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Updated: 2015-08-20T04:18:55.814+04:00

 



Two-state solution only serves Israeli interests

2009-08-22T14:36:09.607+04:00

A prominent leader of the Islamic Jihad movement Mohammed al-Hindi says a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only serve Tel Aviv's interests.

He said that the solution aims at forcing the Palestinians to abandon 80 percent of their historic land in order to establish a demilitarized non-sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza.

The senior Palestinian leader meanwhile described the move as part of previous 'attempts to wreck the Palestinian cause'. He stated that such endeavors began with the Oslo Accords on August 20, 1993 and continued with the US-sponsored Middle East peace summit held in Annapolis as well as the Road Map to Peace Plan.

He added that the two-state solution also went against the Palestinian refugees' right of return and would mean that they would have to abandon their legitimate rights in al-Quds.

Article 11 of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 -- passed on December 11, 1948 near the end of the Arab-Israeli War -- calls for the Palestinians right of return to their homeland, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return.

It is estimated that about 4 million Palestinians living in refugee communities scattered mainly in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon could claim a right of return under this article.

Al-Hindi went on to underscore the soaring threats to the al-Aqsa Mosque especially from far-right Zionist groups which seek to harm the holy site in any way. He called upon Muslims, Arabs as well as all Palestinians to rescue and support the Mosque.

The senior member of the Islamic Jihad group urged the acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas to stop negotiations and coordination with Israel.



UK denies Megrahi's release linked to trade ties

2009-08-22T14:26:07.795+04:00

Britain denies allegations that the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was linked to any trade deals with Libya.

"No deal has been made between the UK government and Libya in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interests in the country," a Foreign Office spokesman quoting Foreign Secretary David Miliband told AFP on Friday, after the interview by the Libyan leader's son on Thursday night.

"All decisions relating to Megrahi's case have been exclusively for Scottish ministers, the Crown Office in Scotland and the Scottish judicial authorities", he said.

He added that 57-year-old Megrahi was released only on the grounds of illness after doctors treating him for prostate cancer said that he had no more than three months to live.

Seif al-Islam, son of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said in an interview broadcast by the Libyan channel al-Mutawassit, that in all of Britain's commercial contracts for oil and gas with Libya, 'Megrahi was on the negotiating table'.

Even Britain's then prime minister Tony Blair raised Megrahi's case each time he visited Libya, he said. Blair visited Libya in May 2007 as prime minister, during which British energy giant BP as well as the BG Group and Shell secured substantial contracts with Libya, with BP alone signing a USD 900 million exploration deal.

Seif al-Islam added, "All British interests were linked to the release of Megrahi."

He called Megrahi's release a 'victory'. "Your liberation is a victory that we offer to all Libyans," he said in his interview.

Megrahi was the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people in the air and on the ground in the Scottish town of Lockerbie.



Sweden flatly rejects Israeli request for media quiet

2009-08-22T12:01:09.537+04:00

Sweden has turned down a demand that it condemn the recent publication of an article that links Israeli soldiers to the death of Palestinian civilians with the motive of obtaining their organs.

In an article published earlier in the week, Sweden's best-selling daily Aftonbladet recounted grotesque incidents dating as far back as 1992 in which Israeli soldiers allegedly abducted Palestinian youths and returned their bodies mutilated a few days later.

The publication infuriated Israeli officials who labeled the news piece as 'blatantly racist' and full of 'vile anti-Semitic themes'.

In response to the publication, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt, to officially rebut the 'shocking and appalling' piece.

Tel Aviv's envoy to Sweden, Benny Dagan, was to make a similar request during a Friday meeting with the kingdom's deputy foreign minister.

Bildt, however, responded that he would not condemn the article, asserting that such a measure would be in violation of freedom of expression and counter to the Swedish constitution.

Condemnation of anti-Semitism is "the only issue on which there has ever been complete unity in the Swedish parliament", the Swedish minister wrote in a blog post on Thursday, apparently rejecting the idea that disapproving criminal conduct amounts to anti-Semitism.

The Swedish refusal to denounce the allegations against the Israeli army by the high-circulation daily may shake diplomatic ties between Tel Aviv and Stockholm.

There is media speculation that Israel might respond by canceling the Swedish foreign minister's visit to the occupied West Bank scheduled for the next 10 days.



US workplace suicides jump 28 percent

2009-08-22T11:52:09.914+04:00

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A US report has found a record 28% rise in workplace suicide rates last year as the global economic meltdown continues to take its toll in the country.

According to a report by the US Labor Department, 251 people committed suicide at the workplace in 2008, amid widespread layoffs and overall belt-tightening.

That's the highest figure ever recorded in the United States for suicide attempts at the workplace.

Labor Department officials did not explain the startling rise but pointed to the economic recession as the main reason behind the death rate.

Meanwhile, a separate study by the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine has also found that over a third of US homeowners who went through foreclosures are now suffering from severe depression.

More than 30 thousand people end their own lives each year in the United States where suicide is the second highest cause of death for men aged 25 to 34.



Both Karzai and Abdullah claim victory

2009-08-22T10:57:58.841+04:00

Hamid Karzai's campaign chief says that the incumbent president has secured the outright majority in Afghanistan's presidential elections, but his main rival rejects the claim.

Din Mohammad said initial results showed the incumbent president had gotten a majority of the votes.

"Initial results show that the president has got a majority. We will not go to a second round. We have got a majority."

He emphasized that Karzai had secured the outright majority needed to avoid a run-off in October.

A spokesman for Karzai's main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has meanwhile dismissed the remarks, saying Abdullah is leading the votes.

Abdullah the main challenger to incumbent president Hamid Karzai has issued a statement detailing about 40 incidents of alleged irregularities. Abduallh says officials have pressured people to vote for Karzai.

The claims and counter claims come as ballot papers are being counted after polling stations were closed in Afghanistan's presidential and provincial elections on late Thursday.

Meanwhile, election authorities have launched an investigation into several complaints of irregularities.

The election authority said Friday ballot counting in the country's presidential election was over. "The counting is finished for the presidential race."

The official results are expected to be released next week and turnout expected at 40 to 50 percent, according to election commission officials.

Observers, however, expect the number to be far lower. Many independent reports also suggested a slow start to voting.

The vote was held amid tight security due to threats from Taliban militants. But Afghan authorities say those threats failed to prevent people from turning up.

A number of people were killed on Thursday, including children in rocket attacks that reportedly hit the southern provinces of Kandahar, Ghazni and Helmand, the eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Khost, as well as in the north.

However, according to the latest official reports the Election Day saw sporadic violent incidents in which over 26 people were killed. The casualties included civilians, soldiers as well as Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan government had banned covering reports of violence during the voting.

There have been reports of militant attacks in 15 provinces.

The violence in the conflict-torn country is on the rise despite the presence of more than 100,000 US-led soldiers in Afghanistan.



UN: Yemen clashes displace100,000 people

2009-08-22T10:53:54.787+04:00

An UN agency says a recent surge in fighting between the Yemeni government and fighters has forced more than 100,000 people, many of them children, to leave their homes.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) voices "serious concern" over the impact of the escalating violence on women and children in the northwestern Saada province.

"It is estimated that over 100,000 persons have been displaced by the latest round of fighting, (and) many of them are children," Reuters quoted Aboudou Karimou Adjibade, UNICEF representative in Yemen, as saying.

The warning comes as government forces have killed 100 anti-government Houthi fighters and arrested 300 others in the province in the past few days.

The Houthis belong to the Zaydi branch of Shia Islam.

Marie Okabe, a UNICEF spokesman, also announced that the agency is trying to supply the refugees with water filters, jerry cans and hygiene kits, as well as 300,000 water purification tablets.

Alongside with UNICEF, the World Food Program (WFP) also decided to boost its food aide to 150,000 Yemenis compared with 95,000 who had received help last month.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that some 35,000 people displaced in just past two weeks as a result of the conflict in Yemen.

Fighting between Yemeni troops backed by fighter aircraft and Shia fighters has killed dozens, mostly fighters, since the government launched a wide offensive against Shia tribes earlier in the month.

Yemen's government officials accuse opposition groups of trying to reinstall a religious reign, toppled by a 1962 military coup in northern Yemen.

In addition, government officials on August 13 announced 6 conditions for halting their offensive.

These included the opposition's withdrawal from all districts of Sa'ada and mountainous sites and giving up the military hardware they had seized from the army.



Iran rejects claims of voter fraud

2009-06-13T20:06:40.117+04:00

Iran rejects claims of voter fraud
Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli says there has been no 'written complaint' about voter fraud.

Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli has declared that the 10th presidential elections were conducted in a manner that ruled out the possibility of voter fraud.

In a press conference at the Interior Ministry on Saturday, Mahsouli put the number of the total votes cast in the elections at 39,165,191, suggesting the heavy turnout to be a victory for the nation and not for a specific candidate.

The figures bring to around 85 percent the total participation in the elections. The total number of people eligible to vote had been estimated to be over 46 million.

While officially pronouncing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the winner of the presidential elections with a whopping 24,527,516 votes, Mahsouli dismissed claims that the elections were rigged.

"No violations that may have influenced the vote have been reported, and we have received no written complaint," he said in response to a question posed by an Italian reporter.

He explained that there may have been some tensions between the representatives of the presidential hopefuls but added that there is no evidence to suggest that the issues of contention have led to violations.

His remarks came after Moussavi described the official count as a 'sleight of hand' by those in charge of the crucial election.

According to the Interior Ministry, Ahmadinejad received around 62 percent of the votes while Mir-Hossein Moussavi managed to win nearly 33 percent with 13,216,411 votes.

The two other candidates -- Mohsen Rezaei and Mehdi Karroubi -- won 1.7 and 0.85 percent respectively.



In landslide victory, Ahmadinejad re-elected

2009-06-13T20:03:03.385+04:00

The final results of Iran's closely-contested 10th presidential election indicate that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has won a landslide victory.

"Of 39,165,191 votes counted (85 percent), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election with 24,527,516 (62.63 percent)," Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli told reporters on Saturday.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi came in second with 13,216,411 votes (33.75 percent), he added.

The two were followed by Mohsen Rezaei with 678,240 votes (1.73 percent) and Mehdi Karroubi with 333,635 votes (0.85 percent), the minister said.

He put the void ballots at 409,389 (1.04 percent).

Over 46 million Iranians aged 18 and older were eligible to vote in Friday's presidential election.



Leader hails record turnout in presidential vote

2009-06-13T20:01:50.786+04:00

Leader hails record turnout in presidential vote
The Leader of the Islamic Revolution has hailed the high voter turnout in Iran, calling on the entire nation to support the president-elect in achieving his mandate.

Speaking one day after Super Friday when more than 32 million people cast their votes in the country's 10th presidential election, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei congratulated the nation on their massive turnout.

"The participation of over 80 percent of Iranians at the polls and the 24-million votes cast is a cause for true celebration and god willing this will ensure the continuation of the country's progress and the maintenance of national security," Ayatollah Khamenei said in statement.

Friday's election witnessed incumbent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win 24.5 million of the votes -- nearly 62 percent.

Mir-Hossein Moussavi came second with 13.2 million votes, followed by Mohsen Rezaei with more than 630 thousand votes and Mehdi Karroubi with 320 thousand votes.

"The spirit of calm presented by the nation, in the face of enemy propaganda and the nation's mass participation was such that makes it indescribable in words," the Leader added.

The president-elect is the president of the entire Iranian nation and even those who were his rivals yesterday must now support and aid him, as this is a divine test for us all, Ayatollah Khamenei said.



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2009-06-12T19:12:30.086+04:00




Mystery surrounds footage of Serb war criminal

2009-06-12T18:59:19.621+04:00

Mystery surrounds footage of Serb war criminal

Bosnia locks horns with Serbia over a newly-released video footage that shows Europe's top war crimes fugitive General Ratko Mladic living at large in Belgrade.

Bosnian state TV aired the controversial footage on Wednesday, which included films of Mladic attending family occasions, dancing at weddings, singing Serbian folk songs and enjoying a skiing holiday allegedly last winter.

Mladic has been on the run since 1995 when the UN war crimes court in The Hague indicted him on genocide charges for staging the massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslims during the civil war in former Yugoslavia (1992-1995).

Bosnia has long demanded that Mladic be brought to justice.

Officials at The Hague have reportedly launched an investigation into the footage and have promised to comment later.

Rasim Ljajic, the chairman of the Serbian National Council for Co-operation with the ICT, has denied that the footage is that of Mladic.

According to Ljajic, the release of such footage ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers was designed to mount pressure on Serbia and ruin its chances from becoming a member of the European Union.

The capture of Mladic is a condition for Serbian progress toward membership in the European Union. Pro-Western leaders in Belgrade claim they do not know Mladic's whereabouts.



Students tell of humiliation by British police

2009-06-12T18:28:31.717+04:00

Students tell of humiliation by British police
Pakistani students detained in a well-publicized April terror crackdown in northwest England say they were imprisoned with criminals charged with murder.

Tariq Rehman, apparently the first to be sent home, told reporters in brief comments at the Islamabad airport that he had suffered "mental torture" and humiliation in a British prison.

He added that his fellow detainees, who were also accused of extremism, were also treated like hardened criminals in British detention.

"Even our Korans and prayer mats were searched using dogs and we repeatedly protested at this."

"I have been arrested just because I am a Muslim and I belong to Pakistan," a visibly distressed and disappointed Tariq said.

Tariq's counsel, Amjad Malik, told the media that Pakistani authorities had cleared his client of all charges.

According to Malik, the Pakistani students were suspected of involvement in extremist activities, which he said could not be defined as "fasting, going to prayers, keeping a beard, anything, could be (termed) Islamist extremism. So we don't know really."

Twelve Pakistanis students in Britain were arrested in dramatic daytime operations across England in early April.

British Premier Gordon Brown said at the time of the arrests that the police had uncovered "a very big terrorist plot".

The arrests, however, strained relations between London and Islamabad, especially after the British police failed to produce hard evidence to back up their terror charges.

After the charges were dropped for lack of evidence, Tariq and the other students were kept in detention on the grounds that they constituted a national threat.

British authorities insisted on deporting the Pakistani students despite the charges having been dropped against them.



2 Gitmo detainees sent to Chad, Iraq

2009-06-12T18:00:17.074+04:00

2 Gitmo detainees sent to Chad, Iraq
Two Guantanamo detainees have been transferred to Chad and Iraq respectively, the US Justice Department has said in a statement.

According to the statement, Jawad Jabber Sadhkan arrived in Iraq overnight on Thursday and Mohammed al-Gharani, a young man with dual Chadian and Saudi nationalities, arrived in Chad on the same day.

"As our review of detainees continues, the support of the international community is critical to the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and the security of our country," said Matthew Olsen, Executive Director of the Guantanamo Review Task Force.

"We are grateful for the cooperation of the governments of Iraq and Chad and for their assistance on the successful transfer of these individuals," he said through a statement issued by the Justice Department.

The controversial US Navy-run detention camp in southeastern Cuba was established by the former US president George W. Bush in 2002 to house "war on terror" detainees.

The US president Barack Obama has pledged to shut the facility by January 2010. So far, eight detainees have been released from Guantanamo since Obama took office in January.



Zimbabwe PM in US to restore aid

2009-06-12T17:52:08.904+04:00

Zimbabwe PM in US to restore aid
Zimbabwean PM Morgan Tsvangirai held high level meetings with the IMF, the World Bank and US Secretary of State to restore aid for his troubled country.

Tsvangirai says he is not walking around with a begging bowl in his hands, but is trying to re-establish ways and means of re-engaging with the West.

But no aid money is going to Zimbabwe anytime soon, as long as there are no reforms. The best Tsvangirai can do now is to plead for aid to speed up constitutional reforms to allow the country to have free and fair elections, Economist Luke Zunga said on Thursday after Tsvangirai held talks with the IMF and the World Bank.

No details of his talks with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been released.

In his meeting with the US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday, both discussed the prospects for restoring substantial US aid to the troubled country.

"I'm anxious to hear about the plans and the work that your government is undertaking and to look for ways that we appropriately can be supportive," Clinton told Tsvangirai.

The US has not yet committed whether it will offer developmental aid to Zimbabwe. US officials say the country's democratic and economic reforms must be enacted before aid is restored.

Tsvangirai is due to meet with President Barack Obama on Friday on his first official trip abroad that is to include meetings in Europe with British, French, German and other leaders in his quest for support for reconstruction of his economically battered land.



US Marines out of Iraq in 2010

2009-06-12T17:39:06.916+04:00

US Marines out of Iraq in 2010
US Marines will withdraw from Iraq in the spring of 2010, General James Conway says, signaling the end of a mission amid resurgence of violence in the country.

"We think that in the spring of 2010 we'll close the door and turn out the lights to Marine Corps presence in Iraq," said General James Conway in a speech at the National Press Club.

The date is in line with the schedule set by President Barack Obama, who in February ordered the withdrawal of all US combat troops from the country by the end of August 2010 with the rest of the force coming out by the end of 2011.

Conway said there are currently 16,000 marines in Iraq and that the reduction of the force would accelerate after the legislative elections that are scheduled for January 2010.

However, Conway played down a resurgence of violence in Iraq in recent weeks.

Violence in Iraq has increased in recent weeks and Iraqi leaders suspect that the attacks had been devised by those who wanted to see Iraq struggling with sectarian unrest and bloodshed.



Rand says US unlikely to contain Iran

2009-06-12T17:36:56.608+04:00

Rand says US unlikely to contain Iran
A US think-tank has warned that a US-led containment of Iran is 'unlikely' to be sustainable among the Persian Gulf states.

The Rand Corporation has said in a report that the Persian Gulf states desire to maintain their cordial ties with Iran, if not active political and economic engagement.

"Arab opinion on Iran is often split between publics and their regimes. Arab regimes fear Iran's nuclear aspirations but are cognizant that its nuclear program is largely endorsed by their Arab publics as a critique of Western double standards and interference," the report said.

The think-tank has urged the US administration to try to establish a multilateral security structure in the Persian Gulf region --although it will take time-- rather than pursuing unilateral policies.

The study titled "Dangerous But Not Omnipotent: Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East" also says that Iran's rise as a regional power presents a key foreign policy and security challenge to the US, but its reach may be far more limited than Western conventional wisdom suggests.



Holocaust-denier shooter: Obama created by Jews

2009-06-12T15:55:22.253+04:00

Holocaust-denier shooter: Obama created by Jews
New documents reveal that a gunman who killed a guard at the US Holocaust Museum does not believe that Holocaust existed and is a harsh critic of President Barack Obama.

James von Brunn who shot dead security guard Steven Johns at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington had left some notes in his car before his shooting, a legal document showed Thursday.

"The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do," according to the handwritten notes.

The legal document traced von Brunn's movements from the moment he pulled up outside the museum to when two of the fallen security guard's colleagues stopped von Brunn's rampage by shooting him in the face.

"Jews control the mass media ... Jews captured America's money," the notes continued, according to an affidavit filed by an FBI special agent who is taking part in the probe of von Brunn.

All of the notes were signed "James W. Von Brunn," said the affidavit.

The affidavit also described the shooter as "a known white supremacist who has espoused hate speech directed specifically towards Jews for an extensive period of time."

In a short novel entitled "Kill the Best Gentiles," which von Brunn claims to have written, the suspect detailed how he "believed the government was being run by Jews and the Jews were looking to extinguish the white race," the affidavit noted.

The entire incident was captured by the museum's videotape surveillance system and subsequently viewed by the FBI, AFP reported.

Von Brunn, who is still in critical condition in hospital, was charged with murder and killing in the course of possession of a firearm in a federal facility, officials said.



Seminar on Investment Opportunities in Iran's Oil Opens in Malaysia

2009-06-12T15:48:45.859+04:00

Seminar on Investment Opportunities in Iran's Oil Opens in Malaysia
A seminar on investment opportunities in Iran's oil industry opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday.


Managing Director of the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC) Noureddin Shahnazi-Zadeh attended the seminar.

Shahnazi-Zadeh, who is also Iran's deputy oil minister, arrived in the Malaysian capital early on Wednesday.



Some 150 companies from different countries are participating in the 2009 AOG.

The Iranian Oil Ministry delegation visited the city of Kedah on the first leg of Malaysia tour in a bid to observe the process of construction of a refinery by the Iranian experts there.

The trip came two days after Malaysian oil and gas company (Petronas) announced on Monday that it will cooperate with Iran in a project to develop South Pars gas field and review its position with the project's new Chinese partner.



Qatar to Host First Meeting of Gas OPEC

2009-06-12T15:45:40.113+04:00

Qatar to Host First Meeting of Gas OPEC
The first ministerial meeting of the OPEC-like gas forum will be held in Qatar on June 30, Iran's OPEC governor announced on Monday.


"Topics such as financial issues, budget and personnel of the oil ministries of exporting, countries will be discussed and studied (at the meeting)", Iran's Governor at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Mohammad Ali Khatibi told FNA about the upcoming meeting of the Organization of Gas Exporting Countries (OGEC).

He further reminded that the statute of the gas forum had been ratified by the ministers of the gas exporting countries last December in Moscow.

Noting that Qatar has invited all the member countries to the meeting, Khatibi predicted that the ministers of all gas exporting countries would attend the conference.

"The Qatar conference is the first ministerial meeting after ratifying the statute of the gas exporting countries in Moscow," he added.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei proposed the idea of setting up "an organization of gas cooperation like OPEC" in 2007.

Gas exporting states have so far finalized establishment of a new Qatar-based forum which aims to coordinate the member states' policies while consumer countries fear that the forum could become the gas equivalent of oil cartel OPEC.



In UK, MPs jostle for Speaker's chair

2009-06-12T15:20:37.175+04:00

In UK, MPs jostle for Speaker's chair
The race over UK's next parliamentary speaker is well under way with the Conservatives claiming it's their turn to replace former speaker Michael Martin.

At least ten MPs are bid to stand for the elections to choose the next speaker of the House of Commons, to take over Martin's place who resigned over the expense claims scandals.

Although traditionally the role of the speaker is independent, each party prefers the incumbent to be from its own colors.

From the ruling Labour party, the former foreign minister Margaret Beckett and Parmjit Dhanda are in the running.

From the opposition's benches, John Bercow, Ann Widdicombe, Sir Patrick Cormack, Sir Alan Haselhurst, Sir Michael Lord, Richard Shepherd are the Conservative MPs said to be vying for the Speaker's vacant chair.

Form the Liberal Democrats, Sir Alan Beith has definitely thrown in his hat and he may be joined in the race by the former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

Miss Widdicombe who is said to be Conservatives' charismatic candidate said: "We have got to restore the reputation of the House of Commons with the public and that means somebody who can connect with the public, which I believe I can do very well."

UK's House of Commons is under fire after losing public trust following disclosures of extravagant expenses claimed by many MPs, which forced a number of them to resign and caused a government reshuffle on the Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The last speaker was forced to resign, as it was revealed that his office did not keep a close enough eye on the MPs' expenses claims, as it should have done.

The vote to choose the Commons' next speaker is scheduled for June 22 and it will be done by secret ballots.



Iran reports high turnout just after polls open

2009-06-12T15:18:33.320+04:00

Iran reports high turnout just after polls open
Iranian Interior Ministry has reported a massive turnout in presidential polling stations just hours after voting started on Friday morning.

Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli said that some five million Iranians have so far cast their votes before mid-day Friday, which he termed 'unprecedented' in comparison with previous elections.

Mahsouli added that the final turnout for the 10th presidential election is expected to be above 70 percent.

According to the minister, no irregularities have been reported so far.

Head of Iran's Electoral Office Kamran Daneshjou also told reporters that the Interior Ministry has taken necessary measures to allow representatives of hopefuls to supervise the polling procedure.

According to Daneshjou, some thousands of ID cards have been issued for the representatives of the candidates to monitor the polling at ballot boxes.

On Friday morning, the polls opened to more than 46 eligible Iranian voters aged 18 and above to elect the next president of the country.

Iranians can vote in more than 45,000 polling stations nationwide, while 304 polls will receive Iranian expatriates in almost 130 countries including Britain, the UAE, Russia, China, Japan, and Syria. Only in the US, more than 30 polling stations will receive Iranians.

daily news world In addition to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is seeking a second four-year term, former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi and Secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei are vying for the public's votes in the closely contested election.

The winner must collect 50 percent of the votes plus one. If, however, no single candidate wins enough votes, the run-off will be held on June 19.



Obama gives deadline to Israel for Palestine'

2009-06-09T19:20:58.956+04:00

US President Barack Obama gives Israel a two-year deadline for the finalization of a two-state solution amid sharply opposing positions in Washington and Tel Aviv over the issue of Palestinian statehood.

President Obama raised the issue of an independent Palestinian state with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Israeli official's visit to Washington last month, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

According to the report, the plan envisions a Middle East peace deal by 2011.

Haaretz quoted a source in Cairo as telling the London-based A-Sharq al-Awsat that Israel's Netanyahu is expected to respond to the proposal within six weeks.

President Obama, who was in Egypt last week to address the Arab and Muslim world, discussed his proposed plan with Egyptian intelligence chief Omer Suleiman and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

The US president has urged the Netanyahu government to set up a Palestinian state and has been "very clear about the need to stop building settlements, to stop building outposts" on occupied Palestinian territories.

Snubbing international calls to halt its settlement expansion, Israel seems adamant to stubbornly pursue the activities.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai declared on Sunday that he would use all resources in the Interior Ministry, "its branches and its influences over local government" to expand Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Israeli premier, for his part, has halted all Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at the creation of an independent Palestine and has called previous US-backed agreements into question.

In April, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sparked controversy by saying that Tel Aviv is not bound by the 2007 US-sponsored Annapolis deal, under which Israel agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state.



Fraud plagues more Israeli politicians

2009-06-09T19:08:18.892+04:00

Fraud plagues more Israeli politicians . A new wave of fraud scandals is gripping the Israeli government with former finance minister Abraham Hirchson convicted over a multimillion shekel fraud case.

An Israeli court on Monday found Hirchson guilty of stealing NIS 2.5 million from the National Workers Organization when he was the institution's head, Haaretz reported.

Daily news World The court rejected the arguments by Hirchson defense lawyers to minimize his involvement in the case.

Based on the indictment, NIS 12.3 million was funneled from the organization and an affiliated institution and the sum of money was divided between six people including the former minister.

The case is the latest in a series of scandals that put the honesty of Israeli officials under question. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert had to resign over his involvement in a corruption case.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is currently under police investigation for his involvement in a money laundering case.

A recent poll conducted by an anti-Corruption organization has revealed that the majority of Israelis believe their government is not seriously fighting against corruption.

The annual Global Corruption Barometer report released by Transparency International shows that 86 percent of Israelis --the highest level in the world--say the government's efforts to fight corruption are ineffective.

Doron Navot of the University of Haifa and the Israel Democracy Institute says in Israel "not only do the government and elected officials not fight political Corruption, but in recent years they see politicians and elected officials fighting the guardians - those battling against Corruption - and trying to weaken them and advance reforms that harm the fight against Corruption."



'US military surge destabilizes Pakistan'

2009-06-09T18:54:17.950+04:00

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says the US' move to send 21,000 extra troops to war-ravaged Afghanistan could have serious implications for Pakistan.

"Pakistan has talked through political and military ways at all levels to the stakeholders that transferring the problem from Afghanistan to Pakistan will not help resolve the issue," Qureshi said at a news conference with his Turkish counterpart in Islamabad on Tuesday.

The Islamabad government is worried that the US President Barack Obama's move to boost its military presence in Afghanistan could further destabilize Pakistan by pushing more militants across the border.

Increased US military activity may also spark an influx of refugees from insurgency-hit southern Afghanistan into border areas of Pakistan.

The US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has prompted the Taliban militants to focus their attention across the border in Pakistan, turning the restive tribal belt between the two neighbors into the scene of deadly violence.

Qureshi also added that the US military surge in the war-conflict Afghanistan might also have implications for Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan.

Pakistan's Balochistan is already rocked by violence as Baloch rebel groups have for many years campaigned for greater autonomy and control of local resources.

Qureshi urged Washington to pursue non-military solutions to conflict in the troubled Pakistan and Afghanistan. "There should be a civilian surge to promote reconciliatory efforts in Afghanistan to resolve the issue".

Islamabad has repeatedly said that unwise White House policies were strengthening the Taliban and spreading extremism in the volatile region.

Violence in Pakistan has claimed the lives of thousands of people, including civilians and soldiers, since the country joined US-led 'war on terror'.



US ship survivors tell of Israeli attack

2009-06-09T18:51:50.407+04:00

A deadly Israeli attack on a US ship -- an incident largely kept in the dark by Washington -- receives new attention with survivors reliving the painful memory.

USS Liberty survivors gathered in Washington on Monday to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the incident and expound on how they were sprayed with bullets by America's "closest ally and beneficiary".

On June 8, 1967, the unarmed spy ship USS Liberty was on duty in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula when it was bombarded by Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats.

The two-hour-long attacks killed at least 34 sailors, wounded 173 others and nearly sunk the ship.

The attack on the Liberty came at a time when Israel had engaged in a brief but intense war with Egypt and its Arab allies, which coincided with the US war on Vietnam.

Although the ship was clearly marked as an American vessel, Israelis declared the attack on Liberty as a simple case of "friendly fire" and "mistaken identity".

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, former US president Lyndon Johnson accepted the Israeli claim and cancelled all investigations into the incident.

"It was a case of mistaken identity …I do not care if every man drowned and the ship sank, we will not embarrass an ally," Johnson had told his opponents who demanded an open congressional hearing to address the Israeli claim.

USS Liberty survivor Rick Almett, however, begged to differ.

"There was a conspiracy between our government and Israel. So that's the reason why they didn't pursue it and why the investigations were covered up because of the alliance of Israel and the United States," Almetti told.

In a separate interview , Jim Smith -- another surviving member of the USS Liberty crew -- said the incident was "an intentional act by Israel to sink the ship with all hands and no survivors".

While there are many conspiracy theories as to why Israel attacked a ship of its top ally, Earnie Gallo -- who heads the USS Liberty Veterans Associations -- told Press TV that the attack was in fact designed to pave the way for an Israeli military incursion into the Golan Heights.

In 2003, an independent committee comprised of retired high-ranking military officers and a former US ambassador to the Middle East joined forces to investigate the Liberty attack and the subsequent cover-up.

Their pleas for an investigation, however, have fallen on deaf ears in the Congress as it continues to ignore the facts presented on the Liberty attack.

Former US military and political officials said they had been ordered to put the lid on the controversy surrounding the USS Liberty attack. "We were never to speak of it and we were to caution everyone else involved that they could never speak of it again," said former court Adm. Isaac C. Kidd.