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Edge on Terror

Outraged Syria says America Acts by “Law of the Jungle” in Cross Border Anti-Terror Raid

October 27th 2008

Military - US Attack Helicopters
U.S. Attack Helicopters

Syria on Monday accused the United States of "applying the law of the jungle," the day after a US military raid inside Syrian territory, which killed at least eight people.

Jihad Makdissi, a spokesman for the Syrian embassy in London, also said it was "outrageous" that a UN Security Council member like the United States should behave in this way. "In the midst of the crisis they did not do this sort of act of aggression. Why now when the security situation in Iraq is getting better?" he told BBC radio. "It's unjustifiable."

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem was set to meet his British counterpart David Miliband in London later Monday for talks likely to be dominated by the US raid. A US military official said the raid by special forces targeted a network of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq. The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area struck because Syria was out of the military's reach.

"We are taking matters into our own hands," the official told The Associated Press in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids. The attack came just days after the commander of US forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an "uncontrolled" gateway for fighters entering Iraq. Read more ..


America with No Plan for an Oil Interruption

Honda Hunkers Down—Carmaker Silent on CNG Suppression as Spokane Still Without Cars and Fuelmaker Deal Terminates

October 20th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black
Edwin Black

This continuing coverage on America’s oil crisis arises from the just released book, The Plan: How to Save America When the Oil Stops—or the Day Before (Dialog Press). Buy it here.

Honda is hunkering down in the face of widespread criticism over its mismanagement and reported suppression of its much-heralded compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle technology, both its Civic GX and its home refueling appliance known as the Phill. Together, the car and refueling appliance allow Americans owning the car and device to completely severe their addiction to oil and even their reliance on gas stations.

Recent media reports that Honda has been suppressing proliferation of its Civic GX, hailed by environmental advocates as “the greenest car in America,” have stung the otherwise respected carmaker. It has refused to answer those in the CNG industry and media asking for a response and has dubbed some of its critics as “extremists” that the company need not answer or engage. At the same time, the company has persisted in its refusal to sell GX cars to those who want them and has now abruptly terminated the much-touted deal to sell T. Boone Pickens its control of the Fuelmaker company which produces the all-important home refueling device, Phill. Sources at Honda suggest the firm may be waiting to see if the negative attention dies down.

Honda only manufactured about 1000 Civic GX vehicles in the past year, and denies them to almost all American markets. The few GX cars it produces are mainly sold in just two states, New York and California. Honda denies the vehicle to even the most insistent dealers throughout the nation. In fact, having sold out its 2008 fleet, the Japanese carmaker simply suspended production altogether. The company claims it will double output by the middle of 2009 to roughly 180 cars per month, but many observers still see that as a token number. By contrast, Honda recently inaugurated mass production at its newest North American factory in Indiana, where it will produce some 200,000 gasoline-burning Civics, and made a similar move in a Canadian plant. The company produces more than one million cars annually in North America. Read more ..


Edge on Terror

Iran Appoints Successor to Terrorist Mughniyeh

October 13th 2008

Iran - Mughniyeh
Imad Mughniyeh

Eight months after he was assassinated in a meticulously-planned car bombing in Damascus, Hizbullah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh has been succeeded by a senior Iranian intelligence official, an Italian newspaper reported Thursday, indicating an Iranian determination to consolidate its control over the Lebanese group.

According to the report in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Hizbullah's new chief military commander is Muhammad Riza Zahdi, aka Hassan Mahdawi, who in the late 1980s served in the Iranian Embassy in Beirut.

According to the report, Zahdi will be in charge of coordinating weapons smuggling to Hizbullah from Syria as well as the construction of military positions in southern Lebanon. The paper said that the appointment was part of an Iranian plan to restructure Hizbullah in the wake of the Second Lebanon War.

Mughniyeh, who had been one of the world's most wanted men for decades, met his demise last February. Since his assassination, Hizbullah had entrusted his duties - including international operations as well as relations with Iran and Syria - to a council of several officials. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

NATO Chief Concedes: “I'm Not Positive World Will be Able to Stop Iran”

October 6th 2008

Iran - Iran's Bushehr Reactor
Iran's Bushehr Reactor

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has expressed concern over whether the international community would be able to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

"I am not positive about the world being able to stop Iran from fulfilling its ambitions," he said during a conference in France which was quoted by Reuters.

"It is a major challenge to prevent Iran from continuing to strive to get the bomb," Scheffer said, adding that his concern was "that the Security Council, as we speak, is rather incapable of coming to further conclusions on further sanctions.”

Scheffer said that while Iranian nuclear capabilities would be dangerous, he was not opposed to a nuclear Israel.

"As we all know, Israel never admits to what it has, but I do not see very many arguments for the Jewish state to abandon its potential," he said. "What is as dangerous (as the nuclear program) is the missile technology which (Iran) is also developing at a fast pace. Read more ..


Edge on Iran

Interfaith Rally Protests Religious Reception for Iranian President Ahmadinejad

September 29th 2008

Iran - Ahmadinejad The Man
Iranian President Ahmadinejad

Hundreds of protesters assembled outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on September 25 where Ahmadinejad was being feted by a group of religious leaders. The coalition of Jews and non-Jews assembled outside to protest the dinner at the hotel.

“These religious leaders are about to betray their brethren across all religions, parties, and countries by ‘honoring’ the tyrannical regime of Ahmadinejad and the Iranian mullahs of this terrorist state,” protest organizers said in a statement posted on their website. This was the second such major protest against the Iranian Republic’s leader that week in New York. Read more ..


Edge on Iran

Iran Moves One Step Closer to Mandating Death Penalty for Apostasy

September 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Joe Griebowski headshot

Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, voted by an overwhelming majority on September 9 in favor of a draft law that would mandate the death penalty for apostates. According to reports, the parliament passed an umbrella bill that contains articles requiring the death penalty for apostates. The articles now return to committee for further consideration before lawmakers vote on them again. 

Iranian law currently requires punishment for apostates, that is, those who leave Islam and convert to another religion. However, the type of punishment is left to the discretion of the judge. If the new provisions pass all stages of Iran’s legislative process, apostates will receive only one punishment: death.

The draft penal code has been under consideration since February, and includes security provisions that would give Iran jurisdiction even over actions taken and deemed threatening to the state outside of Iran. The code also distinguishes between apostates born to at least one Muslim parent (innate) and those whose parents were not Muslims at their conception (parental). The Cutting Edge News has been covering the draft law.

Article 225-7 of the code states, “Punishment for an Innate Apostate is death,” while Article 225-8 says, “Punishment for a Parental Apostate is death, but after the final sentencing for three days he/she would be guided to the right path and encouraged to recant his/her belief and if he/she refused, the death penalty would be carried out.” Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Afghanistan, Belarus, Indonesia and Seven Other Countries Recommended for State Department's List of “Countries of Particular Concern”

September 22nd 2008

Islamic Topics - Muslim Anti-Ahmadiyya Protest

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy sent recommendations to President George W. Bush on what countries the United States should designate this year as the world’s most egregious persecutors of religious freedom, or in diplomatic parlance “countries of particular concern. (CPCs)”

CPCs are countries showing "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom," according to the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The U.S. State Department will soon release its annual report on religious freedom around the world, which covers almost 200 countries. 

For 2008, the Institute has recommended to the President and the Secretary of State that the following new countries be named to the list: Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Indonesia, Egypt, Kosovo, Maldives, Russia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. In addition, the following countries designated in 2006 should remain as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.

According to the Institute’s letter, Kosovo has failed to protect its religious minorities’ physical safety and property, including that of the Serbian Orthodox Church. State agencies and “unchecked aggression by social actors against Protestants, Orthodox Christians, moderate Muslims, and other religious minorities threaten the continued safety of these groups.” The United States removed Vietnam as a CPC in 2006, which was a premature move based on a few minor improvements. However, official persecution of Christians and Buddhists continues. Vietnamese authorities have used government agents dressed as Catholic clergy, for example, to turn public opinion against the Catholic Church, while authorities detain Catholic clergy and continue to confiscate property. Read more ..


Edge on African Genocide

Holocaust Scholars Urge Prosecution of Sudan's President for Genocide

September 22nd 2008

History-Genocide - Luis Moreno Ocampo
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo
ICC-CPI/Wim Van Cappellen

Leading scholars of the Holocaust from around the world have signed a petition to Luis Moreno-Ocampo of the International Criminal Court urging him to proceed with his prosecution of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for his role in the genocide of the people of the Darfur region of Sudan. While ICC chief prosecutor Moreno Ocampo has announced plans to seek al-Bashir’s arrest, the voices of the Arab League, African Union, as well as China and Russia have been raised against it.

"Prosecuting al-Bashir will help stop the Darfur genocide and will send a powerful warning to future would-be killers,” said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which organized the petition. “The governments that are trying to protect al-Bashir should be ashamed of themselves.”

The petition also compares the efforts by al-Bashir’s allies to the position of the US State Department in the 1940s, which advocated prosecuting only a limited number of Nazi war criminals. Medoff wrote “Blowing the Whistle on Genocide: Josiah E. DuBois, Jr. and the Struggle for a U.S. Response to the Holocaust,” which was published this week by Purdue University Press. Read more ..


Edge on Turkey

EU Must Assess Turkey's Dedication to Religious Pluralism

September 22nd 2008

Islamic Topics - Minaret

If Turkey is to join the European Community, “it must show that it is ready to take great strides in adopting a European outlook, not the baby steps it has taken until now.” So wrote author and former New York Times correspondent Nicholas Gage wrote in the International Herald Tribune. Gage seemed to speaking for many observers still ambivalent about admitting Rurkey to the EU.

Gage said in his opinion piece entitled “Orthodox Christianity under threat” on IHT’s that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist party have “shown no inclination to extend even a modicum of religious freedom to the most revered Christian institution in Turkey - the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual center of 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world. As a result, Turkey's persecution of the Patriarchate looms as a major obstacle to its European aspirations, and rightly so.”

Gage denounced the harassment suffered by the ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew I, at the hands of Turkish bureaucrats who “summon him to their offices to question and berate him about irrelevant issues, blocking his efforts to make repairs in the few buildings still under his control, and issuing veiled threats about what he says and does when he travels abroad.” Muslim chauvinists, according to Gage, demonstrate almost daily outside the walls of the Patriarchate and call for its ouster from Turkey despite its presence in the city once known as Constantinople since before the time of Mohammed. Read more ..


Inside Africa

African National Congress Ousts Mbeki

September 22nd 2008

Africa Topics - Mbeki
Thabo Mbeki

South Africa's ruling party said Saturday that President Thabo Mbeki agreed to step down after being recalled by the ruling party.

African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said Saturday that the party's top-level National Executive Committee has "decided to recall the president of the republic before his term of office expires."

Mbeki succeeded Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa in June 1999 and was due to stand down next year after two terms in office. Mbeki was ousted as leader of the ANC last December by Jacob Zuma, a 66-year-old former guerrilla leader who commands strong support among South Africa's poor. Mbeki has faced growing pressure from supporters of Zuma to quit, following a judge's ruling that he was instrumental in Zuma being charged with corruption.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will formally hand in her resignation if President Thabo Mbeki resigns, her spokesman said today. Read more ..


Is the U.S. Economy Safe?

Inside the Latest Sunday Night Massacre on Wall Street

September 15th 2008

Economy - Lehman Bros

It began Friday night after nearly all of Wall Street dutifully turned off the lights and jumped onto their trains or fell into their bistros, preparing to start the weekend. But even as the rank and file were unwinding and relaxing, America’s top financial luminaries began huddling to burn the midnight oil in a tense showdown. By the time Monday’s dawn’s early light chased the shadows from the canyons of Wall Street, the bodies were everywhere. The nation and world are still counting the corpses.

The first emergency meeting was convened by Federal Reserve Bank of New York president Timothy Geithner inviting Wall Street’s top CEO’s and kingpins of government financial regulation. The list of attendees: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox from the federal government; from Wall Street the list included Morgan Stanley Chief Executive John Mack, Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs Group CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Citigroup Inc. head Vikram Pandit and representatives from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Other industry leaders attended, including Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan, Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Colm Kelleher, Citigroup Chief Financial Officer Gary Crittenden, UBS AG Chief Risk Officer Thomas Daula, J.P. Morgan investment bank co-head Steve Black, and Goldman Sachs co-president Gary Cohn. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Violence Against Ahmadi Muslims Spikes After Pakistani TV Broadcast

September 15th 2008

Islamic Topics - Muslim Anti-Ahmadiyya Protest
Muslim Protests Against Ahmadiyya

Members of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan who routinely experience persecution and now being subjected to a new wave of violence. Contrary to mainstream Islam, the Ahmadiyya community believe that their 19th century founder was a prophet. Most Muslims believe that Muhammad was Islam’s final prophet and there shall be no prophet after him. In countries such as Pakistan, such theological differences are not settled through civil debate. Instead, most Muslims view Ahmadis as heretics worthy of harassment, or even open murder.

Ahmadi fears of violence spiked again this month when a popular satellite channel, GEO TV, ran a September 7th program commemorating the 1974 decision by Pakistan’s parliament declaring Ahmadis as “non-Muslims.” On the show, moderated by Dr. Aamer Liaqat Hussain, some participants argued that the murder of Ahmadis is sanctioned as a religious duty.

Only a day after the broadcast, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Abdul Manan Siddiqui, an American doctor, in Sindh Province as he saw patients in his medical clinic.  He was a regional Ahmadi leader, and a humanitarian. Only a day after the doctor’s murder, gunmen killed another Ahmadi leader in Sindh.

The Ahmadi community suffers persecution around the world, but is subject to particular discrimination under Pakistani blasphemy law. For example, Ahmadis who call themselves Muslims or name their sons Muhammad face imprisonment.

Ahmadis in Pakistan are worried about the latest murders, and blame them on GEO TV’s incitement to violence. The GEO TV channel reaches the United States through DishNetwork. Read more ..


Edge on Iran

Former Iranian Nuclear Negotiator Slams President Ahmadinejad for Squandering Foreign Policy Opportunities and Wreaking Havoc on Economy

September 15th 2008

Iran - Ahmadinejad headshot
Iran's President Ahmadinejad

Hasan Rowhani, Irans’ former nuclear negotiator, has publically rebuked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying the controversial leader has done much to harm the Islamic Republic during his three years in office. Saying Ahmadinejad had missed “golden” opportunities to develop Iran, Rohani appeared to be joining fellow critics of the president ahead of the coming 2009 presidential elections. Rowhani is thought of as a pragmatist among Iran’s fiery Islamic ideologues, while he is also an ally of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad’s rival.

Among the lost and golden opportunities that Ahmadinejad has apparently failed to exploit is what Rowhani described as the weakest U.S. position since 1970s because of its involvement in Iraq.

Speaking on September 8 to members of the Moderation and Development Party, Rowhani knocked Ahmadinejad for Iran’s high inflation rate that comes despite huge oil revenues and subsidized fuel for consumers. Rowhani said Ahmadinejad has failed to privatize the economy as guaranteed by Iran’s constitution and has not improved Iran’s standing in world politics. Rowhani said government affiliates - instead of the private sector — were being awarded shares in the "privatized" firms. Read more ..


Iran and the World

Inflation Soars In Iran

September 8th 2008

Iran - Iran Money Changers

Iran's inflation hit 27.6 per cent in the month of Mordad that ended on 21 August, the central bank said Sunday. The consumer price index (CPI) in urban areas also increased by 27.6 per cent compared to the same month in the previous year, thus confirming that prices are on a runaway trend in Iran.

A month earlier inflation reached 26.1 per cent, whilst in the two previous months it was 25 and 24 per cent respectively.

The inflation mostly affected staples such as meat, beans and rice whose prices have doubled in a yearly comparison. If milk and bread were not subsidized they too would have been hard hit by inflation. Now a four-member family can spend up to 80 per cent of its income on food each month.

Despite having pledged economic improvements, inflation and the economy are President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s weak points. Instead his government has paid closer attention to military issues. In fact, Iran is now conducting previously announced maneuvers designed to test the anti-naval capacities of the armed forces and the Guardians of the Revolution. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Christians in India Plea for End to Hindu Nationalist Rampages

September 1st 2008

Asia Topics - Hindu Protest
Hindu Protest

The tally of Christians murdered and persecuted in India grows as they continue in the crosshairs of Hindu fundamentalists enraged by the August 23 murder of Hindu fundamentalist leader Swami Laxanananda and five followers. Most of the violence has occurred in the state of Orissa.

In a September 1 letter to President Pratibha Patil of India, a group of citizens wrote demanding action to protect the Christian minority saying  “We, the secular civil society community, perceive that the great nation of India is at a tipping point. The groups which favor a 'Hindu Rashtra' have made Orissa their laboratory, as they earlier did in Gujarat. The so-called saffronisation of the state has been the subject of well-documented academic and socio-political studies."

The letter continued "We entreat you, as President of the Republic, to enforce the rule of law upon Sangh Parivar organizations which blatantly flaunt their divisive agenda. Specifically, we call upon you to bring the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and Bajrang Dal under the rule of law.” The signatories included numerous Christian leaders of India.

On the evening August 23, shortly after news came of the Hindu leader's death, the first attack took place. Two Catholic nuns were stopped by assailants who set fire to their vehicle. The driver was savagely beaten. At almost at the same time, another vehicle in which nuns were traveling in Sambalpur was stopped and set on fire.  Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Washington Parks Israeli Plan for Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities

August 25th 2008

Israel Topics - Israeli Jets Parked
Israeli warplanes

Washington has rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel's ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran.

As compensation for the requests it rejected, Washington offered to improve Israel's defenses against surface-to-surface missiles.

Israel responded by saying it reserves the right to take whatever action it deems necessary if diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's nuclearization fail. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Elderly Catholic Bishop Arrested in China

August 25th 2008

Asia Topics - China arrests Catholics
Chinese police surround Catholic church

Roman Catholic Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, Hebei province, China, was arrested again by local authorities. Bishop Jia Zhiguo belongs to the “underground” church not recognized by China’s communist government. He was arrested on the morning of August 24, the twelfth such arrest since January 2004. Zhengding is a small village situated approximately 100 miles south of Beijing. Its Roman Catholic community numbers approximately 110,000. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was consecrated bishop in 1980.

Government officials arrived in vehicles at Christ the King Cathedral at WuQiu while his current whereabouts are unknown at this time. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was last arrested in August 2007 and released four months later. The reasons for his current unrest are as yet unclear. After his release in December 2007, the bishop was consigned to house arrest and not allowed to receive visitors unaccompanied by government watchers. Police patrols prevented visitors to the bishop during his house arrest.

Bishop Jia Zhiguo is nearly 74 years old and in delicate health, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation. During his confinement at home, his requests for medical treatment were denied by Chinese authorities. The bishop has now spent at least 18 years in prison. Read more ..


Election Edge

Obama's Campaign Liaison to Muslims and Arab-American Community Suddenly Resigns

August 11th 2008

Politics - Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Mazen Asbahi, Senator Obama’s campaign liaison to the Arab-American and Muslim communities, resigned August 5 when it was revealed that he had served on the board of an Islamic investment fund with a controversial Muslim religious leader. In his letter of resignation, Asbahi wrote that he had served on the board of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Fund along with Imam Jamal Said, a religious leader of a mosque in the Chicago area who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 trial of Islamic charities accused of aiding the Palestinian Muslim extremist group known as Hamas. Said is the imam at the Bridgeview Mosque in Bridgeview IL.

Asbahi wrote in his resignation letter that he was leaving “in order to avoid distracting from Barack Obama’s message of change.” The campaign is searching for a new coordinator. Asbahi resigned after barely 10 days on the job.

A corporate lawyer with Chicago office of Schiff Hardin LLC, Asbahi served in 2000 on the board of the Allied Assets Advisors Fund, which is affiliated with the North American Islamic Trust. Revelations were first raised by The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, an internet newsletter that tracks what it says are offshoots in the West of the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical Islamist group founded in Egypt decades ago. Allied Asset Advisors is a subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust supported by the government of Saudi Arabia. It holds title to many mosques in the US.  Read more ..


Russian Invasion of Georgia

ICRC Aids Wounded and Refugees of the Russian-Georgian Conflict

August 11th 2008

Politics - Georgia Civilian Distress
Georgia Civilian Distress

The International Committee of the Red Cross has launched a preliminary appeal of $7.4 million dollars to meet the emergency needs of more than 50,000 people affected by the armed conflict between Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia. The Red Cross needs the funds for a variety of services and populations.

The wounded need medical care; displaced people in North Ossetia and Georgia and civilians still in South Ossetia need aid; Tskhinvali needs drinking water for its residents; and access to the captured and arrested is crucial. "Over the past few days the ICRC has been able to visit hospitals in Alaguir, Ardon and Vladikavkaz, in the Russian Federation, and in Gori, Poti and Senaki in Georgia," said Dominik Stillhart, the organization's deputy director of operations. "It's still too early to say how many people have been killed or injured by the fighting, but our visits to these hospitals confirm that local medical facilities are dealing with a large number of wounded and dead." Read more ..


Inside Palestine

Egyptian Border Police Cope with Dozens of Tunnels Discovered at Gaza

August 11th 2008

Arab Topics - Gaza Tunnels
Gaza Tunnels

Recently, an Egyptian police patrol spotted two Egyptian teenagers, Hatem Mohammed Ahmed, 18, and Ahmed Naim Awad, 15, near one of the 20 tunnels discovered by Egypt last week. A shootout seriously wounded the suspected smugglers. A third teenager, found inside the tunnel with thousands of gallons of fuel, food packages and cigarettes, was arrested.

The tunnels are part of a larger network of underground passageways, some more than 100 feet deep, used by Palestinians to smuggle weapons, explosives and contraband into the Gaza strip. They are beneath the security wall at Ramah, the largest town on Gaza-Egyptian border and its only crossing.

Just before Egypt discovered the 20 tunnels, eight other tunnels were uncovered. Israel, concerned about arms smuggling into Gaza, offered Cairo help last week to build a high-technology barrier at the crossing. Read more ..


China’s Embattled Olympics

Olympic Committee Refuses to Apologize for Deal with Beijing to Censor Websites

August 4th 2008

Asia Topics - SF Olympic Protest

 Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is under increasing pressure after he appeared to renege on his guarantees of unfettered Internet access for the thousands of foreign journalists heading to Beijing for the Olympic Games next week.

Rogge emphatically stated that he did not agree to Internet restrictions on foreign media in Beijing, describing the situation as "not good," just six days before the start of the Games. Rogge refused to offer an apology despite the flood of criticism after China backtracked on Internet freedoms for the visiting press.

"I am not going to apologize for something the IOC is not responsible for. We are not running the Internet in China," Rogge said. "The conditions you were working in on Tuesday were not good," Rogge admitted to reporters at a press conference, after foreign journalists this week found they could not access a wide range of Internet sites."

Despite Rogge’s pronouncements, Reuters reported that some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites despite promises of unrestricted access. "I regret that it now appears the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time," IOC executive Board member Kevan Gosper said. "I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related," he said. Read more ..


Edge on Asia

Nepal Sees Shaky Start as Monarchy Gives Way to Republic

July 28th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Grieboski

Nepal's first-ever President and Vice President were sworn in this week.

Ram Baran Yadav, the new president, is a physician in his 60s and was elected president by Nepal's constituent assembly, almost two months after the country was declared a republic and put an end to the 239-year-old monarchy.

Yadav was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri. "I represent all Nepali people in this august office and in all my efforts and endeavors I will be committed to the benefit of the Nepali people," Yadav said after the swearing-in.

Yadav then administered the oath of office to the newly elected vice president Parmananda Jha. However, a day after Jha took the oath of office, street protests have broken out calling for his resignation. Protestors have burnt him in effigy because Jha pronounced his inaugural speech in Hindi, not in Nepali, the country’s official language, and wore Indian-styled clothes, not traditional Nepali garb.

The post of the president is largely ceremonial. Yadav will swear in the country's new prime minister, who holds executive authority. While the president can deploy the armed forces, he can only do so at the recommendation of the prime minister.

Nepal's Maoists, which won the largest number of seats but fell short of a majority in April's general elections, had said they will not form a government because their choice of president was rejected by rival lawmakers.

Read more ..

Election Edge

Ma'ariv blasted for printing Obama's note at Western Wall

July 28th 2008

Politics - Obama at the Wall
Senator Obama places prayer at Western Wall

The decision by the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv to publish a handwritten note that Barack Obama left last week in the cracks of the Western Wall drew criticism as an invasion of his privacy and his relationship with God.

 

Ma'ariv published a photograph of the note on its front page on Friday. It said the note was removed from the wall by a student at a Jewish seminary immediately after Obama left. In the note, placed at Judaism's holiest site, Obama asks God to guide him and guard his family.

 

"Lord - Protect my family and me," reads the note. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."

 

The paper's decision to make the note public immediately drew fire from religious authorities. The rabbi in charge of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz, said publishing the note intruded on Obama's intimate relationship with God. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iranian Hackers Attempt to Silence Peace Message from American Jews

July 28th 2008

Jewish Topics - Malcolm Hoenlein
Malcolm Hoenlein

View Video

Website manager Ohad Rosen of jerusalemonline.com said on that hackers had recently attempted to disrupt a video message that Malcolm Hoenlein – executive vice president of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations – posted on June 18. The video message declared: "I want to tell you that we have no issue with the Iranian people. We want to see you prosper and your country develop. We want to renew the close relationship that once existed between Iran and the United States, and Iran, Israel and many countries around the world. It is regrettable that you have a leadership that does not care about your welfare and the conditions under which you live. Rather, your leadership exploits Iranian citizens in its quest for extremist goals driven by radical ideological commitments that are not consistent with the interests of the people of Iran, or the stability of the region in which Iran finds itself."

The message continued to lay out the case for Iranians to stop their government from pursuing nuclear weapons. Israel has announced it will pre-emptively attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure unless long-stalled international efforts to stop trhe program quickly succeed.

According to the Associated Press, Rosen said that the hackers are “probably Iranian based with Chinese assistance or fingerprints." Rosen added that the hackers were not successful in taking down Hoenlein’s 2 ½ minute message to the Iranian people but did succeed in deleting pictures and icons while also sabotaging links.

According to reports, Iranian hackers also hacked Arab-language websites over name of the Persian Gulf, which some refer to as the “Arabian” Gulf. Behrouz Kamalian, who blogs on mathematics, was reported on the Iranian.ws website to have said on July 21 that his group had hacked about 100 Arab websites, including those hosted by government, academic institutions, and private enterprise in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Iraq.

The hackers managed to superimpose a map of the Persian Gulf, clearly marking it as such. Kamalian’s blog site lists his address in Teheran.

An email inquiry to the Iranian Interests Section at the Embassy of Pakistan to the United States was not immediately answered. No response from Iranian authorities about the cyber hacking has been reported.

Jerusalemonline can be view here.

Senior Contributor Martin Barillas writes on religion and geopolitics at www.speroforum.com Read more ..


Extreme Borderland Violence

Mexican Border Town Endures Two-Hour Bloodbath

July 21st 2008

Mexican Topics - Mexican Army Rescue
Mexican Army Rescues Child

In Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican border town nestled across the line from El Paso, Texas, there were at least eleven murders in less than six hours on July 19, according to official reports from the state of Chihuahua.

The first victims that day were a couple - an unidentified woman and an unidentified man. At least eighty expended ammunition cartridges were found near the bodies. At about the same time, three other persons were cut down by gunfire in another neighborhood of a city plagued by drug-related violence.

Two hours later, at approximately 11 pm, a twenty-five year-old man was shot to death by a group of assailants armed with 9 mm weapons, while at approximately the time police received reports of the murder of another person at a bar.

Murderers continued to rack up victims into the early hours of July 20, harvesting a twenty-year-old woman and her thirty-year-old male companion at just past 1 am. In the Galeana neighborhood of Ciudad Juarez, Angel Fernando Robles Urbina was cut down by killers who had burst into his home.                                         Read more ..


Tracking “Project Better Place” Electric Cars

Portugal Joins Israel and Denmark in Growing Electric Car Community

July 14th 2008

Science - Electric car
Wind-Driven Better Place-Niseen electric vehicle

Portugal has linked up with French carmaker Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan to boost the use of electric cars by creating a national recharging network.

The aim is to make Portugal – which imports all its oil – one of the first countries to offer drivers the possibility of nationwide charging stations, putting more electric vehicles on the roads at a time of soaring fuel prices.

Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates attended the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the project.

Prime Minister Socrates said: “We want to increase Portugal’s autonomy in terms of energy, so that future generations can make their own decisions and we are not at the mercy of others, as we are today.”
Renault and Nissan are working on developing a battery-powered car with a 160 kilometer range to be sold in Portugal as of 2011. Carlos Ghosn promised: “We want to make large-scale availability of zero emission vehicles one of our main priorities in the short and long term.”

On the conventional car front, Renault has just lowered its sales target for the year. It expects sales to rise between 5% and 10%, down from its earlier growth target of 10% due to the impact of uncertain economic and financial developments on European car markets. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Imminent Trial in Azerbaijan for Baptist Pastor on "Gun Charge"

July 14th 2008

Religion - Orthodox Church Azerbaijan
Othrodox Church in Azarbaijan

Baptist pastor Hamid Shabanov of the remote village of Aliabad is due to be transferred from prison in the city of Gyanja back to Zakatala for trial, according to his lawyer Mirman Aliev. The 51-year-old pastor faces up to three years' imprisonment on a charge of illegal weapon possession.

"Hamid Shabanov does not consider himself guilty and insists the gun the police are claiming was his was planted by them," Aliev attests. Ilya Zenchenko of the Baptist Union complains that Shabanov's arrest is part of a pattern of such government activity against Baptists and other religious communities across Azerbaijan.

Aliev said the Zakatala District Prosecutor's Office is completing its investigation into allegations that Pastor Shabanov possessed an illegal weapon – an accusation he and his family vigorously refute – and is about to hand the case to the court.

Ilya Zenchenko, head of Azerbaijan's Baptist Union who rushed to Aliabad in the wake of the arrest, believes the decision to complete Shabanov's case and send it to the court may be a reaction to a press conference held by the country's Evangelical Alliance in Baku on July 3rd. "It's clear they have now decided to wrap up the case quickly," Zenchenko told reporters.

An official who answered the phone on July 7 at the Zakatala District Prosecutor's Office refused to discuss Pastor Shabanov's case or say when the case would be handed to the court. The head of Zakatala district police, Faik Shabanov (no relation), said that the pastor is “a criminal.” Under Azerbaijani law, individuals are innocent until found guilty in court. Read more ..


Inside Asia

Talks with Dali Lama over Tibet-Beijing Ties Conclude Dismally

July 7th 2008

Asia Topics - Dali Lama
The Dalai Lama

As the Dalai Lama celebrates his 73rd birthday, the mood is anything but joyous thanks to a lack of progress in talks with China.

Tibetan Government in Exile officials said the usual cultural performances were bypassed this year in Dharamshala due to the unrest in Tibet earlier this year.

Recently representatives of the Dalai Lama have been meeting in the latest rounds of talks with officials from Beijing. Prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Samdhong Rinpoche, was disappointed by the lack of any progress during the talks.

"The seventh round of talks has not produced any tangible results. The Chinese selfish attitude is only adding to the existing doubts about their insincerity for future talks," Rinpoche said.

Rinpoche further voiced disappointment that China had repeated allegations accusing the Dalai Lama of inciting the riots in Tibet in March in order to sabotage the upcoming Beijing Olympics."The Dalai Lama is a messenger of peace and non-violence. He follows a middle path policy, which does not seek separation of Tibet from China and does support the Beijing Olympics," Rinpoche said.

Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama’s representative who led the two-man team which met Chinese officials in Beijing, expressed his own frustration at the lack of progress. "There is a growing perception among the Tibetans and my friends that the whole tactic of the Chinese government is to engage us to stall for time," said Gyari. "My colleague and I told our Chinese counterpart candidly that we ourselves are beginning to inch towards this school of thought."

Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

US 'won't allow' Iran to shut key Gulf oil route

July 7th 2008

Military - USS Harry S Truman
USS Harry Truman in Persian Gulf

The commander of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet has warned that the United States will not allow Iran to shut the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf sea lane through which much of the world's oil is supplied.

"They will not close it... They will not be allowed to close it," Vice-Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff told a press conference in Bahrain, where the Fifth Fleet is based.

His remarks followed comments by the chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, who issued a new warning last week against any attack against his country over its controversial nuclear drive.

"It is natural that when a country is attacked it uses all of its capabilities against the enemy, and definitely our control of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz would be one of our actions," Jafari said.

The strait between Iran and Oman is a vital conduit for energy supplies, with as much as 40 percent of the world's crude passing through the waterway from Gulf suppliers.

"Certainly if there is fighting... the scope will be extended to oil, meaning its price will increase drastically. This will deter our enemies from taking action against Iran," Jafari said.
Cosgriff said: "The latest Iranian statements are not helpful." Read more ..


Election Edge Exclusive

YouTube Pulls Pastor Hagee Videos After Church Copyright Lawyers Demand Removal

July 7th 2008

World Citizens - Pastor John Hagee
Pastor John Hagee

YouTube.com, the popular website for uploading videos, has pulled numerous videos of Pastor John Hagee Ministries after the minister’s copyright attorneys requested their removal, The Cutting Edge News has learned. The attorneys asserted the videos constituted copyright infringement, and were otherwise deemed to be private property, ministry sources said. Lawyers quietly contacted YouTube during the days and hours before the July 4 holiday to attract as little attention as possible, it was learned.

This prompt YouTube action comes at a time when the giant Google enterprise is fighting Viacom’s one billion dollar lawsuit over alleged copyright infringement as a result of content uploaded by YouTube users. In February 2007, Viacom obtained a court order compelling YouTube to delete some 160,000 videos which apparently infringed on copyrights. Viacom owns network and cable programming, and digital images such as seen on MTV and Comedy Central are frequently chosen as digital content for YouTube uploaders. Earlier in July, a judge also ordered Google to deliver YouTube user data to Viacom. The court-ordered files encompass 12 terabytes of data. That sweeping order was stayed in an emergency protective order, but YouTube is doing all it can to demonstrate that it respects copyright. Read more ..


Inside Islam

Indonesia Cracks Down on Minority Religious Groups

June 30th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Joe Griebowski headshot
Joseph Grieboski

The Indonesian government has halted all religious activities of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, handing a victory to Islamic extremists and tarnishing Indonesia's reputation as a moderate, pluralistic Muslim nation.

The decree, approved June 10 by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, falls short of an outright ban on Ahmadis, but orders them to stop practicing their faith and "return to mainstream Islam." Ahmadis now face arrest for practicing their beliefs. About 5,000 members of the hard-line group United for Islam demonstrated outside the presidential palace the day the ban was signed.

On June 1, extremists attacked an interfaith rally supporting Ahmadiyya, injuring dozens of people. Extremists have been demonstrating by the thousands in Jakarta over the last few months, and on April 28 some torched an Ahmadiyya mosque in Sukabumi, Western Java.

Since the influential and state-supported Council of the Indonesian Ulama issued a 2005 fatwa that banned the Ahmadiyya, violence, threats and vandalism against the group's estimated 200,000 followers in the country have increased. The Ahmadiyya endure official and societal discrimination simply for believing that leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the movement in 1889, was a prophet.

President Yudhoyono has been caught between moderates and extremists in this battle for Indonesia's democratic character. By caving in to extremists, he has abdicated the state's responsibility to respect its citizens' freedom of conscience, while effectively condoning religious violence. Other religious minorities, including Christians and Hindus, are now at greater risk for discrimination and persecution.

On June 14 the Indonesian government disregarded a formal agreement with Protestant leaders by demolishing three churches.  The agreement called for the churches to suspend their Sunday religious functions in exchange for not being torn down.  Read more ..


After the Holocaust

US Court finds that Chabad Can Sue for the Return of Precious Archives held by Russia

June 23rd 2008

Jewish Topics - Chabad Court Sketch
Attorney Nathan Lewin Arguing Chabad's Case Against Russia
Sketch: Dana Verkouteren

The U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia ruled in a landmark decision on June 13, 2008 that Agudas Chasidei Chabad of the United States may pursue claims in federal court against Russia in order to recover sacred religious texts and archives. Chabad – the largest Jewish organization in the world – has demanded the return of these texts from Russia for decades. Stolen by Nazi Germany and kept hostage by the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation since World War II in violation of international law, the appellate court’s decision clears the way for the recovery of the prized documents by means of U.S. courts.

 

The DC appellate court wrote in its ruling “We therefore affirm the judgment of the district court finding jurisdiction over Agudas Chasidei Chabad’s claims concerning the Archive; we reverse its finding of Russia’s immunity as to the Library claims based on the events of 1917-1925 and 1991-1992; we affirm the court’s rejection of Russia’s forum non conveniens defense; we affirm its rejection of Russia’s act of state defense to the Archive claims; and we vacate its application of the act of state doctrine to the Library claims.” Read more ..


Inside the Middle East

Jordan's King Abdullah Supports Christians in Jerusalem

June 16th 2008

World Leaders - King Abdullah of Jordan
King Abdullah of Jordan

In a day filled with a flurry of diplomatic formalities, Jordan’s young King Abdullah again expressed his support on June 9 for what the Jordan Times termed “efforts exerted by Arab Christians to protect holy sites, their rights and the Arab identity of Jerusalem.”

Meeting with Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and Bishop Fouad Twal of the Catholic Church, King Abdullah expressed support for non-Jewish residents of Israel. Besides commending efforts to preserve an Arab identity in the most revered city of the world’s three monotheistic religion, according to the Jordan Times, the king also commended Patriarch Sabbah’s support for Palestinians and the presence of Arab Christians in the holy city. 

Patriarch Sabbah is due to step down, since he has reached the age of 75, to be replaced by the Jordanian-born Bishop Twal who is due to take over the see on June 22. Bishop Twal said he was “reassured” by his visit with the Jordanian monarch. According to the prelate, the king told him that “we are not alone” with regard to the West Bank of the River Jordan and the Palestinians living there.  Read more ..


Election Edge

Controversial Priest Pfleger Returns to Pulpit after a Mere One Week Suspension

June 9th 2008

Politics - Michael Pflegler
Michael Pfleger

After a recent meeting with His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, the leadership of St. Sabina's parish announced that Fr. Michael Pfleger – the longtime pastor who was suspended after politically-tinged commentary from the pulpit of Barak Obama’s former church – would return to the post next week. Suspension of the controversial priest lasted only seven days.

In a sermon last month, Pfleger mocked Hillary Clinton from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ and said the New York senator felt "entitled" to the Democratic nomination for president because she is white.

"I believe she just always thought, 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white, and this is mine,'" Pfleger preached. "And then outta nowhere came, 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama.' And she said, 'Oh, damn! Where did you come from?'"

The Pfleger inferno put Trinity back in the news, just as the Wright revelations were receding. Already rocked by episodes of then-Pastor Jeremiah Wright's radical rhetoric, the Rev. Otis Moss III invited Fr. Michael Pfleger to speak at Trinity. The debacle was the last straw for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama who then quit the church permanently. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Inspectors Discover Iran's Nuclear Weapon Instruction Book

June 2nd 2008

Iran - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Iranian plant
Iranian President Ahmadinejad at Nuclear Facility

UN inspectors were shocked by the recent discovery of an Iranian document describing the process for making the potential core of a nuclear weapon.

Internal Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director General Olli Heinomen met with diplomats in a closed-door meeting. During the session, Heinomen revealed that the IAEA had gathered information from 10 different countries' intelligence agencies which suggested that Iran had previously engaged in weaponization studies. Tehran called the allegations of pursuing bomb-making "baseless" and claimed that the intelligence was fabricated. However, the 15-page document appears to be the recipe for the process of machining uranium metal into two hemispheres like those used in nuclear warheads.

At least two diplomats who attended the secret briefing with IAEA said, under condition of anonymity, that Heinomen talked in detail about the uranium metal document. Heinomen was quoted as describing the 15-page document as "alarming", suggesting that there was no reason for any nation to have such a document unless they intended to produce uranium hemispheres for a nuclear weapon.

Iran maintains it received the controversial document in 1987 together with design information for the P1 centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Authorities in Tehran insist that it did not originally request the uranium metal document. But the IAEA said in its latest report that the agency needed to understand the precise role of the document so that the true nature of Iran's disputed nuclear program could be accurately determined. Read more ..


The Rules of War

US Absent as Global Cluster Bomb Ban Signed

June 2nd 2008

Miscellaneous - Cluster Bombs
Collection of cluster bombs.

A draft treaty for a worldwide ban on cluster munitions was recently adopted by the representatives of 111 states, despite the absence of major powers including the United States.

After 10 days of talks, the more than 100 countries present have called for a total, immediate ban of the weapons, strong standards to protect those injured by them, contaminated areas to be cleaned up as quickly as possible and for the weapons to be immediately destroyed. The agreement requires the destruction of stockpiles of the weapons within eight years.

CNN reported that, "Hours before the agreement was announced, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that his nation plans to take all its cluster bombs out of service. ‘I look forward to other countries being able to take these cluster bombs out of service. I think this would be a big step forward to make the world a safer place,” Brown said. Read more ..


Inside the Catholic World

Pope Benedict Readies New Encyclical and New Book on Jesus

June 2nd 2008

World Leaders - Pope Benedict
Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI will release a third encyclical, tentatively entitled Caritas in Veritate (Charity/Love in the Truth), according to Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.

The cardinal disclosed in an interview with the APCOM news agency that the Benedict’s next encyclical will not be ready for publication before the fall. "The encyclical is still being written," he said.

Cardinal Bertone stated that Pope Benedict is also working on the second part of his book Jesus of Nazareth. The Pope typically devotes a substantial portion of his summer vacation to writing projects.

In his encyclical, the cardinal said, “[Pope Benedict] does not want to repeat obvious truths of Catholic social teaching," but will apply Church teachings to contemporary problems. “I am thinking of globalization and other problems, like the food crisis and climate change," Cardinal Bertone said.

Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli reported last week that the committee working with the Pope on the encyclical includes the Pope's recently-named successor as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Reinhard Marx, a specialist in Catholic social teaching; the top two officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi; and Stefano Zamagni, a lay Italian economist.


The Next Mideast War

Egypt Finds Massive Arms Cache in Sinai

June 2nd 2008

World Scenes - Tank
Israel border area at Sinai

An Egyptian police official said Saturday that boxes of ammunition, RPGs and anti-aircraft missiles have been uncovered inside a mountain in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the weapons were to be smuggled into the neighboring Gaza Strip.

The mountain is about 80 kilometers south of Rafah on the Gaza border. It has been used before as a shelter for local Islamic groups that carried out three major bomb attacks starting October 2004 in Sinai. They killed 125 people in total.

The official said some 2,200 bullets, 30 anti-aircraft missiles, several sacks packed with hand grenades and automatic rifles, and RPG launchers were stored inside the mountain.


Inside the Caribbean

Fernandez First Dominican Republican President Gains Unprecedented Second Term

May 26th 2008

Headshot - Joe Griebowski headshot
Joe Grieboski

President Leonel Fernandez recently claimed a resounding third term in the Dominican Republic, thrust back into office by what many see as his accomplishments in dragging the Caribbean country out of a deep economic slump. This grants him an unpredecented second presidential term.

The Associated Press reports Fernandez as saying that he will keep focusing on improving the Caribbean country's economy. He is credited with helping the country mend from a bank collapse in 2003, calming inflation and stabilizing the peso.

Fernandez defeated his primary rival – center-left construction magnate Miguel Vargas – with 54% to 40% of the vote, according to a final tally released by election officials. The remaining votes were shared by six other candidates. Election officials said voter turnout was 71%.

Fernandez told CNN en Espanol, "I understand that democracy implies the sharing of a common place, a civilized coexistence for the good of the nation," Fernandez said. "Therefore, yesterday I called upon the [opposition] Dominican Revolutionary Party to join in. I will expect for them to answer to my call positively, because we are no longer campaigning, the elections are over. The country needs to unify again and start thinking as a nation and face the challenges that await." Read more ..


Inside Lebanon

Lebanon Factions Meet to Find Truce While at the Brink of Civil War

May 19th 2008

Islamic - Beirut Hizbollah Street Violence
Hezbollah gunman

Lebanon's rival factional leaders met in Qatar to resolve the political conflict that drove the country very close to another civil war.

Qatar's prime minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, has directed the negotiations be carried out under the umbrella of the Arab League. Nearly all of Lebanon's leaders have participated, with the exception of Hasan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary general.

Fourteen of Lebanon’s factional leaders met formally for less than two hours. In their most concrete step, they agreed to form a committee consisting of three representatives from each side to devise an electoral law for parliamentary elections in 2009.

Both sides agreed last week to renew a dialogue to try to resolve the protracted political impasse after the Cabinet of the Western-backed Lebanese Government reversed its previous decisions regarding Hezbollah’s communications network and the firing of a ranking airport security official linked to Hezbollah. Read more ..



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