June 27/2013

Bible Quotation for today/Spiritual Treasure in Clay Pots
02 Corinthians04//01-15/:"God in his mercy has given us this work to do, and so we do not become discouraged.  We put aside all secret and shameful deeds; we do not act with deceit, nor do we falsify the word of God. In the full light of truth we live in God's sight and try to commend ourselves to everyone's good conscience.  For if the gospel we preach is hidden, it is hidden only from those who are being lost.  They do not believe, because their minds have been kept in the dark by the evil god of this world. He keeps them from seeing the light shining on them, the light that comes from the Good News about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.  For it is not ourselves that we preach; we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.  The God who said, “Out of darkness the light shall shine!” is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ. Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. 8 We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; 9 there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10 At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies.  Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus' sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours.  This means that death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
The scripture says, “I spoke because I believed.” In the same spirit of faith we also speak because we believe.  We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus to life, will also raise us up with Jesus and take us, together with you, into his presence.  All this is for your sake; and as God's grace reaches more and more people, they will offer to the glory of God more prayers of thanksgiving.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources 

Talk to Iran's New President. Warily./By: Dennis Ross/New York Times/June 27/13
An Injustice to the Unseen and Unheard/By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq Alawsat/June 27/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 27/13

Talk to Iran's New President. Warily./By: Dennis Ross/New York Times/June 27/13
An Injustice to the Unseen and Unheard/By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq Alawsat/June 27/13
Nigeria Charges Hizbullah-linked Men with Terrorism
Sidon Ulemas Accuse Hizbullah of Taking Part in City's Clashes alongside Army
Ashton Reiterates Calls for Disassociation Policy towards Syrian Conflict 
U.S. fines Lebanese bank $102M for laundering
Sidon Ulemas Accuse Hizbullah of Taking Part in City's Clashes alongside Army

Communique by the Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions
AMAL Chief Denies Supporters, Hizbullah Members Joined Battle against Asir
Charbel Denies Suggesting Mediation with Asir during Clashes
HRW Says Lebanese Police Torturing Vulnerable Detainees
Reports: Qahwaji's Term Extension on Agenda of Upcoming Parliamentary Session
Berri Calls Parliament to Session in First Week of July
Geagea Slams Aoun's Remarks on Army that are 'Aimed at Achieving Petty Electoral Gains'
Raids Ongoing in Abra amid Reports that Asir Did Not Leave Sidon

Report: Van Passengers Stabbed in Sin el-Fil
Russia evacuates Tartus, also military, diplomatic personnel from Syria. High war alert in Israel
Kerry Presses 'Possible, but Difficult' Mideast Peace
More than 100,000 Killed in Syria Uprising
Egypt Refers Nine to Trial for 'Spying for Israel'
Police Use Tear Gas to Disperse 2,000 Protesters in Ankara

One Dead, 237 Wounded as Morsi Supporters, Foes Clash in Egypt
Qatar New Emir Extends Conciliatory Hand to 'All'
Kuwait Delays Parliamentary Election for Two Days
Khamenei blames western 'stubbornness' for Iran's nuclear program


Nigeria Charges Hizbullah-linked Men with Terrorism
Naharnet /Nigeria on Wednesday charged three Lebanese allegedly linked to Hizbullah with "terrorism related offenses. "Five Lebanese were implicated last month after a huge cache of arms and ammunition was found in their premises in the northern city of Kano and the capital Abuja. Three of them -- Mustapha Fawaz, aged 49, Abdallah Thahini, 48 and Talal Ahmad Roda, 51 -- were hit with a six-count charge of terrorism, while a fourth suspect was freed and the fifth was said to be on the run. The three were also said to hold Nigerian citizenship. Court papers said they "professed to belong to Hizbullah's military wing, an international terrorist organization, and you thereby committed an offense..." The trio were accused of conspiracy "to receive training in preparation to engage in the commission of a terrorist act."The suspects were also alleged to have "directly rendered support to a terrorist group" by providing in their premises "weapons for terrorist activities."They were accused of permitting "a meeting connected with act of terrorism to be held" at their premises, an upscale supermarket and amusement resort in Abuja.Thahini was said to be the coordinator of Hizbullah in Nigeria as well as a conduit to transfer funds for its operation. The suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges and the judge ordered that they be remanded in custody until the next hearing on July 8. Defense lawyer Ahmed Raji said Nigeria would not be able to sustain the charges of belonging to a "terrorist group" since there has not been a formal declaration of Hizbullah as a "terrorist sect" by the government. Last month, Nigeria's security services discovered a home in Kano where weapons they claimed were intended to attack Israeli and Western targets in Nigeria were kept.
Further searches also revealed more weapons in another property owned by the Lebanese in Abuja. Nigeria is home to a sizeable Lebanese population, including in the mainly Muslim north.
Source/Agence France Presse.

U.S. fines Lebanese bank $102M for laundering
June 26, 2013/Daily Star /WASHINGTON: A Lebanese bank accused of laundering money from drugs and other operations for clients tied to Hezbollah militants agreed Tuesday to pay US authorities $102 million to settle the charges. Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank was singled out in February 2011 for allegedly moving hundreds of millions of dollars for criminal groups and traffickers operating in Latin America, West Africa and the Middle East.Some of the customers it served were closely linked to Hezbollah, which Washington has blacklisted as a "terrorist organization."
US authorities had already taken control of $150 million the bank set aside for a possible penalty as it was being bought in 2011 by another Beirut bank, Societe Generale de Banque au Liban. The U.S. Department of Justice said that under the deal announced Tuesday, $102 million would be forfeited and the rest returned to Societe Generale de Banque au Liban. Also fined Tuesday was the Hassan Ayash Exchange Company, one of two money changers accused of working with LCB in the laundering schemes.
Hassan Ayash Exchange agreed to forfeit $720,000 for its role. "This settlement is significant and addresses the role the Lebanese Canadian Bank played in facilitating illicit money movement from the United States to West Africa to Hezbollah-controlled money laundering channels," Michele Leonhart of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement. "Drug trafficking profits and terror financing often grow and flow together," she said.

Sidon Ulemas Accuse Hizbullah of Taking Part in City's Clashes alongside Army
Naharnet /The Ulemas of Sidon accused on Wednesday Hizbullah fighters of taking part in the clashes that took place in the southern city on Sunday and Monday. They questioned during a press conference “the role the fighters were playing alongside the army in the Abra clashes.” They added: “The violation of the people's rights by Hizbullah undermines the authority of the army.” They voiced their support for the army, while condemning any assault against it. The Sidon clashes broke out when supporters of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir attacked the army. Earlier on Wednesday, the Mufti of Sidon Sheikh Salim Sousan rejected on Wednesday the assault that target the army in the southern city, calling on the state to treat people equally. “The army is the sole guarantee for the country's unity and stability,” Sousan, who read the statement, said. The statement denounced the attack against the army, urging officials to impose the law on all citizens as the country is passing through a critical stage. Sousan announced the formation of a committee tasked with following up the situation in the city.“We will hold open-ended meetings,” Sousan added. Eighteen soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in the unrest. More than 20 of al-Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official. Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric.

Ashton Reiterates Calls for Disassociation Policy towards Syrian Conflict

Naharnet/European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed on Wednesday the EU's support to the judicial system in holding accountable “all who resort to violence in Lebanon,” urging political factions to abide by the policy of disassociation towards Syria's conflict. "I extend my deepest sympathy to the families of the victims, to the armed forces and to all those who have suffered from violence during the clashes in (the southern city of) Sidon,” Ashton said in a released statement. She added: “The EU reiterates its commitment to Lebanon's peace, unity, sovereignty and independence and the union strongly supports all national institutions in their efforts to preserve peace and security.” “The EU also supports the judiciary in combating impunity and holding to account all those who resort to violence.” The European diplomat recalled EU's support for Lebanon's policy of dissociation towards the neighboring country's conflict, urging “all the parties to show restraint and fully abide by the commitments made in the Baabda Declaration.” “My support goes to all those working to de-escalate tensions through dialogue and peaceful means,” Ashton expressed. At least 16 soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in the clashes with the armed supporters of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir in Sidon between Sunday and Monday.More than 20 of al-Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official. Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric.
The clashes in the southern city are one of the most intense bouts of violence in Lebanon linked to the conflict in Syria.

Raids Ongoing in Abra amid Reports that Asir Did Not Leave Sidon

Naharnet/..Army raids are ongoing in Abra neighborhood of the southern city of Sidon to look for gunmen who supported Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir in his clashes with the military institution, amid reports that the Imam of the Bilal bin Rabah mosque might have never left the city. MTV reported on Wednesday that cautious calm is prevailing in Sidon, except for the sound of detonating explosive devices left in the battlefield.
It added that people coming to inspect their houses are prevented from approaching the area, as the army "has not yet finished its search for explosives and gunmen.""Army patrols are roaming Abra and its surroundings and a checkpoint erected in the area is inspecting all vehicles passing in the neighborhood,” MTV noted. "Men arrested during the clashes are being subjected to strict investigation,” the same source pointed out. Al-Manar television revealed that a large number of rocket-propelled grenades were found in al-Asir's security zone, and that “offices, chairs and even water bottles were booby-trapped.”Regarding al-Asir's fate, security sources told MTV that "the cleric's phone calls are being tracked." "Investigation so far revealed that al-Asir is using an international number and that he is still in Sidon,” MTV announced. Meanwhile, OTV reported that a Sidon figure was communicating with al-Asir “until the last hours of the battle,” revealing also that a Turkish mediator contacted the cleric and asked him to leave the port city and head to the north, “but no to (the northern city of) Tripoli.” OTV stressed: “Investigation is ongoing and al-Asir did not head to Syria or to Tripoli.”In another report, security sources told LBCI television that "al-Asir was still in he security zone at 7:00 pm on Sunday." They elaborated: “A female neighbor of the cleric told investigators that he (al-Asir) came to the building around 6:00 pm Sunday and accompanied her to the basement where a group of people were hiding.” "Al-Asir stayed with us for an hour and then he left,” she remarked. "The siege around the zone was not completed yet on Sunday night, and there is a possibility that the cleric left the block along with 25-40 people during these hours,” the security sources explained. They said, however, that “he might have never left the southern city and its surroundings.” "Despite Palestinians denying that al-Asir has entered (the refugee camp of) Ain el-Helweh, and promising not hide him, we still have doubts that he might be there or in one of the city's mosques,” they said.  "And at Sunday night, he might have been transferred to another city.” Al-Asir is being tracked through monitoring phone lines that were in his possession and other lines that he might have access to, the sources informed LBCI. "We are also keeping an eye on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.”At least 17 soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in the clashes with the armed supporters of al-Asir in Sidon between Sunday and Monday. More than 20 of al-Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official. Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric.

Geagea Slams Aoun's Remarks on Army that are 'Aimed at Achieving Petty Electoral Gains'
Naharnet /Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea slammed on Wednesday the recent remarks of Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on the army, saying that the institution is in need of the people's support, not criticism, during this critical time in Lebanon. He said in a statement: “Aoun's remarks exploited the blood of the army in order to achieve petty electoral gains.” “The attack against the army and its commander General Jean Qahwaji at this time is no different than the assassination of Captain Samer Hanna or Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir's supporters assault against the army,” he added. “Aoun is simply dragging the military institution towards the political debates in Lebanon at a time when we are most in need of keeping the army away from these disputes in order to allow to keep on performing its duties throughout Lebanon,” he stressed.
In addition, Geagea said: “Aoun's opinion on the mechanism to appoint individuals in the army and public institutions is a reflection of a populist mentality that are far removed from constitutional methods.”
“Are Aoun and the March 8 camp seeking to introduce vacuum to the Army Command as it has done in constitutional and security institutions before it?” he wondered. Aoun had stressed on Tuesday that extending the term of Qahwaji “must not be the price for the troops' sacrifice in Sidon, explaining that “he does not want to manipulate the military institution's law.”
Aoun added: “We are the ones who should give our opinion regarding the army's chief as per the traditions of appointments and we are the representatives of Christians in the cabinet.” Army 1st Lieutenant Samer Hanna was killed in August 2008 when gunmen opened fire on his helicopter over Sojod hills in south Lebanon. Investigations revealed that Hanna's shooter is a Hizbullah member. On Aoun's suggestion that caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel should be questioned for allowing al-Asir to grow in power, Geagea said: “The MP is trying to blame Charbel for the crisis that Lebanon has been suffering from for years.” “He has ignored the fact that the main problem in Lebanon lies in Hizbullah's arms that have taken over political life in Lebanon and turned its politicians into hostages,” he noted. “We should not be distracted by secondary issues that are aimed at diverting attention away from the spread of illegitimate arms in Lebanon,” he stressed. “If one side should be summoned for questioned, then it should be the bloc that enjoys the greatest representation at cabinet and which has been busy with shady deals and campaigns of incitement aimed at covering up for the illegitimate weapons and defending their involvement in the Syrian conflict,” stated Geagea in reference to Aoun's Change and Reform bloc and Hizbullah's fighting in Syria.

Reports: Qahwaji's Term Extension on Agenda of Upcoming Parliamentary Session

Naharnet/Parliament's bureau will on Wednesday set the agenda for a parliamentary session that is scheduled to vote on the extension of army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji's mandate, media reports have said. LBCI TV said the session will be held in early July. President Michel Suleiman has said he was seeking to call for an extraordinary parliamentary session to revive discussions on a new electoral law. The parliament extended its tenure during a session it held on May 31 – the last day of its ordinary session - after the failure of the rival parties to agree on a new vote law. The extension law became valid on June 20. Parliament convenes twice a year in two ordinary sessions -- the first starts mid-march until the end of May and the second from the middle of October through the end of December. Article 33 of the constitution states that the president in agreement with the prime minister may summon the parliament to extraordinary sessions by a decree that specifies the dates of the opening and closing of the sessions as well as the agenda. An Nahar said that Speaker Nabih Berri, al-Mustaqbal movement chief Saad Hariri and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat have given their consent to the extension of Qahwaji's term which ends this September when he turns 60 – the maximum age for the post of the army commander.Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun has opposed it and on Tuesday criticized al-Mustaqbal for seeking an extension. Aoun said that since the post was reserved for the Maronite sect, then Christians had the priority before Hariri to give their opinion on it. But Hariri snapped back, saying the army was not owned by one sect.

Charbel Denies Suggesting Mediation with Asir during Clashes

Naharnet /Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel on Wednesday “categorically” denied that he had tried to mediate with the Army Command on behalf of Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir over a ceasefire during the Sidon clashes.
“The statement of the ministerial-security meeting held under President Michel Suleiman at the Baabda Palace called for continuing the battle whatever the sacrifices,” Charbel said in a communique.
“The interior minister cannot have a unilateral stance and seek to negotiate with the gunmen who targeted the Lebanese army, the big brother of the other security institutions which represent the backbone of the Lebanese state,” he added. He noted that he was “totally convinced of the need to put an end to that phenomenon that threatened to assassinate the country through targeting the military institution,” adding that no one can question “the keenness of the participants in the Baabda meeting on the Lebanese army and the blood of its martyrs.”The army on Monday managed to overrun Asir's security zone in the Sidon suburb of Abra following fierce clashes that left 17 troops and more than 40 wounded.At least 20 gunmen loyal to the Islamist cleric were also killed in the battle.

Report: Van Passengers Stabbed in Sin el-Fil

Naharnet Newsdesk 26 June 2013/Around 25 people riding a van in the area of Jisr al-Wati in Sin el-Fil were attacked with knives on Wednesday by several assailants, the state-run National News Agency reported.NNA said that the passengers, who included Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians, were heading to a studio to participate in a TV show when they were intercepted by eight assailants riding two vehicles.
The suspects then stabbed nine of them, it said, and escaped towards the area of al-Adlieh and from there to Beirut's southern suburbs.The agency had earlier reported that Iranian television staff were assaulted. NNA said the crew were in two vans on a job mission in Jisr al-Wati where Souk al-Ahad is located when the unknown assailants stabbed them.But the Iranian embassy denied that any of its nationals was assaulted.

AMAL Chief Denies Supporters, Hizbullah Members Joined Battle against Asir

Naharnet /The Speaker and Head of AMAL movement Nabih Berri denied on Wednesday reports saying that his supporters and Hizbullah members participated alongside the army in the battles in the southern city of Sidon.
“I urged AMAL supporters and the Haret Saida's residents to exercise self-restraint,” Berri said in comments published in local newspapers. He stressed that the army has the right to strike with an iron fist and its simplest duty obliges it to maintain security and stability across the country. “The army has the right to take the appropriate measures as there are no red lines confronting it,” the speaker said. He pointed out that there are no areas that the army can't reach, saying: “We support it in preventing any security violations including in the Beirut's southern suburb.” Berri hailed the stance taken by ex-Prime Minister and head of al-Mustaqbal movement Saad Hariri regarding Abra clashes. AMAL chief noted that he held several phone calls with Hariri concerning the situation in Sidon. Hariri stressed on Monday that al-Mustaqbal movement “will remain with the army,” saying the military institution did the right thing by confronting Asir. A two-day battle between the Lebanese army and followers of a radical Salafist Sunni Muslim sheikh Ahmed al-Asir Abra killed 18 soldiers and wounded around 50 others.More than 20 of Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official. Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric. The army has launched a manhunt for Asir.

Berri Calls Parliament to Session in First Week of July

Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri called parliament to session for the first week of July. The session will convene on July 1, 2, and 3, revealed deputy Speaker Farid Makari after a meeting for parliament's bureau at the speaker's Ain el-Tineh residence. Al-Jadeed television said that the new wage scale draft law will be among the issues addressed during the parliament sessions. Earlier on Wednesday, lawmakers said after their weekly meeting with Berri that he is leaning towards modifying the structure of the parliamentary electoral subcommittee tasked with reaching an agreement over a new electoral law, reported the National News Agency Wednesday.
They quoted him as saying that the modified subcommittee will include MPs and ministers, said LBCI television.
Berri revealed last week that he would called for the subcommittee to resume its meetings to agree on a new electoral law and find an alternative to the 1960 law within a certain timeframe. The subcommittee's failure to agree on an electoral law was the main reason that led to the extension of parliament's four-year mandate. The lawmakers extended their term for 17 months, pushing the legislative elections to November 2014.

More than 100,000 Killed in Syria Uprising

Naharnet/More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the country's uprising in March 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said in a new toll on Wednesday. The Observatory said the toll now stands at 100,191 people, with at least 36,661 civilians killed, including more than 3,000 women and more than 5,000 children under the age of 16. The group, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground throughout Syria, said 18,072 rebel fighters had been killed. On the regime side, the group reported the deaths of at least 25,407 army soldiers, 17,311 pro-regime militia and 169 members of the Hizbullah, which has dispatched fighters to battle alongside the Syrian army. The group counted another 2,571 unidentified people killed in the fighting throughout the war-torn country up until June 24. The figures are a testament to the levels of violence wracking the country, which has been ravaged by a civil war that began with peaceful demonstrations calling for regime change. The Syrian government responded with force to the demonstrations, starting a bloody spiral into violence that has left no part of the country untouched and raised concerns about regional destabilization. Source/Agence France Presse.

Police Use Tear Gas to Disperse 2,000 Protesters in Ankara
Naharnet/Turkish riot police fired tear gas and water cannon early on Wednesday to disperse some 2,000 protesters in the capital Ankara, making 16 arrests. Protesters had gathered overnight in the Dikmen district of the capital and attempted to erect barricades to block traffic on a main artery. Local television pictures showed demonstrators chanting against the release of a police officer who stands accused of fatally wounding a 26-year-old protester during the country's recent unrest. Protests initially sparked by a brutal police action against a local conservation battle to save Istanbul's Gezi Park snowballed into nationwide demonstrations against the Islamic-rooted government, leaving four dead and nearly 8,000 injured. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has been widely criticized for its handling of the crisis, with the United States and other Western allies condemning the use of excessive police force against protesters. On Monday, Erdogan praised the police for their "heroism" in dealing with the protesters.Source/Agence France Presse.

U.S., Britain List 10 Chemical Attacks in Syria

Naharnet/The United States and Britain have provided United Nations experts with details of 10 suspected chemical weapons attacks by Syrian government forces, a U.N. diplomat said Wednesday.
The new revelations come as Western nations struggle to find ways to press for access to Syria for the U.N. team that has been waiting more than three months for Damascus to let it in. Britain, France and the United States have each sent evidence of alleged attacks to the U.N. for the team led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom. The incidents started in December and run through to May, according to diplomats. The British and Americans have between them notified the U.N. of 10 separate incidents, said one U.N. diplomat. "There is some overlap between the American ones and the British ones, if you add them all up there are 10 separate incidents where there seems to have been use of chemical weapons by the regime," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. Few details have emerged of France's evidence to the U.N. panel. But all of the Western countries say they have no evidence that opposition rebels have used chemical arms. President Bashar Assad's government originally asked for a U.N. investigation after accusing rebels of using chemical arms in the 27-month-old conflict that according to activists has left 100,000 dead. But it has refused to give access to Sellstrom and his experts after U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon insisted that all alleged attacks be probed. Ban has repeatedly demanded "unfettered access." But the United Nations has also said that the details submitted by the Western countries cannot be considered as proof since experts must gather their own firsthand evidence from the scene. Sellstrom was in Turkey this week as part of his mission. Diplomats said he was to speak with doctors who had treated victims of the attacks.
Source/Agence France Presse.

Communique by the Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions
Ottawa, Canada, June 25, 2013
1. The Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions (‘the Group’) held its seventh meeting in Ottawa, Canada on 25 June 2013, under the mandate given by the Ministerial meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People in Istanbul on 1 April 2012. The meeting was hosted by Canada and co-chaired by the Economic Recovery and Development Working Group. 42 countries, as well as the League of Arab States and the European External Action Service, were represented at the meeting. Also present was the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces. The participating nations underscored the international community’s continued determination to ensure coordination and effective implementation of sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria in order to exert strong pressure on the Syrian regime and limit that regime’s ability to continue using violence against its own people and, ultimately, to help enable a democratic transition.
2. The Group is committed to the sovereignty, independence, national unity, and territorial integrity of Syria. The Group reaffirmed its unwavering support for the rightful and legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for a peaceful, democratic, pluralistic, and inclusive society, free of any sectarianism or discrimination on any grounds, and committed to stand by them until their aspirations are fulfilled. In this regard, the Group noted the G8 Summit Communiqué’s references to Syria, noted the outcome of the Friends of the Syrian People Ministerial Core Group in Doha on June 22, 2013, and expressed its support for the upcoming Geneva Conference to implement the June 2012 Geneva Communiqué. The Group affirmed support for negotiations that would lead to the establishment of a transitional governing body to which full executive powers would be transferred, including military and security institutions, that excludes the central figures and associates whose hands are stained with blood. In this context, Bashar al-Assad has no role in the transitional governing body or thereafter.
3. The Group also noted that the on-going crisis continues to endanger regional security and stability and expressed its concerns regarding the impact of the conflict in Syria on neighbouring countries. The Group deplored the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation, called upon the Syrian regime to grant full and unimpeded access across Syria for all the affected civilians to humanitarian assistance, and urged the international community to respond to appeals by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to provide urgent financial support to address the growing humanitarian needs of the Syrian population, both for the civilians in Syria affected by the conflict and for Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, which are bearing the major burden in this regard.
4. The Group reaffirmed that the Syrian regime is ultimately responsible for atrocities and the ensuing tragedy in Syria, and the Group also condemned any use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for access for the UN investigating team mandated by the UN Secretary General and drawing on the expertise of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organization, in order to conduct an objective investigation into reports of the use of chemical weapons. The Group further condemned all terrorist acts and human rights violations and abuses in Syria.
5. The Group reaffirmed its call for all members of the international community to take swift, responsible and resolute action to either introduce sanctions or enforce existing ones against the Assad regime with the view of depriving the regime of instruments and resources essential to its continued campaign of violence.
6. The Group welcomed the targeted and coordinated sanctions implemented to date by many of the Group member countries and organizations and noted that these measures have been effective in limiting the Assad regime’s ability to gain access to much needed revenue and material support. The Group steadfastly maintained that such measures are targeted at the Assad regime and all those supporting it and reaffirmed that it will continue to ensure that humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people will not be impeded by sanctions.
7. The Group also welcomed the recent action taken by the United Nations in May 2013 to amend the UNSCR 1267 listing of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) to include al Nusrah Front as an alias of AQI. As the Syrian people continue their struggle against the repressive Assad regime, al-Nusrah Front has sought to exploit the instability inside Syria for its own purposes, using tactics and espousing an ideology drawn from AQI that the Syrian people broadly reject. The Group committed to taking appropriate measures to implement UN sanctions on al-Nusrah Front, and to ensure that all efforts to support the legitimate opposition and alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people do not also benefit al-Nusrah Front and other terrorist groups.
8. In this regard, the Group condemned Hezbollah’s provision of arms, personnel, and material assistance to the Assad regime in Syria, including by its use of Lebanon as a haven from which to send fighters to Syria, which is exacerbating the conflict and threatens to expand it to the region, and specifically to Lebanon. The regime’s repeated attacks on Lebanese targets are egregious examples of the Syrian regime’s failure to abide by relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, notably Resolutions 1559 and 1680. The Group also reminds the opposition of the need to fully respect Lebanese sovereignty and avoid any actions that could increase tensions in Lebanon. The Group noted the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Canadian decisions to take action against Hezbollah and its affiliates and of recent U.S. actions to address Hezbollah’s illicit financial activity as potentially constructive efforts to constrain Hezbollah’s actions.
9. The Group reaffirmed that by cutting off revenue derived from the export of oil and other goods, by freezing the assets of those involved in or supporting the repression of the Syrian people, and by exercising vigilance to prevent the transfer of weapons and related goods to the Syrian regime and those groups seeking to undermine the goals of the legitimate opposition, it aims to shorten the Syrian people’s suffering.
10. The Group also reaffirmed its commendations of the efforts of Syria’s neighbours to impose sanctions against the Syrian regime despite adverse effects on their own economy and reiterated its call for other countries, including those neighbours of Syria that have not implemented restrictive measures, to impose similar sanctions.
11. The Group reiterated the urgency for companies in all countries to cease providing surveillance technology that could be used by the Assad regime to restrict the free flow of information and communications within Syria and abroad, illegitimately disrupt communications, or monitor or track individuals in Syria. The Group’s members also committed to refrain from the printing or provision of currency for the Syrian government and called on all members of the international community to also cease providing this kind of economic support to the Assad regime.
12. The Group reiterated its call on all states to impose a ban on arms shipments and military technical assistance to the Syrian regime, and registered strong opposition to the continued provision of such assistance to the regime by Iran, Hezbollah, and others that continue to provide such assistance. The Group encouraged its members and others to consider appropriate action against those who supply weapons to the Syrian regime that are used to commit violence against the Syrian people. The Group recalled that UN Security Council sanctions impose a total arms embargo on Iran, prohibiting the supply by Iran or the procurement from Iran of arms and related materiel. It also welcomed the recent meeting of the Australia Group plenary, which expressed its grave concern at the growing body of evidence pointing to the use of chemical weapons in Syria and at the danger of more use on a potentially larger scale.
13. The Group reiterated its call on members to refrain from purchasing Syrian phosphates, a key source of revenue for the Assad regime. The Group welcomed the decision of the Australia Group to require government control of an additional number of items of dual use that could contribute to chemical or biological weapons programs and are therefore of particular concern if destined for end-users in Syria, in conformity with their own legislation, regulations or other practices inter alia such as through sanctions or export control. The Group called upon its members to implement this additional list as a matter of priority, to the greatest possible extent. The Group stressed the need for vigilance in enforcing petroleum sanctions on Syria, and urged members to consider measures that would prevent petroleum imports to Syria for use by the Assad regime.
14. The Group commended the efforts taken by certain members, including the European Union and the United States, to implement the calibrated easing of economic sanctions for the benefit of the legitimate opposition, and committed to continue exploring ways to support the Syrian opposition and the Syrian people. The Group specifically discussed the modalities, as well as challenges, associated with efforts to ease economic restrictions on Syrian petroleum and other sectors to benefit the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces and its supporters, and agreed to continue to consider such efforts going forward. The Group welcomes further discussion on the implementation, information sharing and communication in this regard, also with a view to supporting the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces in building up the necessary capacities and liaising with humanitarian and economic actors on the ground. Close coordination and increasing cooperation with the Economic Recovery and Development Working Group would be welcomed.
15. The Group appealed again to the international financial and business communities to diligently comply with on-going and forthcoming measures against the Syrian regime. The Group strongly encouraged institutions and enterprises in those countries that have not joined the international sanctions regime to refrain from engaging in business with entities affiliated with those responsible for and contributing to the violence in Syria, or face severe reputational harm and other risks. The Group also supported the issuance of financial advisories by member states to banks and financial institutions within their jurisdictions to urge vigilance on potential regime asset flight from Syria.
16. The Group agreed that the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, in close coordination with the international community, must prepare for transition in Syria, and urge the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces to complete its leadership and expansion process. The Group reaffirmed its commitment to take the necessary steps to enable transition, including overturning certain restrictive measures, once a credible democratic transition is initiated in order to eliminate obstacles to the recovery and development of the Syrian economy. The Group reaffirmed its intention to closely coordinate this effort with the Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Economic Recovery and Development, and welcomed the participation of its representatives at the meeting in Ottawa. The Group reaffirmed its opposition to the extension of any financing in the form of loans or credits to the Assad regime that could be used to support the Syrian government's campaign of violence against the Syrian people, and urges those that may be providing such financial support to cease immediately. To that end, the Group, in coordination with the Friends of the Syrian People Economy Recovery and Development Working Group, reaffirmed its readiness to work with a future government of Syria to address Syria’s debts and contracts in accordance with internationally established processes.
17. The Group committed to continue sharing information on measures taken to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime. To that end, the Group has established ways to ensure continued coordination between meetings, thanking in particular the Netherlands and the United States for maintaining a list of current sanctions regimes being implemented by the members of this group and the list of competent authorities in charge of implementing domestic sanctions regimes. (CURRENT SANCTIONS REGIMES)
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Khamenei blames western 'stubbornness' for Iran's nuclear program
By REUTERS06/26/2013/ Khamenei says enemies do not want to resolve nuclear issue.
DUBAI - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday the dispute over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program could easily be resolved if the West were to stop being so stubborn.
While accusing the West of being more interested in regime change than ending the dispute, Khamenei did express a desire to resolve an issue which has led to ever tighter sanctions on Iran's oil sector and the wider economy.Some countries have organized a united front against Iran and are misguiding the international community and with stubbornness do not want to see the nuclear issue resolved," Khamenei's official web site quoted him as saying. "But if they put aside their stubbornness, resolving the nuclear issue would be simple," he said, without setting out what specific concessions he wanted Western nations to make. Hopes for a resolution to the nuclear dispute were boosted this month with the election of relative moderate Hassan Rohani as president. As chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005, Rohani reached a deal with European states under which Iran temporarily suspended uranium enrichment activities. Rohani, who takes office in August, has pledged a less confrontational approach than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under whose presidency, over the last eight years, Iran has come under increasingly tough international sanctions.But it is Khamenei who has the final say on making a deal
Iran experts were taken aback by Rohani's election after many had predicted a hardliner more strongly aligned with Khamenei would be installed, following the 2009 election that the opposition said was rigged against reformist candidates. Since Rohani's June 14 victory, some analysts have said Khamenei must have wanted him to win in order to gain time in nuclear talks by presenting a more amenable face to the world.
Others have said this underestimates the complexity of Iran's political system and the room for divergence within the ruling establishment. Khamenei has repeatedly said a vote in the "epic" election was a vote for the system, but on Wednesday also appealed to national sentiment in a rare acknowledgement that some Iranians may not support the Islamic Republic, but yet may not fall into the category of "enemy". "This (turnout) shows that even people who do not support the system, trust it and its elections because they know that a robust Islamic Republic stands up like a lion and defends the national interests and dignity well," he told a group of judges.
However the leader, chosen for life in 1989, appears convinced the West is bent on his removal and the destruction of the Iran's system of clerical rule.
"The Islamic Republic has acted legally and transparently in the nuclear debate and offers logic in its arguments, but the aim of the enemies is through constant pressure, to tire Iran and change the regime and they will not allow the issue to be resolved," Khamenei said.
US President Barack Obama wrote to Khamenei in 2009 and in 2012 offering direct engagement, providing Iran was serious about ending concerns about its nuclear program. But those overtures did little to assuage Khamenei's concerns. "Of course the enemies say in their words and letters than they do not want to change the regime, but their approaches are contrary to these words," he said.

Russia evacuates Tartus, also military, diplomatic personnel from Syria. High war alert in Israel
DEBKAfile Video June 26, 2013/Shortly after the DEBKA aired a special video on the Syrian war’s widening circle, Moscow announced Wednesday June 26, that the evacuation which had begun Friday of all military and diplomatic personnel from Syria was now complete, including the Russian naval base at Tartus.
“Russia decided to withdraw its personnel because of the risks from the conflict in Syria, as well as the fear of an incident involving the Russian military that could have larger consequences,” said a defense ministry official in Moscow. He stressed that a 16-ship naval task force in the eastern Mediterranean remains on post and arms shipments, including anti-air weapons, would continue to the Syrian government in keeping with former contracts.
In another sign of an impending escalation in Syria, the Israeli Golan brigade staged Wednesday an unannounced war maneuver on the Golan, attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and top army chiefs. In London, Prime Minister David Cameron called the government’s National Security Council into session in Downing Street on Syria. Opposition leader Ed Milliband was invited to attend the meeting, a custom observed only when issues of the highest security importance are discussed.
Earlier Wednesday, DEBKAfile carried the following report in its special video presentation under the heading: Putin and Obama cross swords on Syrian. What Next?
The sullen confrontation between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland last week condemned Syria to five months of escalating, unresolved vicious warfare – that is until the two leaders meet again in September. For now, tempers are heating up between Washington and Moscow on Syria and other things too, notably the elusive American fugitive Edward Snowden.
US and Israeli intelligence watchers see the Syrian crisis entering seven ominous phases:
1. A five-month bloodbath centering on the battle for Aleppo, a city of 2.2 million inhabitants.
The Syrian army plus allies and the fully-mobilized opposition will hurl all their manpower and weapons into winning the city.
Military experts don’t expect the rebels to hold out against Assad’s forces beyond late August.
2. Neither side has enough manpower or game-changing weaponry for winning the war outright.
That is, unless Presidents Obama or Putin steps in to retilt the balance.
3. The US and Russia are poised for more military intervention in the conflict up until a point just short of a military clash on Syrian soil – or elsewhere in the Middle East. US intelligence analysts have judged Putin ready to go all the way on Syria against the US - no holds barred.
The Russian president is meanwhile deliberately goading Washington and raising temperatures by playing hide-and-seek over the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, charged with espionage for stealing and leaking classified intelligence. At home, he is considered variously as a traitor and a brave whistleblower.
For several hours Snowden vanished between Hong Kong and Moscow – until the Russian president admitted he was holed up in the transit area of Moscow airport and would not be extradited by Russia to the United States.
4. Iran, Hizballah and Iraq will likewise ratchet up their battlefield presence.
5. A violent encounter is building up between Middle East Shiites flocking to Syria to save the Assad regime alongside Russia, and the US-backed Sunni-dominated rebel forces.
It could scuttle the secret US-Iranian negotiating track on its nuclear program, which was buoyed up by the election of the pragmatic Hassan Rouhani as President of Iran.
6. The Geneva-2 Conference for a political solution for the Syrian crisis is dead in the water. Moscow and the US are divided by unbridgeable issues of principle, such whether Bashar Assad should stay or go and Iranian representation.
7. So long as the diplomatic remains stuck in the mud, the prospects of a regional war spreading out of the Syrian conflict are rising. Iran, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon may be dragged in at any moment – if they have not already, like Lebanon. A small mistake by one of the Syrian warring parties in Syria could, for example, touch off Israeli retaliation and a wholesale spillover of violence.

Talk to Iran's New President. Warily.
Dennis Ross/New York Times
Preserving an open-ended multilateral approach or allowing Russia to determine what is offered is not a prescription for successful nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
The election of Hassan Rowhani as Iran's new president has created a sense that there are new possibilities of progress on the nuclear issue; we need to respond, but warily. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, allowed Mr. Rowhani to win the election recognizing that he had run against current Iranian policies that have isolated the country and invited economically disastrous sanctions. But it isn't clear why Mr. Khamenei allowed such an outcome, and here are some theories that have been proposed:
He believes that Mr. Rowhani's election could provide a safety valve for the great discontent within Iran.
He believes that Mr. Rowhani, a president with a moderate face, might be able to seek an open-ended agreement on Iran's nuclear program that would reduce tensions and ease sanctions now, while leaving Iran room for development of nuclear weapons at some point in the future.
He believes that Mr. Rowhani might be able to start talks that would simply serve as a cover while Iran continued its nuclear program.
He wants to rebalance the power relationship among Iran's leading factions, reconciling their fissures while restoring the relative weight of the clerics vis-a-vis the Revolutionary Guard. Mr. Rowhani is himself a cleric, but also a likely conciliator who might be a bridge between the harder-line clerics and more pragmatic forces.
None of this means there will be a nuclear deal. Even if he were given the power to negotiate, Mr. Rowhani would have to produce a deal the supreme leader would accept. So it is far too early to consider backing off sanctions as a gesture to Mr. Rowhani.
We should, instead, keep in mind that the outside world's pressure on Iran to change course on its nuclear program may well have produced his election. So it would be foolish to think that lifting the pressure now would improve the chances that he would be allowed to offer us what we need: an agreement, or credible Iranian steps toward one, under which Iran would comply with its international obligations on the nuclear issue. Our bottom line here is that Iran must be prepared to change its program so that it does not have a breakout capability to develop nuclear weapons. The real question for ourselves is whether we should change our approach to diplomacy with Iran, now that a new Iranian president has advertised his desires to end Iran's isolation and the sanctions imposed on it, and to repair the "wound" that he has said exists between the United States and the Islamic Republic.
Until now, we have taken an incremental, confidence-building approach within multilateral negotiations with Iran, but they have probably already run their course. Indeed, while our side (the United States, China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France) negotiated with Iran on and off for the last several years with no results, the Iranians were dramatically expanding the numbers of centrifuges they had installed to enrich uranium. They now have roughly 17,000 and have succeeded in upgrading to a new generation of far more efficient centrifuges.
Those developments have shrunk the time we have available to ensure that the Iranians cannot break out and present the world with the fait accompli of a nuclear weapons capability. So we may have time for diplomacy, but not a lot.
We should move now to presenting an endgame proposal -- one that focuses on the outcome that we, the United States, can accept on the nuclear issue. And we should do so even if our negotiating partners -- particularly the Russians -- aren't prepared to accept such a move, since the clock is ticking. We should give Mr. Rowhani a chance to produce, but the calendar cannot be open-ended.Diplomacy often boils down to two simple elements: taking away excuses for inaction and providing explanations for a deal that could be struck. On the first point, the Iranians say they don't know what we will accept in the end. The answer should be that we can accept Iran's having civil nuclear power but with restrictions that would make the steps to producing nuclear weapons difficult, as well as quickly detectable. Our offer should be credible internationally; if Iran was not prepared to agree to it, the Iranians would be exposed for not being ready to accept what they say they want. Indeed, if we make a credible proposal that would permit the Iranians to have civil nuclear power with restrictions, it would allow them to save face for themselves: they could say the proposal was what they had always sought and that their rights had been recognized.
This is not to say that such an endgame proposal can be made without risk. The Russians, in particular, may not want the situation clarified. They may fear it will mean an end to the diplomacy because the Iranians, in turning down such a proposal, will have signaled that their real aim is to obtain nuclear weapons and not just civil nuclear power. That would leave the use of force as the only alternative. The Russians may prefer the step-by-step approach that keeps the diplomacy going -- even without results.
To be sure, if the Iranians were prepared to suspend the further development of their nuclear infrastructure while diplomacy were under way, that would be an acceptable approach and time would not be of the essence. But Mr. Rowhani has already publicly dismissed the possibility of such a suspension, saying it was tried before, but in a different era. So this time, it is the Iranians who are forcing the window for diplomacy to close.
Mr. Rowhani may well create an opening. But we should be on our guard: It must be an opening to clarify what is possible and to test outcomes, not to engage in unending talks for their own sake. Preserving a multilateral step-by-step approach that has outlived its usefulness, or allowing the Russians at this point to determine how we proceed -- particularly at a time when the Russians appear more competitive with the United States than cooperative -- is not a prescription that permits us to see if there is an opening and to act on it.
If we want diplomacy to succeed, the United States must find out now whether it can, and it must do so on its own initiative.
**Dennis Ross is counselor at The Washington Institute.

An Injustice to the Unseen and Unheard

By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq Alawsat
“God help us triumph over them,” chanted the girl carried on someone’s shoulders, before she tilted her head a little, cried, and then pulled herself together to chant again. This young girl has previously chanted against the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, but now she protests against the unjust treatment of others.
This girl was chanting against the Al-Nusra Front. This young Syrian girl led the residents of Al-Raqqah in protest against the extremist front that has implemented radical, bloody methods in dealing with residents in areas where they are deployed, ever since it infiltrated the Syrian revolution. The front arrested the girl’s father for no clear reason, and refuses to release him or others who are now in jail suffering from lashes, bullets and knives.
In a video published by activists on YouTube, young girls and veiled women scream in front of the Al-Nusra headquarters, condemning the group and the crimes it is committing under the banner of the revolution. The angry residents attempted to restore the spirit of the first days of their revolution, and so they chanted “peaceful, peaceful” and announced that they will escalate their activity against this group.
Few media outlets were concerned with this protest, since there is no media concern regarding the activity of Al-Raqqah’s residents. Before that, there was no media interest regarding the activities of Saraqeb and Aleppo residents either. Few media outlets concern themselves with the activity against the practices of Al-Nusra and other extremist groups that began in more than one Syrian city. Activities against such groups aim to voice rejection of their detestable, violent ideologies and methodologies, and some reject their ideology just as they have rejected the practices of the Syrian regime.
A huge category of media outlets have placed themselves in a moral crisis, and they are probably aware of this. In the past months, a common formula has been to depict a battle between Bashar Al-Assad and Abu Saqqar—who ate a man’s heart and became a symbol for media outlets against the Syrian revolution.
Lashing a man, killing innocent people under the banner of infidelity, and eating a human heart are stories that deserve to be highlighted for weeks and months. It is certainly not a problem that they receive expanded coverage as the blood of the 100,000 victims has evaporated.
The media coverage does not have space to mention the activities of the Al-Raqqah residents and before them, residents of Saraqeb and Aleppo, who revolted against the assassination of a child, Mohammed, under religious excuses. The media that claims it supports the revolution is no less unjust towards the Syrians. It focuses on the Islamic brigades, intentionally ignoring any civil society activity. Activists have frankly stated that a satellite channel clearly told them it is not interested in such activity. Such channels dedicate plenty of their coverage to everything Islamic, such as the actions of the Al-Nusra Front, in an attempt to show their role in the Syrian crisis.
Once again, Abu Saqqar and Bashar are both killers, and between them they have killed 100,000 people. This is what those who claim to be neutral want us to believe. They use Abu Saqqar as an image to hide behind, forgetting the blood of the people that was shed and overlooking brave youths like the little girl from Al-Raqqah.