Friday, August 3, 2012

The battle of Semdinli

Aug 3rd 2012, 17:42 by A.Z. | ANKARA
ALONG Turkey’s southern border, in a far-flung corner of the country that is wedged between Iraq and Iran, separatist rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have been waging one of the fiercest battles in recent years against the Turkish army. For nearly two weeks, PKK rebels entrenched around the township of Semdinli in the Hakkari province have resisted an onslaught by Turkish helicopters and fighter jets that have been pounding the mountainous terrain, setting fire to forests and forcing hundreds of villagers to flee. The battle is said to have spread to the outskirts of Semdinli, an impoverished town of 19,500 where sympathy for the PKK runs strong.
Sedat Tore, Semdinli’s mayor from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) says the din of artillery and bombs "is terrorising our people". Plumes of smoke have enveloped the town. "We are in a circle of fire," implores Mr Tore.
Details of the clashes remains sketchy because the combat zone has remained sealed off by the army ever since the battle started on July 24th. The army moved in following reports that PKK militants had set up checkpoints along a road connecting Semdinli to the northern town of Derecik and blown up several small bridges. The PKK claims to have killed as many as 49 Turkish soldiers and that it is controlling the areas surrounding Semdinli. The army denies the claims saying it has lost only two men and that it has killed at least 37 PKK rebels. "We really don’t know what is happening because the government won’t allow us to go in [to the combat zone]" said Esat Canan, a BDP MP in Semdinli, who expressed concern for villagers caught in the conflict.
The shroud of mystery thickened after Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, told a group of journalists this week that he knew what was happening in Semdinli but that "I won’t tell you." Turkish officials claim that the army has foiled PKK plans to spark an "Arab Spring" type uprising in the region but have failed to explain why the fighting has gone on for so long. A PKK affiliated website claimed on August 3rd that the rebels had launched a separate attack in the township of Eruh further west killing at least 11 soldiers. Turkish officials acknowledged that two soldiers died in the attack.
The rebels are expected to further escalate the violence before August 15th, which marks the 28th anniversary of their campaign for an independent Kurdish state uniting some 30m Kurds, scattered across Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. They have been emboldened by recent gains by Syrian Kurds, led by a sister group in the Democratic Union Party (known by its Kurdish initials PYD), which has wrested control of a string of Kurdish majority Syrian towns along the Turkish border.
Turkey has responded by beefing up its troops and ordinance along the border and threatening to intervene should the PKK use Syria as a launching pad for its operations. Amid all the chest-pounding there are some hopeful signs that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) party has not abandoned reforms in favour of an all out (and long tested) "military solution" to the Kurdish problem. Even as the Turkish jets continued to rain bombs around Semdinli, AK MPs in Ankara gathered with opposition members in the Turkish parliament to thrash out the draft of a new constitution that the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has promised to deliver.
The wording is expected to pave the way for the Kurds’ long-standing demands to educate their children in their long-banned mother tongue and to shelve references to Turkish ethnicity in relation to citizenship. But there is a hitch. According to the drafting committee’s own rules there needs to be unanimity among members for any new article to be approved. The far-right Nationalist Action Party, which denies there is a Kurdish problem, is pushing back. To his credit Mr Erdogan has done more than any of his predecessors to improve the Kurds’ lot. But unless he resumes talks with the rebels that broke down last year, the scenes in Semdinli are likely to be repeated.
Former President Topi joins NDS

Former President Topi joins NDS
The former Albanian President, Bamir Topi, made his return to politics official by joining the newest party, the New Democratic Spirit.

The NDS founders met at the Tirana Hotel premises for more than 45 minutes, and presented the program and purposes of this party to the former Albanian President, Bamir Topi.

“I consider this meeting as the first political step for the making the return to politics official. I am happy for being today with very honorable people and I accepted their invitation”, Bamir Topi declared after the meeting.

The former President says that the final step will be taken by the end of the month, and that he is convinced that the next meeting will be held at the new NDS headquarters, s a new political force that will work in service of the citizens’ aspirations. Topi quoted Oketa saying that their only alliance will be with the citizens.

MP Gazmend Oketa, the NDS co-founder declared that they expressed their gratitude to MR. Topi for his contribution as president in respect of the Constitution and independent institutions.

“We presented our political project that aims to bring a different politics so that the Albania’s EU integration dream can become reality. Topi’s experience as President and noted politician is an added asset that is welcomed in the NDS”, Oketa delcared.

The meeting between Topi and the NDS founders was announced one week ago on Top Channel’s program, Top Story, with journalist Sokol Balla.

The meeting between Topi and NDS was announced one week ago on Top Channel’s “Top Story” of journalist Sokol Balla.

“I will meet Mr. Oketa for a political decision making and if there will be a new line, we will publish it. It is up to them to decide my role. I think that I have always been coherent and I have always said that I would announce position only after the mandate was over. Now that the mandate is over, I can say that I will stay in politics. We will talk about a final decision that might be reached in September or by the end of August”, Topi declared.

On the same show Topi spoke about the need of creating a new political front that would enable the rotation of power.

“The fact that I have had such strong critics for the power administration is an effort for controlling even the smaller things. A government that gives these symptoms, that misuses and falsifies the vote of the President, needs no other sign. It is indispensable to have a political rotation, but I am not predicting how” Topi declared.
Hidden arsenal discovered in Tepelena

Hidden arsenal discovered in Tepelena
A considerable amount of weapons and ammunition was found in the town of Tepelena.

Three automatic rifles, 147 bullets and 7 grenades were seized by the local police.

The weapons were hidden in a leather bag in bushes, and their owner is unknown.

The weapons might have been used for the crimes of 1997 and after.

Summary of DEBKA Exclusives in the Week Ending August 3, 2012

July 28, 2012 Briefs:
  • Lavrov: Moscow has not offered Assad asylumThe Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied reports that “a Black Sea villa” is waiting ready for the Syrian ruler if he decides to step down and leave the country.
  • Russia holds war fleet in Mediterranean, but stays clear of Syria for nowRussian Navy chief Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov’s statement Friday that the 10-ship war fleet massed in the Mediterranean with escort vessels will not dock at the Syrian port of Tartus but only hold military drills is seen in Washington and Jerusalem as a last warning against foreign intervention in the Syrian conflict. The warning is underlined by the size of the Russian fleet, is proximity to the Syrian battlefield and the fact that it is carrying marines - resources for an active role.
  • Concerned for Olympic security, British agents join Burgos terror probeA British intelligence and anti-terrorist team is in the Bulgarian town of Burgos to examine the remains of the mystery bomber who killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian on July 18 in case he is a Brit belonging to a terrorist cell that may have designs on the London Olympics. His identity remains a mystery.

Nasrallah warns Israel of impending Hizballah aggression DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

28 July. Hassan Nasrallah has released a video clip recording Hizballah’s 2006 raid which ended in the deaths of eight IDF soldiers and the kidnapping of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Hot military pursuit for their rescue mired Israel in the ill-prepared, misconceived Second Lebanon war, which Hizballah claimed to have won. DEBKAfile: The tape is designed to warn Israel that Nasrallah is still free to launch war with a similar ending any time now, with full Iranian and Syrian backing.                        
The video shows Hizballah commandos cutting through the Israel fence on July 12, 2006, surging into Israel and jumping an IDF Hummer jeep patrolling the Lebanese border near Zarit after an artillery shelling. They are seen pulling open the car doors. But then, moments before the attackers dragged Goldwasser and Eldad Regev out of the jeep, the tape is cut, a cruel trick keep Israel guessing to this day about whether the two men were snatched alive or dead.

July 29, 2012 Briefs:
  • Romney calls Jerusalem “capital of Israel”After his talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, US presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a speech that America must stand with Israel since both countries believe in democracy, the rule of law and opposition to Iran becoming a nuclear power. Calling Israel a “startup nation,” he said earlier that a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable and would “respect an Israeli decision to use force to stop Iran gaining a nuclear weapon.” He also voiced support for a two-nation solution to the Israel-Palestinian dispute. A Palestinian official said Romney’s endorsement of as Israel’s capital is “harmful to American interests in our region.”
  • Syrian FM Moallem on unannounced visit to TehranWalid Moalem held talks with his opposite number Ali-Akbar Salehi, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani and National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili, who is also Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator.
  • Jerusalem police first permit - then ban - Jewish visitors on Temple MountThe Ninth of Av, the annual day of Jewish lamentation and fast for the destruction of the First and Second Temples and Exile, coincides this year with the Muslim feast of Ramadan. Jerusalem police first allowed Jews access to Temple Mount Sunday morning - then backtracked for fear Muslims praying at Al Aqsa mosque would clash with the Jewish pilgrims. Jews was therefore confined to the Kotel, the Wailing Wall, and denied entry to Temple Mount, stirring angry protest among the many pilgrims and tourists. 

US and Israeli spy agencies at odds over Iran strikeDEBKAfile Special Report

29 July. President Barack Obama can’t be sure the Netanyahu government won’t spring on him a surprise attack on Iran’s nuclear sites earlier than the date under discussion between them. October is now widely cited. DEBKAfile: To forestall Israel, the CIA has spread a broad undercover network of agents across the country to pick up any clue of the IDF switching to operational mode for a strike. It also leaked to AP a detailed article defaming Israel as its “No.1 counterintelligence threat” in the Middle East.
This leak had two objectives, says DEBKAfile:
1. To deter US presidential candidate Mitt Romney from using his visit to Israel Sunday and Monday July 29-30 to promise, if elected in November,  to review Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence for spying for Israel.
2.  To hit back at the Israel watchers dogging the footsteps of CIA agents planted in a widely-flung undercover network.

July 30, 2012 Briefs:
  • Greece quadruples guards on Turkish border
  • Athens is boosting its defenses to bar a potential influx of Syrian refugees.
  • Iran warns Turkey of harsh response if it attacks SyriaThe Iranian-Syrian mutual defense pact will be activated, said Iranian sources.
  • Israeli soldier sues for pay equal to minimum wageThe High Court heard an Israeli soldier’s petition Monday for IDF conscripts pay to brought level with the mandatory minimum wage in the civilian workplace on grounds of discriminatory treatment. He argued that the soldiers’ monthly pay of NIS 350 (under $100) has not been updated for a decade during which it lost one-fifth of its value.
  • Golan Druze indicted for spying on Israel for AssadIyad Johari, 38, of Majdal Shams, Golan was indicted in Nazareth district court Monday after admitting to passing military secrets to three Syrian intelligence officers from 2005 to 2008 when he studied in Syria.
  • India asks Iran for information on Israel embassy bombersThe Times of India reports that the Indian police investigation into the attack last February on the Israel embassy in New Delhi has fixed the blame on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Tali Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of the Defense Ministry's representative to India, was injured in the attack. The Indian journalist Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, who is under arrest, was approached by the IRGC a year before the attack in connection with the conspiracy to launch terrorist strikes against Israeli targets in Asia.
  • Israeli cabinet meets to endorse austerity packageTax hikes and spending cuts in the current year and 2013 are estimated to raise NIS14 billion ($3.4 billion) and avert economic crisis.  Cabinet endorsement is expected although some ministers and all the opposition strongly criticize the measures as overly harsh for low-income earner and easy on the rich.
Safe haven bid in Aleppo thwartedDEBKAfile Exclusive Report

30 July. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta commented Monday, July 30 on his way to the Middle East that the assault on Aleppo, “will ultimately be another nail in Assad’s coffin.” He spoke after the Free Syrian Army’s Saudi and Qatari intelligence backers based in Apaydin, Turkey, admitted that the ferocious Syrian government onslaught had derailed for now their safe haven scheme for the Aleppo region, which was to have housed the FSA forward command and a Benghazi-style transitional government.
At least 200,000 Aleppo citizens (almost one-tenth of its 2.2 million inhabitants) were estimated by the UN to have fled the city by Sunday night as their homes were reduced to rubble by heavy artillery fire. Others were pinned down by heavy fire in the encircled southern and western districts where food and fuel is running low.

July 31, 2012 Heads.doc
  • Gantz: We dare not ignore Iran peril
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz took angry issue with a campaign some Israeli media were conducting against a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program by false claims that a whole range of security officials were against it, including the IDF chief.
    “None of those reports come from me or represent my views,” said the general Tuesday. “Iran is the only country in the world which is building a nuclear weapon capacity while threatening at the same time to destroy another country. That is a grim problem for the world and the region which we dare not ignore.” Lt. Gen. Gantz added: “For me, ‘all options on the table’ is not a slogan but a working program.”
  • Fourth day of Aleppo bombardment and clashesAs government forces continued to pound rebel positions in Aleppo Tuesday with artillery, mortars and helicopter gunships amid clashes, rebel forces claimed victory in the surrounding countryside – driving Syrian troops out of the town of Al Bab northeast of Aleppo and from the Anand army checkpoint to the north, thereby easing the movement of rebel reinforcements and supplies from Turkey, 50 kilometers away.
    DEBKAfile: The fighting now focuses on control of routes running into and out of the city.

Netanyahu:  I won’t let Israel face an Iranian atomic threatDEBKAfile Special Report

31 July. 
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, Aug. 31, that he hasn’t yet reached a decision on attacking Iran, but added: “The ayatollahs have inscribed Israel’s destruction on their banner.” He stressed his personal commitment “not to permit Israel to come under Iranian atomic threat.”
Netanyahu spoke shortly before US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said upon landing in Israel that he is not going to discuss potential attack plans with Israeli leaders – only “various contingencies and how we would respond.”
When the prime minister was asked by interviewers why Israel should volunteer to lead the assault on Iran, he replied that no one would be happier if he saw other world nations, especially the United States, solving the Iranian nuclear problem by economic and other pressure. But, he said, Israel has always been guided by the principle of never devolving its destiny to others.
Asked about preventing Syria’s chemical weapons reaching terrorist hands, such as Hizballah, the prime minister replied that he is not looking for a military operation, but not precluding one either.

Bandar’s reported death escalates ME tension
DEBKAfile Special Report

31 July.  Disquiet in Washington, Jerusalem and a row of Middle East capitals is gaining ground the longer the Saudi government stays silent on the reported assassination of the newly-appointed Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, purportedly in a revenge operation by a Syrian intelligence death squad.  Saudi rulers are feared too traumatized to respond to the report by the fear of clandestine Iranian penetration of the highest and most closely guarded circles of their government, possibly climaxing in Bandar’s assassination.

August 1, 2012 Briefs:
  • Netanyahu tells Panetta time running out on Iran At the opening of his meeting with visiting US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Iran believed the international community was not actually serious or committed in trying to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons. Time was running out for a peaceful solution, said Netanyahu. The world must convince Iran very soon that it will face unacceptable consequences if it keeps building its nuclear weapons program.
  • Turkish military tank exercise opposite Syrian borderThe exercise was a show of muscle aimed at the Turkish Kurdish PKK rebels from bases in Iraq who took up position in five Syrian Kurdish towns.
  • Wind Jacket” intercepts Palestinian anti-tank missileA Palestinian anti-tank missile fired from Gaza Wednesday was bounced off an Israel tank between Beeri and Kisuffim by the “Wind Jacket” active defense system Israel has developed to identify and repel enemy missile attack on its tanks. No one was hurt. An Israeli force returned fire to the source of the attack.
  • Egyptian gunfire over Israeli border, Palestinian killed in Gaza explosionIt then turned out to be a clash between Egyptian troops and smugglers on their way to cross into Israel. In the Gaza Strip, one Hamas operative was killed, two injured when their car exploded, apparently booby-trapped by a Salafist group linked to al Qaeda.

Khamenei Warns Iran’s Top Leaders: WAR IN WEEKS
DEBKA Video # 5:

01 Aug. 
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned a “last war council” of top military chiefs Friday, July 27 that war may be weeks away, possibly by October. Iran is engaged in its biggest fortification program ever to protect its nuclear installations under mountains of rocks, tons of reinforced concrete and steel sheets. Its program of retaliation includes missile and bombing attacks on Israel, Saudi Arabia and US Middle East and Gulf military facilities.  Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas and Jihad Islami in Gaza are to be enlisted to pitch in against Israel from the north and the southwest.
That same Friday, the US Air force unveiled its new Massive Ordnance Penetrators. Each bunker buster weighs 30 pounds and is able to penetrate 60 feet of reinforced concrete.

August 2, 2012 Briefs:
  • Israeli tourists advised to leave Sinai over terror threatThe counter-terror office in Jerusalem urged Israelis Thursday to quit Sinai and return home without delay over a specific warning that terrorist squads are heading for the beach resorts patronized by Israeli holidaymakers.
  • Kofi Annan quits as UN-Arab League envoy for SyriaDEBKAfile: It was long realized that Kofi Annan’s mission had failed. It was strapped from the start by the absence of full backing of all five UN Security Council powers and Bashar Assad’s refusal to cooperate with his plan to start dialogue between the Syrian regime and the opposition. His resignation will have has little effect on the situation in Syria as his mission.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hungary seeks autonomy of Vojvodina

August 2, 2012.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Hungary, Zholt Nemet said he expected the new Serbian Government to implement wide autonomy to the Serbian province of Vojvodina.

"I appreciate the importance of the new program the government of Serbia to include respect for the autonomy of Vojvodina and the rights of the Hungarian community," Nemet said in the newspaper of Novi Sad, 'Mantiar So'-Mađar so.
Also stated that he understands the concerns of Hungarians in Vojvodina in the new government's intentions are well known from the experience of early 1990.
"The Serbian Progressive Party must not forget that has emerged from the Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj, who was one of the key elements of barbarism and ethnic cleansing during the wars.
"And if we add that the new Prime Minister Dacic was representative of Slobodan Milosevic, must certainly understand this concern," said Nemet seeking a practice from the new Serbian government plan of integration, the newspaper writes.

Obama authorizes secret support for Syrian rebels

LONDON -- U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.
Barack Obama (Beta, file)
Barack Obama (Beta, file)
This is according to sources familiar with the matter.
Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad, Reuters says.

The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that, Reuters has reported.

On the other hand, White House Spokesman Tommy Vietor refused to comment.

The State Department said on Wednesday the U.S. government had set aside a total of USD 25mn for "non-lethal" assistance to the Syrian opposition. A U.S. official said that was mostly for communications equipment, including encrypted radios.

The State Department also says the U.S. has set aside USD 64mn in humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, including contributions to the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other aid agencies, Reuters points out.
Rama: We will not vote on August 6th

Rama: We will not vote on August 6th
“August 6th doesn’t represent anything for us. It is an arbitrary date that has cut a process in half”.

This is what Edi Rama declared in an interview for Top Channel, confirming that the opposition will not vote the Constitutional amends for the immunities on the date proposed by Berisha.

Top Channe: What will do the Socialist Party on August sixth? Would you vote the initiative for removing the immunity, or would you stand to your position?

Edi Rama: The Socialist Party will not vote on August sixth. The reason is very simple. We agreed for the variant that was discussed on our proposition, we voted it at the Commission of Laws and we will vote it when all Constitutional amends will be discussed with transparency and everything will be shared with the public.

Top Channel: August sixth is very near. If you don’t agree on this proposition, will this stalemate continue even in September?

Edi Rama: August sixth doesn’t represent anything. It is not a historical or symbolical date. It is a date that was decided arbitrarily, but cutting a process in the middle, when it should be complete and integrated in a discussion process for the constitutional amends, based on the propositions that were presented. All propositions should be discussed before being voted. We will not vote in August or in September to amend the Constitution. We will not allow it. We will vote for the things that we have agreed.

“Nikolić to be lead negotiator in talks with Priština”

BELGRADE -- Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolić will almost certainly be a new head of the Belgrade negotiating team, daily Press has learnt from the president’s office.
Tomislav Nikolić
Tomislav Nikolić
According to the daily, the government needs to approve the decision.
They added that Nikolić would not run away from the responsibility.

“He is ready to talk with representatives of the provisional authorities in Kosovo but a precondition is to first reach a consensus among all relevant factors in Serbia, parliamentary parties, civil sector and representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPS) and Kosovo Serbs,” the daily’s sources explained.

They stressed that Nikolić had announced earlier that he would insist on bringing the UN into the Belgrade-Priština dialogue.

On the other side, Prime Minister Ivica Dačić most likely will not take part in the talks, Press writes.

“The plan is to let the president devote himself to Kosovo while the prime minister would be more concentrated on European integration issues, solving of economic and social problems,” the Serbian government told the daily.

Israel opens embassy in Albania

08/02/2012 04:40

Israels 101st mission abroad is inaugurated with Israel's newest embassy in Albania.

Netanyahu, Albanian PM Sali Berisha: Illustration Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman traveled to Albania on Wednesday to inaugurate Israel’s newest embassy.
The embassy in Tirana will be the 10th new mission opened since Liberman took over at the Foreign Ministry in 2009. Another three are scheduled to open later in the year – an embassy in the Congo and new consulates in China and Russia.
The Tirana embassy will be Israel’s 101st mission abroad.
Lieberman went to Albania last year, marking the first visit there from an Israeli foreign minister in 17 years.
He said that while the opening of a new diplomatic mission was always a “festive occasion” for Israel, this was especially true when it came to opening a mission in a country like Albania, which is a NATO member state and has a 70-percent Muslim population.
He is scheduled to meet Albanian President Bujar Nishani, Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Foreign Minister Edmond Panariti and opposition leader Edi Rama.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Eulex Kosovo" until 2014

Eulex Kosovo until 2014
This September, the Parliament of Kosovo will have a letter written by President Atifete Jahjaga and the head of the European diplomacy, Catherine Ashton, for prolonging the EULEX mandate for two other years.

“Eulex Kosova” will be the name of the EU mission for law and order in Kosovo before the conclusion of the supervised independence by the international community.

In the letter that will be sent to Baroness Catherine Ashton, which has been secured by Top Channel, the President of Kosovo demands the extension of the mandate of prosecutors, judges and international policemen until June 15th 2014.

Their legal basis will be the Kosovo Constitution and the Ahtisari package. The Constitution will be used for appointing all international judges and prosecutors.

On the other hand, they will work according to the tasks established by the Ahtisari package, respectively Annex 9 article 2.3 which also guarantees immunity from penal prosecution.

The President of Kosovo refers to article 20 of the Constitution which allows state competences to pass to international organizations.

Jahjaga confirms that if Ashton will respond positively to the letter, the Eulex prosecutors will be appointed according to the Constitution of Kosovo.

Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci declared regarding this case that the final draft of the letter will be sent to Baroness Ashton this Wednesday. According to him, the letter will be approved by the Parliament in September, together with the other Constitutional amends.

Other institutional sources explain that the judges and prosecutors of Eulex will not be able to use the laws of former Yugoslavia, as they have done so far. The letter doesn’t limit the Eulex mandate until 2014, but it leaves an opened opportunity to continue the mandate, despite the situation in Kosovo.

Panetta, Israeli Leaders Warn Iran

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, left, and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Tel Aviv, August 1, 2012.
VOA News, Luis Ramirez
JERUSALEM — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Israeli leaders on Wednesday warned Iran that time is running out to resolve disputes over its controversial nuclear program.
Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem with the visiting Pentagon chief, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said international sanctions aren't changing Iran's path toward development of nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear aims are peaceful.
"You recently said that sanctions on Iran are having a big impact on the Iranian economy, and that is correct," Netanyahu told Panetta. "But unfortunately it is also true that neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yet had any impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program.
"You yourself said a few months ago that when all else fails, America will act," Netanyahu added. "But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their program. However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them."
Panetta's Warning
Earlier, Panetta said U.S. patience with Iran is running thin.
"They have a choice to make," he said during a visit to a missile defense battery in the southern port town of Ashkelon with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"They can either negotiate in a way that tries to resolve these issues and has them abiding by international rules and requirements and giving up their effort to develop their nuclear capability," Panetta said. "But if they don't, and if they continue to make the decision to proceed with a nuclear weapon ... we have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that does not happen."
Before landing in Israel late Tuesday, Panetta denied reports that meetings with Israeli leaders would cover potential plans for a preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
“I think it's the wrong characterization to say that we're going to be discussing potential attack plans," he said. "What we are discussing is various contingencies of how we respond.”
Panetta said the United States and Israel are doing everything they can to have the "strongest defense" and protect both countries, adding the two countries have a "very close friendship."
Barak said the Israel-U.S. relationship is solid.
"The defense ties between Israel and the United States are stronger and tighter than they have ever been, and the credit now has to go, most of it, to you, Leon," Barak said as he greeted Panetta at the Israeli defense headquarters.
Panetta's visit also includes talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Panetta arrived in Israel from Egypt, where he met with newly elected President Mohamed Morsi.
Before stopping in Cairo, the U.S. defense secretary visited Tunisia - the site of the first Arab Spring popular uprisings last year, and praised what he said was the country's peaceful transition to democracy.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters

Albanian Banks See Euro Deposits Rising Due to Greek Crisis

Albanian State News Agency ATA says an increase of deposits in currency appears to be the highest in the last eight months. Savings in euros increased in June by 6.4 billion leks versus 2 billion leks in May (on a monthly basis).

The recent panic over Greece’s exit from the euro zone following the May 6trh elections and their repetition on June 17th  caused an outflow of capital from Greece with Albanian emigrants rushing to bring their savings to Albania.

In June only the added savings in currency accounted for 54 per cent of deposits recorded over January to June 2012.
Strong reflections of Defense Minister, after sabotage to the Greek Navy    

Raid on the naval base where they are seen (TPA 'Corfu') Zubr from Defense Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos and high military officials.

The minister asked to be informed on the spot for the fire conditions and seems to be convinced by the theory of 'cigarette'.

More specifically and as stated in the announcement of the MOD:

"O Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos National Defence, accompanied by Chief of Navy Vice Admiral K. Christidis, paid a surprise visit to Naval Base" Kanellopoulos, "when asked to be informed on the spot for the cause of the fire that occurred onboard Express Transfer (TPA)" Corfu "(L-182), on Monday, July 30, 2012.

Mr. Panagiotopoulos instructed to expedite the conduct of the Sworn Administrative Inquiry and the findings issued to clarify the causes of the fire as soon as possible. "

Russian President Vladimir Putin Allegedly in Greece for Summer Vacation

Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly in Greece sailing through blue waters, enjoying the sun in Western Peloponnese and visiting archaeological sites. According to local news portal Patris News Vladimir Putin is on board of  luxury yacht Sea Rhapsody,currently off shore  the port of Katakolo for security reasons.

The news portal reports the presence of security guards at the port of Katakolon.

Swimming from Katakolon to Olympics?

Latest information claim that Putin was about to visit the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia on Wednesday afternoon and local policemen had secured the area.
The Russian president has allegedly visited the area also in the past, igognito!

Strange fire in Greek Naval Base, for Zubr class, Corfu"

From the Greek Navy General Staff reported that around 16:00 in the fire broke TPA (Quick Ship Transfer) Class Zubr «Corfu» (L182), which evacuate directly from the ship's personnel with the assistance of the Fire Department Fire Station Naval Baseof Pireas.

According to eyewitnesses, the fire started from an unknown cause in far outer space of the vessel. Due to the proximity of the air-cushion landing field to the forest area Amfiali always lurking danger to ships lying there. The fire caused damage to the front skirt of the "Corfu", without creating other problems. Already started an inquiry from its superior authority for identifying the causes.

Greek media:
Greater loss from a simple fire Zubr ...
The best service offered to the Turks who negligently caused the fire in Amfiali, a sensitive area for the Navy, in which apart from Naval Training Command (NO), Education Centres and other buildings, facilities hosted the Underwater Demolition Command (IHR ) Management of Fast Craft (DTS) and air-cushion amphibious force of Management (HRM).

The damage suffered by the "Corfu", according to early estimates put it out of action, leaving the Navy with only one type vessel Zubr, the "Cephalonia» (L180) has been decommissioned as a "Zakynthos» (L183) and a rotation is out of service due to repairs ["Ithaca» (L181)].

Once everyone asked to limit the size of the army, in all fields if possible and for rapid transition to a crisis outbreak become important ... life and death, comes the fire to cause much damage. Eventually the Navy's force structure has changed in a few minutes down from the eternal ... this unknown factor.
Iran warns Turkey againt intervention inside Syria
July 31 2012

Vara  (Login varangian)

Iran has recently warned Turkey against any attack on Syrian territory, saying that Tehran will retaliate "hardly" against a possible attack on its ally, reported Monday al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government in Damascus. "Turkey has received over the last few hours very strong warnings and the following message: 'beware if you change the playing field," said the paper, quoting an unidentified Arab diplomat.

"Ankara was preparing, alongside the United States, to intervene militarily in the crisis using the Syrian Kurdish issue as a pretext, but Iran has terminated the Turkish dreams," wrote al-Watan

The Islamic Republic has informed Ankara that it will "harshly retaliate against any attack inside Syrian territory and that Iran would reactivate (if applicable) the joint defense agreement signed with Syria," wrote al-Watan .

This is a "clear response to recent threats by Turkish Prime Minister," the diplomat said. Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Damascus on July 26 to have "given" several areas of northern Syria to the PKK and warned that Ankara could exercise its right of hot pursuit into Syria against the Kurdish rebels.

The Arab diplomat said that "Turkey has agreed with the United States on limited border intervention in northern Syria and especially in the province of Aleppo to create a buffer zone."

The Free Syrian Army r (FSA), whose headquarters are in Turkey, has been trying to win the battle in the city of Aleppo in order to create a "safe zone" in northern Syria.

The Turkish army was continuing Monday, reinforcing its claims near the Syrian border with the deployment of missile batteries, tanks and infantry fighting vehicles in the south, according to Anatolia news agency.


Russia wants to see UN participation in Kosovo dialogue

BELGRADE -- Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Konuzin has said that his country believes UN representatives should attend negotiations between Belgrade and Priština.
Aleksandr Konuzin (Tanjug)
Aleksandr Konuzin (Tanjug)
The talks in question were launched in March 2011 and are sponsored by the EU.
Addressing reporters in Belgrade on Wednesday, Konuzin added that Russia was supporting Serbia because Serbia was adhering to international law when it came to solving the Kosovo problem.

Asked whether Russia was ready to become directly involved in the negotiations, the ambassador said this was up to the sides in the dispute.

"I believe the UN should be present as the Kosovo problem is being regulated," he stated, and added that the fact the United Nations did not have this role until now was the result "of a unilateral decision".

"We consider Serbia to be strictly adhering to international law;" Konuzin said after a ceremony in Belgrade honoring the fallen Serb and Russian First World War-era soldiers.

President Putin wishes to visit Serbia, ambassador confirms

BELGRADE -- Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Konuzin said on Wednesday that he knew that Russian President Vladimir Putin wished to visit Serbia.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
However, he could not say when the trip might take place.
Moscow-based daily Kommersant recently reported, quoting sources with the Gazprom company, that the president could travel to Serbia as soon as this coming fall.

Asked whether Putin can be expected here soon, Konuzin replied: "Putin wishes to come here, but I still do not know whether he will."

According to Kommersant, "the new authorities in Serbia expected Putin to arrive even earlier - but this would likely happen when construction starts on the South Stream pipeline".

Vladimir Putin was previously in Belgrade in March 2011, when he served as his country's prime minister.

“We Are True Neighbors” Stated Greek Ambassador of Bulgaria

 7  2
 0  17 “We are true neighbors,” stated Greek ambassador in Sofia, Thrasyvoulos Stamatopoulos, in regards to the Greek-Bulgarian relationship in an interview with Bulgarian newspaper Standard.
According to Mr Stamatopoulos, Bulgaria and Greece came closer to each other especially when Bulgaria entered the European Union.  The two neighboring countries have developed financial, political and tourist relationships, cooperating and supporting each other in every occasion needed.
“We are true neighbors and the difficulties of one affect the other. Both countries have faced a challenging situation at one time and thus, they should make decisions in full responsibility taking everything into consideration. But I believe that any difficulties that arise could be overcome should the two Balkan countries come even closer,” said Greek ambassador.
Mr Stamatopoulos stressed also the fact that Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev’s visit to his Greek counterpart is proof that Bulgaria and Greece have developed lengthy extensions of support.
“We could collaborate even more to give a boost to tourism, infrastructure and energy works, trade and exports but also to treat terrorism and crimal gangs that put our citizens’ lives in danger,” added Mr Stamatopoulos.
As for Greece’s possible euro exit, the Greek ambassador comments that such media reports never proved to be correct. “Greece never asked to exit the eurozone and most Greeks wish to stay in the common currency.”
Questioned on the existence of xenophobic feelings in Greece, Mr Stamatopoulos replied that the Greek state is trying to deal with illegal immigration in Greece. “Even though not the only reason, criminality has increased due to illegal immigrants,” concludes the ambassador in Sofia but adds that “many of these people are exhausted and unhappy but are in the pursuit of a better future.”
(Source: ana-mpa)

KFOR exceeded its mandate, official says


LEPOSAVIĆ -- By blocking the alternative roads in northern Kosovo KFOR is overstepping its mandate, says Serbian government's Office for Kosovo Head Aleksandar Vulin.

The KFOR mandate, as Vulin told Tanjug, is to preserve peace and security in Kosovo, rather than block crossings as “it has no police or parapolice role”.
Vulin believes that this is not a coincidence as it precedes the beginning of the technical talks.

According to him, this is a way to place pressure on the Serbian negotiating party before the beginning of the talks.

“KFOR is in serious danger of losing legitimacy and little trust it has with the Serb population. If this kind of behavior continues, it may have consequences which would push Kosovo and Metohija into uncertainty and serious security risks just as a year ago,” Vulin explained.

He said that the aim of this KFOR move is to terrify Serbs both in north Kosovo and south of the Ibar River and make their lives more difficult.

“The KFOR blockage, which had no cause behind, has already led to a scarcity of medicines and food. I am afraid that it will also cause increase in prices and make living much more difficult,” Vulin warned.

“UNMIK must have been informed about this KFOR action, and this is yet another proof that KFOR has overstepped its mandate,” he underlined.

The Foreign Minister of Cyprus in Albania

Meetings with all political leaders of the country, was yesterday in Tirana, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus Erato Kazakos - Markouli, who is visiting Albania in the context of the Cyprus EU Presidency. 

Prime Minister Sali Berisha informed Mr. Markouli on measures to combat corruption and the efforts of the Albanian Government for the implementation of reforms and the fulfillment of 12 criteria set by the EU for the acquisition of candidate status.

"We expect, before October, in the spirit of dialogue and cooperation, to note important steps towards meeting the 12 criteria of the European Union and important in this respect is the continuation of dialogue and consensus between the majority and the opposition" , said Marcoullis.

During the meeting, the new President of the country, Bujar Nisan, Mr. Nisan committed to advancing the reform of the justice system of the country, within its constitutional powers, to give, he said, "an end to the phenomenon of corruption in the judiciary, which is one of the controversial problems of the Albanian society. "

Mrs.. Markouli had meetings with opposition leaders, of whom called for the continuation of dialogue and consensus in its efforts for accession to the EU

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Direct involvement of China in crisis - sent warships off the coast of Syria

31-07-2012 18:00:16

In a surprise move, China has proceeded with the mission-ship warfare in the Mediterranean and towards the coast of Syria.
As publication of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shuruk least one of the Chinese Navy frigate passed yesterday by the Suez Canal and toward the eastern Mediterranean.
The newspaper claims a source from the Egyptian top management of the canal. In the same publication also reported that the Chinese vessel or vessels have as their final destination the coast of Syria, and during the passage of the Chinese vessels Canal authorities had taken extraordinary security measures.
The Hassan al-Brince leading member of the "Muslim Brotherhood" in apatontas brought criticism of opposition parties said the Egyptian government had no right to stop the passage of the Chinese vessels.
Other sources report that the Chinese vessels were the other three being reported as two destroyers and a support vessel, but the exact composition of this Chinese Flotilla has not cleared yet.
Many combine this move of the Chinese Navy had reportedly seen the light of day for one month before planned military exercises in Russia China Iran and Syria in an area that in fact smell gunpowder. The news had spread the Iranian semi-official agency Fars, even saying that it would participate in tens of thousands of soldiers.
Please note that Russia has already in the region 1 frigate, 2 destroyers, and a 3 LANDING general support ship, while Iran, although not yet have naval presence in the Mediterranean but in February 2011 sent two warships to Syria and may repeat.
Russia and China remain the only steadfast allies of Syria and indeed have blocked the Security Council resolutions on the UN resolutions that promote the U.S..
Other information indicates that the Chinese Flotilla consisting of one frigate and two other merchant ships carrying arms to the Syrian regime.

Department news 

Albania; 2nd maritime border agreement with Greece
Top Channel TV

The Albanian and the Greek Prime Ministers have agreed to reactivate the maritime border agreement.

Secure sources at the Greek Foreign Ministry declared for Top Channel that the activation of the 2009 agreement is in its final phases and will be published within one or two months.

For this was needed the interference of Andonis Samaras, who discussed it with Mr. Berisha during the recent frequent meetings and phone conversations. Berisha promised the Greek homologue that the agreement would be completed shortly, despite the great pressure that the Albanian government has received from, as he called them, extremist forces, such as the Red and Black Alliance and the Socialist Party.

The goal is to complete the agreement before the celebrations of the 100th year of independence, to avoid any possible reaction of the public opinion. According to the same sources, although some items have changed, the agreement doesn’t affect the core of the previous pact which was rejected by the Constitutional Court of Albania. Greece is expected to concede some of the maritime borders, the calculation of which was in disfavor for the Albanians.

Top Channel has learned that the renegotiation was made in a high rank level of the respective ministries, and without the presence of proper experts, which leaves room to suspicions that the Albanian side is still in disfavor. The Albanian part of the negotiation has left outside even the staff of our embassy in Athens, different from he Greek embassy which has increased the pressure among the Albanian politics.

Sources say that the second maritime agreement will be changed in some of its terms, but some essential agreement points about the new borders will be unchanged, leaving to Greece more maritime space, at least more than 200-250 square kilometers in southern Othons, exactly in front of Himara and near Karaburun.

This area is considered very important for the new agreement, after it was approved in these coordinates. It gives to Greece more priority in extracting oil exactly in the area about which experts declared that hides great quantities of oil and gas.

The reserves are considered to be easy to be processed and not only that. With this agreement, Athens becomes a third party in the maritime border agreements with Italy, having the opportunity to renegotiate with Rome their maritime border, although they have settled the borders since 1976. The agreement is seen as very important even for the fact that Greece needs it for establishing its exclusive economic zone with the countries that border it, such as Egypt, Libya and Israel, but especially Turkey.

The US administration has also been involved by advising the Greek government to not establish the maritime borders without negotiating them with the neighbors first

KFOR troops block road near administrative line crossing

LEPOSAVIĆ -- Members of the NATO troops in Kosovo, KFOR, late on Monday blocked an "alternative road" connecting northern Kosovo and central Serbia.

KFOR's Polish troops are preventing trucks carrying over three tons of commercial goods from traveling on the Raška-Tresava road.

Passenger vehicles are allowed to pass, according to reports.

Most TV from the town of Zvečan said late on Monday that municipal leadership from Leposavić and Kosovska Mitrovica met with a KFOR officer, Adolf Konrad, to seek explanation for the troops' actions.

Leposavić councilor Bojan Jakovljević accused them of "directly siding with Priština" by blocking the road.

"We demanded that trucks that bring in goods for stores in the north of the province be allowed to move freely, since there are already shortages there," he stated.

Jakovljević added that the people and their leaders cannot accept the closing of alternative roads, or any intention to make that a tool that will allow the ethnic Albanian customs to take hold on the Brnjak and Jarinje administrative crossings between central Serbia and Kosovo.

This councilor noted that Serbs, who are a majority population in the area, voted in a referendum to reject the authority of the Kosovo institutions.

The KFOR officer did not make any statements for the local television outlets. The Leposavić leadership believes that the closing of the road on Monday and some other similar roads came "in response to the blockade that Serbs put up late last week".

The Serbs are manning that barricade in shifts.

The Red & Black Alliance: The Albanian consulate to open in Cameria

Aleanca Kuq e Zi: Të hapet konsullatë shqiptare në Camëri

TIRANA Black-Red Alliance asked by a protest today in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Albania to open an Albanian consulate in Chameria.

AK said that the only way to respect the principle of reciprocity and connection tow states, is to open consulate in Cameria. Red and Black alliance representative said that if Greece has its consulates in Korca and Gjirokastra, then Albania should ask to open a consulate in Chameria.

Further Black Red Alliance expressed concern that for 22 years of separation with no government dictatorship demanded the opening of a consulate office to protect the rights of the Chams.

Monday, July 30, 2012


A dog guards Melita Ziza's house, which remains shut at all times as Ziza is in hiding. Ziza is involved in a blood feud that was caused when his son, who was born with severe mental illness, killed and raped a young boy 20 years ago. The son is now 30, serving a life prison sentence, yet the victims' family has not forgiven the Ziza family. More:

President: Serbs in Kosovo under threat of genocide

LONDON -- President Tomislav Nikolić has told a British newspaper in an interview that Serbs in Kosovo are living under the threat of genocide.
Nikolić is seen in London over the weekend (Tanjug)
Nikolić is seen in London over the weekend (Tanjug)
Any attempt to impose the Priština government's authority could lead to their exodus, he noted.
"What if the Serbs move out. Who will accept the results of such genocide? That is one of the definitions of genocide: when you expel 40,000 people, regardless of whether they are women, men, (civilians or) soldiers, and when you change the ethnic composition of the territory. That is genocide." 

Nikolić, who is currently in London, also told the Guardian newspaper in an interview that "there is a danger that Priština would be prepared to go that far", and added: 

The only armed force there, apart from the international community, is (ethnic) Albanian. I am convinced they wouldn't mind doing that immediately." 

According to Nikolić, "the only thing preventing such action was the presence of NATO troops". 

He was speaking about the northern, majority Serb part of Kosovo that does not recognize the authority of the Kosovo Albanian government in Priština, and rejects the ethnic Albanian unilateral declaration of independence made in early 2008. 

According to the report, he also "signaled that he would take a tougher stance" in the ongoing Belgrade-Priština talks, saying that so far, concessions were requred to be made only by Belgrade, and that now similar requirements should be put before Priština: 

"What compromise has been done by Priština up to now? None. All the talks have been on things Serbia will accept. Serbia hasn't set any conditions," he said. "It's not a compromise if Serbia is always backtracking step by step. It's not a compromise if Priština says its independence is recognized and that it will realize its independence on our territory." 

Nikolić "underlined an earlier declaration that he would never exercise power in Priština", writes the daily. He also called on Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga to admit she would never govern in northern Kosovska Mitrovica. 

Asked whether that implied the partition of Kosovo, he replied: "I don't know, because if you told me 20 years ago there would be no Yugoslavia, I wouldn't have believed you. If you told me Serbia and Montenegro would split, I would have also told you that was impossible. I would also have said that Germany would never reunite, but life brings us surprises. I can't run policy by imagining things." 

The Guardian also stressed that Nikolić used to be a prominent member of the Serb Radicals (SRS), a party led by Vojislav Šešelj, who is on trial in The Hague. 

"I have committed no crime. And I am not ashamed of anything I have done since 1990 to today… These so-called paramilitary units were in line with the then Constitution of Yugoslavia. In that time, I was aware that everybody must do everything he can to defend his people and country… All peoples from the former Yugoslav took part in the war. Some of them to gain states; the Serbs to save a state. But the Serbs did not manage to accomplish their task." 

According to the interview, the president "claimed the fact that the Serbs lost the war explained why there were more Serbs than other ethnicities facing charges at the war crimes tribunal, and not that it was Serbs under Slobodan Milošević who committed the majority of atrocities." 

He refused to confirm whether he would have handed over Bosnian Serb was crimes suspects Radovan Karadžić or Ratko Mladić as his predecessor Boris Tadić had done. 

Nikolć also "repeated his denial", writes the daily, "that the mass killings of Muslims from the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995 constituted genocide". 

"I cannot go further than the Serbian parliament," he said, in reference to the parliament resolution adopted in 2010, which condemned the war crime. 

Nikolić was also quoted as saying that "his greatest challenge was to fill the estimated USD 3bn hole in the budget". He asked for international assistance and claimed his country's needs were small in comparison with the scale of the eurozone crisis, but warned creditors against making their help conditional on Serbia making concessions over Kosovo: 

"Maybe someone thought we were ready to make various concessions if we were poor. But we expect the international community and our friends to help us to recover the economy in line with their duties and obligations. We don't want be treated like country cousins."