Archive for June, 2012

Activists unite in Lebanon against killer cluster bombs


BEIRUT – Hundreds of activists and officials from across the globe gather in Beirut Monday with one aim in mind — to rid the planet of cluster munitions which have killed or maimed tens of thousands of people worldwide.

The conference, which runs through Friday, joins representatives of 80 of the 100 or so countries that have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty which calls for the eradication of the deadly weapons.

“This meeting will serve to put the focus on the importance of states urgently implementing all aspects of this treaty,” said Steve Goose, chairman of the Cluster Munition Coalition which plays a major role in demining around the world.

“This includes stockpile destruction, victim assistance and the clearance of contaminated land around the world,” Goose said.

“We already have eight (member) states who completely destroyed their stockpiles and we have many others that are already far along, even though the treaty is less than two years old.”

The Cluster Munition Coalition, which groups more than 350 non-governmental organizations, estimates that 28 countries are still affected by cluster munitions — bombs that split open before impact and scatter multiple submunitions, often hundreds, the size of tennis balls.

Many cluster bombs fail to explode immediately, lie hidden for years and kill and maim civilians, often unsuspecting children who mistake the weapons for toys, for years after the original conflict is over — such as in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

More than 100 countries, including Lebanon, have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which entered into force on August 1, 2010. The first meeting of states parties to the convention was held in November 2010 in Laos.

The convention requires signatories to stop the use, production and transfer of the weapons.

China, Israel, Russia and the United States have not signed the treaty. They are thought to hoard and manufacture the bulk of the munitions, although the data is secret.

The United Nations estimates Israel dropped four million bomblets over southern Lebanon in the final days of its deadly 2006 war with Hezbollah.

More than 50 people have been killed and 350 injured by cluster bomb explosions in southern Lebanon since then.

The Lebanese army says 67 percent of the affected lands have been cleared but 75 million dollars are still needed to render the country free of cluster bombs.

Source: Middle East Online.

‘Hezbollah innocent in Hariri murder’

Mon Sep 12, 2011

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Miqati has rejected allegations that Hezbollah was involved in the assassination of the country’s former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Urging the Lebanese resistance movement to appoint lawyers to defend four of its members accused of involvement in the 2005 case, Miqati said that he was convinced of Hezbollah’s innocence.

“What pushes me to call on Hezbollah to follow this course of action is (my) conviction that Hezbollah is innocent in the (2005) assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri,” Miqati told al-Jadeed television on Sunday night.

He also said that the issue of false witnesses in the Hariri case must be followed up and that Lebanon’s attorney general has been tasked with the responsibility.

Rafiq Hariri and 22 others were killed in February 2005 in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, when a huge bomb went off near his motorcade.

In July, the US-backed tribunal investigating Hariri’s murder issued its indictment and accused four Hezbollah members of taking part in the attack. The tribunal linked the four to the killing by circumstantial evidence obtained from phone records rather than direct evidence.

Beirut has not been able to arrest the men, who will be tried in absentia.

Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any role in Hariri’s assassination, saying the indictments had been politically motivated. The resistance movement has also blamed media outlets and figures linked to the March 14 Movement for spreading false statements against it.

Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly described the tribunal as being full of “financial and moral corruption,” and part of an American-Israeli plot targeting the resistance.

“When you read the text released by the tribunal, you will not find any substantial evidence, not a single piece of direct evidence is included,” Nasrallah said.

“The only thing the tribunal relies on in is the mobile phone records, and even that is circumstantial. It doesn’t even prove that any of these alleged suspects made any of these calls or even owned these phones,” he added.

Hezbollah has also accused Israel of being behind the bombing.

Source: PressTV.

Prominent Alawite clerics denounce Assad regime’s ‘atrocities’

Monday, 12 September 2011

Three prominent Syrian clerics of the Alawite sect, to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs, have denounced the “atrocities” committed by the regime against pro-democracy protesters.

“We declare our innocence from these atrocities carried out by Bashar al-Assad and his aides who belong to all religious sects,” Mohib Nisafi, Yassin Hussein and Mussa Mansour said in a joint statement from Homs.

The clerics denied state media reports that members of the Shiite Alawite sect are being subjected to acts of killing and kidnapping in Homs.

“The daily reports of kidnappings, killings and harassment of members of the Alawite sect are all untrue. They are designed and spread to cause divisions among people united against the regime.”

The clerics said the Assad regime is pursuing a policy of divide and conquer by spreading false reports of sectarian strife between the Shiite Alawites and the Sunnis.

“The children of Homs, Sunnis, Alawite and Christians, have lived and will continue to live in coexistence and harmony.”

“Six months have passed in this revolution and people have been killed or wounded. The climate is ripe for victory. There is no other way left to save the self except by joining the peaceful demonstrations.” The clerics said.

“This regime and its president will not rule you forever.”

Source: al-Arabiya.

Royal Jordanian to resume Libya flights

September 12, 2011

Dubai: Following months of disruptions amid the political turmoil in Libya, Royal Jordanian yesterday said it would shortly resume flights to the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi.

“Royal Jordanian is expected to resume its flights to Benghazi by the end of this week and to Tripoli immediately after,” the Amman-based carrier said in a statement.

Royal Jordanian, which suspended its operations to the two Libyan cities after turmoil erupted in Libya in February, used to operate five weekly flights to Tripoli and two weekly flights to Benghazi before the unrest.

The carrier’s President and CEO, Hussain Dabbas, said in a statement that the airline will restart operations between Amman, and Tripoli and Benghazi once all the necessary approvals are obtained from the concerned authorities — “expected soon” — as well as when the Libyan airports’ readiness to receive flights is ensured.

He added that initially the flights to Benghazi and Tripoli will be “frequent, probably daily”, to accommodate the “strong demand” on travel between the two countries.

Source: Gulf News.

GCC plans five-year aid scheme for Jordan, Morocco

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.

Palestine takes presidency of Arab League

Maan News Agency | September 11, 2011

CAIRO (Ma’an) — Palestine took presidency of the Arab League on Sunday as the council met for its 136th session in Cairo.

Palestine’s representative Barakat al-Farra replaced Oman’s representative as president of the Arab League. On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki will take over as president of the ministerial council.

Al-Farra said he hoped the 136th session would meet the Arab people’s ambitions, the official PA news agency Wafa reported.

“Everybody is looking forward to this session which coincides with major events in the Arab world, namely the Arab Spring, and so it should meet ambitions,” Al-Farra said.

Regarding Palestine, the session should offer political support to the upcoming bid for full UN membership, he said.

Al-Farra highlighted that Arab countries should support the PA financially as the government has struggled to pay civil servant wages. The Arab League should support Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, he added.

“Arab countries that have not fulfilled their pledges made during the successive Arab League summits should pay their dues, and there should be extra financial aid to thwart Israel’s threats to cut off tax revenues to the PA,” Al-Farra said.

The media in Arab countries should help the PA to spread a clear message to the international community confirming that the Palestinian right to self-determination is inalienable and guaranteed by UN resolutions, he added.

Permanent representatives, foreign ministers and the Arab League follow-up committee will hold meetings on the sidelines of the council’s session.

Source: Occupied Palestine WordPress News Blog.

Hamas slams UNRWA for interfering in union activities


GAZA, (PIC)– The Hamas Movement’s department of refugee affairs criticized the UNRWA administration for intervening in the work of labor unions in Gaza and suspending head of the UNRWA’s Arab staff union Suhail Hindi for three weeks.

“The [suspension] decision falls within its attempts to muzzle its employees, break their will and deter them from engaging in any union activities, the refugee department said in a press release on Saturday.

“The UNRWA has no right to control the movement of its employees who are affiliated with unions; this is considered intervention in their freedoms which are internationally protected, it added.

“The UNRWA’s attempts to restrain its employees and their representatives from claiming their rights and acting for their just cause will be doomed to failure, and there is no need for the UNRWA to repeat mistakes which cause it to lose on the moral level.”

For its part, the committee for the rights of refugees denounced the UNRWA for converting itself from a relief foundation into a political and security agency.

The committee accused the administration of the UNRWA of carrying out conspiratorial schemes against the Palestinian refugees and changing its relief role into a dubious political and intelligence role through recruiting a very large number of foreign employees for jobs of no use to the Palestinian people.

It emphasized in a press release its rejection of transferring the UNRWA from a relief agency for refugees into a security and political institution serving foreign agendas aimed at liquidating the issue of Palestinian refugees.

Source: Occupied Palestine WordPress News Blog.

Haneyya: Erdogan’s visit to Gaza historic


GAZA, (PIC)– Palestinian premier in Gaza Ismail Haneyya has said that his government was preparing for the historic visit of Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Strip even it was not yet formally determined.

He said in an interview with the Turkish Anatolia news agency on Sunday that his cabinet has prepared a special committee to prepare for the visit.

Erdogan is to start a four-day tour of Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya on Monday to re-launch cooperation with those countries. He personally expressed a desire to visit Gaza Strip during his Cairo visit.

Haneyya said the Turkish side has not yet formally said if Erdogan will visit Gaza. If he does, Haneyya said, it would be a historic event during which the people of Gaza would show their support for Turkey. “This visit would be a real step in the direction of breaking the cruel blockade. This visit would give the people of Gaza the chance to show their love for Turkey,” he said.

Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and other senior diplomats and suspended military agreements after Israel refused to apologize for killing eight Turks and a Turkish-American on an aid ship that was trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza on May 31, 2010.

Source: Occupied Palestine WordPress News Blog.

Tunisian aid convoy to enter Gaza soon


TUNISIA, (PIC)– The Tunisian aid convoy Karama (dignity) left Carthage airport for Cairo on Saturday afternoon to deliver symbolic humanitarian assistance to the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Tunisian official media said the convoy would enter Gaza through Rafah border crossing carrying medical supplies unavailable in the Strip.

Massive crowds waving Palestinian and Tunisian flags bid farewell to five Tunisian young people and two jurists, members of this aid convoy, on Saturday.

The crowds chanted slogans against the Israeli occupation and its crimes against the Palestinian people especially the blockade on Gaza.

Source: Occupied Palestine WordPress News Blog.

Gulf states condemn Syria ‘killing machine’

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.

Raids ‘intensifying’

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.

Source: al-Jazeera.