LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Bible Quotation for today/False
Jude 01/01-16: "My dear friends, I was doing my best to write to you about the salvation we share in common, when I felt the need of writing at once to encourage you to fight on for the faith which once and for all God has given to his people. For some godless people have slipped in unnoticed among us, persons who distort the message about the grace of our God in order to excuse their immoral ways, and who reject Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord. Long ago the Scriptures predicted the condemnation they have received. For even though you know all this, I want to remind you of how the Lord once rescued the people of Israel from Egypt, but afterward destroyed those who did not believe. Remember the angels who did not stay within the limits of their proper authority, but abandoned their own dwelling place: they are bound with eternal chains in the darkness below, where God is keeping them for that great Day on which they will be condemned. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah, and the nearby towns, whose people acted as those angels did and indulged in sexual immorality and perversion: they suffer the punishment of eternal fire as a plain warning to all. In the same way also, these people have visions which make them sin against their own bodies; they despise God's authority and insult the glorious beings above. Not even the chief angel Michael did this. In his quarrel with the Devil, when they argued about who would have the body of Moses, Michael did not dare condemn the Devil with insulting words, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these people attack with insults anything they do not understand; and those things that they know by instinct, like wild animals, are the very things that destroy them. How terrible for them! They have followed the way that Cain took. For the sake of money they have given themselves over to the error that Balaam committed. They have rebelled as Korah rebelled, and like him they are destroyed. With their shameless carousing they are like dirty spots in your fellowship meals. They take care only of themselves. They are like clouds carried along by the wind, but bringing no rain. They are like trees that bear no fruit, even in autumn, trees that have been pulled up by the roots and are completely dead. They are like wild waves of the sea, with their shameful deeds showing up like foam. They are like wandering stars, for whom God has reserved a place forever in the deepest darkness. It was Enoch, the seventh direct descendant from Adam, who long ago prophesied this about them: “The Lord will come with many thousands of his holy angels to bring judgment on all, to condemn them all for the godless deeds they have performed and for all the terrible words that godless sinners have spoken against him!” These people are always grumbling and blaming others; they follow their own evil desires; they brag about themselves and flatter others in order to get their own way.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 12/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 12/13
Suleiman Kicks Off Saudi Visit by Meeting King Abdullah in
Presence of Hariri
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/President Michel Suleiman kicked off on Monday his one-day official visit to Saudi Arabia. He started his visit by holding talks with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, which was followed by a meeting with King Abdullah. The talks with the Saudi monarch in Riyadh were reportedly attended by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Sources from the president described the discussions as good, reported MTV. The officials addressed Lebanese-Saudi bilateral ties, the situation in the region, and the case of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, said MTV.
Telecom Committee: If Our State was
Capable, Israel Wouldn't have Dared to Violate Our Sovereignty
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/The parliamentary telecommunications committee denounced on Monday the Israeli espionage stations along the border as violation of Lebanon's sovereignty, pointing out that it is happening despite the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and the presence of the UNIFIL. “The ongoing Israeli aggression took a new direction in terms of the used techniques,” head of the committee MP Hassan Fadlallah told reporters after chairing a two-hour meeting at the parliament. He slammed the Israeli violation, calling on all the Lebanese to “confront it with all the possible means.” “If we had a capable state and less political disputes, Israel wouldn't have dared to carry out any violation,” Fadllallah added. Lebanon is expected to file a complaint to the United Nations Security Council over the issue in light of the report issued by the parliamentary telecommunications committee. Speaker Nabih Berri revealed on Wednesday that Israel had set up a number of espionage stations along its border with Lebanon, starting from al-Naqoura passing by Khayyam all the way to Sheba. The biggest espionage station is allegedly installed in al-Abbad and Jan al-Alam areas, which are located near the U.N. demarcated Blue line. Fadlallah rejected to declare the details of the committee's meeting, adding that the “matter is dangerous and harms all the Lebanese on all levels.” He stressed that “the matter is urgent and exceptional and the cabinet should convene to take the necessary measures.” On Saturday, caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn condemned the recently installed Israeli spying stations along its border with Lebanon, considering that the Lebanese state should swiftly resolve the matter. The caretaker Minister renewed calls on the Lebanese to “unite and set aside their differences to confront the Israeli plot against Lebanon.”
General Prosecutor Tasks Criminal Investigation to Question Rifaat Eid over his Statements
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/General Prosecutor Samir Hammoud tasked on Monday the head of the Criminal Investigation Department to question Arab Democratic Party Secretary-General Rifaat Eid over his recent statements. According to media reports, the request comes in light of the complaint filed by the Internal Security Forces General-Directorate with the public prosecution, demanding the adoption of the necessary procedure against Eid over his recent statements. On Saturday, Eid slammed the ISF Intelligence Bureau as a “spy agency working against Lebanon's interests,” stressing also that the party's head Ali Eid will not go to the ISF's office for questioning. “We will act only in accordance to the law,” he said, making a veiled threat that killing ISF members was permissible. Eid's televised speech came after First Military Investigation Judge Riyad Abu Ghida issued on Thursday a subpoena against his father, Ali Eid. He has been charged along with his driver Ahmed Ali with helping Ahmed Merhi, who is the suspected driver of the explosive-laden vehicle that blew up near al-Taqwa mosque in the northern city of Tripoli, to escape justice. Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel on Saturday slammed Rifaat Eid's statement as "terrorist," warning that his comments are "punishable by law."
“Supporting the killing of others is a criminal takfiri act that is punishable by law,” Charbel warned. “We strongly condemn this kind of language that expresses a violent and irresponsible attitude,” he added.
Phalange Party Urges Expanding Tripoli Security Plan, Turning Truce into Permanent Stability
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/Phalange party called on Monday for expanding the security plan adopted to control the tensed situation in the northern city of Tripoli, considering that all accusations against the army and the security forces “are driven by foreign agendas.” "We must take advantage of the current truce in Tripoli to expand the army's security plan and withdraw all presence of armed men in the region,” the party said in a released statement after its political bureau's weekly meeting. The statement noted: “This is a decisive phase and the fragile truce must be turned into a permanent state of stability to restore a normal life in the city.” The Phalange reiterated its “unconditional support” to the army and to security forces, slamming all “random accusations” against them. "These statements violate legitimacy and are driven by foreign agendas. Those behind them could be subjected to questioning and charged for treason.” The politburo lamented the political rhetoric used in the country, saying it adds more complications to the process of the cabinet's formation. "There is an insistence on linking internal Lebanese matters to the Syrian crisis and this has dangerous consequences on Lebanon and its future,” it said. "We urge the formation of a cabinet that is capable of addressing people's fears and reaching consensus over a new electoral law to shorten the extended mandate of the parliament's term.” The party hoped Monday's meeting between President Michel Suleiman and Saudi officials in Riyadh, as well as the international powers' talks with Iran on Tehran's nuclear program would positively reflect on the region on consequently, on the situation in Lebanon. Sleiman kicked off on Monday his one-day official visit to Saudi Arabia. He started his visit by holding talks with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, which was followed by a meeting with King Abdullah. The Phalange conferees also commented on reports of Israel's installment of spying devices in southern regions, saying it is a “dangerous step” that requires an action by the United Nations Security Council. "The UNIFIL must also take procedures in cooperation with the army to stop this expansion of spying activities and protect Lebanon, its security and its people's affairs.” Speaker Nabih Berri revealed on Wednesday that Israel had set up a number of espionage stations along its border with Lebanon, starting from al-Naqoura passing by Khayyam all the way to Shebaa.
The biggest espionage station is allegedly installed in al-Abbad and Jan al-Alam areas, which are located near the U.N. demarcated Blue line.
Jumblat: Judiciary Needs to Take its
Course in Tripoli to Avert Strife
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat stressed on Monday the need for the judiciary to take its course in addressing the situation in the northern city of Tripoli. He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “The judiciary needs to take its course in Tripoli in order to avert strife.”“A criminal will remain a criminal regardless of his sectarian identity,” he remarked. “A criminal should not be defended for any reason,” he noted. He made his statements in reference to charges being filed against Arab Democratic Party Secretary General Ali Eid and his driver Ahmed Ali with with helping Ahmed Merhi escape justice. Merhi is the suspected driver of the explosive-laden vehicle that blew up near al-Taqwa mosque in the northern city of Tripoli in August. Eid's son, Rifaat, condemned the charges against his father and his summoning for interrogation, slamming the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau as a “spy agency working against Lebanon's interests.” He also declared that his father will not go to the ISF's office for questioning.
Commenting on negotiations between Iran and world powers over the former's nuclear program, Jumblat said: “Israel's pressure thwarted the talks that could have opened a new chapter in ways to seriously tackle regional issues, including those in Iraq and Syria.” “A deal could have also led to Arab-Iranian dialogue that may have helped rearrange the situation in the region based on stability and resolving crises,” he added.
“It is needless to say that the failure of a comprehensive deal with Iran will lead the region towards an arms race that will further deep divisions and that will take place at the expense of the poor,” stated the PSP chief.
Israel benefited the most from the failure of the talks because sectarian divisions will remain and the Arab states' potential to develop will be weakened in light of their preoccupation with the arms race, opined Jumblat.
3 Dead in a Car Accident on Kahhale
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/Three people were killed and five others were wounded in a car accident on the Kahhale road, the state-run National News Agency said on Monday.
NNA said that the van was packed with passengers when it overturned and hit the wall of one of the houses close to the route. Thirteen passengers were aboard the van.
Geagea Says Actions of Officials to
Determine Continuity of State or its Downfall
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed on Monday that the continuity of the state or its downfall depends on the behavior of officials, who already destroyed half of it.
“If the behavior of officials remains the same, we will have nothing left of our state,” Geagea said in comments published in An Nahar newspaper. The sharp rift among Lebanese foes over several issues reached a deadlock as disputes are ongoing over the line-up of the new cabinet, which Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam has been trying to form since his appointment in April and over calls by Speaker Nabih Berri's for the parliament to convene amid a resigned cabinet, in addition to several other disputes including the tasks that should be carried out by a caretaker cabinet, which is led by caretaker PM Najib Miqati. Concerning the situation in Tripoli, Geagea considered the situation “unacceptable.” “The destruction of the state starts with mere words that is punishable by the law,” Geagea said. He pointed out that several people are threatening in their statements the judiciary and security agencies.“The state should arrest those who are concerned,” Geagea said, in a hint to the statements issued by Arab Democratic Party Secretary-General Rifaat Eid on Saturday. “We will act only in accordance to the law,” Eid said although he made a veiled threat that killing ISF members was permissible.
Report: U.S. Delegation in Lebanon for
Talks with Senior Officials
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman will visit Lebanon on the head of a delegation during this week for talks with senior Lebanese officials. According to al-Joumhouria newspaper published on Monday, Sherman will tackle the latest regional and international developments with Lebanese officials, including the latest marathon talks in Geneva aimed at convincing Iran to halt its disputed nuclear program. The daily reported that Sherman arrived on Sunday in Israel and held talks with several officials. Diplomats on Sunday insisted they were closing in on agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program despite the failure to clinch a long-sought deal. The Islamic republic has been crippled by a series of U.N. and U.S. sanctions aimed at bringing an end to its nuclear drive, which the West claims is being used to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies the assertion. The so-called P5+1 group of major powers -- Britain, France, the United States, Russia, China plus Germany -- plan to meet again with Iranian delegates on November 20 with the hope of securing a short-term deal that would freeze the country's nuclear activities while both sides work on a comprehensive agreement.
Prosecution Arrests Higher Relief
Council's Bashir, His Wife over Alleged Embezzlement Case
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/Acting General Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud ordered on Monday the arrest of Higher Relief Council chief Ibrahim Bashir and his wife for their alleged embezzlement of public funds. "Hammoud ordered the arrest of Bashir and his wife pending investigation, after probing the case that was referred by a special committee at the Banque du Liban,” the state-run National News Agency said. The NNA detailed that the decision was made after listening to the testimonies of Bashir and his wife on Monday afternoon. "Hammoud also took measures against other suspects in the case,” the same source noted. "The judge referred the case to the financial public prosecution to adopt the necessary legal procedures." Earlier on Monday, the General Prosecution kicked off investigations in the case of the embezzlement of $10 million from public funds by Bashir. Later on LBCI reported that Bashir was referred to the Criminal Investigation Department for questioning. He was later detained, the channel said, until investigations with him are complete. Investigations come in light of Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati's warning on Saturday that “haphazard accusations” by Bashir are punishable by law, revealing that he will take all the necessary “legal and judicial measures and procedures towards (Bashir's) irresponsible defamation.” He noted that a copy of his “warning” will be sent to the Public Prosecution, along with Bashir's statement, for investigation. “Launching haphazard accusations is punishable by the penal code and it is a desperate attempt to change the case's path." he said in an open letter. Miqati continued: “It is also a failed attempt to politicize and doubt the investigation committee's decision that is probing the incident.” “Your statement also incites sectarian and regional tensions.” Bashir had denied a day before that he has embezzled $ 10 million from public funds, accusing the caretaker premier and the cabinet's secretary-general of trying to “eliminate him.” “Since I took office there hasn't been harmony with the cabinet's secretary-general, Suhail Bouji, because the Council strives now to serve all the Lebanese while they want it to cater to Sunnis only,” he said. "After I took office, I made sure the HRC serves all the Lebanese,” Bashir said.
Asiri: Suleiman to Tackle Regional,
International Developments during Visit to Saudi Arabia
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/Saudi Ambassador Ali Awadh Asiri stressed on Monday that President Michel Suleiman's visit to Saudi Arabia is not linked to the Lebanese cabinet formation or the presidency's term, which ends in May 2014. “The visit of Suleiman is to tackle the latest regional and international developments and their impact on the situation in Lebanon,” Asiri said in comments published in As Safir newspaper.
He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is seeking to maintain stability in Lebanon and to unite the political foes, stressing that all-party-talks should resume to stabilize the country amid the ongoing challenges.
Asked if Suleiman will return from Saudi Arabia and for a de-facto cabinet with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, Asiri said that “the cabinet formation is a local Lebanese affair.”
“Saudi Arabia doesn't interfere in Lebanese affairs,” he noted, Suleiman said in comments published in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat on Saturday that he will not discuss the government formation process during his upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia. According to the newspaper's report, Suleiman is seeking to distance Saudi Arabia from local Lebanese disputes by refusing to tackle this file. Suleiman is scheduled to hold talks with King Abdullah during his one-day official visit to Riyadh on Monday. He stressed on Saturday that he will not discuss the cabinet crisis during his visit to the kingdom. Salam has faced conditions and counter conditions set by the rival parties, failing to form his new cabinet after more than seven months of efforts. But Salam said this week that he was still patient and optimistic that he could come up with a line-up.
Kerry says Iran rejected nuclear pact; says critics should withhold comments until deal's made
By Matthew Lee, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the major powers were unified on an Iran nuclear deal during weekend talks in Geneva but the Iranians were unable to accept it. He also said critics of the diplomatic effort should withhold their comments until a deal is reached. Speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, Kerry said the United States and its negotiating partners were unified when the proposal was presented to the Iranians. "The French signed off on it, we signed off on it," Kerry said. Earlier reports said that the talks came apart because France refused to accept the deal with Iran. On Monday, Kerry said the major powers reached an agreement after a marathon bargaining session but Iran wasn't able to accept the deal "at that particular moment." "There was unity but Iran couldn't take it," he said. Kerry also said that that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rejection of a deal to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions was premature. "The time to oppose it is when you see what it is, not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible," Kerry said. Netanyahu has repeatedly criticized what he considers readiness by the six powers involved in the talks to be too generous to Iran and has aggressively campaigned against an agreement. But Kerry reasserted the U.S. commitment to Israel, saying the United States would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. President Barack Obama, Kerry said, "does what he says," citing the killing of Osama bin Laden and getting American troops out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "So believe us on Iran," he said. "He will not bluff." Kerry said the U.S. has "been meeting constantly" with the Israelis to understand the progress Iran has made in its nuclear program. "We are confident that what we are doing can actually protect Israel more effectively and provide greater security," he said. Kerry said there is no "end game" in motion and the Geneva talks were a first step in longer process of possible give and take. Tehran has been eager to reach an agreement to ease international sanctions that have halted most oil exports and crippled the county's economy.
But a key stumbling block has been Iran's insistence that the international community recognize its "right" to enrich uranium as a signer of a U.N. treaty governing the spread of nuclear technology — also frequently pointing out that Israel has not signed the accord. Kerry's comments challenge the Iranian view, but do not appear to significantly alter the currently Western effort that seeks to curb Iran's ability to make its highest-enrich uranium but possibly leaving intact the country's production of lower-level nuclear fuel. Iran's highest enrichment level, at 20 per cent, is still below the more than 90 per cent needed for weapons-grade material, but experts say the process could be done at a rapid pace. Iran insists that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes and that it has no plans to produce a nuclear weapon.
Iran says the 20 per cent material is needed for its research reactor, which makes medical isotopes for cancer treatment and other applications. Iran also produces lower level nuclear fuel for its energy-producing reactor, which requires 3.5 per cent enriched uranium. Iranian state TV reported Monday that an agreement for expanded monitoring had been reached in talks with the U.N. nuclear chief in a deal that could boost wider negotiations over Tehran's atomic program. Abu Dhabi was Kerry's final stop on a lengthy visit to the Middle East. He interrupted his tour on Friday to rush to Switzerland to take part in the weekend negotiations with Iran. He was expected back in Washington late Monday. Associated Press writer Brian Murphy in Abu Dhabi contributed to this report.
Iran deputy industry minister shot dead in Tehran
By Marcus George | Reuters –By Marcus George
DUBAI (Reuters) - An unidentified attacker shot dead an Iranian deputy minister of industry in Tehran on Sunday, the state news agency IRNA reported, in what appeared the first reported killing of a senior central government official in years. The Mehr semi-official news agency reported a police officer as saying a personal motive was most probably behind the killing of Safdar Rahmat Abadi, shot dead in the head and chest as he got into his car in the east of the capital. "The likelihood is that the killing of Mr Rahmat Abadi happened through a personal motive and talk of assassinations and political issues is not involved," it quoted Colonel Alireza Mehrabi as saying.
The IRNA news agency quoted witnesses as saying the attack occurred at about 7:50 p.m. (1620 GMT). "Investigations show that two shots were fired from inside the vehicle," IRNA quoted a police official as saying.
"That two shells were found inside the car shows a strong likelihood that the assailant was inside the car and in conversation with Mr Abadi. There was no sign of struggle at the scene of the killing."
The student news agency ISNA said a special homicide investigator and criminal prosecutor were at the scene, adding no arrests had yet been made. There has been a surge of attacks against Iranian military and provincial officials in recent weeks, but Abadi's killing appeared to be the first reported fatal shooting of a senior central government official in years. Iranian Sunni Islamists claimed responsibility for the killing of an Iranian prosecutor in Sistan Baluchistan province last week. They said it was revenge for the hanging of 16 prisoners carried out by judiciary officials after an attack by the Jaish ul-Adl group of Sunni Islamist militants in which 14 border guards were killed. In Washington, a State Department spokesman said of Abadi's killing: "We've seen the media reports and have no further information or comment at this time."
There was no immediate indication that the killing had anything to do with Iran's nuclear dispute with the West. Authorities in the capital have accused Israel and its Western allies of carrying out the assassinations of five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007. The last such attack happened in January 2012 when one man was killed by a car bomb. The United States has denied any role in these killings. Israel has not commented. On October 3, Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they were investigating the death of an officer in what they called an horrific incident, but denied media reports it was an assassination. Alborz, an Iranian website, had reported that Mojtaba Ahmadi, an officer in the Guards, was found shot dead in late September near Karaj, a town northwest of Tehran. Israel sees Iran's nuclear activities as a threat to its existence and has urged the West to force Tehran to curb them. Iran says its atomic work has only peaceful purposes. (Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Reporting by Marcus George; Writing by Kevin Liffey and William Maclean; Editing by Alistair Lyon,; Janet Lawrence and Elizabeth Piper)
Iran says 'roadmap' deal reached for wider UN inspections of nuclear sites
By Ali Akbar Dareini, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press –
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran agreed on Monday to allow expanded U.N. monitoring at the country's nuclear sites, including at a new reactor, state TV reported, in a deal that could boost wider negotiations over Tehran's atomic program. The deal was struck during talks in Tehran with the U.N. nuclear chief as part of a parallel initiative to the broader efforts underway to ease Western concerns that Iran could one day develop nuclear weapons — an assertion Iran denies. The promise to grant wider access to U.N. nuclear inspectors could help push forward talks between Iran and world powers, which failed to reach a deal over the weekend but are scheduled to resume next week in Geneva. The so-called "roadmap" described by Iran's state TV would give the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency access to a key uranium mine and the site of a planned heavy water reactor, which uses a different type of coolant than regular water and produces a greater amount of plutonium byproduct than conventional reactors. During the weekend talks in Geneva between Iran and six world powers, France insisted that more controls were needed on the planned reactor in the central city of Arak. Plutonium can be used in nuclear weapons production, but separating it from the reactor byproducts requires a special technology that Iran does not currently possess. Monday's deal also could open room for even wider inspections, but no details were given. "The practical measures will be implemented in the next three months, starting from today," U.N. nuclear chief Yukiyo Amano said in a news conference in Tehran. Noticeable absent from the announcement was mention of the Parchin military facility southeast of Tehran. The IAEA has sought to revisit the site to investigate suspicions that explosive tests were carried out related to possible nuclear triggers. Iran denies the allegations, but has resisted opening the base. U.N. inspectors have worked in Iran for years, but have complained about limited access to some areas and some officials. The IAEA-Tehran talks were always a separate, but related, initiative to the international negotiations with Iran over its controversial nuclear program. Those broader negotiations ended without agreement this time around in Geneva. Such an agreement could see an easing of U.S.-led economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran's highest levels on uranium enrichment, which is a possible pathway to nuclear arms.
Syria-based coalition says peace conference may be 'last chance' for solution
By Diaa Hadid, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press –BEIRUT - A coalition of Syria-based opposition groups warned Monday that a proposed international peace conference to negotiate an end to the three-year conflict might be the "last chance" for a solution. The statement by the Coalition of Forces for Peaceful Change is the latest call of support for the talks, which the U.S. and Russia are trying to convene in Geneva by the end of the year. But the so-called "internal opposition," which ranges from officials close to the government of President Bashar Assad to intellectuals and parties that have opposed the rule of Assad's Baath party for decades, has little influence over the disparate armed groups fighting the government. "This is the only available framework and might be the last chance to resolve the crisis in Syria," the groups warned in a joint statement. They welcomed the conference as a chance for global and regional powers to be invested in a solution to the three-year conflict. The coalition called for an immediate ceasefire. The statement came as Syria's main Western-backed opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Coalition, said it intended to attend talks, but made its participation conditional on the creation of humanitarian corridors to besieged areas and the government releasing political prisoners. The often-fractious SNC was still meeting in Istanbul, but an official on early Monday released excerpts of a statement that officials said reflected the outcome of a vote among members. But coalition members were still gathered in Istanbul for an unexpected third day of meetings to hammer out a final position. The group has demanded that Assad and his close allies not be part of any future transitional government. The Geneva talks, as they are known, face other obstacles. The most powerful armed rebel groups fighting in Syria to overthrow the government of Bashar Assad aren't party to the talks. The SNC has little more sway over the groups than the internal opposition. Still, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the SNC's initial statement of attendance was encouraging.
"This is a big step forward and an important one." Meanwhile, in a blow to rebel fighters, troops loyal to Assad consolidated control of a key military base protecting the airport in the northern city of Aleppo, activists said.
The Aleppo International Airport, which has been closed due to fighting for almost a year, is one of the Syrian rebels' major objectives. The Brigade 80 base first fell to rebels in February, but the government took it back this week. By Monday, the Syrian state news agency SANA and the British-Based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces had taken a series of nearby positions. The Observatory said rebels fighting at Brigade 80 have been led by fighters from the Islamic Tawhid Brigade and two al-Qaida-linked groups, the Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Observatory receives its information from a network of activists on the ground. And in the capital Damascus, SANA and the Observatory said a mortar shell that slammed into a vehicle killed a man and his four children. The round landed in the residential area of Jaramana, part of a series of salvos that slammed into the neighbourhood on Sunday evening. The Observatory said many more were wounded, including the children's mother. It wasn't clear who fired the shells. There are frequent clashes in a nearby town between Syrian forces loyal to the government of President Bashar Assad and rebels trying to overthrow him. SANA reported the same incident but said three children were killed, along with the father.
With reporting by Albert Aji in Damascus and Desmond Butler in Istanbul
Special Report: Khamenei controls vast financial empire built on property seizures
Reuters – (This is the first story in a three-part series,
Assets of the Ayatollah:
By Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Yeganeh Torbati
(Reuters) - The 82-year-old Iranian woman keeps the documents that upended her life in an old suitcase near her bed. She removes them carefully and peers at the tiny Persian script.
There's the court order authorizing the takeover of her children's three Tehran apartments in a multi-story building the family had owned for years. There's the letter announcing the sale of one of the units. And there's the notice demanding she pay rent on her own apartment on the top floor.
Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh ultimately lost her property. It was taken by an organization that is controlled by the most powerful man in Iran: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. She now lives alone in a cramped, three-room apartment in Europe, thousands of miles from Tehran.
The Persian name of the organization that hounded her for years is "Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam" - Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam. The name refers to an edict signed by the Islamic Republic's first leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, shortly before his death in 1989. His order spawned a new entity to manage and sell properties abandoned in the chaotic years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Setad has become one of the most powerful organizations in Iran, though many Iranians, and the wider world, know very little about it. In the past six years, it has morphed into a business juggernaut that now holds stakes in nearly every sector of Iranian industry, including finance, oil, telecommunications, the production of birth-control pills and even ostrich farming.
The organization's total worth is difficult to pinpoint because of the secrecy of its accounts. But Setad's holdings of real estate, corporate stakes and other assets total about $95 billion, Reuters has calculated. That estimate is based on an analysis of statements by Setad officials, data from the Tehran Stock Exchange and company websites, and information from the U.S. Treasury Department.
Just one person controls that economic empire - Khamenei. As Iran's top cleric, he has the final say on all governmental matters. His purview includes his nation's controversial nuclear program, which was the subject of intense negotiations between Iranian and international diplomats in Geneva that ended Sunday without an agreement. It is Khamenei who will set Iran's course in the nuclear talks and other recent efforts by the new president, Hassan Rouhani, to improve relations with Washington.
The supreme leader's acolytes praise his spartan lifestyle, and point to his modest wardrobe and a threadbare carpet in his Tehran home. Reuters found no evidence that Khamenei is tapping Setad to enrich himself.
But Setad has empowered him. Through Setad, Khamenei has at his disposal financial resources whose value rivals the holdings of the shah, the Western-backed monarch who was overthrown in 1979.
How Setad came into those assets also mirrors how the deposed monarchy obtained much of its fortune - by confiscating real estate. A six-month Reuters investigation has found that Setad built its empire on the systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians: members of religious minorities like Vahdat-e-Hagh, who is Baha'i, as well as Shi'ite Muslims, business people and Iranians living abroad.
Setad has amassed a giant portfolio of real estate by claiming in Iranian courts, sometimes falsely, that the properties are abandoned. The organization now holds a court-ordered monopoly on taking property in the name of the supreme leader, and regularly sells the seized properties at auction or seeks to extract payments from the original owners.
The supreme leader also oversaw the creation of a body of legal rulings and executive orders that enabled and safeguarded Setad's asset acquisitions. "No supervisory organization can question its property," said Naghi Mahmoudi, an Iranian lawyer who left Iran in 2010 and now lives in Germany.
Khamenei's grip on Iran's politics and its military forces has been apparent for years. The investigation into Setad shows that there is a third dimension to his power: economic might. The revenue stream generated by Setad helps explain why Khamenei has not only held on for 24 years but also in some ways has more control than even his revered predecessor. Setad gives him the financial means to operate independently of parliament and the national budget, insulating him from Iran's messy factional infighting.
Washington has acknowledged Setad's importance. In June, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Setad and some of its corporate holdings, calling the organization "a massive network of front companies hiding assets on behalf of … Iran's leadership." The companies generate billions of dollars in revenue a year, the department stated, but it did not offer a detailed accounting.
The Iranian president's office and the foreign ministry didn't respond to requests for comment. Iran's embassy in the United Arab Emirates issued a statement calling Reuters' findings "scattered and disparate" and said that "none has any basis." It didn't elaborate.
Setad's director general of public relations, Hamid Vaezi, said by email in response to a detailed description of this series that the information presented is "far from realities and is not correct." He didn't go into specifics.
In a subsequent message, he said Setad disputes the Treasury's allegations and is "in the process of retaining U.S. counsel to address this matter." He added: "This communication puts you on notice that any action by your organization could prejudice our dispute in the United States and harm our position for which we hold you responsible."
When Khomeini, the first supreme leader, set in motion the creation of Setad, it was only supposed to manage and sell properties "without owners" and direct much of the proceeds to charity. Setad was to use the funds to assist war veterans, war widows "and the downtrodden." According to one of its co-founders, Setad was to operate for no more than two years.
Setad has built schools, roads and health clinics, and provided electricity and water in rural and impoverished areas. It has assisted entrepreneurs in development projects. But philanthropy is just a small part of Setad's overall operations.
Under Khamenei's control, Setad began acquiring property for itself, and kept much of the funds rather than simply redistributing them. With those revenues, the organization also helps to fund the ultimate seat of power in Iran, the Beite Rahbar, or Leader's House, according to a former Setad employee and other people familiar with the matter. The first supreme leader, Khomeini, had a small staff. To run the country today, Khamenei employs about 500 people in his administrative offices, many recruited from the military and security services.
A complete picture of Setad's spending and income isn't possible. Its books are off limits even to Iran's legislative branch. In 2008, the Iranian Parliament voted to prohibit itself from monitoring organizations that the supreme leader controls, except with his permission.
But Reuters has put together the fullest account yet of the organization's holdings. They include:
* A giant property portfolio
The head of Setad's real-estate division said at a ceremony in 2008 that the unit was worth about $52 billion. The value of Iran's currency has plunged since then, while property values have soared. The property portfolio has also changed, so its current value is hard to establish.
Setad regularly conducts large auctions of its real estate - at least 59 to date, according to a review of Iranian newspaper advertisements and auction websites. One recent auction took place in May, when nearly 300 properties went on the block - including houses, stores, tracts of farmland and even a spa-and-pool complex in Tehran. The required opening bids totaled about $88 million, based on the official exchange rate that month.
* An investment unit worth tens of billions of dollars
In June, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Setad and 37 companies it controls over the organization's alleged role in "assisting the Iranian Government's circumvention of U.S. and international sanctions." The Treasury also said Setad played a role in "generating revenue for the Iranian leadership," and that one of its investment companies alone was worth about $40 billion in late 2010.
But the June action covered just part of Setad's corporate holdings. According to a Treasury spokesman, sanctions only apply to subsidiaries if the targeted entity "owns 50 percent or more of a company."
In practice, Setad controls many businesses in which it holds very small stakes. Reuters identified at least 24 public companies in which Setad - or a company it invested in - held less than 50 percent. Those holdings that are publicly traded are worth more than $3.4 billion, Reuters calculated. That figure includes about $3 billion Setad paid in 2009 for a stake in Iran's largest telecommunications firm.
Reuters also identified 14 companies Setad has invested in - directly or through other companies - that couldn't be valued because they are not publicly traded.
All told, Reuters was able to identify about $95 billion in property and corporate assets controlled by Setad. That amount is roughly 40 percent bigger than the country's total oil exports last year. It also surpasses independent historians' estimates of the late shah's wealth.
After toppling the monarchy, the Islamic Republic filed suit in the United States against the shah and his wife, Farah Pahlavi, claiming they had stolen $35 billion in Iranian funds, according to court records. In today's dollars, that sum would be worth about $79 billion. The suit was dismissed.
Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University who wrote a biography of the shah published in 2011, told Reuters he believes the estimate of the shah's fortune was "extremely exaggerated." He said the monarch led a truly opulent lifestyle - including owning an automobile collection that may have included 120 fancy vehicles. But, he wrote in the biography: "Those most likely to know estimate the Shah's fortune to be close to a billion dollars." With inflation, that would equal about $3 billion in today's money, a fraction of the worth of Setad's holdings.
Setad officials have offered two justifications for their property activities: that the assets were acquired legitimately, and part of the profits go to charity.
In an interview in April with the Iranian reformist newspaper Shargh, Ali Ashraf Afkhami, who was identified as the head of Tadbir Economic Development Group - the main unit that handles Setad's financial investments - called the organization a "custodian" of "property without owners," and suggested that none had been confiscated. He also described the way Setad had accumulated its real estate as nothing unusual.
"Imagine that a property or piece of land has been left behind by someone after their death without any heirs or, for example, property that has been freed by customs but remains without an owner," he said. "These properties must be managed somehow. If the lack of ownership is confirmed through the order of the court, then the property is given to Setad."
"Like I said," he added, "everywhere in the world systems have been created to take control of property or pieces of land that have no owners and the profits are put toward activities for the public good."
Charities have played an important role in the Islamic Republic. Setad controls a charity. Other charitable trusts, known as "bonyads," served as a vital safety net during and after the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, assisting disabled veterans, widows and orphans, and the poor.
According to the son of one slain soldier, Bonyad Shahid (Martyrs Foundation) provided his and other families' accommodation, wages and household items. A list of current veteran services on its website includes discount airplane tickets, technical training and the installation of wheelchair lifts on vehicles.
Setad, however, is a much broader operation than these foundations. It's unclear how much of its revenue goes to philanthropy. Iranians whose properties have been seized by Setad, as well as lawyers who have handled such cases, dispute the argument that the organization is acting in the public interest. They described to Reuters what amounts to a methodical moneymaking scheme in which Setad obtains court orders under false pretenses to seize properties, and later pressures owners to buy them back or pay huge fees to recover them.
"The people who request the confiscation ... introduce themselves as on the side of the Islamic Republic, and try to portray the person whose property they want confiscated as a bad person, someone who is against the revolution, someone who was tied to the old regime," said Hossein Raeesi, a human-rights attorney who practiced in Iran for 20 years and handled some property confiscation cases. "The atmosphere there is not fair."
Ross K. Reghabi, an Iranian lawyer in Beverly Hills, California, said the only hope to recover anything is to pay off well-connected agents in Iran. "By the time you pay off everybody, it comes to 50 percent" of the property's value, said Reghabi, who says he has handled 11 property confiscation cases involving Setad.
An Iranian Shi'ite Muslim businessman now living abroad, who asked to remain anonymous because he still travels to Iran, said he attempted two years ago to sell a piece of land near Tehran that his family had long owned. Local authorities informed him that he needed a "no objection letter" from Setad.
The businessman said he visited Setad's local office and was required to pay a bribe of several hundred dollars to the clerks to locate his file and expedite the process. He said he then was told he had to pay a fee, because Setad had "protected" his family's land from squatters for decades. He would be assessed between 2 percent and 2.5 percent of the property's value for every year.
Setad sent an appraiser to determine the property's current worth. The appraisal came in at $90,000. The protection fee, he said, totaled $50,000.
The businessman said he balked, arguing there was no evidence Setad had done anything to protect the land. He said the Setad representatives wouldn't budge on the amount but offered to facilitate the transaction by selling the land itself to recover its fee. He said he hired a lawyer who advised him to pay the fee, which he reluctantly did last year.
This was not the only encounter the businessman's family has had with Setad. He said his sister, who lives in Tehran, recently told him that Setad representatives had gone door-to-door at her apartment complex, demanding occupants show the deeds for their units.
Several other Iranians whose family properties were taken over by Setad described in interviews how men showed up and threatened to use violence if the owners didn't leave the premises at once. One man said he had been told how an elderly family member had stood by distraught as workmen carried out all of the furniture from her home.
According to this account, she sat down on a carpet, refused to move and pleaded, "What can I do? Where can I go?"
"Then they reached down, lifted her up on the carpet and took her out."
"BEHIND THE DOORS"
Several Iranian foundations, such as Bonyad Mostazafan (The Foundation of the Oppressed), also have been granted legal authority to confiscate certain properties. Those organizations generally are open about the practice, listing their names and logos in real-estate advertisements. Setad's role in confiscations is more hidden.
Neither Setad's logo nor its full name appear in newspaper advertisements listing upcoming auctions. Instead, the organization uses a vague title that doesn't make clear the seller is connected to Setad. A call by a reporter to one of the phone numbers listed in an advertisement in May for property in the northeastern city of Mashhad was greeted by a recording that said: "You have reached Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam."
Many of the newspaper ads found by Reuters also referred readers to a website for further information. That site doesn't contain Setad's proper name either. Internet website ownership records show that the site, which lists auctions for many types of confiscated goods - including boats, motorcycles, flat-screen televisions, automobiles and even fertilizer - is registered to an office in Tehran. When a reporter called it, the person who answered confirmed it was Setad's office.
Some of the properties under Setad's control were confiscated from religious minorities, including members of the Baha'i faith, a religion founded in Iran that is seen as heretical by the Islamic Republic. Baha'is are a persecuted religious group in Iran, with some followers blocked from jobs and universities. Baha'i shops and cemeteries also have been vandalized.
Figures compiled by the United Nations office of the Baha'i International Community, a non-governmental organization, show that Setad was occupying 73 properties seized from its members as of 2003, the most recent data available. The real estate was then worth about $11 million.
That figure captured only a fraction of the value of Baha'i properties taken by Setad. Not on the list were several that belonged to a Baha'i named Aminullah Katirai. According to his daughter, Heideh Katirai, who now lives in Toronto, Setad has been pursuing her family's property for more than two decades.
Her father owned a house and land around the city of Hamedan in northwest Iran, she said. In the early 1990s, Setad confiscated about 750 hectares (1,853 acres) - the family's entire land holdings in the area. Court records documenting the property seizures that were reviewed by Reuters claim Katirai had collaborated with the prior government of the shah. Katirai's daughter says her father never had any ties to the shah's government.
He tried to appeal to government authorities: He wrote a letter to a parliamentary commission in 1993 stating he was being targeted solely because of his religion.
In a response seen by Reuters, a commission representative cited Article 13 of Iran's constitution, which says that only Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians are recognized as religious minorities and have the right to practice their religion within the limits of the law. "The Baha'i faith is not among religion minorities," a translation of the letter stated. The commission refused to consider his case.
Setad did not stop there. According to his daughter, Setad representatives showed up several years later at a three-story building her family had owned in central Tehran for 44 years. At the time, Katirai lived on the ground floor, and the upper floors were rented out.
According to his daughter, the Setad representatives claimed the building's owner had left the country and had abandoned it. Katirai told the Setad representatives repeatedly that he owned the building. They left, but Setad soon began court proceedings to take it over.
In 2008, Katirai died. For the past five years, Setad has been trying to evict the tenants, including Katirai's son, producing court notices and threatening fines.
"Each corner of that house is a memory for us," said Katirai's daughter. "I took my kids there every Friday to see the family."
"What has my family done to deserve this kind of treatment?" she asked. "We know that Islam is a religion of peace. But how can a government that claims to be an Islamic government allow this to happen?"
Mohammad Nayyeri, a lawyer who worked in Iran until 2010 and now lives in Britain, said he handled a case involving Setad in which a Muslim man's house had been confiscated in part based on rumors that he had converted to the Baha'i faith and had ties with the monarchy.
The man - Nayyeri declined to name him because he still has family in Iran - relocated to the United States soon after the 1979 revolution. The new government seized the man's home, in a wealthy Tehran neighborhood.
"The Baha'i rumor was one of the triggers of this," Nayyeri said. "They found that this house is empty and the owner had left the country so they came and seized the place." Around 1990, the property was given to Setad, which sold it at auction.
Nayyeri said that in 2008, the owner's son contacted him. By then, the man had died. The son - who told the lawyer his father had never converted to the Baha'i faith and had no ties to the monarchy - wanted to clear his name and try to recover the house.
Nayyeri said he lodged a complaint against Setad and the current owner and successfully challenged the original confiscation. He ultimately obtained a judicial order that the property be returned to the son.
But Setad refused to give it back unless the son offered a "khoms," a religious payment mandated under Islamic law, Nayyeri said. It totaled $50,000 - 20 percent of the property's assessed value. According to the lawyer, the son had no choice, and paid it.
Reghabi, the Iranian lawyer based in California, said he, too, won a number of property seizure cases involving Setad. But he said no case was simple - the hurdles involved not only untangling a property's ownership and challenging decades-old court decrees, but also identifying and paying off people with connections to the key decision maker.
"The real stuff is what goes on behind the doors," he said. "You have to find the right person."
Reghabi said his clients were responsible for paying the various fees, which were all "subject to negotiation" and could reach millions of dollars.
He added that he always advised clients whose properties had been sold by Setad to try to recover some of the sale proceeds in cash. "That is my advice to them - don't try and be stupid and get your property back."
"COME AND KILL ME"
The case of Vahdat-e-Hagh, who is Baha'i, involved several Iranian organizations over the years, but none was more relentless than Setad, she said.
She said her troubles began in 1981 when her husband, Hussein, began working for a company called Asan Gas that had been set up in part to assist unemployed members of the faith.
In September 1981, he was arrested and imprisoned in Tehran. According to Vahdat-e-Hagh, after five months, a cleric from a court sentenced him to death, with no chance to appeal. He was executed in February 1982.
"He was shot with nine bullets," she said, her voice cracking.
To protest her husband's execution, she began writing letters to senior government officials, including Khamenei, then Iran's president. In 1985, she said, she was jailed for three months.
Her protests continued, including a call to Khamenei's office. "I kept begging them to tape my voice, to take my message to Khamenei," she said. Instead, she said, the clerk recorded the conversation and turned the tape over to the intelligence ministry.
The widow's account of what happened next is supported by legal notices and official correspondence seen by Reuters.
A court later ordered the confiscation of her family's apartments in an affluent area of north Tehran. Her children were out of the country at the time and the court order accused them of proselytizing the Baha'i faith abroad, she said.
Two Iranian foundations pressed Vahdat-e-Hagh to turn over her properties to them. She refused, and both eventually dropped the matter, she said.
Then, in November 1991, Setad entered the picture. Another court authorized it to confiscate the family's properties in Tehran and the southern city of Shiraz.
According to Vahdat-e-Hagh, Setad representatives came to her apartment and threatened to beat her if she did not leave. "One even had his fist balled up one time to punch me," she said. "I told them, ‘You can come and kill me.'"In January 1992, Setad wrote to the property registry office requesting that the names of Vahdat-e-Hagh's children be removed from the deeds to their apartments. A year later, Setad sent a letter to Vahdat-e-Hagh offering to sell her one of the units.
Setad ultimately sold the apartment to an official from Tehran's revolutionary court, she said, who flipped it within a month for a quick profit. Setad later sold three more apartments that belonged to her two other children and late husband.
In the fall of 1993, Vahdat-e-Hagh quietly left Iran, telling only a few friends and relatives. It took six years before Setad authorities realized she was no longer living in her apartment, which she had been renting out.
In a letter in November 1999, Setad offered to sell her own apartment to her at a discount. She refused. It then demanded she pay rent on the unit. She refused again. The organization eventually sold it.
Vahdat-e-Hagh said she later telephoned the new buyer. "This was my property and my family's property that was built with the blood of myself and my husband," she said she told the man. She said he offered her some money, which out of principle she refused.
Today, the building appears to be vacant, except for a business on a lower level. Merchants in the neighborhood said the property's present ownership isn't clear and the building may be under the control of an Islamic organization.
On the top floor, where Vahdat-e-Hagh once lived, most of the windows are broken.
Next, Part 2: National Champion: How Setad became a corporate giant
(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Ankara; Edited by Michael Williams and Simon Robinson)
Iran, Britain Name Envoys on Path to Restoring Ties
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/Iran and Britain on Monday named non-resident charges d'affaires to each other's capital, in moves aimed at restoring diplomatic ties severed after the British embassy was ransacked in 2011. Mohammad Hassan "Habibollah-zadeh will travel to London in the near future to examine the situation of Iran's possessions and buildings in Britain and to improve consular activities," a foreign ministry spokeswoman said, quoted by Fars news agency. The Foreign Ministry in London, meanwhile, named Ajay Sharma as its new non-resident charge d'affaires to Iran. "Mr Sharma will take up his appointment immediately," it said in a statement.
The British diplomat said he hoped to make his first visit to Tehran later this month. "I am very much looking forward to renewing direct UK contact with the Iranian government and society," Sharma said in a statement. "This is very much in the interests of both our countries." Sharma worked as deputy head of Britain's Tehran mission between 2007 and 2008 and has held additional diplomatic posts in Moscow, Paris, London and Ankara.
His appointment comes after nuclear talks between Iran and global powers broke up at the weekend without a deal, although France said Monday that negotiators were close to an agreement.
The Foreign Office said Sharma would travel to Iran regularly and described his appointment as "an important step towards improving the bilateral relationship".
"Mr Sharma's appointment will enable the UK to have more detailed and regular discussions with Iran on a range of issues, including conditions under which our embassies could eventually be reopened," it added. Britain ordered the closure of Iran's embassy in London after closing its own in Tehran following the storming of the compound by hundreds of angry Islamist students in November 2011. They were protesting at Western sanctions against Tehran over its disputed nuclear drive, and ransacked the building as well as the British ambassador's residence in north Tehran. However, after the surprise victory in June elections of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president with a pledge to engage the world constructively, London and Tehran have been working towards restoring ties. The two sides agreed in October to assign non-resident charges d'affaires, a diplomatic post that is one level below ambassador. Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif twice on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Iran, IAEA Reach Deal on 'Roadmap for Cooperation'
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/Iran on Monday agreed with the U.N. nuclear watchdog on a "roadmap for cooperation" to inspect its disputed program, as the United States questioned Tehran's self-declared right to uranium enrichment. Diplomats insist world powers are close to reaching a landmark interim deal to curb Iran's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief despite failing to do so in Geneva over the weekend.
But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during a visit to Abu Dhabi partly aimed at reassuring Gulf allies fearful of a breakthrough with Tehran, said no nation has an "existing right to enrich" and that Iran had balked at the Geneva talks. "The P5+1 was unified on Saturday when we presented our proposal to the Iranians... But Iran couldn't take it, at that particular moment they weren't able to accept," said Kerry, who took part in the high-level talks. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate whose election this year raised hopes of progress in the decade-long talks, has said Tehran will not abandon its nuclear rights, calling uranium enrichment on Iranian soil a "red line". The so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany -- and Iran will reconvene again in Geneva on November 20 to try to iron out differences.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meanwhile reached an accord with Iran on a "roadmap for cooperation" during a visit to Tehran by the head of the U.N. watchdog, Yukiya Amano.
Amano hailed the deal as "an important step" but said "much more must be done," in remarks carried by the ISNA news agency.
The IAEA chief's visit was aimed at resolving technical issues linked to the body's role in monitoring Iran's nuclear activities. Broader questions of how to ensure Iran's nuclear program is not being used to mask a drive for atomic weapons are being discussed in the negotiations with the P5+1. Inspections agreement 'encouraging' Analysts and diplomats in Vienna said the framework accord -- while preliminary and somewhat vague -- was a first step in satisfying the IAEA's long-standing demands for greater oversight. The agreement requires Iran to provide information within three months on all new research reactors and identify sites designated for the construction of power plants as well as for uranium enrichment. "It is rather encouraging," a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "Maybe the wording is not perfect but it goes in the right direction."
The accord does not specifically address the IAEA's long-stalled probe into alleged efforts by Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has always insisted the program is entirely peaceful.
Amano said inspection of the Parchin military complex, where Iran is alleged to have conducted research on nuclear weapons, would be addressed in "subsequent steps" under the framework.
Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday that as a gesture of goodwill, IAEA inspectors would be allowed to visit a heavy water reactor under construction in Arak -- seen as a key stumbling block in the Geneva talks -- as well as the Gachin uranium mine in the south. At least a year from completion, the Arak reactor is a major source of concern for Western powers, who fear the plutonium it will produce as a by-product could provide Iran with a second route to an atomic bomb. Iran insists it wants to produce isotopes solely for medical and agricultural purposes at the Arak plant, which is already under limited IAEA surveillance.
Monday's agreement foresees the IAEA having direct access within three months to the Arak plant. "The IAEA does not know right now how much heavy water Iran is actually making and they want to get a good idea about whether and how soon it is going to operate," said Mark Hibbs, a Berlin-based analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The marathon talks in Geneva ended inconclusively on Sunday after France raised concerns over the Arak reactor. "We are not far from an agreement with the Iranians but we are not there yet," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday. Fabius fired back at allegations that Paris had scuppered the talks, saying: "France is neither isolated nor a country that follows the herd. It is independent and works for peace." His comments were echoed by a senior Western diplomat in Brussels, who said the talks needed more time.
Source/Agence France Presse.
Syria Opposition Says Would Attend
Peace Talks with Conditions
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 November 2013/
Syria's main opposition grouping said Monday it was willing to attend peace talks on the condition that President Bashar Assad transfer power and be excluded from any transition process. In a statement issued after two days of meetings in Istanbul, the key National Coalition said it would take part in mooted peace talks in Geneva "on the basis of the full transfer of power." It also stipulated "that Bashar Assad and those with the blood of Syrians on their hands have no role in the transitional phase and Syria's future. Speaking in Abu Dhabi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said any decision by the opposition to take part in talks would be a "big step."
"We take note of the fact that ... the Syrian opposition voted to go to the Geneva II (conference). This is a big step forward and a significant one," Kerry said. Syrian opposition figures have long said that Assad should have no role in any political transition process, insisting he must step down. But the Syrian government, while expressing willingness to attend the proposed Geneva conference, insists that Assad's departure from power is not up for discussion. The statement, issued by the Coalition's General Assembly, also calls for the establishment of humanitarian aid corridors and for the release of prisoners. "The Coalition also requires that prior to the conference, aid convoys from the Red Cross and Red Crescent and other aid groups be granted continued access to besieged areas," the statement said. And it demands "the release of detainees, especially women and children," without providing additional details. The international community, led by the United States and Russia, have been seeking for months to convene a Syria peace conference in Geneva.
But proposed dates for the conference have come and gone with no progress towards talks. The Syrian National Council, a key Coalition member, has threatened to leave the umbrella grouping if attends the talks.
But Monzer Aqbiq, an adviser to Coalition president Ahmed Jarba, said Monday that the Council appeared to have changed their mind. "The resolution has been approved quasi-unanimously," he said of the statement released on Monday. "They have obviously changed their mind because they voted yes for the text." Aqbiq said persuasion and explanation of the goal of the talks had helped convince some skeptics.
"There are many groups that when you're explaining to them that political transition means that the regime will change, they immediately know how it is and say OK," he added.
But the gaps in the consensus Aqbiq described were already clear. "Whether or not to go to Geneva is the decision of the Syrian people," said Louay Safi, a member of the Syrian National Council and a spokesman for the Coalition, in a statement on Sunday. "The Coalition is nothing but a mechanism to apply their will."Source Agence France Presse.
Israeli Defence Minister, Ya'alon: Sanctions crippling Iran regime, now not the time to let up
By LINDA GRADSTEIN, FELICE FRIEDSON/THE MEDIA L
11/11/2013/As Iran agreed to allow United Nations inspectors into several
nuclear sites, and the British government re-established diplomatic relations
with the Islamic Republic, Israel’s defense minister warned that the
international community is on the verge of a “historic mistake” if it eases the
sanctions currently in-place against Iran. “We believe that the regime in Tehran
should reach the dilemma of whether to go on with the (nuclear) project or to
survive as a regime,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in a speech to the
General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Jerusalem. “We
were just about to reach that point with economic sanctions
Kerry seeks to reassure Israel, says hopes for Iran nuclear deal within monthsPeres reaffirms US-Israel ties as major difference emerge on dealings on IranYa’alon warned that if the international community does act to reduce or discontinue some of the measures as it appears to be poised to do, it will have the effect of taking pressure off of the Iranian regime, allowing them to proceed with development of nuclear weapons with impunity.
“We see it happening in front of our eyes -- we have lost the momentum of the sanctions,” an impassioned Ya’alon said. “We already see the stock market is rising, the ratio of the rial (Iranian currency) to the dollar has improved. The Chinese have also approached the Iranians to renew contracts that they lost [because of sanctions] in 2010.”
Ya’alon warned that as long as Iran retains its ability to enrich uranium, it can quickly restart its nuclear program.
“If they have the capability to enrich uranium at all, they can enrich it from 3.5% to 90 % in a couple of months, that’s it,” he said. “If they freeze enrichment, let’s keep the current sanctions active. If we reach a comprehensive agreement in which they give up all the centrifuges and enrichment capability, this is the point at which sanctions might be eased -- not a minute before.”
Ya’alon was introduced at the conference by Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, a former justice minister, who warned against what he called “Rouhani’s charm offensive” and said that since Rouhani took office, there have been 100 executions in Iran, a sharp increase over the number carried out by under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Half of those executions, he said, took place since October 26, while the international community was actively engaged in negotiations with Iran.
“Iran has engaged in a ‘3-D’ strategy – denial, deception, and delay,” Cotler said. “What we are witnessing in Khamenei’s Iran is a toxic conversion of the nuclear threat, incitement, the terrorist threat and massive domestic repression.” He also accused Iran of having repeatedly committed crimes of genocide.
Noting that the next meeting between the Western powers and Iran is scheduled for November 20, Ya’alon urged the international community to maintain pressure on Iran. He also said that Israel can and will defend itself in the face of the Iranian threat.Ya’alon laid out what he called “the demise of the nation-state in the Middle East,” referring to entities that were based on artificial borders. The defense minister said that he predicts “chronic instability in the region,” although he cited some improvements in terms of Egypt’s willingness to crack down on weapons smuggling in the Sinai Peninsula.
He also said that Israel had achieved “deterrence” against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Some 120,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war.
When it came to the Palestinian issue, Ya’alon said that he had originally supported the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, but that he has since become disillusioned.
“Once I became the head of intelligence, I realized that neither (Yassir) Arafat then, nor Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) now, are ready to recognize our right to exist as a Jewish state,” Ya’alon said. “I realized there is no partner.”In an apparent reference to the Obama administration, Ya’alon said that “many” believe that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is “territorial” and it could be settled through territorial compromise. “This is a tremendous mistake,” Ya’alon said. “The core of the conflict is [the Palestinians’] refusal to recognize our right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people.”
Cotler told The Media Line that he, too, is not optimistic about the chances that the Palestinian Authority will put a halt to officially-sanctioned incitement and recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
Kerry bids from Abu Dhabi to break up
unique broad front which tripped up US-Iran nuclear deal
DEBKAfile Special Report November 11, 2013/The pushback against a nuclear deal between the six powers and Iran in Geneva Friday, Nov. 8 had many partners. Europe, Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates and Israel have bonded together against the Obama administration’s plans to mend US fences with Tehran in general and leave Iran with its nuclear components intact.
Secretary of State John Kerry landed in the United Arab Emirate Monday, Nov. 11, for an effort to break up that bond and split up the broad opposition to Barack Obama’s policy. “President Obama is a man of his word,” Kerry declared. “He said in a speech before the UN that the US will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon and this is our policy to which we are committed. “
His assurance reminded his skeptical listeners of the credibility gap between Obama’s red line against Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons and his withdrawal from making good on that commitment by substituting a questionable deal with Moscow for military action.
They are also familiar with the terms of the US-Iranian nuclear deal and reject it out of hand.
Holding Binyamin Netanyahu, France and Saudi Arabia responsible for stalling the deal as the only “culprits” served two US administration purposes:
1. Rather than taking on a broad international front, the administration found it more convenient to focus on one of its members, Israel and its prime minister, as the responsible party for holding up the first concrete deal ever negotiated with Iran on its nuclear program.
2. Presenting Netanyahu as the party in the wrong and the cause of Israel’s isolation gave his political opponents ammunition for clobbering him.
Still, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry show no inclination to meet America’s allies’ widespread demands to tone down their proposal, which essentially permits Iran to retain all the components for assembling a nuclear bomb, while enjoying a generous reward in sanctions relief for a six-month freeze.
debkafile’s political sources report that in opposing this lopsided deal in Geneva, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius spoke on behalf of the other European powers present, Germany and Britain.
Even Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov presented an unusually low profile in Geneva, abstaining from words of support for the American position. Speaking on condition of anonymity, members of the Russian delegation agreed that the deal on the table was a bad one. The front lining up against Obama’s bid for reconciliation with Iran, including a nuclear deal, also includes Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates, especially the UAE which has grown into a major economic and financial power.
Sunday, Netanyahu hit back at his misrepresentation as the lone spoiler by revealing his contacts with the European powers represented in Geneva and his close cooperation with the Arabian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia.
“The world should pay heed when Israel and the Arabs speak with one voice. It doesn’t happen that often,” he said.
debkafile’s Washington sources admit that the group effort by Jerusalem, Paris and Riyadh to defeat the Obama administration’s Iran policy was a groundbreaker. One source noted that it had attained the unheard-of level of coordinated Israeli-Arab-European teamwork for mobilizing individual US congressmen and senators against the deal with Iran and in favor of tighter sanctions.
Those sources also contradicted the administration’s claim that the Iranians backed away first from the draft accord prepared for the Geneva conference. They say the veto was ultimately slapped down by Kerry.
In urgent discussions in Washington on ways to salvage the nuclear negotiations from the Geneva flop - while keeping Iran in play - fingers were pointing at Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and EU foreign executive Catherine Ashton, who chaired the meeting.
According to those sources, the two diplomats put the draft before Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and allowed him to insert amendments. When that was done, they called the foreign ministers of the six powers and invited them to attend the signing ceremony.
Sherman and Ashton are quoted as telling them, “The cake is ready for putting in the oven to bake.”
Upon hearing this, the Secretary of State interrupted his talks in Israel Friday, Nov. 8, and took off for Geneva, certain that the deal with Iran was in the bag and would be signed that day.
He was aghast when he was shown the amended draft and understood that there was no way to sell this deal to the Europeans, the Arabs or Israel. He therefore applied the brakes to preparations for the signing ceremony and ordered a return to the table.
Meanwhile, the Iranians are moving on, certain that a deal with the powers is in the works. The UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) director Yukiya Amano Monday, Nov. 11, announced the signing of a joint statement with Tehran. It opens the way for IAEA inspectors to visit the Arak construction site of Iran’s controversial heavy water reactor and the Gachin uranium mine. "The practical measures will be implemented in the next three months, starting from today," Amano told a news conference in Tehran, broadcast on state television.
This monitoring agreement was designed as a clause in the preliminary accord that was stalled before it was signed in Geneva last Friday.
The Hands Of The Supreme Leader’s Watch
Ghassan Charbel/Al Hayat
The Supreme Leader and his advisors gazed at the White House. They saw there a president who does not resemble George W. Bush at all. They saw a president who does not want to overthrow the Iranian regime, and does not want to involve America in a new war. This means that Barack Obama represents an opportunity. Dealing with him would be better than waiting for his successor. Furthermore, the Syrian crisis gave Russia an opportunity to make a strong comeback to the regional stage.The Supreme Leader and his advisers looked at the economic situation. The sanctions are truly crippling. Incomes have fallen. The currency has deteriorated. Inflation and unemployment figures portend what is worse. Waiting for additional years carries many risks, including having to negotiate from a weaker position. Another risk is for the street to explode in wrath, in a manner that goes beyond the Green Movement, which the regime succeeded in putting down. The Supreme Leader and his advisers gazed at the region. They saw Iran embroiled in a costly regional-sectarian conflict on Syrian territory. The cost of keeping the regime alive there is measured in the billions of dollars annually. There are also the Soviet-like commitments from the mountains controlled by the Huthis to Gaza, though Lebanon. The continuation of economic hemorrhaging practically threatens the ability to fulfill commitments and may weaken the cards Iran holds.
The Supreme Leader and his advisors gazed at the region, and realized that they control important cards. No new government can be formed in Iraq without Tehran’s approval. No new government can be formed in Lebanon without its consent. Iran inherited the role of the Syrian regime in Iraq. It also inherited its previous role in Lebanon. Some speak about inheriting it on Syrian soil itself.
It is time to obtain international recognition of the results of the broad Iranian attack on the nuclear and regional fronts. This role cannot be entrusted to someone who resembles Ahmadinejad. The “choice” thus fell on Hassan Rouhani, and so it was. Iranian democracy works effectively under the Supreme Leader’s mantle. In long races, horses need to be changed sometimes, and so does discourse.
The diplomatic offensive launched by Rohani in New York revealed Obama’s eagerness for accord with Iran. The marathon negotiations in Geneva were the fruit of what happened in New York. Sitting with the Americans is no longer treason and compromise on principles. The slogan Death to America appeared like an outdated placard that can be retried if Iran obtains what it wants or a major part of what it wants.
Some of those who followed up the American-Iranian issue believe that Tehran can delay its plans to produce a nuclear bomb and limit itself to having the ability to produce one, or coming close to doing so. On the other hand, the same pundits believe that Iran is not ready to offer major concessions when it comes to the offensive it waged to become a major player in the region.
Here, some difficult questions arise: Can the fate of the battle for the nuclear dream be separated from the fate of the deep desire to become a senior partner of “Great Satan”? More clearly, can America conclude a major deal with Iran without the issue of Israel’s security being present, at least under the table, if it is not possible for it to be directly on the table? Is Iran ready to make such a deal, after decades of its leaders declaring that Israel is a “cancer” that must be removed? Is Iran ready for a long-term truce in this regard? What about the discourse of resistance and defiance that it relied upon to expand its military, political, and security presence in the region?
What about Hezbollah and the pro-Iranian Palestinian groups, who are protected by Iranian aid from withering and waning? Can Iran conclude a real deal with the West without changing? Is the clash with the West and Israel not one of the conditions for the solidity of the Iranian role in the region? Can such a deal be born and can it live unless the Supreme Leader himself is not convinced that the revolution must retire, with its discourse, dreams, and delusions, paving the way for the emergence of a normal state that respects international borders, international law, and the concerns of its neighbors?
Most probably, we are at the beginning of a long and complicated path. We are speaking of a region that sleeps on great riches, but also on a sea of delicate balances, concerns, and a memory burdened with conflict and feuds. It would be premature to believe that the two sides are ready to pay the price for the grand bargain. It is still early to make a list of the fruits of the Iranian offensive, which has been shaking the region for three decades.
Iran lives to the rhythm of the hands of the Supreme Leader’s watch. The Supreme Leader is the custodian of the discourse, and is the only one able to manipulate its vocabulary. Washington, meanwhile, claims to be “neither blind nor stupid,” as Kerry said.
Oil In A Week – The Future Of Oil
Walid Khadduri*/Al Hayat
Monday 11 November 2013
Arab citizens raise constant questions about the future of oil, especially in light of important changes taking place in the energy sector. In this article, we will try to review some forecasts up until 2035, produced by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), as expressed by its Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri in a speech he delivered in Moscow for the occasion of the International Energy Week on October 28, and also according to the information sheet published by British Petroleum (BP). The conclusions below were reached through multiple studies by experts at OPEC and the mega British corporation.
Badri summed up the findings of OPEC’s projections until 2035 as follows: Global demand for energy would rise by 52 percent between 2010 and 2035, and alternatives like wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal would grow by 7 percent annually, thanks to government subsidies and incentives. But although alternatives have a crucial role in the future of the energy industry, their share in the global energy basket in general would remain small, and would not exceed 3 percent of total available energy sources by 2035. The reason is that these alternatives all have a very small base. OPEC also expects biofuel and nuclear energy to maintain a relatively moderate share of the energy markets from 2010 to 2035, forecasting them to grow by 6 to 9 percent annually.
What is clear to OPEC is that fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) will continue to play the main role in meeting the global demand for energy, albeit their share will decline from 82 percent at present to about 80 percent. Throughout this period (i.e. until 2035), oil will remain the primary source of energy, although its share will decline from 33 percent at present to 27 percent. Coal’s share will remain stable in the energy basket, at about 27 percent. The share of natural gas, meanwhile, is expected to increase from 22 to 26 percent from the total energy basket.
OPEC also predicts that demand for crude oil would rise by about 20 million barrels per day in 2035 (relative to the current level of demand of 90 million barrels per day), and for the trend in demand for oil to change dramatically, declining in the countries of the OECD (i.e. the Western industrialized nations). Indeed, the growth in demand will come mainly from developing nations, especially in Asia (China, South Korea, and India). Transport, especially ground transport, will be the main source of demand growth, a trend that started back in 1980.
This growth in demand will mean at the same time an expansion in downstream industries. This implies increasing refining capacity by nearly 20 million barrels per day by 2035. Most of these refineries will be built in East Asia and the Middle East.
Badri also noted that OPEC is convinced the petroleum industry is ready to meet growing demand for oil, thanks to the large oil reserves available to it. According to estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey, gas and oil reserves that can be extracted worldwide amount to about 3.8 trillion barrels. The OPEC secretary general also praised the discoveries in shale oil and gas in North America, and said in this regard that these reserves add a new dimension to global oil reserves, despite the important questions they raise about the timeframe for exploiting these reserves.
To emphasize OPEC member states’ commitment to supplying the markets with their oil needs in the future, Badri said that these countries are developing or plan to develop 120 fields between 2013 and 2017, with investments worth $35 to 40 billion annually.
BP’s figures covered the period until 2030. BP predicted that global demand for energy would rise by about 36 percent until that date, with half of the increase coming from China and India, 60 percent of which from power plants. High prices and technological advances led to investments in non-conventional energy sources in the United States. BP expects shale oil to represent 16 percent of total oil supplies by 2030. North America is set to dominate production of this non-conventional oil, producing 72 percent of total shale oil and gas output by 2030.
The United States will produce about 99 percent of its own energy needs by 2030, and China will consume more energy than the United States by around 2015. Russia will continue to be the world’s largest exporter of energy throughout 2030. Its exports will represent around 4.3 percent of global demand for energy. Europe, meanwhile, will continue to be the world’s top importer of gas.
Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States alone will supply the world with nearly a third of all petroleum liquids up until 2030. Demand for gas will increase more than any other energy source, with global demand for gas reaching around 456 billion cubic feet per day, mostly for electricity and industry.
So what do these forecasts mean?
First, oil will continue to be the main source of energy for the next two decades, while the rate of consumption of natural gas will increase to make gas the second most important energy source. Meanwhile, the United States will achieve a strategic goal that it sought for a long time, namely, self-sufficiency in energy. Finally, these forecasts mean that conventional oil, whose main reserves are in the Middle East, will continue to be the main pillar of global energy sources.
* Mr. Khadduri is a consultant for MEES Oil & Gas (MeesEnergy)