Saturday, March 23, 2013

Albania to implement economic diplomacy with Turkey 
At Mucaj's meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul during which he presented his letter of diplomatic credentials, Gul reiterated the existing good relations between the two 
countries.World Bulletin / News Desk
Newly assigned Albanian Ambassador in Ankara Genci Mucaj, who formerly worked at economic department in Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has said, "The potential between Turkey and Albania is at least 5 or 10 times more than the current."
In an exclusive interview with AA, Ambassador Mucaj stated the trade volume between the two countries was approximately 480 million USD which made Turkey Albania's one of major partners. "Based on our wonderful relationship, historical relationship; economic cooperation is really flourishing," said Mucaj who underlined that his main objective was to work on economic diplomacy.
At Mucaj's meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul during which he presented his letter of diplomatic credentials, Gul reiterated the existing good relations between the two countries.
"Mr. Ambassador, we are great partners. Turkey and Albania have no political disputes. Why don't we work on economic diplomacy-" Mucaj quoted Gul as saying. "That's wonderful. That's exactly what my president has told me," Mucaj said he had replied to the Turkish president.
"Turkish businessmen and investments are very welcome in Albania," said ambassador who told that he would like to bring both businessmen together for mutual investments.
Mucaj underlined the significance of Turkish language departments in Albanian universities. "My family also studies Turkish at Yunus Emre Culture Centre in Albania. There are many similar words between Turkish and Albanian. Albania and the embassy have a goal to start a culture centre in Turkey because there are lots of Turkish citizens who would like to get some of the feelings of their predecessors. If you bring the people together, governments come together," said Mucaj.
Stating that in the centennial anniversary Albania had demanded bodies of prominent figures buried in other countries, Mucaj reminded that they had requested remains of Shamseddin Frasheri who wrote Turkish dictionaries during the Ottoman era. "We are honored and happy that Turkey recognizes them with great respect. There is no resentment at all," said ambassador Mucaj regarding Turkey's demand to keep the body of Frasheri.

Vatican: No reason to recognize Kosovo

BELGRADE -- Apostolic Nuncio to Serbia Orlando Antonini has said that the Holy See did not see any reason to change its position and recognize Kosovo’s independence.
A view of Priština (I. Jovanović, file)
A view of Priština (I. Jovanović, file)
Spanish, Greek, Romanian, Cypriot and Slovak ambassadors to Serbia have also stated that their countries will not change their position and that they will not recognize Kosovo.
89 countries have so far recognized Kosovo, which is less than a half of the UN members. Even though Priština has stepped up its diplomatic activities in order to win new recognitions, chances of that happening are slim, Belgrade-based daily Večernje novosti writes.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivan Mrkić told the daily that Serbia was making a great effort in order to prevent new recognitions and to try to persuade some countries that have already recognized Kosovo to rescind their recognition. Two countries, Sao Tome and Principe and Mali, have so far decided to do so.

Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci’s latest attempt to persuade the Vatican and the new pope to make a U-Turn and recognize Kosovo has failed, Večernje novosti writes.

“This is not the first time that Priština has asked the Holy See to recognize Kosovo. Of course, they are using every opportunity to make such a request, especially in public. In any case, I can repeat, especially bearing in mind negotiations between Belgrade and Priština that are underway, that the Holy See does not see any reason to change its well-known stance,” Antonini told the daily.

The Greek Embassy has said that their policy was clear – Greece does not recognize Kosovo and it will recognize it in the future. The Romanian and Cypriot Embassies also confirmed that they were not thinking about recognizing Kosovo.

Spanish Ambassador to Belgrade Arturo Laclaustra Beltran reiterated his country’s principled position not to recognize Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence.

“Slovakia’s stance has not changed. We do not recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state and at the same time we support all initiatives that are in accordance with the European perspective of the entire Balkan region,” Slovak Ambassador Jan Varšo.

Former Serbian Ambassador to Germany Ognjen Pribićević, however, warns that powerful countries that support Kosovo would continue to exert pressure in order to get new recognitions.

“Lobbying goes in two directions. The first is pressure on the five EU member states and the second is on Egypt. It is very important what Cairo will do because this country, along with Iran and Saudi Arabia, is one of the pillars in the Arab world,” he said.

Egyptian Ambassador to Belgrade Aly Galal Abdelaziz told the daily that Egypt did not recognize Kosovo and that it carefully followed the dialogue in Brussels. He added that Egypt hoped that an acceptable solution would be found that would be in the interest of all people in the region.

11 Escape Trikala Prison - Two Guards Hospitalized (VIDEO)

By on 23.3.13

According to reports at least eleven inmates have escaped from a prison near the town of Trikala, (in central Greece) after gunmen attacked the site with grenades and automatic weapons (Kalashnikov), kicking off a nightlong standoff between police and prisoners.As many as six gunmen attacked the prison after driving up to the site in a van and pickup truck and in the process two prison guards were injured. The shoot out apparently ended at dawn when special police forces stormed the prison.

Friday, March 22, 2013


"To Vima" newspaper

Incredible circuit, change the names and data bases

An incredible operation for name changes and data bases in Albanian, by criminals, had set up the mafia of the neighboring country that has spread its tentacles in our country, Greece. Specifically, according to the information in the hands of the Police within four months Albanians arrested 496 offenders who had changed their names so as attempting to obliterate their traces and return to criminal activity.

According to "To Vima" newspaper, the Police, came in the wake of the Mafia after recent homicides, robberies, burglaries and drug trafficking in our country, with police officers to verify that Albanian nationals who obtain new passports and come to Greece with seemingly "criminal" record, to the TIM system, while in reality criminals who have committed crimes heap in our country.

That factor combined with the fact that Albanians used their criminal past year 150,000 stolen or forged passports nightmarish forms data safety. At the same time in reports prepared by the European Police Office (Europol), the Albanian mafia is now defined as 'number one' risk for all countries of the European Union, which has reportedly gotten the "primacy" of all local criminal gangs .

According to the findings of the report, except for the movement of weapons, drugs and illegal immigration networks, about 42 'Familia' Albanian thugs go now at organized robberies in homes, shops, etc., just like in the past years in Greece.

Every year arrested for robbery, theft, drug trafficking approximately 9,000 Albanians (approximately 70% of apprehended aliens from all countries). The fact that only in a quarter have been around 500 fake items is indicative of a risk.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wouldn't You Know It, Even Turkey Is Now Threatening Cyprus

By on 21.3.13

credit defencenet
It looks like all the hawks that are now hovering over Turkey decided to use another weapon to threaten the island of Aphrodite. The "invaders" didn't waste a moment. Turkey is now apparently threatening the security of Cyprus' natural gas deposits without of course explaining how they are going to do this since Israel is already actively involved there and Russia is ready to spread its naval fleet over the divided island's EEZ.

On Thursday afternoon a high ranking Turkish official told Reuters that it is going to challenge any attempt by Cypriot officials to accelerate exploration for natural gas in a ploy to attract foreign investment and save its economy. 

Ankara, which is obviously playing some one's game (our guess is the Brits and the Germans), as well as taking good advantage of a very weakened Greece, is now threatening to actually "block" the mining rights in Cyprus' EEZ.
   "The development of such deposits only from Cyprus (Southern Cyprus) will not be accepted" the Turkish politician told the international news agency.
   "We are presently looking into all legal means ... We can possibly raise the issue at the EU level, but we will also use other, political and legal channels" he added.
Of course he did not go into details as well as did not explain how Turkey plans to do this, he just wanted to show that Turkey can bully anyone, at anytime it pleases because quite simply it obviously has the backing to do so. (Our guess again is the Germans, the Brits and the Americans)

Nonetheless, his statement comes at a time when these plots are becoming part of a package (domestic borrowing) that will be discussed at a rush Eurogroup meeting tonight (scheduled to have begun at 20:00).

(And you still believe that this crisis is about lazy Greeks and corrupt Cypriot bankers... Wake up its all about the oil and the control of energy reserves in the East Med. It is all about a bunch of imperialistic and greedy oligarchs in the North and in the West gaining energy for peanuts.)

Sources in Greek - defencenet, onlaert

Obama: Palestinians "deserve their own state"

RAMALLAH, LONDON -- The U.S. is "deeply committed" to the creation of an "independent, sovereign state of Palestine," President Barack Obama has said during his visit to Ramllah.
Barack Obama and Mahmoud Abbas (Beta/AP)
Barack Obama and Mahmoud Abbas (Beta/AP)
"Put simply, Palestinians deserve a state of their own," he said at news conference after talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, BBC has reported.
Abbas said he and Obama had held "good and useful" talks in Ramallah.

“The U.S. is obligated to form two states. We seek an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people alongside a Jewish state of Israel so both sides can enjoy peace and prosperity. The only way to achieve that is through direct talks,” the U.S. president was quoted as saying by Israeli daily Haaretz.

Obama, who is visiting Palestinian territories for the first time, was welcomed by Abbas and numerous Palestinian officials. After he had arrived to the West Bank, he and Abbas discussed the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Some 150 Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Ramallah to protest against Obama's visit. They were held back by mass ranks of police who prevented them from nearing Abbas's compound, where Obama’s aircraft landed.

Palestinians, as well as Israelis yesterday, prepared a red carpet for Obama but expectations are low, analysts say.

Expectations are low for any type of breakthrough on the peace process. Obama says he is focused on hearing from both parties on what it will take to restart negotiations, AP has reported.

Two rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday morning, Israeli officials say, but there were no reports of anyone being hurt. A further two rockets fired from Gaza reportedly fell inside Gaza itself.

Obama on Wednesday spoke to Israeli officials who said they were satisfied with their guarantees regarding the Iranian nuclear program.

“The president made a firm promise that he will work against the Iranian nuclear program and on strengthening of military and diplomatic cooperation between the U.S. and Israel,” said Israeli International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz.

He added that Obama had announced a beginning of talks on the continuation of the U.S. military help to Israel after 2017.

“It is important the help is not conditioned by a demand that Israel should give up on its right to self-defense,” Steinitz said.

Obama said he did not expect Israel to rely on Washington in case Iran attacked but added that he did not know “whether Israelis would make such a decision”.

Russian PM calls EU approach to Cyprus crisis "absurd"

MOSCOW -- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said that the European proposal for solving the Cyprus crisis was "absurd".
Barroso and Medvedev are seen in Moscow on Thursday (Tanjug)
Barroso and Medvedev are seen in Moscow on Thursday (Tanjug)
Medvedev spoke on Thursday in Moscow at the opening of a conference held with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and criticized EU's strategy for rescuing the ailing eurozone member, according to AFP.
"The scheme which is now proposed for Cyprus is absurd. I believe that in any case the euro group should consider a future plan for the resolution of the crisis in Cyprus, with the participation of all interested parties, including Russia," Medvedev said.

His comments come on the eve of a meeting between Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluan with his Cypriot counterpart Michalis Sarris.

In an interview this morning posted on the official website of the Russian government, Medvedev likened the proposals of the EU, the European Commission and the Cyprus government to solve the debt problem to "the behavior of an elephant in a china shop."

Cypriot lawmakers earlier this week rejected the unpopular measure that the government intended to impose - a one-off, 9.9 percent tax on bank deposits. This measure was as a condition for Cyprus to receive aid worth EUR 10 billion.

In an interview with European media, Medvedev has threatened that Russia may pull out of the Russia-Cyprus agreement on avoidance of double taxation.

Patriarch: Both partition and recognition "unacceptable"

BELGRADE -- Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej has said that both recognizing Kosovo and partitioning it were "out of the question" as solutions.
"A recognition is a completely alien concept for us. Any type of recognition is out of the question, just as is any type of partition (of Kosovo)," he told a gathering late on Tuesday at Belgrade University's Faculty of Law.
The event, organized by university students, was dubbed, "Kosovo - the most costly Serbian word".

Irinej also told those gathered that Kosovo was a rich land which had enough room for both Serbs and Albanians.

"The current state of affairs (in Kosovo and Metohija) is a state of occupation. We hope that, just like any other occupation, it will not last forever," the head of the Serbia Church said in his address which was frequently interrupted by enthusiastic applause.

The patriarch noted that during the March 17, 2004 violence - when ethnic Albanians targeted Serbs and Serb property in Kosovo - 150 Serb churches and monasteries and 950 homes were destroyed.

"Kosovo was and must remain ours," Irinej stated, and added that a just solution must be found, "because otherwise Kosovo and Metohija will be a powder keg which will bring nothing good to either Serbs or Albanians".

"We did not lose Kosovo, we are fighting for Kosovo, and we hope to fight successfully. The first condition for preserving Kosovo and Metohija is our unity," the patriarch said.

He stressed that Serb cemeteries were "ploughed" during the March 17 violence, and singled out the desecration of graves as "the height of criminal and uncivilized behavior".

"They wish to erase our traces, for us to leave nothing behind," Irinej stated, noting that "all this was happening in front of, and with the blessing of, the cultured Europe".

Presidential advisor Oliver Antić also took part in the event to say that President Tomislav Nikolić was "guarding deep in his heart the idea of Kosovo's freedom", and that he would "not allow this idea to be extinguished".

Among the guests last night were also member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) Matija Bećković, and former officer of the Yugoslav army (JNA) Veselin Šljivančanin, who was convicted at the Hague Tribunal.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New country risk reports analyse risks for investors and business in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Norway and Poland

Maplecroft's latest, briefings, in-depth reports and analysis Maplecroft’s latest European Country Risk Reports provide in-depth analysis of the key challenges facing companies operating or investing in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Norway and Poland. They include a comprehensive breakdown of political risks, legal and regulatory developments, the economic climate, reputational risks stemming from human rights and labour rights, and environmental concerns.     

Country Risk Report - Albania

Political tensions are increasing in Albania in the lead up to parliamentary elections, which will go ahead in June 2013. The election looks set to be closely contested by the country’s two main political parties, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the opposition Socialist Party (SP). Recent claims by the SP that the DP is planning to rig the results of the upcoming election raise the spectre of political standoff and unrest in June, should allegations of electoral fraud emerge. The perceived integrity of the nation’s parliamentary elections will also have significant influence over the speed at which the country can move toward membership of the EU.
Extreme exposure to the eurozone crisis combined with high levels of debt and key structural challenges mean that the Albanian economy is volatile. Reforms necessary to stabilise the macroeconomic environment appear unlikely to be adopted in the short term as the government is unlikely to jeopardise its re-election prospects by introducing unpopular policy initiatives.  According to the report, a number of investment risks arise as a result of the ongoing, albeit slow-paced, harmonisation of Albania’s environmental legislation with that of the European Union. While companies may find it difficult to comply with increasingly onerous requirements – due to necessary investments in control technologies, new internal procedures and/or skilled staff – the regulatory authorities are also likely to struggle to implement and enforce the new rules.

Cypriot Church puts all its assets at disposal of state

NICOSIA -- The head of the Cypriot Orthodox Church has offered to help rescue the Cypriot economy by putting all Church property at the disposal of the government.
People protest against having money taken from their bank accounts (Tanjug)
People protest against having money taken from their bank accounts (Tanjug)
"The entire Church property has been made available to this country in order to prevent the collapse of the economy," said Archbishop Chrysostomos II after a meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, hours after the country's parliament rejected the conditions set for a European aid package.
According to the archbishop, the Church has offered to to mortgage its property for the purchase of government bonds. He, however, declined to comment on what the amount that could be collected in this way.

The Church is the largest land owner in Cyprus and has shares in various companies, including in Hellenic Bank.

Cyprus must present a plan to collect EUR 5.8 billion, after it on Wednesday rejected a proposal to introduce a tax of up to 10 percent on bank deposits, which was set as a requirement for international loans.

In the meantime, Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis Sarris is visiting Moscow. He said that there was still no agreement on a Russian loan to Cyprus, the Russian media reported today.

"The talks were very good, constructive and fair," Sarris said after a meeting with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov.

The Cypriot minister announced the resumption of negotiations in order to find a "solution that will enable the support of Russia", and added: "We'll be here until we reach an agreement."

Siluanov said in early February that Russia was ready to restructure the debt and to possibly mitigate repayment terms for previously approved loans.

The Cypriot parliament yesterday rejected a draft law on the basis of which bank clients would have up to 10 percent of their savings taken from their accounts.

Cyprus requested EUR 15.8 billion to rescue its banks, put in order its finances and avoid the possibility of leaving the eurozone.

The EU countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) responded by setting taxation of savings deposits in Cypriot banks as a condition.

The agreement between the government of Cyprus and international lenders - which the Cypriot parliament on Tuesday rejected - caused a rush to banks and withdrawal of money to avoid taxation.

In response to this situation, banks were closed, and will not open until tomorrow.
Nationalism: Fule criticizes Tirana

Nationalism: Fule criticizes Tirana
From Belgrade, where he is staying in an official visit, the Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fule, criticized on Twitter the nationalistic rhetoric held in Albania.

“Albania delivers on "creativity". Is nationalism in a form we hear it from Tirana really based on Euroatlantic values??”, Fule makes a rhetoric question.

After Belgrade, the Commissioner will visit Prishtina this Tuesday to discuss the European reforms and the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue. The Commissioner’s cabinet announced that on March 25th Fule will visit Tirana too.

Besides the main speech on EU integration, in a conference with the citizens, the civil society and business, the Commissioner is also expected to inaugurate a website of the EU delegation in Tirana, which aims to be a platform for all the people who are interested on Albania’s EU integration.

Russia, Cyprus to Continue Vital Loan Talks

By on 20.3.13

Cypriot Finance Minister Michael Sarris is set to continue negotiations on a potential Russian loan with Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov on Wednesday, after initial talks between the two countries' finance ministries ended without an agreement. The Cypriot minister is in Moscow to discuss the extension of a 2.5-billion-euro loan that Russia gave Nicosia in 2011 at a rate of 4.5 percent.

Alexei Kudenko 
RIA Novosti
   “We had a very good and constructive meeting and very fair talks. We understand that the situation is difficult. We will continue negotiations to find a decision that will allow us to get Russia’s support,” Sarris told journalists after talks with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluyanov.
   “We will be here until we reach an agreement,” said Sarris, who arrived late Tuesday.
The talks were attended by Russia’s Central Bank head Sergei Ignatyev and Central Bank deputy chairman Sergei Shvetsov. Sarris then headed for negotiations with Shuvalov.

The Prime news agency quoted a source close to the negotiations as saying the talks with Shuvalov have produced no “concrete results” and will continue through Wednesday and Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Sarris is expected to offer a deal that includes imposing a 20 percent or 30 percent levy on Russian-held deposits in Cypriot banks. In return, Russia would be given equity in Cyprus's future national gas company and control of the board of directors at Cypriot banks, the newspaper said, citing "a government official," presumably Cypriot. Other versions of potential proposals have also begun circulating in the press.

While Sarris, who no longer enjoys the support of the Cypriot president for his handling of the crisis, was en route to Moscow, media reports said he is about to be replaced upon his return from the trip. Sarris has dismissed the reports.

A source in the Cypriot embassy in Moscow told RIA Novosti on Wednesday that Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has received an invitation to visit Russia to discuss the current crisis, but the date has yet to be set.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Anastasiades discussed the economic situation in Cyprus after Cypriot lawmakers rejected the Eurogroup’s bailout proposals, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Parliament in Cyprus on Tuesday rejected a government bill that envisioned a levy of 6.75 percent on deposits of less than 100,000 euros ($128,950) and 9.9 percent on larger deposits aimed at securing a European Union bailout loan.

Putin also reiterated his concerns about “any measures that could harm the interests of Russian businesses or individuals [in Cyprus].”

Russian banks are heavily exposed to Cyprus risk as they had around $12 billion on deposit with Cypriot banks at the end of last year, with Russian corporate deposits accounting for another $19 billion, according to estimates by Moody’s international rating agency.

Russian individuals and businesses had stood to lose around $2 billion if the levy proposal had gone through.

But if the island nation defaults on its obligations, Russian depositors risk losing over $50 billion, considering loans granted by Russian banks to Cyprus-registered companies, according to Moody's.

Meanwhile, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Tuesday that the European bailout proposal was still on the discussion table, but the Cypriots would have to find a way to raise about 6 billion euros to unlock a 10-billion-euro package from the EU and IMF.

The Invisible War Between Germany And Russia

By on 19.3.13

It looks like some people in Berlin dream about rebuilding the Almighty Germany. Some blogs in Athens today are even saying that the real reasons behind the proposal for the haircut on Cyprus deposits is an invisible world war, in which Germany wants to hold the reins (on all European banks) and put an end to tax havens for Russian investors (like Cyprus), that give Moscow a geo-strategic advantage in the region.

The "hidden" message that Berlin wants to get across is that Germany is the only safe destination for depositors and the only safe environment for investment, so that it can portray itself as a powerful global player. Even more so than Russia. (Which is kind of ridiculous because the only BIG players globally are the US, China and Russia).

The war which we are all witnessing over the last few days has two sides to it. One side involves Merkel and Russian President V.Putin. And the other side involves interests which are based across the Atlantic and who are rubbing their hands with glee at a possible destabilization (of the Eurozone) that will once again make them into the super power that they long to be.

Earlier on Tuesday Steve Keem, a professor of Economics and Finance at the University of Western Sydney told CNBC that Russia could avenge the loss of billions it has invested and deposited on Cyprus (if the vote was not averted) by cutting Germany's energy supply!

He said that the Kremlin could retaliate against the perceived proxy attack on its citizens, and their money.

   "If you try to target the Russians, and there's President Putin acting under the image of the 'strong man' of Russia, why would he not then decide to shut down gas supplies to Germany until that was righted? If you're going to attack money laundering then attack it directly, don't make Cypriot peasants and small businessmen collateral in your campaign against Russian oligarchs. Declare the campaign rather than doing it under the carpet like this too." CNBC
He said that Moscow has been willing to play that card before, alluding to when Russia's largest state-owned gas and oil supplier Gazprom reduced gas supplies to Europe in 2009 during a dispute with an Ukraine.

He is right, with 36 percent of Europe relying on Russia for its gas supply, the threat or act of limiting supplies gives Moscow a powerful card to play should it wish to push home a political point against Germany.

So you don't really need to be a rocket scientist to realize that Germany was not in the right pushing for this decision. This type of arrogance -from nations more powerful than ours- worries us because it is always connected with self-destruction and was the root of both world wars.

In Athens things are bleak, because it is now obligating the Greek government to choose sides. Let us not forget that thanks to GEORGE PAPANDREOU Greece is attached to one side of this war. 

Obama, Netanyahu face wide differences on nuclear Iran, chemical Syria

DEBKAfile Special Report March 20, 2013, 1:14 PM (GMT+02:00)
US President Barack Obama starts 50-hour visit to Israel

President Barack Obama was greeted on his arrival in Israel midday Wednesday, March 20 with unprecedented ceremonial honors and fanfare, but after the handshakes and the drive through the sunny, flag-draped streets of Jerusalem, he and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were to sit down for tough talk on their yawning differences on three issues: nuclear Iran, Syria and the first use of chemical weapons, and the Palestinians. Expressions of devout commitment to a historic alliance and the president’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security will be left outside the door in the public domain. Obama is to be confronted with the fallout for Israel of the policies he pursued in his first term, especially his backing for the Arab Revolt which erupted in December 2010.
1. Since then, Iran has been allowed to reach a point just short of the development of two types of nuclear bombs, one fueled by enriched uranium and the other by plutonium.
2. Regardless of repeated fruitless endeavors, President Obama still holds to diplomacy and sanctions for achieving a breakthrough with Iran over its nuclear program. Circles in Washington and Jerusalem maintain that the gap between Washington and Jerusalem is over nothing more than the timeline estimated for Iran to attain a nuclear bomb capacity. But this is just a US-Israeli maneuver for giving their diplomats and intelligence officials space to pour honey and pretend the two governments can still sort out their differences.
This maneuver has been used by self-styled “nuclear experts” in both capitals as a PR exercise to cover up a very real rift.  They criticize the Netanyahu government as intransigent for insisting on Iran’s total cessation of 20 percent uranium enrichment (a step before weapons grade), the shutdown of its Fordo enrichment plan and removal from the country of low-enriched uranium.
Israel must give way on these demands for the sake of an accommodation with Tehran, they say.
This view is supported by the “strategists” who maintain Israel is not up to the military challenge of preempting a nuclear Iran and must rely on US cooperation. Therefore, it is important to trust President Obama when he declares that his administration will not allow Iran to attain a nuclear bomb.
So firmly has this viewpoint taken root in the mass media, that deviant opinions are discredited as mistaken, even when they come from highly regarded and well-informed individuals like Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and one of his predecessors, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, which they support with a whole battery of updated facts and educated evaluations.
3.  The infamous Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah alliance has not suffered the slightest crack despite Obama’s promise to work it loose. Many Middle Easterners find it is stronger than ever. For instance, whereas before the Syrian war, Hizballah commanded a well-trained 30,000-strong army which held the whip hand in Beirut,  this former militia has expanded into a veritable Shiite army of 50,000 combat-seasoned troops who are  fighting in Syria for Bashar Assad alongside the Iranian Al Qods Brigades.
The Hizballah militia has grown into a formidable army.
4. President Obama, who long held the belief that Assad’s fall was “imminent,” no longer mentions this possibility. Indeed, before he set out on his Middle East trip, US sources in Washington were whispering the latest intelligence forecast that Syrian rebels would control half of Damascus by the end of the summer and so replicate the Aleppo partition.
5. In the 48 hours leading up to the president’s arrival in Israel, the Syrian Air Force for the first time bombed targets inside Lebanon (March 18) and fired a Scud missile armed with a chemical warhead which exploded in Aleppo on March 19. While Israel is acutely concerned by this escalation just across its frontiers, the Obama administration has not reacted – evidence of another major gap between Washington and Jerusalem.
6.  Israel feels it has been dropped in the middle of a dangerous vortex set up by the US-backed Arab Revolts in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and gaining in momentum from the bloody tumult in Syria. The Jewish state is now beset with hostile Islamist regimes in which al Qaeda and Iran are increasingly embedded.
 If King Abdullah’s throne in Jordan succumbs to the wave of unrest set up by the Muslim Brotherhood there too, Israel will be completely surrounded.
7.  On peace talks with the Palestinians, the Obama administration has made no headway for bringing the Palestinians to the negotiating table.
In short, the omens at the outset of the US president’s talks in Israel are not encouraging.
The US mainstream media campaign to discredit Israeli intelligence findings and estimates on Iran’s nuclear progress has not abated and indeed intensified in time for the Obama visit.
Furthermore, in the absence of an administration reaction, Israeli officials made a point of confirming the onset of chemical warfare in Syria. This contingency the Obama administration had pledged would bring forth US intervention.
These differences cannot be accounted for by claims of personal antipathy between the US president and Israeli prime minister. They deeply affect matters of substance and policy.
AP/ March 19, 2013, 12:17 PM

NATO planning for possible Syria missions, official says

Front row, from left, Adm. James G. Stavridis, U.S. Navy Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr.,Commander, U.S. Northern Command and Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command; and Gen. John F. Kelly, USMC, Commander, U.S. Southern Command arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 19, 2013, to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Front row, from left, Adm. James G. Stavridis, U.S. Navy Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr.,Commander, U.S. Northern Command and Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command; and Gen. John F. Kelly, USMC, Commander, U.S. Southern Command arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 19, 2013, to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. / AP Photo

WASHINGTON The top U.S. military commander in Europe said Tuesday that NATO is conducting contingency planning for possible military involvement in Syria and American forces would be prepared if called upon by the United Nations and member countries.

The Syrian civil war marked an ignominious two-year milestone this week with no sign that President Bashar Assad is close to giving up power. Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command, told a Senate panel that the United States is "looking at a variety of operations."

"We are prepared if called upon to be engaged," Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Syrian uprising reaches 2 year anniversary
20 Photos

Syria's civil war: Images of horror

20 Photos

Two years of strife in Syria

Stavridis, who is retiring soon, also said the option of assisting the opposition forces in Syria in ways that would break the deadlock are being actively explored by NATO members. A resolution from the U.N. Security Council and agreement among the alliance's 28 members would be required before NATO assumes a military role in Syria, he said.

"The Syrian situation continues to become worse and worse and worse - 70,000 killed, a million refugees pushed out of the country, probably 2.5 million internally displaced (people)," Stavridis said. "No end in sight to a vicious civil war."

The commander said discussions within the NATO member countries have focused on imposing a no-fly zone, providing lethal support to the Syrian opposition forces and imposing arms embargoes.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked whether there is any consideration of targeting Syria's air defenses. Stavridis simply said yes.

NATO has installed Patriot missile defense batteries in southern Turkey along the border with Syria that are also capable of shooting down aircraft. During an exchange with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Stavridis said the Patriots could be positioned in such a way as to shoot down Syrian aircraft and he indicated that doing so would be a powerful disincentive for pilots to fly in that area.

At another Capitol Hill hearing on Syria, senior State Department officials said even if the Assad regime falls, humanitarian aid to the Syrian people will have to continue.

Anne Richard, the assistant secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, also made clear that the Obama administration does not foresee a negotiated settlement to the crisis despite diplomatic efforts.

"It's hard to imagine a peaceful outcome with Assad in power," Richard said.

Officials described a unique humanitarian crisis, with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees straining the resources of countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. Richard said of the 1 million refugees, half have arrived in neighboring countries in the last two months.

Syrian refugees now account for 10 percent of the Lebanese population.

The violent, unending war has prompted some in Congress to offer legislation and demand greater action by the Obama administration. But a war-weary American public has been slow to embrace many of the efforts.

In the latest proposal, Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., offered a bipartisan measure that would provide non-lethal aid to vetted Syrian opposition groups battling the Assad regime.

The measure would authorize additional humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people and provide equipment such as body armor and communications to opposition groups.

Casey and Rubio said the horrors of the two-year civil war have gone on too long, and left open the possibility of arming the rebels at a later date.

"Down the road we may make another determination," Casey said when asked about arming the rebels.

New York Rep. Eliot Engel introduced legislation on Monday that would arm and train vetted opposition groups.

The bipartisan Senate measure also would expand sanctions against the Central Bank of Syria.
© 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Chinese Navy ships to call at Malta

One of the Chinese Navy frigates.
One of the Chinese Navy frigates.

A Chinese Navy Task Force, consisting of two frigates and a replenishment ship will pay a port visit to Malta between March 26 and 30 at the invitation of the Armed Forces of Malta.

The vessels are the frigates Huangshan and Hengshanand the replenishment vessel Qinghaihu.
The Task Force has just concluded a four-month anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, during which it provided escort to hundreds of civilian and commercial vessels of various nationalities including Maltese.
This will be the first visit to Malta by a Chinese Navy Task Force.

The ships will be berthed at Pinto Wharf in Grand Harbour and will be open to the public for viewing between 9 a.m. and noon on March 27 and between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on March 28.
Visitors cannot take bags or food on board.


After Deal Fails, Cyprus Scrambles to Find Funds

 — Cyprus’s three international lenders descended upon the presidential palace here Wednesday for discussions on whether and how a financial lifeline for the crisis-hit nation could be secured, as the country’s finance minister pressed his case in Moscow in hopes of securing further aid from Russia.
Petros Karadjias/Associated Press
Delia Velculescu of the International Monetary Fund, right, and Isabel von Koppen Mertes of the European Central Bank, left, are shown arriving at the presidential palace in Nicosia.
The talks come a day after the Cypriot Parliament rejected a bill to impose a tax on average depositors’ bank accounts as a condition for a bailout deal.
The government, and even the Church of Cyprus, scrambled Wednesday to come up with new ways to meet the demands of the three lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, known as the troika — to avoid an imminent collapse of its banking sector.
A deal must be reached by Thursday, the day that a bank holiday in Cyprus is scheduled to end, according to the Cypriot central bank. In case an accord is not struck, the Finance Ministry is preparing to order banks to stay closed through at least next Tuesday.
European officials, and especially the European Central Bank, are watching the situation with alarm, said one person with direct knowledge of ongoing discussions, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
If a deal is not reached soon for a bailout that would support the banks, or if Cyprus does not find funds through some other route in the meantime, European officials fear that “the damage would be enormous, and the country itself would be at risk of collapse,” the person said.
If that happens, the person added, officials are concerned that a clear risk would arise that Cyprus could “go out of the euro,” creating “a painful situation that would spur chaos.”

The troika of lenders is insisting that Cyprus come up with €5.8 billion, or $7.5 billion, of the €10 billion bailout negotiated last weekend. The bank deposits tax, which Parliament voted down overwhelmingly Tuesday along with the bailout plan, was part of that bargain.
The finance minister of Cyprus, Michalis Sarris, met on Wednesday morning with his Russian counterpart, Anton G. Siluanov, at the Russian Finance Ministry, and in the afternoon for about 90 minutes with a deputy prime minister, Igor I. Shuvalov, at the main government offices in the Russian White House.
Emerging from the morning session, Mr. Sarris reported no progress. “We had a very good first meeting — a very constructive, very honest discussion. We underscored how difficult the situation is and we will now continue our discussions to find a solution by which we hope we will be getting some support from Russia.”
Russian officials would not immediately comment on the afternoon session but said the meetings were done for the day. Russian leaders, including President Vladimir V. Putin, had reacted furiously to the bank deposit tax, which they said had caught them by surprise.

more continues:

Seventh round of Belgrade-Priština talks ends

BELGRADE -- Despite announcements that today’s round of the Belgrade-Priština talks would last until an agreement is reached, the meeting ended after only two hours.
Ivica Dačić, Catherine Ashton and Hashim Thaci (Beta, file)
Ivica Dačić, Catherine Ashton and Hashim Thaci (Beta, file)
There is no information so far whether an agreement was reached.
After the trilateral meeting between Serbian PM Ivica Dačić, Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, the Serbian and Kosovo representatives met separately with Ashton.Before he met with Thaci and Ashton, Dačić had met separately with U.S. diplomat in charge of the Western Balkans Philip Reeker.

Ashton’s Spokeswoman Maja Kocijančič told reporters ahead of the meeting that “our efforts are aimed at making progress in the dialogue”, adding that Ashton had visited Belgrade and Priština the previous week and had consultations with political leaders.

Even though it has been speculated that this is the crucial round, Tanjug has learned that new rounds will probably be held in the next several weeks.

“If an agreement is not reached tomorrow, there is still time to continue the dialogue,” an European Commission (EC) official who wished to remain anonymous told Tanjug on Tuesday.

He underscored that EU foreign ministers, who should decide whether to grant Serbia a date for the start of the EU accession talks in June based on the EC’s report, would meet on April 22.

“This is also the last possible deadline for a positive report,” he added.

The delegation of the ruling German CDU/CSU party said in Belgrade on Tuesday that Serbia and Kosovo should commit themselves to a normalization of relations in writing or in front of the cameras before they started the EU accession talks.

Commenting on the German MPs’ position, Serbian Deputy PM Suzana Grubješić told B92 that it was just a “technicality” and that the main request was to find an acceptable and applicable solution. She pointed out that Serbia would neither explicitly or implicitly recognize Kosovo.

Grubješić told RTS on Wednesday morning that today’s round was not crucial because an agreement between Belgrade and Priština “is not in sight“.

“Some people from Brussels are saying that this round is crucial, we say it is not because an agreement is not in sight,” she explained.

“The stakes are too high for the dialogue to fail,” European Parliament (EP) Rapporteur for Serbia Jelko Kacin has said, noting he was optimistic about the results of the talks.

10 Countries That Hate America Most: 24/7 Wall St.

24/7 Wall St.
From 24/7 Wall St.:Disapproval of U.S. leadership had no statistical improvement last year, according to the latest U.S.-Global Leadership Project, a partnership between Meridian International Center and Gallup. Of those foreign citizens surveyed by Gallup in 130 countries, 25% disapproved of the job performance of President Obama’s administration.
Click here to see the 10 countries that hate America most

While citizens around the world are more inclined to think highly of our leadership than not, there are some parts of the world where residents generally have a poor impression of the United States. In seven nations, more than 60% of those surveyed disapproved of the current administration. In Pakistan, that number was nearly 80%. Based on the recent survey, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 countries that hate America the most.
Not surprisingly, most of the countries that appear on this list are located in the Middle East, where the United States has long struggled to maintain positive diplomatic relations. Among the leading factors that have complicated our image in the region is the “war on terror,” which includes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our penetration of Pakistani airspace to assassinate Osama bin Laden. All three of these nations had among the highest levels of disapproval of U.S. leadership.
Our relatively strong diplomatic relationship with Israel has also resulted in strained relationships between the U.S. and these countries. The Palestinian territories, neighboring Lebanon, and Iran, disapprove of U.S.’s foreign policy. Each of these continue to have volatile relationships with Israel as well.
However, not every country that disapproves of U.S. policies is in the Middle East. One that stands out is Greece, where approval has fallen dramatically over the past five years, coinciding with the country’s economic tailspin.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., deputy director of Gallup’s world poll, Jon Clifton, explained why Greece’s negative perception of the United States might be so bad. According to Clifton, the country had one the worst levels of negative emotions overall. “It makes you wonder if that creeps into their views of overall global leadership,” Clifton said, “because things are so tough in Greece right now.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Turkish Warship Passes Greek Islands



Greek waters around four Greek islands were violated on March 19 by the Turkish corvette Bafra, which reportedly passed between Euboea and Andros in Cavo D’oro, Greek military officials said.
The Turkish warship, which came from Izmir’s port, hit the Greek territorial sea on March 19 and passed though a southwest route passed through the islands of Kea and Kythnos. After two hours of roaming, it left Greek waters south of Kea, Greek military officials said.

According to the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, “Navy ships and Hellenic Air Force aircrafts are monitoring the warship throughout the duration of its navigation.” On Feb. 20, the Turkish corvette Bozcaada also violated the Greek territorial sea  around the area of Mykonos and Naxos.

The Aegean dispute is a set of interrelated controversial issues between Greece and Turkey over sovereignty and related rights in the area of the Aegean Sea. This set of conflicts has had a large effect on Greek-Turkish relations since the 1970s. It has twice led to crises coming close to the outbreak of military hostilities, in 1987 and in early 1996.

Turkish ships regularly violate Greek territory and are trailed by Greek vessels but not stopped. In the Aegean the territorial waters claimed by both sides are still at six miles but the possibility of an extension to 12 miles has fueled Turkish concerns over a possible disproportionate increase in Greek-controlled space.
Turkey does not recognize the international Law of the Sea and has argued that that the special geographical properties of the Aegean mean a 12-mile limit would be unfair to its interests.

Serbs warn about "taking over sovereignty" in north

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- If Serbia backs away from northern parts of Kosovo - Serbs who are a majority there "will take over the sovereignty," says Slaviša Ristić.
Addressing a joint session of four Serb municipalities in the north, the mayor of Zubin Potok assured the councilors and other officials that "the authorities in Priština will not be allowed to take over".
The Serbs in the area reject the authority of the government in Priština, as well as the ethnic Albanian unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo made over five years ago.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ristić said the join session was held in an effort to send a message that Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija wish to remains citizens of Serbia, and that they intend to succeed at this, "regardless of the negotiations in Brussels".

"Although someone in Brussels may think that they can get the job done in the next couple of days, this will not happen without the consent of the Serb people who live in Kosovo and Metohija," said the mayor.

He added that Serbs there intend "to take over the sovereignty by implementing the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Serbia", and explained that they can do this by "proclaiming the assembly of northern Kosovo, which will be entrusted with those powers".

"We hope that Serbia will not bring us to a situation where we will have to act," Ristić noted, and added that he had faith that the Serbian parliament, the executive branch of the government, and the Serb people will persevere in preserving the constitutional order in Kosovo and Metohija.

"Hashim Thaci won't be able to take over the sovereignty over this area, we will certainly not allow this to the quasi-authorities from Priština," he stated, and concluded that Serbs wish to see "Serbia preserved" there instead of "just the rights for the Serb community in Kosovo and Metohija".

Zvečan Mayor Dragiša Milović also addressed the session to say that Serbs in northern Kosovo and Metohija "wish to remain part of the state of Serbia, with the institutions of the state of Serbia".

He urged the Constitutional Court to appraise the legality under the country's highest legal act of the agreements reached during the EU-sponsored Kosovo dialogue in Brussels, and called for unity and concord among Serbs.

Kosovska Mitrovica District head Radenko Nedeljković also spoke to say that the Constitution represented "a lifeline", while he described last year's referendum in which the citizens overwhelmingly rejected the Kosovo institutions as "the holy scripture".

"The Constitution is our guarantee that we can remain part of the state of Serbia, and nobody has the right to push us into the arms of Priština," Nedeljković was quoted as saying.

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholo...
His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pope Francis embraces Bartholomew


19 March 2013

Pope Francis embraced Patriarch Bartholomew who attended inauguration Mass for the first time in history

VATICAN -- Pope Francis embraced Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew who attended the inauguration Mass for the pope.

Bartholomew became the first ever Greek Orthodox patriarch to attend pope's inauguration Mass in history.

Following Benedict XVI's resignation who became the first pontiff in 600 years to abdicate last month, Pope Francis, after a two-hour inauguration Mass called for peace. The pope, afterwards, embraced Patriarch Bartholomew and Armenian Catholic Church PatriarchKarekin.

Speaking at the inauguration Mass, the pope touched upon the necessity of the protection of the environment, treating people with love and respect. Pope Francis also added people must avoid signs of apocalypse, hatred, jealousy and pride.

Pope Francis received the greetings of representatives from 132 countries including Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag and several international organizations.

Cyprus votes against bank tax plan

New draft bill recommends no charge on deposits up to €100,000

Just ahead of an expected vote in the country's parliament on the seizure of bank deposits, officials sought to limit the impact on small savers.Cyprus trims bank grab2:50Cypriot government officials have voted against a plan that would have seen all bank accounts in the country take as much as a 10 per cent haircut, leaving the path to a possible bailout in doubt.
In a closely watched vote Tuesday, parliamentarians in Cyprus voted down a plan that would have imposed a one-time levy of 6.75 per cent on all bank accounts with less than €100,000 in assets, and 9.9 per cent above that level.
In total, 36 voted against the plan, with 19 abstentions.
The scheme was intended to raise €5.8 billion ($7.5 billion) toward a financial bailout by seizing money from bank accounts.
The plan, which is part of a larger bailout package being negotiated with other European countries, has been met with fury in Cyprus and has sent jitters across financial markets.
Banks in Cyprus will stay shut until Thursday to prevent a bank run.
Just hours ahead of the vote in the country's 56-member Parliament, officials sought to limit the impact on small savers. They also hinted that the country was looking to limit the amount it has to raise from the grab on deposits.
About 300 protesters gathered outside parliament, which was cordoned off by police.
A vote in favour of the bank account confiscation would have helped Cyprus get €10 billion ($12.9 billion) in rescue loans from its euro partners and the International Monetary Fund. The money will be used to prop up its banks.
A new draft bill discussed in Parliament's finance committee proposed to spare all deposits below €20,000 ($25,900). Those between €20,000 and €100,000 ($129,290) would still have a 6.75 per cent charge imposed, and those above €100,000 would have to give up 9.9 per cent of their deposits, in line with the original plan put forward over the weekend.
In a sign of the scale of disagreement over the deposit charge, the country's central bank governor, Panicos Demetriades, recommended that no accounts below €100,000 be touched. That level represents the amount of savings that are supposed to be insured if a bank collapses.
"The credibility of, and trust in the banking sector depends on this," said Demetriades, who conceded that he expects at least 10 per cent of deposits to be withdrawn when the banks eventually re-open.

Cyprus MPs debate divisive EU-IMF bailout plan

Protesters shout slogans during an anti-bailout rally outside the parliament in Nicosia Protesters gathered outside the Cypriot parliament to denounce the plan
Cyprus' parliament has begun debating an EU-IMF bailout package, after the government proposed changes to a controversial bank levy.
MPs were due to vote on the plan, hours after President Nicos Anastasiades said they were likely to reject it.
The finance ministry has proposed exempting savers with smaller deposits, but opposition remains fierce.
The controversial tax is a condition for Cyprus to get a 10bn-euro loan to rescue its banks.
Meanwhile, the UK ministry of defence has said a plane carrying 1m euros is heading to Cyprus as a contingency measure to provide military personnel and their families with emergency loans.
The money will be used for British personnel and their families if cash machines and debit cards stop working.
'Against the interests of Cyprus' As the debate on Tuesday got under way, thousands of protesters had gathered outside the parliament building to voice their opposition to the plan.
The parliament speaker turned down a request from the ruling party to delay a vote.
A ruling party MP in Nicosia said party colleagues would abstain in the vote. The opposition is expected to vote against. No MPs are thought likely to back the bailout bill.
Several MPs denounced the proposed plan as "blackmail".
The plan was changed following outrage that ordinary savers would be forced to pay a levy of 6.75%. The new plan would keep that levy on deposits over 20,000 euros (£17,000), with those over 100,000 euros charged at 9.9%.
Mr Anastasiades has urged all parties to back the bailout, saying Cyprus will be bankrupt if the deal does not go ahead.
But he said earlier on Tuesday that MPs were likely to reject the levy, despite the modifications.
"They feel and they think it's unjust and that it is against the interests of Cyprus at large. But I have to admit that it was something which was not expected by the troika and by our friends, the Eurogroup."
He has called an emergency meeting of political party leaders on Wednesday morning to discuss the way forward.
EU finance ministers have warned that Cyprus's two biggest banks will collapse if the deal does not go through in some form.
The president of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, emphasised on Monday that no other eurozone country would be forced to impose such a levy.
Opposition MP Pambos Papageorgiou says any tax on savers will be rejected by parliament
The Cyprus central bank chief, Panicos Demetriades, has warned that scrapping the tax on small savers would scupper the plan to raise 5.8bn euros in total from bank deposits. He also predicted account holders could suddenly withdraw 10% or more of the total in Cypriot banks if the levy was imposed.
Fearing a run on accounts, Cyprus has shut its banks until at least Thursday. The local stock exchange also remains closed.
Cyprus' banks were badly exposed to Greece, which has itself been the recipient of two huge bailouts.

Russian anger
Mr Demetriades said that he favoured imposing the levy only on deposits larger than 100,000 euros, with eurozone finance ministers also suggesting such a move.
Instead, they argue that wealthier savers should pay the levy at a higher rate - losing more than 15% of their investments, correspondents say.
However, many of those larger deposits are held by Russians, and Russian leaders have already reacted angrily to the Cypriot levy - on Monday President Vladimir Putin called it "unfair, unprofessional and dangerous".
Of the estimated 68bn euros in total held in Cypriot bank accounts about 40% belongs to foreigners - most of them thought to be Russians.
The government fears a higher levy on these larger deposits would prompt many large investors to withdraw from the island and would effectively destroy its financial sector.
Russia has also said it may reconsider the terms of a 2.5bn-euro loan it made to Cyprus in 2011, which was separate from the proposed eurozone bailout.

Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis Sarris arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to see if the repayment on that loan could be delayed until 2020, and whether the interest rate could be reduced.
Officials said he would also be looking for "further investment" in his country, correspondents report, with some speculating this might mean Russian access to Cyprus' large undeveloped gas deposits.
The BBC's Mark Lowen in Nicosia says it now appears that a proxy battle of sorts is taking place over Cyprus: on the one side the EU is pushing for a lighter burden on lower savers and, on the other, Russia is angry because its wealthy nationals would be taxed hard in Cyprus.
Meanwhile, the tiny Cypriot economy's future hangs in the balance.

Serbian leader meets with U.S. vice president

ROME -- President Tomislav Nikolić has said that "the information arriving in Washington did not correspond to the situation in the Belgrade-Priština dialogue".
The progress made in the dialogue was not being assessed correctly, he said after his meeting in Rome late on Monday with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden.
"Mr. Biden was not informed about the details of the Resolution the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia recently adopted," Nikolić told Tanjug.

The talks were exceptionally useful, Nikolić also said.

According to him, the U.S. vice president said that he "feels obliged to help resolve this problem because the U.S. recognised the independence of Kosovo and Metohija".

The meeting between Nikolić and Biden was the first meeting between a Serbian president and a U.S. vice president in the past four years, and the talks lasted for around one hour, more than was envisaged in the protocol. Both are in Rome for the inauguration of the new head of the Roman Catholic Church.

“The inauguration of new Pope Francis was an opportunity for me to have several bilateral meetings, including the talks with the U.S. vice president at his invitation as perhaps the most important one, and I believe it became clear that certain information arriving in the U.S. did not correspond to the actual situation in the Belgrade-Priština relations and the level or progress made in the dialogue was not assessed correctly,” Nikolić said.

Nikolić noted that he said during the talks with Biden that many countries recognized Kosovo's independence "as a result of the first recognition which came from the U.S.", but he added that Serbia "has only friends in the world" and that it regards countries and nations according to the degree of their willingness to cooperate with Serbia honestly, openly, despite all the limitations.

“In the future, the administrations of the U.S. and Serbia will maintain more frequent high-level contacts because we all want to solve this problem and ensure a better life for Serbian citizens, including those in Kosovo and Metohija and the Serb community which will get assistance both from Serbia and the EU,” Nikolić said.

Prime Minister Thaçi held a meeting in Rome with the Vice President of the United States of America, Joseph Biden

Prishtina, 18 March 2013

Today, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi held a meeting in Rome with the Vice President of the United States of America, Joseph Biden.

In the meeting, they discussed current political developments in Kosovo and in the region, deepening cooperation between Kosovo and the USA and dialogue on normalizing inter-state relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
 In the meeting with Vice President Biden, Prime Minister Thaçi gave a summary of the work of the Government of the Republic of Kosovo toward strengthening good governance, rule of law and order, sustainable economic development, affirmative respect of community rights and focusing on strengthening regional cooperation, as a fundamental precondition for Kosovo’s integration into the European Union and NATO.

In the meeting, Prime Minister Thaçi praised highly relations between the Republic of Kosovo and the United States of America, and expressed the deep appreciation of the institutions and people of Kosovo for their continuing and wide-ranging support of the American Government and people for Kosovo at all times.