LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Cautions &
The Letter from Jude 1/17-23: "But you, beloved, remember the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you that “In the last time there will be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts.” These are they who cause divisions, and are sensual, not having the Spirit. But you, beloved, keep building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. On some have compassion, making a distinction, and some save, snatching them out of the fire with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh."
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 23/13
Analysis: Netanyahu seeks to slow Iran-U.S. thaw by ramping up demands of deal/By Dan Williams/Reuters/December 23/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 23/13
Lebanese Related News
Army Contains Situation in Souairi after 4 Dead in Renewed Clashes
Miqati, Safadi Exchange Accusations over Payment of Share to STL
Al-Rahi Slams 'Disabled' Politicians over Cabinet, Electoral Law
Officials: 'No Room for Diplomacy,' Hizbullah Engaged in 'Open-Ended War'
Several Hurt in Drug-Linked Clash in Dekwaneh
Hizbullah Clashes with Syrian Rebels Overnight in Bekaa's Nahle
Bassil: A Weak President in a Strong Post Weakens the Country
Army Raids Akkar Town in Search for Shooting Suspects
Syrian Arrested at Beirut Airport for Smuggling Captagon Pills
Report: 'Weak' Coordination between Security Apparatuses despite 'Extraordinary Measures'
Gunmen Abduct Syrian National for Ransom in the Bekaa
Lebanon boosts security ahead of holiday
Hezbollah should abide by disassociation policy: EU
Miscellaneous Reports And News
World powers and Iran pause nuclear talks
Senate prepares major vote on Iran sanctions next month
Iran nuclear talks suspended for Christmas
US says Americans safely evacuated from S. Sudan's Bor
Pope tells officials 'Be professional and don't gossip'
Syria views Saudi as number one enemy
UK to help destroy Syria's chemical stockpile
Syria Regime Frees Tolerated Opposition Member
ICRC: Half a Million Wounded in Syria's War
Body of UK Doctor Who Died in Syria Flown Home from Beirut
New air strikes on Syria's Aleppo kill dozens
Cameron Says Syria Must Answer for 'Sickening' UK Doctor Death
New Air Strikes on Aleppo Kill Dozens, Schoolchildren among 8 Dead in Homs
Hollande Expresses 'Sincere Regrets' over Algeria Quip
Palestinians revert to bus bomb attacks. Bat Yam bus cleared in time to avert casualties
Israel Says Tel Aviv Bus Blast a 'Terrorist Attack', Hamas Welcomes 'Operation'
Kerry to present 'framework agreement' to Israel, Palestinians later this month
Analysis: Netanyahu seeks to slow Iran-U.S. thaw by
ramping up demands of deal
By Dan Williams | Reuters/By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - By ramping up his demands of any final nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears determined to stem the tide of international diplomacy which has turned against him in recent weeks. Netanyahu was stung by an interim agreement last month for Tehran to curb its nuclear program in return for a limited easing of sanctions, calling it a historic mistake.
His reaction has been to call for the dismantling of Iran's nuclear projects, as opposed to their containment, and a halt to its development of ballistic missiles, an issue not addressed in the interim accord signed in Geneva on November 24. Taking even wider aim, Netanyahu said negotiators should demand a change to Iran's "genocidal policy" toward Israel, manifested through its supply of thousands of missiles to Palestinian and Lebanese militants, and its calls for the Jewish state's destruction. The wish list has received a cool reception in Washington, will be given short shrift by Iran and was described as "crazy" by a senior Western diplomat. But experts believe the Israeli leader wants to put pressure on President Barack Obama and prevent U.S.-Iranian ties from thawing too far, too fast. One way to do that would be to send a message to Israel's supporters on Capitol Hill. The Senate has already sparred with Obama over whether new sanctions against Iran should be prepared. A former Netanyahu adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. legislators were Netanyahu's target audience.
"It's one thing for Congress to hold off on imposing sanctions, quite another for it to cancel sanctions under a final deal with Iran. Netanyahu wants to help set the tone in Congress and he doesn't mind if Obama notices."
There is a growing sense in Washington that Netanyahu has accepted it is unlikely he can derail the negotiations, so he may have reverted to spoiling tactics, however unpopular they may be in Obama's administration.
"I can't believe the Americans are happy about (Netanyahu) sounding off the way he is at this critical point in time," said one Israeli official, who has direct knowledge of recent White House consultations between U.S. and Israeli experts on Iran. The United States views engagement with the new, relatively moderate government in Iran as a chance to defuse more than three decades of tensions. Asked about Netanyahu's push to broaden Geneva negotiations, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said talks were focused exclusively on the nuclear issue. "However, it is important to note that progress on the nuclear issue does not change our resolve in pushing back against Iranian support for terrorism, threats against our friends and partners, and violations of human rights," she said.
"TOO HIGH A BAR"
Independent experts doubt that Iran, already clinging to nuclear projects it insists are only for peaceful purposes, would agree to a wider clampdown on missile technologies which it could argue are crucial for its civilian space program. Isaac Ben-Israel, an aerospace expert and former strategic weapons designer with Israel's Defense Ministry, said Netanyahu was setting "too high a bar" on Iran's ballistic missiles. He said those were developed in parallel with Tehran's fledgling space program, and predicted the Iranians would treat any move against their missile arsenal as undermining a national scientific endeavor. "They won't give up the space missiles. That will never happen," said Ben-Israel, who is now a professor of security and diplomacy studies at Tel Aviv University. Earlier this month, Iran said it sent a second live monkey into space and brought it back safely, in a fresh demonstration of the country's missile capabilities. The West worries that long-range ballistic technology used to propel Iranian satellites into orbit could be put to use dispatching nuclear warheads to a target.
An Israeli official said the Netanyahu government regarded Iran's space program as cover for its ballistic missile program: "It's not peaceful just like Iran's nuclear projects aren't peaceful. There's no reason to draw fake distinctions." The official did not offer how Iran might reform its enmity toward Israel. The Iranians, who deny their nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons, accuse Israel and its own assumed atomic arsenal of being the real menace to Middle East security. Gary Samore, Obama's former nuclear non-proliferation czar and now a Harvard University scholar, saw value to Israel's calls even if they ultimately go unmet.
"I think it's unlikely that Iran will agree to include its ballistic missile program as part of a nuclear deal," he said. "However, ballistic missiles and many other issues, such as Iran's hostile policy toward Israel, should be on the agenda if and when we ever reach agreement to resolve the nuclear issue." A senior Western diplomat said Netanyahu was making "crazy maximalist demands" that even people in his inner circle recognized could not be met.
Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, inferred another tactical tack on the part of Netanyahu. "He might be introducing a demand to the negotiations that could later be removed as a kind of concession, with Iran expected to make concessions in turn," Eiland said.
(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Jerusalem and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mike Collett-White)
Army Contains Situation in Souairi after 4 Dead in Renewed Clashes
Naharnet/The army managed to contain the situation on Sunday evening in the West Bekaa town of Souairi after renewed clashes between the Shouman and Jinbeen families left four people dead earlier in the day. "The army managed to contain the situation in the town of Souairi amid cautious calm," LBCI television reported. "The army erected checkpoints and staged armored patrols in the town ... after the army's intelligence directorate exerted major efforts and troops will arrest those who opened fire today," LBCI added. An army statement said the clashes renewed during the funeral of conscript Mohammed Saeed Jinbeen, who was killed in a personal dispute on Saturday. “During the funeral of the conscript Mohammed Jinbeen, armed clashes involving the torching of houses renewed between the two parties, which resulted in the death of Ahmed Jinbeen and his brother First Sergeant Khaled Jinbeen in addition to Youssef Shouman and one of his sons,” the statement said. Several off-duty soldiers were also wounded in the clashes, it added. “An army force intervened and raided the houses of the shooters, arresting eight people,” said the statement, noting that the detainees were referred to the relevant judicial authorities. In an earlier statement, the army said suspects were arrested over the death of conscript Mohammed Saeed Jinbeen in an individual dispute. His brother Faraj was wounded in the dispute with the Shouman family which started on Saturday. The communique said the army seized two Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition from the vehicle of three suspects. Nine houses owned by the Shouman family were torched, sparking a new round of fighting, according to the National News Agency. NNA said two brothers, Khaled and Ahmed Ali Jinbeen, were killed and six other residents were injured in the clashes. Later on Sunday, State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr tasked the army's Military Police and Intelligence Directorate and the Criminal Evidence Department to probe the deadly events in Souairi. On the political front, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, who hails from West Bekaa, discussed the town's incidents with Speaker Nabih Berri, former premiers Saad Hariri and Fouad Saniora and the army command, urging them to “intervene quickly to avert any security deterioration in the town of Souairi.”In the evening, members of the Shouman family blocked the international highway with burning tires in the town of Sirein al-Tahta "in protest at the clashes in Souairi and in solidarity with their relatives," NNA said.The army swiftly intervened and reopened the road.
Al-Rahi Slams 'Disabled' Politicians over Cabinet,
Naharnet/22 December 2013/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi dubbed Lebanese politicians on Sunday as “disabled” people for failing to agree on a new government and an electoral draft-law. “Aren't the real disabled those who obstruct the formation of the cabinet over the impairment of their interests?” al-Rahi asked in his sermon during a mass he celebrated in Bkirki. He criticized them for failing to agree on a new electoral draft-law over their “cheap” personal interests. Al-Rahi also accused the politicians of dragging the presidential post to a vacuum over the inability to take a “responsible patriotic decision.” President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May 2014. But there are fears that the differences between the rival camps, which have so far prevented them from agreeing on a new cabinet and an electoral law, would spill over to the presidential elections. The patriarch said a real reform would involve a call for the disabled or those who are handicapped to work in state institutions. Al-Rahi's sermon focused on the disabled after the Lebanese Society for Blind and Deaf attended the mass.
Officials: 'No Room for Diplomacy,' Hizbullah Engaged in
Naharnet Newsdesk 22 December 2013/Hizbullah officials have shrugged off accusations made by March 14 alliance officials against Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah that his latest speech was tantamount to the announcement of war. In remarks to the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper published on Sunday, the officials, who were not identified said: “He hasn't announced war. He is already fighting.” “We are in an open-ended war that has no room for diplomacy,” the officials said. “Maybe later we will be (using) the diplomacy of force,” they warned. Nasrallah criticized on Friday accusations made by March 14 officials against some Shiites in Lebanon of seeking to eliminate other powers in Lebanon. He warned: “Such a proclamation is a declaration of war.” But several members of the alliance snapped back at him in remarks to local TV and radio stations on Saturday, saying Hizbullah's arms were part of a big plot against Lebanon. They said Nasrallah was threatening to resort to his party's weapons in his dispute with the alliance. The Hizbullah officials reiterated in their remarks to al-Rai that any attempt to form a fait accompli government would bring an end to the unity of Lebanon’s state institutions. The ministers representing the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance will not hand over their portfolios to their successors if such a cabinet was formed, they said. The warning came amid reports that President Michel Suleiman and Premier-designate Tammam Salam would form a de facto government to avoid having a vacuum during the presidential elections next year. Suleiman's term ends in May 2014.
Miqati, Safadi Exchange Accusations over Payment of
Share to STL
Naharnet/ 22 December 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati denied on Sunday that his office had referred to the audit bureau a decree on the payment of Lebanon's share to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, drawing accusations and counter accusations between him and the finance ministry. In a statement issued by his press office on Sunday morning, Miqati said the premiership had referred the decree to the finance ministry to ask for the transfer of Lebanon's share to the tribunal. But a ministry official referred it instead to the audit bureau. Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi should have followed up the procedure through the administrative units of his ministry, it said. The statement came after Safadi confirmed to al-Mustaqbal daily published on Sunday that the decree for the payment of Lebanon's share had been issued after President Michel Suleiman, Miqati and himself signed it.
But he expressed surprise at Miqati's alleged transfer of the decree to the audit bureau. He added that the finance ministry would make the payment immediately after the decree is sent back to the ministry. However, the caretaker premier said Safadi's statement was “not accurate.” The ministry issued a statement after Miqati's denial, saying the signed decree was sent automatically by “the official in charge of the expenses at the premiership” to the audit bureau as required by law. But Miqati snapped back in a second statement, saying the employee is “a staff member of the finance ministry and is administratively linked to the finance minister.”
“The employee is in charge of approving the expenses of all public administrative institutions" and not just the premiership, he added. Lebanon is obligated to pay 49 percent of the STL's budget. The tribunal was set up by the United Nations at Lebanon's request. It seeks to try five Hizbullah members for the attack that killed ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and 22 others on Feb. 14, 2005, at the Beirut seafront.
Thousands of Muslims Protest French Operations in C. Africa
Naharnet/ Several thousand Muslim supporters of the Central African Republic's former rebel group Seleka protested Sunday against French troops conducting a disarmament operation.The demonstration in the capital Bangui marked the most significant show of hostility towards France since it deployed troops on December 5 to end the chaos that followed Seleka's coup in March. The protest swelled after some Muslim residents said three ex-Seleka fighters were killed in clashes with French troops. French officials have not confirmed that information.An Agence France Presse journalist said the demonstrators marched from the city centre to the Muslim neighborhood of PK5 before dispersing peacefully. France has deployed 1,600 soldiers to its former colony to bolster an African force MISCA, which had been struggling to cope with an outbreak of Christian-Muslim violence.Reports of the three fighters' death Sunday had sparked a smaller, earlier protest which soldiers from MISCA's Congolese contingent broke up with tear gas, witnesses said. The country's new leader, Michel Djotodia, has disbanded the Seleka rebel coalition that brought him to power nine months ago but some members have gone rogue. Months of killing, raping and pillaging had caused growing international concern of a major humanitarian crisis and prompted Christians to form vigilantes. The French intervention has been largely welcomed by the Christian majority but many Muslims argue operations against the remnants of Seleka have left them exposed to reprisals. Vigilante groups and mobs have attacked Muslim residents and ransacked Muslim-owned shops in recent days, despite efforts by political and religious leaders to defuse sectarian tensions. Djotodia, Central Africa's first Muslim leader, urged all armed groups to lay down their arms and avert an escalation. "I reiterate my entire availability to discuss with all those who have taken up arms, rightly or wrongly, so that we will finally all be disarmed without exception," he said. Djotodia, who is supposed to step aside at the end of next year following elections, said: "Let us now transform our machetes, guns and other arms into ballots."
Source/Agence France Presse.
Thousands of Muslims Protest French Operations in C. Africa
Naharnet/Several thousand Muslim supporters of the Central African Republic's former rebel group Seleka protested Sunday against French troops conducting a disarmament operation.
The demonstration in the capital Bangui marked the most significant show of hostility towards France since it deployed troops on December 5 to end the chaos that followed Seleka's coup in March.
The protest swelled after some Muslim residents said three ex-Seleka fighters were killed in clashes with French troops. French officials have not confirmed that information. An Agence France Presse journalist said the demonstrators marched from the city centre to the Muslim neighborhood of PK5 before dispersing peacefully. France has deployed 1,600 soldiers to its former colony to bolster an African force MISCA, which had been struggling to cope with an outbreak of Christian-Muslim violence. Reports of the three fighters' death Sunday had sparked a smaller, earlier protest which soldiers from MISCA's Congolese contingent broke up with tear gas, witnesses said. The country's new leader, Michel Djotodia, has disbanded the Seleka rebel coalition that brought him to power nine months ago but some members have gone rogue. Months of killing, raping and pillaging had caused growing international concern of a major humanitarian crisis and prompted Christians to form vigilantes. The French intervention has been largely welcomed by the Christian majority but many Muslims argue operations against the remnants of Seleka have left them exposed to reprisals. Vigilante groups and mobs have attacked Muslim residents and ransacked Muslim-owned shops in recent days, despite efforts by political and religious leaders to defuse sectarian tensions. Djotodia, Central Africa's first Muslim leader, urged all armed groups to lay down their arms and avert an escalation. "I reiterate my entire availability to discuss with all those who have taken up arms, rightly or wrongly, so that we will finally all be disarmed without exception," he said. Djotodia, who is supposed to step aside at the end of next year following elections, said: "Let us now transform our machetes, guns and other arms into ballots."Source/Agence France Presse.
US says Americans safely evacuated from S. Sudan's Bor
AFP – Washington (AFP) - The United States said it had safely evacuated Americans from the rebel-held South Sudanese city of Bor on Sunday, one day after a rescue mission had to be aborted. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that helicopters were used in the successful evacuation, which was conducted in conjunction with the United Nations and the South Sudanese government. "US citizens and citizens from our partner nations were flown from Bor to Juba on UN and US civilian helicopters," she said. "The United States and the United Nations, which has the lead for securing Bor airport in South Sudan, took steps to ensure fighting factions were aware these flights were a humanitarian mission." The announcement came 24 hours after the Pentagon confirmed that three Osprey aircraft had been hit by gunfire when approaching Bor, wounding four US servicemen and forcing the planes to head toward Uganda. The State Department statement said around 380 US officials and private citizens, plus 300 citizens of other countries had so far been transported to Nairobi and other locations on four chartered flights and five military aircraft. "Other US citizens may have left through other means. We strongly recommend US. citizens in South Sudan depart immediately," Psaki added. The United States deployed 45 troops on Wednesday to protect American personnel and assets in South Sudan, amid intensifying fighting between rebels and government forces. In a letter to Congress, President Barack Obama said the force "will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed."
Iran nuclear talks suspended for Christmas
AFP – Tehran (AFP) - Iran's foreign minister and the EU's top diplomat agreed during telephone call Sunday to postpone until after Christmas talks on implementing a landmark nuclear agreement, the country's chief negotiator said. "During this telephone conversation, it was agreed to continue the negotiations, but with the Christmas holidays in sight it was decided to interrupt and resume (the talks) a week after the holidays," said Abbas Araqchi. The Iranian nuclear negotiator said the agreement was reached during a call that lasted "45 minutes" between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Araqchi, who is also deputy foreign minister, said the discussions were progressing slowly because of "interpretations" of points of the agreement that Iran and world powers clinched in Geneva on November 24.The negotiations, which are aimed at setting a framework and a timeline for the nuclear accord, stretched into a fourth day in Geneva on Sunday. Zarif said little progress had been made in the talks with the P5+1 -- UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany. "The talks on implementing the accord are not easy. They are progressing, but slowly," he told a joint news conference on Sunday with visiting Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino. "I hope all sides will avoid delving into issues that could become troublesome and complicate the process," Zarif added without elaborating.
Under the Geneva accord, Iran agreed to roll back or freeze parts of its nuclear drive for six months in exchange for modest sanctions relief and a promise by Western powers not to impose new sanctions. Western powers suspect Iran's nuclear activities mask military objectives, despite repeated denials in Tehran that they are entirely peaceful.
Pope tells officials 'Be professional and don't gossip'
AFP – Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis on Saturday told Church officials to be professionals who serve their public and don't gossip, in his first address to the Catholic Church government he has set out to reform.The Argentine pope has worked quickly since his election in March to establish a series of specialist bodies to tackle corruption and poor management in the Vatican, including at the Roman Curia, the scandal-hit, intrigue-filled government of the Catholic Church. In his Saturday address, the pontiff said "professionalism and service" were "two hallmarks of the curial official, and even more of curial superiors."
"Professionalism, by which I mean competence, study, keeping abreast of things... is a basic requisite for working in the Curia," he said. "When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards towards mediocrity. Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information, and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives," he said. "When the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular Churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customshouse, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God's people." Finally, officials at the Curia should all have a "conscientious objection to gossip," which is "harmful to people, our work and our surroundings." Among the reform steps taken by Francis since his election has been the naming of eight cardinals from around the world to advise him on the Curia overhaul and planning a major restructuring of the Vatican bank. In an interview in early October Francis called for a Catholic Church government that would be less "Vatican-centric" and berated "courtiers" in the Vatican as being swayed by earthly values. Underlying the enormity of the task and displaying the common touch and sense of humour that have helped endear the new pope to his followers, Francis began Saturday's speech with the equivalent of a shout-out to Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican "prime minister" who took over from a scandal-tainted predecessor in October and has hinted at a reformist outlook in line with the pontiff's.n"Allow me to extend a special greeting to Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who recently began his service as Secretary of State, and who needs our prayers!"
Syria views Saudi as number one enemy
By Roueida Mabardi | AFP – Damascus (AFP) - Syria now views Saudi Arabia as its number one enemy and accuses it of trying to destroy the country by arming jihadists and other rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad. The oil-rich Gulf monarchies have sided with the opposition from the start of Syria's conflict in March 2011, with Riyadh leading calls for the fall of Assad.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad told AFP this week that Saudi Arabia was providing unfettered support for "terrorist groups" in Syria, while other nations had reviewed their positions. "I think that all those who supported these terrorist groups have the feeling now that they have made big mistakes," Muqdad said in an interview on Thursday, referring to the rebels seeking to topple Assad. "The only party who is declaring the full support to the terrorist groups, to Al-Qaeda, is Saudi Arabia," he said. Muqdad urged the world to press Saudi Arabia to halt its support for the rebels, to prevent what he said was "another 11 September incident".
"I think that if the world wants to avoid another 11 September incident, they must start telling Saudi Arabia 'enough is enough'," he said, referring to Al-Qaeda's 2001 attacks on the US. Earlier this month, Assad's government urged the United Nations to take a stand against Saudi support for Islamist groups whose influence has grown on the battlefield. "We call on the UN Security Council to take the necessary measures to put an end to the unprecedented actions of the Saudi regime, which is supporting takfiri (Sunni extremist) terrorism tied to Al-Qaeda," the foreign ministry said in a message to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
It was the first time the Syrian government has appealed to the international body to take action against Riyadh. "Saudi Arabia is not content to merely send weapons and to finance but also mobilises extremist terrorists and sends them to kill the Syrian people," the Syrian message said. Saudi 'not to stand idle' Saudi-Syrian relations had been tense for years, long before the start of the brutal conflict that has now killed an estimated 126,000 people.
The Sunni-ruled kingdom severed diplomatic relations with Damascus following the February 2005 assassination in Beirut of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri who had close ties with Riyadh. Four years later, diplomatic ties resumed and Assad, who belongs to the Alawite Shiite sect, paid an official visit to Riyadh in March 2009. Saudi King Abdullah, who rarely embarks on official visits abroad, reciprocated in October that year and made a landmark visit to Damascus to seal ties. But relations deteriorated from the onset of the Syria war and were finally severed, with Riyadh repeatedly calling for the end of Assad's regime.
Saudi officials have simultaneously chided the West for its reluctance to intervene militarily on the side of the armed opposition.
On Tuesday, the Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, published in The New York Times a bluntly worded assessment of the West's policies on Syria and Iran. "We believe that many of the West's policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East," he wrote in the commentary. The senior diplomat said Saudi Arabia has "global responsibilities", both political and economic, and vowed it will continue to support the rebel Free Syrian Army and opposition fighters. "We will act to fulfil these responsibilities, with or without the support of our Western partners," wrote the ambassador.
He also acknowledged the threat of Al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, arguing however that the best way to counter the rise of extremists among the rebels was to support the "champions of moderation". Muqdad on Thursday told AFP that "Saudi Arabia should be put on the list of countries supporting terrorism." Outside regime circles, there is also growing animosity towards Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, a film which depicts the Saudi royal family in an unflattering light was screened at the Damascus opera house. "It was important for me to show this movie," said director Najdat Anzour of his "The King of Sands" movie, which opens with Al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks on the US. "Al-Qaeda didn't come from Mars but from Saudi Arabia, from the Wahhabi, extremist way of thinking," Anzour told AFP. Anzour said a Saudi cleric has issued a fatwa, Islamic decree, authorising his killing
UK to help destroy Syria's chemical stockpile
Associated Press/By CASSANDRA VINOGRAD | Associated Press –
LONDON (AP) — The U.K. will help the international mission to destroy Syria's chemical weapons program, officials said Friday, joining a complex operation with prominent roles for the U.S., Denmark and Norway. Britain's Foreign Office said it has agreed to destroy 150 tons of two industrial-grade chemicals from Syria's stockpile at a commercial facility. The chemicals used in the pharmaceutical industry will be shipped to the U.K. before being transferred to a commercial site to be incinerated and destroyed, it said in a statement. "It is important to stress that these are chemicals, not chemical weapons," the Foreign Office said, explaining that the two chemicals only become highly toxic when mixed to make a nerve agent. The commitment adds another layer to the complex and unprecedented operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, which comes after the confirmed use of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21 , which the U.S. government says killed 1,400 people. A number of questions remain about how Syria's chemical weapons arsenal will be destroyed, including what will be done with the material once it is rendered harmless. The Foreign Office said the two chemicals would be removed from Syria separately, sealed in standard industrial containers to international standards and under the supervision of chemical weapons watchdogs. Under the plan by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, chemicals will be transported from 12 storage sites to Latakia in Syria. Russia is providing armored trucks and other equipment to help transport them. The chemicals will then be loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships and shipped to an Italian port, where the most toxic chemicals — including materials used to make mustard gas and sarin — will be transferred to a U.S. ship for destruction at sea. That ship — MV Cape Ray — is serving as the linchpin of the plan. The Cape Ray will have machinery that will neutralize the chemicals by mixing them with other chemicals and heated water. Under the current plan, the most toxic chemicals are to be removed from the country by Dec. 31. All other chemicals declared by Syria are to be removed from the country by Feb. 5, with the exception of around 100 tons of isopropanol, which are to be destroyed in Syria by March 1. All chemicals are to be destroyed by June 30. However, Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has warned there may be delays.
Syria war: Many dead as Assad helicopters pound Aleppo
BBC/Syrian government helicopters have bombed a district of Aleppo, killing at least 25 people, as fighting for the country's second city rages.
Barrels packed with TNT were dropped on the Hanano district, killing six children and 19 adults and injuring 17 people, opposition activists said.
A correspondent for Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV estimated 70 deaths.
In Homs province, a car bomb exploded outside a primary school, killing six schoolchildren and two adults.
Rebels recently gained territory in Aleppo, capturing a strategically placed ruined hospital from government forces.
Government air strikes have continued for more than a week and as many as 200 people may have been killed in the bombardment.
Barrel bombs are large, home-made incendiary devices which are rolled out of helicopters and are indiscriminate in their impact.
Scene of carnage
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, quoted activists and witnesses in the city as saying the death toll in Hanano could rise.
According to the Aleppo Media Centre, a network of citizen journalists on the ground, the bombs killed 32 people, destroying a bus with everyone inside and demolishing about 10 cars and a residential building.
Unverified amateur video posted online shows rescuers at work in a smoke-shrouded street of charred and shattered vehicles, one of them burning fiercely, with bodies lying on the ground.
Bearded militants and bystanders mill around, dragging bodies from a car, chanting "God is great" and punching the air.
The twon of Marea, near Aleppo, also came under aerial bombardment on Sunday.
The Duma district of Damascus was also bombarded on Sunday, reportedly by by President Assad's forces.
A man, woman and child from the same family were reportedly killed in the town of Marea, near Aleppo, when it was also bombed from the air on Sunday.
On Friday, rebels seized the al-Kindi Hospital after blasting its central section with a huge lorry bomb.
According to an unconfirmed report, 35 rebels died in the attack on the hospital, which stands close to a besieged government prison.
School attack The car bomb exploded in Umm al-Amed, a predominately Shia Muslim town in the Sunni-majority country, where the rebels and their foreign militant allies are predominately Sunnis.
At least 12 people were also injured, children among them, government media and opposition activists said.
More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.
Out of a population of 21 million, some 6.5 million Syrians are living as internally displaced people while almost 2.3 million are living as refugees abroad.
Palestinians revert to bus bomb attacks. Bat Yam bus
cleared in time to avert casualties
DEBKAfile Special Report December 22, 2013/A medium-sized bomb exploded Sunday on a Dan No. 240 bus in Bat Yam on the outskirts of Tel Aviv in what the police believe is a fresh outbreak of Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israeli civilian transport. The medium-sized bomb hidden in a bag blew up on the bus as it reached the corner of Mivtzai Sinai and Katzenelson Streets. A passenger who spotted an unattended bag which contained what looked like a pressure cooker with wires, a familiar contrivance from many past attacks, alerted the driver who pulled over, cleared the bus of passengers and called the police just in time.
A police sapper was slightly hurt by the blast which blew out all the bus’s windows. Reinforcements were rushed to the scene, a cordon placed around the bus and householders along the streets were alerted..
Police judging the incident to be terror-related for a multiple-casualty attack have thrown out a dragnet for the terrorist. The public is asked to be vigilant and refer any suspicious circumstances to the authorities without delay.
The last public transport bombing occurred in November last year, when a blast hit a crowded commuter bus as it passed the Israeli defense ministry in Tel Aviv during rush hour, injuring 21 people.
In 2011, an explosion at a bus stop in Jerusalem ripped through a bus, killing a British tourist and wounding 30 other people. debkafile: After the Bat Yam bombing, it will be harder than ever for the authorities to continue maintainiing that the recent surge of Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets are solo operations rather than a planned campaign by a terrorist organization.
Israel Says Tel Aviv Bus Blast a 'Terrorist Attack',
Hamas Welcomes 'Operation'
Naharnet/22 December 2013/An explosion aboard an empty Israeli bus near Tel Aviv on Sunday that did not kill or wound anyone was a "terrorist attack," police said. "After examining the explosives retrieved from the scene, we have concluded that this was a terrorist attack," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Agence France Presse. "An investigation has been opened and our forces have been deployed in the area to try to identify suspects."
Police had said earlier that a sapper was examining a suspicious object found on the empty bus in the seaside town of Bat Yam when it exploded, but was unhurt. The driver of the bus had spotted an unattended bag on board, stopped the vehicle and ordered passengers to disembark, Rosenfeld said. But bus company Dan said the driver had been tipped off by a passenger. "The passenger opened the backpack and saw wires," news website Ynet quoted Dan spokesman Eitan Fiksman as saying. The authorities had initially suggested the attack might have been connected to an often violent power struggle among gangsters in the Bat Yam area.
"We urge the public to be particularly vigilant on public transport including buses and trains, and in shopping centers in case of other attempted attacks," police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
There was no immediate claim for the attack, but a spokesman for the Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza praised the operation. "Hamas welcomes the Bat Yam operation and considers it a courageous and heroic response to the crimes of the occupation," Fawzi Barhum said. The last bombing to target Israeli public transport was in November last year, when a blast hit a crowded commuter bus as it passed the Israeli defense ministry in Tel Aviv during rush hour, injuring 17 people. In 2011 an explosion ripped through a bus at a stop in Jerusalem, killing a British tourist and wounding 30 other people. Israel said the 2011 and November 2012 blasts were the work of Palestinian militants. In an October 2013 West Bank raid, Israeli troops killed Islamic Jihad militant Mohammed Assi, described by the army as the "planner" of the 2012 Tel Aviv bus bomb, in a firefight.
Source/Agence France Presse.Middle EastPoliticsIsrael.