Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110224

Financial Crisis
»Crude Breaches $119 in Frantic Trading
»First Trade Deficit in Almost Two Years for Japan
»Greece: Consumer Spending Down Sharply, Visa Says
»Greece: One Month to Get Out of Trouble
»Spain: Telefonica Distributes Record-High Dividends, 7.3 Bln
»UK: Petrol Prices ‘Could Reach 140p a Litre’ Say Retailers
»UK: Ranks of Young Unemployed Could Soar by 23% to 1.2million in the Next Five Years
»25 Years for ‘Cartoon’ Terrorist
»Communists, Socialists, Marxists, Oh My!
»Hollywood Pastor Helps Defend Bible Class Against Knife-Wielding Man
»Like a Mafia Don, Dem Lawmaker Tells Unions “Get a Little Bloody When Necessary”
»Lobbyists: White House Sends Meetings Off-Site to Hide Them
»Oklahoma Police Captain Faces Disciplinary Action for Refusing to Attend Islamic Event
»Saudi Man Arrested for ‘Buying Bomb-Making Equipment and Research U.S. Targets’
Europe and the EU
»Africa Shock to Cause ‘Sea Change’ In EU Foreign Policy
»Dutch Find Paradise in Sweden
»Gambling: European Las Vegas Will Speak Spanish
»Irish Election: A One Way Street
»Italy: Priest Acquitted Over Fervent Bell-Ringing
»Italy: Trial Cap Put on Parliamentary Agenda
»Italy: Gas Supply Situation is ‘Excellent’ After Pipeline From Libya Shut Off
»Italy: Milan Prosecution Calls for 3-Year Sentence for MP Berruti
»Italy: Security: Crime Down 3.5% in Last 5 Years
»Italy: Supreme Court Setback for Knox
»Spain: Juan Carlos: People of Arab World Legitimate Aspirations
»UK: Foreign Diplomat Suing the Government After He Was ‘Sacked for Being German’
»UK: Islamophobia — The Urgency
»UK: Mole Special: A Stranger in My Own Land
»UK: Malvern Primary School Health and Safety Brigade Ban Footballs in the Playground
»UK: New ECHR Ruling Could Lead to Thousands of Tenants Refusing to Pay Rent
»UK: Nick Clegg ‘Forgot’ He Was in Charge of the Government This Week
»UK: Navy Cuts Will Put Lives at Risk, Warn Forces Chiefs
»UK: State-Funded Fanaticism
»UK: Taxpayers Fury as Census Forms Printed in 57 Languages Including Tagalog, Igbo and Shona
»UK: Why Are We Not Challenging Violent Islamism in Our Schools?
»Wikileaks’ Julian Assange to be Extradited to Sweden
»Serbia: Former General Given 27 Years for Kosovo War Crimes
North Africa
»Algeria: Authorities Say No to Another March in Algiers
»Algeria: Authorities Seek Support to Avoid Uprisings
»Egypt: Ex Al Azhar Spokesman, Regime Yet to be Dismantled
»Egyptian Armed Forces Fire at Christian Monasteries, 19 Injured
»Egypt: Former Information Minister, Radio-TV Chief Arrested
»Egypt: Military Uses Force Against Egypt’s Coptic Monasteries, Wounding Many
»Gaddafi to Commit Suicide Like Hitler Says Former Minister
»Gaddafi’s Son Joined Libyan Revolutionists
»Gadhafi Accuses Protesters of Bin Laden Links
»Gheddafi Told Oriana “You Massacre Us”
»Has Gaddafi Been Shot? Rumour Sweeps Oil Markets as Libyan Regime Prepares for Its Last Bloody Stand
»‘Horrible’ Libya Bloodshed Must Stop Says Frattini
»How Will America Handle the Fall of Its Middle East Empire?
»Iran Strategy Blamed for Mubarak Fall
»Italian Defense Minister Has No Confirmation of Tripoli Bombing
»Libya: EU: Gaddafi’s Threats to His People Are Unacceptable
»Libya: Maroni and 5 EU Ministers, Solidarity Fund Needed
»Libya: Tunisia and Egypt Abolish Entry Visas
»Libya: Algerians Repatriated, Protesters Dropping Like Flies
»Libya: Oil to Feed Civil War
»Libya: Thousands Have Crossed Into Neighbouring Tunisia
»Libya: Al-Qaeda ‘Declares Support’ For Anti-Gaddafi Uprising
»Libya: Gaddafi’s Daughter Denies Fleeing Her Country Aboard Plane
»Libya: Gaddafi on Revolt is Al-Qaeda Hoax
»Libya: Gaddafi Under Attack, Battle Across the Country
»Libya: IOM: More Than 30,000 Tunisians and Egyptians Left
»Libya: ENI: Production Cut in Half But No Supply Problem
»Libya: Gaddafi Compares Himself to the Queen in Latest Rant
»Libya: Gaddafi Blames Osama Bin Laden for Protests
»Libya Unrest: British Oil Workers Describe Their Plight
»Libya in Crisis: Inside a Benghazi Court With Gaddafi’s Mercenaries
»Libya: Gaddafi’s Billions to be Seized by Britain
»U.S. Fears Tripoli May Deploy Gas as Chaos Mounts
Israel and the Palestinians
»Poland, Israel to Cooperate on Water, Energy
Middle East
»Be Careful What You Wish for
»Iran TV and Radio to Boost Disinformation
»Iranian Warships Arrive in Syria, Witness Says
»Iraq: Murder of 70-Year-Old Chaldean Man in Baghdad Raises Fears of More Attacks
»Iraqi PM to Country: Stay Away From Friday Protest
»Jordan: King Abdullah’s Book on Reform and Peace
»Middle East Crisis Could Lead to an Orgy of Bloodletting and Rocketing Oil Prices
»Mideast Turmoil Rattles Iran-Saudi Standoff
»Saudi Arabia in Talks to Boost Oil Supplies
»Survey: Alcohol Use in Mideast-Africa +25% in 5 Years
»Turkey: ‘Organism’ And Rape!
»Turkey Opposes Sanctions on Libya Amid Ongoing Evacuation
»Russia and the Jasmine Revolution Bug
»Report: Chechnya’s Leader Looking for 2nd Wife
South Asia
»India: Kashmir: A Christian School Burnt Down in Srinagar. Islamic Militants Suspected
»Indonesia: Bekasi: Assault on a Protestant Church: Mild Sentences for Islamic Leaders
»Indonesia Cleric Says Arms Training is God’s Will
Far East
»Korea: Sinuiju: Hundreds of North Koreans Against the Police, Dead and Wounded
Australia — Pacific
»New Zealand Abandons Cloning Farm Animals After 90 Per Cent Died During Trials
»E. U. Immigrant Quotas Must be on a Voluntary Basis
»Libya: Frattini: I Fear Civil War and Massive Immigration
»Libya’s Revolution: Europe’s Shame
»Libya: Rome Warns of Potential ‘Invasion’ Of 1.5 Mln Migrants
»Netherlands: Failed Asylum Seeker Killed in Afghanistan
»Netherlands: Mayors May Get More Say on Controversial Asylum Cases
»UK: Immigration Jumps by a Fifth Despite Rising Unemployment
»Taming the Wild

Financial Crisis

Crude Breaches $119 in Frantic Trading

Thursday 16:00 GMT. Oil’s grip on global investors gets ever tighter, earlier crushing risk appetite with another sharp move higher.

However, a Financial Times report that Saudi Arabia would try to make up the shortfall from any disruption to Libyan supplies has knocked crude off its highs and helped equities pare losses.

The S&P 500 on Wall Street, which had looked set to open down nearly 1 per cent, is off just 0.1 per cent, helped by an improved reading for US weekly initial jobless claims.

Brent crude had breached $119 a barrel during a period of frantic trading around 0745 GMT as industrial needs were hedged and traders exploited an explosion of upside momentum.

Worries that reduced supplies from Libya may be replicated in other regional producers facing potential political turmoil has led to the world’s oil benchmark jumping almost $17 this week. Brent is trading at $114.06, up 2.5 per cent, as fear delivers extreme volatility to dealing desks.

The scramble to secure output is shown by a steepening “backwardation” futures curve, where contracts for immediate delivery command higher prices than more distant ones.

The spike in crude increases costs for companies and consumers and threatens to dislocate the global economic recovery, pessimists reason.

Stocks and commodities, which have had a good run over recent months, are thus suffering as traders take profits.

The FTSE All World equity index is off session lows but still down 0.2 per cent, its fourth consecutive session of declines that leaves the gauge lower by 2.6 per cent from Friday’s two-and-a half year peak.

European bourses are under the cosh, with the FTSE Eurofirst 300 down 0.5 per cent. The alternative energy sector is one of the gainers as investors reason that the second oil spike in the space of three years may encourage a switch to less volatile, and less politically and environmentally costly, sources of energy.

The Istanbul stock market is down 3.8 per cent on worries regional instability may spread. The cost of insuring Turkish and Israeli sovereign debt against default rose earlier to 7- and 19-month highs, respectively.

Perceived havens such as the yen and Swiss franc are seeing inflows, as traders put a higher premium on risk aversion than any classic understanding of forex fundamentals: both Japan and Switzerland need to import all their oil, so higher prices hurts their terms of trade and would normally hurt their currencies…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

First Trade Deficit in Almost Two Years for Japan

For the first time in 22 months, Japan bought more than it sold because of a slowdown in exports. However, experts agree the country has turned the corner and growth should be back.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Japan’s trade deficit was 471.42 billion yen (US$ 5.7 billion) in January, Ministry of Finance data have shown. This is the first time in 22 months and exports, which grew by only 1.4 per cent, are to blame. Experts had expected export growth to be closer to 7 per cent. However, they are still optimistic and believe the country can recover from the economic crisis through greater exports, albeit at a lower rate.

“The slowdown in Japan’s export growth in January is temporary and exports could continue as final demand overseas is still strong and the inventory cycle suggests there is more demand,” said Takahide Kiuchi, from Nomura Securities.

The trade deficit should thus remain a one-time thing. For most economists, a slowdown in exports to Asia is the cause. Shipments to Asian markets rose in fact only 0.4 per cent last month, far less than the 14.8 per cent annual increase in December.

Lower demand in China, Japan’s main trading partner, is the main factor. In January, exports to China increased 1 per cent, down from a 20.1 per cent annual increase in December.

Beijing is battling high inflation and has taken steps to slow spending. It has also cut tax breaks on cars in December.

Data are however contradictory and closely tied to the value of the yen. The trade surplus in January with the United States rose 21.7 per cent on year, whilst the surplus with the European Union shrank by 31.3 per cent on year.

Exports to the United States rose an annual 6.0 per cent but declined 0.7 per cent on year to the European Union.

At the same time, overall imports came in much higher than expected, to 12.4 per cent on year. Imports from Asia rose 14.0 per cent on year, whilst imports from China alone climbed an annual 17.2 per cent.

The cost of transportation, real estate and rents also experienced a small decline in January.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Greece: Consumer Spending Down Sharply, Visa Says

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 23 — Consumer spending is down sharply in Greece, ANA reports quoting a report by Visa Europe.

A European Barometer on Consumer Spending said that consumer spending in the EU rose 0.8% in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared with the same period in 2009, but was down 1.2% compared with the third quarter of 2010, reflecting limited economic recovery in the European Union. It was the fifth consecutive quarter of growth in the EU. The barometer is based on real spending. East European states, including Poland, Latvia and Estonia showed a big increase in consumer spending, while Greece and Ireland recorded a steep fall. Spending through Visa cards totaled 253 billion euros in the fourth quarter of 2010, up 17.2% from the same period in 2009, with average volume of transactions falling to 50.1 euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: One Month to Get Out of Trouble

Ta Nea Athens

On a visit to Berlin on 22 February, the Greek Prime Minister was hoping to obtain more time for the reimbursement of his country’s bailout package. However, in a context of mounting social dissent and pressure from European bankers, EU member states have postponed any decision on the issue until the end of March.

Giorgos Papachristos

“It is vital that we reach a global agreement at the next European Council meeting on 25 March. If we do not, things will be very diffcult both for Europe and for Greece,” said Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday in his summary of the situation after a year of austerity delivered before German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Emphasising that “Europe must assume its responsibilities,” he argued that the time had come “to put this story behind us and to turn over a new leaf so as to avoid another protracted crisis.”

For the Prime Minister, the main priority is an agreement that will allow him more time to repay the loan of 110 billion euros from the EU and the IMF. This option is already on its way to being approved, “but the decision should not be rushed, and ought form part of an overall response to the crisis. That is what is best for Greece.” However, as it stands, Angela Merkel, who is doubtless still smarting from the humiliating defeat of her party in Hamburg regional elections on 20 February, is reluctant to back an overall solution to the problem of the eurozone, which includes the “Greek problem.”

As a government source has pointed out, this effectively means that “everything remains on the table” for negotiation. Although the Chancellor has acknowledged the “difficult” decisions faced by the Greek government, she is refusing to grant more time for repayment, which she argues should be authorised by a European decision, and the stand-off will likely continue because the Council summit at the end of March will coincide with regional elections in Baden-Wurttemberg Wittenberg, which will place Angela Merkel under renewed pressure from her party. Given that the German press already expects her to face “punishment” at the polls for her shifting position on the issue of Greece, she is highly unlikely to come forward with a policy that is more supportive of the single currency before the end of March.

With regard to the time frame for the reimbursement of the Greek bailout, Angela Merkel “is considering” the available options which are “all up fordiscussion.” At the same time, she will be evaluating the results of austerity measures to see if Greece should join the “competitiveness pact”, while Greece has continued to argue that it will be unable to meet the onerous conditions required by the proposal for fiscal convergence, which was presented in collaboration with France’s Nicolas Sarkozy.

At the meeting with Papandreou, the German Chancellor voiced her support for Greece and insisted that “many Germans are convinced that Greece will succeed, but that continued effort will be required”— a remark that predictably provoked an outcry in Greece where people are convinced that further austerity measures are on the cards in spite of assurances to the contrary from their Prime Minister. In the wake of visits to Germany and Finland, Prime Minister Papandreou is expected to travel to other European countries. At the same time, social dissent in Greece continues to grow. The country is now in the grip of its eighth general strike since the introduction of austerity measures…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Spain: Telefonica Distributes Record-High Dividends, 7.3 Bln

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 24 — Telefonica will be distributing record high dividends of 1.60 euros per share for the 2011 business year, equal to a 14.3% increase on that of 2010, and with a 9% profitability despite the crisis. The multinational will be dividing the dividend payment, calculated overall at 7.3 billion euros, into two tranches, in the two 6-month periods of the year, according to company sources cited today by the media. In the first six months of this year also the second tranche of 2010 dividends will be paid out, equal to 1.40 euros per share, 22% more than that distributed in the previous, 2009 business year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Petrol Prices ‘Could Reach 140p a Litre’ Say Retailers

Sharp movements in the price of oil have raised concerns that the price of unleaded petrol could jump to 140p a litre, retailers have said.

Fuel costs are already at record levels with unleaded petrol standing at 129p a litre on average.

Retailers have put out a warning that a 5p increase is in store and but it could increase further.

Crude oil has been particularly volatile in recent days, owing to unrest in key oil producing countries.

Mounting concern over Libyan supplies and speculation about protests in Saudi Arabia have affected prices.


Brent Crude has risen from under $100 a barrel two weeks ago to nearly $120 early on Thursday, before slipping back a little to around $115.

Petrol suppliers said the 5p increase they were forecasting was already working its way through the supply chain, the result of more expensive crude which has already reached the refineries.

“I can see two or three pence on the price of a litre by early next week,” said Brian Madderson, of the RMI Petrol Retailers Association, which represents firms with 6,000 garage forecourts, two-thirds of the UK total.

“Then expect another 2p by the end of March.”

So increases already working through the supply chain could add 5p to prices over the next few weeks.

The suppliers are also warning that the next increase in fuel duty planned by the government will add a further 5p to the cost of fuel in April, if it goes ahead.


Duty increases are set in relation to predictions for inflation in the autumn, so it remains to be seen whether the rise would be quite so large.

But the combined effect of higher oil and extra duty could push unleaded close to 140p a litre.

Chancellor George Osborne has come under pressure to abandon the duty rise and ministers have made no secret of the fact that a fuel duty stabiliser has been looked at — a mechanism for cutting duty when oil prices soar.

But the Treasury refused to comment in advance of the Budget on 23 March.

The 140p level could be reached without any further dramatic increases in the cost of crude oil.

Fuel suppliers use a rule of thumb that a $2 rise in crude results in an increase of 1p in the price of petrol. On that measure, if oil approaches $140 a barrel, fuel on the forecourts could get alarmingly close to £1.50 a litre.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Ranks of Young Unemployed Could Soar by 23% to 1.2million in the Next Five Years

The extent of the youth unemployment crisis is being severely underestimated, a think tank warned today.

The number of jobless youths could swell over the next five years to 1.2 million as 230,000 16-18-year-olds leave education with NVQs at level 1 and 2, researchers found.

The figure would be an enormous 23 per cent increase on the number that are currently unemployed around the country.

The NVQ qualifications, which are equivalent to GCSEs, are ‘inadequate’ and offer young people little or no protection from unemployment, according to a report due to be published by the think tank Demos next month.

In some cases, taking such vocational qualifications can harm, rather than help, young people’s earning potential, the report will claim.

The warning comes on the day new official figures are due to be published on the numbers of young people that are considered to be ‘Neets’ — ‘not in education, employment or training’.

The last figures to be published showed that 1,026,000 16-24-year-olds were in the category in the third quarter of 2010.

And unemployment figures published last week showed that 965,000 16-24-year-olds are unemployed, the highest number since record began in 1992.

Demos is warning that levels of 10 to 15 per cent were the norm for youth unemployment in the 1990s, but the recession, and failures in the education system, risk making 20 per cent the new ‘normal’ level.

Its forthcoming report, which looks at the career path of young people who do not go to university, will call for employers’ National Insurance contributions for workers under 25 to be waived or reduced to encourage more young people into the workplace.

Report author and Neet expert Jonathan Birdwell said: ‘Young people who spend long periods unemployed at the beginning of their careers work less and earn less throughout their working lives.’

He added: ‘There is a drought of entry-level jobs meaning the door to work is closed to many young people.

‘Those who don’t go to university would normally acquire skills in their first jobs, but the disappearance of these positions means young people are getting hit twice — they get neither a salary nor skills.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


25 Years for ‘Cartoon’ Terrorist

A US college drop-out and Muslim convert who threatened the creators of the South Park animated TV series and then tried to join an al Qaida-linked terror group in Somalia has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Zachary Chesser of Bristow, Virginia, was sentenced at US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Chesser pleaded guilty last year to supporting the al-Shabab terrorist group in Somalia and posting online threats against the South Park creators for an episode that he perceived as insulting to the prophet Muhammad.

Prosecutors sought the maximum sentence of 30 years. Chesser’s lawyers asked for a 20-year term.

Chesser said he had renounced violence and was sorry for his actions.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Communists, Socialists, Marxists, Oh My!

You won’t believe who’s really behind Wisconsin protests

One of the main groups organizing the Wisconsin union protests is a spinoff from an activist academy modeled after Marxist community organizer Saul Alinsky and described as teaching tactics of direct action, confrontation and intimidation.

President Obama once funded that academy — the radical Midwest Academy. He has been closely tied to the group’s founder, socialist activist Heather Booth.

Obama also is closely tied to scores of other radicals behind the Wisconsin opposition protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal for most state workers to pay 12 percent of their health care premiums and 5.8 percent of their salary toward their own pensions.

Walker’s proposal reportedly would save $300 million in the next two years for a state that faces a financial crisis amid a $3.6 billion deficit.

A slew of radical groups and unions have been organizing the protests against Walker’s proposal as well as counter protests to a recent tea party rally in support of the governor’s plan.

Obama’s own political machine has aided in organizing protests in Wisconsin

Counter protests were led in part by radical groups like Veterans for Peace, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the Workers World Party.


“No George Meaney-style bread-and-butter unionist, Sweeney is an advocate of European-style democratic socialism,” said Kotkin. “He has opened the AFL-CIO to participation by delegates openly linked to the Communist Party, which enthusiastically backed his ascent. The U.S. Communist Party [CPUSA] says it is now ‘in complete accord’ with the AFL-CIO’s program. ‘The radical shift in both leadership and policy is a very positive, even historic change,’ wrote CPUSA National Chairman Gus Hall in 1996 after the AFL-CIO convention.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hollywood Pastor Helps Defend Bible Class Against Knife-Wielding Man

A pastor and a janitor of a Hollywood church briefly battled a knife-wielding man who screamed incoherently and reportedly threatened to kill members of a Bible study group moments before he was shot by police Wednesday.

The man, Jonathan Shea, 24, of Hollywood, was listed in stable condition after a bullet went through his arm and into his chest.

Church pastor James Corgee, 78, said he didn’t know Shea but did not wish him any ill will despite the incident that frightened about 10 church members inside the classroom, most of them retired seniors.


Shea was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital where he underwent surgery and was in stable condition, Redding said. Shea has a long history of mental illness, he said, and charges are pending as an investigation continues.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Like a Mafia Don, Dem Lawmaker Tells Unions “Get a Little Bloody When Necessary”

“Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary,” -Rep. Michael Capuano

Battle lines are being drawn as America wakes up to the fact that unions have been in bed with politicians to inflate the size and cost of government at all levels. The cozy relationship amounts to a scheme to steal billions from taxpayers and is bankrupting cities and states.

Capuano is a good example of the incestuous relationship between unions and the politicians they own. Capuano has recieved almost $900,000 from unions and that does not count the help with phone banks, get out the vote efforts, and boots on the ground help by union members.

According to Capuano’s union dollars break down like this:

  • Transportation unions $242,450
  • Public sector unions $204,650
  • Building trade unions $176,750
  • Industrial unions $169,250
  • Misc unions $ 91,250

But Capuano is not alone by any means. Twelve of the top twenty heavy hitters in campaign contributions are unions. All twelve give over 90% to Democrats.

Here is the table:


Big labor lobbying for 2010 alone is over $46 million!And it happens at all levels of government. The NEA is the largest labor union and is the eighth largest contributor of campaign money to congress. 91% of the donations go to Democrats.

According to RiShawn Biddle in a Capital Research Center report:

‘The NEA took in an estimated $569 million that it spent on local, state and national political campaigns during the 2007-2008 election cycle, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. This made the NEA the nation’s single-biggest campaign contributor for the 2009-2010 election period…

‘This fundraising prowess is why Harvard University education scholar Paul Peterson declares that the NEA is “in a position to tell state legislatures what to do.“‘

This is exactly what we are seeing in Wisconsin. The Democrats in the state legislature were out numbered by the duly elected representatives of the people of Wisconsin but are so in bed with the teachers union that they fled the state to avoid even having a vote. Wisconsin schools have doubled per student spending from 1998 to 2008 and yet there has been no improvement in schools.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lobbyists: White House Sends Meetings Off-Site to Hide Them

Caught between their boss’ anti-lobbyist rhetoric and the reality of governing, President Barack Obama’s aides often steer meetings with lobbyists to a complex just off the White House grounds — and several of the lobbyists involved say they believe the choice of venue is no accident.

It allows the Obama administration to keep these lobbyist meetings shielded from public view — and out of Secret Service logs kept on visitors to the White House and later released to the public.

“They’re doing it on the side. It’s better than nothing,” said immigration reform lobbyist Tamar Jacoby, who has attended meetings at the nearby Jackson Place complex and believes the undisclosed gatherings are better than none.

The White House scoffs at the notion of an ulterior motive for scheduling meetings in what are, after all, meeting rooms. But at least four lobbyists who’ve been to the conference rooms just off Lafayette Square tell POLITICO they had the distinct impression they were being shunted off to Jackson Place — and off the books — so their visits wouldn’t later be made public.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Oklahoma Police Captain Faces Disciplinary Action for Refusing to Attend Islamic Event

The Tulsa Police Deptartment is investigating a captain who refused an order to assign officers to attend an upcoming Islamic event because he said it would violate his religious beliefs.

Capt. Paul Fields was reassigned after he refused to order officers under his command to attend the Islamic Center of Tulsa’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, a spokesman for the department said.

“It is my opinion and that of my legal counsel that forcing me to enter a Mosque when it is not directly related to a police call for service is a violation of my Civil Rights,” Fields wrote in an internal police department memo obtained by Fox News.

“I have no problem with officers attending on a voluntary basis; however, I take exception to requiring officers to attend this event,” Fields wrote in an e-mail to his superior officer obtained by Fox News. “I believe this directive to be an unlawful order, as it is in direct conflict with my personal religious convictions.”

Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan told FOX23-TV the event was about community relations, not religion.

“This was not religious,” he said. “I would never assign a police officer to participate in religious service,” he told the TV station. “This is about a group who bonded together because of their religion. We are not going there because they are Islamic. We are going there because they are Tulsa citizens.”

However, according to a promotional flyer, the Islamic event included not just food and entertainment, but “presentations” on “beliefs, human rights, and women.” They would also be able to watch a Muslim prayer service and take a tour of the mosque.

“It’s up to you,” the flyer stated.

Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the incident an example of “anti-Muslim bigotry.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Saudi Man Arrested for ‘Buying Bomb-Making Equipment and Research U.S. Targets’

A Saudi Arabian man has been arrested for allegedly buying chemicals and equipment to make a bomb and researching U.S. targets, the Department of Justice said today.

Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 20, a legal resident of Texas, was arrested last night and faces charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Among the targets he is alleged to have researched was the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush.

According to an arrest affidavit, Aldawsari had been researching online how to construct an IED using chemicals.

He has also allegedly described his desire for violent jihad and martyrdom in blog postings and a personal journal.

Excerpts from the journal allegedly indicated he had been planning to commit a terrorist attack in the U.S. for years.

One entry apparently described how he had sought a particular scholarship because it allowed him to come to the U.S. and helped him financially.

The entry read: ‘And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad.’

Another entry listed a ‘synopsis of important steps’, including obtaining a forged birth certificate, renting a car, and planting bombs inside vehicles in several cities during rush hour.

The South Plains College student, from Lubbock, is expected to make his first court appearance in Texas tomorrow. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Assistant Attorney General David Kris said: ‘Aldawsari purchased ingredients to construct an explosive device and was actively researching potential targets in the U.S.

‘Based upon reports from the public, Aldawsari’s plot was uncovered and thwarted.

‘Those reports resulted in the intiation of a complex and far-reaching investigation requiring almost around the clock work by hundreds of dedicated FBI agents, analysts, prosecutors and others.’

The affidavit alleges that on February 1, a chemical supplier reported a suspicious attempted purchase of concentrated phenol to the FBI

Phenol is a toxic chemical with legitimate uses, but it can also be used to make the explosive trinitrophenol — known as TNP.

The order was placed by a man identifying himself as Khalid Aldawsari, but the freight company returned the order and called the police.

Aldawsari is also alleged to have emailed himself instructions on how to convert a mobile phone into a remote detonator, according to the affidavit.

Searches of his home apparently revealed concentrated sulfuric and nitric acid, along with wiring, a Hazmat suit and clocks.

A notebook, believed to be a diary or journal, was also discovered.

Other targets allegedly researched included nuclear power plants and hydroelectric and reservoir dams in Colorado and California.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Africa Shock to Cause ‘Sea Change’ In EU Foreign Policy

The European Commission has promised a “sea change” to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), with critics saying that recent events in north Africa have highlighted its ineffectual nature. Stricter “conditionality” attached to EU funds and greater “differentiation” between how much target states receive are two ideas due to come up in a forthcoming review of the policy, a commission spokeswoman said on Thursday (24 February).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Find Paradise in Sweden

Ellen Mulderij, who is originally from the province of Friesland, emigrated to Sweden in 2007. “In the Netherlands, everyone is always in a hurry. When I went back there recently, I kept thinking: ‘Do you ever take the time to live a little?’,” she explains when we met at her home in Hjulsjö, a Swedish village that is largely depopulated. Her Dutch husband, Rudy, works in forestry, while her three children attend a local school. The magnificent wooded region where she has decided to raise her family is extraordinarily quiet. Most of the natives have left to seek work elsewhere.

Approximately 8,300 Dutch emigrants — and that is not counting those who are on a temporary stay — live in Sweden. And this figure is increasing from year to year: over the last decade, a thousand of them have settled in their new Scandinavian homeland.

“The number of Dutch moving to Sweden rose steeply in the wake of 9/11,” points out Rob Floris, of the Kalmar job centre. “And the problems that surrounded Pim Fortuyn [a populist politician who was assinated in 2002] also played a role. Then there was Theo van Gogh [the televison presenter and film maker assassinated in 2004], and now Geert Wilders [another Islamaphobic populist politician]. Every time Wilders makes the headlines, I get requests from Dutch people who want to emigrate.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Gambling: European Las Vegas Will Speak Spanish

(ANSAmed) — The American casino operator Las Vegas Sands (LSV) is in talks with the local authorities of a number of Spanish cities over a smaller-scale Las Vegas in Europe, based on the model of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, but at three times the price, with a scheduled investment of 10 to 15 billion euros, compared to the 5.5 billion spent in Asia.

LSV is talking to authorities in Madrid, Barcelona, the Costa del Sol and Valencia, over a gambling paradise on Spanish soil that reproduces the splendour of Sin City. Sources from the multinational firm quoted by the Spanish press say that “Euro-Vegas” is due to create 180,000 jobs in a country where unemployment has reached a record 20.3% of the active population, the equivalent of almost five million people, according to estimates from the country’s statistics office.

The Singapore-based Business Times was the first newspaper to run with the story a few days ago, with the Chair of LSV, Sheldon Aldelson, telling the foreign press of a project “to build a mini-Las Vegas in Europe, which could be called Europe Vegas or Euro Vegas,” with the company’s interest focussed on Spain. Adelson says that the project “was assessed before the economic downturn, as a result of which any final decision was postponed. But work on the project has now actively resumed”.

The gambling magnate confirmed ongoing contacts with local authorities in Madrid and Barcelona, though he refused to rule out that the new site could be built in Valencia or on the Costa del Sol. The investment is likely to attract both tourists and gamblers, like the “Sands Macau” built by LSV or “The Venetian” and “The Palazzo” in Las Vegas.

At the moment, there seems to be a slight advantage for the Community of Madrid, which is assessing two or three “appropriate locations”, according to sources close to the local office for economy and finance. Sheldon Adelson is said to have made contact some months ago with the local government chaired by Esperanza Aguirre, through the public company Promomadrid, which is in charge of sourcing international investments and promoting the region abroad. The 20,000 new beds that the site would bring are extremely attractive, with Madrid up against Valencia’s Marina Real. But more tempting still are macro-investments, at a time when the economic crisis has blocked most urban construction operations.

Sector operators say that the European casino city would diversify Spain’s tourism appeal and would allow it to compete with destinations such as Monaco. The project’s detractors, however, say that there is a risk of an excessive supply of gambling, which in turn could lead to the disappearance of existing casinos, effectively concentrating almost all of the sector’s demand. At any rate, the first stage will be the most difficult — attracting investors ready to gamble billions on future green baizes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Irish Election: A One Way Street

The Irish Times Dublin

The Irish may be furious over the EU/IMF bailout, massive budget cuts, and the fact that billions of public money are still being poured into its toxic banks, but it is nevertheless voting in a new government that will see through the measures taken by its predecessor, writes columnist Fintan O’Toole.

Fintan O’Toole

Whatever sceptics may think, the election will make at least one huge difference. Up until February 25th, there will have been no popular mandate for turning bank debt into public debt and imposing another four years of austerity. After that, unless all the polls are completely askew, there will be a popular mandate for the bank bailout, the EU-IMF deal and the cuts. Behind all the excitement of a historic changing of the guard, this is the real big event.

Come Saturday morning, like every morning after every election in the history of the State, right-of-centre establishment politics will be triumphant. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will have well over half the vote between them, 53 per cent according to yesterday’s Irish Times poll. More strikingly, it is precisely the same as the 53 per cent that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil between them got in the European elections in June 2009.

Everything that has happened since then — the revelation of the abysmal depths of the banking crisis, the loss of economic sovereignty in the EU-IMF deal — has resulted in little more than a shift in support between the two right-of-centre parties that have dominated Irish politics since the foundation of the State. Leave aside the “vingince, by Jaysus!” factor in relation to Fianna Fáil, and there is nothing to trouble the seismologist. This outcome will be greeted with relief by the European Central Bank and the fiscal hawks within the EU.

It will mean that all the rage and disgust, all the cursing and fist-shaking, will have amounted to nothing very much. Internally, of course, Fianna Fáil’s worst result to date will be a big deal. But externally, where the real power now lies, it will seem that nothing of great significance has happened.

The Irish will have a new government, surely more competent and energetic than the exhausted and demoralised one that rolled over when the IMF and the ECB came to town. The new boys will be rewarded with some promises of adjustments to interest rates that will allow them to claim victory. And they will get on with the job of nationalising private debt while attempting to bring the public deficit to below 3 per cent of GDP by 2014.

From the point of view of the ECB, the Irish will be even more onside than they are now. There was always a worry that Fianna Fáil and the Greens did not have public consent for the four-year plan they signed up to. These parties, after all, took just a quarter of the vote between them in 2009. That consent is now in the process of being secured. A few small concessions may be necessary but, after Friday, it will be essentially in the bag. Read full article in Irish Times…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Priest Acquitted Over Fervent Bell-Ringing

Court rules cleric using right to practise religion

(ANSA) — Rome, February 23 — A parish priest in a small northern town was acquitted of charges of disturbing the peace with his zealous bell-ringing on Wednesday. The case went to court after residents of Sabbionara in the province of Trento complained about Don Ernesto Villa’s chimes calling them to praise God every 15 minutes from seven in the morning. A court in the city of Rovereto dismissed the charges, saying Villa was exercising his right to practise religion as laid down by the Concordat of 1929 agreement between the Vatican and the Italian state.

The sleep-deprived residents’ lawyers had unsuccessfully argued that it was not necessary to ring church bells with such fervour to exercise religious freedom.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Trial Cap Put on Parliamentary Agenda

Opposition claims reforms intended for Berlusconi cases

(ANSA) — Rome, February 23 — A controversial government bill to cap the length of trials was on Wednesday put on the parliamentary agenda starting March 28.

Prosecutors and the opposition have said the cap could threaten thousands of trials but the government says the measure is needed to counter repeated European Union criticism of Italy’s snail-paced justice system.

Critics of Premier Silvio Berlusconi also claim the cap is aimed at killing his four trials, set to start or resume: one for allegedly using an underage prostitute and three for alleged witness-bribery, tax fraud and embezzlement.

The premier’s party has also said it will make constitutional changes to put prosecutors under ministerial control and restore MPs’ immunity after it was lifted amid the Clean Hands scandals of the early 1990s.

But Berlusconi’s key ally, Umberto Bossi of the Northern League, has come out against the return to blanket immunity against prosecution.

Berlusconi has come out fighting after being sent to trial April 6 in the alleged prostitution case and has also said he will remedy alleged leftwing bias at the Constitutional Court which has repeatedly struck down shield laws which temporarily protected him from judicial action.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Gas Supply Situation is ‘Excellent’ After Pipeline From Libya Shut Off

(AKI) — Italy faces no danger of an energy shortage after an key natural gas pipeline connecting the country to Libya was temporarily shut off amid a popular uprising in the North African country, according to Italian industry minister Paolo Romani.

“The situation is excellent,” Romani told reporters as he left a Rome meeting of officials convened to discuss a possible interruption in natural gas supplies.

“We examined all the possible scenarios and we’ve simulated many negative scenarios but there is no danger to gas distribution in Italy.”

Italian oil and gas company Eni on Tuesday announced it suspended gas transports through its Greenstream pipeline, which carries Libyan gas to Italy and supplies around 10 percent of the country’s demand.

Rome-based Eni said it would still be able to meet the needs of its customers, though spokesman Gianni Di Giovanni told Italian broadcaster SkyTG24 that his company was “moderately concerned” about the suspension.

In addition to Libya, Italy receives gas over pipelines originating in Algeria and Russia. From other locations like Qatar the country transports the fuel by ship in a liquified form and regassifies it at plants in the Liguria and Veneto regions.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Prosecution Calls for 3-Year Sentence for MP Berruti

(AGI) Milan — Milan’s Prosecution is calling for a 3-year sentence and a 6,000 fine for MP Massimo Maria Berruti (PdL).

The MP faces yet another appeal trial after the Cassation Court overturned a prior Appeals Court sentence which partly acquitted him of money laundering on behalf of brodcasters Mediaset.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Security: Crime Down 3.5% in Last 5 Years

(AGI) Rome — According to General Leonardo Gallitelli, crime in Italy has fallen 3,5% in the last 5 years. The Commanding General of the Carabinieri’s remarks were made during a ceremony in Rome marking the beginning of the academic year at the Carabinieri officers’ training school, attended by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. “Over 66% of the 151 thousand arrests carried out by the forces of law and order in 2010 involved perpetrators caught red-handed, which is a demonstration of the efficacy of our prevention services throughout the territory, in which officers of the armed forces play a particularly admirable part.” .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Supreme Court Setback for Knox

Cassation says more than one person took part in Kercher murder

(ANSA) — Rome, February 24 — Amanda Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito suffered a setback in their bid to be cleared of killing Meredith Kercher Thursday when Italy’s supreme court said more than one person took part in the murder.

American student Knox and Sollecito are currently appealing against 26-year and 25-year sentences respectively in a separate court in the central city of Perugia, where Knox’s flat mate Kercher was found with her throat cut on November 2, 2007.

The supreme court of Cassation said Thursday that a third person convicted of the murder, Ivorian drifter Rudy Guede, was not the only person involved, in its explanation for its December rejection of Guede’s appeal against a 16-year sentence for the murder.

It also upheld lower court sentences, according to which, 21-year-old exchange student Kercher was killed after a sex game went wrong. She was the victim of “the brutal and overbearing force of a group conduct which highlights, in its unhappy protagonists, an orgiastic desire to unleash the most perverted criminal instincts, such as to prompt a profound sense of dismay, repugnance and contempt in any person of average morality,” the Supreme Court said.

Guede has exhausted the appeals process after his defence team asked for his case to be handled via a fast-track procedure, while Knox and Sollecito are in the middle of the first of two possible appeals granted by the Italian justice system.

In its explanation, the supreme court stressed that it had only been called to assess the guilt of Guede.

Nevertheless, the ruling is bound to affect Knox and Sollecito’s claim Guede was the sole perpetrator of the crime. Knox has many supporters in her homeland who say she is the innocent victim of a miscarriage of justice and are supporting her appeal.

Earlier this month forensic experts started re-examining disputed DNA evidence that was central to the prosecution’s case in Knox and Sollecito’s first trial after their lawyers requested it be looked at again.

The experts’ findings are due to be delivered on May 9 and then assessed at a hearing set for May 21.

The supreme court setback for Knox and Sollecito comes after their lawyers failed in a bid to block the broadcast of a film on the murder on television in the United States this week.

Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy, with rising star Hayden Panettiere playing Knox, was aired by America’s Lifetime network on Monday.

Knox said she was ‘distressed’ after seeing the trailer of the film.

Kercher’s family also made unsuccessful calls for the movie, shot in the autumn in Seattle, Knox’s home town, Rome and Perugia, not to be shown. “To actually see it like this is very distressing,” Meredith’s father John Kercher told the British media.

“The scenes are absolutely horrific. It’s awful what these film people have done”.

British director Michael Winterbottom also plans to make a film on the murder, reportedly with Colin Firth playing an investigative reporter.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Juan Carlos: People of Arab World Legitimate Aspirations

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 22 — King Juan Carlos has said that the aspirations of the people of the Arab world who have risen up against authoritarian regimes are “legitimate”, even in countries with monarchies with which Spain has maintained excellent relations. This is according to comments made by the King, who was quoted by Europa Press, during the official lunch at the Royal Palace for the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, who is currently on an official visit to Spain.

The international community “is closely following these events and hopes that they will allow an evolution towards a situation of greater political and social stability and economic progress in line with the legitimate aspirations of the people of the region,” the King said. The monarch also said that the “need for peace” between Arabs and Israelis “is particularly important today” in the light of changes in Arab countries “close to Israel”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Foreign Diplomat Suing the Government After He Was ‘Sacked for Being German’

A former diplomat is suing the Government because he claims that he was sacked for being German, it has emerged.

Andreas Westerwinter, 40, was employed as a £40,000-a-year civil servant to work alongside the United Nations aid agency UNESCO in Paris.

He was sacked a number of months ago amid a government drive to cut costs within the Department for International Development (DfID).

But German-born Mr Westerwinter believes that he was unfairly targeted for not being British and not part of the ‘Old Boys’ network.

If he is successful in the employment tribunal case for race discrimination it could open the door for hundreds of foreigners to bring action against the Government.

Speaking outside the Central London Employment Tribunal, Mr Westerwinter said he was not the first person to be singled out for their nationality.

‘There have been numerous instances of discrimination based on nationality,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.

‘By targeting me they picked on the German. I didn’t have the same protection — the embassy is a microcosm of British society and I didn’t have the same network as others.

‘There is a strong old boys’ and old girls’ network and many of my colleagues had worked in the foreign office of DfID for decades.’

Mr Westerwinter was recruited in 2006 as deputy permanent delegate to UNESCO and had worked as part of a team of five on diplomatic relations.

He had previously spoken out against the over-spending in the department when it emerged that the government had spent millions of pounds on its own ambassadors while apparently trying to alleviate world poverty.

The department paid a staggering half-a-million pounds a year for the Unesco mission which had the main aim of protecting world heritage sites.

It funds the office even though the UK already has a full-scale embassy in Paris, which is run separately and paid for by the Foreign Office.

One of the biggest costs was a £200,000-a-year package for Mr Westerwinter’s boss, who has since moved on to a different post.

The tax-payer funded deal included a £70,000-a-year luxury apartment, a chauffeur-driven BMW and £25,000-a-year in school fees for his children in addition to his own salary and benefits.

‘I found the entitlements of the senior civil service astonishing,’ Mr Westerwinter said last year.

Mr Westerwinter said much of the department’s work could have been picked up by the British Embassy to cut costs.

He now believes that if his case is successful it could be used as a precedent by the thousands of foreign government employees around the world.

‘I would imagine a driver in India might be interested in suing the Government for racial discrimination,’ he said outside the tribunal.

‘It would only take a smart lawyer here in the UK to work for free and he could possibly open the floodgates.’

The barrister representing the respondents in the case, the DfID, the Foreign Office and the British Embassy in Paris, has called for the action to be dismissed and for Mr Westerwinter to pay the government’s costs.

Details of the case emerged as part of a pre-hearing review.

The tribunal case continues.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamophobia — The Urgency

Tuesday 01 February 2011

“Essential reading”—Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP’s endorsement of a book on Islamophobia launched at the House of Commons The book launch [on 31st January 2011] of ‘Thinking through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives’(Hurst, 2010) was attended by over a hundred invited guests from academia, civil society and Parliament. The book is a collection of essays that “map out the tensions between the concept and the phenomenon as they are played out across different contexts and continents”. Co-editor AbdoolKarim Vakil described it as “an intervention at a conceptual level that also provides a global perspective”.

Speakers at the event included the host Sadiq Khan MP, Farooq Murad (Secretary General of the MCB), Sir Iqbal Sacranie (former Secretary General, MCB), S.Sayyid (co-editor) and three other contributors — Nasar Meer (University of Northumbria), Samia Bano (University of Reading), Nadia Fadil (Catholic University of Leuven).

In his introductory remarks Sadiq Khan MP described the legislation that has emerged to prevent discrimination — however he reminded the audience of Martin Luther King’s words: ‘It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless’. The MCB Secretary General called for more civil society alliances, citing the example of the joint statement of the TUC and MCB to combat Islamophobia and Racism. Sir Iqbal Sacranie emphasised the need of various religious communities in Britain to work together to combat Islamophobia and cited some good practice examples in the recording and monitoring of religious hate. He said that the blight should be tackled with a spirit of “optimism” rather than despondency. He emphasised the need for codes of conduct to emerge within the media, and was concerned with trends such as the Daily Express’s withdrawal from the Press Complaints Commission. A common theme emerging from subsequent contributions was the need for working definitions of Islamophobia and to challenge the view that raising the issue was succumbing to a sense of victimhood. By highlighting their concerns Muslims were making an important statement for greater social justice and solidarity in society. S.Sayyid observed that “Paradoxically Islamophobia denial confirms the existence of Islamophobia”.

[JP note: Sadiq Khan is one to watch — probably responsible for Ed Miliband’s recent victory over his brother, David Miliband, to secure the Labour Party leadership. It is possible that in a few years time Khan himself will be jockeying for this most-coveted role, and then but a short step to become the UK’s first Muslim Prime Minister.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Mole Special: A Stranger in My Own Land


I have just returned to London, where I have lived since I was 11. I have been away for four years, living as an ethnic minority in a monocultural part of the world, amassing a host of stories to tell to disbelieving friends. On the whole, I am glad to return. I shan’t miss some locals’ assumptions that, being a white woman, if I was outside after dark, as I occasionally was, usually to walk the few metres between my house and the church, I must be a prostitute eager to give them a blow job. I shan’t miss the abuse my priest husband received: the daubing of “Dirty white dogs” in red paint on the church door, the barrage of stones thrown at him by children shouting “Satan”. He was called a “f***ing white bastard” more than once, though, notably, never when in a cassock. I will also not miss the way our garden acted as the local rubbish dump, with items ranging from duvets and TV sets, to rats (dead or twitching) glued to cardboard strips, a popular local method of vermin control to stem the large numbers of them which scuttled between the rubbish piled in gardens and on pavements. Yes, I am very glad to have left Britain’s second city.

For four years, we lived in inner-city Birmingham, in what has been a police no-go area for 20 years. We know that because some plain-clothed cops told us when they asked to use our vicarage as a stake-out to bust drugs rings that pervade the area. Having heard a parishioner’s tales of what his neighbours did to him when he was wrongfully suspected of having grassed up a cock-fighting ring, we refused, explaining that we had to live here, they didn’t. Even during this time we saw the area change. When we arrived, the population was predominantly Pakistani. Now Somalis are there in equal number. Most of the run-down Irish pubs were turned into mosques during our time.

As a woman, it was difficult for me to gain many first-hand impressions of the Muslims. I was generally ignored by both men and women, and on the rare occasion that I had to interact, when for example a car was parked illegally and blocking my gate, I was addressed as if inconsequential. My husband, however, faithfully reported conversations which you may find somewhat alarming. One of our favourite dinner-party pieces is this: opposite our vicarage there is a “library” which has some computers, some burkas and occasionally tracts that say offensive things about Jews and Christians. My husband did his photo-copying there, and got on rather well with everybody. One day he was chatting to a man with a passing resemblance to Lawrence of Arabia, who had just arrived from Antwerp — one of an increasing number of Muslims who are arriving here with EU passports. He asked him why he had come to Birmingham. He was surprised at the question: “Everybody know. Birmingham — best place in Europe to be pure Muslim.” Well, there must be many places in Europe where Muslims are entirely free to practise their faith, but I suspect there are few places in which they can have so little contact with the civic and legal structure of a Western state if they choose. It seems to be particularly easy to “disappear” if that is their intention. A parishioner once described a lorry pulling up outside his house, the side opening to reveal stacked mattresses full of sleepy, and presumably illegal, immigrants, who staggered out into broad Brummie daylight. We heard tales of how houses are exchanged for cash payments in our area. An untaxed car was once clamped by a frightened-looking official at 8am, but within hours the owner of the vehicle had organised the clamps to be sawn off, and he sped away.

Another instance of separation from the Western world is revealed in the following: my husband frequently chatted to a neighbour who could be described as one of the more questioning Muslims, and who has often provided an insight into the locals’ mindset. Even this man, however, believes what the whole community thinks: the 9/11 planes were organised by Jews. Everybody knows there were no Jewish people in the World Trade Centre that day, as they had been tipped off. Oh, and the Mumbai terrorists had been kidnapped and brainwashed by Indian people. The tendency towards denial is strong. When my husband mentioned the “dirty white dogs” graffiti to a local Muslim, the response was, “One of your people did it.” I have to say that the police’s response was no better when the local Methodists complained about the same thing. They chose not to believe it had happened, since we had removed all sign of it with the buckets of anti-graffiti chemicals we had stocked since we arrived. They asked, somewhat pathetically: “Are you sure it was racist?”

To a London reader, born and bred with multiculturalism, I know that my stories may come across as outlandish and exaggerated, and that I must surely be a BNP voter — I have observed people’s expressions as they have listened to my tales of life in Brum. When I recently told a friend how a large Taliban flag fluttered gaily on a house near St Andrew’s football stadium for some months, her cry of “Can’t you tell the police?” made me reflect how far many of our inner cities have been abandoned by our key workers: our doctors and nurses drive in from afar, the police, as mentioned before, have shut down their stations and never venture in unless in extremis — they and ambulance crews have been known to be attacked — even the local Imam lives in a leafier area.

Only the priest remains, if you can get one — the thriving but clerically-vacant church down the road has had no applicant in two years. In their absence, we get stabbings that never make the news, dog- and cock-fighting rings, cars torched as pranks and cars used for peddling heroin. (One of the more amusing moments of our time came when a local lad provided one reason people often gave us stares when we drove past such deals: “Two white people wearing seatbelts — you’ve got to be cops.”) In their absence, we simply have the witness of those who are unlikely to be heard, who, through a variety of unfortunate circumstances, have not been able to move out: the elderly, the infirm, the illiterate, the chronically poor. Indeed, some of the Muslim residents deeply regret the flight of the non-Muslim population. It is they who now have to live in a crime-ridden ghetto.

On holiday in Germany recently, we watched a TV documentary about how schools were coping with Essen’s growing Muslim community, and how the community itself felt. When it was over, we turned to each other, and said simultaneously (a drawback of having been married for a while), “This could not have been made in Britain.” At the moment, also in Germany, the whole country is debating Thilo Sarrazin’s controversial book Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany abolishes itself”), in which the author — a former member of the board of the Bundesbank and the German Social Democrats — examines research about immigrant communities and then makes specific recommendations about the integration of the Muslim community. I have only seen scant reference to this in the British press, which usually dismisses it, wrongly and lazily in my view, as good old German racism. This has nothing whatsoever to do with race. The Muslim community in Birmingham, for instance, is made up of people from many continents and races, including Afghans, Yemenis, Pakistanis, Indians and Somalis.

There is no doubt in my mind that we need to have the same openness in discussing what is happening to many cities in Britain. If current demographic trends continue over the next few decades, the West Midlands, as well as other parts of the country, will become a predominantly Muslim area. Much more needs to be done to integrate the communities among whom I lived, and we need to be much less negligent of our own values too. Frankly, if we happened to walk down Broad Street on a Friday night, where mobs of identically undressed and mostly aesthetically unpleasing gals and lads were on the piss and pull, it was almost a relief to drive back to our ghetto enclave.

It is time to rub the rime from our eyes and to look clearly at the shape of Britain today. Everyone living here needs to be able to talk about what they see, without the lazy or fearful, but certainly paralysing, accusation of racism. Only then will we be able to discern what is best for the future.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Malvern Primary School Health and Safety Brigade Ban Footballs in the Playground

For decades, the nation’s playgrounds have echoed with the thud of a firmly-struck football.

But children living in the streets where England football star Steven Gerrard grew up are being denied that innocent, wholesome pleasure — and it’s all in the name of health and safety.

Pupils at a primary school in Huyton, near Liverpool, have been banned from bringing modern synthetic or leather footballs into the playground and told to use balls made of sponge instead.

Teachers say the heavy balls are unsuitable for an enclosed space where young children may be playing, saying it risks injury.

However amid fears over Britain’s childhood obesity epidemic, as well as worries over where our next generation of sporting champions is going to come from, critics last night slammed the edict as an absurd over-reaction.

The rule was spelt out in this month’s newsletter sent out by Malvern Primary School in Huyton, a deprived area with Britain’s second worst obesity record.

The district has nevertheless long been regarded as a hotbed of footballing talent, having produced the likes of Liverpool captain Gerrard in addition to former Everton hero Peter Reid — now manager of Plymouth Argyle — and notorious Newcastle United player Joey Barton.

It informed parents: ‘Please can we request that only sponge balls are brought into school. This is to ensure the safety of all our pupils when on the playground.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: New ECHR Ruling Could Lead to Thousands of Tenants Refusing to Pay Rent

Evicting a woman from her council home for failing to pay rent would breach her human rights, judges ruled yesterday.

Town Hall chiefs wanted to evict Rebecca Powell, who receives thousands of pounds in benefits, after she ran up more than £3,500 in arrears on the accommodation she was given because she was homeless.

But the Supreme Court said that — under the controversial European Convention on Human Rights — this would be a breach of the right to ‘respect for a person’s home’.

Council leaders and the Government had fought the case and fear it may now be harder to evict thousands of council tenants who fall into arrears.

Legal experts said there was an increasing ‘trend’ for tenants — including ‘neighbours from hell’ — to use human rights law to thwart eviction.

Passing yesterday’s judgment, Lord Hope made it clear the ruling had its origins in Strasbourg. He said the ‘time had come to accept and apply the jurisprudence of the European court’.

The ruling brought fresh demands for reform of Labour’s Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, and of the unelected Strasbourg court.

It comes in the wake of cases saying that prisoners must be entitled to vote and that paedophiles can apply to be taken off the Sex Offender Register.

Last night Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘It seems to me that the courts always find in favour of the human rights of people who are doing something wrong. We have got to change that balance, it is getting completely out of hand.

‘What about the human rights of the landlord to get their rent, what about the human rights of the taxpayer?’

Miss Powell, now 23, was given a home in Cranford, West London, by Hounslow Council in April 2007. By June the following year Miss Powell, who lives with her partner and four children, owed the council more than £3,500.

She was entitled to around £15,000 a year in housing benefit which could have covered the payments, but had not applied for it properly. Eviction proceedings began but were halted when Miss Powell appealed under the Human Rights Act. At one stage the council moved the family out in order to renovate the home at taxpayers’ expense, then moved them back in.

Yesterday, Lord Hope and Lord Phillips ruled that the council had not considered whether it was ‘proportionate’ to evict Miss Powell and ordered that the eviction be quashed.

Hounslow Council, anticipating defeat, has offered her ‘suitable alternative accommodation’ and she has never been without a home.

Judges will have to consider the ruling when looking at similar cases involving people who would otherwise be homeless.

Miss Powell has agreed to clear her arrears of £3,536.39 at £5 per week, or sooner if she can.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Nick Clegg ‘Forgot’ He Was in Charge of the Government This Week

In an interview, the Liberal Democrat leader was asked whether he was in charge while the Prime Minister was away from Britain travelling in the Middle East.

Sipping from a mug marked “Deputy Prime Minister,” he said: “Yeah, I suppose I am. I forgot about that.

“I’m holding the fort but I’m hoping to take the end of the week off with my kids.

“Someone else will have to do it then. It sounds more haphazard than it probably is. People forget there are emails and there is BlackBerry.” It later emerged that within hours of giving the interview, to the Metro newspaper, Mr Clegg did indeed go on holiday to his family chalet in the exclusive Swiss ski resort of Davos.

He departed on Tuesday — just a day after Mr Cameron left for his tour of the Middle East.

As Labour seized on his remarks, the Deputy Prime Minister hastily returned from his Swiss half term break, where he had been joined by his wife, Miriam, and their three sons.

His aides said that he was due to land back in the UK on Thursday night — just as Mr Cameron also touched down — and the two men will attend a meeting of the National Security Council at 8.30am on Friday. Earlier this week, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, cancelled a planned trip to the United States to take charge of the operation to help Britons leave Libya, raising questions about the lack of senior figures in Westminster during the Parliamentary recess. The Government’s response to the crisis in Libya, and the slow evacuation of Britons stranded there, has been heavily criticised. Mr Clegg has come under attack before over his work rate. Liberal Democrat sources suggested that he was “fragile” and needed more time off than most leading Cabinet ministers.

Last month it emerged that officials had been asked not to put papers into his ministerial box after 3pm.

Michael Dugher, a Labour MP who worked in Downing Street with Gordon Brown, said that Mr Clegg should not forget the importance of his role as second in command, adding: “He’s clueless.” Mr Clegg’s self-confessed forgetfulness was dismissed by the Prime Minister, however, as a “throwaway remark”. Speaking in Oman, he said: “Just because I leave the country doesn’t mean I am not in charge

“I’m not absent, that is the way Government works. In the age of the BlackBerry, the telephone, the internet, just because I leave the country doesn’t mean I am not in charge.”

Pressed further in an interview with Sky News, he insisted it was unfair to dwell on a “throwaway line” from Mr Clegg. He went on: “The way things work is, just because I am in the Gulf doing an important tour, important in terms of promoting democracy and our values, important in terms of promoting British trade, obviously I have full connection back to the UK.

“I have been holding conference calls with the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary.

He told ITV that he and not Mr Clegg was in charge. The Prime Minister said: “I’m always on it. That’s the job. I’ve being doing conference calls. I was on the phone to the crisis centre to thank them for the work they’re doing in the idle of the night UK time. “I have full connection with the UK. Just because I leave the country, it doesn’t mean things change. Just because the prime minister goes on an important trip to the Gulf, it doesn’t mean things change. All the relevant ministers have been in place.”

Peter Hain, the shadow Wales secretary, said: “Alarm clock Britain clearly hasn’t reached Nick Clegg. He appears to be asleep at the wheel. When he wakes up, he’ll find he’s become a bit of a joke.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Navy Cuts Will Put Lives at Risk, Warn Forces Chiefs

In a private letter, passed to The Daily Telegraph, the former Navy and Army chiefs warn the Prime Minister that there are serious flaws in last October’s defence review.

The scrapping of the Royal Navy’s Harrier fleet, in particular, has “profound consequences” that “strike at the heart of our Defence structure”, they say.

The authors, who include Field Marshal Lord Bramall, the former head of the Armed Forces, as well as six retired admirals and three generals, say the move undermines the Navy’s ability to protect the Army or Royal Marines on amphibious operations.

These can no longer be attempted against “even a lightly armed aggressor” without “considerable risk” to the safety of soldiers, they say.

The letter’s authors include Lt Gen Sir Hew Pike, the decorated Parachute Regiment officer, Maj Gen Julian Thompson, the Falklands commander, Admiral Sir Jeremy Black, who commanded the aircraft carrier Invincible in the Falklands, and Prof Nicholas Rodger, an Oxford academic.

They recommend a “rapid re-evaluation” of last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which they warn was “unduly trusting in an uncertain, fast-moving and dangerous world”.

Under the terms of the SDSR, the 70-strong fleet of Harriers will be scrapped or sold this year, while Ark Royal, the flagship of the Royal Navy, will be decommissioned and probably turned into a London heliport. Harriers are particularly crucial on amphibious operations as they provide the best close air support for ground troops. The review, which also resulted in the destruction of the Nimrod surveillance fleet, was ordered as part of government spending cuts which saw 7.5 per cent slashed from the annual £37 billion defence budget.

There is growing controversy over the scale of the cuts, particularly in light of the chaos enveloping the Middle East and the crisis in Libya, where hundreds of Britons have been trapped for several days. Last night, Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, added his voice to those calling for the SDSR to be reopened. He said it already looked “out of date” and that many of the assumptions about it had been “shaken over the past month”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: State-Funded Fanaticism

by Douglas Murray

So it has finally been said. Angela Merkel has said it, David Cameron has said it, The Outsider [Douglas Murray’s column in the magazine Standpoint] has long been saying it. Multiculturalism has failed.

Say something critical of multiculturalism, as David Cameron has, and the reaction is predictable. The Guardian and Independent will pretend this is some government-led attempt to make Britain all-white. And some dim opposition MP (in this case Sadiq Khan) will use the opportunity to claim that the culprit (in this case the Prime Minister) is a dangerously subversive “propagandist” for the “far-Right”.

So saying it isn’t easy. But doing something about it is far harder. How do you actually put the policies into effect? How do you stop the multi-culti gravy-train?

In Munich, David Cameron said that we must stop the public funding of groups which are opposed to our most basic societal values. But I can’t help wondering if he’s aware of the depth of the problem. Because the funding of extremist groups isn’t occasional in the system which this government inherited. It is instrumental. And dug in. Let me give just one example.

The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (Minab) was set up in 2006 under the last government. Since then, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has given £250,000 to a conglomeration of Muslim groups to “set standards and establish a system of self-regulation for mosques”. All well and good, you might think. Those mosques could do with some regulation.

But — you guessed it — the groups who are among the founders of this new organisation are themselves part of the old problem. The Jamaat-linked Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Muslim Brotherhood organisation called the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) are two of Minab’s four founders. But they wield a disproportionate amount of control over the organisation. Highly sectarian and Islamist organisations are paid by government to come up with ideas on how to improve British mosques. It can’t be worse, can it?

Well, sadly, yes. Because Minab has other roles. Until last year it worked with the Charity Commission as part of its “Faith and Social Cohesion” unit (FSCU). This unit within the Charity Commission (also part-funded by DCLG) aimed to encourage mosques (including MCB and MAB mosques) to register as charities and to achieve better governance. What has clearly been escaping the Charity Commission is that Minab not only advised the “Faith and Social Cohesion” unit, it also constituted part of its target-group and evaluated its own activities. Which is a pretty neat tie-up.

And it gets worse. After government cuts last year killed off the FSCU, the Charity Commission announced that Minab would step in to continue the unit’s work. What little regulation the dolts at the Charity Comission once provided has now gone.

If there is one site in the UK where anti-British sentiment is expressed most regularly (other than in universities) it is mosques. No church, synagogue or temple would last a second if the Christian, Jewish or Sikh equivalent of, say, al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki had preached there. Mosques are clearly worthy of concern.

But let us say that the Prime Minister has an omnipotent capability. And let us say that he uses it to stop funding to groups whose values are antithetical to this country. How exactly will the order be carried out?

It should be obvious that Minab, the MCB and MAB are highly backward, sectarian organisations — exactly the sort of people to whom funding should not go to. So the DCLG and other departments could conceivably be persuaded to cut off any public funds going to them in future. But what about the Charity Commission? It has outsourced its regulatory role over mosques to a group whose founding members present exactly the same problem that Mr Cameron spoke about in Munich. There is very little likelihood that the funding will actually be cut so long as government departments and institutions which should implement the cutting of funding to sectarian groups are themselves in hock to, advised by, evaluated by, and have their work outsourced to exactly such groups.

A couple of months ago, I managed to get a bad man sacked from his role advising government. An article of mine highlighting the individual’s activities made it to Eric Pickles’s presumably capacious breakfast table. Perhaps this one will too. In which case Mr Pickles, and indeed Mr Cameron, will realise that the next job is far harder. Weeding rotten apples out of the system is easy compared to weeding a rotten system. But that is what is going to have to happen. Whole arms of government are not able to do the job they are meant to do. If David Cameron’s fine words in Munich are ever going to be put into action the government will have to recognise that fact — and change it.

[JP note: An almost singular voice of common sense in the confused morass that is the British public square. It would be mischievous perhaps to suggest putting Murray in the House of Lords!]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Taxpayers Fury as Census Forms Printed in 57 Languages Including Tagalog, Igbo and Shona

Census forms will be printed in 57 languages — more than double the number a decade ago.

Taxpayers’ money will be spent translating it into languages used by only a few thousand people in Britain — including Tagalog, Igbo, Tigrinya, Shona and Pashto, it was revealed.

Printing the forms with all the different translations will cost an estimated £50,000 — and the move has been branded ‘time-consuming and bureaucratic’ by critics.

Prime Minister David Cameron had pledged to cut spending on translations to encourage people to learn English.

Hotlines will also be set up to help citizens fill out the forms in the census which is going to cost £482million.

The paperwork will even be translated into Swedish and Dutch — even though almost all the native speakers in Britain are good at English, The Sun revealed.

Seven translations will be produced for different Indian languages.

Charlotte Linacre, Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘There is not an endless pot of taxpayers’ money to pay for more administration and documents to be translated in to scores of different languages.

‘There is a huge cost for so much bureaucracy and time spent translating the forms, it’s important that data is collected effectively but it’s crucial that people who come to live and work in the UK are learning English so they can integrate.

‘The Government needs to stop spending so much money on translation across the public sector, in order to relieve taxpayers of this burden.’

Languages like Igbo and Shona are spoken by millions of people round the world — although there are only believed to be a few thousand native speakers living in Britain.

Tagalog — or Filipino — is spoken by an estimated 74,000 people in the UK, there are 5,000 Tigrinya speakers and 100,000 who speak Pashto.

The forms are to be sent out to 22million homes this year.

A spokesman for Downing Street said the Labour government had decided to print the form in so many languages and it could not be reversed.

Promotion of the census costing nearly £7million will include television advertising in nine languages and dialects — Cantonese and Mandarin from China, and Gujarati, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Sylheti and Hindu from the Indian subcontinent.

Even one-person households will have to contend with 57 questions and 393 tick boxes.

A couple with four children face 272 questions and 918 tick boxes, with more to cope with if they have visitors on the census night of March 27.

People can expect to be asked how many bedrooms, bathrooms, cupboards and conservatories they have, and what central heating they use.

A question on religious belief is voluntary, but detailed information on ethnicity, colour and language spoken is not.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Are We Not Challenging Violent Islamism in Our Schools?

Last week the 7/7 inquiry heard that Hasib Hussain, who murdered 13 innocent people in the Tavistock Square bus bombing, had littered his school exercise books with “supportive references” to al-Qaida. Despite this, the inquiry heard, his teachers considered him to be a “model student”.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to detonate a bomb on a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009, was also described as a “model pupil”. Indeed, his former teacher said: “He was very interested in world affairs and would stay behind after lessons to discuss issues. For a teacher, that was just wonderful.” This is despite the fact that Abdulmutallab’s “interest in world affairs” extended to support for the Taliban.

When I was at school in Birmingham, one of my contemporaries — a boy of 11 — regularly stated his desire to blow himself up outside the Israeli embassy. Teachers largely stood by bemused. My schoolmate, fortunately, grew out of it. Others, such as Hasib Hussain, tragically do not.

If a schoolboy developed a penchant for decorating his books with doodles supporting violently racist groups like Combat 18, his teachers would be unlikely to consider him a “model student”. Moreover, if he went on to commit a terrorist atrocity, there would be calls for schools to do more to challenge pupils’ racist views.

In the parallel reality of 21st-century Britain, however, little has been done to help teachers challenge pupils who espouse violently Islamist views. The 7/7 inquiry hearings have even coincided with calls to scrap the Channel project, a scheme set up to work with teachers to identify and support children being groomed by violent extremists.

This discrepancy between responses to violence inspired by Islamist ideology and violence inspired by racism is what David Cameron discussed in his recent speech in Munich: “So, when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious — frankly, even fearful — to stand up to them.”

So why are so many teachers so fearful to act if their pupils espouse violent Islamist views? One of the main issues is that pro-Islamist pressure groups have muddied the water by branding as “spying” all attempts to involve teachers in challenging pupils’ violently extreme views.

This situation has been exacerbated by the secrecy surrounding the Channel project. Of course the identities of vulnerable individuals must be protected, but in the shadows created by lack of government disclosure, conspiracy theories have thrived. Little wonder, therefore, that this important attempt to prevent future racist or Islamist terrorism has been caricatured in the pages of the TES as a “teacher ‘spy’ op”.

At the same time, many teachers feel unable to challenge Islamist extremism in the classroom because they have only a very basic knowledge of Islam. Some “experts” have endorsed this position, advising that teachers should stay out because they lack in-depth knowledge of issues surrounding Islam and Muslims in the UK.

Of course, it is intrinsically useful for teachers to develop their understanding of Britain’s diverse society. But do they really require an understanding of the intricate subtleties separating Hanbali and Hanafi fiqh, for example, before they can challenge a pupil who wants to fight alongside Osama bin Laden?

The solution, therefore, is to raise teachers’ levels of confidence about these issues. In most cases, they will be dealing with young people experimenting with ideas they barely understand and trying to shock. Teachers need, therefore, access to training about what Islamism is, its key narratives and how to challenge them. Just as they can dismantle racist rhetoric, teachers should be able to dismantle the idea that “Islam” and “the west” are “at war”. Of course, teachers are not best placed to help in the most serious cases. They need, therefore, the option of referring their concerns to a dedicated and expert team, for example through the Channel project.

This is not about spying on students. It is about supporting vulnerable young people and preventing them from becoming the next Hasib Hussain or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange to be Extradited to Sweden

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations, a judge has ruled.

At Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in south London, District Judge Howard Riddle said the extradition would not breach Mr Assange’s human rights.

Mr Assange said the ruling, which he will challenge, was due to a “European Arrest Warrant system run amok”.

The 39-year-old denies three allegations of sexual assault and one of rape last August in Stockholm.

He believes the claims are politically motivated because of Wikileaks’ publication of sensitive material — including leaked US diplomatic cables — from governments and high-profile organisations that has made headlines worldwide.

Mr Assange has been released on bail on the same terms he was granted in December.

Bail was granted then after he had spent nine days in Wandsworth prison in London following his arrest under a European Arrest Warrant on 7 December.

Following the extradition ruling on Thursday, Mr Assange said: “What we saw today at Belmarsh was a rubber-stamping process. It comes as no surprise, but is nonetheless wrong…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Former General Given 27 Years for Kosovo War Crimes

(AKI) — The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Wednesday sentenced former Serbian police general Vlastimir Djordjevic to 27 years in jail for crimes committed during 1999 Kosovo war.

Djordjevic, 62, has been charged with forced deportations, expulsion of hundreds of thousands Albanians from Kosovo and murders, which was termed by the tribunal as “joint criminal enterprise” aimed and changing Kosovo population balance.

Serbian forces had been accused of using excessive force in suppressing majority Albanians’ rebellion in Kosovo against Serbian rule. The violence provoked NATO bombing of Serbia and Kosovo declared independence three years ago.

Explaining the verdict, the presiding judge Kevin Parker said that Djordjevic had a full command of Serbian police force in Kosovo and was aware of the crimes. The “joint criminal enterprise” was masterminded by former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, Parker said.

Milosevic himself was indicted of genocide and war crimes and died a jail cell in March 2006.

According to the indictment, at least 724 bodies of Albanian civilians killed in Kosovo were transported and reburied in Serbia to hide the crimes. Djordjevic has been singled out as a man who organized the cover up.

After years in hiding, Djordjevic was arrested in Montenegro in June 2007 and handed over to the tribunal. In his first appearance in court he said he was not guilty of charges levelled against him.

In February 2009, the tribunal sentenced four Serbian army and police generals and a former vice-premier to sentences ranging for 15 to 22 years in for Kosovo war crimes.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Authorities Say No to Another March in Algiers

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 24 — The Algerian authorities have once again said no to the protest march that has been announced for next Saturday in Algiers, despite the fact that the state of emergency will soon be lifted. The coordination for democracy and change (CNDC) has announced to stage a demonstration for the third consecutive Saturday in the capital, despite the desertion by some associations that are against the presence of political parties, asking for democracy and a reform of the political system. Talking to French channel France 24, Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia and Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci stressed that all demonstrations in Algiers are banned.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Authorities Seek Support to Avoid Uprisings

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 24 — Withdrawal of the State of Emergency, fight against corruption, broad investments and initiatives to revive the economy and combat unemployment, especially among the younger generations. Several initiatives are being announced by the Algerian authorities who are determined to regain support and calm down the Country in the wake of the recent protests and the wave of uprisings that is shaking the Arab world. However there are no concessions concerning the march that has been scheduled for the third Saturday in a row in Algiers by the Gathering for democracy and change. Demonstrations in the capital city are forbidden, as reasserted by the minister of the Interior, Daho Ould Kablia, and by the foreign minister, Mourad Medelci. On national radio Ould Kablia also stated that at present no new parties will be authorised.

After the revocation of the State of Emergency, which will become effective as soon as the decree of abrogation is published on the official gazette, president Abdelaziz Bouteflika again addressed the Country today via a statement read by his advisor. A speech delivered in occasion of the double anniversary of the creation of the general union of workers (UGTA), the main Algerian union established on 24 February 1956, and of the nationalisation of oil on 24 February 1971.

He stated that the State “is determined to protect the national economy, the State is focused on the fight against corruption, parasitic practices and fraud”. He specified that “This is why during 2010 Algeria set up a legislative arsenal meant to prevent and repress corruption and attacks on the national economy”. Boutef, as he is known by the Algerian people, also spoke about “the fight against unemployment, especially among the younger generations”, one of the fundamental issued for the stability of the Country, which is 75% young. It was the youngest generations that played a prominent role in the January protests that claimed 5 dead and 800 wounded. ‘the head of State, who has been in charge since 199, promised that ““For the next five year period I have set as an objective the creation of three million jobs”. Half will be generated by the economic growth driven “by the substantial investments scheduled for this period” and the other half by “public devices for the promotion of labour”. Aside from revoking the State of Emergency, which has been in place for 19 years, on Tuesday the cabinet approved several social economic measures, and also abrogated the decree that was fiercely contested by students. Furthermore, he also promised to set up an investigation to identify the people responsible for the attacks against the student demonstration on Monday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Ex Al Azhar Spokesman, Regime Yet to be Dismantled

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 23 — Mubarak, the “pharaoh”, has gone, but his regime is “yet to be dismantled”, with “nightmare scenarios, such as an all-out military regime or an Iranian-style Islamist shift” could be on the horizon for Egypt.

This is according to Muhammed Rifaa Al Tahtawi, up until a few weeks ago the spokesperson for Cairo’s Al Azhar University, the most important theological centre for Sunni Islam. A position he held until a few weeks ago because, as soon as the uprising against the Egyptian regime began, Tahtawi had no doubts, and abandoned his position to join the throng of protesters in Tahrir Square.

The Al Azhar centre, meanwhile, failed to take a firm stance and, speaking to ANSA, Tahtawi does not hide his disappointment.

“Al Azhar had a choice to make: side with the people or remain by the side of those who seemed strongest at that moment; by staying with those in power, it lost credibility”.

Tahtawi believes that now is not the time for the Egyptian people to stop. “The people must keep up the pressure until the army accepts a sort of compromise that satisfies the majority.

People are determined to gain real democracy,” says the Sunni official, who today took part in a meeting organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio on “The agenda of co-existence”.

“With its revolution, Egypt has won back the admiration of the whole Arab world, as well as its historic role as leader. It must now lead the way towards democracy. There are three possibilities for the country. Two are nightmare scenarios: a military regime or an Iranian-style regime. The third possibility is the “Turkish model” and I hope that we will head in this direction”.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is an important component of Egyptian society and it was a serious mistake to stop them entering the political arena, as it pushed them closer to extremism. The remedy to Islamic fundamentalism is not repression but freedom,” Tahtawi says.

“Under the Mubarak regime, there were only two avenues — brutal repression or categorical opposition. All other colours vanished, but in democracy, one can find all the colours of the rainbow, with pluralism, different opinions, different targets, and there is no fear of the other”.

“I think that Egypt’s Christian community would also be better protected in a democracy. During the revolution of the last few weeks, the Coptic churches were not protected by the police, yet no Christian holy building was damaged, and no synagogue either.

Christians and Muslims found themselves side by side in this revolution, which is not social, not defined by class, not religious, but is aimed at gaining the freedom and dignity of an entire people”.

Tahtawi is convinced that that the Libyan regime will also fall.

“The uprising will continue, and the important thing is for Colonel Gaddafi to be brought before a human rights court for all the massacres that he has committed,” the former Al Azhar spokesperson said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Armed Forces Fire at Christian Monasteries, 19 Injured

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — For the second time in as many days, Egyptian armed force stormed the 5th century old St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo. Live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army’s use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating yesterday’s army attack..

Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told activist Nader Shoukry of Freecopts the armed forces stormed the main entrance gate to the monastery in the morning using five tanks, armored vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect themselves and the monastery from the lawlessness which prevailed in Egypt during the January 25 Uprising.

“When we tried to address them, the army fired live bullets, wounding Father Feltaows in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen,” said Monk Ava Bishoy. “Six Coptic workers in the monastery were also injured, some with serious injuries to the chest.”

The injured were rushed to the nearby Sadat Hospital, the ones in serious condition were transferred to the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo.

Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy said the army fired live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, which hit part of the ancient fence inside the monastery. “The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying ‘Lord have mercy’ without running away. This is what really upset them,” he said. “As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Victory, Victory’“.

He also added that the army prevented the monastery’s car from taking the injured to hospital.

The army also attacked the Monastery of St. Makarios of Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, 100 km from Cairo. It stormed the monastery and fired live ammunition on the monks. Father Mina said that one monk was shot and more than ten have injuries caused by being beaten with batons. The army demolished the newly erected fence and one room from the actual monastery and confiscated building materials. The monastery had also built a fence to protect itself after January 25 and after being attacked by armed Arabs and robbers leading to the injury of six monks, including one monk in critical condition who is still hospitalized.

The army had given on February 21 an ultimatum to this monastery that if the fence was not demolished within 48 hours by the monks, the army would remove it themselves (AINA 2-23-2011).

The Egyptian Armed Forces issued a statement on their Facebook page denying that any attack took place on St. Bishoy Monastery in Wady el-Natroun, “Reflecting our belief in the freedom and chastity of places of worship of all Egyptians.” The statement went on to say that the army just demolished some fences built on State property and that it has no intention of demolishing the monastery itself (video of army shooting at Monastery).

Father Hedra Ava Bishoy said they are in possession of whole carton of empty bullet shells besides the people who are presently in hospital to prove otherwise.

The army attack came after the monks built a fence for their protection after the police guards left their posts and fled post the January 25th Uprising and after being attacked by prisoners who were at large, having escaped from their prisons during that period.

“We contacted state security and they said there was no police available for protection,” said Father Bemwa,” So we called the Egyptian TV dozens of times to appeal for help and then we were put in touch with the military personnel who told us to protect ourselves until they reach us.” He added that the monks have built a low fence on the borders of one side of the monastery which is vulnerable to attacks, on land which belongs to the monastery, with the monks and monastery laborers keeping watch over it 24 hours a day.

The monks of St. Bishoy are now holding a sit-in in front of monastery in protest against the abuse of the army by using live bullets against civilians

Nearly 7000 Copts staged a peaceful rally in front of the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, where Pope Shenouda III was giving his weekly lecture (video), after which they marched towards Tahrir Square to protest the armed forces attacks on Coptic monasteries.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Former Information Minister, Radio-TV Chief Arrested

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 24 — The former information minister Anas El Fekke and the head of the Egyptian state radio and television union Osama El Sehikh have been arrested for corruption and handed over to the prosecutor’s office for public funds. Reports were from security sources who said that the charges against the former information minister concerned a diversion of public funds totalling almost 40 million euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Military Uses Force Against Egypt’s Coptic Monasteries, Wounding Many

The confrontation was sparked by the construction of fences around the convents to protect them from marauding criminals who escaped prison in the wake of the 25 January uprising. After issuing a 48-hour demolition order, the army moved in. Some 7,000 Copts protest in Tahrir Square.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) —Egyptian soldiers attacked for the second time the Monastery of Saint Bishoy Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, 110 km from Cairo. Two monks and six Coptic labourers were wounded. Four people were arrested, three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was visiting the monastery to investigate a similar incident the day before.

Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told Nader Shoukry, of Free Copts, that the army stormed the monastery using five tanks, armoured vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect the building and its residents from the lawlessness that has prevailed in Egypt since the 25 January uprising. In fact, the monastery since that day has been attacked by common criminals who escaped from prisons.

“We contacted state security and they said there was no police available for protection,” Fr Bemwa said. “We were put in touch with the military personnel who told us to protect ourselves until they reach us.”

In order to protect themselves, the monks built a low fence on the borders of the one side of the monastery that is vulnerable to attacks, on land that belongs to the monastery. Both monks and monastery labourers have kept watch over it 24 hours a day.

Last Monday, the army issued an ultimatum to the monastery, demanding the wall be torn down within 48 hours; otherwise, it would act. The monastery did not heed the order.

After the attack, the military issued a statement on their Facebook page denying that it had attacked the monastery. Instead, it claimed that soldiers simply tore down a fence built on state land.

According to monastery officials, the fence was built on land that belongs to the monastery. For this reason, monks from Saint Bishoy have organised a sit-in in front of the convent to protest against the use of arms by the military.

The army also attacked the Monastery of St Makarios of Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, 100 km from Cairo, for the same reason. One monk was shot and more than ten were beaten.

About 7,000 Copts staged a peaceful rally in front of the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. From there, they marched towards Tahrir Square to protest against attacks by the military on Coptic monasteries.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi to Commit Suicide Like Hitler Says Former Minister

(AGI) Stockholm — According to a former Libyan minister, Gaddafi will sooner commit suicide than flee the country.

Interviewed by Swedish daily Expressen, former justice minister Mustafa Abdeljalil submits Gaddafi has no intention of either resigning or leaving the country, opting for a Hitler-style suicide. “Gaddafi’s time is up”, Abdeljalil said, “he will do as Hitler did, and commit suicide.” In another interview released yesterday Abdeljalil had also pointed to Muammar Gaddafi’s mastermind role in the 1988 Lockerbie terrorist attack, which claimed the lives of 270 persons onboard a Pan Am flight.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi’s Son Joined Libyan Revolutionists

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — According to Al Hurra TV, youngest son of Gaddafi, Saif ul Arab, who was sent by his father to suppress the protesters in the east region of Libya, joined the revolutionists.

Saif ul Arab having combat troops and millitary equipments that was sent to the region joined the protestors.

He also added: My father (Moammar Ghaddafi) would commit suicide or flee to Latin America.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Gadhafi Accuses Protesters of Bin Laden Links

Libyan protesters stand atop a damaged police station as they burn an effigy of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration, in Tobruk. AP photo.

Eastern Libya was in full revolt on Thursday as veteran strongman Moammar Gadhafi accused protesters of being linked to Osama bin Laden and made good on his bloodcurdling vow to cling to power by any means, prompting a desperate expatriate exodus.

Gadhafi has made the comments in a phone call to Libyan state TV Thursday, expressing condolences for deaths in the city of Zawiya but chiding its residents for joining the rebellion.

Gadhafi also accused the protesters of being on drugs. “You in Zawiyah turn to Bin Laden,” he said. “They give you drugs.”

This was the embattled leader’s second television appearance since protests broke out against his 41-year-old rule on Feb. 15. Addressing the older generation, Gadhafi said al-Qaeda was behind the problem’s facing Libya, while the youth were on drugs and misbehaving. “It is obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaeda,” he said. “Those armed youngsters, our children, are incited by people who are wanted by America and the Western world.

“Those inciting are very few in numbers and we have to capture them. Others have to stay at home. They have guns, they feel trigger happy and they shoot especially when they are stoned with drugs.”

The “situation is different from Egypt or Tunisia … Here the authority is in your hands, the people’s hands. You can change authority any way your wish. It’s your call. You are the elderly, the head of the tribes, the professors.”

“They have been brainwashing the kids in this area and tell them to misbehave. This are the one who are under Bin Laden’s influence and authority, under the influence of drugs.”

Thousands scrambled to flee what former colonial ruler Italy said was a “bloodbath” of hundreds of protesters in the oil-rich north African state, parts of which have fallen to opposition control and others into lawlessness.

U.S. President Barack Obama led international condemnation of the iron-fisted crackdown, demanding that the world speak as one to confront Gadhafi, in power for four decades and until recently slowly recovering from virtual pariah status in the West. In his first televised response to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s decision to unleash vengeance on demonstrators, Obama reached out to U.S. allies on Wednesday and promised to deploy a “full range of options” to halt “outrageous” bloodshed. Obama spoke as Washington was considering fresh sanctions and other steps against Libya, and as political pressure mounted for a tougher response.

“There is no going back. even if we all die, at least children will not have to live with him,” a Gadhafi opponent said in eastern Libya. “Our goal now is Tripoli,” said another dissident at a town hall meeting in Al-Baida addressed by defecting generals from Gadhafi’s increasingly fractured armed forces. “If Tripoli cannot liberate itself.”

Army units and militiamen loyal to Gadhafi struck back against rebellious Libyans who have risen up in cities close to the capital, attacking a mosque where many were holding an anti-government sit-in and battling with others who had seized control of a local airport. The assaults aimed to push back a revolt that has moved closer to Gadhafi’s bastion in the capital, Tripoli.

In Zawiya, 50 kilometers west of Tripoli, an army unit attacked the city’ Souq Mosque, where regime opponents had been camped for days in a protest calling for Gadhafi’s ouster, a witness said. The soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons and hit the mosque’s minaret with fire from an anti-aircraft gun, he said. Some of the young men among the protesters, who were inside the mosque and in a nearby lot, had hunting rifles for protection.

The witness said there were casualties, but couldn’t provide exact figures. He said a day earlier an envoy from Gadhafi had come to the city and warned the mosque protesters, “Either leave or you will see a massacre.” Zawiya is a key city near an oil port and refineries.

In the capital, sustained gunfire was heard in the eastern suburbs during the night. On Thursday morning, the streets were virtually deserted. One of Gadhafi’s seven sons, Saadi, told the Financial Times that after four decades in power, his father could retreat to a “big father” advisory role under a new government.

But the 68-year-old Gadhafi himself is hardly talking of retreat, vowing in a fiery televised address on Tuesday to purge opponents “house by house” and “inch by inch.” State television on Thursday said Gadhafi would make an address to residents of Zawiyah city west of Tripoli, two days after he broke cover to urge his supporters to crush the insurrection. The television gave no further details.

The European Union said it was seeking naval back-up to rescue up to 6,000 trapped Europeans as tens of thousands scrambled to escape what former colonial ruler Italy said was a “bloodbath” in the oil-rich north African state. Italy, the nearest major European country, warned of a looming “catastrophic humanitarian crisis” as migrants flee north Africa. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said they faced a potential “invasion of 1.5 million people” that would bring Italy “to its knees”, while Asian countries ramped up massive air, sea and land operations to evacuate their nationals.

Former minister justice minister Mustapha Abdeljalil, who quit over a death toll now running into the hundreds, predicted that Gadhafi would follow in Adolph Hitler’s footsteps by committing suicide, rather than give up power. “He is going to go like Hitler, he is going to commit suicide,” Abdeljalil told Sweden’s Expressen referring to the World War II German leader.

As senior generals and Gadhafi comrades from his 1969 coup have switched sides to join the revolt, his opponents appeared in control of Libya’s coastal east, from the Egyptian border through the cities of Tobruk and Benghazi, towns made famous as a key battleground during World War II. Journalists saw regime opponents — many of them armed — all along the highway that hugs the Mediterranean coast.

Obama, in his first televised comments on the Libya crisis, said: “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable… This violence must stop.”

The European Union is drawing up sanctions against Libya that could include an assets freeze, a visa ban and legal prosecution for regime leaders, a diplomat said.

Oil prices hit their highest levels in more than two years amid the turmoil in Africa’s fourth largest producer. The cost of a barrel of benchmark Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April reached $119.79 in London before falling back slightly…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Gheddafi Told Oriana “You Massacre Us”

Hitler and Mussolini exploited the masses. I just appeal for the people to govern themselves

We publish a summary of Oriana Fallaci’s interview with Colonel Gheddafi, which appeared in the Corriere della Sera on 2 December 1979. The text comes from the second part of their conversation, in which the Libyan leader talks about his policies and replies to charges of supporting terrorism that were being levelled at him. The first part of the interview dealt with the hostage crisis involving Americans being held prisoner by the Iranians in the US embassy in Tehran. At the time, the Colonel had offered to mediate. Using her notes from the same meeting with Colonel Gheddafi, Ms Fallaci published another interview in the Corriere della Sera on 20 April 1986, just after the Americans had bombed Tripoli.

Colonel, I get the impression that your hatred for America and the Jews is actually a hatred of the West. Just like with Khomeini. Do you realise that this turns the clock back a thousand years, starting over again with Saladin and the Crusades?

“Yes and the fault is yours, the Americans’ and the West’s. Back then it was your — the West’s — fault, too. It’s always you who massacre us. Yesterday, as it is today”.

But who is massacring you today, where?

“Did Libya invade Italy or was it Italy that invaded Libya? You attack us now as you did then. In other ways, with other systems, by supporting Israel, opposing Arab unity and our revolutions, frowning on Islam and calling us fanatics. We’ve been too patient with you. We’ve put up with your provocation for too long. If we hadn’t been so wise, we would have gone to war with you a thousand times. We didn’t because we think the use of force is a last resort for survival and because we have always been on the side of civilisation. After all, during the Middle Ages we civilised you. You were poor barbarians, primitive, savage creatures”.

… and we were crying out for the light of your civilisation.

“Yes, the light of our civilisation. The science you enjoy now is the science we taught you. The medicine you treat yourselves with is the medicine we gave you. It’s the same with the astronomy you know, the mathematics, the literature, the art…”.


“Yes, even your religion comes from the East. Christ wasn’t a Roman”.

He was a Jew. That’s a clanger. Colonel, what do you think about the Red Brigades?

“I think… I think these Western phenomena derive from capitalist society. They’re movements denoting rejection of a society that has to be torn down. Whether they are called the Red Brigades or the hippies or the Beatles or the Children of God. And even though I’m against kidnappings and hijackings, I don’t want to interfere with what they’re doing”.

I see. But you’re not answering the charge of aiding the Red Brigades.

“That’s Zionist propaganda. It dates back to when the world failed to understand us and we were still a republic. Now we are a Jamahirya, a people’s congress and…”.

But what has the Jamahiriya got to do with it? Let me rephrase the question. Colonel, where do the Soviet weapons that Red Brigade militants and their associates are regularly found with come from? Could it be that some of the weapons supplied by you to the Palestinians end up elsewhere?

(Searching for the right words) “What… what… what you say will not make me hesitate for an instant in helping the Palestinians”.

Colonel, please don’t change the subject. Follow my reasoning. Suppose that in good faith, you give weapons to the Palestinians and they then supply the Red Brigades…

“We are not responsible for what might be done with the weapons we give to the Palestinians. We give them to the Palestinians because we believe in their cause and we believe we have a duty to help them. What happens afterwards is none of my business. If I am to be found guilty by proxy, I prefer charges that are direct. But there is no proof”.

Perhaps there is evidence. Here’s some. A few days before the assassination of [Italian Christian Democrat leader Aldo — Trans.] Moro, you offered to intercede to save his life. If you do not, or did not, have any contact with the Red Brigades, how could you claim to be able to save his life?

“I said to the Italian authorities that should they need any co-operation from us, we were ready to give it. If we had been in contact with the Red Brigades, we would certainly have saved his life because Moro was our friend. He was a supporter of the Arab cause”.

OK, let’s move on. Colonel, how can you be so indulgent with terrorists, and see them as a phenomenon of a society that has to be torn down, yet still maintain excellent relations with leading representatives of that society? Apart from doing business with the Americans, what about the deals you cut with Gianni Agnelli?

“Gianni who?”.

Gianni Agnelli. The chairman of Fiat.

“Fiat? My company?”.

Yes, your company. Fiat. Agnelli.

“I don’t know him”.

You don’t know Agnelli, your business partner?!?

“No, it’s not my affair to know him. That’s the job of my officials, the employees of my bank. The Libyan Foreign Bank”.

Are you telling me that you don’t know who Agnelli, your partner, is?

“No, I don’t know him”.

You’ve never seen his photograph? Never heard his name?

“Never. I’m not interested. It’s not my affair. I’ve got better things to do than know the names of my business partners or people in the world of banking”.

But apart from financing world terrorism, what do you do with all the money you earn from oil?

“I’ve already told you…”.

Yes, you’ve told me that the charge is not backed up by evidence. I apologise and correct myself. What do you do with all that money, apart from the billions you invest in Fiat, and the land you buy, and the gifts to Malta?

“We do not buy land. We invest in certain countries through our offshore bank. Commercial investments. Malta is a friendly country because it is a liberated, neutral country. We don’t give the money to the Maltese government. We give it to the people of Malta so they can expand the area of freedom and neutrality. In any case, it’s not just us Libyans who are helping Malta. Many others help Malta”.

All right, let’s talk about the revolution. What do you mean by revolution? As I never tire of saying, Papadopoulos talked about revolution, too. And Pinochet. And Mussolini.

“Revolution is when the masses make the revolution. A people’s revolution. But even when the revolution is made by others in the name of the masses, expressing what the masses want, it can be revolution. A people’s revolution because it has the support of the masses and interprets the will of the masses.

But what happened in Libya in 1969 wasn’t a revolution. It was a coup d’état. Yes or no?

“Yes, but it turned into a revolution. I staged a coup d’état and the workers staged the revolution, occupying the factories, becoming partners instead of employees, eliminating the monarchic administration and setting up people’s committees. In short, they liberated themselves. Students did the same. Today in Libya, only the people count”.

Really? Then why is that anywhere I look, all I see is your portrait, your photograph?

“What have I got to do with it? The people want this. What can I do to stop them?”.

Well, you ban a lot of things. All you do is ban things. Surely you can ban this cult of your personality? For example, this singing your praises all the time on TV.

“What can I do about it?”.

Nothing. It’s just that when I was a little girl I saw the same stuff with Mussolini.

“You said that to Khomeini”.

True. I always use that comparison when I interview someone who reminds me of Mussolini.

“You told him that the masses supported Mussolini and Hitler, too”.


“It’s a straight accusation. And requires a straight answer. Here it is. You do not understand the difference that exists between me and them, between Khomeini and them. Hitler and Mussolini exploited the support of the masses to rule the people. We revolutionaries enjoy the support of the masses to help the people become capable of ruling themselves on their own. I myself am constantly appealing to the masses to govern on their own. I say to my people: ‘If you love me, listen to me. And govern yourselves on your own’. That’s why they love me because, unlike Hitler, who said ‘I’ll do it all for you’, I say ‘Do it on your own’“.

Colonel, since you don’t think of yourself as a dictator, or a president, or even a minister, tell me what position you hold. What are you?…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Has Gaddafi Been Shot? Rumour Sweeps Oil Markets as Libyan Regime Prepares for Its Last Bloody Stand

An unsubstantiated rumour that Colonel Gaddafi has been shot is sweeping the oil markets.

CNBC reported the rumour this afternoon, claiming it is partially responsible for driving oil prices back down to $97 a barrel.

Oil had hit a high of $120 a barrel late this afternoon, but settled at $97 on the rumour and on Saudi Arabia’s claim that it can counter any supply disruptions from Libya.

A U.S. official told CNBC that Washington has no reason to believe Gaddafi is dead.

There is no information on where the rumour came from and no news reports substantiating it. Reuters was also reporting the rumour as unconfirmed.

The rumour emerged amid other claims the Libyan dictator was preparing for a blood-soaked final stand in Tripoli.

Thousands of hired fighters were massing on roads from the capital to join army units battling the uprising which had spread to within 30 miles of the dictator’s stronghold.

Fighting raged as Gaddafi made an extraordinary rambling speech on TV earlier Thursday in which he compared himself to the Queen and blamed the revolt on Osama Bin Laden.

He claimed the protesters who have seized control of much of the east of the country he has ruled for 41 years were fuelled by milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs.

In a bizarre message to protesters, he said: ‘You need to listen to your parents. If people disobey their parents they end up destroying the country.

‘The same as in Britain (where) for 57 years the Queen has been ruling. I have been in the same situation.’

He went on: ‘Bin Laden … this is the enemy who is manipulating the people. Do not be swayed by Bin Laden.’

Gaddafi’s former long-time ally and justice minister Mustapha Abdeljalil predicted yesterday that the Libyan leader would follow in Adolf Hitler’s footsteps by killing himself rather than give up power…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

‘Horrible’ Libya Bloodshed Must Stop Says Frattini

Italy ‘can’t bear burden of 200-300,000 migrants alone’

(ANSA) — Rome, February 23 — The “horrible” bloodshed in Libya must stop, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Wednesday while stressing that Italy expected the European Union to “support” but not “share” around all its members the burden of waves of migrants from the North African country.

Frattini, who said estimates of 200-300,000 migrants were “conservative”, said “it is clear that the migratory consequences cannot fall on Italy alone”.

But he said Rome did not expect those migrants and asylum seekers to be “shared around” among all members, after Northern League leader Umberto Bossi said Tuesday “we’ll send them to France and Germany”.

Rather, he said, the EU should set up “a serious mechanism of dividing the economic, social and human burdens of the migratory flow which one or two members, in particular in the Mediterranean, could be subjected to”.

However, a lack of common support from the 27-member group would be tantamount to “the end of European policy as we have known it over the last 50 years.

“Not only Italy but the whole of Europe must gear up for the near future” in the event of a possible civil war and “systemic collapse” in Libya, Frattini told the House.

The foreign minister also said the impact on Italian infrastructures would be “tough”, noting that companies are involved in deals worth some four billion euros.

On gas, of which Libya supplies about 10% of Italy’s needs, and oil, where Tripoli provides almost a quarter of Italy’s supplies, Frattini said Italy would not suffer because of its reserves.

He called the decision by fuels giant ENI to close its Greenstream gas pipeline “reasonable” because of security concerns.

The foreign minister said Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s ‘fight-to-the-end’ speech Tuesday amid reports of some 1,000 dead had sent a message that “floors you” and urged the dictator to halt the “horrible bloodshed”.

However, he said the birth of an ‘Islamic emirate’ in eastern Libya where rebels have wrested control from Gaddafis’s forces was “worrying”. Two Italian navy ships were heading for Libya Wednesday to provide support for the evacuation of some 6,000 Italians in Libya, many of whom have already been airlifted out.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

How Will America Handle the Fall of Its Middle East Empire?

Empires can collapse in the course of a generation. At the end of the 16th century, the Spanish looked dominant. Twenty-five years later, they were on their knees, over-extended, bankrupt, and incapable of coping with the emergent maritime powers of Britain and Holland. The British empire reached its fullest extent in 1930. Twenty years later, it was all over.

Today, it is reasonable to ask whether the United States, seemingly invincible a decade ago, will follow the same trajectory. America has suffered two convulsive blows in the last three years. The first was the financial crisis of 2008, whose consequences are yet to be properly felt. Although the immediate cause was the debacle in the mortgage market, the underlying problem was chronic imbalance in the economy. For a number of years, America has been incapable of funding its domestic programmes and overseas commitments without resorting to massive help from China, its global rival. China has a pressing motive to assist: it needs to sustain US demand in order to provide a market for its exports and thus avert an economic crisis of its own. This situation is the contemporary equivalent of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the doctrine which prevented nuclear war breaking out between America and Russia.

Unlike MAD, this pact is unsustainable. But Barack Obama has not sought to address the problem. Instead, he responded to the crisis with the same failed policies that caused the trouble in the first place: easy credit and yet more debt. It is certain that America will, in due course, be forced into a massive adjustment both to its living standards at home and its commitments abroad.

This matters because, following the second convulsive blow, America’s global interests are under threat on a scale never before seen. Since 1956, when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles pulled the plug on Britain and France over Suez, the Arab world has been a US domain. At first, there were promises that it would tolerate independence and self-determination. But this did not last long; America chose to govern through brutal and corrupt dictators, supplied with arms, military training and advice from Washington.

The momentous importance of the last few weeks is that this profitable, though morally bankrupt, arrangement appears to be coming to an end. One of the choicest ironies of the bloody and macabre death throes of the regime in Libya is that Colonel Gaddafi would have been wiser to have stayed out of the US sphere of influence. When he joined forces with George Bush and Tony Blair five years ago, the ageing dictator was leaping on to a bandwagon that was about to grind to a halt. In Washington, President Obama has not been stressing this aspect of affairs. Instead, after hesitation, he has presented the recent uprisings as democratic and even pro-American, indeed a triumph for the latest methods of Western communication such as Twitter and Facebook. Many sympathetic commentators have therefore claimed that the Arab revolutions bear comparison with the 1989 uprising of the peoples of Eastern Europe against Soviet tyranny.

I would guess that the analogy is apt. Just as 1989 saw the collapse of the Russian empire in Eastern Europe, so it now looks as if 2011 will mark the removal of many of America’s client regimes in the Arab world. It is highly unlikely, however, that events will thereafter take the tidy path the White House would prefer. Far from being inspired by Twitter, a great many of Arab people who have driven the sensational events of recent weeks are illiterate. They have been impelled into action by mass poverty and unemployment, allied to a sense of disgust at vast divergences of wealth and grotesque corruption. It is too early to chart the future course of events with confidence, but it seems unlikely that these liberated peoples will look to Washington and New York as their political or economic model…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iran Strategy Blamed for Mubarak Fall

Iran helped orchestrate the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak through its close Muslim Brotherhood ties because Egypt had strayed from a hard-line Islamic position — and a change of power would expand Iran’s influence across northern Africa including the strategic Suez Canal, according to informed sources who talked with Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

According to those sources, Iran, which already wields significant influence in central Asia and the Middle East, has as its goal to exert its influence into the Arab countries, especially those with majority or increasing Shi’ite populations.

At the same time, Tehran wants to isolate Israel, because the leaders of the Islamic republic believe officials there greatly have mistreated Palestinians.

It’s not the first conflict between Tehran and Cairo. In fact, the bad blood goes back to the time of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

And one significant result of Mubarak’s forced departure is that Iran, through the Muslim Brotherhood network, now is expected to exert more influence over the Suez Canal. One indication of this was Egypt allowing Iranian warships to go through the canal into the Mediterranean for the first time since 1979.

And while Muhammad Ghanem, representative of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in London, said Iran wants to be “preparing for war with Israel,” it also wants to cut off vital energy supplies.

Indeed, a pumping station that supplied petroleum and natural gas to Israel and Jordan was blown up just a few weeks ago, with flames shooting high into the sky. Egypt is a source of some 30 percent of Israel’s electricity and provides 80 percent of Jordan’s electrical needs.

Iran’s close ties to Hezbollah and Hamas had been of the greatest concern to Mubarak, who was a major supporter of the United States and Israel. He viewed Hezbollah and Hamas as Iranian proxies in an Arab world.

Analysts say Mubarak’s downfall was the result of a systematic effort developed in response to the former Egyptian president’s efforts to oppose Shi’a Iran in close collaboration with Sunni Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Italian Defense Minister Has No Confirmation of Tripoli Bombing

(AGI) Rome — Speaking to the press today, Defense Minister La Russa said the Italian government is obtaining as much information as possible about what is happening in Libya. The Minister also said that, “For now we have no confirmation that the city of Tripoli has been bombed. Every assessment of current events is made in-depth, but for now we have received no confirmation that Tripoli has been bombed” .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: EU: Gaddafi’s Threats to His People Are Unacceptable

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 23 — The European Commission has unanimously condemned the use of force in Libya and has stated that “it is unacceptable for a leader to threaten his own citizens”, said spokesperson for the European Commission, Olivier Bailly. The spokesman’s statement came after a meeting of the College of Commissioners and reported the position of the President, Manuel Barroso, and the Vice-Presidents as well as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. In an indirect reply to the criticism received in recent days regarding the EU’s action concerning Libya, the spokesman said that most of today’s meeting of the College of Commissioners was dedicated to analysing the uprisings in the Arab world and Libya in particular. “The president, vice-presidents and EU foreign policy chief,” said Bailly, “want to clarify that the Commission will always stand alongside those who seek democracy and freedom in the region. There must not be any doubt about this.” After saying that the commissioners were in approval of using policies and instruments “to provide a strong and coordinated response in the region”, the spokesman said that “the EU must be on the front lines to provide assistance to the region and the people”. On the specific situation in Libya, the spokesman expressed “the EU’s firmest condemnation possible” and reiterated that “what has taken place is unacceptable for Europe”. Therefore, the EU has made it coordination between member-states possible in order to “evacuate the nearly 10,000 European citizens” present in Libya, said Bailly, who specified that procedures for evacuation “by sea in particular” will be put into operation. The spokesman for the Commission said that the Monitoring Information Center (MIC) has been put into operation to coordinate the aircrafts and ships made available by the member-states, a structure that is normally used for humanitarian emergencies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Maroni and 5 EU Ministers, Solidarity Fund Needed

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 23 — A special solidarity fund for countries forced to cope with the greatest flow of migrants as a result of the crisis ongoing in North Africa has been demanded by the Interior Ministers of Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta, who will take their request to tomorrow’s meeting in Brussels of the Council of EU Interior Ministers. This is according to the Italian Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, who was speaking after a joint summit with counterparts from southern European countries.

The six countries will also demand the creation of a common European asylum system by the end of 2012, with specific programmes “such as sharing burdens resulting from the influx with which, as bordering countries, we are forced to cope”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Tunisia and Egypt Abolish Entry Visas

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 23 — Tunisia and Egypt decided to abolish entry visas for their citizens escaping Libya who make it to the borders of the two Countries. The statement was made on the Tunisian prime minister’s Facebook page. Many Tunisians live in the cities on the border between Egypt and Libya.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Algerians Repatriated, Protesters Dropping Like Flies

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — “From my window, I saw protesters dropping like flies under the gunfire from mercenaries,” was the comment reported in El Watan of one of the 250 Algerians who were repatriated to Libya yesterday. Tripoli “is divided in two”, said Abdelassem, “during the day the rebels are in control, and at night Saif El Islam’s mercenaries terrorize the people” and “shoot at the protestors”. “They even threatened to attack foreigners,” said Amar, an employee for BP. “I escaped only with a backpack because I was afraid of waking up the neighbours and attracting attention. I was threatened the day before.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Oil to Feed Civil War

By Stratfor Global Intelligence

Unlike energy produced in most African states, nearly all of Libya’s oil and natural gas is produced onshore. This reduces development costs but increases the chances that political instability could impact output — and Libya has been anything but stable of late.

Libya’s 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil output can be broken into two categories. The first comes from a basin in the country’s western extreme and is exported from a single major hub just west of Tripoli. The second basin is in the country’s eastern region and is exported from a variety of facilities in eastern cities.

At the risk of oversimplifying, Libya’s population is split in half: Leader Muammar Gaddafi’s power base is in Tripoli in the extreme west, the opposition is concentrated in Benghazi in the east, with a 600 kilometer-wide gulf of nearly empty desert in between.

This effectively gives the country two political factions, two energy-producing basins, two oil output infrastructures. Economically at least, the seeds of protracted conflict — regardless of what happens with Gaddafi or any political changes after he departs — have already been sown.

If Libya veers toward civil war, each side will have its own source of income to feed on, as well as a similar income source on the other side to target. There have not been any attacks on the energy sector yet, but the threats to stability — overt and implied — have been sufficient to nudge most international oil firms operating in Libya to remove their staff.

These staff are essential. At 6.5 million people, Libya’s tiny population simply cannot generate the mass of technocrats and engineers required to run a reasonably sized energy sector. As such, foreign firms do most of the investing and all of the heavy lifting.

The Libyans are hardly incompetent, but even if their skill sets and labor force simply were deep enough — and they are not — the political instability is keeping many workers at home. Within the past 24 hours we have seen the first reductions in output — about 100,000 bpd is now offline — and more are sure to follow.

This will be the biggest problem for Italian energy major ENI. That firm’s relationship with Libya reflects Rome’s, which has had influence in what is currently Libya literally since the time of the Roman Empire. ENI has had boots on the ground in the North African state since the dawn of its energy industry in 1959 and has never scaled back its operations.

Even in the dark days of Libya’s ostracism from the West in the 1980s, when American firms left due to Gaddafi’s backing of various militant factions and United Nations and US sanctions were levied after Libyan agents downed Pam Am Flight 103 in 1988, killing 270 people, ENI drilled on. As such, ENI produces some 250,000 bpd in Libya, which accounts for 15% of the Italian firm’s global output. It is also the major power behind the country’s moderate piped natural gas exports.

ENI is also a partially state-owned firm and is thus susceptible to inefficiency and a lack of propensity to rise to technical challenges. As such, ENI has simply been unable to secure new energy sources except on terms set by others. Unsurprisingly, it has seen its market share eroded by a more adept private challenger, Edison.

All told, Italy has to find about 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas a year to cover the country’s natural gas deficit. Despite the drawbacks of partnering with someone like Gaddafi, Libya can provide about 11 bcm — and ENI, fully supported by the central government in Rome, gets all of it. Italy, via ENI, is also Libya’s single largest oil consumer, with most of the rest going elsewhere in Europe.

Whether ENI loses access to Libyan energy because of safety concerns, supply interruptions or a new government in Tripoli that looks less than favorably on the company that stuck by Gaddafi through thick and thin, there is much risk and little opportunity ahead in ENI’s future relations with Libya.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Thousands Have Crossed Into Neighbouring Tunisia

(AKI) — The Red Crescent humanitarian relief organisation has warned of a possible refugee crisis as 5,600 people have crossed the border into Tunisia from neighbouring Libya since a violent uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s authoritarian rule started around one week ago, according to Arab-language satellite news channel al-Arabiya.

Confirming that thousands of refugees have crossed into Tunisia, Red Crescent representative Gerard Lautredou said the numbers could rise in coming hours.

“We’re preparing to receive 10,000 people a day along the border with Libya,” Lautredou told the BBC.

Reports citing eye-witnesses say that the Libyan military has fired on protesters from helicopters and bombed them from aeroplanes.

The Libyan government is reported to have lost control of much of the eastern part of the country.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini on Wednesday dismissed Libya’s official number of 300 dead during a week of protests, putting the death toll at 1,000 — the same figure used by reports citing eye-witnesses in the north African country.

An Arab member of the International Criminal Court interviewed by al-Arabiya put the death toll at 10,000 with more than 50,000 injured.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Al-Qaeda ‘Declares Support’ For Anti-Gaddafi Uprising

Tripoli, 24 Feb. (AKI) — Al-Qaeda’s branch in north African announced “it will do whatever we can to help” the uprising in Libya, according to a statement the group posted on jihadist websites.

US terrorist-tracking organisation SITE said the message by Al- Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was posted Thursday.

The statement criticizes Muammer Gaddafi’s use of mercenaries and heavy weaponry against protesters.

“We declare our support and aid to the Libyan revolution in its legitimate demands, and we assure our people in Libya that we are with you and we will not let you down,” said its statement, which SITE reported was posted on jihadist forums Wednesday.

“We only came out to defend you against these despots who usurped your rights, plundered your wealth, and prevented you from having the minimum requirements of a dignified life and the simplest meanings of freedom and human dignity,” AQIM said.

“We were pained by the carnage and the cowardly massacres carried out by the killer of innocents Gaddafi against our people and our unarmed Muslim brothers who only came to lift his oppression, his disbelief, his tyranny and his might,” AQIM was quoted as saying in the statement.

Gaddafi’s government sustains that 300 people have been killed in the protests protests broke out on 17 February. Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini told reporters in Rome Wednesday that there are credible reports that about 1000 people have been killed in Libya’s ongoing crackdown.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi’s Daughter Denies Fleeing Her Country Aboard Plane

Tripoli, 24 Feb. (AKI) — Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafis’ daughter on Thursday denied reports by Arabic media that she had fled to Malta amid serious unrest her North African country. Speaking on state television, Aisha Gaddafi dismissed reports she had left the country as “foreign lies”.

“I say to the Libyan people who I love and who love me, that I am steadfastly here, in front of this wreck of a house,” said the 33-year-old lawyer.

Wearing a Muslim headscarf, she appeared in front of her residence in Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya military compound in Tripoli, which was bombed by the US airforce in 1986.

“The Libyans who know me are well aware that I will stay here as a goodwill ambassador for Libya’s people,” she said, claiming she was unaware of the United Nations’ announcement on Wednesday that she had been dropped as a goodwill ambassador amid violence which has reportedly killed at least a 1,000 people protesting against her father’s rule.

Her strongman father chose the Bab al-Aziziya compound as the backdrop for his defiant televised address on Tuesday. In his address, Gaddafi denied reports he fled to Venezuela and said he would remain in Libya as leader , die as a martyr in the land of his ancestors and fight to the “last drop” of his blood.

Gaddafi also pledged to deploy the army and police to quell the week-long rebellion and vowed protesters would be executed. The longest-lived Arab leader, he has ruled Libya for 41 years since he toppled King Idris in a bloodless coup in September, 1969, at the age of 27.

The Al-Jazeera Arabic satellite TV channel reported on Wednesday that Aisha Gaddafi was aboard a 14-seat passenger plane which entered Maltese airspace without authorisation and was denied permission to land at Valletta’s airport.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi on Revolt is Al-Qaeda Hoax

(AGI) Tripoli — Gaddafi: “The country is not in revolt, this is all an al-Qaeda hoax, they want to take over Libya.” Libyan leader Muhammar Gaddafi made these remarks in a telephone conversation with State Television, addressed to the people of as-Zawiyah, a city fifty miles or so west of Tripoli.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Under Attack, Battle Across the Country

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 24 — With the regime of Muammar Gaddafi under siege, his former collaborators say they are convinced the colonel will decide to “die like Hitler”, committing suicide rather than surrendering himself.

The uprising has spread to the west to several cities like Zuara, now controlled by the anti-government “people’s committees” and an attack is reportedly being prepared on Tripoli, the regime’s last real bulwark. Gaddafi is gathering his most loyal troops in the capital amid talk of another large demonstration that will be staged tomorrow.

Meanwhile the EU announces that it is ready for a military humanitarian intervention in the country. This morning the army announced an offensive in Zawia, west of Tripoli, perhaps an attempt to ‘cut off the lines’ of the rebels. “A massacre”, reported a former serviceman to television network Al Arabiya. Other witnesses told the network that “hundreds” of people have been killed. Troops that are loyal to Gaddafi have bombed demonstrators. The victims include troops who, according to Al Jazeera, have been executed “for refusing to shoot into the crowd”. Another attack has been carried out in the city of Misurata, which was seized yesterday by the protesters. Also in this case there are reports of many victims. Clashes are still in progress in many parts of the city. Tensions are also high in Tajura, a city situated east of the capital, which has been “surrounded” by pro-regime militias and where resident are fearing a bombing raid. “The march on Tripoli was scheduled to take place tomorrow and people were expected to arrive from Zawia and Tajoura as well to free the city. Gaddafi is bombing these towns today to stop the people”, a witness told ANSA. The Libyan leader, reportedly barricaded in an underground bunker at the barracks of Bab al Aziziya, in the southern outskirts of Tripoli, is gathering thousands of mercenaries and loyal troops in the capital, the New York Times writes: Gaddafi “has recalled” the special troops led by his sons, army units which are loyal to his tribe and their allies, African mercenaries who have been trained in recent years and who have probably already fought in Sudan. The presence of these forces, witnesses say, is visible: “It looks like Somalia”, dozens of checkpoints have been put up on the main roads by mercenaries and men in civilian clothes.

“They don’t only ask for documents, but they also want you to show your support to Gaddafi. If you don’t there is trouble”, an eyewitness reports. The ‘death squads’ have been spreading terror in the capital for two days now, killing men and raping women. Residents barricade themselves inside their houses. Meanwhile, the grip around the capital is tightening: “The attack on Tripoli is imminent”, a young man by the name of Taha told ANSA. “The attack will be carried out by the Warfalla tribe. They are armed and are coming from Cyrenaica, from Zenten, from Beni Oualid, from Zawia to free the city”.

People are trying to flee, over the Tunisian and the Algerian border — Algeria has opened its doors to foreigners — or to Egypt, where a sand storm is raging today. The judgement of the international community is unanimous: “No more violence”, U.S. President Barack Obama bellowed yesterday: “Human rights are not negotiable”. British Foreign Secretary William Hague has asked for an “international inquiry” into the “atrocities” committed in the country.

Today the North African branch of Al Qaeda took the side of the anti-regime protesters and accused Gaddafi of being “a murderer of innocent people”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: IOM: More Than 30,000 Tunisians and Egyptians Left

(ANSAmed) — GENEVA, FEBRUARY 24 — More than 30,000 Tunisians and Egyptians have left Libya since Monday to return to their home countries, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported today. “The number of people arriving rises every day. We estimate the flow at more than 30,000 people since Monday”, IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy told news agency AFP. He specified that most of them are Tunisians and Egyptians. “We can expect more arrivals, in the order of tens of thousands of people. This will depend on the local situation”, he added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: ENI: Production Cut in Half But No Supply Problem

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 24 — “The problem of gas supplies to Italy is a non-existent problem”, though Eni’s production in Libya has been cut in half. This remark was made by the managing director of the Italian energy group, Paolo Scaroni.

Scaroni explained that gas supply is no problem “because Libya represents only around 10% of our supplies, because we are reaching the end of the winter season and there is plenty of gas in Europe. Also thanks to the investments made by Eni”, he added, “we have a high import capacity through the TAG and TTPC gas pipelines which link us to Russia and Algeria. Therefore I see no problems on the short run, nor on the long run”.

“We normally produce 280 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day in Libya, much of this is gas, which has fallen to around 120 thousand”, Scaroni specified, adding that Italy imports “much oil” from Libya, but the crude oil coming from the North African country “can easily be replaced by oil from other suppliers”.

“We are facing an emergency situation, but things are going ahead”, the managing director continued. He underlined that in reality “the impact of Libya is felt much more in prices than in the flow of crude oil”. “Nobody expected oil prices to rise to 120 dollars so sudden”, Scaroni added. “If the international political situation would calms down, oil prices would fall below 100 dollars per barrel”, he concluded. The group’s industrial plan is based on an estimated price of 70 dollars per barrel.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Compares Himself to the Queen in Latest Rant

The embattled dictator said he was like the Queen, who he says has not been overthrown for 57 years.

“You need to listen to your parents. If people disobey their parents they end up destroying the country, he said. “The same case as in Britain (where) for 57 years the Queen has been ruling. I have been in the same situation.

“I am not in the same position to be able to impose rule on the people. I have become more of a symbolic leader. I have no power, it’s the people themselves who have the prerogative.”

Gaddafi, speaking by telephone to Libyan television, offered his condolences for those who were killed in the bloodshed and called for calm amongst people he said were fighting amongst themselves and taking hallucinogenic drugs. Saying Osama bin Laden was “the real criminal”, Gaddafi urged Libyans not be swayed by the al Qaeda leader. “Bin Laden … this is the enemy who is manipulating people,” Gaddafi said, adding: “Do not be swayed by bin Laden.” “I only have moral authority,” he said

Al-Jazeera television reported heavy fighting there between pro- and anti-government forces and said there had been an undetermined number of casualties.

Ten people were reportedly killed on Thursday and dozens more wounded when pro-government forces attacked the rebellious Az-Zawiyah, around 30 miles from the capital.

A doctor at a field clinic set up at the mosque said he saw the bodies of 10 dead, shot in the head and chest, as well as arond 150 wounded. The witness said that a day earlier an envoy from Gadhafi had come to the city and warned protesters, “Either leave or you will see a massacre.” Az-Zawiyah is a key city near an oil port and refineries. In the latest blow to the Libyan leader, a cousin who is one of his closest aides, Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, announced that he has defected to Egypt in protest against the regime’s bloody crackdown against the uprising, denouncing what he called “grave violations to human rights and human and international laws.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Blames Osama Bin Laden for Protests

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has told state TV that Osama Bin Laden and his followers are to blame for the protests racking his country.

In a phone call addressed to residents of the town of al-Zawiya, Col Gaddafi said young people were being duped with drugs and alcohol to take part in “destruction and sabotage”.

Col Gaddafi is battling to shore up control of Tripoli and western areas.

Protesters have been consolidating gains in cities in the east.

Opposition politicians and tribal leaders have held a key meeting in the eastern town of al-Bayda to show a united front against Col Gaddafi.

‘This is your country’

The telephone call addressed al-Zawiya, 50km (30 miles) west of the capital, where there has been renewed gunfire reported in the streets.

Col Gaddafi said the protesters had no genuine demands and were being dictated to by the al-Qaeda leader.

“Bin Laden… this is the enemy who is manipulating people. Do not be swayed by Bin Laden,” he said.

“It is obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaeda. Those armed youngsters, our children, are incited by people who are wanted by America and the Western world.

“Those inciting are very few in numbers and we have to capture them.”

He said the young protesters were “trigger happy and they shoot especially when they are stoned with drugs”.

He said that Libya was not like Egypt and Tunisia, which have seen their leaders deposed, because the people of Libya had it in their own hands to change their lives through committees.

“This is your country and it is up to you how to deal with it,” he said.

Calling the situation in al-Zawiya a “farce”, he urged families to rein in their sons, saying many of the protesters were underage and beyond the reach of the law.

But he also vowed that those carrying out violent protests should be put on trial.

This was Col Gaddafi’s second live TV appearance since the protests erupted on 15 February.

On Tuesday he said he would die a martyr in Libya and fight to the “last drop” of his blood. The latest broadcast was a lot shorter — about 20 minutes compared with 75 minutes on Tuesday.

Heavy gunfire has been reported in al-Zawiya and there are reports of a police station on fire.

One civilian leaving through the Tunisian border told Reuters: “It is chaotic there. There are people with guns and swords.”

The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to Libya UK nationals in Libya wishing to get on the charter flight are advised to call the following numbers:

020 7008 0000 from the UK or 021 3403644/45 from within Libya UK Foreign Office travel advisory

An eyewitness told Associated Press that soldiers had opened fire on protesters holed up in the city’s Souq Mosque, while a doctor at a field clinic told AP he had seen 10 bodies and 150 wounded people.

Information from Libya remains difficult to verify and many reports cannot be independently confirmed.

Zuara, 120km west of Tripoli, was said to be in the hands of anti-government militias and defence committees of civilians, with no sign of police.

Fighting is reported between pro- and anti-government forces in Misrata, Libya’s third-biggest city, 200km east of Tripoli.

Pro-Gaddafi forces are said to have also launched attacks in Sabratha and Sabha…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya Unrest: British Oil Workers Describe Their Plight

Although many Britons are returning to the UK from the unrest in Libya on specially chartered flights, there are concerns for oil workers stranded in isolated desert camps. Some of them have contacted the BBC News website about their plight.

Tony Blakeway said he was on a camp in Amal with 300 people, about 50 of them British.

He described how armed locals had been protecting them, but it was thought the Libyans would be quitting the camp by road, leaving the rest exposed to armed looters.

“We need help from the British government to get us out,” he wrote.

“We’ve heard nothing from the British government — the airfield here is open and capable of landing a large passenger plane.

“In the past there have been DC9s landing at this airport. The airport is open and there is no damage.

Please send immediate help as these looters will be back here tonight. The phones are not working. Please help us to get out”

Knifepoint robbery

Oil worker Gary said he was among a group of eight Britons, one Canadian and one American on a Libyan oilfield.

And he had a similar message for the British authorities: “Forget the internet, forget phones, just pass a message on to the top brass to get the RAF in tomorrow to Zueitina 103 oilfield.”

He said many of the local staff had left but those remaining had been told to keep the gas plant running to supply the west of the country with electricity.

“We had vehicles stolen at knifepoint, even though we barricaded ourselves in after the army security left,” he continued.

“The catering staff and the rest of the staff are due to leave today, as they are now living in fear.

“If this happens, we are going to take a risk and will travel in a vehicle convoy to a nearby site where the desert landing strip is…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya in Crisis: Inside a Benghazi Court With Gaddafi’s Mercenaries

They were a pretty sorry bunch, these ‘Gaddafi mercenaries’. Assembled for my inspection in a scruffy, whitewashed room on the top floor of the courthouse building in ‘free’ Benghazi, six West African men shuffled nervously under the stern gaze of Arab youths.

If they tried to speak they were told to shut up. You could smell their fear.

And no wonder. A few days ago the boot was on the other foot. These men are alleged to have been among several thousand foreign thugs and gunmen that Muammar Gaddafi sent against his own people, to kill and destroy and quell the uprising in eastern Libya.

Now they are the prisoners of the people, whose revolt against the 41-year-old regime is spreading rapidly westwards and likely to engulf the capital Tripoli in coming days.

I arrived in Libya’s second city yesterday in a driving rainstorm, which failed to dampen the fervour for new-found freedom that had seen half a million people assemble for a ‘victory’ rally the night before.

Benghazi is a large, sprawling and down-at-heel sea port. And it was clear from the evidence of my own eyes and the testimonies of many witnesses, that terrible events recently took place here.

In the past week anti-aircraft cannon and shoulder-launched rockets were deployed at close range against civilians armed with stones. Mobs of Gaddafi thugs in plastic construction helmets — dubbed ‘yellow hats’ by the protesters — also killed with machetes and clubs.

Reliable medical sources told me that more than 1,000 people have died so far in Benghazi as a result of Gaddafi-orchestrated violence. Some were killed when funeral processions for earlier casualties were attacked by snipers.

Thousands more have been wounded, with a score dying of their injuries on Wednesday alone. The city’s 1,200-bed main hospital has been overwhelmed.

The courthouse building on the corniche next to the docks has been a focus of the popular uprising since it began in the middle of the month. Occupied by the protesters early on, 20ft lengths of building timber are still wedged along the main doors as a barricade against Gaddafi loyalists.

From here an interim council of local professionals and intellectuals is trying to get Benghazi back on its feet.

And it is here that some of the alleged Gaddafi foot soldiers are being held.

After some negotiation I was allowed to see a handful. Those in charge were worried that if the thousands of people still chanting victory slogans on the seafront were to know of their presence so close there would be a lynch mob.

Scores of mercenaries have been captured in the fighting. I was told they come from a number of African countries with which Gaddafi has ties, usually through sponsoring conflict.

Many are said to be from war-stricken Chad, Niger and Sudan. At least one former member of the Tunisian special forces is supposed to be among those held in Benghazi, though I did not meet him.

The Africans I saw ranged from a 20-year-old to one in his late 40s with a grizzled beard. Most were wearing casual clothes. When they realised I spoke English they burst out in protest.

‘We did not do anything,’ one told me, before he was silenced. ‘We are all construction workers from Ghana. We harmed no one.’

Another of the accused, a man in green overalls, pointed at the paint on his sleeves and said: ‘This is my job. I do not know how to shoot a gun.’

Abdul Nasser, a 47-year-old, protested: ‘They are lying about us. We were taken from our house at night when we were sleeping.’ Still complaining, they were led away. It was hard to judge their guilt.

Then I was shown a prisoner who was prepared to admit some part in the bloodshed…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi’s Billions to be Seized by Britain

The funds are expected to be seized within days. The Treasury is understood to have set up a unit to trace Col Gaddafi’s assets in Britain, which are thought to include billions of dollars in bank accounts, commercial property and a £10 million mansion in London. In total, the Libyan regime is said to have around £20 billion in liquid assets, mostly in London. These are expected to be frozen as part of an international effort to force the dictator from power. A Whitehall source said: “The first priority is to get British nationals out of Libya. But then we are ready to move in on Gaddafi’s assets, the work is under way. This is definitely on the radar at the highest levels.” Col Gaddafi was yesterday accused of ordering the deaths of thousands of protesters, but he refused to surrender as Libya descended into civil war.

Meanwhile, the British Government struggled to assert its authority following a chaotic few days.

It faced further embarrassment, when Nick Clegg said he “forgot” he was supposed to be running the country in David Cameron’s absence. RELATED ARTICLES

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The Deputy Prime Minister was also forced to cut short a holiday at his family villa in the Swiss ski resort of Davos to return to Britain for security meetings today. Mr Cameron was also due to return to Britain from the Gulf after being forced to apologise for the chaotic evacuation effort.

Hundreds of Britons were finally able to leave Libya in military planes and on a Royal Navy warship after several days stranded in the country. More than 350 British nationals had been rescued by last night. Those returning to this country spoke of Libya “descending into hell”. United Nations experts estimated that more than 3,000 people may have died, while militias were reported to have executed wounded protesters. Special forces soldiers were understood to be assisting the evacuation of dozens more British oil workers. They were thought to be preparing to travel in convoys across land to Tunisia or Egypt, but they will have to pass through dozens of checkpoints set up by rebel forces or troops loyal to Col Gaddafi.

Officials are confident that all Britons who wish to leave Libya should be able to do so by tomorrow.

Mr Cameron said he was “extremely sorry” over delays in the evacuation as the Government ordered a review. In a television interview from Muscat, Oman, he admitted that the Government must improve its performance.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that Mr Cameron told William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, and Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, that their handling of the crisis was not good enough.

During a conference call from Qatar on Wednesday, he gave the ministers a detailed list of goals to improve the operation, and asked for updates in a second, late-night call. A “furious” Mr Hague is understood to have ordered in the officials responsible for the evacuation for a “serious dressing down”. Several officials are expected to be moved to other positions once the Libyan crisis is over…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

U.S. Fears Tripoli May Deploy Gas as Chaos Mounts

WASHINGTON—The government of Col. Moammar Gadhafi hasn’t destroyed significant stockpiles of mustard gas and other chemical-weapons agents, raising fears in Washington about what could happen to them—and whether they may be used—as Libya slides further into chaos.

Tripoli also maintains control of aging Scud B missiles, U.S. officials said, as well as 1,000 metric tons of uranium yellowcake and vast amounts of conventional weapons that Col. Gadhafi has channeled in the past to militants operating in countries like Sudan and Chad.

Current and former U.S. officials said in interviews that Washington’s counterproliferation operations against Libya over the past decade have scored gains, in particular the dismantling of Tripoli’s nascent nuclear-weapons program and its Scud C missile stockpiles. But the level of instability in Libya, and Col. Gadhafi’s history of brutality, continues to make the U.S. focus on the arms and chemical agents that remain, they said.

“When you have a guy who’s as irrational as Gadhafi with some serious weapons at his disposal, it’s always a concern,” said a U.S. official. “But we haven’t yet seen him move to use any kind of mustard gas or chemical weapon” during the unrest.

The George W. Bush administration reached a key agreement with Tripoli in 2003 that called for Libya to scrap its weapons of mass destruction programs in return for normalized diplomatic relations. The deal followed the toppling of Saddam Hussein and was viewed as a major victory in the push to rid the Middle East of advanced weapons.

Within months of the pact, Col. Gadhafi’s government sent to the U.S. the critical infrastructure for its nuclear-weapons programs, including uranium hexafluoride stockpiles, centrifuge machines and parts for a nuclear fuel-conversion facility. Libya also destroyed its longer-range missiles and 3,300 aerial munitions used to disperse mustard gas and other chemical agents. In 2004 Tripoli joined the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW.

But the program to eradicate Libya’s chemical agents, as well as its chemical weapons production facility, was delayed by spats between Washington and Tripoli over funding and logistics, according to U.S. officials.

Libya initially said the U.S. could convert a weapons facility outside Tripoli into a pharmaceutical factory, but then demanded an Italian firm do the work, extending the process. Libya also was reluctant to provide U.S. and British officials visas to monitor the process and cited environmental concerns for the slowed process.

Libya was to have destroyed all 23 metric tons of its mustard gas by the end of last year, according to the OPCW, but 9.5 metric tons remain. The Hague-based body said Libya was granted an extension until May to destroy the rest.

Libya also possesses more than half of the 1,300 metric tons of precursor chemicals used for developing chemical agents. The material is believed to be stored in jugs at the former Rabta chemical-weapons facility.

A spokesman for the OPCW said the utility of such chemical agents is lessened without the delivery systems. But officials in Washington said they remain concerned about the security of these materials. They wouldn’t rule out the possibility Col. Gadhafi could seek to use them…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Poland, Israel to Cooperate on Water, Energy


The declaration is concerned with the planning, defense, development and mobility of water sources and sustainable energy, with an emphasis on bilateral cooperation for the benefit of the citizens of both countries.

The cooperation is primarily in the realms of promoting investment, exchange of technologies, increasing dialogue and exchange of information, and the establishment of uniform standardization.

Cooperation will be in the form of rotation of specialists — both professionals and technicians — and will include reciprocal learning tours, joint projects and research, training courses, exhibitions and workshops. In addition, cooperation between private entities will be increased.

At the conclusion of the meetings, Netanyahu made a statement in which he thanked Tusk for his country’s friendship.

“As Prime Minister, I have the great privilege of counting you as a personal friend, and Poland, too, is a real friend to Israel,” said Netanyahu.

“We are taking advantage of this opportunity to deepen the cooperation between us by signing cooperation agreements in defense, health, environment, water and energy, culture and in a number of other areas,” added Netanyahu. “This also includes recognition of the tragedy that befell the Jewish people on Polish soil, and your and your government’s sincere attempts to commemorate and give meaning to these events. We appreciate it, and we appreciate your open, sincere and fair attitude, which further deepens the friendship between us.”


[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Be Careful What You Wish for

As the violence escalates in Libya, Western governments remain tongue-tied and befuddled as they struggle to react to the popular revolts that are sweeping the Middle East. At one moment, they eagerly compare the uprisings to the French revolution or the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the next, they cautiously backpedal, clearly mindful of the threats the revolts pose to the West’s strategic and economic interests.

The confusion is understandable. The unrest marks a buoyant reaffirmation of the universal desire for voice and dignity and may well enable democracy to take root in the Middle East. At the same time, the uprisings are not only producing bloodshed, but also toppling regimes on which the West relies for energy and strategic cooperation.

Putting the upheaval in historical perspective buttresses the case for caution.

To be sure, the moment has enormous potential. After all, the arrival of participatory government in the Western world cleared the way for secular nationalism, social cohesion and peaceful relations among stable democracies. But there was plenty of conflict along the way. Democratization in the Middle East promises to be similarly turbulent — and is poised to have quite different effects.

On two key dimensions — the relationship between religion and politics and the link between nationalism and social cohesion — the Middle East is following a trajectory quite different from the West’s. If democracy does take root in the Middle East — and the jury is still out — the regimes that emerge may well be much tougher customers than the autocracies they replace.

In the West, modernity has meant the separation of church and state. Christianity is a religion of faith, not law; its outsized influence on European politics during the medieval era stemmed from a longstanding alliance between secular rulers and the Catholic Church. After the Protestant Reformation, politics in the West took a secular turn that only deepened with the arrival of democracy.

In contrast, Islam is a religion of faith and law, in which there is no separation between the sacred and the secular. Beginning soon after the birth of Islam in the 7th century, state and mosque became inextricably bound.

Secular regimes of course do exist in the modern Middle East, but most of them maintain their secularity through coercion, not consent. In those countries that have experimented with participatory government, Islam has only strengthened its hold on politics.

The 1979 revolution in Iran gave birth to a theocracy. In 1991 Islamists won elections in Algeria, but were blocked from taking power by the military. In Iraq, elections have installed a Shiite-led coalition with Islamist leanings. Elections in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories have strengthened the hand of Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively. The rise of Turkey’s middle class has brought to power the Justice and Development Party (AKP), an Islamist-inspired party that has ended decades of political dominance by secular elites. In Egypt, a recent poll revealed that 95 percent of the population believes that Islam should play a large role in politics.

This track record makes clear that the more democratic the Middle East becomes, the greater the role that Islam — even if a moderate brand — will play in its politics. This outcome is neither good nor bad; it is simply a reality in a part of the world where politics and religion are intertwined.

Nonetheless, Western observers and policy makers had better stop operating under the illusion that the spread of democracy to the Middle East also means the spread of Western values…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iran TV and Radio to Boost Disinformation

Rooz Online, a website run by Iranian exiles, reports that state TV network has boosted its cyber division. Using hackers, the latter plans to infiltrate popular internet sites to spread false news and plant fake videos.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Iran’s state-run Radio and Television network (IRIB) has boosted the Logistic Branch of its Cyber Division, Rooz online, a website run by Iranian exiles, reports. The Cyber Division was launched about nine months ago, tasked with disrupting media through the production and distribution of false news and fake video clips.

This Division is housed in a five-storey building with 20 units, including cyber networks, an administrative branch and a number of news media and services. It operates with a budget of about US$ 100 million.

The Division has three internet networks called Ma (We), Shoma (You) and Paydari (Resistance) actively filtering out Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and engaging Balatarin site users in superficial discussions (Balatarin is a community site like Facebook but with an emphasis on Iranian audiences).

Whilst providing various services to 12,000 cleric students who maintain close ties with this division, the Paydari network is busy creating a new space with fictitious names and photos of fabricated women, boys and girls in Facebook. Until now, it has created over 25,000 fake accounts on Facebook, and is backing up personal information and images from other users for subsequent manipulation.

The Ma and Shoma networks upload targeted video clips and images on YouTube with the purpose of cleansing the video sharing website.

Working under the powerful security blanket of the country’s telecommunication authority, Iran’s cyber army plans to attack internet sites and destroy those that oppose the Islamic regime.

A group of hackers is said to be working with the Division’s technical office. One of its tasks is to hack and destroy sites belonging to regime opponents.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Iranian Warships Arrive in Syria, Witness Says

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A witness said two Iranian warships docked in Syria on Thursday, completing a voyage that has raised tensions with Israel during a time of upheaval in the Middle East.

The ships arrived at Syria’s Latakia seaport, after sailing through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean — the first such trip in at least three decades. A witness confirmed the ships’ arrival, but asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The chief of Iran’s navy, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, said the frigate Alvand and the supply ship Kharq are in Syria for a training mission. He rejected Israeli criticism that the trip was provocative.

Iran’s foray into the Mediterranean came as the Middle East was reeling from an unprecedented wave of anti-government rebellions. Some observers said the voyage through the Suez Canal was as a test of Egypt, which is the gatekeeper of the strategic waterway that links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

Egypt’s new military rulers, who took power from ousted President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, appeared to have no choice but to allow the passage. An international convention regulating shipping says the canal must be open “to every vessel of commerce or of war.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Murder of 70-Year-Old Chaldean Man in Baghdad Raises Fears of More Attacks

A group of armed men burst into the home of Youssif Isho, in central Baghdad, stabbing him to death. The group’s modus operandi suggests the murder was a “targeted killing” against Christians. The Christian community expect more violence. Street demonstrations are scheduled for tomorrow in Iraq’s main cities.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — Iraq’s Christian community has been attacked again. A group of armed men stormed the home of a Christian man in Baghdad’s central neighbourhood of Karrad, killing him. The victim’s name is Youssif Isho, a 70-year-old Chaldean. He was stabbed to death. Sources have warned AsiaNews that other attacks against Christians are possible in the capital. “The faithful continue to suffer,” a Christian leader said, “and people are scared, moving cautiously out of fear of more violence.”

According to information obtained by AsiaNews, Youssif Isho’s death was a targeted killing by extremist groups. The group burst into his home and stabbed 70-year-old man to death. He lived alone in a house in Karrad, central Baghdad. Nothing was stolen from the premises.

Iraqi Christians fear more violence tomorrow, Friday, when demonstrations are scheduled to take place in the country’s main cities.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, Sunni Arabs are planning a demonstration. In the south, Shia groups will be doing to do the same.

The capital should be the scene of rallies linked to broader events in the Middle eastern region.

A source, anonymous for security reasons, spoke to AsiaNews about “a volcano that has exploded and that has no end in sight.”

“People are scared,” the Christian leader said, “because extremist groups could infiltrate [demonstrations] and cause havoc”. Many fear more “looting, destruction and even targeted killings.”

The Christian community “has been suffering for some time,” the source said. Christians continue to “move cautiously out of fear of new attacks.” (DS)

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Iraqi PM to Country: Stay Away From Friday Protest

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s prime minister warned his people to boycott a planned anti-government protest scheduled for Friday, saying it was being organized by supporters of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave no proof for his assertion in a nationally televised speech Thursday, which echoed similar blanket statements he’s made blaming terrorists and Saddam loyalists for an array of problems in the country.

Religious figures including anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the leader of Iraq’s majority Shiite community also have raised doubts about the rally.

Al-Maliki’s comments were the strongest to date on demonstrations slated to take place across Iraq that have been described as a “Day of Rage” on Facebook and in Internet postings calling for people to take part in the event. He delivered them about the same time a suicide bomber killed 11 people but failed to blow up his target, an official in Anbar province said.

The prime minister’s warning was another sign of the worry Iraqi officials feel that the uprisings demanding regime change in many parts of the Middle East will buffet Iraq as well.

So far, Iraqis have held some small-scale protests around the country — occasionally punctuated by violent clashes between security and demonstrators — demanding better public services, more assistance for widows and orphans and greater protection for human rights. But unlike protests in the wider Middle East, they have generally not called for a complete change in government. Iraq is one of the few countries in the region where officials are democratically elected.

“I call on you to be cautious and careful and stay away from this (event),” al-Maliki said of Friday’s march.

He said that he did not want to deprive Iraqis of their right to protest legitimate demands, but wanted it to happen with someone other than “Saddamists, terrorists and al-Qaida” standing behind the march.

“Frankly speaking, they are planning to take advantage of tomorrow’s demonstration for their own benefit,” he said.

The Iraqi government routinely allows mass religious events, such as Shiite religious processions, to take place although they are repeatedly targeted by terrorists.

Iraqis planning to take part in the protest march scoffed at the warning.

“Although there are security and religious pressures on us to not participate in the demo tomorrow, we will,” said Omar al-Mashhadani, an activist with the al-Nahrian relief organization. “Our aim is not to topple the regime but to make reforms and fight corruption.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Jordan: King Abdullah’s Book on Reform and Peace

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, FEBRUARY 23 — “Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril”: this is the title of King Abdullah’s book in which he speaks of his vision for reform since he took over from his father the late King Hussein.

The Monarch says reform process was stalled as a result of resistance by certain forces that hold on to the status quo to guard their interests. The book, which will be published in eight languages, including Arabic, reviews efforts to bring about Arab-Israeli peace, Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. The pro-West Abdullah hit out at Israeli policy on the peace process warning against “narrowing the opportunity of peace due to Israeli intransigence.” “Th Middle East will not enjoy security and stability unless the Palestinians gain their rights to freedom and independence within a comprehensive regional context,” said the king in his book.

He also calls on Israel to choose between remaining fortress Israel in a region and being racked by conflicts or living in peace that ensures security and stability for the entire region.

Dar Al Saqi, a Lebanese publishing house which was granted the copyright in Arabic, has allowed the London-based Asharq Al Awsat Arabic daily and local newspapers to publish some chapters of the book starting from yesterday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East Crisis Could Lead to an Orgy of Bloodletting and Rocketing Oil Prices

Even by the repressive standards of Middle Eastern autocrats, Colonel Gaddafi has long cut a brutally capricious figure.

But while nobody who remembers the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher or the appalling slaughter at Lockerbie will mourn Gaddafi’s downfall, this year’s tumultuous events in North Africa could mark a shocking and seismic shift in the balance of power.

We are at a hinge moment in world history. As the Arab revolutions have shown, the old certainties are cracking apart.

And despite the naive predictions of a new liberal order, the future might well prove a very dangerous place indeed — with potentially devastating economic repercussions for millions of British families.

Indeed, in all the excitement at the fall of the Arab autocracies, it is hard to miss the whiff of Western hubris.

Like the arrogant neo-conservatives who thought it would be child’s play to export democracy to Iraq, many of the idealists exulting in the giddy triumphs of street politics believe history is on their side.

Sadly, history has a habit of kicking idealists in the teeth. The revolutions in the Arab world are far from over.

And when events have played themselves out, there is a good chance the results will be very different from the utopian fantasies of the armchair pundits.

As a student of history, David Cameron will recall that revolutions rarely turn out as their architects intend. And as the great Whig thinker Edmund Burke pointed out at the time of the French Revolution, rebellions rapidly develop their own uncontrollable momentum.

In France, the utopian dreams of 1789 soon turned into the horrific bloodshed of the Reign of Terror.

The ballot box gave way to the guillotine; the committees and conventions were ultimately replaced by the rapacious megalomania of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Far from emerging into the sunshine of democracy, Europe was plunged into one of its bloodiest wars, with some four million people losing their lives.

Of course, not all revolutions turn out quite like that. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is rightly remembered as the high point of People Power, bringing freedom, democracy and capitalism to the enslaved nations of Eastern Europe.

Even then, though, we should recall that in the former Yugoslavia, the end of Communist rule unleashed an orgy of ethnic bloodletting at the cost of some 200,000 lives.

But what the idealists often forget is that not all uprisings, like the peaceful transition in the former Czechoslovakia, come cloaked in velvet.

All too often, as in Mexico in 1910 or Russia in 1917, violence begets violence.

And eventually, as the French politician Pierre Vergniaud — who ended up on the guillotine — famously put it, the revolution devours its own children.

Of course, we should applaud the men and women in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Their courage has inspired the world; their defiance is a reminder of the unquenchable reserves of the human spirit.

As Mr Cameron noted this week, it is grotesquely patronising to imagine that ‘Arabs or Muslims can’t do democracy’. And given our historic associations with the region — Egypt was an informal British protectorate until the Fifties — our leaders must do their best to support the new governments.

All the same, we must tread carefully. The West’s long-standing support for the Arab dictators, from Tony Blair’s distasteful rapprochement with Colonel Gaddafi to the Americans’ $1.5 billion (£930 million) annual subsidy to the former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, means we are far from being flavour of the month on the streets of Tripoli and Cairo.

And if Washington and Whitehall are in danger of slipping into romantic giddiness, they should take a long, hard look at recent history in the region.

This is not, after all, the first time that the people of the Middle East have risen against a corrupt autocrat.

You do not need a long memory to find the scenes on the streets of Cairo irresistibly reminiscent of a similar uprising 30 years ago, when the downtrodden people of Iran poured into the streets to celebrate the overthrow of the Shah, another Western-funded tyrant.

Like today’s Arab revolutions, the Iranian revolution of 1978-9 seemed an intoxicating moment of hope. But we all know how that turned out.

As the revolutionary momentum built to a climax, democratic ambitions yielded to religious despotism.

Three decades on, the ayatollahs are still in power, basking in their enormous oil revenues, their nuclear ambitions a chilling reminder that the real world can be a very dangerous place indeed.

Few experts think there is any serious possibility of Islamic fundamentalists taking over in Tunisia or Egypt. Still, the road ahead is paved with dangers, and a smooth transition to democratic prosperity, as in parts of Eastern Europe after 1989, seems highly unlikely.

These are, after all, some of the most combustible nations in the world, with poor, frustrated and very young populations. In Morocco and Algeria, more than 17 per cent of young people are unemployed.

In Egypt, where the median age is just 24, a staggering 43 per cent of young people are currently out of work. And in the repressive, impoverished state of Yemen, some 42 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, with most scratching a living on less than two dollars a day.

The potential for resentment and rage, in other words, could hardly be greater. It is less than ten years since the end of the Algerian Civil War, when some 200,000 people lost their lives.

And when you throw ethnic and religious tensions into the mix — between Berbers and Arabs in Morocco, for example, or Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt — then it is not hard to imagine frustration turning into violence.

If that apocalyptic scenario came to pass, then we in the West would not escape the consequences.

For should unrest spread to the autocratic oil monarchies of the Gulf, as has already happened in the tiny kingdom of Bahrain, then we would soon see the catastrophic results at the petrol pumps.

Indeed, if you ever doubted that what happens in the Middle East can have seismic repercussions in the British household, then you need only think back to the nightmare-ish events of the Seventies, from the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 to the revolution in Iran six years later.

Many older readers will shudder at the thought of what happened next: the queues outside petrol stations, the shortages of candles and oil lamps, the chaos of the three-day week, the soaring interest rates, the plunging stock market and the terrifying news that inflation had hit 26 per cent.

And beneath all the headlines there runs a deeper historical fault-line. Only last week, China overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest economy.

And only this week, in a dramatic indication of the shifting balance of power, two Iranian warships sailed through the Suez Canal for the first time since 1979.

Globalisation has thrown the world into flux. With American power in palpable retreat, it would not be surprising if the new Arab governments ended up looking east, not west.

And it is surely not too fanciful to imagine that one day, future generations will see 2011 as a turning point in modern history, marking the death of Western dominance, the end of an era of cheap oil-fuelled growth and the onset of a new age of uncertainty…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mideast Turmoil Rattles Iran-Saudi Standoff

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s rulers answered the Arab world’s winter of rage with money: throwing $36 billion into housing and other social assistance channels in attempts to quell rumblings of dissent. Iran’s president offered more bombast as Tehran tries to project sympathy for protesters.

The two approaches this week — largesse versus rhetoric — captures the style and stakes for the region’s heavyweight rivals as Iran hunts for gains and Saudi tries hard to stamp out any threats. Already, the region has been reshaped by the fall of decades-old regimes and growing pressures on others, including Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule in Libya. But the ultimate questions for many are whether the pro-Western Saudi monarchy can ride out the unrest, and if Iran will capitalize on the changes with more footholds and influence in areas closely tied to Washington’s interests.

“If an uprising occurs in Saudi Arabia, it will have a dramatic impact that is off the charts,” said Theodore Karasik, a regional affairs expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “Policymakers will have to grapple with it for decades.” Both nations have been touched by the region’s two-month-old turmoil: Iran with a renewal of street clashes and Saudi’s rulers facing rare challenges to their absolute power, including a call for protests March 11.

Their responses, meanwhile, have reflected their mutual suspicions and their own survival instincts.

Saudi authorities have stood strongly behind Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, which is under siege by a revolt from that tiny kingdom’s Shiite majority after decades of grievances over discrimination and other abuses. For the Saudis — and the rest of the Gulf’s Sunni rulers — the Shiites in Bahrain represent a potential beachhead for Shiite powerhouse Iran.

On Wednesday, Bahrain’s monarch held urgent talks in neighboring Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah only hours after he returned home from recuperating from back surgery. In a clear sign of concern, Abdullah made the decree for the flood of cash into social programs and bank funds even before his plane touched down from Morocco. Social media sites have been buzzing with appeals for a pro-reform march next month and calls for more freedoms, including lifting some of the strict limits on women such as bans on driving and voting. Activists also are pushing for the release of university professors jailed for forming a political party.

“We are witnessing a rebellion of the Arab peoples throughout the Arab world,” said Nicholas Burns, Nicholas Burns, a former top State Department diplomat with long experience in the region. “While it may be most acute in Bahrain and Libya, there is every reason to believe that it will continue to spread for the time being.” Iran, meanwhile, has shown again its split personality. Its leaders, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have portrayed Iran as a sort of father figure for the pro-democracy movements, which they claim have taken inspiration from its Islamic Revolution against the U.S.-backed shah.

At the same time, Iranian authorities are showing no mercy to oppositions groups in a country rejuvenated by the chain-reaction uprisings. Protesters’ chants were similar to those during the chaos after Ahmadinejad’s disputed elections in 2009, but with a current twist.

“Ben Ali, Mubarak, it’s Seyed Ali’s turn,” protesters cried last week, linking the toppled Tunisian and Egyptian presidents with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Riot police moved in with tear gas and batons.

“It is unimaginable that there is someone who kills and bombards his own people. This is very grotesque,” Ahmadinejad said Wednesday on national TV after Gadhafi’s forces attacked protesters. More than once, the Obama administration and others have taken jabs at Tehran’s “hypocrisy.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia in Talks to Boost Oil Supplies

Saudi Arabia is in “active talks” with European oil companies to meet the production shortfall left by Libya, the clearest indication to date that the leader of the Opec oil cartel is about to boost supplies to stop further rises in the oil price, which surged to near $120 a barrel on Thursday.

Riyadh is asking “what quantity and what quality of oil they [the European refiners] want,” a senior Saudi oil official said on condition of anonymity.

Oil traders said the talks signalled that Saudi Arabia realised that the political crisis in Libya was now an oil supply crisis and that the kingdom needed to act quickly and decisively to stop oil prices hurting the global economic recovery.

“You can only expect the price to go up. It is fear of the unknown. The risks are all to the upside,” one senior oil trader said. “Saudi Arabia needs to respond.”

The kingdom is considering two options for increasing supplies. The first would be to boost Saudi production and send more crude through the kingdom’s East-West pipeline, which links the Gulf region with the Red Sea port of Yanbu, for shipment to Europe.

Another possibility, which is currently only being “studied”, would be a swap arrangement, whereby West African oil intended for Asian buyers is redirected to Europe, with Saudi Arabia stepping in to supply the Asian customers.

West African oil, such as Nigerian crude, is very similar to the gasoline-rich Libyan oil, traders said, noting that West Africa is geographically closer to Europe than Saudi Arabia.

“Right now, there are active talks in order to implement what is needed,” the Saudi oil official added. He stressed that the kingdom retained spare capacity of some 4m barrels a day — more than than double Libya’s entire output which totalled 1.58m b/d in January, according to the International Energy Agency.

Saudi Arabia has not yet decided whether to increase its output in response to Libya’s crisis, the official added, saying it would depend on the requirements of European oil companies.

If it proved necessary for Saudi Arabia to produce more, “then that will happen, there’s no problem at all”, he added.

Traders believe Saudi Arabia has the capacity to boost production by at least 1m b/d with just 24 hours notice, meaning that if a decision was adopted now, the oil tankers could be arriving in Europe within 10 days.

The move by the world’s largest oil producer comes as Eni of Italy, the most active foreign oil company in Libya, said on Thursday that oil production from the North African country has plunged to just a quarter of normal levels.

Increasingly panicked buying drove the price of Brent crude futures, the global pricing benchmark, up 6.7 per cent to a peak of $119.79, the highest since August 2008. Traders and investors feared that the near-total shutdown of Libya’s oil industry would leave the global oil market with little supply cushion should the political crisis spread to another major Middle Eastern oil producer…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Survey: Alcohol Use in Mideast-Africa +25% in 5 Years

(ANSAmee) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 23 — Statistics provided by research group Euromonitor International reported a constant increase in the use of alcohol in several countries where the Muslim religion, which prohibits the use of any product capable of affecting behaviour (drugs included), is dominant. Quoting the survey, Le Monde reported that between 2005 and 2010 the average consumption by the French dropped from 104.2 litres of alcohol per year to 96.7, while in the same period in the Middle East and Africa area it increased by 25%, from 11.7 billion litres to 15.2 billion. Tasting a beer while ‘twitting’ with Tunisian and Egyptian protesters “is a characteristic of the globalised youth, educated, with desire for individual freedoms”, according to the director of research, Marlous Kuiper, who added that in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, the consumption rate is directly linked to tourist flows.

During the 5-year survey period the Turks increased from 18.3 to 20.5 litres per person, UAE citizens from 30.4 to 36.8 litres. In Algeria, where alcohol is not prohibited except during Ramadan (6.8 litres per year per person in 2010), consumption increase by 7% in terms of value and 3% in volume. Even in Tunisia, where despite the lack of prohibition the purchase of wine or whisky is viewed as socially inappropriate behaviour, between 2004 and 2009 money spent on alcohol increased from 27.8 to 44.8 million dinars, or from 18 to 31 million euros.

In Saudi Arabia and in Iran, where the prohibition is official and severe, people drink alcohol free beer. In Iran figures increased by 40% per year, from 61.9 million litres in 2005 to 338.7 million in 2010. In the kingdom the demand for non alcoholic beer increased from 67.6 to 113.3 million litres per year. it is impossible to assess the consumption of smuggled and illegally imported alcohol.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: ‘Organism’ And Rape!

I’ve always been grateful to God because of my family. I wish every girl had a father like mine. I’ve never seen him interfering in our way of our dressing or in how I and other women in the family behave. When I gave the plate number of a car stalking me in the city of Trabzon to my father, he never asked, “What were you wearing?” He eagerly went after the issue and helped have the stalker arrested. We went to the police station together to issue a complaint.

My brother is a fine and extremely civilized man raised by that father. In fact, all the males in the family are gentlemen. Since this is my perception of men, I’d better confess that I have been kind of “insensitive” on women’s issues.

After being born into this world, it is impossible not to realize the fact that other women are not as fortunate as I am. So, I am deeply disappointed. But worse is that the society you are living in is developing in the opposite direction to prevent women from having such good fortune. Controversial remarks by Professor Orhan Çeker, head of the Department of Religious Studies at Selçuk University, in which he tried to find a correlation between “rape” and wearing revealing clothes, were disappointing enough. But worse was what Ali Bulaç of daily Zaman wrote the other day in his article, “Reactions of the organism.”

Bulaç resorted to “modern psychology” to explain that wearing low-cut dresses was not an “excuse” for rape but a “reason.” He made an attempt to explain that men are being sexually provoked by women, adding that “modern psychology is a science to measure up the reactions of an organism provoked by an external stimulant.” Bulaç accused some conservatives of criticizing Çeker and said, “They are heavily under feminist influences and the perspective of modern women.” He himself is unfortunately not aware that he is looking at the human reality through a dark, positivist window that he terms modern psychology.

Like ‘animals’

Apparently, people are simply “organisms” for Bulaç, who thinks that the believers have “norms such as those forbidden by religion” and that that is Islam’s criteria for looking at human beings. In other words, it as if God created humans as an organism and that if this organism is a believer, he acts morally, otherwise he is like an “animal!” According to Islam and all the Abrahamic religions, however, humans are “noble creatures,” and therefore responsible for their behavior. If a human does not act in a noble way, he could be lower than an animal, but he can never become an animal and cannot be counted as an animal.

A man saying “If he is a non-believer, he will act like an animal and this is a determination” fails to understand the meaning of being a “noble creature.” That’s all! A rapist doesn’t act like an animal but becomes a “wrong-doer” and the explanation of this “wrong-doing” is not the “reactions of an organism.” An animal is not capable of being a “wrong-doer,” either to itself or others.

Creation, nature and the self

Since humans and animals are not the same species, sexuality is only “partially” determined in a biological frame. Factors defining “sexuality” go beyond biological facts — irrespective of humans acting in line with religion or against it. Behaviors that are “forbidden by religion” cannot be justified as “human acts in accordance with a person’s nature,” as some conservatives put. None of “creation,” “nature,” or “flesh” means “complying with natural desires.” In fact, what makes a believer different from a non-believer is that a believer has faith in “the human which cannot be explained by nature only.” Although I was not raised in an environment of any particular religious inclinations, I chose to be a Muslim believer because I thought humans were not simply “organisms.” So, I started looking into things differently. I think I am very fortunate by doing so.

Shallow human

Unfortunately, in this day and age, an extremely mediocre “conservatism” and its shallow understanding of human and sexuality are being presented as Islamic faith. I believe this is what we should be concerned about the most in the name of Islam. Moreover, in order not to slip on such vile ground, it isn’t necessary for one to be a believer. It is enough to be aware of the complexity of sexuality and social relations.

Following a parliamentary petition for “the chemical castration of those who commit sexual crimes,” Yildirim Türker of daily Radikal pointed out the mediocrity of a perspective reducing sexuality and rape to sexual organs only in his Feb. 14 article, “Castrated.”

Lastly, Bulaç termed such a “mean” understanding voiced by Professor Çeker as “straightforward religiosity.” Therefore, he implied that many other religious people think alike but for some reasons they try to tune down their remarks. That is to say, such an understanding is regarded as a “clear statement of being a pious” in a more widespread way than we think. We have become deeply saddened to learn this thanks to Bulaç.

* Nuray Mert is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Tuesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Turkey Opposes Sanctions on Libya Amid Ongoing Evacuation

As Turkey continues to evacuate its citizens from crisis-hit Libya, the country’s prime minister has spoken out against imposing sanctions on Tripoli, saying such measures would only punish the Libyan people.

Following an EU decision Wednesday to prepare the way for possible sanctions due to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s violent suppression of anti-government protests, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he opposed the idea.

“It is not correct to move hastily on these types of situations. It is not right to impose sanctions against Libya because such measures will punish the population,” Erdogan told Agence France-Presse in an interview in Ankara late Wednesday.

Turkey has been giving cautious messages to Libyan authorities and the international community over the turmoil in the country while mounting the largest-ever evacuation effort in its history. Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal told a press conference that 7,062 Turkish citizens had been evacuated from Libya as of Thursday morning.

According to Ünal, the Turkish effort also evacuated 59 foreign nationals following requests for help from 21 foreign countries.

Though Erdogan had previously indirectly warned Gadhafi’s government against taking “cruel steps” against the protesters in his country, he has not spoken forcefully against the Libyan leader, as he did against Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Throughout the crisis, Ankara has said its priority is the safety of its citizens and the evacuation of Turks from Libya.

A military vessel and a ferryboat were expected to reach Libya today, Ünal said, adding that Turkey was preparing three more frigates to escort the ships sent to Libya to bring Turkish citizens back home.

The spokesman said the ministry had no information that any Turkish citizens had been detained or that ransom had been requested for any Turks in Libya. “There has been no anti-Turkish attitude so far. Our expectation from the Libyan government and people is for things to continue in this way,” he said.

Ankara held several high-level meetings Thursday to assess the situation of Turks in Libya, the evacuation process and Turkey’s approach to the unrest in the North African country. Erdogan held a meeting with relevant ministers in the morning, while the National Security Council, or MGK, also convened under the leadership of President Abdullah Gül; that meeting was continuing when the Daily News went to press.

Also on Thursday, State Minister Zafer Çaglayan gathered representatives of the Turkish firms operating in Libya and related institutions.

In the afternoon, the ship “Iskenderun” reached Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, from where 890 remaining Turks and foreign citizens working for Turkish companies would be evacuated Thursday, Çaglayan said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Russia and the Jasmine Revolution Bug

Will Russia’s Muslims catch the Middle East’s revolution bug? It is not something the Kremlin is ruling out, apparently.

Russia has been publicly critical of the popular uprisings that have swept the Middle East since the start of this year. President Dmitry Medvedev (pictured) earlier this week called the revolutionaries “fanatics” during a security meeting, and said: “All that is happening there will have a direct impact on our situation … This is a large complex problem which requires serious effort over a very long time.”

The Russian government’s public reaction to the Middle East revolutions has been similar to China’s, which has watched with growing concern as the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have been felled by people power in the space of a little over a month, while Libya totters on the brink of civil war.

Both Russia and China have irredentist Muslim minorities, which they fear could be inspired by the success of their Arab co-religionists. They are also authoritarian states, valuing of stability over change, in harmony with the political values of the entrenched monarchies and presidential dictatorships of the Middle East.

Russia also has economic interests in the region — such as Gazprom’s deal earlier this month to buy a $163m equity stake from Italy’s Eni in a Libyan gas production joint venture, which in retrospect seems to have been extremely bad timing.

Russia’s view is more nuanced than China’s, however, and on Thursday, Russia and the European Union issued a joint statement condemning Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi for deploying the army against peaceful demonstrators, sparking a bloodbath that has killed over 1,000.

But Russia’s foreign ministry immediately came out against imposing sanctions on the Libyan regime, which some have proposed, calling them “ineffective”.

Part of Medvedev’s bluster is due to internal politics — he has made no secret of his desire for a second presidential term in next year’s elections and has been seeking to convince Russia of his hard line security credentials. He went to far as to blame “external influences” for the revolutions, which in Russia is codeword for the US. The rhetoric was reminiscent of the coloured revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, in 2003 and 2004 respectively, which the Kremlin attributed to the same conspiratorial “external forces”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Report: Chechnya’s Leader Looking for 2nd Wife

MOSCOW — The bullnecked and bearded leader of Russia’s predominantly Muslim republic of Chechnya revealed on Thursday that he is on the hunt for a second wife.

The 34-year-old Ramzan Kadyrov, who rules Chechnya with an iron fist and imposes Islamic law in the southern province, told the mass market daily Komsomolskaya Pravda that he is “always on the lookout for a decent bride” but has not found the right woman yet.

“I can’t find a pretty one,” he was quoted as saying. Asked how his wife feels about the prospect of sharing her husband with another woman, the father of six said: “You see, I don’t cheat. So my wife doesn’t mind.”

While polygamy is against the law in Russia, some politicians, such as flamboyant nationalist and deputy parliament speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky, have called for it to be legalized to boost the country’s low birth rates.

Kadyrov, the son of a former Chechen separatist warlord and Muslim cleric who switched sides to support Moscow’s troops in 1999, has previously voiced support for polygamy, but hadn’t disclosed his personal preference. He has also described women as the property of their husbands and says their main role is to bear children.

Kadyrov has ruled Chechnya for three years as the Kremlin appointee, overseeing the revival of the once war-torn province of more than one million, which is still recovering from the devastation of two separatists wars of the past 17 years. The fighting between Islamic separatists and Russian troops, compounded by atrocities on both sides, claimed tens of thousands of lives and terrorized civilians.

Human rights groups and critics say his authority is based on extrajudicial killings of his rivals and suspected separatists, kidnappings, torture and other brutalities.

His opponents claim that Kadyrov’s campaign to impose Islamic law and tribal Chechen values such as honor killings is an effort to set up a dictatorship where Russian laws do not apply. Chechen women and girls are now required to wear headscarves in all schools, universities and government offices.

Asked about the reported repression of local women refusing to dress according to the Islamic custom, Kadyrov said that he does not impose the rules on anyone. He warned, however, that women must be aware if they are scantily dressed on Chechnya’s streets:

“Caucasus natives are hot-tempered guys and they’re fit,” he was quoted as saying. “So, when a woman is half-naked, we get excited. Wouldn’t you?”

The Chechen leader is suing prominent human rights Oleg Orlov activist for defamation after Orlov accused him of involvement in the 2009 killing of rights advocate Natalya Estemirova. Kadyrov said that Estemirova, a staunch Kadyrov critic whose bullet-ridden body was found on a roadside in July 2009, “never had any honor, dignity or conscience.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Kashmir: A Christian School Burnt Down in Srinagar. Islamic Militants Suspected

The attack, preceded by threatening phone calls, took place Feb. 19. The damage amounted to 60 million rupees. The Bishop of Jammu-Srinagar: “The political unease has added to unresolved issues and tensions grow. In this tense political landscape, we Christians are the victims. “

Srinagar (AsiaNews) — Suspected Islamic militants set fire on Feb. 19 to the School of the Convent of St. Luke, a Protestant educational institution that began its activities about 17 years ago in Srinagar, Kashmir. The damage is estimated at 60 million rupees (958 thousand euro). The attack occurred at about 22.30 local time. Eight rooms, including classrooms, library and computer labs were completely destroyed.

The school’s principal, Grace Paljor, said they are currently compiling an inventory of the damages, which are now calculated for 60 million rupees. She also claims to have been verbally threatened, several times, before the accident, for being Christian. The school has 450 students. At the time of the attack it was closed for the holidays and so there was no harm to people. The school will reopen on 1 March.

“The school administration is used to receiving threatening phone calls from time to time from extremists. They had threatened to set fire to the school, and have carried out their threat. After the Tyndale Biscoe was burned in August of 2010, the extremists have begun to target the Christian schools in the valley. We complained to the Munshi Bagh police station. “ Sources have told AsiaNews that the school has been targeted because of baseless rumours about a conversion.

“We live in precarious times here in a state with a Muslim majority, and we hope that the sentiments against us will not grow. The political unease has added to unresolved issues between us and tensions are growing. In this tense political landscape, we Christians are the victims”, denounced Bishop Peter Celestine Elampassery, OFM, of the Catholic Diocese of Jammu-Srinagar. “However, even though Catholics are a tiny minority, that is just 0.014% of the population, the Church has for decades made a significant contribution to the advancement and development of the state, thanks to our mission of education, health and social institutions, our contribution to state-building is appreciated, though sadly, in moments of tension, some marginal groups spread malicious rumours, target our work and sow suspicion and division”.

The President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has condemned the attack. Sajan K. George told AsiaNews: “Even the most mild and unfounded rumours can cause criminal acts of the fundamentalists. The school was burned down because of false and fabricated rumour of an attempted conversion. In September 2010, Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson schools have suffered the same fate for the same reason. In November 2006, the GCIC coordinator for Kashmir, Bashir Tantray, was killed by Islamic militants. The Christian community has been targeted by religious fundamentalists. We demand that the authorities of Jammu and Kashmir protect Christians”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Bekasi: Assault on a Protestant Church: Mild Sentences for Islamic Leaders

The head of the Islamic Defenders Front, the main defendant, received a sentence of 5 months and 15 days. Six and seven months in jail for two other accomplices. In the attack, which occurred last September, a Protestant pastor was seriously injured. The Christian community’s lawyer assesses the appeal.

Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) — “I am very worried. The verdict hurts the victims and their families”, this is the opinion of Saor Siagian, the legal representative of the members of the Hkbp church, on the ruling handed down today by a court in Bekasi, West Java. The court sentenced three months in prison a few of the 11 defendants on trial for the assault on the Protestant church in September, during which pastor Afian Sihombing was seriously injured.

The District Court of Bekasi, West Java regency, today condemned the three members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), responsible for the attack on the Hkbp Christian community which occurred September 12, 2010. The group stabbed Afian Sihombing in the stomach. In the attack — caused by disputes over the construction of a church — Luspida Simanjutak was also injured, who was with the pastor leading the Huria Batak Kristen Protestant: the woman suffered cuts to the face, head and back.

The courts has ruled five months and 15 days in jail for Murhali Barda (pictured), head of the FPI Bekasi, on charges of “ unbecoming conduct “. He will be released on 27 February, because he has already served the terms of the sentence. Adji Ahmad Faisal and Ade Firman, however, respectively received seven six months in prison, as perpetrators of the attack. The prosecutor asked for sentences ranging from six to 10 months. Mild sentences for eight other defendants, while two minors were released into the custody of their parents.

Saor Siagian, a lawyer of the Christian community is disappointed by the sentence, which he considers too leniant. The verdict, he explains to offends “the victims and their families.” The main defendant, he adds, has received only “five months and 15 days in jail” and a similar ruling does not serve as a” deterrent “to prevent new attacks. He has not ruled out an appeal.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Indonesia Cleric Says Arms Training is God’s Will

JAKARTA — Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir on Thursday denied leading an Al-Qaeda-style group that was plotting attacks and assassinations in Indonesia, as his trial resumed amid tight security. But he said that Muslims carrying out weapons training did so as a divinely-ordered “act of worship” so as to “defend Islam”. The preacher, who is revered by Islamists around the region, is accused of leading a militant group that was discovered last year training recruits in Aceh province to wage jihad or holy war. Police jostled with about 200 of the 72-year-old’s supporters who tried to enter the court as he arrived under tight guard amid shouts of “Allahu akbar” (God is greater).

Wearing his usual white robes, skull cap and shawl, Bashir smiled and looked calm as he was escorted through the crowd by members of the elite Detachment 88 anti-terror police squad.

“I am convinced that based on Islamic sharia (law), the physical and weapons training in a mountainous area in Aceh was an act of worship by Muslims as ordered by God to deter Muslim enemies,” he said, reading from a 90-page defence document.

“They are in fact mujahedin (holy warriors) who were struggling to defend Islam from attacks by America, Australia and their allies.” He called the democratically elected government “poisonous” for its failure to outlaw a minority Muslim sect which has suffered from years of persecution and violence at the hands of Islamic extremists. Bashir could face the death penalty if convicted of the charges, which include leading and financing a terrorist group and supplying illegal weapons.

The so-called Al-Qaeda in Aceh group was planning Mumbai-style attacks using squads of suicide gunmen against Westerners, police and political leaders including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, according to police.

Its operations leader, Indonesian bomb maker Dulmatin, was killed by police in March last year. Scores of other members of the group have been killed or captured.

Bashir denies any involvement in terrorism and claims he is being framed by the United States and its allies including “the Jews”. “Based on the facts I have no doubt that Detachment 88 is God’s enemy,” he said, referring to the US-backed anti-terror squad which has killed and captured hundreds of terror suspects since its was formed in 2003. Bashir is an alleged co-founder of the Jemaah Islamiyah regional terror organisation blamed for multiple attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people, mainly Western tourists…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

Korea: Sinuiju: Hundreds of North Koreans Against the Police, Dead and Wounded

The violence took place on February 18, but the news was leaked yesterday. Clashes sparked by military intervention to quell a protest. The regime maintains tight control and blocks all communications with the outside world. Censorship prevents the spread of the protest, as is happening in North Africa and Arab countries.

Seoul (AsiaNews) — Hundreds of North Koreans have clashed with security forces in the town of Sinuiju on the border with China. The incident occurred on February 18 last, but the news was only leaked yesterday. The crackdown by the military regime of Kim Jong-il caused injuries and, perhaps, four or five dead, even if there is no confirmation. The riots are caused by progressive deterioration of economic conditions, as confirmed yesterday, by an AsiaNews source. However, the strict control exercised by the dictatorship and lack of ‘free’ media like the Internet, eliminates possible uprisings in the wake of the Arab and North Africa countries.

North Korean sources in Sinuiju, quoted by South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, explain that on 18 February, the police intervened to quell a protest in the city market. The riot broke out at the end of the celebrations for the birthday of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, the police repression wounded one citizen knocking him unconscious. Hundreds of people joined family protest, giving rise to violent clashes that have caused several injuries and — but there is no confirmation — four or five victims.

Police have maintained a state of alert in the area, disrupting communications. A North Korean source said that “since February 15 I have had trouble communicating with my contact at Sinuiju. I tried to call at a pre-determined time, but the phone was switched off. “ While the protests of February 18 were caused by the revolt at the market place, continues the source, discontent is increasingly evident among the North Korean population, tired of the dictatorship of the Kim family and the chronic lack of food.

Korean personalities contacted yesterday by AsiaNews explain that “the nation’s worsening economic conditions” are all too evident, which combines “the change at the top, with the succession to Pyongyang’s ‘throne’ in Kim Jong-un.” The younger Kim is “feared by the population, which considers him a bloody mad man” and that is why “the North Koreans are ready to do anything to stop the succession.”

However, it is difficult for them to organise themselves into massive street protests, as is happening in North Africa or in some Arab countries. The North Korean regime keeps a tight control on information from the outside, while internet and mobile phones remain the preserve of a privileged few, one or two percent of the population.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

New Zealand Abandons Cloning Farm Animals After 90 Per Cent Died During Trials

Scientists in New Zealand have abandoned trials on producing cloned farm animals after a large number of deaths and evidence of suffering.

The national science research body AgResearch said it has decided to drop the programme, which dates back 13 years, because of the harm that resulted.

Some 90 per cent of cloned animals died for various reasons during trials in New Zealand.

The main problems were spontaneous abortions and hydrops — where a cow’s uterus filled up with water, leading to the mother being put down as well.

Reports issued under the Official Information Act also detailed chronic arthritis, pneumonia, lameness and blood poisoning among the causes of cattle, sheep and goat deaths.

The decision by the New Zealand authorities is in stark contrast to the view of the new British government, which is lobbying the EU to allow the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring without restrictions.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


E. U. Immigrant Quotas Must be on a Voluntary Basis

(AGI) Brussels — EU spokesperson Michele Cercone has reiterated that countries will only accept immigrants on a voluntary basis and the solution presented yesterday by Northern League leader Umberto Bossi could not be accepted .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Frattini: I Fear Civil War and Massive Immigration

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 22 — “We are deeply concerned about the risk of a civil war” in Libya and “the risk of huge flows of migration towards the European Union”. This statement was made by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in a press conference in Cairo after his meeting with the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, which lasted around 45 minutes. “We are shocked by what we have seen though having conformation of the news is difficult at this point”, Frattini added. The events in Libya are cause “of deep concern” and the “only way out” is “national dialogue on reconciliation” while the violence has to stop, the Italian FM continued. Another reason for Italy to be worried is the possibility that gas supplies from the Maghreb country will come to a halt.

This possibility was suggested today by opposition forces in the western Libya who threatened to cut supplies to Italy, in reprisal for “saying nothing about the massacre carried out by Gaddafi”. This threat cannot be ignored but hasn’t been acted out yet. “We are currently unaware of gas supply cuts”, Frattini pointed out. The European Commission, when asked about the issue, made it clear that “there are no problems with gas supply to Italy, though the gas levels coming from Libya have fallen”. “We are aware of the problems and we are monitoring the situation in close contact with the Italian authorities”, said Marlene Holzner, spokeswoman of European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger.

“But Italy has no gas supply problems. Italy receives around 12% of its gas from Libya, a small part of total supplies. Most of it comes from Algeria with 33%, followed by Russia with 30% and the Netherlands with 19%”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya’s Revolution: Europe’s Shame

El País Madrid

Hassan Bleibel

Faced with the massacres perpetrated by the Gaddafi regime against its own people, how can the EU content itself with calling for “restraint”, while spending more time worrying about an influx of refugees? Madrid daily El País publishes an indignant editorial.

This is not the Europe needed by the revolutions taking place in Maghreb and the Middle East. To deafening silence and paralysis over the demonstrations that saw out the dictatorships of Ben Ali and Mubarak in Tunisia and Egypt, we can now add the lukewarm response to the slaughter perpetrated by the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. When a tyrant sends in tanks and aircraft against citizens who take to the streets against him, and when the dead pile up in the hundreds, it’s simply shameful to talk about “restraint” in the use of force.

The crimes of recent days are not the first ever committed by Gaddafi, but they have been the most ruthless. Faced with them, Europe has been more concerned about how to keep Libyans imprisoned within their borders than to support those speaking up and risking their lives to battle a tyranny in its twilight.

Europe is committing an unpardonable act

Confronted by this show of barbarism, neither the words of caution in the statement issued by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, nor those coming out of the meeting of the European Council of Ministers last Monday, carry any weight. There should be no claims of having been mistaken: if two countries such as Italy and the Czech Republic could spoil the common position, it was because, among other reasons, the rest of the EU27 was not particularly discomfited by the final result, considering it acceptable. But it is not acceptable, and not from any point of view, not even seen in the light of a timorous “art of the possible”. And that is why the victory of two member states over the others is, in fact, a humiliating defeat for all of them.

While the High Representative and the Council of Ministers were playing out this sad role, the Commission heaped yet more shame on Europe. Their spokesman for migration, Michel Cercone, expressed the EU’s concerns about the consequences for emigration stemming from the revolts in the Maghreb and the Middle East. If indeed this is the concern of the moment for the union, it means the bureaucracy in Brussels, by force of navel-gazing, has lost the ability to prioritise its problems, and has set on the same plane both the political earthquake that is rumbling through one of the most tormented regions of the world and an obsession that was, at first, the territory of European populist forces, before it was picked up on by mainstream parties willing to do anything for votes.

EU cannot speak in whispers here

But it also means that this Europe at the start of a new century, haunted by its ghosts, has given up distinguishing between a migrant and a refugee. Before a crime as massive as the one being perpetrated by Gaddafi, Europe is committing an unpardonable act of vileness in its musing over the best way to lock up Libyans within their borders, leaving them at the mercy of a ferocious repression. Europe’s real worry, however, should be how best to speed the end of a grotesque and vicious regime and how to save human lives. Communique’s and official statements are failing to shed any light on the matter. Worse yet, while the EU27 still polishes the wooden language of its “common position”, Gaddafi is using mercenaries to crack down on the demonstrators and intensifying the climate of terror by preventing the dead from being taken off from the streets…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Rome Warns of Potential ‘Invasion’ Of 1.5 Mln Migrants

Brussels, 24 Feb. (AKI) — Unrest in North Africa is stoking a “catastrophic humanitarian crisis”, Italian, Italy’ interior minister Roberto Maroni said on Thursday. He urged other European Union partners to help his country tackle a potential influx of 1.5 million migrants.

“We’re facing a humanitarian emergency and I ask Europe to settle all the necessary measures to deal with a catastrophic humanitarian crisis,” Maroni said ahead of talks in Brussels between interior ministers of the 27-nation bloc on a joint response to a potential exodus of North African migrants.

Maroni said Italy faced a potential “invasion of 1.5 million people” that would bring the country “to its knees.”

“We cannot be left alone,” he added. A total of 6,300 migrants — almost all Tunisians — have reached southern Italy from North Africa since the unrest broke out in recent months, according to Maroni.

Since Tunisia’s veteran ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled his country in mid-January, over 5,000 of the migrants have landed on Italy’s tiny southern island of Lampedusa which has just one holding centre designed to hold a maximum of 800 people.

Rome on Wednesday warned of an exodus “of biblical proportions” if Libyan’s embattled leader Muammer Gaddafi falls, saying up to 350,000 migrants could head for Europe’s shores — ten times the number of Albanians who reached Italy in the 1990s.

An uprising broke out in Libya on 17 February and Gaddafi is reported to have lost control of the east of the country, despite a brutal crackdown against dissenters in which thousands of civilians may have been killed.

Many thousands of Libyans and migrant workers are reportedly trying to flee the country amid. Gaddafi, who has claimed Italy and the United States supplied anti-government protesters with rockets, could renege on a controversial but hitherto effective migrant pact with Rome. Hundreds of migrant boats have been turned back in the Mediterranean by joint Italian-Libyan coastal patrols under the pact, which entered into force in 2009.

The EU at the weekend launched a mission to help Italy cope with the Lampedusa problem, supplying 30 people, a plane and ships.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Failed Asylum Seeker Killed in Afghanistan

A 60-year-old Afghan man who was deported back to Afghanistan in 2006 after a five-year battle to stay in the Netherlands has been murdered in Kabul by the Taliban, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday.

The paper says the man was killed last September, but his death has only just been made public.

Nezam Azimi was a known opponent of the Taliban but was refused permission to stay in the Netherlands by the then immigration minister Rita Verdonk.

Current immigration minister Gerd Leers, then mayor of Maastricht, had written to Verdonk urging her to reconsider her decision, the paper says.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Mayors May Get More Say on Controversial Asylum Cases

Immigration minister Gerd Leers is considering giving local mayors powers to determine the results of a small number of controversial asylum requests, he told a television talk show.

‘It is an early thought and needs working out politically,’ Leers said on the Pauw & Witteman show. ‘But it is a cautious attempt to allow mayors to deal with the situation themselves.’

Mayors, including Leers when he was mayor of Maastricht, occasionally write to ministers urging them to reconsider decisions to deport asylum seekers who live within their town boundaries.

These are usually people who have lived in the country for years and are ‘fully integrated’, the Volkskrant said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

UK: Immigration Jumps by a Fifth Despite Rising Unemployment

The number of foreigners settling in the UK rose by more than a fifth last year, despite growing unemployment figures.

After the jobless total hit 2.5million earlier this month, it was revealed today that 237,890 people were granted settlement in 2010.

The 22 per cent rise compared with 194,780 in the previous year and almost equals the record for a 12-month period of 238,950.

The number leaving the UK, either voluntarily or through enforced removals, fell to 57,085, the lowest in five years and 15 per cent down on 2009, the Office for National Statistics said.

Of those granted settlement, the number of asylum-related cases increased by almost two-thirds to 5,125, compared with 3,110 in 2009.

And the number of work-related cases was also up, rising four per cent to 84,370 compared with 81,185 the previous year.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: ‘These statistics reinforce once again why we are radically reforming the immigration system to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament.

‘We will continue to exert steady downward pressure to ensure those who come and make a positive contribution to our society are welcomed, those who have no right to be here are refused and those who break our rules are removed.

‘We have already introduced an annual limit on economic migration and throughout 2011 will be proposing tighter restrictions on student, marriage and settlement routes which have in the past been subject to widespread abuse.’

A warm welcome: Non-EU migration to the UK is almost at record levels

The quarterly immigration figures also showed while the number of foreigners given UK passports was down four per cent to 195,130, the figure remained higher than that seen in the years 2005 to 2007.

A total of 334,815 student visas were issued last year, down two per cent on 2009, and asylum applications also fell to their lowest in eight years, down by more than a quarter to 17,790 last year, compared with 24,485 in 2009 and 84,130 in 2002.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Taming the Wild

Only a handful of wild animal species have been successfully bred to get along with humans. The reason, scientists say, is found in their genes.

With each generation of fox kits, Belyaev and his colleagues tested their reactions to human contact, selecting those most approachable to breed for the next generation. By the mid-1960s the experiment was working beyond what he could’ve imagined. They were producing foxes like Mavrik, not just unafraid of humans but actively seeking to bond with them. His team even repeated the experiment in two other species, mink and rats. “One huge thing that Belyaev showed was the timescale,” says Gordon Lark, a University of Utah biologist who studies dog genetics. “If you told me the animal would now come sniff you at the front of the cage, I would say it’s what I expect. But that they would become that friendly toward humans that quickly… wow.” Miraculously, Belyaev had compressed thousands of years of domestication into a few years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]