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Rockets from Lebanon Land in Israeli Settlement, Zionist Army Retaliates

Al-Manar | July 11, 2014

Twenty five Israeli shells have so far fallen on Kfarshuba outskirts, Halta and Majidiyah causing only material damages, the National News Agency reported.

Zionist army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said artillery units had fired a barrage at “suspicious positions” sighted over the border.

This came as unknown persons fired at dawn today two 107mm Katyusha rockets which landed in the area east of Metula settlement on the border with Lebanon. Lebanese army intelligence inspected the area where the rockets were being launched and found two more missiles ready for launching and defused them immediately. Another rocket exploded while still on its launchpad.

The Lebanese army found military gear in Ain Arab, reports also said.

The Army Command issued on Friday the following statement: “Today, between 1:00 and 6:00 in the morning, an unknown party fired three rockets from the area of Marjayoun – Hasbaya towards the occupied Palestinian territory. Afterwards, the army conducted patrols in the area and carried out a wide-scale search operation in which it found two platforms with two rockets set for launching, while the military expert arrived to the scene and worked on disabling the platforms.”

The Zionist army said one projectile fired from Lebanon struck “northern Israel” causing no harm or damages. “One projectile hit an open space near Kfar Yuval, between (northern Israeli towns) Metula and Kiryat Shmona,” a military spokeswoman told Agence France Presse.

The Zionist officials said it was unlikely the rockets were fired by Hezbollah and believed they were fired by a small Palestinian group in solidarity with Gaza.

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments

Same old, same old: New Ukraine prosecutor wants Maidan activists dispersed

RT | July 9, 2014

Hundreds of activists on Kiev’s Maidan must leave and free seized buildings, Ukraine’s prosecutor general has said. He urged law enforcers to intervene and did not rule out forceful eviction from Independence Square, if activists show resistance.

Security forces will be authorized to take measures if activists do not leave the city center “today, tomorrow or in the near future,” Vitaly Yarema, the prosecutor general, said at a briefing on Wednesday.

“I am appealing to the interior minister and the head of the [Ukrainian Security Service] SBU to take urgent measures. I demand that captured buildings be immediately vacated,” Yarema said. He added that in case those demands are not met, “criminal responsibility will follow” as the seizing of buildings is a crime.

“They want to turn the symbol of the revolution into a caricature,” he added.

Kiev’s Independence Square was the main protester hotspots where pro-EU activists have been demonstrating since November 21, 2013. While the majority of activists left, there are up to 1,000 people still on Maidan, according to Kiev’s newly-elected mayor, Vitaly Klitschko.

The prosecutor general said that law-enforcement bodies should take measures to restore order in the capital’s central districts as crime there was getting worse.

There are 19 buildings, including administrative offices and hotels, which remain under the protesters’ control. According to Yarema’s information, nearly 500 activists are living in the seized offices.

“Instead of protecting the country, defending its independence in the East or working for the country’s benefit, imposters are engaged in direct extortion and banditry,” he said.

On Wednesday, it was reported that over 60 pieces of art worth $185,000 had gone missing from the Ukrainian Museum of National History, which is in the Ukrainian house, international exhibition and convention center. This building is currently in the control of the activists

When asked about the possibility of using force while evicting the so-called euromaidan encampment, Yarema replied: “The option of force is possible. If there is armed resistance, police officers have the right to use their weapons.”

At the same time, he assured journalists that “there will be no confrontation” and people would only be detained if they offer resistance to police.

Responding to the prosecutor general’s demands, Vitaly Klitschko said the use of force is “an extreme” measure, which he had never considered.

“The forcible dispersal of Maidan, I am sure, can only be an extreme step. I do not consider this and never have. I am sure that we need to communicate so that people leave,” he said.

Klitschko agreed that activists should leave so at least traffic could be restored along the city’s main Khreschatyk Street.

He stressed that he has been receiving “a large number” complaints filed by Kiev residents because the “blockade of the main artery of the center of Kiev, Khreschatyk, is paralyzing the work of the entire city.”

Moreover, gunshots and explosions can be heard coming from the encampment from time to time.

Kiev’s authorities have suggested that Maidan activists leave the city’s main square and move to some location outside Kiev. However, this proposal was rejected.

Klitschko said that a joint decision on “eviction of Maidan” will be taken in the coming weeks.

Elected Kiev’s mayor back in May, Klitschko has so far failed to reach any agreement with activists occupying Maidan.

One of Klitschko first public statements after securing his post was a call for them to leave.

“The key goal of the Maidan – ousting the dictator – has been reached, so the barricades should be dismantled,” he said back in May.

However, Klitschko’s call provoked mass protests as activists criticized Klitshchko for not taking into account their opinion on whether Maidan should be dismantled or not.

They threatened to start “a third Maidan” (following the 2004 protest during the “orange revolution” and the second one in November 2013-February 2014), unless the order to dismantle the barricades in the Ukrainian capital is rescinded.

That was when Vitaly Klitschko quickly changed his rhetoric, saying that Maidan should itself determine its future.

July 9, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

‘Enough is enough’: Berlin outraged by alleged US spying

RT | July 6, 2014

The arrest of a German intelligence employee for allegedly spying for the US has caused an uproar among German politicians. The country’s foreign minister has demanded an immediate clarification of the situation from Washington.

“If the reports are true, then we’re not talking about trifles,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on a visit to Mongolia, DPA reports. He added that prompt clarification of the details in the case were in the “US’s own interest.”

Earlier, US Ambassador to Germany John B. Emerson was summoned to the German Foreign Office to answer questions concerning the recent arrest of a 31-year-old German foreign intelligence agency (BND) employee, who confessed to having spied for the US.

German tabloid Bild reported that the man had been a double agent for two years, during which time he exchanged bundles of secret documents for €25,000 ($34,100).

The harshest reaction so far has come from German President Joachim Gauck. If the spying allegations are confirmed, “one really has to say, enough is enough,” he told the ZDF broadcaster Saturday.

Angela Merkel on Sunday expressed surprise and disappointment over the possible involvement of US intelligence in the BND espionage scandal, according to German businessmen, accompanying her on her trip to China, Spiegel Online reports. She has not made any comment so far, however.

Last October, Merkel was enraged to learn she was allegedly on the NSA’s tapping list since 2002. The Chancellor called the alleged spying, which became known thanks to Edward Snowden’s leaks, “unacceptable.”

A German parliamentary committee has been holding hearings on the NSA’s spying activities in Germany.

Ironically, the classified materials from the hearings on US spying could get into the hands of US intelligence, as they allegedly were part of the documents stolen by the suspected double agent.

“If the suspicion of espionage is confirmed, that would be an outrageous attack on our parliamentary freedom,” said Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary leader of the SPD party, a coalition partner of Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Opposition parties have called for caution in future cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies.

“All cooperation of the German security authorities with friendly services needs to be reviewed,” Green Party leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt told Spiegel Online.

The German government is demanding that the US replace its employees at the Joint Intelligence Staff based in the US Embassy in Berlin, Bild reports.

While most of the criticism is focused on the US, some believe it’s the German leadership’s inability to react properly to the NSA tapping leaks that’s led to the yet another spying scandal. Merkel’s opponents have repeatedly blamed her for too mild a response to the NSA global surveillance revelations.

“That’s a result of Merkel’s transatlantic hypocrisy,” co-chair of the Left Party Katja Kipping said, Der Tagesspiegel reported.

Background:

Germany arrests suspected ‘double agent’ for working for US – report

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Palestinian boy goes missing in Jerusalem

Al-Akhbar | July 4, 2014

A Palestinian child went missing in East Jerusalem early Friday, a local news site reported, two days after a teenager was kidnapped and killed by suspected settlers in the Israeli-occupied city.

Wafa News Agency said a 13-year-old boy was last spotted walking near a mosque in the neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz around dawn.

Witnesses told the agency that they saw a settler car driving in the area around the same time the boy went missing.

Israeli police were reviewing CCTV footage from cameras set up in the area to determine if the boy was kidnapped, the report added.

In a separate incident, a group of settlers Thursday night was reported to have tried to kidnap a seven-year-old Palestinian boy from his Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina.

Ma’an News Agency reported that family members of Mohammed al-Kiswani chased off four settlers who attempted to snatch the boy as he played outside after breaking Ramadan fast.

The incidents come as the family of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khudeir prepare to lay him to rest Friday, two days after he was kidnapped and killed in Jerusalem.

The charred remains of Abu Khudeir were discovered in a forest hours after his family reported him missing.

CCTV footage from Wednesday’s abduction shows suspected settlers forcing the teen into a car around dawn before speeding away.

Hundreds of Israelis had taken to the streets Tuesday chanting “death to Arabs” after the bodies of three Israeli settlers were discovered in the West Bank.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Raqqa province: Welcome to ISIS’ capital

Al-Akhbar | July 3, 2014

ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) increased its grip on “Wilayat al-Raqqa”, the capital of the Islamic State. It is setting the foundation of its rule through courts, resolving disputes between civilians, and social committees serving the “Muslims” inside the borders of the province. This is in addition to using an iron fist policy against anyone daring to “destabilize the security of the Islamic State.”

The bus trip from Beirut to the city al-Raqqa is around 12 hours. Three years ago, it barely took half the time. Young Syrian workers are looking forward to seeing their families.

Mohammed Abdullah, who has a degree in economics, works as an accountant in one of Beirut’s suburbs. This is his first visit in two years. He knew about the situation in the area from communicating with family and friends, as well as from the social media.

Mohammed described his trip to his hometown to Al-Akhbar, after being absent for two years: “ISIS elements welcomed us at the first checkpoint. The Saudi dialect was strongly present. They made sure there were no soldiers among the travelers and that women wore the niqab.”

Only a short distance separates the Syrian army and National Defense Forces checkpoint, on one hand, and the former al-Nusra Front position, currently occupied by ISIS. However, all communication is cut off as soon as a person crosses into the governorate’s administrative borders.

“Inside the city, the signs of destruction are obvious on some government buildings and homes,” Mohammed added.

“Revolutionary streets”

Cars in the district run on manually refined crude oil derivatives. Nobody remembers the last time regular fuel arrived from the port at Tartous.

Mohammed said he was worried about telling the taxi driver his home address. “Shall I say, take me to Martyr Bassel al-Assad highway? And if I said take me to Colonel Hussein Harmoush Street, renamed by the Free Syrian Army, would he know it?

The taxi driver noticed the young man’s confusion and asked several questions about Mohammed’s route. “What’s wrong? You could have said you wanted to go to Bassel street. No worries. Get in. I will take you there,” the driver replied.

FSA brigades and civil society activists tried to change street names in Raqqa. Tal Abyad Street, the city’s most popular, was renamed after martyr Ali al-Babinsi. However, people keep using the old name. In any case, very few people know its official name in city records, which is al-Qunaytirah Road.

Martyr Basel al-Assad Street was turned into Colonel Hussein Harmoush Street and al-Jalaa or “Clock” Roundabout became Freedom Square. “Mr. President Square” is now Martyrs’ Square, but people on both sides call it after the nearby fire station.

Civil society activists had also painted some of the city’s statues with the colors of the “revolutionary flag.” However, ISIS removed the “flag of infidels” and raised its banners everywhere.

“Islamic services”

At night, Raqqa’s residents like to walk around the quiet streets or sit at cafes. There is no armed presence or news about thefts or violations. Cigarettes and alcohol are smuggled into the city and sold at double their price.

Alaa Jubran, a resident of Raqqa who was there on a recent visit, told Al-Akhbar, “Street vendors do not occupy the city’s sidewalks anymore. ISIS established a popular market in the city center. It was equipped to include the vendors and traveling salesmen, banning them from using the streets.”

ISIS transferred the busy Friday market next to Raqqa’s old wall, a historical site, and moved moved market day to Thursday so it would not distract people from attending Friday prayers in the mosque.

It also created a consumer protection office and imposed monthly payments on commercial establishments, in return for sanitation, electricity, water, and phone services. At a later stage, this will be extended to civilians to ensure the continuity of services.

Two signs in particular are hanging in shop windows. “Sisters, please do not remove the niqab inside the shop,” said one. The other announced that “work stops 10 minutes before prayers.” Prayer rooms were established in public venues and streets become almost empty before prayer times, save for ISIS’ patrols.

However, Mohammed could not hide his admiration of ISIS’ policies inside the province, although they have been keeping his brother in custody for months. He praised its gunmen, “who returned what they could of items stolen from public buildings by FSA fighters.”

The Islamist Traffic Police is on every street and market, wearing the same uniform, conducting traffic, and issuing tickets. Inside official buildings and facilities, the staff is committed to serving the citizens. Emergency vehicles of the water and electricity departments are rushing to fix problems all the time.

On the other hand, the recently created Islamic Services Authority supervises state institutions. The Accounts Bureau monitors the markets, sales operations, applying sharia, and holding violators accountable.

Civilian dreams

The official weekend is now on Thursday and Friday. Residents of Raqqa are trying to cope with the new realities. “They became weary of the state of instability they passed through in the preceding nine months. They were always afraid of sudden clashes between the brigades. But now there is only one ruler,” Mohammed explained.

“The situation in Raqqa is not perfect, but it is much better today,” Alaa added. “People lost hope in the FSA, whose fighters fled after stealing city property and seizing archaeological artifacts, bank holdings, and cotton and wheat crops.”

“Civilians only want to live in peace, regardless of the ruler, ISIS, the Syrian regime, or al-Nusra Front. People demand to be allowed to return to the quiet life they had in their city,” he concluded.

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

U.S. Demand for Deep Centrifuge Cut Is a Diplomatic Ploy

By Gareth Porter | Inter Press Service | July 1, 2014

WASHINGTON — With only a few weeks remaining before the July 20 deadline, the Barack Obama administration issued a warning to Iran that it must accept deep cuts in the number of its centrifuges in order to demonstrate that its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes.

U.S. officials have argued that such cuts are necessary to increase the “breakout” time – the time it would take Iran to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade level to build a single bomb – from what is said to be two to three months at present to as long as a year or even more.

Given the past record of political interference in fuel agreements, Washington knows it faces a tough sell trying to get Iran to accept the U.S. insistence on reliance on foreign suppliers.

Tehran has made it clear that it will not accept such a demand. Dismantling the vast majority of the centrifuges that Iran had installed is a highly symbolic issue, and the political cost of acceptance would be extremely high.

But a closer examination of the issues under negotiation suggests that the ostensible pressure on Iran is part of a strategy aimed at extracting concessions from Iran on the issue of its longer-term enrichment capability.

The Obama administration has been aware from the beginning of the talks that the “breakout” period could be lengthened to nearly a year without requiring the removal of most of the 10,000 centrifuges that have been used over the past two and a half years.

U.S. officials were well aware that reducing the amount of low enriched uranium and oxide powder now stockpiled by Iran to close to zero and avoiding any future accumulation would have the same effect – and that Iran was willing to accept such restrictions.

David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security and Olli Heinonen, the former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general for Safeguards, warned in a June 3 article against a deal that would allow Iran to have more than 4,000 centrifuges in return for reducing its stocks of UF6 and oxide powder (UO2).

But they acknowledged that, if the Iranian LEU stockpile were reduced from the present level of 8,475 kg to 1,000 kilogrammes, the breakout time for 10,000 IR-1 centrifuges would be six months. And if the stockpile were reduced to zero, the breakout time would increase to close to a year, according to one of the graphs accompanying the article.

Experts from the Department of Energy as well as from the intelligence community certainly briefed policymakers on the fact that lengthening the breakout timeline to between six and 12 months could be achieved through reducing either centrifuges or the stockpile of low enriched uranium (LEU), according to Steve Fetter, who was assistant director at large for the White House Office of Science and Technology from 2009-12.

Eliminating the existing LEU stockpile and avoiding any further accumulation is the intent of an Iranian proposal formally handed over to EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Istanbul last month. Under that proposal, which Zarif revealed in an interview with IPS in Tehran June 3, Iran would convert all UF6 to Uranium oxide powder (U02) and then convert the U02 to fuel plates for Bushehr.

Iran has expressed the desire to fabricate fuel plates for Bushehr itself, but has not yet mastered the technology. The proposal would therefore involve shipping either UF6 enriched to 3.5 percent or the U02 to Russia for conversion into fuel plates until the expiration of the contract with Russia for fuel fabrication for Bushehr expires in 2021.

In the interim agreement, Iran committed to begin converting UF6 enriched to 3.5 percent to oxide powder as soon as its line for such conversion became operational. The Enriched U02 Powder Plant began operating in May, but the time required to reduce the existing stockpile to zero will depend on the capacity of the plant, which has not been announced.

Zarif told IPS he had unveiled the basic idea underlying the Iranian proposal in his PowerPoint presentation to European officials in Geneva in mid-October.

When Secretary of State John Kerry declared in April that he would demand a major increase in the existing “breakout” period to somewhere between to six and 12 months, therefore, he had good reason to believe that Washington could achieve that objective without cutting Iran’s centrifuges to a few thousand.

An agreement to freeze the existing level of 10,000 operating centrifuges while reducing the LEU stockpile to zero could place the 9,000 centrifuges that have never been operated in storage under IAEA seal. Those used centrifuges include 1,000 advanced IR-2 centrifuges that are estimated to be three to five times more efficient than the IR-1 model.

Iran’s policy of introducing thousands of centrifuges into the Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities that were never used was aimed at accumulating negotiating chips for eventual negotiations on its nuclear programme.

In late August 2012, a senior U.S. official told the New York Times that Iran was being “very strategic” by “creating tremendous [enrichment] capacity,” but “not using it.” In doing so, the official said, Iran was acquiring “leverage” – obviously referring to future negotiations.

During the round of negotiations in Vienna in June, however, the draft tabled by the P5+1 apparently called for cuts going well beyond what U.S. officials knew would be acceptable to Iran. U.S. officials told the New York Times that the objective was now to lengthen the “breakout period” to more than a year – thus going beyond what Kerry had suggested in April.

The draft may have included an even more extreme demand from the French government. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared in mid-June that the West wants to cut the number of centrifuges to “several hundred”.

After the June round of negotiations, Zarif denounced the draft as containing “excessive demands” which Iran would not accept.

But those demands appear to be a negotiating ploy in which the U.S. would give up the demand for deep short-term reductions centrifuges in the coming years in return for Iranian concessions on the level of enrichment capability to be allowed in the later stage of the agreement.

The November 2013 Joint Plan of Action provided that the future enrichment programme would depend on Iran’s “practical needs”. Iran interprets that term to include the need to be self-reliant in providing reactor fuel for Bushehr, whereas the Obama administration argues that Iran can and should rely on Russia or other foreign suppliers.

Given the past record of political interference in fuel agreements Iran had negotiated with French and German firms in the 1980s and with Russia in 2005, however, Washington knows it faces a tough sell trying to get Iran to accept the U.S. insistence on reliance on foreign suppliers.

The “practical need” criterion suggests that Iran would have to provide concrete evidence of its need and ability to provide the fuel rods for the Bushehr reactor when the current contract with Russia expires in 2021.

Postponing the negotiations over that issue until a date much closer to 2021 would offer a period of a few years to negotiate an agreement on a regional fuel consortium for the Middle East that would be acceptable to both sides, as has been proposed by a group of Princeton University scientists and scholars.

Perhaps even more important, such a postponement would allow for increasing trust through the successful implementation of the agreement covering the next few years.

Explaining the Princeton group’s plan at a briefing in Washington, D.C. last week, nuclear scientist Frank N. von Hippel, who was assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology in the Bill Clinton administration, said, “We would have five years to cool down this impasse.”

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments

Iran, US diplomats to meet ahead of fresh nuclear talks

Press TV – June 7, 2014

Officials from Iran and the US will meet in Geneva next week ahead of the next round of talks between the Islamic Republic and the six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry says the meeting between the Iranian and US delegations will be held in Geneva on the 9th and 10th of June. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi will be heading the Iranian delegation in the talks. Other reports say the US delegation will be headed by US Under-Secretary for State Wendy Sherman.

The talks will come ahead of the next round of negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear energy program scheduled for June 16-20 in the Austrian city of Vienna, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

Iranian officials will later sit down with Russian diplomats in the Italian capital, Rome, on June 11-12.

Representatives from Iran will probably hold further meetings with other delegations from the six powers – the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany.

On Saturday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran has already held bilateral deputy-level meetings with some delegations from the six world powers.

Iran and the six countries have been holding talks to iron out their differences and reach a final deal to end the standoff over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program.

The two sides held the latest round of nuclear negotiations in Vienna in May.

June 8, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Doha official: Freed Taliban “will not be treated as prisoners”

Al-Akhbar | June 3, 2014

Qatar has moved five Afghan Taliban prisoners freed in exchange for a US soldier to a residential compound and will let them move freely in the country, a senior Gulf official said on Tuesday, a step likely to be scrutinized by Washington.

US officials have referred to the release of the Taliban members as a transfer and said they would be subject to certain restrictions in Qatar. One of the officials said that would include a minimum one-year ban on them travelling outside of Qatar as well as monitoring of their activities.

“All five men received medical checks and they now live with their families in an accommodation facility in Doha,” the Gulf source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. “They can move around freely within the country.”

Following the deal under which freed the last American soldier held in Afghanistan, concerns have been expressed by some US intelligence officials and congressional advisers over the role of the Gulf Arab state as a bridge between Washington and the world of radical Islam.

The Gulf official said the Taliban men, who have been granted Qatari residency permits, will not be treated like prisoners while in Doha and no US officials will be involved in monitoring their movement while in the country.

“Under the deal they have to stay in Qatar for a year and then they will be allowed to travel outside the country… They can go back to Afghanistan if they want to,” the official said.

The five, who had been held at the US Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba since 2002, arrived in Qatar on Sunday where US security personnel handed them over to Qatari authorities in the Udeid area west of Doha, where the US military is based.

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had been held for nearly five years by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and his release followed years of on-off negotiations.

A diplomatic source said Qatar has flown in family members of the five released Taliban men and gave them accommodation paid for by the government.

On Sunday, Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah told a news conference that Doha got involved in the case because it was a “humanitarian cause,” but did not elaborate.

(Reuters)

June 3, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Ex-president in talks to free Nigeria schoolgirls

Press TV – May 28, 2014

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has reportedly engaged in an effort to broker the release of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Takfiri Boko Haram militants.

Obasanjo has met with people close to the radical militants in an attempt to negotiate the release of the abducted schoolchildren, AFP reported Tuesday, citing a source close to the talks.

The meeting reportedly took place last weekend at Obasanjo’s farm in Ogun State and involved the relatives of some senior Boko Haram militants as well as mediators, the source added.

“The meeting was focused on how to free the girls through negotiation,” said the anonymous source, referring to the girls who were abducted on April 14 from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno State.

Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh stated Monday that the whereabouts of the girls had been located but cast doubt on the prospect of rescuing them by force. He further noted that the risks of storming the area with troops in a rescue mission were too great and could prove fatal for the young hostages.

According to the source, Obasanjo had voiced concern over Nigeria’s acceptance of foreign military intervention to help rescue the abducted girls.

Obasanjo is reportedly worried that Nigeria’s prestige in Africa as a major continental power had been diminished by President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to bring in Western military assistance, including by US forces.

Obasanjo, who left office in 2007, has previously sought to negotiate with the Takfiri militants, including in September 2011, after Boko Haram bombed the United Nations headquarters in Abuja.

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Bring Back Our Girls!

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By Gary Corseri | Dissident Voice | May 25, 2014

From the droned villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan–
Bring back our girls!
From Nigeria, and the brothels of the Philippines–
Bring back our girls!
From the ruined cities of Detroit and Newark
And the ravished American Dream–
Bring back our girls!
From “Disaster Capitalism” and twerking jerks–
Bring back our girls!
From the “Occupied Territories” of Palestine
And from Israeli Porn Kings–
Bring back our girls!
From the “royal” slave-holders of Arabia,
And the crapulous monarchs of Britain–
Bring back our girls!
From our culture of destitution and prostitution–
Bring back our girls!
From “entrepreneurs” and exploiters
Of sex and violence and from those who confound and abuse–
Bring back our girls!
Restore them to their birthright dignity:
Co-creators; mothers; sisters; daughters; friends.
Bring back our girls
From the wars that have butchered them
(Restore them!);
From the silence that has answered their prayers
(Answer now…);
From the callous hypocrisy
Of scoffed-at dreams and snuffed-out hopes–
Bring back our girls!

May 25, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran cut enriched uranium stockpile by 80% – IAEA

RT | May 23, 2014

Iran is fulfilling its obligations under the nuclear deal with the six-world powers, having curbed its stockpile of higher-grade enriched uranium gas by more than 80 percent, a quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

Most of the 209 kilograms of Tehran’s enriched uranium were either converted or diluted to less proliferation-prone forms, the document said.

It leaves Iran with just 39 kilograms of the material, which is miles away from the 250 kilograms which, the experts say, are needed to create a single nuclear bomb.

The report also revealed that Iran managed to provide the IAEA with information proving that it tested the so-called Exploding Bridge Wire (EBW) detonators, commonly used in nuclear arms, for civilian purposes.

“The agency’s assessment of the information provided by Iran is ongoing,” the report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog is cited by Reuters.

The moves came under the interim deal that the Iranian authorities signed with the six world powers on January 20.

They agreed to halt some aspects of its controversial nuclear program in exchange for a limited relief of international sanctions against the country.

Under new president Hassan Rouhani, who was elected last year, Iran is making steps to counter Western concerns that it’s trying to develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

The IAEA report also outlined Tehran’s willingness to cooperate with the investigation into its nuclear related work.

“This is the first time that Iran has engaged in a technical exchange with the agency on this or any other of the outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program since 2008,” the document stressed.

However, the IAEA remains concerned that Iran may possibly have undeclared military activities in the nuclear sphere.

The agency continues to insist on the opportunity to visit Parchin military complex, located about 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran.

According to the report, satellite surveillance has revealed that there’s been construction underway at the facility for the last three months.

During talks in Tehran this week, Iran has promised the IAEA to comply with five new transparency measures concerning its nuclear program.

Despite having the same aim, Iran’s talks with the IAEA go on separately from its negotiations with the six world powers.

It’s planned that Tehran will reach a final deal with the UK, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the US by July 20.

However, there are doubts that the deadline would be met after the latest round of talks last week proved fruitless.

May 23, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Russian Manipulation of Reactor Fuel Belies U.S. Iran Argument

By Gareth Porter | IPS | May 19 2014

WASHINGTON – In the stalemated talks between the six powers and Iran over the future of the latter’s nuclear programme, the central issue is not so much the technical aspects of the problem but the history of the Middle Eastern country’s relations with foreign suppliers – and especially with the Russians.

The Barack Obama administration has dismissed Iran’s claim that it can’t rely on the Russians or other past suppliers of enriched uranium for its future needs. But the U.S. position ignores a great deal of historical evidence that bolsters the Iranian case that it would be naïve to rely on promises by Russia and others on which it has depended in the past for nuclear fuel.

Both Iran and the P5+1 are citing the phrase “practical needs”, which was used in the Joint Plan of Action agreed to last November, in support of their conflicting positions on the issue of how much enrichment capability Iran should have. Limits on the Iranian programme are supposed to be consistent with such “practical needs”, according to the agreement.

Iran has argued that its “practical needs” include the capability to enrich uranium to make reactor fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant as well as future nuclear reactors. Iranian officials have indicated that Iran must be self-sufficient in the future with regard to nuclear fuel for Bushehr, which Russia now provides. It announced in 2008 that another reactor at Darkhovin, which is to be indigenously constructed, had entered the design stage.

Former senior State Department official on proliferation issues Robert Einhorn has transmitted the thinking of the Obama administration about the negotiations in recent months. In a long paper published in late March, he wrote that Iran had “sometimes made the argument that they need to produce enriched uranium indigenously because foreign suppliers could cut off supplies for political or other reasons.”

The Iranians had “even suggested,” Einhorn wrote, “that they could not depend on Russia to be a reliable supplier of enriched fuel.” This Iranian assertion ignores Russia’s defiance of the U.S. and is allies in having built Bushehr and insisting on exempting its completion and fuelling from U.N. Security Council sanctions, according to Einhorn.

Einhorn omits, however, the well-documented history of blatant Russian violations of its contract with Iran on Bushehr – including the provision of nuclear fuel – and its effort to use Iranian dependence on Russian reactor fuel to squeeze Iran on its nuclear policy as well as to obtain political-military concessions from the United States.

Rose Gottemoeller, now Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, described the dynamics of that Russian policy when she was director of the Carnegie Moscow Center from early 2006 through late 2008. She recounted in a 2008 paper how the Russians began working intensively in 2002 to get Iran to end its uranium enrichment programme.

That brought Russia’s policy aim in regard to Iran’s nuclear programme into line with that of the George W. Bush administration (2001-2009).

Russia negotiated an agreement with Iran in February 2005 to supply enriched uranium fuel for the reactor and to take back all spent fuel. Later in 2005, Moscow offered Iran a joint uranium enrichment venture in Russia under which Iran would send uranium to Russia for enrichment and conversion into fuel elements for future reactors.

But Iran would not gain access to the fuel fabrication technology, which made it unacceptable to Tehran but was strongly supported by the Bush administration.

Bush administration officials then began to dangle the prospect of a bilateral agreement on nuclear cooperation – a “123 Agreement” – before Russia as a means of leveraging a shift in Russian policy toward cutting off nuclear fuel for Bushehr. The Russians agreed to negotiate such a deal, which was understood to be conditional on Russia’s cooperation on the Iran nuclear issue, with particular emphasis on fuel supplies for Bushehr.

The Russians were already using their leverage over Iran’s nuclear programme by slowing down the work as the project approached completion.

A U.S. diplomatic cable dated Jul. 6, 2006 and released by WikiLeaks reported that Russ Clark, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safety official who had spent time studying the Bushehr project, said in a conversation with a U.S. diplomat, “[H]e almost feels sorry for the Iranians because of the way the Russians are ‘jerking them around’.”

Clark said the Russians were “dragging their feet” about completing work on Bushehr and suggested it was for political reasons.

The IAEA official said it was obvious that the Russians were delaying the fuel shipments to Bushehr because of “political considerations,” calculating that, once they delivered the fuel, Russia would lose much of its leverage over Iran.

In late September 2006, the Russians changed the date on which they pledged to provide the reactor fuel to March 2007, in anticipation of completion of the reactor in September, in an agreement between the head of Russia’s state-run company Atomstroyexport, and the vice-president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation.

But in March 2007, the Russians announced that the fuel delivery would be delayed again, claiming Iran had fallen behind on its payments. Iran, however, heatedly denied that claim and accused Moscow of “politicising” the issue.

In fact, Russia, with U.S. encouragement, was “slow rolling out the supply of enriched uranium fuel,” according to Gottemoeller. Moscow was making clear privately, she wrote, that it was holding back on the fuel to pressure Iran on its enrichment policy.

Moscow finally began delivering reactor fuel to Bushehr in December 2007, apparently in response to the Bush administration’s plan to put anti-missile systems into the Czech Republic and Poland. That decision crossed what Moscow had established as a “red line”.

Obama’s election in November 2008, however, opened a new dynamic in U.S.-Russia cooperation on squeezing Iran’s nuclear programme. Within days of Obama’s cancellation of the Bush administration decision to establish anti-missile sites in Central Europe in September 2009, Russian officials leaked to the Moscow newspaper Kommersant that it was withholding its delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems for which it had already contracted with Iran.

Iran needed the missiles to deter U.S. and Israeli air attacks, so the threat to renege on the deal was again aimed at enhancing Russian leverage on Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment programme, while giving Moscow additional influence on U.S. Russian policy as well.

The Russian attempt to exploit Iran’s dependence on Moscow for its reactor fuel for political purposes was not the first time that Iran had learned the lesson that it could not rely on foreign sources of enriched uranium – even when they had legal commitments to provide the fuel for Iran’s nuclear reactor.

After the Islamic revolution against the Shah in 1979, all of the foreign suppliers on which Iran had expected to rely for nuclear fuel for Bushehr and its Tehran Research Reactor reneged on their commitments.

Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, sent an official communication to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on Mar. 1, 2010, stating that specific contracts with U.S., German, French and multinational companies for supply of nuclear fuel had been abruptly terminated under pressure from the U.S. government and its allies.

Soltanieh said they were “examples [of] the root cause of confidence deficit vis-à-vis some Western countries regarding the assurance of nuclear supply.”
The earlier experiences led Iran to decide around 1985 to seek its own indigenous enrichment capability, according to Iranian officials.

The experience with Russia, especially after 2002, hardened Iran’s determination to be self-reliant in nuclear fuel fabrication. The IAEA’s Clark told the U.S. diplomat in mid-2006 that, if the Russians did cut off their supply of fuel for Bushehr, the Iranians were prepared to make the fuel themselves.

It is not clear whether the Obama administration actually believes the official line that Iran should and must rely on Russia for nuclear fuel. But the history surrounding the issue suggests that Iran will not accept the solution on which the U.S. and its allies are now insisting.

~~~

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, was published Feb. 14.

May 20, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

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