Archive for August, 2014

Iran unveils new missiles, drones

Tehran (AFP)

Aug 24, 2014

Iran on Sunday unveiled two new missiles and two new drones it said have been added to its arsenal, in a ceremony attended by President Hassan Rouhani.

The Ghadir (Mighty), with a range of 300 kilometers (185 miles), is a ground-to-sea and sea-to-sea missile, the official IRNA news agency said. It is in the same family as the Ghader or Qader cruise missile, which has a range of 200 kilometers.

The other missile unveiled on Sunday, the Nasr-e Basir (Clear Victory), is equipped with a seeker homing head. Its range was not given.

The new Karar-4 (Striker) drone can track and monitor enemy aircraft, the agency said, while the Mohajer-4 (Migrant) drone is designed to perform photographic and mapping missions. Iran has developed a major missile program in addition to producing different types of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), including attack drones.

The United States, whose Fifth Fleet is based in Sunni-ruled Bahrain across the Gulf from the mainly Shiite Islamic republic, has repeatedly expressed concern about these two programs.

Rouhani on Sunday sought to allay such fears. “Iran has no intention to interfere in, dominate or attack other countries or plunder their resources,” he said in a speech broadcast on state television, adding that the country’s military doctrine was defensive. “But at the same time we will stand up to any aggression,” he added.

In May, Iran said it had succeeded in copying an American RQ-170 Sentinel drone that it forced down and recovered nearly intact in December 2011. Tehran is currently engaged in negotiations with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — known as P5+1 — on securing an agreement with world powers on its controversial nuclear program.

Israel and Western powers suspect Iran’s civilian nuclear project to be a cover to develop an atomic weapon, an allegation Tehran denies, insisting its uranium enrichment drive is entirely peaceful.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Iran_unveils_new_missiles_drones_999.html.

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Turkey to build camp for displaced Iraq’s Yazidis

13 August 2014 Wednesday

Turkey is going to build a refugee camp in northern Iraq for around 16,000 people from the crisis-stricken country’s Yazidi ethnic minority who fled from Sinjar amid ongoing attacks by ISIL militants, Turkey’s emergency management authority has said.

The camp is going to be built in the city of Zakho located only a few kilometers from the Iraqi-Turkish border, AFAD said, adding that 30 to 40 thousand Yazidis fled to Syria, whereas around 100,000 more sought refuge in Zakho, Duhok.

“There are currently around 6,500 Yazidis seeking shelter near the border,” AFAD said.

The agency is also planning to send four trucks of humanitarian aid to the region in order to meet the essential requirements of the displaced minority group.

The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq has decided to grant $15 million in emergency aid to the Yazidis, the government announced on its official website Wednesday.

The money earned from oil sales is going to be spent to meet the immediate requirements of the displaced Yazidis from Sinjar, the Kurdish government said, adding that the Dohuk Governorate has been commissioned to distribute aid in the region.

Amid fierce clashes with the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga forces, IS militants have tightened their grip on northern Iraq, seizing towns with minority populations, as well as Iraq’s largest dam near Mosul.

The militants captured Sinjar and Rabia in the Nineveh province last week, forcing thousands of Turkmen, Arabs, Christians and Yazidis to flee.

So far, about 2,000 Yazidi refugees from Iraq crossed the Habur border post to seek refuge in southeast Turkey. The refugees have been placed in tents and post-earthquake houses in the region.

The Turkish Red Crescent provided 20 thousand blankets and sleeping pads, and sent a truckload of biscuits and drinking water to Silopi district in the southeastern Turkish province of Sirnak. The aid is being distributed to the refugees under the supervision of AFAD, the agency said Wednesday.

The humanitarian organization also sent two trucks of food and cleaning supplies to help out the displaced Turkmens in the town of Tuz Khurmatu in the northern Iraqi province of Salahaddin.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/news/142456/turkey-to-build-camp-for-displaced-iraqs-yazidis.

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Germany: 1000s protest Yazidi persecution in Iraq

August 16, 2014

BERLIN (AP) — Thousands of people in Germany have protested against the persecution of the Yazidi minority in Iraq.

Police say at least 10,000 people attended a demonstration in the north German city of Hannover on Saturday. Protesters carried banners demanding that the international community protect the Yazidi people and other minorities from the Islamist extremists.

Smaller demonstrations were also scheduled in other cities across Germany, which has one of the biggest Yezidi diasporas worldwide. The Yazidis are a centuries-old religious minority viewed as apostates by the extremist Islamic State group in Iraq.

The protests occurred as the German government considers whether to provide military equipment, possibly including weapons, to Kurdish fighters battling the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

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Over 30 Turkish truck drivers freed in Iraq

July 03, 2014

BAGHDAD (AP) — Islamic militants have released at least 30 Turkish truck drivers who they captured in Iraq last month, relatives and a private Turkish news agency said Thursday.

Militants from the al-Qaida-inspired group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized the truck drivers on June 9 in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Nihal Simsek, the wife of one driver and the mother of another, told The Associated Press on Thursday that she had spoken to her husband, Ramazan Simsek, who confirmed the truck drivers were freed.

She said the drivers were heading toward Arbil in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region and would cross into Turkey in the evening. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said there were “positive developments” concerning the truck drivers but would not confirm the report by the Dogan news agency until it was certain all of the drivers were free and safe. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to journalists without prior authoritization.

The exact number of kidnapped drivers was unclear. The Dogan report cited 32, while Turkish officials at the time said the kidnapping involved 31 truck drivers. The militants also seized 49 people from the Turkish consulate in Mosul three days later. There was no immediate word on any release for them.

The group known as ISIL or ISIS has recently overrun parts of Iraq and Syria. “ISIL has released our drivers, but our trucks are still in their hands,” the Dogan news agency quoted truck company owner, Mehmet Kizil, as saying. “But that doesn’t matter as long as they safely return to their families.”

Mehmet Guzel in Istanbul contributed.

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Germany flies humanitarian aid to Iraq

August 15, 2014

BERLIN (AP) — Five German air force planes have taken off for Iraq with 36 tons of humanitarian aid to help civilians uprooted by fighting in the north of the country.

Air force spokesman Capt. Andre Hesse said the planes left early Friday carrying drinking water, blankets, medicine and food to be unloaded in Irbil and handed over to U.N. organizations. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said earlier this week that Germany was planning to also send non-lethal military aid such as vehicles, night-vision gear and bomb detectors.

In an interview with German daily Bild published Friday, Von der Leyen was quoted as saying that “weapons are already being delivered by other nations; we are examining at present what other military equipment we can send.”

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France to send weapons to Kurds in Iraq

August 13, 2014

PARIS (AP) — Calling the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan “catastrophic,” France said Wednesday it would start supplying arms to the Kurdish forces fighting Sunni extremists from the Islamic State group.

Paris and London have agreed to coordinate their actions on both humanitarian aid and arms, the office of President Francois Hollande said. It said the French president spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron Wednesday evening and agreed on the need for an “extremely rapid response,” but didn’t clarify whether Britain outright consented to furnish weapons to the Kurds, who are trying to push back radicals of the IS group.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius refused to specify the type of arms France would deliver, saying only they would be “sophisticated.” The sudden announcement that arms would begin to flow within hours underlined France’s alarm at the urgency of the situation in Iraq, where the IS group fighters are threatening the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

The shipping of French arms follows the United States’ increased role in fighting back the Islamic extremists, including air strikes to protect U.S. personnel and stop fighters from moving on civilians again.

Senior American officials say U.S. intelligence agencies are directly arming the Kurds. On Tuesday, 130 U.S. troops arrived in the Kurdish capital of Irbil on what the Pentagon described as a temporary mission to coordinate plans to help trapped Yazidi civilians on Mount Sinjar.

Any French military strikes would need prior approval from the U.N. Security Council, a standard French position, and would take place only if conditions are right, Fabius said. A French diplomat close to the situation would not exclude eventual French strikes in an “evolving situation.” The diplomat asked not to be named because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss French policy.

France says its arms shipment was coordinated with the Iraqi government. French authorities have pushed other European Union members to do more to aid Christians and other minorities being targeted by the Islamic State group extremists.

EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting Friday to coordinate their approach to the crisis and to endorse the European arms shipments already announced, the EU said Wednesday. Cameron cut short his vacation to chair a session of the U.K. emergency security committee.

He declined to say whether the Chinook helicopters being deployed to the region would be used to evacuate displaced people but said detailed plans were being put together to get the besieged minorities off of Mount Sinjar.

The turmoil stems from the quick advance of the IS group and allied Sunni militants across northern and western Iraq in June. The insurgency seized Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, and routed Iraq’s beleaguered armed forces. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 1.5 million have been displaced by the violence.

Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley and Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Juergen Baetz in Brussels and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this article.

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Saudi Arabia Offers One of World’s Lowest Solar Energy Costs

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (SPX)

Aug 12, 2014

Solar power costs have fallen dramatically over the last five years, thanks to lower module prices, lower balance of system costs, and increased competition at the development and EPC level. Financing costs have also decreased as investors recognize the low-risk profile of solar assets. As a result, solar power is now cheaper than most alternative power sources.

“For systems with the right economies of scale – 10 MegaWatt (MW) and above – solar power can now be generated at between US$70 and US$100/MWh. That price is more than four times lower than in 2009,” says Thierry Lepercq, founder and president of France-based Solairedirect, a world leader in the development of large photovoltaic (PV) power plants with low levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

Within this price range, Saudi Arabia could offer some of the lowest LCOE levels, according to Lepercq, who will be speaking at the second edition of Desert Solar Saudi Arabia conference that will be held from 17-18 September. In particular, he will explore the business case for utility-scale solar plants.

Building on the success of the first Desert Solar conference held last year, the event is once again gathering distinguished stakeholders in the Saudi Arabian solar energy market, hosting more than 150 decision makers from across the industry.

The panel of speakers will include executives from Air Liquide MENA, E.ON, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and Tokyo Electron Taiwan, as well as Skypower Fas Energy, Solairedirect and First Solar.

“Today in Saudi Arabia, it is possible to reach a solar LCOE of between US$70/MWh in the higher irradiation/elevation areas in the western part of the kingdom, and around US$90/MWh in the Gulf area,” reveals Lepercq.

With such competitive costs, the Saudi solar market has been growing steadily. Earlier this year, Solar Frontier completed the 1 MW CPV power plant at the Nofa Equestrian Resort, near Riyadh. And in the next few months, Saudi Aramco’s KAPSARC II project that will extend their existing solar plant from 3.5 MW to 5.3 MW should also come online.

“Recent developments in Saudi Arabia, such as the interest of local investors in financing PV projects and the growing amount of traction that EPC companies are gaining, are a clear indication of the Kingdom’s potential to evolve into a sustainable solar energy market,” said Dr. Raed Bkayrat, Vice President for Saudi Arabia at First Solar, a leading global solar energy solutions provider with over 9 gigawatts (GW) installed worldwide.

“With access to all the critical elements – low-cost finance, land availability, high solar irradiance and locally-based, skilled resources – there is no reason why Saudi Arabia cannot achieve some of the lowest PV levelized costs of electricity in the region,” highlights Dr. Bkayrat, who will be sharing insights on solar-powered desalination solutions for Saudi Arabia at the Desert Solar conference.

In addition, “the local PV manufacturing sector, already under development leveraging KSA’s excellent industrial infrastructure, with region-specific PV R and D initiatives at local institutions (i.e. KAUST, KACST), would provide a further boost not only to additional cost decrease but also to increased human capital development in the Saudi solar sector” according to Imtiaz Mahtab, a board member of the Saudi Arabia Solar Industry Association (SASIA).

Further cost reductions can be expected as all cost factors continue to improve, down to US$50-US$70/MWh by 2020, according to Lepercq. By then, solar PV power would be by far the cheapest energy in the world.

The Desert Solar Conference is part of a week-long trade mission offering international solar executives and investors the opportunity to meet with a high-level delegation of Saudi solar stakeholders. The event will be held from 14-18 September, 2014 and is jointly organized in by international solar conference organizer Solarplaza and the Saudi Arabia Solar Industry Association (SASIA).

Source: Solar Daily.

Link: http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Saudi_Arabia_Offers_One_of_Worlds_Lowest_Solar_Energy_Costs_999.html.

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