Archive for June, 2012
By Jack Phillips
September 12, 2011
The launching of the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant was inaugurated by Iranian officials on Monday, according to local media reports.
The plant was connected to Iran’s national grid earlier this month after several years of delays and officials told Tehran Times that it is generating around 40 percent of its power capacity. The plant will reach full capacity by the end of the year, officials said.
Iran coordinated a ceremony that was attended by local as well as Russian officials.
“The launch of Bushehr nuclear power plant is one of the most important events over the past three decades,” said Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Russia-based Rosatom company, according to IRNA.
However, International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano expressed concerns on Monday regarding Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
“Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran,” he said.
If the Islamic Republic cannot provide more transparency, it is not possible to “conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” Amano added.
Source: The Epoch Times.
Sep 12, 2011
Tehran – Iranian and Russian officials Monday inaugurated Iran’s first nuclear power plant in the southern Gulf port of Bushehr, the Khabar news network reported.
The ceremony was attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi and nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi, as well as Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and the head of Russia’s state-run nuclear power corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, Khabar reported.
Forty per cent of the 1,000-megawatt capacity is to be connected to the national energy grid in the initial phase, and full capacity is scheduled to be reached in November.
The plant uses Russian-made fuel and its nuclear waste is to be returned to Russia. Iran and Russia have granted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) full supervision of the joint plant.
‘This is the first nuclear power plant in the Middle East, and Iran and Russia have set an example for peaceful nuclear cooperation,’ said Abbasi, Iran’s vice-president and head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization.
‘The start of the Bushehr plant symbolically shows to the world how a country could maintain its freedom and independence through resistance,’ he added, in reference to Western opposition towards Iran’s nuclear programs.
Responding to concerns from neighboring sheikhdoms, Abbasi said in his inauguration speech that safety was a top priority at the Bushehr plant.
In a joint press conference, Shmatko said that all internationally required safety measures should be fully implemented before using the plant at full capacity.
‘Based on clear international regulations and standards, more tests should be made before starting the plant at full capacity and Iranian experts should not sacrifice safety for the sake of reaching the final phase earlier,’ Shmatko said.
While Iran wants the plant to reach maximum level as soon as possible, Shamtko stressed that the connection of the plant to the national grid was being made according to a very precise safety plan.
This includes switching off the plant’s reactor several times to carry out additional tests before gradually increasing output to 50, 75 and finally 100 per cent of the total capacity of 1,000 megawatts.
‘All relevant tests made so far have been approved by the IAEA and further tests are necessary to make sure that the plant will work safely for decades,’ the Russian official said in the press conference, shown by Khabar TV.
Abbasi confirmed that Iran and Russia had made initial agreements to build further nuclear power plants, probably in or near Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, but did not rule out cooperation with other countries.
‘As our final aim is to reach production of 20,000 megawatts and we cannot realize this aim just by our own experts, we are open to cooperation with other countries as well,’ Abbasi told reporters.
The Iranian nuclear chief once again reiterated that Iran had a legitimate right to pursue peaceful nuclear programs, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. International pressure and United Nations sanctions would not hinder Iran’s nuclear work, he said.
‘We are committed to all international nuclear regulations but not beyond that,’ Abbasi said, referring to IAEA demands that Iran responds to Western intelligence reports accusing Tehran of working on a secret nuclear weapon program.
Western media representatives were not allowed to attend the inauguration ceremony, and only Iranian and Russian reporters were dispatched to Bushehr.
The construction of the plant was started in 1975 by a German company, which dropped the project in the 1990s due to political considerations.
In 1995, Russia signed a contract to complete the plant but the start-up date was delayed for technical and political reasons.
Iran and Russia are reportedly to have equal shares in the joint venture operating the Bushehr plant, but gradually all shares are to be transferred to the Iranian side.
Moscow plans to hand the facility completely over to Iranian hands within the next three years, but Tehran wants full control much sooner.
Source: Monsters and Critics.
Sept 11, 2011
Iraqi Oil Minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi said on Sunday that his country is seeking to produce three million barrels of crude per day by the end of the year.
“We seek with international companies to produce three million barrels by the end of 2011, and export 2.5 million barrels next year,” Luaybi told a conference in the Jordanian capital, which is being attended by 46 oil firms.
“We are implementing a plan that is unprecedented in the history of Iraq’s oil industry, multiplying oil and gas production to four times and building gigantic infrastructure and projects to turn Iraq into a key energy source in the world.”
Iraq currently produces around 2.7 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), and the government is aiming to increase that to 12 million bpd by 2017, although the IMF has voiced doubts over whether that target is attainable.
Oil accounts for the lion’s share of government income, with Iraq exporting around 2.2 million bpd.
Last month, Iraq’s cabinet approved a draft oil and gas law in a bid to regulate the country’s most lucrative sector after years of political deadlock.
The new law divides responsibility for the oil sector between the central government and the provinces but even before its passage, foreign investors still poured in, signing 11 major contracts which could potentially boost Iraq’s output fivefold.
WAM & Reuters
September 11, 2011
UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed chairs Gulf bloc meeting
Jeddah: Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) met here Sunday under the chairmanship of UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss the latest developments in the regional, Arab and international arena.
Foreign ministers of Jordan and Morocco are attending the meeting for the first time.
Gulf Arab countries plan to fund a five-year development aid program for Morocco and Jordan, aspiring members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) political and economic bloc, and the amount will be set in December, the GCC’s chief said on Sunday.
Oil-exporting Gulf monarchies are seeking closer ties with Arab counterparts outside the Gulf to help contain pro-democracy unrest that is buffeting autocratic ruling elites throughout the Arab world, analysts say.
The six members of the GCC — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — said in May they would consider a request by the two Arab monarchies to join, but as yet few practical steps have been taken.
“There is a call for creating an economic development program for the two brotherly countries Jordan and Morocco,” GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al Zayani said after a Gulf foreign ministers meeting in Jeddah.
“A recommendation on the size (of the aid) will be made and a decision taken by the heads of states of the GCC at their next summit (in December),” Zayani said of the five-year program.
Within the bloc, the richer Gulf countries have offered $10 billion each in development funds to Bahrain and Oman, where protesters took to the streets this year demanding reforms.
Source: Gulf News.
11 Sep 2011
Gulf Co-operation Council calls for “serious reforms” and end to bloodshed as fresh violence and arrests are reported.
The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) has called for “an immediate end to the killing machine” in Syria, and reiterated its demand for government reforms.
Ending a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the six foreign ministers of the Gulf Arab states issued a statement calling for an end to the crackdown on anti-government protesters and urging “the immediate implementation of serious reforms that meet the aspirations of the Syrian” people.
Last month, the GCC called on the Syrian leadership to “resort to wisdom” and stop the bloodshed.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain recalled their envoys from Damascus to protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s use of force in the uprising against his family’s 41-year rule.
Qatar shut its embassy after it was attacked by Assad loyalists in July.
The United Nations estimated on August 22 that more than 2,200 people have been killed since protests began in March. Scores have been reported killed in the following weeks and Syrian activists now put the death toll closer to 3,000.
In the latest reports of bloodshed, activists said a woman was killed near the Iraqi border on Sunday.
“A 40-year-old woman was killed at noon on Sunday by a stray bullet as security forces were tracking wanted people in the town of Albu Kamal,” the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited an activist in Deir al-Zor province as saying.
The Observatory also said a 17-year-old boy died of wounds sustained a day earlier when security forces fired at a funeral for Ghayath Matar, an activist who reportedly died from torture in prison.
Protests were reported in several towns on Sunday and the Local Co-ordination Committees said security forces used gunfire to disperse demonstrations in Albu-Kamal and in Quseir and Talbiseh in the central Homs governorate.
Witnesses and activists also said Syrian forces had stepped up raids across the country to arrest activists.
In the town of Hirak in Deraa province, Ahmad al-Sayyed, a resident, told Reuters that troops had detained at least 250 people in the village of Jeeza, 40 in Museifra, 50 in Busra al-Harir and 30 in Naimeh in the last 48 hours.
“They shoot in the air before they begin raids. They then drag young men and use electric sticks to beat them up and haul them away to detention centers,” he said.
Earlier on Sunday, France’s foreign minister said the UN’s failure to condemn the actions of Syrian security forces against protesters was a “scandal”.
Alain Juppe also stepped up pressure on Russia to support a Security Council resolution saying it was too late for political reforms in Syria, as Russia has called for.
“We think the regime has lost its legitimacy, that it’s too late to implement a program of reform,” Juppe told reporters.
“Now we should adopt in New York the resolution condemning the violence and supporting the dialogue with the opposition,” he said.
“It’s a scandal not to have a clearer position of the UN on such a terrible crisis”.
The developments come after Nabil el-Araby, the head of the Arab League, said he had reached an agreement on reforms with Assad during talks in Damascus on Saturday.
Russia, a UN member with veto power, has resisted international attempts to condemn the violence and refused to back Western calls for Assad to quit.
The Syrian authorities blame what they describe as terrorists for the bloodshed and say hundreds of members of the security forces are among the dead. Opposition activists also acknowledge the deaths of of about 500 security personnel.
Mon Sep 12, 2011
Kuwait’s young activists have urged profound reforms in the emirate in efforts to make it a constitutional monarchy instead of a fiefdom of Al-Sabah family.
The activists, known as September 16 Youths group, also called for the dismissal of the current government, the dissolution of parliament, the holding of fresh elections, and the appointment of a prime minister from outside the House of Al-Sabah, AFP reported on Sunday.
Kuwaiti youth groups have been periodically calling for protests in the emirate since the Arab Spring hit the Middle East and North Africa earlier this year. The protesters are demanding the removal of the prime minister and for more political freedom in the state, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter.
The young activists want Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah to be replaced and demand the appointment of a politician from outside the Al-Sabah family, which has ruled Kuwait for 259 years.
The youth group has also called for achieving a constitutional monarchy, under which the Al-Sabah family will have the emir and crown prince, as stipulated by the constitution. The Kuwaiti people will then have the right to run the affairs of the state and the government.
The activists have called for a demonstration on Friday to push their demands.
Kuwait was the first Arab state in the Persian Gulf to establish an elected legislature in 1962, and the 50-seat parliament has some good legislative powers. However, the Al-Sabah family remained in control of most key posts, including the premiership and the ministries of defence, interior and foreign affairs.
Friday, September 9, 2011
The Associated Press
MANAMA, Bahrain — The harsh crackdown on anti-government protests in Bahrain has failed to silence people’s demands for greater rights, a senior Shiite cleric in the Gulf kingdom said Friday as thousands of opposition supporters rallied on the outskirts of the capital.
The latest demonstration was staged by people who say they were unfairly fired from their jobs simply for being members of the island nation’s Shiite community, which led the months of protests. Thousands of Shiite professionals accused of having a role in the protests have been fired from their jobs.
Shiites make up a majority of Bahrain’s people, but they have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the country’s ruling Sunni dynasty and a lack of economic opportunities.
A police helicopter flew over the large demonstration, which was backed by Bahrain’s biggest opposition party, Al Wefaq. The crowd chanted slogans against Bahrain’s 200-year-old Sunni monarchy. Some protesters demanded their jobs back and others urged opposition leaders not to compromise with the monarchy.
“Our revolution will continue,” the protesters chanted. They warned the rulers: “If you don’t want to listen then you have to leave.”
Bahrain is a strategically important nation in the Persian Gulf and is the home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
The U.S. has appealed to its ally to listen to protesters’ demands for more political freedoms, but a government-led national dialogue produced no compromise with the Shiite opposition, which only had token representation at the talks.
Bahrain’s senior Shiite cleric, Sheik Isa Qassim, said the “politics of fear” and the Sunni rulers’ refusal to reform has strengthened the resolve of Shiites.
“Those who refuse to reform and continue to ignore the people’s demands for rights should know that the masses will not submit to despots,” the cleric said during Friday’s sermon in the opposition stronghold of Diraz, northwest of the capital, Manama.
More than 30 people have died since February when protests inspired by other Arab uprisings began in Bahrain.
Hundreds of activists have been detained and brought to trial on anti-state charges in a special security court.
Bahrain lifted emergency rule in June. Since then, government opponents have clashed with police almost every night.
Friday’s protest dispersed peacefully, although groups of opposition supporters marched to Manama’s Pearl Square, the heavily guarded former epicenter of Bahrain’s uprising.
September 09, 2011
Copyright 2011, The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
KARBALA (BNO NEWS) — An Iraqi woman has given birth to a baby girl who has one eye and no nose, local media reported on Sunday. It is the second time the woman gave birth to a deformed child.
Doctors said the baby was recently born at the Women and Delivery Hospital in Karbala, the capital of Karbala Governorate, according to the Aswat al-Iraq news agency. “One of our women delivery chambers has witnessed a strange birth,” a doctor told the news agency.
Dr. Sabah Nour Hadi al-Moussawi said the 24-year-old mother from Najaf gave birth to a baby girl who has only one eye, no nose and a distorted ear. Moussawi said it was the first such case ever at the hospital, but noted that the woman previously also gave birth to a deformed child who died several years ago.
It was not immediately known what caused the deformations. In March 2010, doctors in the Iraqi city of Falluja reported high levels of birth defects, mainly involving the heart and nervous system.
Sunday, September 11th, 2011
Najaf, Iraq (AFP)
Sept 11, 2011
Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers not to launch any attacks on US troops before a year-end deadline for their withdrawal, in a statement seen on Sunday.
Sadr’s remarks came just days after he backtracked on a call for popular anti-government rallies. American forces have accused militias linked to the cleric of largely being behind attacks on its soldiers.
“In order that Iraq can recover its independence through the withdrawal of the invaders from our territory, I judge it indispensable to halt all armed resistance operations until the complete withdrawal of the occupying forces,” Sadr said in the statement originally issued Saturday.
“If the pullout is completed and there is no longer a single US soldier on our territory, the military operations will end definitively but if that is not the case and Iraq remains in a state of dependency, they will resume with greater vigor,” Sadr said.
He paid tribute to “the resistance for its actions” and said his movement was now working “hand in hand with the government to achieve the liberation of the country and supporting it against US pressure.”
In July, Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, spokesman for US forces in Iraq, accused three Shiite militia groups of being behind attacks on US troops.
He named them as the Promised Day Brigades, formed by Sadr in November 2008, and Ketaeb Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, two splinter groups which broke away from Sadr’s former Mahdi Army militia which fought US-led troops from 2004 to 2007.
The cleric’s bloc holds six cabinet posts and has 40 seats in parliament.
Sadr said in a separate statement on Monday that he was giving Iraq’s government a “last chance” to implement reforms, after earlier calling for protests.
His statement comes as Washington and Baghdad deliberate over the size of a US military training mission to last beyond year-end, after Iraqi leaders said last month they were open to such plans.
The new US Army chief warned on Thursday against leaving too large a force in Iraq after 2011, saying too many boots on the ground could feed the perception of an American “occupation.”
General Ray Odierno commanded US forces in Iraq until last year and was one of the senior officers who spearheaded the troop “surge” in 2007, which the military believes turned the tide in the war and reduced sectarian violence.
He spoke amid a debate in Washington over the scale of a possible future US military mission in Iraq and after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta endorsed a tentative plan for a force of 3,000-4,000 troops.
Some US lawmakers have criticized that number of soldiers and say senior officers favor a larger force of at least 10,000, which would include a unit deployed in northern Iraq to defuse Arab-Kurdish tensions.
But Odierno told reporters the United States had to carefully balance how many troops were needed to assist Iraqi forces while scaling back the American profile in a country where anti-US sentiment still runs high.
“I will say when I was leaving Iraq a year ago, I always felt we had to be careful about leaving too many people in Iraq,” said Odierno, who took over as army chief of staff on Wednesday.
“The larger the force that we leave behind … (the more) comments of ‘occupation force’ remain,” he added.
Source: Space War.
ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY | AP
Friday 9 September 2011
BEIRUT: Muammar Qaddafi may be on the run, but he’s still talking — and his outlet is a curious one: clandestine, late-night phone calls to a private Syrian satellite TV station run by an Iraqi exile with a shady past.
Qaddafi, who once had multiple state-run Libyan stations at his beck and call, has made three calls from hiding to Al-Rai TV, trying to rally his dwindling supporters and insisting he will never give up. The messages add to the bizarre spectacle surrounding Qaddafi’s downfall and his attempts to stay a step ahead of the former rebels hunting for him.
Al-Rai’s owner, Mishan Al-Jabouri, refuses to divulge much about why Qaddafi chose his station to call into and whether he knows where Qaddafi and his sons are hiding.
“It’s my own secret that I won’t reveal,” Al-Jabouri told The Associated Press by telephone this week when pressed for details. “You shouldn’t ask such questions because I am contacting a person in the war field, how can I say how I contact him? It’s impossible to tell you.”
“We have our own means and methods to keep in contact with them,” he said.
Al-Jabouri, formerly a lawmaker from Iraq’s Sunni heartland, has long touted himself as an Arab nationalist opposed to US interventions in the Middle East and a supporter of Iraqi Sunni insurgents against American troops. He said he has good relations with Qaddafi and his family, and he made his support clear for the man who ruled Libya for more than 42 years.
“We deal with them as strugglers who defend their homeland,” he said.
Al-Jabouri knows what it’s like to be on the run. He fled to Syria in 2006, a year before an Iraqi court convicted him of embezzling millions of dollars. He and his son Yazan were accused of embezzling some $7 million a month intended for units of a special force created to protect oil pipelines from attacks by insurgents.
Al-Jabouri has denied the charges, but he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
A private TV station he once ran in Iraq — Al-Zawraa — was raided by Iraqi troops in 2006 trying to shut it down for “inciting hatred” by airing videos of Iraqi insurgents hitting US tanks and troops. The station managed to keep airing from Sunni parts of Iraq, but under US pressure the Egyptian-owned satellite provider that was airing the channel dropped it.
Al-Jabouri said his Al-Rai still follows a broad anti-American movement. “We also keep contact with the Iraqi resistance and take photos of US tanks when they explode.”
His affection for Qaddafi ensures the ousted leader a friendly venue to deliver his voice to his homeland and the world.
Qaddafi’s most recent call came at 3 a.m. Thursday, when he denied rumors he had fled Libya, vowed never to leave the land of his ancestors and exhorted followers to keep fighting.
“We are ready to start the fight in Tripoli and everywhere else, and rise up against them,” Qaddafi said in the recording.
“All of these germs, rats and scum … they are not Libyans, ask anyone. They have cooperated with NATO,” he said, referring to the former rebels who swept into the capital Tripoli on Aug. 21, toppling him.
Qaddafi disappeared underground and so far has eluded the country’s new rulers’ manhunt. Rumors have put him everywhere from deep in a bunker under Tripoli to any of three final strongholds of his supporters around the country.
Interpol said Friday it has issued red notices — its top most-wanted alert — for the arrest of Qaddafi, his son Seif Al-Islam and the former head of military intelligence, Abdullah Al-Senoussi. Qaddafi went underground after anti-regime fighters swept into Tripoli on Aug. 21.
Source: Arab News.