Archive for July, 2011

Bahrain foreign minister floats plan to expand Gulf force

May 20, 2011

DUBAI: Bahrain’s foreign minister floated the idea of expanding military bases within a bloc of Sunni-led Gulf Arab allies that helped Manama quash mostly Shiite protests it blamed rival Shiite power Iran for stoking.

Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa said in an interview with PBS Newshour Wednesday evening that concerns over Iranian interference may push the Gulf Cooperation Council to reshape its Gulf military presence.

“Any threat that any country would face would definitely, no doubt, affect its neighbors. Saudi Arabia is only 28 kilometers away from here. We are looking at the GCC force to be expanded, to have multi-bases everywhere in the GCC,” he told the U.S. television program. “So whether they leave or stay or be restructured, that’s what is to be discussed in the future.”

Bahrain’s Sunni rulers imposed emergency law and called in troops from neighboring countries in March to quash protests led mostly by its Shiite majority demanding reforms.

Sheikh Khalid told Newshour that Bahrain was getting a “daily barrage” of statements from Iran that worried the tiny Gulf island country.

“I can tell you that they have people sympathizing with them here,” he said, adding that not all Shiites were siding with Iran. “There’s definitely an Iranian interest group in Bahrain.”

Meanwhile, a military court Thursday sentenced nine people to 20 years in prison after they were convicted of kidnapping a policeman. One of the men sentenced was a prominent religious cleric and political activist.

International and local rights groups have criticized the government for the severity of its security sweep, in which masked troops manned checkpoints throughout the city and hundreds of people, mostly Shiite activists or politicians, were arrested. At least four detainees have died in custody.

Some 1,000 protesters in a Sunni neighborhood of Manama rallied Wednesday night but several religious clerics urged them to return home.

Some of the demonstrators vowed to gather again after prayers Friday, a day which has taken on great significance since pro-democracy protests began sweeping the Arab region. Protesters have used Friday prayers to mobilize larger crowds.

In his Newshour interview, Sheikh Khalid said that a security presence would still be high after emergency law is lifted despite the removal of tanks and military from the streets.

“There’s no doubt that the police will be on their toes 24/7, because the time just after June 1 … it’s a very delicate period we want to ensure nothing goes wrong and we don’t slide back to chaos.”

Source: The Daily Star.

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Bahrain jails 9 for 20 years for policeman kidnap

May 19, 2011

DUBAI — A special security court in Bahrain has sentenced nine people to 20 years in prison each after it convicted them of abducting a policeman, state news agency BNA reported Thursday.

“The Lower National Safety Court sentenced nine defendants accused of kidnapping one policeman to 20 years in prison,” according to an English-language statement on BNA that did not give further details.

Among those sentenced was Sheikh Mohammed Habib al-Safaf, a Shiite cleric who had previously been arrested along with 22 other activists and charged with terrorism.

The group was freed under a royal pardon in February after the outbreak of protests calling for democratic reforms in Bahrain.

The court was set up under the state of national safety, a lower level of emergency law declared by King Hamad in mid-March, a day before an all-out crackdown on a month-long, Shiite-dominated protest movement demanding political reforms.

Defendants have the right to appeal the court’s rulings within 15 days.

Last month, authorities said that 405 detainees have been referred to national safety courts, of whom 312 had been released.

The National Safety Appeals Court last month sentenced four Shiites to death and three others to jail for life for killing two policemen by running them over with cars during the protests.

Their case has drawn condemnation from Amnesty International, which urged Bahrain to halt the executions.

In a statement released on Thursday, Amnesty also condemned the conviction of a number of other activists it said were sentenced to between one and four years in jail earlier this week.

“These trials and convictions represent yet further evidence of the extent to which the rights to freedom of speech and assembly are now being denied in Bahrain,” Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East and north Africa director, said in the statement.

It also said that leading Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja had said in court that he was threatened with rape by police after refusing to record a taped apology to the king.

“The Bahraini authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s torture allegations and bring to justice any officials responsible for torture or other ill-treatment,” Smart said.

Nine policemen were hurt on Tuesday when a car hit them as they were dispersing a protest in a Bahraini Shiite village, BNA state news agency said.

Four of the policemen sustained critical injuries in the attack that took place in Nuwaidrat, south of Manama, said BNA quoting a police official.

Bahraini authorities have said 24 people were killed during the month-long unrest, most of them demonstrators.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

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Iran: Bushehr nuclear plant operational

TEHRAN, May 18 (UPI) — Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has announced the “successful” start-up of the Bushehr nuclear plant, saying it has reached the critical phase.

“As we have previously announced, Bushehr power plant has reached the critical stage. It has been successfully launched,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Salehi saying.

“(The) Bushehr nuclear facility is one of the safest ones in the world. It has entered the critical phase and in other words it has been started up,” the Iranian Student News Agency quoted Salehi as saying.

Addressing the Economic Cooperation Organization in Tehran Tuesday, Salehi said the critical stage when the fissile material is self-sustaining should occur “within the next two months,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“This stage lasts for two months. We hope the plant will gain some 40 percent of its power within the next one or two months,” Press TV quoted him saying.

Olga Tysleva, a spokesperson for the Russian Atomstroyexport company, which built the plant, said Friday the fuel loading of the reactor at the plant is complete and the reactor is functioning at “the minimum controllable level of power,” Press TV said.

In September 2010 Iran disclosed a malicious computer virus called Stuxnet had attacked high-value industrial sites but refused to acknowledge it caused delays at the Bushehr nuclear plant.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

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Iranian Jews stand by Palestinians

Tue May 17, 2011

Iranian Jews have declared their support for Palestinians and condemned the Israeli military for killing Palestinian demonstrators on Nakba Day.

In a statement issued on Monday, the representative of the Jewish community in the Iranian Parliament (Majlis), MP Siamak Mare Sedq, condemned the killings and expressed sympathy with the oppressed people of Palestine, saying more efforts should be made to help the Palestinians regain their rights, the Mehr news agency reported.

On Sunday, Israeli troops launched attacks on rallies and marches held in Palestine and bordering countries to protest against the establishment of Israel 63 years ago, killing dozens of people.

Demonstrators gathered in cities across the Middle East to remember the May 15, 1948 occupation of Palestine, known as Nakba Day, which means Day of the Catastrophe in Arabic.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military killed two protesters, including a Palestinian teenager, and injured at least 65 others, a Press TV correspondent reported.

A journalist suffered a critical injury from Israeli fire in the northern city of Beit Hanoun.

One person was killed and at least 150 hurt in the village of Qalandiya near the city of Ramallah in the central West Bank.

Two other Palestinians were killed and scores were injured by Israeli troops in other parts of the West Bank.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged Palestinians to continue the resistance against Israel and expressed hope that the Palestinians would one day return to their homeland.

In Syria’s Golan Heights, at least 12 protesters were killed and 30 wounded by Israeli military fire.

Israeli forces also fired into Lebanon, killing six protesters and injuring 71 others, 13 of them seriously.

Source: PressTV.

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Iranian lawmakers file lawsuit against president: report

TEHRAN, May 17 (Xinhua) — A senior member of the Iranian Majlis (Parliament) said a number of lawmakers have filed a lawsuit against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration for violating the constitution, the English language satellite Press TV reported Tuesday.

On February 28, a number of legislators filed suit against the government with the Majlis Presiding Board for the government’s refraining from implementing the Iranian Constitution, lawmaker Fazel Moussavi was quoted as saying.

Majlis Presiding Board referred the lawsuit to the Article 90 Commission of the Majlis which was assigned with probing into the case and determine whether the lawsuit is valid or not. It should next send a letter to the Majlis Presiding Board to announce the result. The Presiding Board will then present a report to the Majlis, said the report.

The Article 90 Commission which is established in the Iranian parliament to pursue issues around the Article 90 of Iranian Constitution, deals with the complaints against Iran’s government, parliament or judiciary performance. The Article 90 Commission studies the written complaints presented to them and announces the findings.

If the Majlis validates the report about the president or each of the cabinet ministers in three separate times, the impeachment motion will be put on the Majlis agenda based on the Article 89 of the Constitution, added Press TV.

Moussavi said that 12 lawmakers have signed the lawsuit against the government for some 50 cases of Constitution violation, according to the report.

Source: Xinhua.

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Former Iranian leader wants reconciliation

TEHRAN, May 17 (UPI) — There is a toxic atmosphere in Iran that must be overcome through the spirit of reconciliation, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said.

Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are under house arrest. Both were detained shortly after making requests early this year to have public demonstrations. Mousavi was the top challenger to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose re-election in 2009 sparked violent protests in Iran.

Some Iranian lawmakers accused Karroubi and Mousavi of treason and called for their execution.

Khatami in a speech to veterans of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s advocated a spirit of reconciliation in the country, reports Radio Zamaneh, a Persian broadcaster in the Netherlands.

“If there has been any wrongdoing, let us all forgive each other and look toward the future,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad is facing internal backlash over apparent disagreements with the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

An Iranian newspaper last week said Khamenei called on the president to step aside over a series of spats over presidential allies, Bloomberg News reports. The president’s office issued a statement saying “this news is wrong.”

Source: United Press International (UPI).

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Bahrain parliament now down to 22 members

May 17, 2011

MANAMA: Bahrain’s parliament has accepted the resignations of seven more lawmakers from the Shiite opposition, leaving the 40-member parliament with only 22 lawmakers.

The resignations were submitted in February over the deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters. The lawmakers acted alongside 11 other Shiite opposition members of parliament whose resignations were previously accepted.

Elections to replace the 18 empty seats are scheduled for September.

Shiites make up about 70 percent of the population in a kingdom ruled by a 200-year-old Sunni dynasty but parliament is dominated by Sunnis. The Shiite lawmakers were the driving force behind protests calling for political reforms that began in February.

Bahraini authorities have been seeking to prosecute opposition leaders and other protesters perceived to be linked to clashes and protests in the Gulf Arab nation.

A special security court set up under martial law sentenced four people to death last month for killing two policemen during the unrest. It is also trying 21 mostly Shiite opposition leaders and political activists accused of plotting against the state.

Source: Arab News.

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Saudis seek night vision systems

WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is seeking $330 million worth of night vision and thermal vision equipment from the United States.

The Foreign Military Sale would comprise 200 High-performance In-Line Sniper Sight Thermal Weapon Sights — 1,500 meter; 200 MilCAM Recon III LocatIR Long Range, Light Weight Thermal Binoculars with Geo Location; 7,000 Dual Beam Aiming Lasers; and 6,000 AN/PVS-21 Low Profile Night Vision Goggles.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, in its notification to Congress, said the possible sale also would include spare and repair parts, support equipment, technical documentation and publications, translation services, training, U. S. government and contractor technical and logistics support services and other related elements of logistical and program support.

The proposed sale would bolster Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats from potential adversaries during operations conducted at night and during low-visibility conditions, it said.

The Saudi military is responsible for regional, perimeter and border security operations and the proposed sale meets their defense and counter-terrorism requirements to deter current insurgent activity along their southern border and contributes to their overall military posture, the agency added.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

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Iran’s Larijani protests Bahrain

TEHRAN, May 16 (UPI) — Iran is upset that regional players are helping Bahrain suppress a rebellion against the ruling Sunni minority, the speaker of Parliament said.

Iranian lawmaker Mostafa Kavakebian announced May 6 that the Iranian Parliament was conducting a review of the “massacre of Bahraini people by al-Saud and al-Khalifa (regimes).”

Tehran is upset with a decision by Saudi Arabia to send forces to Bahrain under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The minority Sunni leadership in Bahrain is struggling to control mounting frustration from the country’s Shiite majority.

Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, in a letter to the Inter-Parliamentary Union that Bahrain’s reaction to the unrest was out of step with human rights norms.

“Parliaments, as representatives of the people, are expected to act upon their human duty and react to the massive violation of human rights and the critical situation in Bahrain … and to help prevent further continuation of the current situation,” he was quoted by the semi-official Fars News Agency as saying.

The IPU describes itself as the “focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy.”

Iran faced its own human rights backlash for its response to the unrest that greeted the contested 2009 re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

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Warrant out for Iraq’s Allawi?

KUT, Iraq, May 16 (UPI) — Tehran claimed an Iraqi court has issued an arrest warrant for former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, though his party denied the allegation.

Allawi is at loggerheads with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over the shape of the Iraqi government. Allawi’s party, Iraqiya, lays claim to several ministerial positions in the Maliki Cabinet, though many top positions in the government remain to be filled with new names.

A source told Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency on condition of anonymity that a court issued an arrest warrant for Allawi following a complaint made by a former member of the Iraqi Parliament.

A representative of Allawi’s party denied the claims that an arrest warrant was issued, though there was a case filed against the former leader in Iraq’s western Wasit province.

Maliki threatened in April to dissolve the government amid political wrangling that has lingered since parliamentary elections in March 2010.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

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