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Daily Archives: 06/29/2010

British and German Defence Ministers meet

Dr Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg, Minister of Defence of the Federal Republic of Germany (left), meets Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox
[Picture: Harland Quarrington, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

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June 29, 2010

The two ministers discussed a range of issues including the Afghan training mission and the need for further progress before transition to the Afghan authorities can take place.

With almost 4,500 troops deployed in Afghanistan, Germany is the third largest contributor to the ISAF mission.

Dr Fox said:

“NATO forces are making progress in Afghanistan and, as lead nation in Regional Command (North), Germany’s contribution to ISAF is extremely important in ensuring this continues.

“Dr zu Guttenberg and I had an extremely productive meeting here today; as key members of NATO and leading military nations in Europe, a strong German-UK defence relationship is important for both our countries’ security and stability in the wider world.”

Germany recently revised its rules of engagement, which has seen them engaging further in countering the insurgency in northern Afghanistan. Welcoming the progress that the German troops have made, Dr Fox said:

“Progress in Afghanistan is essential for the local population and all the coalition allies. All ISAF partners are working hard to ensure that the security conditions are in place to allow the Afghan Government to take responsibility for their own security.”

The Defence Ministers were asked about a timetable for withdrawal. Dr Fox responded:

“We are in agreement on the importance of setting aspirations. They provide the momentum to make further progress. By degrading the threats and increasing the capability of the Afghan forces, the conditions will be in place to enable us to bring our forces home without leaving behind a security vacuum.”

In addition to their combat role, the German Armed Forces are heavily involved with training the Afghan National Security Forces. They currently contribute seven Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams and two of the five Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Regional Command (North) where Germany is the lead nation.

Following the meeting Dr Fox said:

“Dr zu Guttenberg and I discussed many issues, including, of course, Afghanistan, but also NATO and Europe. We were both agreed on the importance of NATO working together to improve ways in which it delivers capability and the need to deliver major operations like Afghanistan in the future.

“I have found our meeting to be one of the most informative and productive since I have taken up the post and I look forward to working closely together in future.”

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Israel hopes Russian leader will visit this year

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (left) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov talk to the press after their meeting in Jerusalem on June 29. Lieberman said after a meeting with Moscow's top diplomat that he hoped Russia's president or prime minister would visit the Jewish state in 2010.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (left) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov talk to the press after their meeting in Jerusalem on June 29. Lieberman said after a meeting with Moscow’s top diplomat that he hoped Russia’s president or prime minister would visit the Jewish state in 2010.

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June 29, 2010

( FRANCE 24 / AFP )  – Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday after a meeting with Moscow’s top diplomat that he hoped Russia’s president or prime minister would visit the Jewish state in 2010.

“I hope that by the end of the year there will be a visit by President Dmitry Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin,” Lieberman said at a press conference with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lieberman, an immigrant from Moldova whose mother tongue is Russian, said they had discussed the two countries’ “close bilateral relations and the situation in the Middle East,” without providing further details.

Lavrov said he hoped for the renewal of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians following the launch of indirect US-brokered negotiations in May.

He also welcomed Israel’s recent decision to allow more goods into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip while calling for the complete lifting of its four-year blockade of the impoverished territory.

Meanwhile, Lavrov requested an explanation from Washington regarding the arrest of an alleged spy ring, which came at a time of rapidly warming ties between the two countries.

“They did not explain what the matter is about. I hope they will,” he said, referring to US authorities.

“The moment when it was done has been chosen with a special finesse,” he said with apparent sarcasm.

Medvedev and US leader Barack Obama met in Washington earlier this month to underscore warming ties between the two Cold War adversaries.

But on Monday US authorities said they had cracked open a massive alleged spy ring, announcing the arrest of 10 “deep-cover” suspects after unravelling a mission secretly monitored by the FBI for more than a decade.

Israel hopes Russian leader will visit this year

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (left) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov talk to the press after their meeting in Jerusalem on June 29. Lieberman said after a meeting with Moscow's top diplomat that he hoped Russia's president or prime minister would visit the Jewish state in 2010.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (left) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov talk to the press after their meeting in Jerusalem on June 29. Lieberman said after a meeting with Moscow’s top diplomat that he hoped Russia’s president or prime minister would visit the Jewish state in 2010.

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June 29, 2010

( FRANCE 24 / AFP )  – Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday after a meeting with Moscow’s top diplomat that he hoped Russia’s president or prime minister would visit the Jewish state in 2010.

“I hope that by the end of the year there will be a visit by President Dmitry Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin,” Lieberman said at a press conference with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lieberman, an immigrant from Moldova whose mother tongue is Russian, said they had discussed the two countries’ “close bilateral relations and the situation in the Middle East,” without providing further details.

Lavrov said he hoped for the renewal of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians following the launch of indirect US-brokered negotiations in May.

He also welcomed Israel’s recent decision to allow more goods into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip while calling for the complete lifting of its four-year blockade of the impoverished territory.

Meanwhile, Lavrov requested an explanation from Washington regarding the arrest of an alleged spy ring, which came at a time of rapidly warming ties between the two countries.

“They did not explain what the matter is about. I hope they will,” he said, referring to US authorities.

“The moment when it was done has been chosen with a special finesse,” he said with apparent sarcasm.

Medvedev and US leader Barack Obama met in Washington earlier this month to underscore warming ties between the two Cold War adversaries.

But on Monday US authorities said they had cracked open a massive alleged spy ring, announcing the arrest of 10 “deep-cover” suspects after unravelling a mission secretly monitored by the FBI for more than a decade.

Russia says spying charges are Cold War throwback

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks to the Cabinet at a meeting, in Moscow’s Kremlin, Tuesday, June 29, 2010. Russia angrily denounced the U.S. arrest of 10 alleged Russian spies as an unjustified throwback to the Cold War, and senior lawmakers said some in the U.S. government may be trying to undercut President Barack Obama’s warming relations with Moscow.

June 29, 2010

(Los Angeles Times / AP) Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the arrest of 10 alleged Russian spies in the United States is a throwback to the Cold War.

The ministry said in a statement that the U.S. actions are unfounded and pursued “unseemly” goals. It voiced regret that the arrests came even though President Obama has moved to “reset” U.S. relations with Russia.

The FBI has arrested 10 people who allegedly spied for Russia for up to a decade — posing as civilians while trying to infiltrate U.S. policymaking circles. An 11th defendant — a man accused of delivering money to the agents — remains at large.

Two senior lawmakers said earlier that some in the U.S. government may be trying to undermine President Barack Obama’s warming relations with Russia.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that U.S. authorities announced the arrest days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the United States.

“They haven’t explained to us what this is about,” Lavrov said at a news conference during a visit to Jerusalem. “I hope they will. The only thing I can say today is that the moment for doing that has been chosen with special elegance.”

Medvedev met with Obama at the White House last week after the Russian leader visited high-tech firms in California’s Silicon Valley. The two presidents went out for cheeseburgers, exchanged jokes and walked together in the park in a show of easy camaraderie underlining that efforts to “reset” ties have taken deep root.

The series of arrests of purported deep cover agents followed a multiyear FBI investigation.

The FBI has arrested 10 people who allegedly spied for Russia for up to a decade, posing as innocent civilians while trying to infiltrate U.S. policymaking circles and learn about U.S. weapons, diplomatic strategy and politics. An 11th defendant, a man accused of delivering money to the agents, remains at large.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Lyakin-Frolov told The Associated Press that the information given by U.S. authorities looks “contradictory.” He wouldn’t comment further. The main Russian spy agency, the Foreign Intelligence Service, known by its Russian acronym SVR, refused to comment on the arrests.

Alexander Torshin, a deputy speaker of the Russian parliament’s upper house, sought to downplay the arrests and said they are unlikely to derail efforts to improve Russian-U.S. ties.

“It’s not a return to the Cold War, and I’m sure that this incident won’t develop into a large-scale spy scandal,” Torshin said, according to the state RIA Novosti news agency.

He said agreements reached during Medvedev’s visit to the United States last week signaled that relations between Moscow and Washington have reached a new higher level.

But another senior lawmaker, a deputy chairman of the security affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, Vladimir Kolesnikov, told RIA Novosti the arrests signaled that some quarters in the U.S. government oppose warmer ties with Russia.

“Regrettably, there are people in America burdened by the legacy of the Cold War, the legacy of double standards,” he said. “And they react improperly to the warming of relations spearheaded by the presidents. It’s a blow to President Obama.”

Kolesnikov, a former deputy prosecutor general, said “U.S. secret agents are continuing to work” in Russia and suggested that Russia could respond tit-for-tat.

“Previously we have quietly evicted some of them,” he said. “Now I think we should more actively apply criminal legislation against them.”

Kolesnikov is not believed to have close ties to the Kremlin or knowledge of the government’s plans.

Nikolai Kovalyov, the former chief of the main KGB successor agency, the Federal Security Service, said that Russia would reciprocate only “if the American don’t stop at that and risk evicting our diplomats,” the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. He added that it will be unlikely.

Kovalyov, a lawmaker, said that the arrests was an attempt by some “hawkish circles” in the United States to demonstrate the need for a tougher line toward Moscow.

He ridiculed some of the U.S. charges against the alleged spies, saying that some of the charges resembled a “bad spy novel.” “Would you act like that in the 21st century?” he said in a reference to allegations that agents retrieved cash that had been buried in the ground years before.

Kovalyov added that Russian-U.S. ties will continue to improve despite the spy scandal. “Our two great powers must stand together,” he said.

Photostream : Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and First Lady Svetlana in Toronto

Photostream : G8 Summit

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana arrive at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Saturday, June 26, 2010.

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana arrive at the G20 Summit in Toronto, June 26, 2010.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during the official dinner at the G20 Summit Saturday, June 26, 2010 in Toronto.

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana, left, stand with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen at the G20 Summit in Toronto, June 26, 2010.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi shake hands meeting during the G8 summit at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010.

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (L) talks with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron during a working breakfast at the G8 Summit at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario June 25, 2010.

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (L) talks with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon during a working dinner at the G20 Summit in Toronto, June 26, 2010.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan meet during the G8 summit at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010.

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (R) speaks with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron during their meeting at G8 leaders summit at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, on June 26, 2010. Russia and Britain agreed on the eve to renew ties recently strained by suspicions of murder and spying, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and British Prime Minister David Cameron said. Meeting on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Canada, the leaders agreed to relaunch relations between Moscow and Britain and seek closer cooperation.

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy chat during a coffee break during the G8 summit at the Deerhurst Resort is Huntsville, Ontario, on June 26, 2010. The leaders of the Group of Eight richest nations began summit talks on June 25, 2010, in an exclusive Canadian lakeside resort, with the fragile economic recovery due to top the agenda.

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Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) welcomes Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario, June 25, 2010.

Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga in hospital

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June 29, 2010

(BBC)  Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga has been admitted to hospital for exhaustion, his spokesman says.

Mr Odinga, 65, went to hospital on Monday after a political rally and doctors have confined him to bed.

The BBC’s Peter Greste in Nairobi says Mr Odinga has been one of Kenya’s most energetic politicians.

In recent months, he has been campaigning particularly hard to win support for a new constitution, with no questions about his physical fitness.

So our correspondent says Tuesday’s statement from his press spokesman has come as something of a surprise.

Rather confusingly, the statement quotes doctors as saying he is fit enough to work as usual if he feels. But it then goes on to say they are not allowing that.

Until now, most of the questions about the health of Kenya’s political leaders have been directed at President Mwai Kibaki.

He disappeared from public view shortly after he was first elected in 2002, and rumours persisted that he had suffered a stroke.

His staff however, consistently denied he had suffered anything beyond minor health issues.

Mr Odinga has been prime minister since 2008 under a deal brokered to end months of violence after his supporters claimed he had been cheated of victory by allies of President Kibaki.

Their coalition government remains shaky but both men are campaigning in favour of the new constitution ahead of a referendum due in August.

Aquino Names Philippine Cabinet

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June 29, 2010

MANILA (WSJ) — Philippine President-elect Benigno Aquino III Tuesday introduced members of his cabinet, a mix of old and new hands led by Cesar Purisima, who will serve anew as finance secretary and whose key task is to put the Philippines’ fiscal house in order.

Mr. Aquino said Mr. Purisima’s main role will be to improve the government’s finances “without resorting to new taxes.”

Mr. Aquino named Kim Henares as commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the government’s main tax collection agency, where she previously served as undersecretary. He said the Bureau of Customs’ appointment is still under review.

Mr. Purisima briefly served as finance chief under outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and was one of the architects of her fiscal consolidation plan, the main push of which was to raise the value-added tax and broaden the range of items it covers. He also initiated programs to go after tax evaders and smugglers.

The rest of Mr. Aquino’s appointees are Paquito Ochoa Jr., executive secretary; Florencio Abad, secretary of budget and management; Corazon Soliman, secretary of social welfare and development; Armin Luistro, secretary of education; Leila de Lima, secretary of justice; Alberto Romulo, secretary of foreign affairs; Voltaire Gazmin, secretary of national defense; Proceso Alcala, secretary of agriculture; Rosalinda Baldos, secretary of labor; Enrique Ona, secretary of health; Alberto Lim, secretary of tourism; Gregory Domingo, secretary of trade and industry; Mario Montejo, secretary of science and technology; Jose Rene Almendras, secretary of energy; Virgilio delos Reyes, secretary of agrarian reform; Cayetano Paderanga, economic planning secretary; Rogelio Singson, secretary of public works and highways; Kim Henares, commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; Eduardo de Mesa, presidential legal adviser; and Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesman.

Mr. Aquino said he will initially serve as secretary for interior and local governments until the three nominees are reviewed.

Republicans bring up Kagan’s record on military

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AP

June 29, 2010

WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans and Solicitor General Elena Kagan are facing off over whether her objection to the military’s ban on openly gay soldiers and her decision to restrict recruiters at Harvard Law School disqualify her from serving on the Supreme Court.

Just minutes into Kagan’s confirmation hearing Monday, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions charged she had “kicked the military out of the recruiting office” at Harvard, “in violation of federal law.”

“Her actions punished the military and demeaned our soldiers as they were courageously fighting two wars overseas,” Sessions said. “I can’t take this issue lightly.”

The recruitment matter is one of the few points on her resume that Republicans have been able to use against her. Her policies and writings on the issue call up broader themes of patriotism and equal rights, both emotional topics at a time when the nation is at war and both parties are gearing up for the midterm elections. In some measure, the November balloting will be a referendum on her patron, President Barack Obama.

At the very heart of Kagan’s decision at Harvard is an even more sensitive topic — her opposition to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on openly gay soldiers.

Republicans contend that Harvard was the wrong venue for Kagan’s “personal political grievance” and that briefly restricting the recruiters on campus broke the law. They conclude with questions about whether Kagan is anti-military and unfit to make impartial decisions on the high court.

Republicans have a tough case to make.

Judging by her own words, Kagan held the military in high regard and stories abound of her praising and thanking veterans on campus. She did call the policy toward gays “repugnant,” but when court rulings went back and forth on the matter, she complied.

In a widely circulated 2003 memo, Kagan blasted “don’t ask, don’t tell” as “a moral injustice of the first order.” She was explaining to students and faculty that under a federal law known as the Solomon Amendment, the university risked jeopardizing hundreds of millions of federal dollars unless the school allowed military recruiters on campus.

The following year, a federal appeals court struck down the Solomon Amendment as unconstitutional and Kagan re-imposed a restriction on recruiters.

But she wasn’t the first at Harvard to take a stand against a military policy. The Solomon Amendment was passed by Congress two decades after Harvard first banned military recruiters over the issue of discrimination against gays. Afterward, military recruiters were still allowed to recruit students on campus through the Harvard Law School Veterans Association, a student group.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Republicans in Congress said military recruiters should not be hampered in wartime. The Bush administration threatened to cut off funding, and in 2002 Harvard Law School relented and allowed military recruiters to use a campus office.

Kagan continued that policy when she became dean in 2003. Meanwhile, three dozen law schools challenged the Solomon Amendment in federal court. Harvard declined to join the lawsuit but filed a brief siding with the schools.

In 2004, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the Solomon Amendment unconstitutional, and Kagan banned military recruiters from using the campus career office, allowing them to work instead through the veterans group.

When Republicans in Congress renewed the threat of a funding cutoff, she relented and allowed the recruiters to use the career placement office. In 2006, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the lower court’s ruling and found it constitutional to deny funding to schools that restrict military recruiting.

Republicans note that the 3rd Circuit, seated in Philadelphia, had no jurisdiction over Harvard’s policies and contend Kagan was bound by the Solomon Amendment throughout her time at Harvard.

“Her tenure … was marred, in my view, by her decision to punish the military and would-be recruits for a policy — ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and the Solomon Amendment — that was enacted by members of Congress and signed into law by President Clinton,” said Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Sessions noted that Kagan apparently never brought up her problems with “don’t ask, don’t tell” while she worked in the Clinton administration.

“Instead, she went to Harvard and stood in the way of devoted, hardworking military recruiters, punishing them to air her personal political grievance in which they had no part,” Sessions’ office said in a statement.

Britain Coalition Cabinet’s first meeting

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(File) : LONDON – JUNE 21: (left to right) Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg attend a meeting at 10 Downing Street ahead of the coalition government’s first budget tomorrow, on June 21, 2010 in Westminster, London.

June 29, 2010

(TELEGRAPH & ARGUS) The Cabinet is in Bradford today for the first meeting of the new coalition outside of London.

Prime Minister David Cameron and his cabinet will later tour the region which was chosen because of its industrial heartlands.

Local Government Minister Eric Pickles, a former Bradford Council leader, said too much wealth and prosperity has been focused on the south and other parts of the country have been neglected and left behind.

For every private sector job created in the North and Midlands, ten were created in the South, he said.

Speaking to the Telegraph & Argus, Mr Pickles said: “Today I am attending the Coalition Cabinet’s first meeting outside London to discuss how we can reopen Britain for business. “As a home town lad and former councillor in Bradford I know its local jobs that matter most. Every corner of Britain is just as important as London and the South East.”

The cabinet will discuss ways of using local knowledge to develop local enterprise, support local business and promote prosperity.

Mr Pickles said: “That’s a far more effective and sustainable way of promoting national economic growth than by Government prescription.”

He added: “This focus on private enterprise will particularly help places that have been dependent on the public sector for too long. Bradford needs that new approach now. The numbers claiming job seekers allowance in the area has gone up by almost two per cent since 2008 and it employs a higher percentage of public sector workers than Yorkshire or England.

“That is why things like super-fast broadband for Low Moor are so important for Bradford jobs and Bradford’s economy.”

Abolishing Yorkshire Forward will also spell an end to quangos ‘second-guessing’ the needs of local businesses, instead allowing a new partnership of leaders and business to work together to create a more flexible economic development that works for Bradford, Mr Pickles said.

The Cabinet will also unveil a regional growth fund to finance projects as part of a move intended to rebalance the economy and support regions like Bradford.

PM Netanyahu : My heart is with Shalit, family.

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PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting

June 27, 2010

“Friday marked the fourth anniversary of the abduction of Gilad Shalit.  The Government and the security services are continuing to make constant and varied – open and secret – efforts to bring Gilad Shalit back home safe and sound.

This morning, I phoned Gilad’s father Noam.  I invited him to meet with me, along with the rest of his family, immediately after the march reaches Jerusalem.  I told him, “I know Noam that you are on a long journey, which will end in Jerusalem.  I want to see you. I would be glad to meet with you.”  This will not be the first meeting.  Of course, I have spoken with him many times.  Recently, I also spoke with Gilad’s very impressive grandfather, Tzvi Shalit.

Our heart is with Gilad and with his family.  Four years after his abduction, I call on the international community to line up alongside the State of Israel and our unequivocal and just demand that our abducted soldier be returned immediately.”

PM Netanyahu : My heart is with Shalit, family.

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PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting

June 27, 2010

“Friday marked the fourth anniversary of the abduction of Gilad Shalit.  The Government and the security services are continuing to make constant and varied – open and secret – efforts to bring Gilad Shalit back home safe and sound.

This morning, I phoned Gilad’s father Noam.  I invited him to meet with me, along with the rest of his family, immediately after the march reaches Jerusalem.  I told him, “I know Noam that you are on a long journey, which will end in Jerusalem.  I want to see you. I would be glad to meet with you.”  This will not be the first meeting.  Of course, I have spoken with him many times.  Recently, I also spoke with Gilad’s very impressive grandfather, Tzvi Shalit.

Our heart is with Gilad and with his family.  Four years after his abduction, I call on the international community to line up alongside the State of Israel and our unequivocal and just demand that our abducted soldier be returned immediately.”

Photostream : Britain’s PM Cameron meets India’s Trade Minister Anand Sharma

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (R) speaks to India’s Trade Minister Anand Sharma during their meeting at number 10 Downing Street in London June 28, 2010.  (Photo : Getty)

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (R) speaks to India’s Trade Minister Anand Sharma during their meeting at number 10 Downing Street in London June 28, 2010. (Photo : Getty)

Reports: Kim’s youngest son is NKorea legislator

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An undated picture is believed to show North Korean leader’s son Kim Jong-Un in Berne.

AP

June 29, 2010

SEOUL, South Korea – The youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il clandestinely became a parliament member last year, another sign he is being groomed to succeed his father, South Korean news reports said Tuesday.

South Korea’s main spy agency, however, quickly cast doubt on the reports.

It is widely believed that the 68-year-old Kim plans to hand power at some point to third son Kim Jong Un, though little is known about him. Speculation about the North’s succession plans has intensified since the senior Kim reportedly had a stroke in 2008.

He has led North Korea since 1994 upon his father’s death in a hereditary succession that was in the works for years and was the first in the communist world.

Kim Jong Un reportedly ran for a parliamentary seat in elections in March last year that were closely watched for any signs of a power shift in the secretive North. His name, however, was not on the list of Supreme People’s Assembly legislators, sparking speculation he may not have run or used an alias.

On Tuesday, the mass-circulation Dong-a Ilbo newspaper quoted a high-level Western source knowledgeable about the North as saying that Kim Jong Un was elected in the rubber-stamp legislature’s Constituency No. 216. The source, who was not otherwise identified, said he obtained the information from unidentified North Koreans about two months after the vote, according to the newspaper.

Another national daily — the JoongAng Ilbo — carried a similar report, saying the comments would confirm that Kim has formally entered government service after being tapped as the North’s next leader.

A spokesman at South Korea’s main spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said his organization believes there is a low probability the younger Kim became a member of parliament. The spokesman declined to elaborate on the agency’s opinion. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing agency policy.

JoongAng Ilbo also said the constituency No. 216 has a special meaning in North Korea as Kim Jong Il’s birthday falls on Feb. 16. It said the Western source spoke during a meeting Monday with journalists in Seoul.

The source said the North appeared to have deliberately hid the son’s election, according to Dong-a Ilbo.

The list of North Korea’s 687 parliamentary members that state media released after the elections included the name of Kim Jong but it was not officially confirmed whether the person is the son using an alias, the paper said.

Not much information is available about Kim Jong Un, including his exact age, though experts say he is in his mid-20s and is reported to have studied in Switzerland. Kim Jong Il’s former sushi chef said in a 2003 memoir the son looks and acts just like his father and is the leader’s favorite.

Other newspapers as well as Yonhap news agency and YTN television carried similar reports. They highlight the intense interest in South Korea in the succession.

North Korean leaders hold absolute power in the impoverished country, which has active nuclear and missile programs and regularly threatens to destroy rival South Korea.

National Intelligence Service chief Won Sei-hoon told legislators last week that North Korea has launched a propaganda campaign aimed at making its 24 million people adore Kim Jong Un, such as releasing songs and poems praising him, according to lawmakers who attended the meeting.

On Saturday, North Korea said it will hold a rare Workers’ Party conference in September to choose new top leaders, a move experts say may be aimed at giving Kim Jong Un a top party job.

Tension has been high on the Korean peninsula over the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March that the South blames on Pyongyang. Seoul has asked the U.N. Security Council to punish Pyongyang, which flatly denies it launched any attack and warns any punishment would trigger war.

General McChrystal to retire after Afghanistan firing

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June 29, 2010

General Stanley McChrystal is retiring from the US Army after his removal last week as the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported on its website early on Tuesday.

The newspaper cited Army spokesman Colonel Thomas Collins as saying that McChrystal has not yet filed paperwork but had informed personnel officials of his decision after 34 years in uniform.

US President Barack Obama relieved McChrystal of command in Afghanistan over a magazine article that portrayed the general, considered an expert in counterinsurgency operations, as dismissive of senior US officials’ concerns about the ongoing war effort.

McChrystal’s resignation was accepted on Wednesday, after he met at the White House with Obama.

Photostream : Secretary Clinton and her smile …

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In this Thursday, June 24, 2010, photo Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, shakes hands with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.  (Photo : Getty)

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second from right, hosts a working lunch for her counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second from left, and members of the visiting Russian delegation, Thursday, June 24, 2010. at Blair House in Washington.  (Photo : Getty)

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi walk to their podiums at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, June 24, 2010.  (Photo : Getty)

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shares a laugh with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, June 24, 2010.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrive before their meeting at the State Department in Washington June 23, 2010.  (Photo : Getty)

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak face reporters before their meeting at the State Department in Washington June 23, 2010.  (Photo : Getty)

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak before their meeting at the State Department in Washington June 23, 2010. (Photo : Getty)

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak shake hands at a photo opportunity June 23, 201 at the State Department in Washington, DC.  (Photo : Getty)

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WASHINGTON – JUNE 23: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks into the White House on June 23, 2010 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he is replacing Gen. Stanley McChrystal as top commander of the U.S. Force in Afghanistan with Gen. David Petraeus, after an article quoting Gen. McChrystal disparaging the Obama Administration was published in Rolling Stone magazine.  (Photo : Getty)

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton greets Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee before delivering remarks at a luncheon for the U.S.-India CEO Forum, Tuesday, June 22, 2010. at the State Department in Washington.

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee arrive to deliver opening remarks at a luncheon for the U.S.-India CEO Forum, Tuesday, June 22, 2010. at the State Department in Washington. (Photo : Getty)

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers opening remarks at an event celebrating LGBT Pride Month, Tuesday, June 22, 2010, at the State Department in Washington.

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Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan (2nd R) tries to shake hands with US Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner (L) around Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd L) prior to a family photo with US and Chinese officials at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, May 24, 2010, during the start of the second round of the US-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue. The US and China opened two days of high-level talks due to cover a wide range of issues including tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship, blamed on Pyongyang. (Photo : Getty)

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) walks with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) (C) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (R) as she arrives to testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 17, 2010.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) and Chelsea Clinton look on at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) September 25, 2009 in New York City. (Photo : Getty)

Israeli Flotilla Inquiry to Question PM Netanyahu

PM Benjamin Netanyahu

June 28. 2010

(VOA) The Israeli commission investigating last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla plans to summon Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to testify.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, who is leading the inquiry commission, said Monday Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi will also be called to appear before the panel.

The group is investigating the events leading up to the deaths of eight Turks and one Turkish-American on a ship trying to break the three-year-old Gaza blockade.

The investigation commission, which began work Monday, includes two other Israelis — an international law expert and a former general.

Under international pressure, the Israeli government also included two foreign observers on the panel — David Trimble, a Nobel peace laureate and Northern Ireland politician, and Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, General Ken Watkin.

Trimble said all the panel members are determined to make the inquiry rigorous and hope it will contribute to peace.

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Gen. Ken Watkin, center, Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, and David Trimble, right, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland arrive for the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin, left, Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, and David Trimble, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland and a member of the British House of Lords, attend the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel (L) and Major General in reserves Amos Horev attend the opening statement of a commission of inquiry into a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, in Jerusalem June 28, 2010. Israel’s prime minister and defence chief will be called to testify in an investigation into the raid, Turkel, the leader of the Israeli commission, said in an opening statement on Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel (2nd R), leader of an Israeli commission of inquiry into a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, observers Canadian jurist Ken Watkin (L) and Northern Ireland politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble (2nd L), International Law professor Shabtai Rosen (C) and Major General in reserve Amos Horev (R) attend the commission’s opening statement in Jerusalem June 28, 2010. Israel’s prime minister and defence chief will be called to testify in an investigation into the raid, the leader of the commission of inquiry said in the opening statement on Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Northern Ireland politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble, an observer on an Israeli commission of inquiry into a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, listens during the commission’s opening statement in Jerusalem June 28, 2010. Israel’s prime minister and defence chief will be called to testify in an investigation into the raid, the leader of the commission of inquiry said in the opening statement on Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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David Trimble, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, listens during the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon the country’s prime minister to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin, left, Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, and David Trimble, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, take part at the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon the country’s prime minister to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo ; Getty)

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From left to right: Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin, Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, David Trimble, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland and a member of the British House of Lords, and Shabtai Rosen, 93-year-old international jurist, arrive for the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo : Getty)

Israeli Flotilla Inquiry to Question PM Netanyahu

PM Benjamin Netanyahu

June 28. 2010

(VOA) The Israeli commission investigating last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla plans to summon Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to testify.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, who is leading the inquiry commission, said Monday Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi will also be called to appear before the panel.

The group is investigating the events leading up to the deaths of eight Turks and one Turkish-American on a ship trying to break the three-year-old Gaza blockade.

The investigation commission, which began work Monday, includes two other Israelis — an international law expert and a former general.

Under international pressure, the Israeli government also included two foreign observers on the panel — David Trimble, a Nobel peace laureate and Northern Ireland politician, and Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, General Ken Watkin.

Trimble said all the panel members are determined to make the inquiry rigorous and hope it will contribute to peace.

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Gen. Ken Watkin, center, Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, and David Trimble, right, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland arrive for the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin, left, Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, and David Trimble, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland and a member of the British House of Lords, attend the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel (L) and Major General in reserves Amos Horev attend the opening statement of a commission of inquiry into a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, in Jerusalem June 28, 2010. Israel’s prime minister and defence chief will be called to testify in an investigation into the raid, Turkel, the leader of the Israeli commission, said in an opening statement on Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel (2nd R), leader of an Israeli commission of inquiry into a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, observers Canadian jurist Ken Watkin (L) and Northern Ireland politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble (2nd L), International Law professor Shabtai Rosen (C) and Major General in reserve Amos Horev (R) attend the commission’s opening statement in Jerusalem June 28, 2010. Israel’s prime minister and defence chief will be called to testify in an investigation into the raid, the leader of the commission of inquiry said in the opening statement on Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Northern Ireland politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble, an observer on an Israeli commission of inquiry into a deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, listens during the commission’s opening statement in Jerusalem June 28, 2010. Israel’s prime minister and defence chief will be called to testify in an investigation into the raid, the leader of the commission of inquiry said in the opening statement on Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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David Trimble, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, listens during the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon the country’s prime minister to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo : Getty)

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Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin, left, Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, and David Trimble, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, take part at the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon the country’s prime minister to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo ; Getty)

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From left to right: Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin, Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, David Trimble, Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland and a member of the British House of Lords, and Shabtai Rosen, 93-year-old international jurist, arrive for the opening session of the Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 28, 2010. The Israeli commission of inquiry into last month’s deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla will summon Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to testify, the chief investigator announced as the five-member panel began work Monday. (Photo : Getty)