Archive for February 8th, 2012

Libya plans to recruit Jordanians to help in rebuilding

Feb 08, 2012

Premier, delegates discuss with officials prospects of cooperation.

AMMAN — Jordan on Tuesday offered to put all its capabilities and expertise at the disposal of the new Libya as the Arab country goes through a rebuilding stage.

A senior Libyan official said his country is interested in the offer, adding that Tripoli is particularly interested in Jordanian human resources.

The message was carried to the Libyan leadership by Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh and a wide-ranging delegation of officials and businessmen, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

The premier held talks in Tripoli with National Transitional Council (NTC) Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil over ways to develop relations in the post-Qadhafi era.

For his part, Abdul Jalil expressed gratitude for His Majesty King Abdullah and Jordan’s political, humanitarian and logistic support to Libya, which will always be remembered by the Libyan people.

During the Libyan revolution against Qadhafi’s 42-year rule, Amman worked under an international coalition mandated by the UN to protect civilians.

After the regime change, Jordan undertook to train around 10,000 Libyan troops, while approximately 20,000 Libyans, including people injured during the revolt, have arrived in the Kingdom to receive treatment at its hospitals, according to officials.

Abdul Jalil voiced appreciation of the King’s gesture to deploy a Jordanian military hospital to the Libyan city of Benghazi, noting that the medical cadres have been not only treating Libyan patients but also extending their medical expertise to Libyan medical staff.

Libya is also expected to offer Jordanians jobs to help it in the rebuilding efforts, while the private sector eyes contracts in an array of projects designed to change the face of the oil-rich North African country.

According to Petra, Abdul Jalil said his country plans to benefit from Jordan’s expertise in various fields and from its “distinguished and highly qualified” human resources, especially in medical care, adding: “We are looking forward to benefiting from the Jordanian human resources which will be the basis of our future relations.”

Also during the meeting, HRH Prince Mired, chairman of the National Committee for De-mining and Rehabilitation noted that the agency is “fully ready” to extend its support and guidance to the Libyans to help remove mines scattered on their land.

Several ministers and senior officials accompanying Khasawneh made presentations to their Libyan counterparts on ways through which various Jordanian sectors can help Libya.

In this regard, Libya’s interim Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur noted that his country, after the difficult situation it faced, is in need of a “complete overhaul”, and the government plans to benefit from the expertise of the Arab and Islamic states, adding that “priority will be given to Jordan due to its advanced expertise in various spheres”.

The delegation included Prince Mired, Minister of Justice Salim Al Zoubi, Minister of Industry and Trade Sami Gammoh, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Rowaida Maaitah, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Bassem Roussan, Minister of Transport Alaa Batayneh, Minister of Health Abdul Latif Wreikat, Minister of Public Works and Housing Yahya Kisbi, Minister of Labour Maher Wakid, Minister of Public Sector Development Khleif Al Khawaldeh, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Klaib Fawaz and Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Qutaiba Abu Qura.

The Jordanian delegation also comprised secretaries general of several ministries, directors of public agencies, heads of parliamentary committees as well as representatives of chambers of trade and finance, professional associations and businessmen.

Also on Tuesday, Khasawneh met with Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al Kib. The two stressed the need to continue cooperation and coordination between Jordan and Libya.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Teachers strike continues for second day

by Laila Azzeh
Feb 08,2012

Gov’t downplays extent of work stoppage, but teachers, parents say otherwise.

AMMAN – As a nationwide strike by public school teachers entered its second day on Tuesday, activists warned that the government’s “silence” and “negativity” in dealing with the teachers’ demands will only “make things worse for all involved parties”.

Ministry of Education Spokesperson Ayman Barakat issued a statement yesterday saying that classes were held as usual in many schools across Jordan, while some schools only held certain classes, and teachers refused to teach at all in others.

However, teachers and parents claimed that more teachers took part in the strike yesterday than on Monday, expressing their “surprise” over the government’s stance in “playing down the protest”.

“Students, especially those in secondary school, are the ones most harmed by the teachers’ escalatory measures… they are victims of the government’s inflexibility and the teachers’ insistence on using students to place pressure [on the government],” said Saeed Qatameen, who has three sons that attend a public school in Tafileh.

Parents gathered outside several schools in various governorates yesterday, threatening to head to court if teachers continue their work stoppage and asking the government to intervene so their children can start their spring semester, describing the teachers’ action as “irresponsible”.

“Parents should understand that improving the situation of teachers is a win-win situation,” Raed Azzam of the Amman Free Teachers Committee countered, asking how parents believe that teachers who spend their nights “frying falafel” can provide their children a proper education.

Yesterday’s strike, which activists said took place in more than 90 per cent of the Kingdom’s state schools, took a new turn when directors of the schools and education departments started “threatening” and “interrogating” teachers.

“They wanted to pressure teachers to end their strike by terrorizing them,” Azzam charged, stressing that this act is considered a “dangerous turn in an already appalling situation”.

Barakat voiced the ministry’s commitment to communicate with teachers and meet their “achievable” demands.

The teachers’ main demand is an increase in their professional allowance from 70 per cent to 100 per cent of their basic salary.

Under the recently enacted public sector salary restructuring plan, allowances of all workers in the education sector were unified at 70 per cent of their basic salary.

The ministry has proposed raising the allowance from 70 to 80 per cent retroactively from the beginning of this year and phasing in the remaining 20 per cent in 2013 and 2014, but the compromise offer was met with outrage, as teachers said they have been waiting for their full professional allowance for more than 16 years.

Meanwhile, Minister of Public Sector Development Khleif Al Khawaldeh underlined that raises in the salaries of teachers and employees in the education ministry under the salary restructuring plan are considered “rewarding” in light of the difficult economic situation, especially when compared to the raises granted to other public sector employees.

In a statement to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, he added that the salary restructuring plan will cost the government JD110 million after its latest decision to raise teachers’ professional allowances gradually over three years, which he said would cost JD76 million or 61 per cent of the total cost of the restructuring plan.

Khawaldeh underlined that the government’s decision to raise the professional allowance to 100 per cent over three years was “out of its commitment to the role teachers play in the educational process”.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Jordanians join Syrians to protest Russia’s UN veto

by Muath Freij
Feb 08,2012

AMMAN — Around 100 Jordanians and Syrians gathered outside the Russian embassy on Tuesday in protest against the Russian veto of a UN Security Council resolution to condemn the Syrian regime’s crackdown on protesters.

Organized by the Jordanian Commission to Support the Syrian People (JCSSP), the one-hour demonstration was the third held outside the Russian embassy since the beginning of this month.

JCSSP President Ali Abul Sukkar said yesterday’s demonstration was held to denounce Russia’s veto, which he said provided the Syrian regime with a license to continue killing its people.

He noted that the JCSSP’s demonstrations are meant not only to express solidarity with Syrians, but also to help raise awareness among Jordanians of the need to support refugees.

“We are encouraging charitable societies to raise funds and distribute clothing to Syrian refugees across the Kingdom. We hope that international organizations take notice of the Syrian refugees, because their numbers are increasing,” Abul Sukkar told The Jordan Times during the protest yesterday.

“We have representatives in the governorates of Karak, Maan, Irbid and Zarqa. We try to help as much as possible,” he added.

Abul Sukkar indicated that businessmen are also cooperating with the JCSSP by hiring some Syrian refugees to help them earn a living.

“Unfortunately some refugees are not able to work because of the psychological shock caused by the massacres in Syria,” the JCSSP president stressed.

Some 3,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the UNHCR in Jordan, while estimates of their total number range from 4,000 to 8,000.

Abul Sukkar explained that the situation in Syria is of particular concern to Jordanians, motivating them to go into the streets to protest the violence.

“Photos and videos of massacres in Syria are really awful and they encourage Jordanians to participate in any demonstration or event that can help support Syrian refugees,” he said.

Raeda Atoum, a Jordanian demonstrator, agreed, adding that Syrians and Jordanians are brothers.

“A group of my friends are collecting money and clothing for refugees. The massacres are a tragedy for both Jordanians and Syrians,” she said.

Atoum noted that she took part in yesterday’s demonstration to denounce the negative stance of Russia.

“Although the number of killings is increasing significantly, I sense that the last days of [Syrian President] Bashar Assad are about to come,” she told The Jordan Times.

Omar Masri, another protester, asserted that Russia’s position on Syria has ruined its “bright image” in the Arab world.

He also denounced the Arab states’ unwillingness to take action to stop the violence in Syria, adding that the only thing they can do is denounce.

Haitham Yasin, another Jordanian protester, claimed that Russia used its veto only to assert its relevance in the international community.

“They also wanted to oppose the US,” he said.

Aziza, a Syrian protester who refused to reveal her full name, stated that only God will help them defeat the regime.

“We are not waiting for the Security Council or any other party’s help. God and the Free Syrian Army will overcome the regime,” she said.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Hezbollah says gets support, not orders, from Iran

Tuesday, February 07, 2012
By Laila Bassam

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged Tuesday for the first time that his militant movement received financial and material support from Iran, but denied it took instructions from the Islamic Republic.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah previously only confirmed Iranian political and moral backing because it did not want “to embarrass our brothers in Iran,” but had changed policy because Iran’s leadership had announced its support in public.

“Yes, we received moral, and political and material support in all possible forms from the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1982,” Nasrallah told supporters by videolink in a speech marking the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Mohammad.

“In the past we used to tell half the story and stay silent on the other half … When they asked us about the material and financial and military support we were silent.”

Nasrallah said Iran had not issued orders to Hezbollah since the movement was founded 30 years ago, adding that if Israel attacked Iran’s nuclear sites, the leadership in Iran “would not ask anything of Hezbollah.”

He said if that were to happen, Hezbollah’s own leadership would “sit down, think and decide what to do.”

Speculation has grown that Israel might be planning to attack Iranian nuclear facilities after strong public comments by Israeli leaders about Iran’s atomic ambitions.

Many analysts believe that in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran, Hezbollah – which fought a punishing 34-day war with Israel in 2006 – would attack the Jewish state.

Nasrallah’s statement will not surprise world powers, including The United States, which lists the group as a terrorist organization, and says it has military support from Iran and Syria.

Hezbollah was set up 30 years ago by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to fight Israeli forces which had invaded Lebanon.


Nasrallah denied U.S. charges that his movement was involved in money laundering or drugs smuggling, saying Iran’s support meant the movement was not in need of cash.

Federal prosecutors in the United States said in December three Lebanese financial institutions linked to Hezbollah laundered more than $240 million through the U.S. used car market.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials have also said Hezbollah has become involved in the drug trade, facilitating distribution and sale of cocaine in West Africa.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah was not involved in money laundering, nor in drug smuggling which was religiously forbidden. “No drugs, no money laundering and not trade at all,” he said of Hezbollah activities.

The Hezbollah leader also defended his support for close ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is trying to crush an 11-month uprising against his rule. The United Nations says Assad’s crackdown on protests has killed 5,000 people.

Nasrallah, who has praised the uprisings in other Arab countries which toppled three entrenched leaders last year, said Assad still enjoyed support from the army and a large section of the population, and criticized Syria’s opposition for rejecting Assad’s promised reforms and offers of dialogue.

“They say we don’t want dialogue and we don’t want reform (because) it’s too late … It’s too late when there is fighting in Syria and there are people pushing it to civil war?”

“They are betting on the West, on America, on money and weapons to overthrow the regime. But this is a losing bet,” he added.

(Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: The Star.

Nasrallah: No government change

February 08, 2012
By Hussein Dakroub
The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah ruled out Tuesday a government change, disclosing that contacts have been initiated with the aim of ending a row between Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.

Although Cabinet has been riven by political differences since it was formed last June and is currently at a standstill, Nasrallah stressed that the continuation of Mikati’s government, which is dominated by Hezbollah and its March 8 allies, was essential for the country’s security and stability.

Nasrallah also reiterated his support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying “a real dialogue table” between the government and the opposition was the only solution to end the 11-month-old turmoil in Syria.

“We are keen on the Cabinet to stay in office. There is no need for mediation given that it is everyone’s responsibility. There are ongoing contacts that will lead to a solution for this crisis,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on the occasion of Prophet Mohammad’s birthday which was marked in the Arab and Muslim worlds last week.

Nasrallah scoffed at calls by the opposition March 14 politicians for the formation of a new technocrat government in view of the constant rifts between Mikati and ministers from Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc.

“There will be no new government,” he said, speaking via video link to a large crowd of Hezbollah’s supporters at a complex in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

“Regardless of its labeling, this government is so far the basis for stability in the country. We must work hard in order [for the government] to achieve something,” Nasrallah said, adding: “Now is not the time for the toppling of governments, neither [is it] the time for political tension in Lebanon.”

He rejected March 14 accusations that Mikati’s 30-member Cabinet was a Hezbollah-controlled Cabinet.

“I say to those who have started to fix their suits and neckties for a new government, there will be no new government,” Nasrallah said.

He did not elaborate on the efforts being made to resolve the Cabinet crisis. But a senior Hezbollah official told The Daily Star Monday that the party has begun behind-the-scene contacts aimed at resolving the Cabinet crisis sparked last week following sharp differences between Mikati and Aoun’s ministers over the thorny issue of civil service appointments.

The government crisis began last week when Mikati abruptly ended a Cabinet session after ministers from Aoun’s bloc rejected the prime minister’s proposed names for appointments to the Higher Disciplinary Committee.

Mikati has implicitly accused Aoun’s ministers of obstructing the Cabinet’s work, saying he will not allow anyone to undermine the prime minister’s prerogatives. Mikati has since said that he will not resume Cabinet sessions before agreement is reached on a formula to make the government productive.

But Aoun hit back at both Mikati and President Michel Sleiman Tuesday, blaming them for the Cabinet crisis. “They [Sleiman and Mikati] don’t want us to reach to the higher positions in the state,” Aoun told reporters after chairing a weekly meeting of his bloc.

In his speech, Nasrallah denied media reports that Hezbollah was involved in money laundering or drugs trafficking to fund the group’s resistance against Israel. He also denied media reports that Hezbollah was involved in any commercial ventures in or outside Lebanon.

But he acknowledged Hezbollah has been receiving moral, political and financial support from Iran since the party was founded in 1982. In his speech, Nasrallah renewed his support for Assad in the face of what he said was a decision by the United States, the West, Israel and some moderate Arab states to topple the Assad regime.

Nasrallah said a solution to end the violence in Syria lay in “a real dialogue table” coupled with Assad’s readiness to carry out political reforms. “Betting on America and money and weapons is a losing bet,” he said.

“The Syrian leadership has agreed to most of the reforms demanded and it is ready for dialogue. Now they [the opposition] are saying it is too late. How is it too late when a war is raging in Syria and when there are some who are pushing Syria to a civil war?” Nasrallah said. “Whoever cares about Syria would never say that it was too late but would instead go to dialogue without prior conditions for the resignation of the president.”

Nasrallah categorically denied opposition claims that his group was fighting along with government forces against protesters and rebel groups in Syria.

Source: The Daily Star.