Archive for the ‘ Global Oligarchy ’ Category

French sneak cash to Syrians in direct aid program

October 17, 2012

PARIS (AP) — France has been sneaking large sums of cash — $2 million in all — to civilians in Syria to help rebel-held towns rebuild bakeries, dispose of garbage and set up a police force.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met Wednesday with representatives of about 20 countries to share details about the secret French aid program and encourage others to join it. Five people from local Syrian revolutionary groups that have received the secret funds also attended.

A dozen countries have started or are starting such programs, a French official close to the program told journalists. The United States is among the nations funneling aid to local Syrian councils that provide essential services but it was unclear whether Washington was using the cloak-and-dagger route the French have opted for to hand over cash.

When questioned, the U.S. Embassy said its two representatives at the Paris gathering “focused on ways to better coordinate our assistance.” The French program, which started in early September, aims to help people in rebel-held zones survive, maintain institutions and bolster the civilian face of the Syrian revolution to prepare for a post-President Bashar Assad era.

The French official said after three border handovers of funds, France is now looking for a more efficient way to deliver the money, hopefully thorough a non-governmental organization. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

“In concrete terms, we want to provide aid to a segment of the population that is not covered by the traditional humanitarian channels,” Fabius told the gathering, adding that there was a risk that the Assad regime interferes with aid shipments going through standard channels.

“And, little by little, as these civilian revolutionary committees are elected, these zones are run freely and show what the Syria of tomorrow will be after Bashar has gone,” Fabius told reporters. The Syrian conflict began as peaceful protests in March 2011 against Assad’s regime. Since then, more than 33,000 have been killed, activists say. France has been a leader among western nations seeking the ouster of Assad, pressing for EU sanctions among other things.

The French direct aid is also aimed at easing frustrations among civilians because of the lack of action by the international community, which is blocked in the U.N. Security Council by Syrian allies Russia and China.

The foreign minister conceded that the budget so far for the direct aid — a tenth of the €20 million ($26 million) France is contributing to the rebel war effort in Syria — is small. But, he said, it has assured that more than 300,000 people get bread by renovating three industrial bakeries.

But the task has been onerous and risky. One official with knowledge of the project’s operation said tangible proof of need in a certain town is first established. Then, a French envoy meets at a Syrian border with a carefully chosen member of a local committee.

“The aid is handed over directly with a very strict follow-up,” the official said. Another official, also not authorized to speak publicly about the project, said the meeting point is at the Turkish-Syrian border.

“We wanted to quickly show that it is feasible and possible,” the first official said. The Syrian representatives have provided photos of renovated bakeries, road work and other improvements to daily life. “We proved it is important and very useful.”

Osman Badawi, a pharmacist in the Syrian city of Maraat el Noaman who attended at the Paris meeting, said what his town wants most is a no-fly zone that nations backing the opposition have been unable to deliver. He said that 30-40 homes per day are destroyed by barrels of TNT dropped on the town by government planes.

Fabius said besides using the so-called barrel bombs — containers packed with TNT — on civilians, the Syrian regime was also using cluster bombs. The Assad regime has “entered a new phase in the violence by using MIG (aircraft) and dropping barrels of TNT,” Fabius said.

Badawi, speaking through a translator, said the French direct aid was used to repair a bombed school and a police station, and he’s hoping the Paris meeting will produce more funds. The fighting in Syria has driven tens of thousands from their homes. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Wednesday by telephone that an estimated 2.5 million Syrians, including refugees, are in need of help.

Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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Turkish premier slams Security Council over Syria

October 14, 2012

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister sharply criticized the U.N. Security Council on Saturday for its failure to agree on decisive steps to end Syria’s civil war, as NATO ally Germany backed the Turkish interception of a Damascus-bound passenger jet earlier in the week.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told an international conference in Istanbul that the world was witnessing a humanitarian tragedy in Syria. “If we wait for one or two of the permanent members … then the future of Syria will be in danger,” Erdogan said, according to an official interpreter.

Russia and China, two of the five permanent Security Council members, have vetoed resolutions that sought to put concerted pressure on Damascus to end the conflict and agree to a political transition.

Erdogan called for a reform of the Security Council, which he called an “unequal, unfair system” that didn’t represent the will of most countries. He spoke as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Arab and European leaders amid growing tensions between Turkey and neighboring Syria.

Davutoglu held talks Saturday with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and U.N. envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. He told reporters after the meetings that Turkey was prepared to use force again if it was attacked, just as it did last week when a shell fired across the border from Syria killed five Turkish villagers.

“If a similar incident occurs again from the Syrian side, we will again take counter action,” Davutoglu told reporters, while stressing that the border between Syria and Turkey is also the frontier of NATO.

One week after the shelling, Turkey intercepted a Syrian passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus and seized what it said was military equipment on board. Syria denounced the move as air piracy, while Russia said the cargo was radar parts that complied with international law.

The state-run Syrian news agency SANA reported late Saturday that Syria decided to ban Turkish Airlines flights from Syrian airspace. Germany’s foreign minister backed Turkey on Saturday, saying Berlin would have acted the same way if it believed weapons were being transported to Syria over its airspace.

“It’s not just about weapons. Weapons need to be steered. Weapons need to be delivered,” Westerwelle said. “These are all things that don’t need to be tolerated.” But he cautioned the situation between Turkey and Syria could quickly escalate out of control.

“The danger of a ‘wildfire’ is very big,” said Westerwelle, who also met briefly with Abdelbaset Sieda, head of the Syrian National Council opposition group. “If that happens, then this can become a devastating conflict for the whole region.”

In Syria, activists said Saturday that army troops clashed with rebels on several fronts across the country, including in Aleppo, the largest city. Amateur video posted online Saturday shows the aftermath of what is described as an artillery attack on a neighborhood in Aleppo. The video shows a large cloud of gray smoke pushing through a narrow street lined by apartment blocks. Residents then converge on a damaged building. “Is anyone in there?” one of the men is heard calling out as others try to put out small flames with pieces of cloth.

Eventually, rescuers are seen pulling at least two bodies out of the building. One has a bloody face, and another is carried away on a stretcher, amid shouts of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great. The authenticity of such videos cannot be confirmed independently, since Syria imposes tight restrictions on foreign journalists.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, said at least two people were killed in the shelling. Another amateur video posted Saturday showed the scattered, burning wreckage of what appeared to be an aircraft. Several gunmen stood near the debris, as civilians rushed to the scene. The narrator said video was shot in the countryside west of Aleppo.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the Observatory, said he was told by local rebel fighters in the area that they had shot down the plane. The video showed flames shooting out of what appeared to be left of a wing or tail, and other wreckage a few dozen yards away.

The claim could not be verified independently. Opposition fighters have claimed to have shot down helicopters and warplanes in the past, although the regime blamed most of the problems on mechanical difficulties.

Over the past month, rebels overran two air defense bases, including one on Friday near Aleppo. This would give them access to heavy weapons, though experts questioned whether they would be able to make use of any missiles they may have spirited away.

More than 32,000 people have been killed in Syria since a revolt against President Bashar Assad erupted 19 months ago. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the fighting, which has devastated whole neighborhoods in Syria’s cities and towns.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said regime forces were pounding the rebel stronghold of Homs in central Syria with mortar fire and artillery Saturday. The southern province of Daraa, the birthplace of the revolt, also sustained shelling by the Syrian army throughout Saturday. Fighting between army troops and rebels raged around Idlib province, in and around Aleppo and on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, the Observatory said.

Earlier, Syria’s state-run news agency reported that Damascus supported a proposal by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to find a “mechanism of direct security communication between Syria and Turkey.”

SANA reported that Syrian government officials and Russia’s ambassador in Damascus discussed ways to establish a joint Syrian-Turkish security committee that would “control the security situation on both sides of the border in the framework of respecting the national sovereignty of the two countries.”

Turkey has made no comment on the proposal, and it is unclear whether Moscow has presented it to the Turkish government yet.

Barbara Surk in Beirut and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

French direct aid a dubious break for Syria rebels

September 07, 2012

PARIS (AP) — France’s decision to send direct aid to Syria’s opposition represents a break for the rebels after months of Western hesitation over fears that costly equipment intended for Syria’s opposition could get lost or fall into the wrong hands. But even the French action, rebels and activists say, amounts to so little that it’s all but useless.

France, Syria’s one-time colonial ruler, began sending the aid without intermediaries last week to three regions of Syria where the regime of President Bashar Assad has lost control, in the first such move by a Western power, a diplomat said Wednesday. But it remains limited, primarily repairing bakeries, water systems and schools. And while apparently more than the indirect assistance extended by other Western countries, it’s still far from the magnitude needed to make a difference, Syrian opposition activists said.

In the province of Aleppo, which includes Syria’s largest city, and in the southern province of Daraa, activists said even the new French aid hadn’t helped. When something is broken, it’s locals who must fix it or just make do, said Mohammed Saeed, an activist in the Aleppo area.

“Instead of fixing water systems,” Saeed said, “they should go and give food to 5,000 refugees stuck on the border with Turkey.” France has pushed to secure “liberated zones” in Syria amid mounting calls for the international community to do more to prevent bloodshed. It has increased contact with armed rebel groups and started direct aid deliveries last Friday to local citizens’ councils in five cities outside the government’s control, the diplomatic source said, without disclosing the value of the assistance. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the French actions amid Syria’s violence.

Britain has offered a total of $10 million in non-lethal aid to Syria’s opposition, including medical supplies, communications gear and generators, intended to reach Syria through a small number of trusted intermediaries. Foreign Secretary William Hague says the supplies are for opposition activists — not fighters. U.S. and French officials have made similar comments about the destination of their aid.

“The amounts that have been delivered are even laughable,” said Ausama Monajed, spokesman for the Syrian National Council, one of several groups of Syrians outside their homeland trying to win over Western backing.

Hague said Friday that EU countries can only provide non-lethal aid to Syrian opposition groups because of an EU arms embargo. “At the moment we have a European Union arms embargo on Syria, it’s not possible or legal for any EU nation to send weapons to anybody in Syria and therefore our chosen route and is the same route of France and the United States, is to give non-lethal assistance and we’re doing that,” Hague told reporters in response to a question about whether France may be considering providing arms to the Syrian opposition.

He said Britain is also mulling sending protective clothing that doesn’t fall under the arms ban. Hague has acknowledged that the West is cautious, offering equipment only to a small number of groups and in small batches. He said it had only been possible to send equipment after developing better ties to members of the country’s varied opposition groups, some of whom are directing the deliveries.

The State Department set aside $25 million to supply the political opposition with non-lethal assistance, distributing 900 pieces of equipment through one program called the Conflict Stabilization Office. The gear includes cameras to document atrocities for potential future prosecutions, encrypted radios, phones, laptops and software that can be used to circumvent Internet controls, according to officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details.

The Assad regime, meanwhile, continues to get assistance from its allies in Russia and Iran. The Kremlin has insisted that the continuing Russian arms sales don’t violate any international agreements and scoffed at Western demands to halt the trade. Syria’s arsenal includes hundreds of Soviet-built combat jets, attack helicopters and missiles, as well as thousands of tanks and artillery systems. Russia also has said it has military advisers in Syria training the Syrians to use Russian weapons, and has helped repair and maintain Syrian weapons.

Iran also has been accused of helping to sustain the regime. The U.S. alleged this week that Tehran is flying weapons to the Assad regime across Iraqi airspace. The rebels have also benefited from weapons flowing to the rebels via Turkey, Iraq and elsewhere, according to activists and diplomats. Some of the arms, activists say, are purchased with Saudi and Qatari funds. Other sources are murkier.

In Istanbul, however, a rebel commander denied that the opposition was receiving arms deliveries via Turkey, dismissing the Assad regime’s claims that foreign powers were stirring up the uprising. “If we were given any weapons assistance, the Syrian regime would not be standing now,” Abdul-Qadir Saleh, the commander of the Tawhid Brigade, the main rebel outfit in Aleppo province, told a press conference. “The weapons we have are either looted from Syrian army depots or came with those who defected.”

Peter Harling, of the think tank International Crisis Group, said Syria’s opposition, although divided, was more than capable of handling aid. He criticized European and American diplomatic hesitancy as “a tendency to posture, to make statements as opposed to actual policy-making.”

Harling said words without action would have long-term consequences among Syrians: “There’s a huge disconnect which is causing a lot of frustration and will cause ultimately hostility on the part of Syrians who hear a lot of empty statements but see very little happening on the ground.”

Associated Press writers Paul Schemm in Azaz, Syria; Greg Keller in Paris; David Stringer in London; Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Lebanon; and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Biden to meet Jordan king in Washington

(August 20th 2012, Monday)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden on Monday was to meet King Abdullah II of Jordan, a key US ally in the Middle East that has seen an influx of refugees from the conflict in neighboring Syria.

The two were scheduled to meet at 4:15 pm (2015 GMT) at the vice president’s residence in the US capital, the White House said, without providing further details.

Some 150,000 Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring Jordan since the start of the March 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

The uprising and the government’s brutal crackdown have increasingly come to resemble a civil war, with 23,000 people killed, according to a Syrian human rights group. The United Nations puts the figure at around 17,000.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

Abbas makes statehood bid at UN

Fri Sep 23, 2011

Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmud Abbas has officially submitted his bid for the UN recognition of a Palestinian state to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Abbas handed over the request in a folder adorned with the Palestinian eagle crest on the front to Ban Ki-moon on Friday shortly before addressing the UN General Assembly.

The UN secretary general opened the folder briefly to study it.

Addressing the General Assembly, Abbas said that he decided to request for UN membership of his state after Israel smashed all efforts to reach a peace through talks.

“All of these sincere efforts and endeavors undertaken by international parties were repeatedly smashed against the rocks of the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September,” he said.

He also described the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands as the main cause of the collapse of peace talks, adding that the PA is ready to return to negotiations if Tel Aviv halts its settlement activities.

Abbas received a standing ovation for his speech.

He also called on the Security Council to immediately approve full Palestinian membership at the UN, saying the time has come for Palestinians to be given the right to be called citizens of their own state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to address the UN General Assembly after Abbas.

Source: PressTV.
Link: http://www.presstv.com/detail/200801.html.

Syria refugees fear long stay as French aid reaches Jordan

By Kamal Taha | AFP
(August 13 2012 Monday)

French military medics started on Sunday to set up a field hospital at Jordan’s main camp for Syrian refugees, as residents expressed fear that their stay could turn into a long one.

Refugees gathered to watch 85 French medical officers assemble the hospital of 30 large khaki tents as well as 80 tones of medical equipment and aid supplies at the desert camp outside the city of Mafraq in northern Jordan.

“We are all here, officers and civilians, for the same reason: helping Syrian refugees,” Colonel Yannick Rio, head of the mission, told AFP.

An Antonov transport aircraft landed in Amman on Saturday with the equipment, in the first consignment of French supplies being flown in for Syrian refugees in Jordan.

“The material has arrived and for the surgical component, which is the core of our mission, we have got all that is needed. We are going to coordinate with international organizations and NGOs to see the needs of the refugees,” said Rio.

“The core of the hospital’s mission is war surgery, which means treating those who were injured in the conflict … We are counting on Jordanian authorities to evacuate the injured and bring them here.”

Jordan is hosting more than 150,000 Syrian refugees, and many of them came under Syrian army fire as they fled their country into the kingdom.

“We have implemented a medical and surgical service based essentially on a surgical unit specialized in treating war injuries,” chief surgeon Patrick Tirolle told AFP.

“Another part (of the mission) will be operated by general practitioners to offer medical assistance to the camp’s residents,” said Tirolle, adding that a vaccination centre is being prepared to deal with “any risk of epidemic.”

But while welcoming the French initiative, some refugees were concerned the new installations signal a drawn-out stalemate in the Syrian conflict.

“This is a priceless humanitarian work because there are many people here in the camp who need surgical operations and other medical help,” Khalil Alkeh, a camp resident from Deraa, a flashpoint in southern Syria, told AFP.

“But I would prefer to see a military action to arm the rebels and help them topple the (Syrian) regime. We are sick of this situation that is taking too long,” he said.

The UN-administered Zaatari camp, opened in July, has so far taken in 6,000 refugees and it can house up to 120,000 people.

“This French assistance is good,” said Nawal, a mother of five from Homs, another hotspot in Syria’s revolt. “But I am worried because this means our hardship is just starting. This situation would take a long time.”

According to Colonel Gerard Dosseh, the head doctor, “26 people (in the French team) have experience in dealing with difficult health situations and catastrophes.”

His colleague Patrick Tirolle believes the team’s capacity is limited. “We have only one operations room, which can accommodate up to 10 people,” but “for pure treatment, there is no limit,” he said.

As work was underway to install the tents, a group of children gathered to watch.

“We thought they (the French team) were distributing shoes because yesterday (Saturday) some other people were giving shoes. By the time I arrived, everything was gone,” said 11-year-old Muath Abdel Karim, staring at the French soldiers.

“Our shoes were torn off when we ran away from Syria,” he added.

The refugees have complained about hot weather, dust and lack of electricity at the Zaatari camp, where average temperatures in the summer are around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Jordanian Information Minister Samih Maaytah said on Sunday that the tents in Zaatari will soon be replaced by caravans.

Panetta, Jordan’s king agree Assad must step down

August 02, 2012

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — A spokesman for U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Pentagon chief and Jordan’s King Abdullah agree that Syrian leader Bashar Assad must give up power.

Spokesman George Little made the statement after Panetta met with the king in Amman on Thursday. Little said the two men discussed the prospects for a political transition after Assad is gone. They also discussed the problem of Syrian refugees entering Jordan, Little said.

Jordan was the final stop on Panetta’s five-day, four-country trip to the Middle East and North Africa.

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