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02.20.10 Iran calls VOA, BBC arms of US, British spy agencies
TEHRAN (AP) February 20 - Iran's police chief on Saturday accused the Voice of America and the BBC of being the arms of US and British intelligence agencies, and warned of severe repercussions for journalists and activists caught having contacts with them, state media reported. Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, whose police forces have played a key role in the government crackdown on protesters since Iran's disputed presidential election, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying opposition activists have cooperated with the BBC and the Voice of America "with the aim of weakening and overthrowing the (ruling) system." "The BBC is the arm of MI-6 (Britain's foreign intelligence agency) and VOA belongs to the CIA" Moghaddam said, according to IRNA. "Those who cooperate with foreign services through transmitting photos, reports, news and anti-revolutionary actions ... should know that all their actions are monitored." "We will settle accounts with them when the time comes," Moghaddam warned. [More>>foxnews.com]
02.20.10 Marines seize Taliban HQ, IDs, photos
MARJAH, Afghanistan (AP) February 20 - After a fierce gunfight, US Marines seized a strongly defended compound Friday that appears to have been a Taliban headquarters — complete with photos of fighters posing with their weapons, dozens of Taliban-issued ID cards and graduation diplomas from a training camp in Pakistan. Insurgents who had been using the field office just south of Marjah's town center abandoned it by the end of the day's fighting, as Marines converged on them from all sides, escalating operations to break resistance in this Taliban stronghold in southern Helmand province.
02.20.10 Pakistan air strike kills 30 militants, bombers hit police
ISLAMABAD (AFP) February 20 - At least 30 militants were killed in an air strike by the Pakistani military as two suicide bombers attacked police stations in northwest Pakistan Saturday, officials said. The air strike took place in South Waziristan district where the military in October launched an air and ground offensive to flush out Taliban militants. The "hideout in Shawal mountains was targeted after a tip off received that terrorists were hiding there," the military said in a statement....About 30,000 troops poured into South Waziristan in mid-October to try to dismantle strongholds of the Taliban leadership, enraging militants who have responded with a surge of bombings and other attacks. More than 3,000 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks by Islamist militants since July 2007.
02.20.10 Taliban commander killed in S. Afghanistan as massive operation goes on
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (Xinhua) February 20 - A key Taliban commander was killed by joint forces in the massive NATO-Afghan operation to take the control of Taliban bastion in southern Afghanistan, spokesman for provincial administration Daud Ahmadi said Saturday. "The joint forces during cleanup mission in Marja district (of Afghanistan's southern Helmand province) on Friday killed commander Mullah Amanullah," Ahmadi told Xinhua. However, he failed to give the exact number of Taliban fighters who might have been killed or wounded along with commander Amanullah. Days ago, the governor of Helmand province Gulab Mangal confirmed the death of over 40 militants during the operation. [More>>xinhuanet.com]
02.19.10 Russia 'very alarmed' at Iranian nuclear stance
MOSCOW (Reuters) February 19 - Russia said on Friday it was "very alarmed" by Iran's failure to cooperate with the IAEA, after the UN nuclear agency said it feared Tehran might be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated Iran's insistence that suspicions about its nuclear programme were baseless. But the US-led campaign for more sanctions against Tehran appeared to be gaining ground. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that Moscow's patience was wearing very thin.
"We are very alarmed and we cannot accept this, that Iran is refusing to cooperate with the IAEA," Lavrov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station in an interview. "For about 20 years, the Iranian leadership carried out its clandestine nuclear programme without reporting it to the IAEA," he said. "I do not understand why there was such secrecy." The IAEA on Thursday made public its concerns over a classified analysis which concludes that Iran already has explosives expertise relevant to a workable nuclear weapon. [More>>thestar.com.my; See related story,
02.19.10 US researchers find way to detect cancers through DNA changes
BEIJING (Xinhuanet) February 19 - US researchers unveiled a new way to detect cancers by identifying the unique changes that occur in the DNA of cancerous cells, AFP reported Friday. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US used the cutting-edge DNA sequencing and identified the radical genomic rearrangements that occur only in tumors, not in healthy cells. The DNA rearrangements that occur in cancerous cells are unique, which makes it easier for scientists to detect them. The new method to detect the DNA rearrangements was dubbed PARE, for Personalized Analysis of Rearranged Ends, said Victor Velculescu, an associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University and senior author of the study. PARE could also be used to determine if a patient's cancer was completely removed by surgery, said the researchers. The researchers hope PARE's cancer detection methods will be accessible to clinicians and their patients within the next two years. [>xinhuanet.com]
02.19.10 US missiles kill Siraj Haqqani's son
ISLAMABAD, February 19 - Pakistani officials say the son of senior Afghan Taliban commander Siraj Haqqani has been killed in a US missile strike in northwestern Pakistan. The two officials said Friday that Mohammed Haqqani and three other close associates of the Taliban leader were killed when missiles struck a house in the Dande Darpa Khel area of North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly to the media. They said the attack was apparently aimed at Siraj Haqqani, a top Taliban commander with suspected close ties to al-Qaeda who is accused of masterminding ambushes of American troops in Afghanistan. The officials said it was not known if Siraj Haqqani was hurt in the strike. [>thenews.com.pk; See other details,
02.18.10 Ahmadinejad: Israel will be destroyed if it attacks Hezbollah
(AP) February 18 - Region should be delivered from Israel's 'evil ways' forever, Iranian president tells Nasrallah. Iran's president on Thursday said that if the Israelis launch a new war against Lebanon's Hezbollah, the militant group should retaliate strong enough to close their case once and for all. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments, in a conversation with Hezbollah's leader, were the latest in a heated exchange of rhetoric between Israel and Lebanon and Syria this months in which all sides have been warning the other not to start a war. Speaking by phone, Ahmadinejad urged Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah to prepare his fighters to be able to retaliate strongly against any Israeli attack.
02.18.10 Obama courts Damascus in hope of ending Middle East deadlock
February 18 - Assad goes from pariah to ally as US breaks five years of diplomatic isolation for Syria. As Barack Obama moved formally to repair US relations with Syria by nominating an ambassador to serve there after a five-year hiatus, William Burns, America's top career diplomat, held talks in Damascus yesterday with the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad on an array of security issues in the region. The sudden flurry of activity reflects a gamble by Washington that engaging more closely with Syria it can persuade it to take steps on a number of fronts that it sees as being vital to improving stability in the Middle East with regard to all its neighbors – Iran, Iraq, Lebanon as well as Israel. Emerging from his meeting with President Bashar, Mr. Burns said the nomination of Robert Ford, a top Arabist at the US State Department, confirmed "America's readiness to improve relations and to cooperate in the pursuit of [a] just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis." [More>>independent.co.uk]
02.18.10 Four NATO troops die in Marjah assault
MARJAH, Afghanistan, February 18 - Latest Deaths Bring NATO Casualties to 9 as Fighting Intensifies on Sixth Day of Offensive. Four NATO service members have died in the sixth day of a major military offensive to claim control of a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. NATO said Thursday night that three were killed in two different roadside bomb attacks and a fourth died as a result of small-arms fire. US and Afghan forces have taken control of the main roads, bridges and government centers of the Taliban haven of Marjah, but pockets of insurgents remain. The southern offensive in Marjah is the biggest since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and a test of President Barack Obama's strategy for reversing the rise of the Taliban while protecting civilians. [More>>cbsnews.com; See also
02.18.10 Missile strikes kill 4 in NWA
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, February 18 - Two missiles fired from a US drone aircraft slammed into a militant compound in North Waziristan tribal belt on Thursday, killing at least four insurgents, officials said. The attack was the second US bombing raid in as many days in North Waziristan district, and hit a stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, known for staging attacks on US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. "Two missiles hit a house. Four militants were killed, four were wounded. It was a militant compound," said a security official in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, which also borders Afghanistan. A local administration official confirmed the toll in the US drone strike in the Dandey Darpa Khel area near Miranshah, while a security official in the area said that a car was also damaged in the bombing raid. [>thenews.com.pk]
02.18.10 Dozens killed in two blasts in NW Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Xinhua) February 18 - Dozens of people were killed and many others injured in two bomb blasts in northwest Pakistan's tribal area on Thursday. At least 30 people were killed and 100 others injured in a suicide attack in Tirah valley of Khyber Agency tribal area, source told Xinhua. The blast occurred near a mosque which is said to be a center of the banned Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant group in Khyber Agency. An important militant leader of the group has reportedly been killed in the blast. Official sources said that the blast occurred when more than 150 people gathered to offer prayer in the mosque, which was damaged heavily in the blast. [The] Death toll is feared to rise. Sources said that two local militant groups Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam are actively involved in terror incidents in Khyber agency. They have also been engaged in targeting each others' members. [More w/ stories on other blasts>>xinhuanet.com]
02.18.10 Holbrooke hails Pakistan-US collaboration on Taliban
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) February 18 - Improved collaboration between the United States and Pakistan led to recent successes against the Taliban, including the capture of the group's number two man, the White House's special envoy to the region said on Thursday. Hours after envoy Richard Holbrooke arrived in Islamabad, a bomb in a village in the Khyber area on the Pakistan-Afghan border killed 30 people, underlining the fragile security environment in the region. The dead included the commander of a militant faction which is not part of Pakistan's main Taliban alliance, security officials said, adding the blast appeared to be the result of factional rivalry. Holbrooke lauded the capture of top Afghan Taliban military strategist Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar this month, which comes as US forces spearhead one of NATO's biggest offensives against his group. "It is significant in and of itself. Very significant," he told reporters. "It represents another highwater mark for Pakistani and American collaboration." [More>>thestar.com.my]
02.18.10 Pakistan nabs Taliban 'shadow guvs'
KABUL, Afghanistan, February 18 - Two senior Taliban leaders have been arrested in recent days inside Pakistan, officials said on Thursday, as American and Pakistani intelligence agents continued to press their offensive against the group's leadership after the capture of the insurgency's military commander last month. Afghan officials said the Taliban's "shadow governors" for two provinces in northern Afghanistan had been detained in Pakistan by officials there. Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban's leader in Kunduz, was detained in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad, and Mullah Mohammed of Baghlan province was also captured in an undisclosed Pakistani city, they said.
02.18.10 Suicide bomber kills 11 in Iraq's Anbar province
RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) February 18 - A suicide bomber killed at least 11 people and wounded 21 others on Thursday in Iraq's increasingly turbulent western Anbar province, a senior Iraqi army official and police said. A medical source said Ramadi's main hospital had received 13 bodies, and that 26 people had been wounded. The blast comes weeks before a March 7 parliamentary vote that al-Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq has threatened to derail by military means, stoking fears of more violence to come as politicians and candidates gear up for the election. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
02.18.10 President 'seized in Niger coup'
February 18 - The president of the West African nation of Niger has been taken hostage after armed soldiers stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Niamey, witnesses said. The attack on Thursday came after witnesses reported hearing machine gunfire near the palace where Mamadou Tandja, the country's president, was believed to be holding a meeting. A journalist in the capital, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said the president is currently being held by soldiers at a garrison in the city. "The rebels have taken the president to a certain place, pending he submits his resignation," he told Al Jazeera. "That's why the rebels have not announced yet on national television or radio the coup. They want the president to resign by himself from the position. Armed soldiers are now controlling the presidential palace and they also took government ministers when they took the president." [More>>aljazeera.net]
02.18.10 Interpol seeks arrests for Hamas chief's killing
DUBAI / PARIS, February 18 - Dubai urges Interpol to issue red notice against Mossad chief. Interpol should issue a warrant to help locate and arrest the head of Israel's spy agency Mossad if the organization was responsible for the killing of a Hamas chief in Dubai, the emirate's police chief said on Thursday, as the Interpol issued arrest notices for 11 suspects wanted by Dubai for the killing. In comments to be aired later on Dubai TV, police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim called for Interpol to issue "a red notice against the head of Mossad ... as a killer in case Mossad if proved to be behind the crime, which is likely now."
02.17.10 Drowning in debt: What the nation's budget woes mean for you
WASHINGTON, February 17 - American political and economic leaders have sounded the alarm for years about the red ink rising in reports on the federal government's fiscal health. But now the problem of mounting national debt is worse than it ever has been before with — potentially dire consequences for taxpayers, according to a report by the nonpartisan Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform. "It keeps me awake at night, looking at all that red ink," said President Obama in Nashua, N.H., on Feb. 2. "Most of it is structural and we inherited it. The only way that we are going to fix it is if both parties come together and start making some tough decisions about our long-term priorities." Obama will sign an executive order tomorrow that establishes a bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to make recommendations on how to reduce the country's debt.
Editorial note: "Harping on interest on the national debt." In a monthly correspondence between Wm. F. Buckley Jr (of National Review, Firing Line fame) this writer and Mr. Buckley agreed that borrowing on the National Debt — called "public debt" by the Fed — would sink this nation. The first portion of our argument, published in June 1993, is captured in "Against Leviathan" — Manifest against the Leviathan probably sighted by Captain Buckley. In the Preface (page iv) of this small work is a chart, "Interest on the US debt," that shows 1992 Outlays were: Interest, $292 billion; Welfare, $152 billion; Defense, est. $270 billion; General Operations: community, law enforcement, education, social programs, etc., est. $378 billion. Below the chart was the calculation that "Notes issued 1984-1991 average 7% interest; 1992 interest on $4.32 trillion [the debt at the time] would be $302 billion.
Mr. Buckley and I both agreed that interest (the largest single outlay in the US debt at the time) would [financially] "sink" this nation. After the conversation ended in May 1995, Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House, announced a "pay-as-you-go plan, "Contract with America," to stop borrowing on the debt. President Clinton afterwards signed onto the plan and became its greatest advocate, resulting in a three-year hiatus where the debt was paid down, leaving his successor, George W. Bush not only a successful plan in running a government without borrowing and a forecast of eliminating the debt within 10 years.
George W. Bush abandoned that plan and reintroduced the practice of heavy borrowing that President Reagan initiated in 1981, when he entered office. The borrowing that Reagan introduced then was called "Reagenomics." During his term of office (1981-1993) Reagan almost tripled the US debt — taking it from $907 billion to $2.6 trillion. His successor, George H. W. Bush (1989-1992) took Reagan's debt from about $2.6 trillion to $4.0 trillion. Clinton retarded the growth of the debt with three years of surplus, leaving it at $5.6 trillion.
The forecasted collapse Mr. Buckley and I had been discussing had to do with the affect interest on the debt played upon our economy, where the size of the debt and its demand for lenders would exceed that which could be supplied by lenders. The result would be an ongoing pressure for the Fed to increase interest rates to attract lenders, i.e., sell US Treasury bonds and notes. The increase in interest rates to sell bonds would cause interest rates on mortgages, car loans, credit cards, etc., to also increase. Thus, the consequences of the US public debt would involve a larger indebtedness spread across the country and the world, draining productivity and an eventual collapse.
As it happened, during this time new financial practices, including financing tied to the Fed's Prime Rate, set the stage for a greater collapse than Mr. Buckley and I ever discussed. When the Fed increased rates to sell its bonds, homeowners among many others, including major corporations, found themselves not only drowning in debt but underwater, sunk.
I have often wondered why Newt Gingrich suddenly became silent when George W. Bush renovated the old borrowing practices contrived by President Reagan. In any event, the world can thank presidents Reagan, George H, W. Bush and George W. Bush for the predicament it is in at the moment and the lesson on "the consequences of living beyond your means."
As a postscript Mr. Buckley died just before the collapse and thus was not able to witness what he and I had discussed in earnest. When George W. Bush renewed Reagan's old borrowing plan, Mr. Buckley also became silent. Over the years I have complained about the media's ignorance of the problem. When the media and their "talking heads" discuss the debt, they tend to refer to the "deficit" being passed on to our children and often confuse the deficit and the public debt. Most have no idea that the public debt is something that drains the US budget, by becoming one of the largest outlays in the budget, often exceeding the budget for national defense.
In the overall silence during the past years, however, I continued writing about the debt threat. A chart and historical data on the debt through the administrations since President Carter are in my National_Debt.html. If interest on the current public debt outstanding of $12.384 trillion were to be assessed at the 5% rate experienced during the years of the George W. Bush administration, the current (annual) interest outlays on the debt, of $383 billion for FY 2009, would court $620 billion in 2010-2011.
Those interested in Mr. Buckley's letters in the conversation will find that when we agreed on the threat and consequences of borrowing on the national debt, the argument turned to that of an ethical issue, as to whether Mr. Buckley had an obligation to tell the people what he and I discussed, as it was threatening this nation. He argued that it was my responsibility, since "I brought the issue up." I answered that I was not famous and someone that would be listened to, like him, that he ought to discuss the issue on his Firing Line program. He continued the discussion bringing up moral, Biblical arguments. His letters are in the work, "Rooting out his faith."
02.17.10 Obama starts push to cast stimulus bill as a success
WASHINGTON, February 17 - President Obama defended his year-old economic recovery package on Wednesday, arguing that the package, the major legislative achievement of his presidency so far, has created or saved as many as two million new jobs, lowered taxes for 95 percent of Americans and spared the country a potentially disastrous depression. One year to the day that he signed the bill into law, Mr. Obama appeared at the White House alongside small business owners who have benefited from the measure, which has become a kind of political albatross for him and for fellow Democrats seeking re-election in 2010.
"One year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility," the president said. "It's one of the main reasons the economy has gone from shrinking to by about 6 percent to growing about 6 percent." He added, "Our work is far from over, but we have rescued this economy from the worst of this crisis." [More>>nytimes.com]
02.17.10 Taliban using human shields says Afghan official
(AP) February 17 - Taliban insurgents are increasingly using civilians as human shields as they fight allied troops trying to take the militants' southern stronghold of Marjah, an Afghan official said Wednesday as military squads resumed painstaking house-to-house searches. About 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops are taking part in the offensive around Marjah, which has an estimated 80,000 inhabitants and was the largest town in southern Helmand province under Taliban control. NATO hopes to rush in aid and public services as soon as the town is secured to try to win the loyalty of the population. With the assault in its fifth day, insurgents are firing at Afghan troops from inside or next to compounds where women and children appear to have been ordered to stand on a roof or in a window, said Gen. Mohiudin Ghori, the brigade commander for Afghan troops in Marjah. "Especially in the south of Marjah, the enemy is fighting from compounds where soldiers can very clearly see women or children on the roof or in a second-floor or third-floor window," Ghori said. "They are trying to get us to fire on them and kill the civilians." [More>>indianexpress.com; See related story,
02.17.10 Army confirms arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani: ISPR report
RAWALPINDE, February 17 - Taliban second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader has been captured, Inter-Services Public Relation confirmed Wednesday. According to a brief statement released by the ISPR, the process of thorough identification has proved that the arrested person is Mullah Abdul Ghani. Taliban commander Mullah Barader was captured in a joint operation of the intelligence forces of both Pakistan and the United States. Speaking at the National Assembly, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Abdul Ghani was the defense minister in Mullah Omar's cabinet. Malik said that investigation was still underway after which more arrests could be made. He said that security forces had raided a house in Chaman and recovered a cache of arms, including 25 suicide vests. [>thenews.com.pk]
02.17.10 Lebanon charges 11 Qaeda suspects with spying
BEIRUT, February 17 - Group allegedly planned to spy on army and UN peacekeepers.A Lebanese military investigative judge charged 11 suspected al-Qaeda militants on Wednesday with planning to commit crimes against Lebanese authorities and spying on the Lebanese army and UN peacekeepers. Judge Samih al-Hajj indicted the group of Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians, six of whom have fled Lebanon and the rest have been detained, on charges that carry a death penalty. The indictment said the men had "formed an armed gang with the purpose of committing crimes against people ... undermining state authority and prestige, spying on the military and UN peacekeepers, and forging passports," Among those charged — several of them in absentia — are Abdul Rahman Awad and Abdul Ghani Jawhar, two members of the al-Qaeda inspired Fatah al-Islam accused of a deadly 2008 bus bombing in the northern city of Tripoli. Fatah al-Islam fought deadly battles against the Lebanese army in the summer of 2007 in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared near Tripoli. [More>>alarabiya.net]
02.16.10 Foreigners reduce stakes in US Treasury
WASHINGTON (AP) February 16 - Record drop in foreign holdings in December; government might have to pay higher interest to attract investors. A record drop in foreign holdings of US Treasury bills in December sent a reminder that the government might have to pay higher interest rates on its debt to continue to attract investors. China reduced its stake and lost the position it held for more than a year as the largest foreign holder of Treasury debt. Japan retook the top spot as it boosted its Treasury holdings. The Treasury Department said foreign holdings of US Treasury bills fell by a record $53 billion in December. That topped the previous record drop of $44.5 billion in April 2009.
02.16.10 Secret joint raid captures Taliban's top commander
WASHINGTON, February 15 - The Taliban's top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials. The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.
02.16.10 Afghanistan missile that killed civilians 'hit target'
February 16 - A missile that struck an Afghan house killing 12 people hit its intended target, the commander of British forces in the country's south says. Maj. Gen. Nick Carter said the rocket had not malfunctioned, adding that the system responsible for firing the US missile was back in use. Officials have said three Taliban, as well as civilians were in the house. US forces have faced some resistance around the Taliban haven of Marjah as Operation Moshtarak continues. The progress of US troops has been hampered by sniper fire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in some areas. British and Afghan troops are reported to be advancing more swiftly in the nearby district of Nad Ali. A NATO spokesman said they had begun setting up joint patrol bases to provide a permanent security presence. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
02.16.10 Unknown Pakistan group claims responsibility for Pune attack
ISLAMABAD, February 16 - Laskhar-e-Taiba Al Alami, a hitherto unheard terror outfit, on Tuesday claimed it carried out the Pune blast because of India's "refusal" to discuss the Kashmir issue with Pakistan. The claim was made by a man who called an Islamabad-based correspondent of an Indian newspaper. The caller identified himself as Abu Jindal and described himself as the spokesman of the LeT Al Alami (International). The caller claimed his group carried out the attack in Pune that killed nine people because of what he described as India's "refusal" to discuss the Kashmir issue in forthcoming talks with Pakistan.
02.16.10 Obama: New nuke plant 'only the beginning'
LANHAM, Maryland, February 16 - President announced about $8 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear power reactors in Georgia. Promising "this is only the beginning," President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees for the construction of the first nuclear power in the United States in nearly three decades. The president cast his move as both economically essential and politically attractive as he sought to put more charge into his broad energy agenda. Obama called for comprehensive energy legislation that assigns a cost to the carbon pollution of fossil fuels, giving utility companies more incentive to turn to cleaner nuclear fuel.
02.16.10 Iran says ready to swap uranium with US - Ahmadinejad
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) February 16 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday his country is ready to swap uranium even with the United States, the ILNA news agency reported. "The case is not yet closed," Ahmadinejad said during a press conference in Tehran. "We have already announced that we are ready for a fuel exchange within a fair framework. We are still ready for an exchange, even with America." He stressed Iran is ready to pay for uranium swaps with the United States. "If the U.S. expresses a desire to participate in fuel exchanges, then we will be ready to cooperate and pay for the fuel," he said, adding that if Washington did not play fair, Tehran would "alter its approach." Ahmadinejad also said that world powers would "regret" any sanctions against Iran. [More>>en.rian.ru; See related story,
02.15.10 Taliban 'forced from strongholds'
February 15 - A joint NATO and Afghan military operation is succeeding in pushing Taliban fighters from their strongholds in Helmand province, officials say. On day three of Operation Moshtarak, senior Afghan officers said areas around Marjah and Nad Ali were being cleared of insurgents. However, US troops in Marjah were being slowed down by snipers and home-made bombs, a BBC correspondent says. The campaign aims to bring the areas back under Afghan government control. However, the operation suffered a setback on Sunday when rockets fired by coalition troops killed 12 civilians. NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that he "deeply regretted this tragic loss of life." In another blow to the coalition, NATO announced on Monday that five more civilians had been killed in an air strike outside of the operation — in Kandahar province. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
02.15.10 Iran moves towards military dictatorship: Clinton
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) February 15 - New UN sanctions on Iran would target enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guards which is driving the Islamic Republic toward a military dictatorship, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday. Speaking in Qatar before flying to Riyadh, Clinton denied the United States planned to attack Iran and said Washington wanted dialogue with Tehran but could not “stand idly by” while Iran pursued a suspected nuclear weapons programme. Asked if Washington planned to attack Iran, she replied: “No, we are planning to try to bring the world community together in applying pressure to Iran through sanctions adopted by the United Nations that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, which we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran.”
02.15.10 West condemns Iran's 'bloody repression'
GENEVA, February 15 - Iran rejects human rights criticism as sanctions loom. Western powers accused Tehran of waging "bloody repression" since elections last year as they challenged Iran to open up to international scrutiny during a UN human rights meeting Monday. In a public review of Iran's record at the UN Human Rights Council, Britain, France, the United States and other Western nations expressed deep concern about reports of killings, arrests and torture in a clampdown on dissent. "The authorities are waging bloody repression against their own people, who are peacefully claiming their rights," French ambassador Jean Baptiste Mattei said.
See also Maravot News 12.28.09 Editorial note to article 12.22.09 Cleric's funeral breathes life into Iran's protest movement: Editorial note: "Twitter postings protest Khamenei's abuse of power." The latest Twitter postings tend to be focusing on Khamenei's abuse of power through the Constitutional articles that invoke the "Valayat" and recent claims to be "The Imam," referring to the prophet Mohammed's successor. For a background on those powers see:
Khamenei seems to have taken upon himself The Wali al-'Asr who is also called the Mahdi. President Ahmadinejad has on several occasions stated that he believes that he lives in the time when the Iranian savior, the Mahdi, will reappear with Jesus. He has also been criticized by the clerics for claiming to speak to the Mahdi.Khamenei and Ahmadeinejad seem to project that they have a devine purpose and, as such, believing that Allah is directing them; they apparently feel justified in the persecutions and murders of Iranian peoples for which their regime has become notorious. The Khamenei regime point of view includes a perception that Iran will lead all nations (See Constitution) and their religious self-indulgent fervor makes them a greater danger to the world community at large if the regime develops nuclear weapons. If recent Twitter postings reflect the general mood of the Iranian people — disgusted at the apostasy of Khamenei and his supporters — throwing the Khamenei clerics out in a revolution would seem to be inevitable.
02.15.10 Four killed in N. Waziristan drone strike
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, February 15 - Four people have been killed in yet another US drone strike here in North Waziristan. The US drone launched a missile targeting a spot in an area of Malik Azdar at Razmak Road in Miranshah. As a result 4 people riding a vehicle were killed, according to initial reports. Those killed have not yet been identified. [>thenews.com.pk]
02.15.10 Five Muslims get 23 to 28 years jail term over Australia terror plot
MELBOURNE, February 15 - Five Muslim extremists were today jailed up to 28 years by an Australian court for plotting violent attacks to protest the country's involvement in "War on Terror" in Afghanistan and Iraq. New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Anthony Whealy handed out the sentence to the five men who cannot be named and who had been found guilty in October 2008 for stockpiling arms and explosives and chemical and bomb making manuals for attacks on unspecified targets...Four of the accused of Lebanese descent and the fifth one were handed maximum jail terms...[Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
02.14.10 NATO says 12 Afghan civilians dead in missile strike
MARJAH, Afghanistan (Reuters) February 14 - NATO rockets killed 12 Afghan civilians on Sunday, missing Taliban militants attacking NATO and Afghan troops as they press ahead with a major offensive that must win over the local population to succeed. It's regrettable that in the course of our joint efforts, innocent lives were lost. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and will ensure we do all we can to avoid future incidents," NATO commander US General Stanley McChrystal said in a statement. US Marines came under intense fire on Sunday after taking over a building in the heart of the last major Taliban bastion in Helmand province.
02.14.10 Rights groups urge Iran to free reporters, bloggers
GENEVA (AFP) February 14 - Media rights watchdog groups on Sunday called on Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to free more than 60 journalists, writers and bloggers held after anti-government protests. "By our count, at least 60 writers, journalists and bloggers remain behind bars today in violation of the protection guaranteed in the Islamic republic of Iran constitution and in international law," six groups said in an open letter to Khamenei. "This list constitutes the largest number of our colleagues jailed by any country on earth at one time in over a decade," it said ahead of a hearing on Iran at the UN Human Rights council in Geneva on Monday.
02.14.10 Frustration grows over Obama's Mideast policy
DOHA, Qatar (AFP) February 14 - Hopes of a new US approach to the Muslim world under President Barack Obama are giving way to frustration over the deadlock in Middle East peace efforts, participants in a US-Islam forum said on Sunday. Eight months after Obama addressed the Muslim world from Cairo, prospects for a US policy shift in the region are fading, said Shibly Talhami, a US academic of Arab origin. "There has been diminishing hope and optimism about American policy in the Middle East in the past month," he told participants at a workshop of the forum in the Qatari capital...But positions adopted since his election have been "disappointing," he said, pointing to Washington "backing down on (Israeli) settlements (in the West Bank) and saying it is up to the Palestinians to take steps," he said. The US president on Saturday reiterated his commitment to work towards ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution, in a video address to the forum. He also named a special representative at the largest pan-Islamic body, the Organization of the Islamic Conference. [Full story>>alarabiya.net]
02.14.10 US drone kills five militants in northwest Pakistan
ISLAMABAD (RIA Novosti) February 14 - At least five militants were killed in Pakistan's North Waziristan region on the border with Afghanistan on Sunday during a US drone attack, Pakistani security officials said. The drone's two missiles hit a militant compound near the town of Mir Ali, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of North Waziristan's main town of Miranshah. The compound was used for training insurgents, the Pakistani security officials said. [More>>en.rian.ru]
02.13.10 At least 20 Taliban killed in major Afghan offensive
MARJAH, Afghanistan, February 13 - Thousands of US-led troops backed by helicopters Saturday stormed an Islamist stronghold in southern Afghanistan in NATO's biggest operation since the Taliban regime's overthrow in late 2001. US Marines led the charge on Marjah, a town of 80,000 in the central Helmand River valley controlled for years by militants and drug traffickers in the first major test of President Barack Obama's new surge policy. US, British and Afghan soldiers dropped into Marjah from helicopters before dawn, immediately coming under fire and claiming their first Taliban victims within hours, Afghan army and Marines officers said.
02.13.10 Ash from Monserrat volcano snaps Caribbean flights
ST. JOHN'S (AFP) February 13 - Many flights around the Caribbean remained cancelled Saturday due to clouds of ash spewed into the skies by a volcanic eruption on the island of Montserrat, officials said. "The continued ash hanging in the atmosphere presents a risk to planes and to the security of passengers," the police in the nearby island of Guadeloupe said in a statement. Hundreds of tourists have been trapped on the French territory of Guadeloupe since the volcano erupted on Thursday, officials said. But the airport in Guadeloupe, which lies just 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Montserrat, would remain closed until Sunday, it said. "The dispersion of these ashes will depend on today's weather conditions," it added in a statement, after fire engines were deployed late Friday to try clear the airport's runways of a thick layer of ash. Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano erupted Thursday, sending a plume of ash 10 kilometers (six miles) high into the sky, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory on the British overseas territory said.
02.13.10 Huge waves at Mavericks injure spectators
HALF MOON BAY, Californai, February 13 - Massive waves are rolling into the San Mateo County coast today, providing prime conditions for the 24 men riding the giants at the Mavericks Surf Contest but danger for some of the thousands of spectators who wanted to see the event in person. A series of waves crashed over a jetty and a sandy berm shortly after 9am, injuring fifteen people. The most serious injuries involved broken bones — including a man with a broken leg and a woman with a busted ankle. Three people were taken by ambulance to local hospitals, said Capt. Joe Santos of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The injuries prompted an evacuation of the beach, but at 11:45am, hundreds remained on the beach, where vendors continued to sell pizza, sausages, t-shirts and memorabilia. Some of the waves at Mavericks, off Pillar Point north of Half Moon Bay, appeared to be up to 40 feet high. They were clean and smooth — great for surfing — thanks to low wind in the area.
02.13.10 Terror talk growing louder on the Web
February 13 - Exclusive: US intel officials seeing spike in al-Qaeda-linked internet chatter focused on ways to thwart airport security. CBS News has learned that US Intelligence officials are seeing a marked increase in terror-related Internet chatter with a frightening focus: Jihadists bent on finding gaps in airport security - all linked to al-Qaeda in Yemen, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian. On one radical website, a writer invites fellow members to post information on how to bypass airport screening. Another member asks about explosive detection devices, writing: "We have that system in place in Algiers...does anyone know if it's capable of detecting [the flammable gas] butane?" On another Jihadist site, a visitor questions security involving 3D scanners at British airports asking: "Can I refuse [to pass through] for religious reasons?" Before long comes this answer: "…advise those who wish to avoid the Heathrow scanners to take the train to Paris... and then board a plane from there." Perhaps most disturbing — the recent discovery of a confidential TSA document on a Yemeni Web site discussing the rules for searching passengers. [>cbsnews.com]
02.13.10 8 confirmed dead, 33 injured in blast at Pune bakery
PUNE, India, February 13 - In a suspected terror attack, eight people were killed and 40 injured, including a foreigner, in a bomb explosion in a popular bakery near a Jewish prayer house here in the first major strike after the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai. The blast occurred in the German Bakery, an old business establishment in the Cantonment area of the city, at around 1930 hours when a waiter at the bakery tried to open an unattended bag. (Watch Video) The famous Osho Ashram, frequented by foreigners, is also located in the vicinity of the blast site. US terror suspect David Headley is believed to have stayed at the Ashram during his visit to the city. "It's most probably a terror attack. We are sending a forensic team of CBI and personnel of National Investigative Agency (NIA)," Union Home Secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai said in New Delhi. Official sources said an Improvised Explosive Device was used to trigger the blast. Maharashtra Minister of State for Home Ramesh Bagve, who is an MLA from the constituency, said up to 40 people were injured, three of them seriously. A team of Anti-Terrorism Squad and bomb disposal squad visited the spot to ascertain the nature of the blast. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See other details,
02.13.10 Iraqi, US forces battle militia group, five killed
BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) February 13 - Forces raided a suspected Iranian-backed terrorist group. Iraqi security forces backed by US troops killed at least five people on Friday in a raid on suspected members of what Washington calls an Iranian-backed terrorist group, the US military said. While overall violence in Iraq has fallen over the last two years, attacks and fighting remain common as Iraq gears up for a March 7 election and US troops prepare to stop combat operations ahead of a withdrawal by the end of 2011. The firefight with suspected members of Kata'ib Hezbollah, a group that the US State Department says has ties to Lebanon's Hezbollah, occurred 265 km (165 miles) southeast of Baghdad in a village near the Iranian border. Twelve people were arrested. "The joint security team was fired upon by individuals dispersed in multiple residential buildings ... members of the security team returned fire, killing individuals assessed to be enemy combatants," the US military said in a statement. "While the number of casualties has not yet been confirmed, initial reports indicate five individuals were killed," it said without specifying who was killed in the raid. [More>>alarabiya.net; See related story,
02.13.10 Obama picks special envoy to world Muslim group
WASHINGTON, February 13 - President Barack Obama appointed a special envoy Saturday to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the 57-nation organization that calls itself the "collective voice of the Muslim world." He is Rashad Hussein, an Indian-American Muslim who has been a deputy associate White House counsel, described by Obama as "an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff."
Obama made the announcement Saturday in a video message to the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. He said he made the move to broaden the outreach strategy toward the Muslim world he laid out last year in Cairo. "Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a hafiz of the Quran, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work," Obama said. A hafiz is someone who has memorized the Quran, the sacred book of Islam. [More>>cnn.com]