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18 February 2012
China – CBS NEWS reported: China said Saturday that it supports the Arab League’s proposals for ending the violence in Syria, a striking show of support just two weeks after Beijing vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution backing the league’s plans. The seemingly contradictory stances on the Arab League’s proposals appear to reflect Beijing’s desire for mediation but aversion to U.N. involvement that could lead to authorizing force, as happened with Libya. China conveyed its support for the Arab League’s proposals in a statement posted late Saturday on the Foreign Ministry’s website. That followed a meeting earlier in the day in Damascus between Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun and Syrian President Bashar Assad. The statement quoted Zhai as telling Assad that China was willing to work with the Syrian government and opposition, the Arab League and Arab countries to find a solution.
Iran – CNN reported: Two Iranian warships sailed through Egypt’s Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea, Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported Saturday, amid heightened tensions in the region. The move represents only the second time such ships have crossed the Suez Canal since the Islamic republic’s 1979 revolution. The first time took place in February 2011, just days after Egypt’s post-Hosni Mubarak government gave the green light to the passage — putting Egypt’s new military leaders in a prickly position with its Israeli neighbor. “As the Navy affected the region with its presence in the Mediterranean Sea last year, the Navy’s 18th fleet will in the best way carry the message of peace and friendship to regional countries, and display the might of the country and the sacred system of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, according to Mehr.
Israel – The JerusalemPost reported: US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Sunday evening for talks on Iran, a day after the head of the US military said an Israeli attack now would not be “prudent.” This will be Donilon’s first visit here as US President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, having replaced James Jones in October 2010. Jones was the last national security adviser to visit Israel, doing so in January 2010 for talks that also centered on Iran. The White House issued a statement saying Donilon will be in Israel from Saturday to Monday for consultations with senior officials about a range of issues, including “Iran, Syria and other regional security issues.” The statement said Donilon’s visit was the “latest in a series of regular, high-level consultations between the United States and Israel, consistent with our strong bilateral partnership and part of our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.”
Russia – The Tehran Times reported: Thousands supporters of Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin participated on Saturday in demonstrations supporting the sustainable development of Russia. People went out to streets in Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Volgograd, etc. In Khabarovsk Putin supporters went to the streets with the slogan “We have something to protect!” The demonstration, organized by the All-Russia People’s Front was attended by 12,000 people. The slogan “Orange Revolution Leads to a Banana Republic” drew a lot of attention. Speakers at the demonstration claimed that Khabarovsk region felt the support of Russian government: there one could see reconstruction of plants, construction of social housing and establishing of new businesses. In Irkutsk the demonstration “Angara Region for a Stable and Strong Russia” gathered about 7,000 people. Teachers, athletes, military men, employees of industrial enterprises of the region spoke in support of the current policy, presidential candidate Vladimir Putin and against the revolutionary changes in the country.
Senegal – USA Today reported: Police opened fire with tear gas Saturday on a commercial avenue in Senegal’s capital, as security forces wrapped up early voting in a contentious presidential race. It marks the fourth straight day of protests before next week’s critical election, which is pitting the country’s 85-year-old president against a young opposition demanding his departure. The increasingly tense atmosphere on the ground has many concerned there may be unrest if President Abdoulaye Wade is declared the winner of the vote. On Saturday morning, the country’s 23,000-strong security force including police and military, lined up to vote early. European Union observers said the ballots had arrived on time and voting proceeded calmly.
Iraq – The BBC Middle East Corps reported: About 400 Iranian exiles have been transferred from their long-held camp in north-western Iraq. They are members of the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), based at Camp Ashraf since the 1980s. It is the first step of a process that aims to see the entire 3,400-strong community expelled from Iraq. But members of this advance party are complaining bitterly that their treatment has fallen far short of that promised by the UN and US. The exiles, who are opposed to Iran’s Shia clerical rulers, were welcomed by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein but have fallen out of favour with Iraq’s new Shia-dominated leadership. Relations with the Iraqi government deteriorated still further last April, when an Iraqi army raid on the camp left 34 residents dead, according to the UN.
Yemen – The Miami Herald reported: Yemenis will head to the polls Tuesday in a one-candidate election that’s expected to make Vice President Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi the first president from southern Yemen since the country’s two halves were unified in 1990. Despite this seeming milestone, however, few in Aden, the south’s former capital, are lining up to endorse the future president. Hadi earned the ire of many southerners by siding with northern forces and President Ali Abdullah Saleh during the 1994 civil war. Now, with Saleh forced from power after months of popular demonstrations, many in Aden are boycotting the elections. They’re honoring calls by the Southern Movement, a loose grouping of activists and demonstrators who are agitating for an end to Yemeni unity and the restoration of an autonomous southern state.
19 February 2012
Syria – USA Today reported: Gunmen in Syria have staged a guerrilla-style ambush that killed a senior state prosecutor and a judge in an attack that suggested armed factions are growing bolder and more coordinated in their uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime. Sunday’s roadway slayings — reported in an opposition-dominated northern region by the Syrian state news agency — came a day after a deadly hit-and-run attack on a political figure in the heart of the pro-Assad city of Aleppo. The targeted killings have not reached Assad’s inner circle, but they indicate a growing shift toward violent tactics by the opposition as it brings aboard more military defectors and seeks to tighten control over the small pieces of territory in its hands.
Iran – The (AP) reported: A team of inspectors from the U.N nuclear watchdog has arrived in Tehran for what are expected to be key talks about Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Iran’s state TV says the International Atomic Energy Agency team arrived early on Monday morning. The report did not give a timetable or agenda for the two-day visit. This is the second IAEA visit to Tehran in less than a month. Herman Nackaerts, a senior U.N. nuclear official, said in Vienna before the team departed on Sunday that he hoped for progress in the talks but his careful choice of words suggested little expectation the meeting will be successful. The West suspects Iran’s nuclear program is geared toward making weapons, a charge Iran denies.
Iran – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: Iran halted crude sales to French and British buyers to pre-empt a European Union ban on imports of its oil, just as OPEC’s second-biggest producer negotiates supply contracts with China. Iran “will give its crude oil to new customers instead of French and U.K. companies,” the oil ministry’s news website Shana reported, citing Alireza Nikzad Rahbar, a ministry spokesman. France got 4 percent of its oil imports from Iran in the first half of last year, while the U.K. bought 1 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Iran will increase the volume of crude it ships to China “soon,” state-run Mehr news agency reported Feb. 16. Iran is suspending exports as tension rises in the Gulf over its nuclear program, helping send oil prices to the highest level in nine months. The EU and U.S. have imposed additional sanctions against the country, restricting trade and financial transactions. Iran, the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, is also under four rounds of United Nations sanctions.
Egypt – The New York Times reported: Egypt’s transitional government announced plans on Sunday to sign a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund worth $3.2 billion, less than a year after abruptly turning its back on a loan from the international lender, according to state media. The $3.2 billion loan will throw a much-needed financial lifeline to Egypt, a country reeling from a year of economic crisis and social unrest after the ouster of the longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak a year ago. The deal bears a striking resemblance to one Egypt’s military rulers negotiated, and abruptly rejected, last spring, citing concerns that it would saddle future governments with such a large debt that it would amount to a violation of Egyptian sovereignty. Those objections appear to have been eclipsed by the country’s mounting economic troubles, which have grown increasingly dire as persistent social unrest has led to a collapse of the tourism industry and the flight of foreign investors.
Iraq – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: A suicide bomber detonated his car Sunday as a group of police recruits left their academy in Baghdad, killing 20 in the latest strike on security officials that angry residents blamed on political feuding in Iraq. Police said the bomber was waiting on the street outside the fortified academy. As the crowd of recruits exited the compound around 1 p.m., police said the bomber drove toward them and blew up his car. “We heard a big explosion and the windows of the room shattered,” said Haider Mohammed, 44, an employee in the Police Sports Club about 100 yards from the gate. Five policemen were among the dead; the rest were recruits. Another 28 recruits and policemen were wounded.