Assembly scheduled a Thursday vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution strongly condemning human rights violations by the Syrian regime and backing an Arab League plan aimed at ending the 11-month conflict.
The United Nations has called on Manama to respect its human rights obligations and end the continuous crackdown against protests and activists.
The General Assembly denounces the Syrian government’s “systematic violations of human rights.” Opposition activists report the deaths of dozens more people.
The US has expressed its concern over the presence of terrorist leaders, including LeT founder Hafeez Saeed who have been slapped sanctions by the United Nations, at a public rally in Pakistan early this week
A senior al Qaeda leader in Yemen was killed in a family feud Thursday, and an ensuing gunbattle between his followers and opponents left 16 other militants dead, a security official and tribal elders said.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his group was not involved in bomb attacks on Israeli diplomats in Thailand, India and Georgia this month.
Muslim Brotherhood to review 79 accords, Libya hits a year and others 2/16 (#Iran, #Pakistan, #Egypt, #Tunisia, #Iraq, #Israel)
Published February 17, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood said it would review the 1979 peace treaty with Israel if the United States cuts off Egypt’s aid over a crackdown on nonprofit groups.
The uprising against the regime of Col. Muammar Gaddafi started in Libya one year ago, on February 15, 2011.
Amnesty International reports armed militias threaten the security of Libya with at least 12 detainees tortured to death since September Rebels armed with anti-aircraft guns at their base near Beni Walid.
The Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta, Brigadier Martin G. Xuereb, today led an AFM delegation for a day of military-to-military talks in Libya.
The 193-nation UN General Assembly ratcheted up the pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday by overwhelmingly approving a resolution that endorses an Arab League plan calling for him to step aside.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress today that al Qaeda and Sunni extremists were seeking to gain influence in Syria,  possibly infiltrating some of the fragmented opposition groups engaged in fighting there.
(AP) – U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian regime of committing “almost certain” crimes against humanity Thursday as activists reported fresh violence and the arrest of several prominent dissidents.
The United States on Thursday hit Iran intelligence ministry with sanctions, claiming it had supported Syria’s crackdown on dissidents and had fueled repression at home.
Security forces on Thursday arrested blogger Razan Ghazzawi, symbol of the 11-month uprising in Syria, along with rights activist Mazen Darwish and 12 others, opposition figures said. Human rights lawyer Anwar Bunni said Ghazzawi, 31, was arrested.
(Reuters) – China disapproves of armed intervention or regime change in Syria, a minister said on Thursday before leaving on the first official trip to Syria since Beijing blocked a U.N. resolution calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Activists say Syrian regime forces have attacked the city of Daraa, where the uprising against President Bashar Assad erupted 11 months ago. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported sweeping raids and random arrests.
Using spyware technology that can intercept telephone text messages, the Syrian government has resorted to applying blocks on text messages which contain politically sensitive terms such as “revolution,” or “demonstration.”
Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki apologized today for calling supporters of the firebrand Egyptian cleric Wajdi Ghoneim “bacteria.” Marzouki originally made the comments in an interview on national television.
Tunisia has broken up a “terrorist organisation” and arrested 12 members who had received military training in Libya and were seeking to set up an Islamic state.
At least 15 gunmen were killed Thursday in clashes between a Shiite rebel group and Sunni fundamentalists in Yemen’s northern restive province of Saada, a local security official said, highlighting severe tension just four days.
An Al-Qaeda leader has been killed in Yemen by his own brother. Tareq al Dahab, brother-in-law of slain U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed along with five bodyguards by his brother Hizam – who was himself later killed in a revenge attack.
(UPI) – The brother of Osama bin Laden’s fifth wife has urged Pakistani authorities to free her to allow her to return to her family in Yemen. Amal al-Sadah, bin Laden’s youngest wife, is still being held prisoner.
Upheaval in Egypt hit Jordan’s trade deficit last year, helping it widen by 21 percent to 7.3 billion dinars ($10.3 billion) by cutting off cheap gas supplies, official data showed.
(Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer forcefully argued against a cut-off in aid to Egypt on Thursday but acknowledged there needed to be “consequences” after a crackdown on U.S. pro-democracy activists that has strained ties between Cairo and Washington.
Head of Supreme Electoral Commission Abdel Moez Ibrahim will hold a press conference Friday evening to announce the results of the final phase of Shura council elections in Egypt which ended on Wednesday.
U.S. nonprofit organizations under investigation in Egypt say an old ally of Hosni Mubarak is behind an Egyptian campaign against pro-democracy groups.
[Egypt Online] The Armed Forces are keen on continuing the democratic process during the transitional phase, affirmed Deputy head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Sami Anan.
Lawyers defending ousted President Hosni Mubarak will make their final statements in court next Wednesday when the presiding judge will set a date to announce his verdict on charges which include killing protestors and abusing power.
The Israeli embassy in Singapore confirmed Friday that Defence Minister Ehud Barak had visited the city-state, but dismissed reports of an assassination plot targeting him. “Minister Barak was in Singapore to attend the Airshow and open the Israeli Pavilion,” the Israeli embassy’s deputy chief of mission Michal Sarig-Kaduri told AFP in an email.
The criminal inquiry into a suspected Iranian plot targeting Israelis overseas with magnetized bombs expanded on Thursday, with police in Thailand and investigators in India getting involved.
US President Barack Obama’s administration is pressuring the European Union and a global electronic banking system to expel Iranian banks from a network used to transfer money, another step in Western efforts to deprive Tehran of funds needed to develop nuclear weapons.
Leading US intelligence official says Iran has capabilities to eventually produce nuclear weapons, but is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke conflict.
(JP) – In address to supporters, Nasrallah denies Israeli accusations that the group is behind bomb attacks on Israeli diplomatic targets in India, Georgia, reiterates vow to respond to Moughniyah’s killing.
Fingers link to Al Qaeda in Syria, Protests in Bahrain and other news 2/15
Published February 17, 2012

Russia has ruled out backing western sanctions against Iran, saying they are aimed at regime change in Tehran.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the U.S. is closely monitoring the activities of Iran-linked militant group Hezbollah.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party says it opposes civil disobedience campaigns; rejects SCAF’s restructuring of National Council for Women; calls for severing ties with Syria; and blasts Israeli threats against Al-Aqsa.
Fighters linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq were reportedly among Sunni extremists suspected in recent bombings in Damascus and Aleppo.
(Reuters) – Libya will let Syria’s opposition National Council open an office in Tripoli, Libya’s interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told Al Jazeera television on Wednesday.
Bound by hatred of the US, Pakistan extremists and politicians join hands to shake government.
The U.S. and Afghan governments have begun secret three-way talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told The Wall Street Journal.
An explosion hit a major oil pipeline feeding a refinery in Homs, Syria, on Wednesday, witnesses say. The blast struck the pipeline near a district being shelled by government troops.
(AP) – The head of a Tunisian newspaper and two of its editors were arrested Wednesday for violating public morals, the Justice Ministry said, after the publishing of a photo of a sports figure with a nude woman.
Western fears increase that an alleged stockpile secured by the Assad regime could be attacked or seized by opposition groups or militants.
A confidential cable from an American diplomat discusses Iran’s alleged funding of propaganda in Uttar Pradesh.
Government forces launched a series of blistering attacks in the cities of Deera, Hama and Homs while two youths were shot dead in capital Damascus as troops conducted house to house searches.
Activists say Syrian regime forces have attacked the city of Daraa, where the uprising against President Bashar Assad erupted 11 months ago early Thursday.
Saudi Arabia should be banned from participating in the London Olympics unless it includes a female athlete, says a scathing new report from Human Rights Watch.
Libya’s aspirations to replace Muammar Gaddafi’s repressive rule with a just, democratic state are being undermined by armed militias who trample on human rights and are outside the government’s control, Amnesty International said on Thursday. The militias spearheaded the rebellion that ended Gaddafi’s 42-year rule but they have so far refused to disband.
Outgoing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has ordered his pictures to be replaced by those of his vice president, who is due to take his place later this month, state news agency Saba reported Wednesday. Reported by Khaleej Times.
The White House offered a cautious response on Thursday to an Iranian letter to world powers on resuming talks about its nuclear program, but made clear it was open to renewed diplomacy if Tehran was committed to reducing tensions with the West.
UN to vote on Syria Thursday, Al-Assad orders referendum 2/14
Published February 15, 2012

(AP) – The international community must rule out military intervention as a solution to the Syrian crisis, the leader of a global Islamic group said Wednesday.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said he remained involved in “quiet diplomacy activities” with Syrian President Bashar Assad over the power struggle that has cost more than 5,000 lives over the last 11 months.
(Reuters) – Young Iranians abandoned thoughts of sanctions, nuclear power and economic hardship on Tuesday in favour of shopping for gifts and making dinner plans to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day.
Despite rising tensions with the West over its nuclear ambitions, many Tehran restaurants were fully booked and young Iranians could be seen out browsing gift shops in the capital to buy presents for loved ones in defiance of a ban on Valentine’s Day items aimed at preventing the spread of “Western culture”. Iranian authorities banned the sale of Valentine cards and other heart-shaped products last year and police have warned that action will be taken against those who violate the ban.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Arabi called for a joint monitoring force with the United Nations for Syria to replace his group’s mission, which was suspended as violence persisted.
The United States and Europe are considering unprecedented punishment against Iran that could immediately cripple the country’s financial lifeline. But it’s an extreme option in the banking world that would come with its own costs.
The Obama administration wants Iran evicted from SWIFT, an independent financial clearinghouse that is crucial to the country’s overseas oil sales
Foreign Secretary William Hague has condemned Iran’s attempts to suppress freedom of expression, a year after opposition leaders were put under house arrest.
Tunisia’s state news agency says an appeals court has dismissed a criminal lawsuit filed by authorities against the former Libyan prime minister for allegedly crossing into the country illegally
(Reuters) – Iran will load domestically made nuclear fuel rods into its Tehran Research Reactor on Wednesday for the first time to keep it running, a senior official told a national news agency.
(AP) – Syrian President Bashar Assad has ordered a referendum on Feb. 26 on a new constitution that would open the way to political parties other than the ruling Baath Party, the state news agency said Wednesday
The US and its allies are closely monitoring Syria’s stockpiles of chemical arms and portable anti-aircraft missiles, a State Department official says, amid concerns that the country’s unconventional weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist or militant groups while the 11-month-old uprising continues.
An oil pipeline in the central Syrian city of Homs was attacked Wednesday, setting off a huge blaze, while regime troops stormed several residential neighborhoods in the nearby city of Hama, activists said.
Iranian engineers have succeeded in neutralizing and purging the computer virus known as Stuxnet from their country’s nuclear machinery, European and U.S. officials and private experts have told Reuters.
A high official for leading Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood has threatened to change the terms of Egypts 1979 peace treaty with Israel if the US withdraws aid to the country
Bahrain’s foreign minister says US not backing war on Iran.
Tensions over Iran rose several notches on Wednesday following a series of suspected bomb plots against Israeli diplomats in different countries, and ahead of an expected announcement on Teheran’s nuclear progress. Iranian officials have denied any involvement in the alleged plots in Thailand, India.
Ahmad Al Saadoon, a veteran politician and three-time speaker of Kuwait Parliament, has been elected the new speaker. The Kuwaiti emir on Wednesday inaugurated the new opposition-dominated parliament by calling on MPs and the government to cooperate
Tehran summoned the ambassadors of six European Union states Wednesday, to protest EU sanctions against the Islamic state, Khabar news network reported. The foreign ministry in Tehran reportedly summoned the ambassadors of France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain.
A Syrian dissident military officer, Capt. Abdul Salam Ahmed Abdul Razek, said the Syrian regime is using internationally prohibited poisonous gas against protestors under the supervision of both Iran and Russia.
Tamir Pardo, the head of Mossad, made a secret trip to Washington earlier this month to gauge the likely American reaction to an independent Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Al Arabiya is exposed to deliberate jamming on the Arabsat by the Syrian regime. Accordingly, Al Arabiya transmission on that satellite will stop staring Thursday at 2100 GMT (00:00 KSA) and other permanent and alternative frequencies would be provided.
The United Nations General Assembly will vote Thursday on a new resolution calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to put a stop to deadly attacks on civilians, diplomats said, as China warned that missteps by the U.N. Security Council could cause worse bloodshed in Syria.
Protests start in Iran, 100 militas unite in Libya and more 2/13
Published February 14, 2012

(UPI) — An Egyptian military court has ordered a postponement in the case against military doctors accused of conducting virginity tests on a female activist.
Egyptian state-run newspapers escalated a dispute with the United States over an inquiry into civil society groups on Tuesday by splashing across their front pages accusations of an American plan to spread “anarchy” in the Arab country. Based on remarks by a government minister, the headlines marked another low in a crisis between Washington and Cairo
An Australian journalist who was held in Egypt on suspicion of paying Egyptians to stage protests against the authorities Tuesday denied the claims and told how he could hear prisoners being tortured.
Iran may reject Western influences, but Valentine’s Day has become a growing phenomenon thanks to the romantically minded youth of the Islamic state’s affluent classes.
Iranian patrol boats and aircraft shadowed a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, ending a Gulf mission amid heightened tensions with Tehran that include threats to choke off vital oil shipping lanes.
According to Iran, “certain known Bahraini figures” gathered in front of its mission building and “chanted some slogans against Iranian officials”. It said the protest was “unacceptable” and called on the Bahraini government to “prevent such actions”.
Syria flatly rejected UN charges of crimes against humanity on Tuesday, even as monitors said troops killed at least six civilians in the heaviest shelling of the protest city of Homs for days.
Weapons and Sunni Muslim insurgents are seeping from Iraq into Syria, Iraqi officials and arms dealers say, fuelling violence in a country that once sent guns and militants the other way. The revolt against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has struck a chord with Sunni tribes in Iraq’s border provinces of Anbar and Ninawa.
In Lebanon, long-standing, polarising divisions between supporters and opponents of the regime in neighbouring Syria overlay volatile sectarian faultlines
Tensions between Israel and Iran rose sharply Monday when bombers struck at Israeli Embassy personnel in the capitals of India and Georgia. Israel accused the Tehran government of being behind the attacks, which Iran denied.
A letter-writing campaign to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has shattered a taboo against criticizing the country’s top religious and political authority.
The shift comes ahead of protests that could further challenge the Iranian government in the weeks before elections on March 2. Iran’s opposition Green Movement, student activists and the main reform political parties have called for nationwide demonstrations Tuesday to demand the release of opposition leaders under house arrest and call for democracy.
(AP) — An Iranian man carrying explosives blew off his own legs and wounded four other people in two blasts Tuesday in Bangkok,
Syrian government forces on Tuesday brushed aside a stern castigation from the top United Nations human rights official, resuming what one activist called “brutal shelling” of the city of Homs.
(Reuters) – Israel accused arch-enemies Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of being behind twin bomb attacks that targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia on Monday, wounding four people.
The White House announced plans on Monday to help countries swept by “Arab Spring” revolutions with more than $800 million in economic aid, while maintaining U.S. military assistance to Egypt despite a crisis triggered by an Egyptian crackdown on U.S. democracy activists.
Iran has further restricted access to the Internet and blocked popular email services for the past few days, in a move a top lawmaker said could “cost the regime dearly,”
Hamza Kashgari, the twenty-three-year-old Saudi blogger whose controversial tweets about the Prophet Muhammed last weekend incited controversy among religious conservatives in the Middle East, has been returned to Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government.
Representatives of about 100 militias from western Libya said they had formed a new federation to prevent infighting and allow them to press the country’s new government for further reform.
(UPI) — Saadi Gadhafi, a son of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, is under house arrest in Niger after warning of a new revolution, officials in Tripoli said.
(Reuters) – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Tuesday it was urgent to prevent war and chaos in Syria and vowed to work through the United Nations to seek an end to civil strife in the country.
Larayed, a senior member of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party that now leads Tunisia’s government, said that a further nine members of the group were on the run inside Libya.
The Middle East would gain, with the creation of a special $770 million fund to support political and economic reform in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. “This budget follows a year of transformational change in the world,” Thomas Nides
Citing confessions from the arrested suspects, Laarayedh said the group was in touch with al-Qaida elements in Libya and may have had links with Algerian members of the terror network as well. All the suspects were under the age of 30.
(AP) ALGIERS, Algeria – Algeria’s president has announced on state television that elections will be held May 10.
The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt is expected to be the driving force of change in Hamas, which will affect the region as well as Palestine.
On its part, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria on Monday accused Russia, China and Iran of being “accomplices of the massacres” committed in the country, providing the regime of Bashar al-Assad “supportive” policy and “weapons”.
—————————
Syria’s army killed at least six civilians Tuesday in the heaviest shelling of Homs for several days, monitors said, as the international community warned of a humanitarian disaster in the city
U.S. and international pressure on the regime of Syria’s Bashar Assad has “been effective” and the regime will “come to an end,” the Obama administration says
A Yemeni security official says government troops have killed 12 al-Qaida-linked militants in heavy artillery shelling in the south while two soldiers died in clashes with militants in the same area.
China will not protect the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Premier Wen Jiabao said Tuesday, after Beijing drew international ire for vetoing a UN resolution on the country.
Syrian troops continue to pound the protest hub of Homs, with an Arab League peacekeeping plan in limbo and UN human rights chief saying crimes against humanity probably have been committed.
With parliamentary elections looming in Iran next month, authorities are ramping up censorship of the opposition, disrupting much of the country’s Internet in the process, reports Reuters .
Iranian authorities will this week crack down on any public protest against the year-long house arrest of opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, an official said yesterday.Iran, at odds with the West over its disputed nuclear program.
Gaza’s Prime Minister Haniyeh’s trip to Tehran highlighted the disagreement between the movement’s leaders over the recently signed Doha agreement that would see Palestinian President Abbas into the post of prime minister
A day following the terror attacks against Israeli missions in India and Georgia, a terrorist in Thailand has suffered the indignity of premature explodation
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to unveil several unspecified nuclear “achievements” on Wednesday, his government’s website said. “Several completed nuclear projects will be unveiled..
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