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Egypt: Islamists press generals to fire government

News4u-News Desk-Cairo, (PTI) Egypt has ruled out any additional nuke commitments unless Israel signs NPT, even as it asked for making the West Asia a nuclear free zone.
Egypt rejects calls for additional commitments on the shoulders of non-nuclear Arab countries before Israel signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit was quoted by the ministry’s spokesman as saying during a meeting with International Commission on NPT and Disarmament (ICNND) co-chairs Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi.
The minister called upon the ICNND to include Arab demands to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the West Asia, stressing the importance of pressuring Israel to join the treaty.
He also stressed the importance of preserving NPT member states’ right to develop national nuclear programs for peaceful use. Israel is the only country in the Middle East so far to own nuclear heads.

News4u-News Desk-Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood -led parliament has begun drawing up a no-confidence motion against the military-appointed govt, further escalating the Islamists’ increasingly public power struggle with the country’s ruling generals.

The Islamists were also squabbling with liberal and secular groups over the commission that is to draw up the nation’s new constitution.

After the Brotherhood took a clear majority on the 100-member body for itself, 25 other members resigned.

The latest was the representative of Al-Azhar, the pre-eminent institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world.

Yesterday, a meeting between the Islamists and liberals chaired by military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi produced no compromises.

Liberals fear the Islamists plan to impose their religious agenda on the constitution.

Islamists say liberals are a minority who have no popular support.

Relations between the military and the Brotherhood have deteriorated in recent weeks, as the fundamentalist group has pushed for the army to fire the Cabinet for alleged incompetence.

The Brotherhood wants to form a new government, a task it claims is urgent because of Egypt’s deteriorating security and economic situation.

During a heated session in parliament yesterday, lawmakers lambasted Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri’s government for its performance, accusing it of wasting billions of dollars of public funds.

Six Cabinet ministers stormed out in protest.

Lawmakers also started drafting a motion for a vote of no confidence in the government, said parliamentarian Hussein Ibrahim.

He said that parliament, where the Brotherhood and other Islamists hold nearly 75 per cent of the seats, will vote on the measure within two weeks.

“No one can give a kiss of life to a dead government,” lawmaker Osama Yassin said.

While Egypt’s interim constitution does not give parliament the power to dismiss the Cabinet, a no-confidence vote would be a sharp blow to the ruling generals and make it difficult for them to continue backing el-Ganzouri’s government.

 

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Israel to bar UN fact-finding team from entering Jerusalem

News4u-News Desk- Israel cut working relations with the United Nations Human Rights Council and will bar a UN team from entering Israel or the West Bank for a planned investigation of Jewish settlements, the Foreign Ministry said.

Israel accuses the council of having a pronounced anti-Israel bias because of what it says is its disproportionate focus on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

Israeli leaders have been in an uproar over the council’s adoption of a resolution last week condemning Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalemand its decision to send a fact-finding mission to investigate.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announcedIsrael was severing working ties with the council.

“It means that we’re not going to work with them. We’re not going to let them carry out any kind of mission for the Human Rights Council, including this probe,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said he was not surprised by the Israeli move.

“Israel never cooperated with all fact finding missions that were sent and established by the UN to investigate the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians,” he said after meeting his Danish counterpart in Copenhagen.

Much of the international community sees settlement construction on occupied lands the Palestinians seek for a future state as a major impediment to peacemaking, and has pressured Israel to freeze it. 


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Israel ‘horrified’ by France school attack

News4u - News Desk :  JERUSALEM: Israel on Monday said it was “deeply shocked” and “horrified” by a shooting attack at a Jewish school in France, in which an Israeli-French dual citizen and three children were killed.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was “deeply shocked” over the incident, a statement from his bureau said.

“Only a person possessing demonic evil could conduct such a terrible murder of small children at a school,” it quoted him as saying.

French authorities said at least four people were dead in the shooting attack at the Ozar Hatorah school in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

An Israeli relative of a deceased man named him as Jonathan Sandler, originally from Jerusalem, who had left to France last year.

The gunman shot a man outside the school before one of his weapons jammed and he then entered the school grounds where he sprayed the area with bullets, a local prosecutor said.

Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the attack was against Jews and Israel and, as such should alert the international community.

“Jewish children and a teacher were murdered this morning because they were Jewish,” he said in remarks broadcast by military radio. “This just shows the horrors of anti-Semitism, which also manifests in anti-Israeli (acts)… This should be a warning signal to the world.”

Earlier, Israeli Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP that they Jewish state was “horrified” by the attack.

“We trust the French authorities to shed full light on this tragedy and bring the perpetrators of these murders to justice,” he told AFP.

The incident came just days after two previous shootings in the region by a man on a motorbike who killed three soldiers.

Police in southwestern France launched a major manhunt last week after the killing of three paratroopers and the wounding of another in two separate, but connected incidents.AFP

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22 held in Azerbaijan for Iran plot to attack US, Israel missions

News4u-News Desk-Israel and the United States started on Wdnesday their largest-ever air defence drill simulating missile attacks on the Jewish state, officials said.
Israeli public radio quoted an unnamed senior military official saying that the two-week drill is aimed as preparation for any confrontation with arch-foe Iran, which Israel accuses of trying to obtain nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
About 1,000 troops from the US European Command and an equal number of Israeli soldiers are taking part in the Juniper Cobra exercise running through 5th November, the Israeli army said in a statement.
The exercise will test the Arrow (Hetz) system, the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence), the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence System, as well as Patriot and Hawk anti-aircraft systems, media said.
It will simulate the firing of long-range missiles from Israel’s foes Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and toward the end it will include a “live” missile interception, reports said.
The army statement said “the exercise is not in response to any world events” and that planning for the fifth Juniper Cobra drill “started over a year and a half ago.”

News4u-News Desk-BAKU: Azerbaijan has arrested 22 people on suspicion of plotting attacks on the US and Israeli embassies in Baku on behalf of neighbouring Iran, the national security ministry said on Wednesday. 


The arrests come two months after two men were arrested in Azerbaijan, Iran’s northern neighbour, on suspicion of plotting to attack foreigners , including the Israeli ambassador and a rabbi, and after bomb plots in India, Thailand and Georgiathat Israel blamed on Tehran. 

“Twenty-two citizens of Azerbaijan have been arrested by the national security ministry for cooperating with the Iranian Sepah,” its statement said, referring to the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards. “On orders of the Sepah they were to commit terrorist acts against the US, Israeli and other Western states’ embassies and the embassies’ employees,” it said. 

The ministry said that the suspects were recruited from 1999 onwards and trained in the use of weapons and spy techniques at military camps in Iran to enable them to gather information on foreign embassies , organizations and companies in Azerbaijan and stage attacks. 

“Firearms, cartridges, explosives and espionage equipment were found during the arrest,” the statement said, without specifying when or how the arrests were made. 

Tensions between the Islamic republic Azerbaijan have risen in recent months, with a series of arrests in Baku of attack plot suspects with alleged links to Tehran. Iran has been angered by ex-Soviet Azerbaijan’s ties to Israel and its reported purchase weapons from the Jewish state. AFP

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India, Israel to hold another round of talks on FTA

News4u-Business Desk- India and Israel will hold another round of negotiations by the end of March on signing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to achieve a bilateral trade figure of USD 10-15 bn per year.

The two countries had decided on the FTA during the recent visit of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to Tel Aviv.

“There is another round of negotiations towards the end of March and I hope both sides will do their best and by the end of this year we will sign the (FTA) agreement,” Israeli Ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz said.

Speaking on the occasion of 20 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Ushpiz said the agreement will lay the foundation for the two countries to achieve the mark of USD 10-15 billion dollar trade per year.

“Once this is signed, we are going to climb from USD 5 billion year to USD 10-15 billion dollar a year. It was the target which was agreed upon during the visit of External Affairs Minister Krishna,” he said.

He also said that his country would soon open a Consulate inBangalore to focus on activities such as homeland security and high tech agriculture.

Krishna visited Tel Aviv early this month, the first such trip to that region by an Indian Foreign Minister in over a decade.

On the achievements made during the two decade-old relations between the two countries, Ushpiz said, “What we have done in last 20 years is mind-boggling. We have started not from scratch but not from very high levels when it comes to trade.”

“In 20 years we have come from USD 180 million to more than USD 5 billion. 2011 was the first year when we surpassed the line of USD 5 billion,” Ushpiz said.

The Israeli envoy said the two countries have made considerable growth in the agriculture sector.

“We are doing amazing things in agriculture. When we combine our scientific and agri capabilities we can do a lot of things in terms of productivity, quality and also price,” he said.

On the existing defence ties between the two countries, he said, “In our perspective when you are a friend of someone, their livelihood, well being, security of India as a nation, as a society but also an individuals is very important to us.”


 

 

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UN official to brief UNSC on Palestinian humanitarian issues

News4u-News Desk-The Palestinian Authority has refused a recent Israeli proposal to restart peace talks without a complete freeze of settlement activity, a Palestinian official said.
“Israel offered through a mediator from the American administration to resume negotiations” but the PA declined, the official said on condition of anonymity.
“The reason for the refusal is that the Palestinian Authority demands first of all a stop to settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem,” he said.
As part of the proposal, he added, Israel offered to free 400 Palestinian prisoners, extend Palestinian control over parts of the occupied West Bank and remove more checkpoints in the territory.
The Palestinian Authority under the leadership of president Mahmud Abbas has repeatedly said that all Israeli settlement activity must halt before the resumption of peace negotiations that were suspended during the Gaza war at the turn of the year.
Israel has so far refused a complete freeze, offering instead a partial and limited ease on construction.

News4u-News Desk-The United Nations’ humanitarian chief will brief the UN Security Council on Wednesday on the situation in the Palestinian territories and the settlement activities there.

The briefing by Valerie Amos, head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), comes days after the Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour said the settlement activities in the occupied territories by Israel had been “swelling like cancer.”

Mansour had last week said he had discussed with the Security Council President, currently South Africa, that OCHA should brief the UNSC members in detail about the settlement activities, including their numbers and locations.

The US, however, has reservations about such a briefing with US envoy to the UN Susan Rice telling reporters it is not an optimal time for such a briefing.

“My understanding is that there will be a broader briefing about the situation in the territories as well as in parts of southern Israel. We are of the view that this is not of optimal timing or focus but obviously we have no-we respect Valerie Amos and her work broadly around the world, and we will hear the briefing and will respond to it in substance,” she said in United Nation on Wednesday.

Palestine, which is seeking permanent membership of the UN, has said such briefings will help retain the international focus on the “huge danger” that the settlement activities pose for any peaceful solution between Israel and Palestine.

Talks between Israel and Palestine have been deadlocked since September 2010.

Palestine’s bid for permanent membership too has not seen much progress with the US threatening to veto any bid in this regard in the Council.

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Israel to shut down nuclear reactor if war breaks out: Report

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Fearing a possible missile attack on its atomic facility, Israel which has been maintaining nuclear ambiguity, will halt activities at its Dimona reactor if a war breaks out with Iran, a media report has said.

 

The aim of such nuclear stoppage would be to prevent damage to the reactors’ outlying area, should Iranian missiles penetrate the facilities’ defence shields, Ha’aretz reported.

A decision to this effect was taken by the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), which comes directly under the PMO, in coordination with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Home Front Command.

Israel has maintained a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying nuclear capability, but as per foreign media reports has about 200 nuclear arsenals in store.

The working assumption shared by the Home Front Command and the IAEC management officials responsible for the two reactors is that the multilayered defence systems, which feature anti-missile missiles calibrated to intercept missiles at various heights, along with fortified installations, should be sufficiently effective to minimise damage in an attack against the reactors, the report said.

However, any defence system can be penetrated in principle so nuclear activity in the reactors will be halted should warnings come of an impending war.

This stoppage procedure could also be applied in non-war periods of escalated skirmishes that involve rocket attacks against Israel, Ha’aretz said.

The official explanation for this policy is that activity at the reactors is carried out for research purposes, and such research work does not need to be carried out constantly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it said.

The IDF and the IAEC are also said to be prepared for the possibility of an attempted attack on the nuclear reactors during a conflict with Iran, Syria, Hizbollah in Lebanon or Hamas and other Palestinian organisations in the Gaza Strip.

Such attacks could be carried out using missiles, rockets, planes or drones.

The workers at the reactors will however continue to report for duty during War, but will be active in specially fortified installations and bunkers, as happens with workers employed at other infrastructure or security facilities.

Dimona is located within the range of surface-to-surface missiles possessed by Iran, Syria and Hizbollah.

Many believe it can be a target if a regional war breaks out in the region should United States and Israel carry out a military strike against Iranian nuclear installations to prevent it from acquiring nuclear capability.

Washington and Jerusalem have from time to time issued veiled threats against Tehran saying “all options are on the table” to foil the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions, but for the time being have settled for diplomatic options.

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Taliban is not the US’s enemy: Biden

News4u-News Desk-WASHINGTON: The United States has said thatTaliban is not an enemy of America, a move seen as the latest effort of the Obama administration to send an olive branch to the terrorist outfit that ruled Afghanistan before 9/11.

“Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical,” US Vice-President Joe Biden said in an interview to the Newsweek magazine.

“There is not a single statement that the (US) President has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens US interests,” he said.

If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us. So there’s a dual track here, Biden added.

“One, continue to keep the pressure on al-Qaida and continue to diminish them. Two, put the government in a position where they can be strong enough that they can negotiate with and not be overthrown by the Taliban,” he said.

“And at the same time try to get the Taliban to move in the direction to see to it that they, through reconciliation, commit not to be engaged with al-Qaida or any other organization that they would harbor to do damage to us and our allies,” Biden said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney, supporting Biden’s statement, said the Vice-President does not regret having said this.

“We didn’t invade Afghanistan. We did not send US military personnel into Afghanistan because the Taliban were in power. They had been in power. We went into Afghanistan because al-Qaida had launched an attack against the US from Afghanistan,” he said.PTI

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Moshe Katsav, former Israeli president, begins jail term for rape

News4u-News Desk-JERUSALEM: Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav began serving a seven-year prison term for rape on Wednesday, professing his innocence and saying he was being “buried alive”.

The case has captivated the country for more than five years and marked the first time a former Israeli head of state has been jailed. Officials say it proves no one is above the law.

Katsav, 66, was president from 2000 to 2007. He was convicted last year of twice raping an aide when he was a cabinet minister in the late 1990s and sexually assaulting two other women who worked for him while he was president.

“The day will come when the truth will come out,” he said, a pained expression on his face as he pushed through a crowd of friends and reporters outside his home before being driven off to prison.

“The conscience of those who committed this injustice will certainly awaken and you will see that you buried a man alive.”

Katsav was sentenced in March to seven years in prison. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing, but three Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously against his appeal last month. He has asked the court for another hearing with an expanded panel.

“Today a bloody, unrelenting five-and-a-half-year struggle is ending in frustration and rage. I know, and all who know me know, that the accusations are false,” Katsav said before entering Maasiyahu prison, where his cellmate is expected to be a former health minister jailed for taking bribes.

Katsav’s ascent to the presidency, an institution traditionally above Israel’s rough-and-tumble political scene, was almost as dramatic as his downfall.

At 24, the Iranian-born Katsav became Israel’s youngest mayor, a symbol for Sephardim, or Jews of Middle Eastern descent, struggling to climb the political and social ladder in a country long led by Jews of European origin. As a member of the right-wing Likud party, he went on to hold a number of cabinet posts. Parliament elected him president in a surprise victory overShimon Peres, Israel’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning elder statesman, who now holds the office.

In 2007 a long investigation into rape allegations forced Katsav to step down from the presidency in disgrace. His resignation had little impact on Israeli government functions, as the presidency is largely a ceremonial position. Reuters

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Israel Par clears first reading of libel bill amid protests

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An amendment to Israel’s libel law, that critics believe would curtail media freedom, has passed its first reading in the parliament following a stormy debate in which opponents dubbed it a “doomsday weapon” and compared it with “barbaric justice system”.

 

The contentious bill was backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, among other prominent Israeli politicians.

The bill represents an amendment to Israel’s existing libel law, which would make it possible to sue a newspaper for libel, not only for commensurate compensation for any tangible damage caused by the publication, but for an additional sum of NIS 300,000 (USD 80,500 approx) without having to prove damages.

The revised damages for libel violations is six times the existing one, which led to an uproar at the Knesset forum, many arguing that it will erode Israel’s democracy, curbing the freedom of press.

As per the proposed bill, which has to go through second and third reading, if it is proven that a libelous statement was released intentionally and without giving the offended party an opportunity to respond, the sued party could be liable to pay as much as NIS 1.5 million (roughly USD 402,500) in damages.

Lawmaker Uri Orbach of the Habayit Hayehudi party criticised the legislation suggesting that it would disseminate fear among reporters.

“This is going to be a profitable deal for Knesset members, ministers, dignitaries… I almost beg you slander me,” he said sarcastically.

“NIS 300,000. A year’s worth of work at the Knesset. It’s preferable to kill (than to slander). You don’t get a fine like that for manslaughter. I’m telling you, you’ve gone mad,” Orbach asserted.

Blasting the proposed law, Dov Khenin of left wing Hadash party said that “In especially barbaric justice systems, the punishment for libel is cutting out the offender’s tongue”.

“This is exactly what this law suggests we do. We have here a proposal for an extreme, wild, murderous sanction for the publication (of a statement) that did no harm”.

“I feel like even Saudi Arabia doesn’t have such a law,” Khenin added.

Left of Centre Labour party’s Chairperson, Shelly Yachimovich, a former scribe, also spoke out against the measure dubbing it a “doomsday weapon”.

“Libel suits don’t protect regular people, who don’t have lawyers…. This is a weapon held exclusively by those who have power. It’s a weapon held by the rich,” she said.

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