China tops US, Japan to Be Top Patent Filer

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Lee Chyen Yee

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China became the world’s top patent filer in 2011, surpassing the United States and Japan as it steps up innovation to improve its intellectual property rights track record, a Thomson Reuters research report showed on Wednesday.

The report said the world’s second-largest economy aimed to transform from a “made in China” to a “designed in China” market, with the government pushing for innovation in sectors such as automobiles, pharmaceuticals and technology.

However, legal experts said China would need to do more before it can lead the world in innovation as the quality of patents needed to improve.

The government provided attractive incentives for companies in China to file patent applications, regardless of whether a patent was eventually granted, they said.

“The idea of subsidizing patents is not bad in itself, however it is a blunt instrument because you get high figures for filings, but it does not tell you anything about the quality of the patents filed,” said Elliot Papageorgiou, a Partner and Executive at law firm Rouse Legal (China).

“One thing is volume, quality is quite another. The return, or the percentage of grants, of the patents is still not as high in China as, say, in the U.S., Japan or some places in Europe,” he said.

The Thomson Reuters report said published patent applications from China were expected to total nearly 500,000 in 2015, following by the United States with close to 400,000 and Japan with almost 300,000.

Published applications from China’s patent office have risen by an average of 16.7 percent annually from 171,000 in 2006 to nearly 314,000 in 2010, data from Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index showed.

During the period, Japan had the highest volume, followed by the United States, China, Korea and Europe, the report said. It did not give figures for 2011.

“The striking difference among these regions is China — it is experiencing the most rapid growth and is poised to lead the pack in the very near future,” it said.

Of total patents filed in China, the percentage of domestic applications rose to nearly 73 percent in 2010 from less than 52 percent in 2006, indicating that Chinese companies have outpaced foreign entities in the patent boom.

In terms of patents overseas, Chinese companies have also been climbing in the rankings, according to data from the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO).

In 2010, China’s No.2 telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp was second on the list of applicants, ranking just behind Japan’s Panasonic Corp.

U.S. chip maker Qualcomm Inc came in third, while China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, the world’s second-largest telecom gear maker, was fourth, according to WIPO.

Chinese companies have been trying to be more innovative as they transform from contract manufacturers to regional and global brand names producing higher end products to improve margins.

Patent filings have also increased among Chinese companies due to legal battles that they have had to fight, especially in the telecommunications sector. For instance, Huawei and ZTE have been embroiled in patent disputes over fourth-generation wireless technology.

(Reporting by Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Chris Lewis)

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Arab Films Showcase Turbulent Year

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Regan Doherty

DFI-DTFF_englishDOHA (Reuters) – The Arab Spring of pro-democracy uprisings features prominently — both directly and more subtly — in the selections at the third annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival, kicking off in the Qatari capital this week.

The festival, launched in 2009 in the tiny Gulf Arab state, seeks to showcase the work of Arab filmmakers who this year were able to draw on the momentous political changes in their own countries for artistic inspiration.

Highlights include “Rouge Parole,” set in the tumult of revolutionary Tunisia, which charts the expulsion of its president and the country’s first steps toward democracy.

Sherif El Bendary’s “On the Road to Downtown,” set in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, follows the lives and hopes of six people connected in different ways to the city’s downtown core.

“Our selection of documentaries provides for reflection on political change. But we also offer a number of films that look into private worlds and subtler aspects of the Middle Eastern experience that are not always evident to political observers,” said the festival’s Chief Arab Programer, Hania Mroue.

“The Virgin, the Copts and Me” takes on an otherworldly subject in investigating the appearance of the Virgin Mary to millions of Egyptians via a videotape on which only true believers can see her image.

“This is a very important film for post-revolutionary Egypt, as it sheds light on the Coptic community, which was taboo to do a few years ago,” Mroue said.

The Algerian title “Normale” examines what happened in the Algerian street as neighboring countries’ dictators were being toppled.

“The youth in Algeria felt they could now express themselves more freely. The film addresses the revolution in a very subtle way,” she said.

Lina Alabed’s “Yearning” focuses on the lives of women in Damascus and their approach to personal freedom in a society dominated by men.

Women are also the focus in two sports documentaries that examine the taboos surrounding women and boxing in Tunisia (“Boxing with Her”), and the life-altering experience of a young women’s basketball team in northern Iraq (“Salaam Dunk”).

Other headliners include the world premiere of “Black Gold” with Antonio Banderas, set in the 1930s at the dawn of the oil boom and the first major motion picture shot in Qatar.

Laila Hotait Salas’ “Crayons of Askalan” recreates the powerful story of Palestinian artist Zuhdi al Adawi, imprisoned at the age of 15 in Israel’s notorious Askalan jail.

Qatar launched the film festival as a partnership between the Doha Film Institute and Tribeca Enterprises, which also operates New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Created as a way to rejuvenate lower Manhattan after the September 11, 2001 attacks which destroyed the World Trade Center, the Tribeca Film Festival in New York has become a showcase for international films with a political edge.

Organizers said the Doha event aims to do the same, using the festival to shine a spotlight on Arab cinema.

“We don’t want to focus only on the big names, we want to give a space also for new voices, especially from the region,” Mroue said.

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Islamic Parties Rise

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Political Islam will have to deal with clashing interests

Religion remains an unavoidable reference for the Arabs and as such will be critical in building the future

By Tariq Ramadan

2011-10-25T200235Z_715025985_GM1E7AQ0BBL01_RTRMADP_3_TUNISIA

Supporters of the Islamist Ennahda movement celebrate outside Ennahda’s headquarters in Tunis October 25, 2011. The party said on Tuesday it had won more than 40 percent of seats in Sunday’s election, pledging to continue democracy after the first vote that resulted from the “Arab Spring” revolts sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Over the last few weeks the new Libyan leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), has been repeating, “Sharia will be the main reference and will be implemented in Libya.” Several of his references to Islamic legislation came in the presence of western politicians and intellectuals like the pro-Israel French self-styled philosopher Bernard Henri Levy, who, surprisingly, did not react with any shock whatsoever. Surprising indeed! It was as if Abdul Jalil was determined to show that the ‘Libyan revolutionaries’ were truly independent and not supported or protected by France, the US, or the West. The West kept silent, though some media have asked pointed questions about whom the French, the Americans and the British were supporting.
Given Libya’s extremely complex political situation, Abdul Jalil’s statement was timely and very smart. He referred intentionally to concepts seen as very controversial in the West to make it clear to the Libyan people he was not a western puppet. In a way that seemed weird to a western ear, he spoke of Sharia and polygamy, knowing that for the emotionally wrought Libyan Muslims he was offering proof of his complete independence (such references are of course demonised in the West). For France, Britain and the US it was a way to show the world that Libya was now “on its own;” time for Nato to allow the new Libya to build its future by relying on its own traditions. The religious and political reference to Islam thus serves to appease the Muslims and lend traditional and religious legitimacy to the NTC while concealing the West’s tri-dimensional — military, geopolitical and economic — penetration of Libya.

The Arab uprisings are showing that the peoples of the region are drawn to freedom, dignity and justice but are not prepared to betray their traditions and religious beliefs. The recent victory of Tunisia’s Islamist party, Al Nahda, in that country’s constituent elections, underlines a historical reality: Islam remains an unavoidable reference for the Arabs and as such will be critical in building the future, especially through the democratic process by which peoples are now able to express their political demands, their concerns about identity and their economic hopes. The conservative parties that invoke Islam in one way or another (hence the Islamists as well) are gaining ground and achieving greater political legitimacy. They are operating on three distinct levels: acceptance of democratic rules, preservation of the nation’s Islamic identity and readiness to open their markets to the dominant economic powers and the multinational corporations.

The Turkish example has set a precedent: no one can deny that the AKP — coming from an Islamist background — is proving its leadership’s success in these very three fields: they are religiously conservative, geopolitically prepared to deal with all the western powers (including, until recently, Israel), and economically integrated into the dominant capitalist system. They have shown great openness (with the EU) and demonstrated considerable flexibility. The West can indeed do business with any Islamist party that evidences a similar willingness to adapt and to collaborate, from Al Nahda to the Muslim Brotherhood. Things are moving fast in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena); the new political strategies are based on new economic and geopolitical concerns, driven by the active presence of new state actors in the region: Brazil, Russia, India and China (Bric). The West has no time to waste in the race to win Arab minds, hearts and money.

In these highly complex political and economic games, one issue stands out as crucial. The western countries have shown in the past that they have no major problem in dealing with political Islam to protect their interests. Given the presence of the Bric’s countries, they have no choice as the latter are ready to establish strong political and economic ties whatever the situation in the respective Arab countries.

Stance against Israel

The key factor will be Israel. All the Islamist parties have taken strong position against the Zionist state (even Turkey recently), which is the reason for their broad popular support (including the current Iranian regime). The Islamists may well be ready to promote the democratic process and to participate fully in the dominant economic system (the great majority of the Islamist parties accept it today) but they remain quite explicit in their stance against Israel. Here lies the core of the acute tensions and contradictions in the US and the European countries: they need to be involved in Mena but they cannot distance themselves from Israel. Meanwhile, the Bric countries do not have the same historical alliance with Israel and they seem ready to challenge the western bias towards the Middle East conflict.

The Islamic reference is at the heart of the debate in the Arab world.

Political Islam is at the crossroads: it faces numerous challenges and must deal with conflicting interests. Only a comprehensive approach can give us a sense of what is at stake. Many trends — even some Islamist parties — are playing with Islam in an attempt to gain legitimacy.

There can be no doubt that politics corrupts. Who, in the Arab countries, will be able to hold power while respecting the Islamic imperatives of dignity, justice and transparency — let alone truly supporting the just cause of Palestine?

Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University and a visiting Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Qatar. His new book Islam and the Arab Awakening will be out this month.

Gulf News

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Assad Meets Arab ministers; 20 Killed in Clashes

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) – At least 20 people died in clashes and strikes paralyzed parts of Syria, as President Bashar al-Assad met Arab ministers seeking to end months of violence and authorities held a mass rally to show support for him.

The official state news agency quoted the head of the Arab League delegation, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, as saying the talks on Wednesday were “cordial and frank” and that the ministers would meet Syrian officials again on October 30.

In the central city of Homs, a hotbed of opposition to Assad, people held a general strike to protest against his crackdown on seven months of unrest, in which the United Nations says 3,000 people have been killed.

Residents and activists said most employees stayed at home and shops were closed in the city of one million. One resident said armed opponents of Assad enforced the strike. Army gunfire, which killed 11 people across Syria on Wednesday, also kept people off the streets.

Residents and activists said most employees stayed at home and shops were closed in the city of one million. One resident said insurgents enforced the strike. Army gunfire, which killed 11 people across Syria on Wednesday, also kept people off the streets.

In the town of Hamrat, north of Homs, suspected army deserters killed nine soldiers in an attack on a bus with a rocket-propelled grenade, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It was the latest incident in an armed insurgency emerging alongside the campaign of street protests.

Assad faces international pressure over his crackdown, with the United States and the European Union slapping sanctions on Syrian oil exports and businesses, helping drive the economy into recession.

“This will end with the fall of the regime. It is nearly unavoidable,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday.

“But unfortunately it could take time because the situation is complex, because there is a risk of civil war between Syrian factions, because surrounding Arab countries do not want us to intervene,” he told French radio.

ARAB MISSION

In Umayyad Square in central Damascus, tens of thousands of people gathered for what has become a weekly show of support for Assad organized by authorities.

State television showed them waving Syrian flags and portraits of the president, saying they were rallying under the slogan “Long live the homeland and its leader.”

The rally took place before the envoys from six Arab nations arrived in Damascus for talks with Assad following their call on October 16 for the opposition and government to hold a dialogue within 15 days at the League headquarters in Cairo.

“What is hoped is that the violence will end, a dialogue will start and reforms will be achieved,” Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said of the delegation, which is led by Qatar and also includes Egypt, Algeria, Oman, Sudan and Yemen.

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Libya Tour Operators Eye Post-war Boom for Neglected Destinations

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Alexander Dziadosz

2011-10-12T143705Z_53610923_GM1E7AC1M4C01_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA-TOURISM

A view of the ruins at the ancient city of Leptis Magna in Al Khums, some 81 miles east of Tripoli, in this April 15, 2011 file photo. The coastal country of Libya has all the makings for a vibrant tourism business, they say: warm weather, beaches, antiquities and proximity to Europe – all factors that helped the industry thrive in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia. If developed, tourism could eventually help dent Libya’s high jobless rate by creating work for tour guides, drivers, restaurant workers and hotel staff, as well as help it diversify its economy away from dependency on oil and gas.                                

REUTERS/Louafi Larbi/Files

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – A holiday in Libya may sound like an absurdity now, but many of the country’s tour operators and officials are already starting to predict a bright future for the travel industry once the dust of war settles.

The coastal country has all the makings for a vibrant tourism business, they say: warm weather, beaches, antiquities and proximity to Europe — all factors that helped the industry thrive in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia.

If developed, tourism could eventually help dent Libya’s high jobless rate by creating work for tour guides, drivers, restaurant workers and hotel staff, as well as help it diversify its economy away from dependency on oil and gas.

The fact that operators are thinking about resuming business at all — some predicted tourists would start arriving again within a year — testifies to the relative peace that has prevailed in Tripoli and other parts of Libya since the former rebels ousted Muammar Gaddafi’s forces from the capital in August.

One company, Sherwes Travel, already advertises a three-day, 295-euro tour of “post-war Libya” on its website, featuring visits to sites in Tripoli and to the Roman ruins of Leptis Magna. Employees admit it may be a bit optimistic.

“The tour was very popular, actually. But not now, not yet,” said Ibrahim Usta, the company’s self-described international customer assistant. He said while some potential visitors had been in touch, it was not yet possible to bring them to Libya.

“We have many inquiries right now, but the problem is mainly security and visas,” he said. “There’s no (visa) system in place and many embassies are not functioning.”

Usta and others said tourism was languishing before the revolt because of apathy, incompetence, complex visa requirements, draconian police oversight and mercurial regulations under Gaddafi’s government.

Sabri Ellotai, manager of Sabri Tours and Travel, described bringing a group of Germans in 2009 only to have them turned away at the airport because they did not have an Arabic translation for their passports — a requirement he had never heard of before.

“I heard about it (the law) at the airport,” Ellotai said, shaking his head.

He and others said they hoped the country’s new rulers — currently represented by the interim National Transitional Council (NTC) — would be able to do more with the industry when the war is over.

NTC forces are still fighting to take over Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and a few other bastions of Gaddafi loyalists, which has impeded efforts to set up effective government nationwide and restart oil production.

Libya’s lucrative oil and gas industry made tourism less of a priority than in Egypt and Tunisia, where it was a major contributor of jobs and foreign revenues before the uprisings in those countries.

Libyan central bank official Ali Shnebesh estimated tourism could account for between 3 and 4 percent of the economy within five to ten years, depending on how much effort the country’s new government puts into it.

“It would decrease unemployment, since we have a lot of areas that are good for tourism,” he said. “It would put thousands of our people to work in these places in many sectors — telecommunications, transportation, hotels — everywhere.”

It is difficult to tell how much tourism contributed to Libya’s economy before the revolt because it was not tracked as a separate industry in central bank records, but Shnebesh estimated it was below half a percent of gross domestic product.

That compares to Egypt, for instance, where officials said it accounted for over 11 percent before the revolt.

There is plenty of evidence of the lax oversight at the ancient Greek colony of Cyrene, which was featured in the chronicler Herodotus’s “The Histories” and is now a UNESCO world heritage site, in the eastern Jebel al-Akhdar region.

The site is overgrown with weeds and graffiti etched onto one of its old columns. A renovation crew of Italians, Americans and French fled after the uprising started, guards there said.

Jamal Salem, 50, sitting in the afternoon sun outside a souvenir shop filled with woven baskets, photographs and ceramic statues still on display, said there weren’t many visitors even before the revolt.

“A lot of people think Libyans are terrorists, and so they’re afraid of coming here,” he said. “We hope the picture will become clearer now, and that things will get better.”

Others lingering in the area of Cyrene said they also hoped the revolt would help stamp out what they saw as widespread corruption and regional favoritism in the industry.

“Before, companies had their headquarters in Tripoli. They brought the cars from Tripoli, they brought the translators from Tripoli, everything. Nobody here benefited from it at all,” Hussein Saleh, who volunteered to help guard Cyrene, said.

Others near Cyrene and other sites said they also hoped a new government would show more interest in preserving relics.

“We’re expecting a better future, and maybe more interest in renovating the antiquities,” said Muftah Mabrook, a 35-year-old researcher at the ancient Greek port of Apollonia, a picturesque collection of columns and other ruins set against the sea.

While such ambitions are running high, it’s too soon to say how the situation will turn out.

Tripoli’s atmospheric old city is slowly coming back to life as jewelry shops and cafes reopen up in its winding streets, for instance, but many alleys are still littered with bullet casings.

In some areas, young men with Kalashnikov assault rifles sit smoking and chatting on stoops or around street corners. They are friendly, for the most part, as they smile and wave at foreign passersby, but their presence is not likely to encourage most holidaymakers.

The relative lack of English and French language speakers, as well as the ban on alcohol, may also make it hard for Libya to compete on a large scale with Egypt and Tunisia even after the war is finished, some operators say.

But Usta, like many others, was confident the industry would eventually thrive.

“We have everything. We have the desert, we have the sea, we have mountains. We just need the right people in the right place.”

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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Analysis: Indonesia’s Cup of Cocoa Woes Could Cheer World Market

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Lewa Pardomuan and Michael Taylor

2011-09-30T093534Z_809907537_GM1E79U1CRP01_RTRMADP_3_CHOCOLATE-CHANGESSINGAPORE/JAKARTA (Reuters) – A plunge in Indonesia’s cocoa exports spotlights a flagging battle against disease and adverse weather, but the country’s supply disruptions could allay fears of another global surplus and stem a seven-month slide in prices.

Although the outlook for world grindings may be clouded by the threat of recession, shrinking output in third-largest cocoa producer Indonesia will help balance the market in the next crop year after supply exceeded demand by 450,000 tons this year.

“Indonesia is clearly the one bullish point that we expect in the cocoa market,” said Kona Haque, a commodity strategist at Macquarie Bank in London.

“Everything else right now is slightly on the bearish side, including grindings demand, which is probably going to be weaker than expected, and equally West African production could be higher than expected.”

Indonesia launched a $350 million program in 2009 to boost production to more than 600,000 tons within 4 to 5 years, but it has yet to show results, with bad weather, growers’ failure to follow advice on planting techniques and mismanagement working against the campaign.

Instead of rising, output is likely to plunge more than 30 percent to around 400,000 tons this year, but that will be enough to meet demand from the Indonesia’s thriving grinding sector.

“DIABOLICAL” WET WEATHER

Wet weather wreaked havoc on the crop this year and brought back the Vascular-streak Dieback (VSD) disease to plantations across the main growing island of Sulawesi, killing trees and curbing exports since at least March.

“The fact that Indonesia is struggling is a very supportive factor. VSD is a killer. There is no cure for it, you can’t spray — the only thing they can do is cut down the trees and re-plant,” said Gary Mead, editor at WorldCrops.

“We might be in a structural period where Indonesia just gets a lot of rainfall for the next few years, and that would be pretty diabolical for the cocoa sector.”

The International Cocoa Organization expects the cocoa market to be in balance or possibly see a small surplus in the next crop year to September 2012 — bucking the market consensus view of a small deficit.

The ICCO estimated a surplus of 325,000 tons in the crop year ending this month — a bearish factor which caused cocoa futures to fall from a 32-year high at $3,775 a ton in March to current levels around $2,700.

Commodity trader Olam International estimated surplus in the current year to be as high as 450,000 tons. [ID:nL3E7KQ0L6]

But supply constraints in Indonesia, which may last through next year if erratic weather persists, could force traditional buyers such as Malaysia, the United States and Brazil to turn to West Africa, where beans are plentiful after a bumper crop, and ease supply there.

Indonesia’s falling output had contributed to a global supply shortage in the crop year to September 2009.

Cocoa exports from Sulawesi tumbled 76.7 percent in August to 8,421.50 tons on the year, and the country’s total shipments could fall 40 percent to 200,000 tons in 2011, their lowest in at least seven years.

VSD is the latest in a series of pest and disease risks Indonesia has battled for years to eradicate, among them the cocoa pod borer, which has persisted since the 1980s.

The revitalization program launched two years ago aimed to fix the problem by handing out free fertilizer to boost the productivity of cocoa trees over an area of 145,000 hectares, the replanting of old trees and the production of better seeds.

“The general perception is this program has made the parties in the middle richer — I mean those who are contracted to provide seeds and so on. The money hasn’t gone down to the farmers,” said an exporter in Makassar, the provincial capital of South Sulawesi.

“There’s no news of an increase in production.”

Government officials said the program was on track despite minor glitches such as farmers mishandling the seeds or young cocoa trees which are to be planted to replace old ones.

“The program is still going on and I heard it will be extended to 2014,” said Soetanto Abdoellah, research head at the state-sponsored Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute.

“We also focus on quality improvement. We have started working on bean quality improvement, involving many farmers.”

About 90 percent of Indonesian cocoa growers are smallholders, which has crimped expansion for decades.

INDONESIAN GRINDERS CHASE LOCAL BEANS

The main crop in Sulawesi, which was badly hit by disease, is over. The market has turned its attention to the smaller crop due to start next month and so far progressing smoothly.

Farmers and grinders hope the heavy rain of the dreaded La Nina weather phenomenon does not return.

Indonesian grinders are forecast to process 400,000 tons of beans into chocolate ingredients in 2012, up 43 percent from this year’s 280,000 tons, to meet growing demand from consumers in Asia at a time when demand in Europe and the United States may falter.

Indonesia is also attracting companies such as U.S. giant Cargill , which plans to invest $113 million to set up a cocoa grinding plant in Sulawesi.

“Cocoa bean exports from Indonesia will tend to fall because of rising domestic demand estimated at more than 400,000 tons in 2012,” said Piter Jasman, chairman of the Indonesian Cocoa Industry Association.

He expected strong consumption to help prices stabilize at $3,000 a ton, and production to eventually reach 600,000 tons a year.

Global cocoa consumption has been growing at about 1.5 percent each year, analysts say, with total global net production estimated at 3.736 million tons and global grindings at 3.829 million for the 2011-2012 season.

So the supply worries won’t go away any time soon.

“The industry has been plagued with concerns about disease and the quality of the crop,” said Abah Ofon, commodities analyst at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore. “That is going to put pressure on supply in the next harvest now.”

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Libya’s NTC thinks Gaddafi Near Algeria

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Joseph Logan and Sherine El Madany

SIRTE (Reuters) – Libya’s new rulers said on Wednesday they believed fugitive former leader Muammar Gaddafi was being shielded by nomadic tribesmen in the desert near the Algerian border, while his followers fend off assaults on his hometown.

Intense sniper and artillery fire from pro-Gaddafi fighters has so far prevented National Transitional Council (NTC) forces from taking Sirte despite more than two weeks of fighting and two full-on assaults.

One of Gaddafi’s last two bastions, it has withstood a siege, NTC tank and rocket fire as well as NATO air strikes, and the United Nations and international aid agencies are worried about conditions for civilians trapped inside.

More than a month since NTC fighters captured the capital Tripoli, Gaddafi remains defiantly on the run pledging to lead a campaign of armed resistance against the new leaders.

Gaddafi himself may be holed up near the western town of Ghadames, near the Algerian border, under the protection of Tuareg tribesmen, a senior NTC military official said.

“There has been a fight between Tuareg tribesmen who are loyal to Gaddafi and Arabs living there (in the south). We are negotiating. The Gaddafi search is taking a different course,” Hisham Buhagiar told Reuters, without elaborating.

Many Tuaregs, nomads who roam the desert spanning the borders of Libya and its neighbors, have backed Gaddafi since he supported their rebellions against the governments of Mali and Niger in the 1970s and allowed them to settle in Libya.

Buhagiar said Gaddafi’s most politically prominent son, Saif al-Islam, was in the other final loyalist holdout, Bani Walid, and that another son, Mutassem, was in Sirte.
Lack of coordination and division at the front-line have been hampering NTC attempts to capture Sirte and Bani Walid.

Fighting continued on separate eastern and western fronts in Sirte on Wednesday and commanders said they would try to join the two fronts together and take the city’s airport.

“There is progress toward the coastal road and the airport…. The plan is for various brigades to invade from other directions,” NTC fighter Amran al-Oweiwi said.

Street-fighting was under way at a roundabout 2 km (1.5 miles) east of the town center, where anti-Gaddafi fighters were pinned down for a third day by sniper and artillery fire.

As NATO planes circled overhead, NTC forces moved five tanks to the front but were immediately met with Grad rockets fired from inside the town, missing the tanks by only yards.

A Reuters crew at the scene saw several NTC fighters flee the front-line under heavy fire while others stood their ground.

“If I die, I’ll die proud,” one fighter shouted as he left a group of hiding comrades and ran back to the front.

“At the buildings! At the buildings!” an NTC commander ordered fighters manning the tanks, in an apparent attempt to target snipers, as thick black smoke rose over the town.

On the western front, fighters leapt into pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns and anti-aircraft guns and raced in the direction of the airport.

Medical workers said 15 fighters were killed in Sirte on Tuesday, the highest single-day death toll. Two more, including a senior NTC field commander, were killed on Wednesday. More than 100 fighters were wounded, many from sniper fire.

NTC fighters captured 60 African mercenaries in Sirte on Wednesday. They said most had come from Chad and Mali to fight with Gaddafi loyalists.

A commander leading the attack on Sirte said on Tuesday he was in talks with elders inside the city about a truce, but the head of an anti-Gaddafi unit on the east rejected negotiations.

In Tripoli, a senior NTC officer said his fighters, on entering Sirte two days ago, had found and seized a helicopter under camouflage that appeared to have been made ready for a swift departure. He told Reuters he suspected the helicopter was assigned for the use of a senior official of the ousted Gaddafi government, possibly one of Gaddafi’s sons.

GADDAFI CLAN STILL VOCAL

As the fighting continues, humanitarian organizations are sounding the alarm about the possibility of civilian casualties in the town. Gaddafi’s spokesman has said NATO air strikes and NTC shelling are killing civilians.

NATO and the NTC deny that. They say Gaddafi loyalists are using civilians inside Sirte as human shields and have kidnapped and executed those they believe to be NTC supporters.

“Our main worry is the people being displaced because of the fighting,” said Jafar Vishtawi, a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), near Sirte.

Civilians fleeing the town have said there is no power, little water and that the local population is terrified.

Taking the last two Gaddafi strongholds and finding the toppled leader would bring the NTC closer to establishing their credibility as the country’s new rulers.

A Syria-based television station that has been broadcasting audio speeches by Gaddafi, reported on Tuesday that Gaddafi had addressed his supporters and urged them to fight in a speech broadcast on a local radio station in Bani Walid. The report by Arrai television could not be independently verified.

In a separate development, NTC justice minister Mohammed al-Alagi said he was ready to work with Scottish authorities to probe the possible involvement of others in the Lockerbie bombing apart from the sole Libyan convicted for the attack.

His remark reversed a position he took only on Monday, when he said that as far as Libya was concerned the case of the bombing of the U.S.-bound airliner over the Scottish village of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives was closed.

Scottish prosecutors had asked Libya’s NTC to give them access to papers or witnesses that could implicate more suspects in the attack, possibly including Gaddafi himself.

(Additional reporting by William MacLean and Alexander Dziadosz in Tripoli, Emad Omar in Benghazi, Samia Nakhoul in London, Christian Lowe and Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers; Writing by Barry Malone; Editing by Peter Graff and Louise Ireland)

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Hillary Clinton Speaks at Eid ul-Fitr Reception

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Hillary Clinton

Ben Franklin Room

2011-09-01T141308Z_1393267109_GM1E7911PY301_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA-CONFERENCE

File: Hillary Clinton in Paris September 1, 2011.

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you, Farah.  Thank you.  Well, I am a wannabe athlete – (laughter) – and I have absolutely no claim to being anything other than that, but I am delighted that this evening we are going to be honoring some young people who truly are athletes and who are carving their own futures in the history of our country.

So good evening everyone.  Eid Mubarak.  And thank you, Farah, for your tireless efforts on behalf of the work that brings you not only to this podium but around the world.

It is a delight to see so many ambassadors from countries that I have visited and know well and to see many familiar faces here again, particularly some of the youth leaders that we honored at our last Iftar dinner.  The problem with Ramadan in August is it was impossible, and so we thought, well, it’s September but we’re going forward.  And so I thank you for your understanding and your being here once again.

Now, I’m told that there are two members of Congress with us, Representatives Keith Ellison and Sheila Jackson Lee, and I send a special word of welcome to them.

As Farah said, you can see through the lobby and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms some of our history of presidents affirming America’s respect for Muslims and Islam dating back to Washington, Adams, and Jefferson.  And we celebrate that history, and particularly today we wanted to celebrate sports and athletic competition.  Whether it be the Olympics or the World Cup, the human drive to run faster and climb higher is universal, and universally celebrated.  And it’s also a way by which talent rises to the top, ability is what matters, and people are treated equally.

And that’s part of the reason the State Department sponsors sports exchange programs and sends sports ambassadors around the world.  And for all the athletes joining us this evening, you may never have thought of yourself exactly as a role model, but you are.  And you are not only to the students that some of you visited earlier today, but to so many beyond.  And all Americans take pride in your achievements.

Now, we have some household names as well as some who will be household names.  World champion boxer Amir Khan flew all the way from London to be part of this celebration.  Where is Mr. Khan?  Thank you so much for coming.  (Applause.)

We also have a number of women athletes who are here.  When Ibtihaj Muhammad fences in her hijab, when she trains 30 hours each week without missing a prayer, she’s thinking about winning and she’s thinking about the London Olympics next year.  Where is Ms. Muhammad? 

Where is she?  Right there.  (Applause.)  But I think it’s fair to say that, as her mother has said, many people feel pride and recognize that she is representing more than just herself in her endeavors.
Now, not everybody will go to the Olympics, but even weekend warriors can get some satisfaction out of this.  And I hope many of you were able to watch the new documentary we screened earlier.  And we are joined by the coach and four members of the Fordson Tractors  from Dearborn, Michigan, as well as the filmmakers.  Where are all of them? 

That was such a great documentary and a great story.  (Applause.)

And I hope everybody gets a chance to meet our athletes here tonight, but that film highlighted the exceptional circumstances that the team faced, that they wanted to train hard and stay healthy while keeping the requirements of Ramadan.  And so like every other high school team, they geared up for football practice in August this year with two-a-day practices, except they took the field at 11:00 p.m. and finished around 4:00.  And that takes special dedication, special dedication to both your sport and your faith.

But what stood out to me is how familiar the team and the players ultimately are.  The image of the pregame huddle and prayer could’ve been filmed at any high school in America.  Shoulder pads and helmets crowded the locker room, and big-game nerves were somewhat evident on your faces, I have to confess.  But despite the extra burdens they carried, at the end of it, it was Friday night football for a team of champions.

Now, we can’t pretend that there have not been difficulties and division.  In fact, the Fordson documentary tells the story of the religious tensions in Dearborn, Michigan.  But the power of America has always been anchored in our ability to come together and move forward as one nation.

This weekend, we will mark the 10th anniversary of September 11th.  And we all lost something that day.  In the ashes and the aftermaths, we knew that we had lost Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, men, women, young, old.  And a decade later, that unity that we felt must continue to inspire and guide us.

I’m very proud that in our country, despite the challenges, we do honor the freedom of religion.  Too many countries in the world today do not, or they make it difficult and even dangerous for people to try to exercise their religion.  So as difficult as it may be, the fact that we get up every day and keep trying is a real tribute to all of us.  So at this time of celebration and reflection, and as we mark the end of Ramadan and the beginning of a new year of renewal and possibility, I hope we can recommit ourselves to the common cause of spreading peace, prosperity, understanding to all the people of the earth.

Now I wanted to introduce two of our athletes so that you could hear  from them directly.  Ephraim Salaam has played in the NFL for over a decade, but some of you may know him best for his memorable Super Bowl commercial last year.  (Laughter.)  And Kulsoom Abdullah is a weightlifter, forging the way for Muslim women athletes to maintain their freedom of expression and still compete at the highest level. 

Please join me in welcoming first Ephraim and then Kulsoom.

(Applause.)

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Gaddafi Loyalists Under Fire as Libya Celebrates ‘Eid

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Samia Nakhoul and Maria Golovnina

TRIPOLI/TAWARGA, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan forces backed by NATO bombers struck at loyalist troops dug in around Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown on Wednesday, as refugees streamed out of the besieged bastion fearing a bloody showdown in the coming days.

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Libyan Muslims react during Eid prayers at Green Square in Tripoli August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

As people in Tripoli and other cities marked the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan with special savor following the end of 42 years of one-man rule, anti-Gaddafi fighters at the front around the coastal city of Sirte kept up pressure on its defenders, whom they have given till Saturday to surrender.

NATO said its planes bombed Gaddafi forces near Sirte on Tuesday, targeting tanks and other armored vehicles as well as military facilities. They also hit targets in the area of Bani Walid, another Gaddafi stronghold 150 km (100 miles) southeast of Tripoli. Anti-Gaddafi fighters said on the same day that they had advanced to within 30 km (20 miles) of the desert town.
On Wednesday NTC fighters said they clashed with Gaddafi forces patrolling in the area west of Sirte.

At Tawarga, west of Sirte, civilians streamed in laden vehicles along the coastal highway, some flying white flags.

Passing through a checkpoint set up by the forces of the interim ruling council, the NTC, many of the refugees said they feared a major battle, since they did not expect those holding Gaddafi’s tribal homeland to give up without a fight.

“I need to take my family where it is peaceful. Here there will be a big fight,” said one man, who gave his name as Mohammed.

Ali Faraj, a fighter for the opposition forces which forced Gaddafi into hiding last week, said he doubted people in Sirte would willingly join the revolt: “There will be a big fight for Sirte. It’s a dangerous city. It’s unlikely to rise up. A lot of people there support Gaddafi. It’s too close to Gaddafi and his family. It is still controlled by them.”

There is no independent confirmation of conditions in Sirte, which was developed into a prosperous city of 100,000 during the 42 years Gaddafi ruled Libya. NTC officials say power and water are largely cut off and supplies are low.

In Tripoli, after dawn, worshippers packed Martyrs’ Square, which was named Green Square in the Gaddafi era, chanting “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), Libya is free.”
Fighters on rooftops guarded against any attack by Gaddafi loyalists and sniffer dogs checked cars. Even the interim interior minister, Ahmed Darat, was searched.
“This is the most beautiful Eid and most beautiful day in 42 years,” said Hatem Gureish, 31, a merchant from Tripoli.

“Gaddafi made us hate our lives … We come here to express our joy at the end of 42 years of repression and deprivation.”

Fatima Mustafa, 28, a pregnant woman wearing a black chador, said: “This is a day of freedom, a day I cannot describe to you. It’s as if I own the world. I’m glad I haven’t given birth yet so my daughter can be born into a free Libya.”

But the war is not over yet, with Gaddafi on the run and his loyalists defying an ultimatum set by Libya’s interim council.

Saturday Ultimatum

Libyans who revolted against Gaddafi in February needed NATO air power to help them win, but, given their country’s unhappy colonial history, they remain wary of foreign meddling.

Their interim leaders, trying to heal a nation scarred by Gaddafi’s cruelly eccentric ways, may want United Nations help in setting up a new police force, but see no role for international peacekeepers or observers, a U.N. official said.

“They are very seriously interested in assistance with policing to get the public security situation under control and gradually develop a democratically accountable public security force,” Ian Martin, special U.N. envoy for post-conflict planning in Libya, said at the United Nations in New York.

“We don’t now expect military observers to be requested,” he said. “It’s very clear that the Libyans want to avoid any kind of military deployment of the U.N. or others.”

The National Transitional Council (NTC), keen to assert its grip and relieve hardship after six months of war, won a $1.55 billion cash injection when the U.N. sanctions committee released banknotes in Britain in frozen Gaddafi accounts.

France has asked the committee to unfreeze 1.5 billion euros

($2.16 billion) of Libyan assets in France, a French government source said on Wednesday, adding that Libya has 7.6 billion euros of assets parked in French banks.

“Friends of Libya”

The source also said that Russia and China, which have not formally recognized the NTC, would send representatives to a “Friends of Libya” conference in Paris on Thursday to discuss support for political and economic rebuilding.

The timing of the meeting, on September 1, strikes a chord for many Libyans, who for four decades have been obliged to celebrate the date as the anniversary of the military coup that brought Colonel Gaddafi to power in 1969.

Despite the killing and shortages of fuel, power and water that Tripoli has endured since Gaddafi’s fall, worshippers in Martyrs’ Square were mostly ebullient about the future.

But Nouri Hussein, 42, an engineer, said that while he was glad Gaddafi was gone, he feared the guns in the hands of unruly fighters: “There is apprehension about what next. The rebels should not be blinded with the ecstasy of victory.”

NTC leaders have told their forces to treat prisoners with respect — in contrast with the reported killing and torture of detainees by Gaddafi’s forces — but Amnesty International said its staff had seen anti-Gaddafi fighters threaten and detain wounded opponents, notably black Libyans and foreigners.

“The council must do more to ensure that their fighters do not abuse detainees, especially the most vulnerable ones such as black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans,” Amnesty’s Claudio Cordone said in a statement after one incident in Tripoli.

“Many risk reprisals as a result of allegations that Gaddafi forces used ‘African mercenaries’ to commit widespread violations during the conflict,” the lobby group added.

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OIC Pledges $350 Million to Somalia at Turkey Summit

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ibon Villelabeitia

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – ISTANBUL, Aug 17 (Reuters) – The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries have pledged $350 million in aid to fight famine in Somalia at an emergency summit in Istanbul, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said Wednesday.

With some 3.7 million Somalis at risk of starvation in the Horn of Africa country, Ihsanoglu said he hoped the aid would soon reach $500 million and urged donors to improve drought-stricken Somalia’s long-term food security by helping it rebuild infrastructure and agriculture.

“All in all we have secured $350 million in pledges. We hope to raise the commitments to $500 million in a very short time,” he told a news conference after the summit, held in Turkey’s commercial capital during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan appealed for aid for Somalia, criticizing millionaires who drive luxury cars and the “Western world’s” arrogance for ignoring the plight of the poor.

In a speech sprinkled with references to Islamic piety and criticism of Western capitalism, Erdogan said the Somali famine was “a litmus test” not only for Muslims but for all humanity.

“If you ride a luxury car you should be generous enough to people who are struggling with hunger,” he told foreign ministers from the 57-nation OIC at an emergency summit in Istanbul to galvanize support for Somalia and neighboring regions also hit by drought.

“I hope the efforts (of the OIC) will mobilize the sleeping consciences. We hope the Western world, which likes to boast about its per capita income, shows its support for Somalia.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week her country would give an extra $17 million to combat famine in the Horn of Africa, including $12 million to help Somalis — bringing total U.S. humanitarian aid to the region to more than $580 million this year.

The OIC recently changed its name from Organization of the Islamic Conference to Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed said his country was unable to raise enough food and cattle, and faced militant attacks. The worst-hit areas are controlled by al Shabaab militants, who have prevented aid from getting to people.

The rebels, who have waged a four-year insurgency against Somalia’s Western-backed government, withdrew from Mogadishu earlier this month, opening the way for life-saving food aid but also raising the risk of insurgency attacks.

TURKEY IN AFRICA

Muslim Turkey, a rapidly growing economy and multi-party democracy that has applied to join the European Union, is widely regarded as a model for Muslim and other developing countries.

The OIC summit offered Turkey a chance to showcase its commitment to Africa when other emerging powers are scrambling for trade and investments in the resource-rich continent.

Erdogan, a pious Muslim who fasts during Ramadan, used his 30-minute speech to burnish his image as a hero among many Muslims, a status he has gained for his criticism of Israel and his support for Palestinian statehood.

“What can we say to people on the other side, making trillions of dollars, capitalizing on others? What kind of civilization is this?” he said, raising his voice at times.

“We come from the community of the Prophet, who says you cannot sleep peacefully if your neighbor is hungry. The Somali people are looking at us. Can we turn our gaze away?”

Erdogan will travel to Somalia Thursday with his family. He plans to visit relief camps and will be joined by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his family.

Visits by foreign dignitaries are extremely rare in Somalia, plagued by war and anarchy for the last two decades.

Turkey lags other emerging powerhouses such as China, Brazil and India in the race for new markets in Africa, but under Erdogan’s AK Party government, Turkey has boosted trade with the continent and opened several new embassies there.

Davutoglu later heads to South Africa and Ethiopia as part of an African tour aimed at raising Turkey’s diplomatic presence in the continent and expanding business ties.

Erdogan said Turkey would open six field hospitals in Somalia and send 20 tonnes of medication and 10 tonnes of food.

(Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

13-34

Who is Rupert Murdoch?

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A Word Or Two on What Isn’t Being Said

By Gordon Duff, Senior Editor, Veterans Today

NEWSCORP/

A man wearing a mask depicting News Corp Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch protests during a parliamentary committee on phone hacking at Portcullis House in London July 19, 2011. Rupert Murdoch was attacked by a protester on Tuesday while giving evidence to a parliamentary committee at which he defended his son and his company over a scandal that has rocked the British establishment.

REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Today the British papers not owned by Rupert Murdoch “rumored” that he might be jailed.  Americans, even Brits, have little or no idea  what is at risk here.  There is simply no one who can report it when the individual who, not only controls the world’s largest news organization turns out to be, well, what?

Who is Rupert Murdoch?

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has played a significant role in the elections of three U.S. presidents, as well as some of the events that have happened during their administrations including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic meltdown,  Gordon Duff, senior editor and writer for Veterans Today told Press TV.

What he is not is an Australian “right wing” billionaire.  Murdoch, though born in Australia is an Israeli citizen and Jewish.  Why is this important?

Murdoch is now admitted to have controlled the political systems in Britain and America for two decades.  He has had the power to choose national leaders, make policy, pass laws at will.  Where did the power come from?

We now know it came from spying, blackmail, bribery and propaganda.

What is his agenda?  Ah, there’s the rub.

Was it about selling newspapers using scandals or spying in the name of Israel to push Britain and the United States into wars for Israel?  There is a simple answer.

Murdoch’s primary motivation isn’t even that he is “for Israel.”  Murdoch is, perhaps, the most influential Israeli, more powerful than Netanyahu.  The problem with that is that his beliefs are what we call “ultra-nationalist.”

This makes him a threat.  Ultra-nationalists are known to support wars, plan terrorist acts, manipulate populations into strife and racism, foster fear and panic, even financial ruin.

What are we describing here?

If you aren’t totally brain dead, you realize I am describing Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Murdoch owns Fox News and so much else you may not have a time to look at the list.  If he doesn’t own it he doesn’t want it.

Fox is a network and Murdoch, owning so many newspapers across America and being a foreigner shouldn’t be able to control such a thing.  How did he do it?

Reagan “appointed” Murdoch an American citizen.  Murdoch promised to have Fox News support Republicans and say whatever was needed, no matter how false, how stupid or, as we  have seen now for decades, how genuinely evil.

What he really did, however, was use Fox as a base to allow Israel to run spy operations.

These went two ways:

1.  Israel got lots of military technology and secrets they could sell to America’s enemies for money.  This is good “Murdoch” business sense, as we all see now.

2.  Murdoch helped Israel gain control of congress.  They literally run the United States.  The tools?  As in Britain, bribery and blackmail, police, military and congress.

No surprises for anyone.

Murdoch has, in fact, engineered the last 20 plus years of American history, picking politicians, throwing elections, establishing policies.  Were the decisions his own?

I don’t think so.  I think Murdoch represents a group, mostly financial, making up the Rothschild family, the Federal Reserve Banks and organized crime.

There is an Israeli or Jewish aspect to some of this but not in the sense of being “pro” or “anti” Semitic.  The Murdoch empire, married to the “lily white” “no Jews allowed” Republican Party simply put their own very powerful spin on the good old “New World Order,” pushing it into drug running, arms and human trafficking, manipulated international currencies and debt on a massive scale, ran America and the European Union into economic collapse, worked with oil companies to set up price fixing schemes…

This is what Murdoch and his friends have done, all the while pointing their fingers at Osama bin Laden and the evil “liberals.”

They divided Britain, starting at first as “conservatives” and then changed to “liberals.”  What they did in Britain is undermine legal government, destroy the nation and the public’s trust in the government, Blair, Cameron, it doesn’t matter, Murdoch chose both and ran and runs both like hand puppets as he did with Bush and his friends.

The ideas are simple.  Bilk the countries out of every last cent, use a portion to bribe or blackmail politicians, buy police and get even more money.

Then you lie to the people, give them enemies to hate, arrange wars for them to fight and stand back and watch them destroy themselves.

Are there people really this evil?

Yes there are, Murdoch, the gang at his companies, the gang at Fox News, the folks in the US called “neocons,” the Israeli lobby in the US, the ADL, AIPAC and the Likudist faction in Israel run by Netanyahu.

These folks hate the United States.

A similar group hate Britain.  Australia has their own, he runs that place entirely, right into the ground.  He also runs Germany, Canada, he runs much of what was once the “free world.”

Am I describing Satan?

Pretty much.

His strongest advocates, those who have stood with his thieves and liars against all that is decent, all that is good, all that is right is the Evangelical and “Zionist” communities in the United States.  They were and are the “fertile ground” for his message of hate and deceit.

Who does Murdoch claim to hate?

Muslims for sure, they are all bad.  Everything he touches in his hundreds of publications and TV shows or the phony news his gang of cutthroats create, hate of Muslims is always on top.  This pleases his Israeli friends.  If things keep going as they are, he may need to hide out there and Israel will always protect him, maybe plow down a few Palestinian homes to give him a grand estate.  After all, Muslims are an easy target, living in petty dictatorships run by thieves who we have now learned have always run to Washington and Tel Aviv for orders.

Take out a second.  Think the word “Palestinian.”  Do you also think “terrorist?”  Do you see a child being killed by an Israeli helicopter or innocent people killed by a TV villain, almost invariably played by Jewish actors, perhaps a sick “inside joke” of Murdoch’s.

Even the “revolutionary types” did the same.  The Islamic people of the world have been played, exploited and crushed since 1919.  History will show it carefully planned and financed by a certain European banking family, one that 6 years earlier had established an illegal banking system in the US.

Learn about the real Balfour Declaration and how it was gotten through blackmail, learn who wrote it and to whom it was sent.

The story reads exactly like the things that are coming out in Britain day after day.

Murdoch tells his followers to hate “smart people.”  There has to be fear of the educated, the “elites.”  You can’t have rampant racism and blind ignorance until you destroy public trust in the natural leaders, until you destroy real culture and replace it with mechanized music, scandal mongering, dirty sex and endless conspiracies.

Murdoch is the real king of conspiracy theories.

Look at the endless list of wild accusations that came from Fox alone.  Then look at the others, the accusations, the wild and insane things that were written into history but likely planned by Murdoch.
9/11 probably had Murdoch’s hand in it as did the London bombings on 7/7.

There could be no great conspiracy without control of the news.

Now we find the news itself controlled the governments and may well have written the scripts to the wars, the rigged elections, the acts of terror and the misdirection that sent America into a decade of cruel and useless bloodletting after terror groups that never existed in the first place.

Now, today, as our British cousins are reeling in the revelations that their government for decades has not been their own, a diseased hybrid of crazy old man, Israeli spies and the paid stooges that the people thought were serving them….

And it goes on in America, full blast, Murdoch and his creatures, planning the future of America.

One of his creatures is Boehner.

Another is Palin.

Then there is Gingrich.

There was the entire Bush administration.

But, to get to the dark heart of evil, first you look at Fox News.

Gordon Duff is a Marine Vietnam veteran.  A 100% disabled vet.  He has been a featured commentator on TV and radio including Al Jazeera and his articles have been carried by news services around the world. He has been a UN Diplomat, defense contractor and is a widely published expert on military and defense issues.  Duff is Senior Editor at one of  the most widely read Veterans Online publications Veterans Today.

13-30

Egypt Detains Former Minister over Pesticides

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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Egypt’s former agriculture minister, Youssef Wali, arrested over charges that he allowed the import of cancer-causing pesticides. (File Photo)

CAIRO, July 10 (Reuters) – An Egyptian investigating judge ordered a former agriculture minister detained for questioning over accusations that he allowed the import of cancer-causing pesticides, the state news agency MENA reported on Sunday.

The agency said Youssef Wali, who served as agriculture minister under former President Hosni Mubarak from 1982 to 2004, was also suspected of squandering 200 million Egyptian pounds ($33.6 million) of state funds by selling a plot of land to businessman Hussein Salem for less than the market price.

MENA said Wali is accused of “bringing in 37 brands of pesticides that were proven to cause cancer”. It said the chemicals had been banned  from entering the country in 1996, but were allowed entry in 1998 under Wali until 2004.

Wali has denied the charges.

Prosecutors have been investigating business transactions of officials under Mubarak since mass protests forced him to resign on Feb. 11.

A prosecutor froze Wali’s assets in April in connection with the sale of 100,000 feddans (420 million square metres) of land to Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in a deal which Egyptian authorities suspected had also violated the law.

Salem, a close aide to Mubarak, was arrested in Spain last month on an international warrant, suspected of squandering public funds by selling gas to Israel below market prices.

13-29

Libya Rebels Retake Village South of Tripoli

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Peter Graff

2011-07-13T203734Z_1071071745_GM1E77E0CWJ01_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA

Rebels walk to take positions next to a main road leading to Al-Quwalish in the western mountains of Libya during an offensive by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi July 13, 2011. Forces loyal to Gaddafi on Wednesday retook a village south of the capital seized by rebels a week ago, a set-back to rebel plans for a march on Tripoli. The loss of the village of Al-Qawalish, about 60 miles from the capital, underlined the faltering pattern of the rebel advances that has led some of the rebels’ Western backers to push for a political solution to the conflict instead.    

REUTERS/Ammar Awad

ZINTAN, Libya (Reuters) – Rebel fighters said on Wednesday they had retaken a village south of the capital they lost to forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi earlier in the day, boosting rebel plans for a march on Tripoli.

The retaking of Al-Qawalish, about 100 km (60 miles) from Tripoli, came at the end of a day of bitter fighting that killed five rebels and wounded 15, according to rebel sources and hospital officials.

The back-and-forth fighting underlined the fragile nature of the rebels’ advances in the west that has led some of their Western backers to push for a political solution to the conflict.

Rebel spokesman Abdurahman Alzintani said pro-Gaddafi forces had been pushed back to where they were before they took the village earlier on Wednesday, or perhaps even further.

“It is the same, maybe one or two hills further,” he told Reuters.

A Libyan government soldier taken prisoner by the rebels said that pro-Gaddafi forces were massing nearby, potentially setting the stage for renewed fighting soon, according to a Reuters team in the western town of Zintan.

The counter-attack to retake Al-Qawalish was carried out by hundreds of rebels in pick-up trucks, who fanned out into the hills about 10 km (6 miles) north of the village, under fire from mortars launched by government troops.

Rebel forces want to use Al-Qawalish as a staging post to take the nearby town of Garyan, which controls access to the main highway heading north to Tripoli.

On the other main battle front, near the western city of Misrata, a burst of missile and mortar fire killed five rebels and wounded 17, hospital spokesman Khaled Abu Talghah said.

“This is just a normal day’s work for Gaddafi,” he said.

The conflict in Libya started out as a rebellion against Gaddafi’s 41-year-rule. It has now turned into the bloodiest of the “Arab Spring” uprisings convulsing the region and has embroiled Western powers in a prolonged conflict they had hoped would swiftly force Gaddafi out of power.

The Libyan leader is refusing to quit and the rebels have been unable to make a decisive breakthrough toward the capital despite support from Western warplanes.

Libya charged the head of NATO with war crimes for killing innocent civilians and bombarding civilian targets in Libya.

Libyan General Prosecutor Mohammed Zekri al Mahjoubi described NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as a war criminal during a news conference in Tripoli on Wednesday.

DEAL ‘TAKING SHAPE’

France said on Tuesday a political way out of the conflict was being looked at and that Gaddafi’s emissaries had been in contact with NATO members to say he was ready to leave power.

“A political solution is more than ever indispensable and is beginning to take shape,” French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in Paris.

But it was not obvious how negotiations could persuade Gaddafi to quit, especially at a time when the Western alliance ranged against him is showing signs of wavering.

A report on Libya’s official JANA news agency described statements by Western officials about Gaddafi potentially stepping down or leaving the country as “elusive dreams.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is under pressure to find a quick solution. He gambled by taking a personal role in supporting the rebels, but is now anxious to avoid costly military operations running into the start of campaigning for the April 2012 presidential election.

Washington expressed doubts about peace overtures from Gaddafi emissaries. A State Department spokeswoman said the “messages are contradictory” and there is no clear evidence “Gaddafi is prepared to understand that its time for him to go.”

Revealing fresh strains inside NATO about the cost and duration of the Libyan operation, British Defense Minister Liam Fox said other alliance members were not pulling their weight and described some states’ contributions as “pathetic.”

“The United States is willing to spend on defense, Britain is willing to spend on defense and deploy. Far too (many) of our European partners inside NATO are still trying to get a free ride, and they should regard Libya as a wake-up call,” Fox said in London.

The rebel National Transitional Council, based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, received a diplomatic boost on Wednesday when Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands recognized the council as Libyans’ legitimate representative.

The Benelux countries joined more than 20 nations that have already granted the council recognition.

At a meeting in Brussels, the European Union executive offered Libyan rebels help with democratic reforms once the war was over and said their Benghazi-based council was gaining credibility.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, Nick Carey in Misrata, Justyna Pawlak and Christopher Le Coq in Brussels, John Irish in Paris, Souhail Karam in Rabat, Mohammed Abbas in London; Writing by Christian Lowe and Giles Elgood; Editing by Robert Woodward)

13-29

U.S. Afghanistan Drawdown Begins Slowly, 800 Marines Out in Fall

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s drawdown in Afghanistan will begin slowly, with the departure of just 800 National Guard troops this summer, followed by some 800 Marines in the fall, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The details provided by Lieutenant General David Rodriguez, the outgoing No. 2 commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and Pentagon officials offered the most detailed look so far at how the U.S. military intends to carry out the withdrawal ordered by Obama in June.

Facing growing political opposition to the nearly decade-old war, Obama announced plans to pull out about a third of the 100,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the end of summer 2012 — a faster timetable than the military had recommended.

The first 10,000 troops will come home by the end of the year. But Obama left the details up to his commanders.

“We have begun the process of working ourselves out of a job — meaning we will hand over the lead to the Afghans gradually, over time,” said Rodriguez, speaking to reporters in a video-conference from Afghanistan.

The Pentagon’s small initial drawdown leaves as many as 8,400 troops to withdraw in the last few months of 2011, and Rodriguez said he expected commanders to wait until later in the fall before deciding how to thin out those forces.

Jeffrey Dressler at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, said Rodriguez’s announcement was within expectations — particularly given the need to keep the bulk of troops in place until the end of the year.

“What the commanders are trying to do is conserve as much combat power as they can until the end of the fighting season,” Dressler said.

Rodriguez and the Pentagon offered the following details on the initial drawdown, without ruling out further changes.

* The Army National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 134th Cavalry Regiment in Kabul, with about 300 troops, leaves in July.

* The Army National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 113rd Cavalry Regiment, also leaves in July.

* 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in southwest Afghanistan, with over 800 troops, will leave in fall.

Critics have said Obama’s decision to bring troops home from Afghanistan faster than the military has recommended could jeopardize the next major push of the war, to unseat insurgents in the east.
Republican Senator John McCain, speaking in Kabul on Sunday, said Obama’s drawdown plan created “unnecessary risk.”

Although extra U.S. troops ordered into southern Afghanistan have made security gains there, the situation in the east of the country bordering Pakistan has deteriorated.

Rodriguez, however, said U.S. military plans to shift the focus to the east remained on track, despite the drawdown.

“As we continue to maintain the momentum in the south … we will end up thinning out down there first, and then focusing more and more of our energy in the east,” he said.

Still, he declined to say when that might happen, adding: “It’s a little bit too early to take that guess right now.”

The drawdown comes amid intense fighting in Afghanistan, where more than 1,500 U.S. forces have been killed since the war began. Last week, insurgents staged a brazen raid on the Kabul Intercontinental hotel, killing 12 people and raising fresh questions about whether Afghan forces are ready to assume responsibilities as U.S. forces pull out.

Rodriguez commended the Afghan forces on what he called a “great response” to the attack but played down expectations that violence would ebb any time soon.

Asked whether he expected violence to start subsiding this year or next, Rodriguez said: “That remains to be seen. It’ll actually probably be next year.”

(Additional reporting by David Alexander; editing by Todd Eastham)

13-28

Libyan Rebels Push Towards Tripoli on Two Fronts

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Peter Graff

2011-07-06T212010Z_307909548_GM1E7770F1801_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA

A Libyan boy flashing a victory sign attends a rally against Muammar Gaddafi in Misrata July 6, 2011.  

REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

AL-QAWALISH, Libya (Reuters) – Rebel fighters seized a village south of the Libyan capital and another group advanced toward Tripoli from the east on Wednesday in the biggest push in weeks toward Muammar Gaddafi’s main stronghold.

Rebels firing their rifles into the air in celebration poured into the village of Al-Qawalish, 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Tripoli, after a six-hour battle with pro-Gaddafi forces who had been holding the town.

Rushing through an abandoned checkpoint where government troops had left tents and half-eaten bread in their rush to get away, the rebels ripped down pro-Gaddafi flags.

Farther north, rebels pushed westward from the city of Misrata to within 13 km of the center of the town of Zlitan, where large numbers of pro-Gaddafi forces are based.

But they came under artillery fire. Doctors at the al-Hekma hospital in Misrata said 14 fighters had been killed on Wednesday and about 50 were injured.

The advances came amid reports that Gaddafi — under pressure from a five-month uprising against his rule, sanctions and a NATO bombing campaign — was seeking a deal under which he would step down.

His government has denied any such negotiations are underway, and NATO’s chief said he had no confirmation that Gaddafi was looking for a deal to relinquish power.

A Libyan official told Reuters on Wednesday there were signs a solution to the conflict could be found by the start of August, though he did not say what that solution might involve.

In the rebel-held cities of Benghazi and Misrata, thousands demonstrated against Gadaffi, waving European and rebel flags and calling for the end of his four-decade rule.

The rebel advances followed weeks of largely static fighting. Heavily armed Gaddafi forces still lie between the rebels and Tripoli, and previous rebel advances have either bogged down or quickly turned into retreats.

But with Al-Qawalish now in rebel hands, they can advance northeast to the larger town of Garyan, which controls the main highway leading into Tripoli. Libyan state television reported on Wednesday that NATO hit targets in Garyan as well fuel tanks in the town of Brega, 200 km (130 miles) west of Benghazi.

The previous big advance in the region was last month, when rebels pushed 20 km (12 miles) north from their base in the Western Mountains to the town of Bir al-Ghanam.

Misrata Push

At the frontline on the outskirts of Zlitan, a unit of fighters had built a sand-bank behind which they could shelter while firing at government troops. There were still sounds of intermittent shelling as night fell.

Unit commander Tarek Mardi, a 36-year-old former banker, said pro-Gaddafi forces had tried to push his fighters back but they had held their ground.

“Why isn’t NATO doing its job, where are the Apaches?” he asked, referring to the attack helicopters the alliance had deployed to Libya. “We are protecting our people, our country. We want to save our land from Gaddafi. He is a criminal.”

More than 100,000 rebel supporters spilled into the streets of Benghazi waving European and rebel flags and chanting slogans against the Libyan leader.

Gaddafi, who has ruled oil producer Libya for 41 years, says the rebels are armed criminals and al Qaeda militants. He has described the NATO campaign as an act of colonial aggression aimed at stealing Libya’s oil.

Deal Talk

A Russian newspaper this week quoted what it described as a high-level source as saying Gaddafi is sounding out the possibility of stepping down on condition there was a political role for one of his sons.

A Libyan government spokesman denied that report, saying Gaddafi’s future was not up for negotiation.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told Reuters in Tripoli that a solution to the conflict could be found before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins early in August.

“There are signals that the crisis will find a solution in the coming weeks. We will do whatever possible so that our people will spend Ramadan in peace,” he said.

“Currently the key hurdle to a solution is the NATO military campaign, and we hope that our friends in the African Union organization will do whatever possible to convince it to stop its aggression against our people.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had no confirmed information that Gaddafi had sounded out the possibility of stepping down.

“But it is quite clear that the end state must be that he leaves power,” Rasmussen told a news conference in Brussels.

(Additional reporting by Nick Carey in Misrata, Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, Lamine Chikhi in Tripoli, David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Maria Golovnina in Benghazi, Joseph Nasr in Berlin and Moscow bureau; Writing by Christian Lowe and David Dolan; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

13-28

Egypt Police & Youths Clash; Over 1,000 Hurt

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Patrick Werr and Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO (Reuters) – Police in Cairo fired tear gas on Wednesday at hundreds of stone-throwing Egyptian youths after a night of clashes that injured more than 1,000 people, the worst violence in the capital in several weeks.

Nearly five months since a popular uprising toppled long-serving authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s military rulers are struggling to keep order while a restless public is still impatient for reform.

The latest clashes began after families of people killed in the uprising that ousted Mubarak held an event in a Cairo suburb late on Tuesday in their honor.

Other bereaved relatives arrived to complain that names of their own dead were not mentioned at the ceremony. Fighting broke and moved toward the capital’s central Tahrir Square and the Interior Ministry, according to officials.

The Health Ministry said 1,036 people were injured, among them at least 40 policemen.

The ruling military council said in a statement on its Facebook page that the latest events “had no justification other than to shake Egypt’s safety and security in an organised plan that exploits the blood of the revolution’s martyrs and to sow division between the people and the security apparatus.”

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf told state TV he was monitoring developments and awaiting a full report on the clashes.

A security source quoted by the state news agency MENA said 40 people were arrested, including one U.S. and one British citizen, and were being questioned by military prosecutors.

Some said those involved were bent on battling police rather than protesting. To others, the violence seemed motivated by politics.

“The people are angry that the court cases against top officials keep getting delayed,” said Ahmed Abdel Hamid, 26, a bakery employee who was at the scene overnight, referring to senior political figures from the discredited Mubarak era.

By early afternoon, eight ambulances were in Tahrir, epicenter of the revolt that toppled Mubarak on February 11, and the police had left the square. Dozens of adolescent boys, shirts tied around their heads, blocked traffic from entering Tahrir, using stones and scrap metal.

Some drove mopeds in circles around the square making skids and angering bystanders. “Thugs, thugs… The square is controlled by thugs,” an old man chanted.

“I am here today because I heard about the violent treatment by the police of the protesters last night,” said Magdy Ibrahim, 28, an accountant at Egypt’s Banque du Caire.

Treating Wounded

The clashes unnerved Egypt’s financial market, with equity traders blaming the violence for a 2 percent fall in the benchmark EGX30 index, its biggest drop since June 2.

First-aid workers treated people mostly for inhaling tear gas in overnight violence. A Reuters correspondent saw several people with minor wounds, including some with head cuts.

Mohsen Mourad, the deputy interior minister for Cairo, said the security forces did not enter Tahrir overnight and dealt only with 150-200 people who tried to break into the Interior Ministry and threw stones, damaging cars and police vehicles.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s political party warned Egyptians that remnants of Mubarak’s rule could exploit violence to their ends. Presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei called on the ruling military council to quickly clarify the facts surrounding the violence and to take measures to halt it.

U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns, visiting Cairo, said he hoped an investigation into the clashes would be “fair and thorough.”

Young men lit car tyres in the street near the ministry on Wednesday, sending black plumes of smoke into the air.

“There is lack of information about what happened and the details are not clear. But the certain thing is that Egyptians are in a state of tension and the reason behind this is that officials are taking time to put Mubarak and officials on trial,” said political analyst Hassan Nafaa.

Sporadic clashes, some of them between Muslims and the Christian minority, have posed a challenge to a government trying to restore order after many police deserted the streets during the uprising against Mubarak. In early May, 12 people were killed and 52 wounded in sectarian clashes and the burning of a church in Cairo’s Imbaba neighborhood.

A hospital in central Cairo’s Munira neighborhood received two civilians and 41 policemen with wounds, bruises and tear gas inhalation, MENA said. All were discharged except one civilian with a bullet wound and a policeman with concussion, it said.

Former interior minister Habib al-Adli has been sentenced to jail for corruption but he and other officials are still being tried on charges related to killing protesters. Police vehicles were stoned by protesters at Sunday’s hearing.

The former president, now hospitalized, has also been charged with the killing of protesters and could face the death penalty. Mubarak’s trial starts on August 3.

(Additional reporting by Dina Zayed and Sherine El Madany; Writing by Edmund Blair and Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Peter Graff)

13-27

Hundreds of Yemeni Troops Defect to Rebels

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mohammed Mokhashaf and Mohamed Sudam

2011-06-28T165143Z_1312527772_GM1E76T02HG01_RTRMADP_3_YEMEN

An anti-government protester with his face painted in the colours of Yemen’s flag shouts as others chew qat during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa June 28, 2011. The words painted on the protester’s chest read as “Uncover chests”.

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

ADEN/SANAA (Reuters) – At least 26 Yemeni government soldiers and 17 militants linked to al Qaeda were killed on Wednesday in heavy fighting for control of a stadium near the southern city of Zinjibar, officials said.

The military setback, following reports that 300 of his soldiers had defected to the opposition, was another blow to President Ali Abdullah Saleh as recovers in Saudi Arabia from injuries sustained in an attack on his palace in early June.

Yemen, the poorest Arab state and a neighbor of the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, has been shaken by months of protests against Saleh’s three-decade rule, a resurgent wing of al Qaeda and a separatist rebellion in the south.

The United States and Saudi Arabia fear that al Qaeda may use the chaos to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

Yemeni officials said the militants seized control of the stadium from government forces, who have been using the facility — built recently to host a regional football tournament — to support troops fighting to dislodge the militants from Zinjibar.

An official said losing the stadium, located near a military base from which government forces had been launching attacks on Zinjibar, exposed a military base that had been used to launch attacks on the militants in Zinjibar. A counter offensive to retake the position was in progress, he said.

“The militant control of the field will leave the back of the camp from the east exposed,” the official said.

Yemeni officials had been reporting successes against the estimated 300 militants who seized control of Zinjibar in May in the midst of a groundswell of popular protests against the nearly 33-year autocratic rule of Saleh.

His opponents say his forces handed over the city to the militants to bolster his argument that his departure would lead to an Islamist takeover of the Arabian Peninsula state.

Yemeni air force planes had killed at least 10 gunmen in attacks on Zinjibar earlier on Wednesday, a local Yemeni official said. One strike mistakenly hit a bus traveling from Zinjibar to Aden, the official added, killing five passengers and wounding 12 other people.

Defection

Earlier in the day, opposition officials reported that more than 300 members of Yemeni security forces, including 150 from the Republican Guards led by Saleh’s son Ahmed, had defected to rebels.

“From the podium of the Square of Change in Sanaa, an announcement has been issued that 150 soldiers from the Republican Guards, 130 Central Security soldiers and 60 policemen have joined the revolt,” an opposition message said.

No government officials were immediately available to comment on the report.

If confirmed, the mutinies would be a serious reverse for Saleh, who has spent the past three weeks receiving medical treatment in Riyadh for wounds suffered in the June 3 attack.

The defections are the latest in a series by security forces since the anti-Saleh uprising began in February. Most prominent was the defection in March of Brigadier General Ali Mohsen, who has since sent in his troops to guard protesters in Sanaa.

The protests have culminated in battles between Saleh loyalists and gunmen from the powerful Hashed tribal federation in Sanaa that brought the country to the verge of civil war.

Months of unrest have cost Yemen $4 billion, a senior Yemeni official said on Wednesday, adding the Arab state was in talks with potential donors to help plug a gap of $1.5 billion in government commitments for projects funded by Sanaa.

“We are talking with the IMF, the World Bank and donor countries, whether Gulf Arab states or others. There may be some discussions next week with the IMF,” Abdulla al-Shater, deputy planning and international cooperation minister, told reporters on the sidelines of a financial conference in Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has been largely quiet with a ceasefire in place since Saleh was injured in the attack, which investigators say was caused by explosives planted in the palace mosque where he and several senior government officials were praying

Saleh, 69, who has not been seen in public since the attack, has resisted pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia to hand over power to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, under a Gulf nations’ initiative to end the crisis.

Hadi has been running the country in Saleh’s absence, but the opposition wants the president to officially hand over power to him to pave the way for new elections.

Officials have said the president will soon make his first public appearance since the attack with a recorded message to be broadcast on Yemeni state television.

Officer Killed

In further violence, a bomb killed a colonel when it exploded in his car on Tuesday night in the port city of Aden, a security source said on Wednesday.

The source said that Colonel Khaled al-Yafi’i was the commander of a military outpost guarding the Aden Free Zone business park’s entrance.

The outpost was targeted by a car bomb on Friday that killed four soldiers and a civilian and injured 16 other people.

No one has claimed responsibility for the colonel’s killing, but Islamist militants affiliated with al Qaeda are active in southern Yemen.

13-27

Analysis: Egypt Army May Pull Strings from Barracks

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Edmund Blair

CAIRO (Reuters) – Hossam el-Hamalawy is used to being in trouble with the authorities. State security hauled him in three times for his activism when Hosni Mubarak was in power. He hoped Egypt’s uprising would end such summonses. It didn’t.

He was called in again in May for questioning. But one element changed. It wasn’t internal security but an army general who wanted to question the blogger over accusations he made on television about abuses by the military police.

“We didn’t have this revolution … so that we would replace Hosni Mubarak with the military as a taboo,” said Hamalawy, insisting that the army must change its ways.

“The military institution is part of the old regime,” he said. “It will have to go through its own change in revolutionary Egypt.”

Quite what that change might look like is perhaps the biggest question facing Egyptians now.

The army has vowed to hand power to civilians, after it took control when Mubarak was ousted on February 11.

Few doubt it wants to quit the grimy world of day-to-day government but, at the same time, few expect the generals to submit to civilian command when they return to barracks.

Instead, analysts say the military is likely to slip into the political shadows, as a protector of national security — a broad brief that would allow some back-seat intervention — and rigorously guard its business interests and other privileges.

The military has after all supplied Egypt’s rulers, including former air force commander Mubarak, for six decades.

“I do feel they are sincere about handing over power to a civilian government,” said Hamalawy, who writes the arabawy.org blog. “But that does not mean they will give up … their role in the Egypt political arena.”

After summons for interrogation prompted protests, Hamalaway said the general who quizzed him on May 31 promised to examine evidence he provided of any abuses by the military police.

Such incidents, played out in public and drawing the ire of Egyptians enjoying a new-found assertiveness, can only tarnish the reputation of an army which was sky-high when troops took control of the streets from Mubarak’s widely reviled state security forces.

The army has committed to a parliamentary vote in September and presidential poll to follow.

National Security

“The Egyptian military is the institution that can hold the country together, move it forward. It is the only one,” said Kamran Bokhari, an analyst at global intelligence firm STRATFOR.

“I don’t see it relinquishing power to a very nascent, parliamentary system in which there is also a president.”

He added: “There are material interests as an institution. Their privileged status, they want to be able to retain that.

“There are genuine national security concerns.”

To achieve this, there are several models for Egypt to copy.

Close to home is Turkey, where the army was guardian of the secular constitution for decades and toppled governments when it saw that threatened. That role has been diluted with the rise of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK, a socially conservative party with Islamist roots and free market policies.

Further afield is Pakistan where Bokhari said there was an “unwritten rule that the top brass is involved in the decision-making or foreign policy-making process.”

Egypt could forge its own formula. Bokhari said the army may want to insert a line in the constitution that it be consulted over national security, ensuring it a seat at the top table.

The army denies having any such ambitions.

“The job of the army is specified by the current constitution and if this is to change it will be through the parliament after studies and based on the demands of the people,” one military official told Reuters.

“But so far nothing is planned to increase the powers of the army or give it new ones,” said the official, who responded to questions only on condition of anonymity.

However, Mamdouh Shaheen, a general on the military council who deals with legislative and constitutional affairs, said in comments published in May that a new constitution should give the military a special place — “some kind of insurance, so that it is not under the whim of a president.”

He also said parliament should not be allowed to question the armed forces, the newspaper reported.

Such talk has riled commentators. Writing in the same newspaper after Shaheen, Amr el-Shobaki, a columnist, dismissed the idea that army should have any “special immunity” — although he said that it should have a role in protecting Egypt’s democracy.

For now, the generals are in the public eye but the institution is not submitted to public scrutiny. Just as it was under Mubarak, the military budget is a mystery and it controls a sprawling business empire — just how big is unclear.

One Western diplomat, asked about the scale of the army’s business interests compared to the overall economy, said: “Estimates vary wildly, even as much as 40 percent, which I think is way off the mark. We just don’t know.”

Some suggest a more realistic estimate is 10-15 percent.

WINNING OVER THE PUBLIC

The army runs factories that make plastic products and other goods. The highway connecting Cairo with the Red Sea port of Ain Sokhna was built by army engineers and the toll ticket for that road has the words “Ministry of Defense” stamped on it.

To win over the public before one big protest after Mubarak was ousted, the army issued a four-page insert in a newspaper outlining its economic contribution. It listed pharmaceutical firms it owned, stadiums it built and farmland it had reclaimed.

For many in Egypt, a country of 80 million people where about two-thirds of the nation were born during Mubarak’s rule and knew no other leader, the army’s presence gives reassurance.

“We have at least three years to get back on our feet and we need to have a strong and strict establishment in power, like the armed forces, to help us achieve that,” said Saeed Saeed, in his 40s, who works at a private company.

The army has been revered by many Egyptians for its role in wars fighting former colonial powers Britain and France in the 1956 Suez crisis and Israel, notably in the 1973 war that led to peace talks and the return of the Sinai peninsula.

The army was virtually the only institution of state to survive this year’s political turmoil intact. For investors, it provides confidence as the country rebuilds.

“For continuity and to provide an element of security, then having a state institution that functions efficiently is important,” said Angus Blair of Beltone Financial, adding that there needed to be an “evolution in other institutions.”

But there are many Egyptians who have become uncomfortable with what they see as the army’s clumsy handling of government.

“I am getting a feeling that the army is not fulfilling the demands of the protesters … and I don’t like that because I agree with the revolution and all its demands,” said Mohamed Afan, an accountant.
An army-backed ban on strikes by workers drew the wrath of protesters, who accused the army of betraying their trust. There have been no obvious cases where the law was implemented.

Egyptians have rallied over what they say is the army’s tardiness in holding Mubarak to account. His trial on murder and graft charges is now set for August 3. The military insists this is a judicial matter, beyond its control.

Seeking to appease the public, generals have appeared on TV chat shows, unheard of in Mubarak’s time, to explain themselves.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Egypt, once served as defense attache in Pakistan and seems to have long been aware of the pitfalls of military rule.

The U.S. ambassador wrote in a leaked 2009 cable of a remark Tantawi had made then in which he concluded that “any country where the military became engaged in ‘internal affairs’ was ‘doomed to have lots of problems’.”

13-26

SPECIAL REPORT-In $22 Billion Saudi Family Feud, Who Knew What?

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Reuters

Diversification

Glenn Stewart, an American banker who was hired by al-Sanea in 1989, says diversification led to rapid growth of the Algosaibi business, and a need for new funds.

At Algosaibi Investment Holdings in Bahrain, Stewart said he was given the task of raising $100 million in credit facilities from Islamic banks for the Algosaibi partnership as the family added canning factories to its bottling plant, and bought land.

This was a far cry from Stewart’s days at Oxford University, where he directed actor Rowan Atkinson, who would win fame as Blackadder and Mister Bean.

“I wanted to work in the Middle East. I wanted to have some adventures,” Stewart said in his deep baritone during one of three long interviews.

The business grew rapidly for a decade.

Then came the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001. America clamped down on money exchanges in Saudi Arabia — unregulated businesses it feared could be used as a source of funding for terrorist groups. Stewart said the Algosaibis worried they might have to amalgamate their exchange with those of other families.

As a possible way out, they applied for a licence to operate as a bank in Bahrain, he said. When they won approval in 2002, they set up The International Banking Corporation (TIBC), which Stewart headed “from day one”.

The Algosaibis contest the view that they were involved in TIBC. “It is false that the family had sought to set up or operate a Bahraini bank. The documents do not support it,” a spokesman for the family said. The family “had absolutely zero involvement in the running of the bank or in meeting with regulators.”

Again according to Stewart, Bahrain-based TIBC could not lend money there, so its customers came through the Money Exchange in Al-Khobar.

“The Money Exchange was responsible for dispersing advances to the customers and for collecting interest,” Stewart said.

While Stewart ultimately reported directly to Al-Sanea, the working relationship between the two men — based at different ends of the bridge that connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia — remained very much at arm’s length.

“As a non-family member you didn’t have any rights. If you questioned their business decisions you just ended up with them jumping down your throat,” Stewart told Reuters.

Invisible Customers

One man who did question the family was English banker Mark Hayley. He was the general manager at the Money Exchange for more than a decade until 2009. His testimony in the Caymans court is a pivotal building block in the Algosaibi argument.

Hayley, now 60, said the Money Exchange did not appear to have any customers. “Any borrowing was to service existing debt and to fund the Saad Group. Nor did the Money Exchange have any significant business lending to customers,” he said in a 2010 affidavit to the Cayman court.

“The Money Exchange does not possess any customer details, contact information or any other information which would normally be contained on a customer file.”
There was also the matter of a forged letter.

Hayley, who now lives in Britain and refused to talk to Reuters, told the Caymans court that in the early 2000s, he returned from a holiday to find a letter on his desk that used his signature but that had been written when he was still away.

“I telephoned Mr al-Sanea’s switchboard and someone put me through to him. I was so angry that I yelled at him. This was the first time I had raised my voice to him, but I was incensed,” Hayley told the court.

“Mr al-Sanea tried to placate me. He subsequently told me that (al-Sanea’s personal assistant) Mr Sohail had forged my signature and … would be fined one month’s salary.”

Credit Crunch

It was the credit crunch which triggered the unravelling of al-Sanea’s empire. TIBC raised its funds against its loan book. Most of its money came through interest-rate swaps and foreign exchange and Islamic finance deals.

This was a risky way to run a bank. Like Lehman Brothers, TIBC needed to constantly roll over short-term maturities. When banks stopped lending, the game was up. In May 2009, TIBC defaulted on a foreign exchange deal with Deutsche Bank.

The bank was put in administration, as was Awal bank, the separate company owned by Maan al-Sanea. It was then that the scale of the losses became clear for the first time. Administrators put the amount owed to the banks at $22 billion.

The Algosaibi family claimed they had no knowledge of the foreign exchange transactions, and didn’t even know that TIBC existed. Al-Sanea, they alleged, had stolen billions of dollars and put it into his own Saad Investment Co Ltd (SICL).

BLAME GAME The two years since have spawned a series of lawsuits around the world. Besides the cases in London and the Cayman Islands, legal proceedings are taking place in New York, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Geneva. The Algosaibis have also sued Glenn Stewart in Los Angeles, where they describe him as the main architect of al-Sanea’s fraud. “TIBC was a sham bank and had no real customers,” they say in their claim.

Stewart denies those charges and says the banks who loaned TIBC money were all told where it was going, into real estate, hedge funds and into bank shares, and were given counter-guarantees.
“I certainly refute any allegations in that regard. We had no control over any money or assets of the bank and we had no discretionary power to do anything,” Stewart said.

Stewart ignored orders to stay in Bahrain and fled after the collapse of TIBC and Awal. In March, the Bahrain public prosecutor charged him, Al-Sanea and others for breaches of the country’s commercial companies law.

The chief operating officer of Awal bank, 63-year old Tony James, was one of those held in the country, only allowed to leave just before last Christmas, following diplomatic pressure from the UK.

The bankers who were detained have filed a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Council & Treaties Division and are also suing a UK private detective firm for defamation, over a report it wrote for the Central Bank of Bahrain, and which became public in court proceedings.

They suspect the hand of the Algosaibis.

“The Bahrain authorities, and in particular the (Central Bank) have been complicit in permitting the mechanisms of the state to be used to further the private political ends of a powerful family,” they say in a UN complaint.

13-26

Libya’s Misrata Hit; China Shifts Toward Rebels

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt Robinson

LIBYA/
Rebel fighters sit at the frontline in Ajdabiyah June 22, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) – Libya’s rebels gained on the diplomatic front Wednesday by securing China’s recognition as a “dialogue partner,” but suffered on the battlefield where Muammar Gaddafi’s forces were able to shell their stronghold of Misrata.

Four months into the uprising, and three months since NATO war planes joined their fight to topple Gaddafi, the rebels are making only slow gains in their march on the capital Tripoli. But they have made steady progress winning support abroad and isolating Gaddafi on the international stage.

“China sees you as an important dialogue partner,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told Mahmoud Jibril, diplomatic chief of the Benghazi-based rebel National Transitional Council, who visited Beijing. The comments were published in a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website (www.mfa.gov.cn).

“(The Council’s) representation has been growing stronger daily since its establishment, and it has step-by-step become an important domestic political force,” Yang said, adding China was worried about the Libyan people’s suffering.

The comments came hours after Gaddafi’s forces landed rockets in the center of Misrata for the first time in several weeks. No one was reported hurt by that strike, but it undermined a relative sense of security among residents who believed that a siege on the city had been broken last month.

NATO and the rebels hope that Gaddafi’s diplomatic and economic isolation will eventually bring his government down.

Exports of oil have ceased, depriving Gaddafi’s government of the funds it used during peacetime to provide the population with heavily subsidized food and fuel. Petrol queues in Gaddafi -held areas now stretch for miles.

In a sign of the increasing impact of the crisis on daily life, Gaddafi’s state media issued instructions ordinary people should follow “to deal with the fuel shortage.”

They called on people to use public transport instead of cars, avoid using air conditioning when driving and stick to 90-100 kph as the ideal speed. They also asked Libyans to be patient when queuing at petrol stations.

At least three explosions were heard in Tripoli Wednesday but it was not clear where or what caused them.

Rebels Seek Recognition

Winning international recognition could eventually help the rebels secure access to frozen Libyan funds, and the right to spend money earned by exporting the country’s oil.

China is the only veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council that has yet to call for Gaddafi to step down, after Russia joined Western countries last month in calling for him to leave power.

Beijing, never very close to Gaddafi, hosted Libya’s Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi this month. Courting the rebels has marked a policy adjustment for China, which generally avoids entangling itself in other nations’ domestic affairs.

At least eight European and Arab governments have said they recognize the rebel council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Other countries have allowed the rebels to set up representative offices.

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) — a Saudi-based grouping of 57 Muslim countries — said a delegation arrived Wednesday to mediate. It would meet the rebels in Benghazi and Gaddafi officials in Tripoli, a statement said.

Misrata Attack

Rebels drove loyalist forces out of the third-biggest city Misrata in mid-May and are using it as a base for an advance westwards on Tripoli. Gaddafi forces’ ability to hit it with shells early Wednesday is a setback in a city that had experienced relative calm after months of siege and fighting.

More rockets fell later in the day in the sparsely-populated El-Araidat neighborhood near the port. Residents said no one was hurt and a Reuters reporter saw only several dead sheep lying in a field after the attack.

“Everyone is worried. We don’t know where to go anymore. Only when I die will I be safe,” said Mohammed Mabrouk, who lives near one of two houses hit by the first rocket rounds. Two more landed in open areas.

Fighting has been largely on Misrata’s far western and eastern edges, where the rebel army is sustaining heavier casualties by the day from the better-equipped and better-trained government forces.
Rebels have been trying to advance west toward the town of Zlitan, where Gaddafi’s soldiers are imposing a tight siege. Libyan television said Wednesday that “dozens” of people were killed in Zlitan after NATO naval ships shelled the town.

The report could not be independently verified because foreign reporters have been prevented from entering Zlitan. NATO normally comments on its Libya operations the following day.
If the Libyan television report is confirmed, it could further complicate the mission of the NATO-led military alliance, whose credibility has been questioned after it admitted Sunday killing civilians in a Tripoli air strike.

Gaddafi’s government says more than 700 civilians have died in NATO strikes. However, it has not shown evidence of such large numbers of civilian casualties, and NATO denies them.

A rebel spokesman called Mohammed told Reuters from Zlitan that NATO had been hitting government military targets in the town on an almost daily basis. He said Gaddafi’s soldiers used artillery positions in Zlitan to fire salvoes toward Misrata.

“We hear the sound of artillery fire every night,” he said.

Four rebel fighters were killed and 60 others were wounded in fighting with government forces Tuesday in Dafniya, which lies between Zlitan and Misrata. Eleven rebel fighters were killed there a day earlier.

Rebels are trying to inch toward Tripoli from Misrata, east of the capital, and from the Western Mountains region to its southwest. The going has been tough.

“Gaddafi’s forces have moved forward about a kilometer,” Dr Mohammed Grigda said at the field hospital in Dafniya just outside Misrata. It was impossible to verify the information but a Reuters reporter in Dafniya saw that rebel mortar positions had pulled back slightly.

In the Western Mountains, where the rebels made significant gains in recent weeks, NATO launched four air strikes Tuesday against government forces outside the town of Nalut near the border with Tunisia, a rebel spokesman there said. Gaddafi’s soldiers fired 20 rockets into the town, but no one was hurt.

Gaddafi allies denounce the bombing campaign as a foreign attempt to force a change of government and seize the North African state’s oil. NATO states defend the operation as a U.N.-mandated mission to protect Libyan civilians.

(Additional reporting by Nick Carey in Tripoli, Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Souhail Karam in Rabat, Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Joseph Nasr in Berlin and Ali Abdelatti in Cairo; Writing by Andrew Hammond and Joseph Nasr; Editing by Peter Graff)

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