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Daily Archives: 06/30/2010

PM Netanyahu Urges Russia to Pressure Hamas for Gilad Shalit Release

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – JUNE 27: In this handout image provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyau (R) meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov June 27, 2010 in Jerusalem, Israel.


Photostream : Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit Still Alive: http://wp.me/pL1vT-1sO

PM Netanyahu : My heart is with Shalit, family. : http://wp.me/pL1vT-1t2

Medvedev to Mashaal: Free Gilad Schalit

Junw 29, 2010

(San Francisco Sentinel.Com)   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday asked Russia to exert influence on Hamas to bring about the immediate release of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

In talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Netanyahu asked Moscow to take advantage of its relations with the Islamist group to push for a prisoner swap deal that would free Shalit after four years in captivity.

The family of the abducted soldier, seized by Palestinian militants in a 2006 cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip, arrived in the Haifa area on Tuesday with some 3,000 supporters on the third day of a protest march to the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

Marchers aim to reach Jerusalem on Friday after setting out on Sunday from the Shalit family home in the Galilee town of Mitzpeh Hila.

Shalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, said last week that they would remain in a protest tent outside Netanyahu’s residence until their son was released and could go home with them.

Also on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said following his meeting with Lavrov that there was “absolutely no chance of reaching a Palestinian state before the year 2012″.

Lieberman reportedly told Lavrov, who arrived in Israel on an official visit, that Israel opposed Russia’s recent advances toward Hamas. Lavrov responded that it was impossible to ignore the Islamist organization’s popularity amongst Palestinians, particularly in Gaza.

The reported closed-door disagreement quickly became a public one, as the Russian minister openly defended his country’s Middle East policy.

“Russia is doing the right thing by contacting Hamas,” adding that “doing nothing would help no one,” Lavrov said in a joint press conference with Lieberman. “In all our talks with Hamas we have tried to convince them to switch to the political track, and support the Arab peace initiative.”

Lieberman, in turn, dismissed the disagreement, saying that the fact that the two nations were conducting dialogue in the matter was no secret.

PM Netanyahu Urges Russia to Pressure Hamas for Gilad Shalit Release

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – JUNE 27: In this handout image provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyau (R) meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov June 27, 2010 in Jerusalem, Israel.


Photostream : Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit Still Alive: http://wp.me/pL1vT-1sO

PM Netanyahu : My heart is with Shalit, family. : http://wp.me/pL1vT-1t2

Medvedev to Mashaal: Free Gilad Schalit

Junw 29, 2010

(San Francisco Sentinel.Com)   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday asked Russia to exert influence on Hamas to bring about the immediate release of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

In talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Netanyahu asked Moscow to take advantage of its relations with the Islamist group to push for a prisoner swap deal that would free Shalit after four years in captivity.

The family of the abducted soldier, seized by Palestinian militants in a 2006 cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip, arrived in the Haifa area on Tuesday with some 3,000 supporters on the third day of a protest march to the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

Marchers aim to reach Jerusalem on Friday after setting out on Sunday from the Shalit family home in the Galilee town of Mitzpeh Hila.

Shalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, said last week that they would remain in a protest tent outside Netanyahu’s residence until their son was released and could go home with them.

Also on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said following his meeting with Lavrov that there was “absolutely no chance of reaching a Palestinian state before the year 2012″.

Lieberman reportedly told Lavrov, who arrived in Israel on an official visit, that Israel opposed Russia’s recent advances toward Hamas. Lavrov responded that it was impossible to ignore the Islamist organization’s popularity amongst Palestinians, particularly in Gaza.

The reported closed-door disagreement quickly became a public one, as the Russian minister openly defended his country’s Middle East policy.

“Russia is doing the right thing by contacting Hamas,” adding that “doing nothing would help no one,” Lavrov said in a joint press conference with Lieberman. “In all our talks with Hamas we have tried to convince them to switch to the political track, and support the Arab peace initiative.”

Lieberman, in turn, dismissed the disagreement, saying that the fact that the two nations were conducting dialogue in the matter was no secret.

PM Netanyahu to Lavrov: Pressure Hamas

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – JUNE 27: In this handout image provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyau (R) meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov June 27, 2010 in Jerusalem, Israel.

Photostream : Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit Still Alive: http://wp.me/pL1vT-1sO

PM Netanyahu : My heart is with Shalit, family. : http://wp.me/pL1vT-1t2

Medvedev to Mashaal: Free Gilad Schalit

June 29, 2010

(JERUSALEM POST)  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Tuesday afternoon, and asked him to “put heavy pressure on Hamas.”

Netanyahu asked Lavrov to use Russia’s ties with the terror organization to help free captive soldier Gilad Schalit.

Lavrov had met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman earlier Tuesday, who criticized the Russian FM for his country’s continued ties to Hamas.

Lavrov plans to continue to Ramallah and Cairo on his trip to the Middle East.

The latest appeal from Netanyahu comes on the third day of the continuing “Freedom March” in solidarity with Schalit. The soldier’s mother, Aviva Schalit, said that the Israeli government had failed a number of times in negotiating her son’s release.

PM Netanyahu to Lavrov: Pressure Hamas

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – JUNE 27: In this handout image provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyau (R) meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov June 27, 2010 in Jerusalem, Israel.

Photostream : Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit Still Alive: http://wp.me/pL1vT-1sO

PM Netanyahu : My heart is with Shalit, family. : http://wp.me/pL1vT-1t2

Medvedev to Mashaal: Free Gilad Schalit

June 29, 2010

(JERUSALEM POST)  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Tuesday afternoon, and asked him to “put heavy pressure on Hamas.”

Netanyahu asked Lavrov to use Russia’s ties with the terror organization to help free captive soldier Gilad Schalit.

Lavrov had met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman earlier Tuesday, who criticized the Russian FM for his country’s continued ties to Hamas.

Lavrov plans to continue to Ramallah and Cairo on his trip to the Middle East.

The latest appeal from Netanyahu comes on the third day of the continuing “Freedom March” in solidarity with Schalit. The soldier’s mother, Aviva Schalit, said that the Israeli government had failed a number of times in negotiating her son’s release.

Photostream : Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit Still Alive

https://i0.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0c3ld2j5DYbMJ/610x.jpg

Noam and Aviva, the parents of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit wearing white T-shirts with the slogan: ‘Gilad is still alive,’ leave their home on June 27, 2010 in Mitzpe Hila as they set off with other family members and thousands of supporters on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006. (Photo : Getty)

https://i2.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0fMweoV8TFbA9/610x.jpg

Motorcyclists join the family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and thousands of supporters as they set off on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila nearIsrael’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.

https://i2.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0aLygvd9TA4ml/610x.jpg

The family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, sets off with thousands of supporters on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.

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Noam and Aviva Schalit , parents of captured Israeli soldier Gilad, march near their home in Mitzpe Hila, northern Israel, Sunday, June 27, 2010. The family of a captured Israeli soldier is setting out on a 12-day march from Schalit’s home to Jerusalem to press Israeli leaders to make a deal with his Hamas captors to free him. Sgt. Gilad Schalit was taken captive four years ago during a cross-border raid by militants from the Gaza Strip. (Photo : Getty)

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Noam (2nd L), the father of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, sets off on June 27, 2010 with other family members, wearing white T-shirts with the slogan: ‘Gilad is still alive,’ on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006. (Photo : Getty)

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Noam (R) and Aviva (C), the parents of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, set off on June 27, 2010 with other family members and thousands of supporters, many wearing white T-shirts with the slogan: ‘Gilad is still alive,’ on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006. (Photo : Getty)

https://i2.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0d9dbdk69v3jh/610x.jpg

The family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, sets off with thousands of supporters on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.

https://i1.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0eag9G739N5lH/x610.jpg

Supporters of the family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit join them on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006. (Photo : Getty)

https://i0.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0bOmbeI7W4b3X/610x.jpg

Young Israelis join the family of captive soldier Gilad Shalit on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.  (Photo : Getty)

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The family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (portraits), sets off with thousands of supporters on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.  (Photo : Getty)

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Israelis hold a banner with an illustration of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit at Beit Kama junction near Kibbutz Beit Kama June 26, 2010. Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants four years ago in a cross-border raid.  (Photo : Getty)

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Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is seen in a video broadcast by an Israeli news channel on October 2, 2009. Israel freed 19 Palestinian women prisoners in a swap for two minutes and 40 seconds of footage showing soldier Gilad Shalit looking healthy after more than three years in captivity at the hands of Gaza militants.

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Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit holds up a Gaza newspaper dated September 14, 2009, in a video broadcast by an Israeli news channel on October 2, 2009. Israel freed 19 Palestinian women prisoners in a swap for two minutes and 40 seconds of footage showing soldier Gilad Shalit looking healthy after more than three years in captivity at the hands of Gaza militants.

https://i2.wp.com/bengal-babies.com/images/ROSTAR5.gif

GILAD’S VOICE :

http://www.habanim.org/shalit.mp3

‘I am the soldier Gilad, son of Noam Shalit, who was captured by Izz el-Din al-Qassam. Mom and Dad, sister and brother, my friends in the IDF. I send you my love and I miss you all. It has been a whole year in prison, and still my health is deteriorating.

I am in need of prolonged hospitalization.

I am sorry for the Israeli government’s and IDF’s lack of interest in me and their rejection of the demands of Izz el-Din al-Qassam [the Hamas armed wing]. It is clear that they must accept their demands if they want me to be released from prison, especially since I was part of a military operation under military instruction and not a drug dealer.

And just as I have parents, a mother and a father, the Palestinian prisoners also have mothers and fathers – and their children must be returned to them. I have great confidence in my government that they will focus more on my issue and accept the demands of my captors.  Corporal Gilad Shalit.’

https://i2.wp.com/bengal-babies.com/images/ROSTAR5.gif

Photostream : Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit Still Alive

https://i0.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0c3ld2j5DYbMJ/610x.jpg

Noam and Aviva, the parents of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit wearing white T-shirts with the slogan: ‘Gilad is still alive,’ leave their home on June 27, 2010 in Mitzpe Hila as they set off with other family members and thousands of supporters on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006. (Photo : Getty)

https://i2.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0fMweoV8TFbA9/610x.jpg

Motorcyclists join the family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and thousands of supporters as they set off on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila nearIsrael’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.

https://i2.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0aLygvd9TA4ml/610x.jpg

The family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, sets off with thousands of supporters on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.

https://i2.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/07Ebb9i66Q7hL/x610.jpg

Noam and Aviva Schalit , parents of captured Israeli soldier Gilad, march near their home in Mitzpe Hila, northern Israel, Sunday, June 27, 2010. The family of a captured Israeli soldier is setting out on a 12-day march from Schalit’s home to Jerusalem to press Israeli leaders to make a deal with his Hamas captors to free him. Sgt. Gilad Schalit was taken captive four years ago during a cross-border raid by militants from the Gaza Strip. (Photo : Getty)

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Noam (2nd L), the father of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, sets off on June 27, 2010 with other family members, wearing white T-shirts with the slogan: ‘Gilad is still alive,’ on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006. (Photo : Getty)

https://i0.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/091q2Te86BgPJ/610x.jpg

Noam (R) and Aviva (C), the parents of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, set off on June 27, 2010 with other family members and thousands of supporters, many wearing white T-shirts with the slogan: ‘Gilad is still alive,’ on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006. (Photo : Getty)

https://i2.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0d9dbdk69v3jh/610x.jpg

The family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, sets off with thousands of supporters on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.

https://i1.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0eag9G739N5lH/x610.jpg

Supporters of the family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit join them on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006. (Photo : Getty)

https://i0.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0bOmbeI7W4b3X/610x.jpg

Young Israelis join the family of captive soldier Gilad Shalit on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.  (Photo : Getty)

https://i0.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0gNd4M13PS6WQ/610x.jpg

The family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (portraits), sets off with thousands of supporters on June 27, 2010 on a 200-kilometre (120-mile) trek, which is expected to take around 12 days, in a solemn protest march from their hometown Mitzpe Hila near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mark four years since their son was captured by Palestinian militants in Gaza in June 2006.  (Photo : Getty)

https://i2.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/05Sz4ZP9mBatN/610x.jpg

Israelis hold a banner with an illustration of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit at Beit Kama junction near Kibbutz Beit Kama June 26, 2010. Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants four years ago in a cross-border raid.  (Photo : Getty)

https://i2.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/07UV6BncCN1j0/610x.jpg

Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is seen in a video broadcast by an Israeli news channel on October 2, 2009. Israel freed 19 Palestinian women prisoners in a swap for two minutes and 40 seconds of footage showing soldier Gilad Shalit looking healthy after more than three years in captivity at the hands of Gaza militants.

https://i0.wp.com/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/09x5aFIcPF3CB/610x.jpg

Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit holds up a Gaza newspaper dated September 14, 2009, in a video broadcast by an Israeli news channel on October 2, 2009. Israel freed 19 Palestinian women prisoners in a swap for two minutes and 40 seconds of footage showing soldier Gilad Shalit looking healthy after more than three years in captivity at the hands of Gaza militants.

https://i2.wp.com/bengal-babies.com/images/ROSTAR5.gif

GILAD’S VOICE :

http://www.habanim.org/shalit.mp3

‘I am the soldier Gilad, son of Noam Shalit, who was captured by Izz el-Din al-Qassam. Mom and Dad, sister and brother, my friends in the IDF. I send you my love and I miss you all. It has been a whole year in prison, and still my health is deteriorating.

I am in need of prolonged hospitalization.

I am sorry for the Israeli government’s and IDF’s lack of interest in me and their rejection of the demands of Izz el-Din al-Qassam [the Hamas armed wing]. It is clear that they must accept their demands if they want me to be released from prison, especially since I was part of a military operation under military instruction and not a drug dealer.

And just as I have parents, a mother and a father, the Palestinian prisoners also have mothers and fathers – and their children must be returned to them. I have great confidence in my government that they will focus more on my issue and accept the demands of my captors.  Corporal Gilad Shalit.’

https://i2.wp.com/bengal-babies.com/images/ROSTAR5.gif

Obama, Saudi king discuss Israel, Palestinians

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June 29, 2010

(MSNBC / REUTERS)  WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah on Tuesday stressed the importance of a two-state solution to Middle East peace that secured a Palestinian homeland alongside a strong Israel.

Arab leaders are disappointed that Obama has not made more progress in pressuring Israel to give ground in U.S.-mediated peace talks. Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on July 6.

Obama said his lunch with King Abdullah ranged over various strategic issues, including Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as “the importance of moving forward in a significant and bold way in securing a Palestinian homeland that can live side by side with a secure and prosperous Israeli state.”

Netanyahu began indirect talks with the Palestinians in May but has imposed strict conditions for accepting their demand for statehood.

In addition, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier on Tuesday that problems with the talks, and divisions among the Palestinians, meant no Palestinian state would be founded by 2012. This was an apparent reference to a call by the Quarter — the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia — for an accord by that time.

Obama and King Abdullah “expressed their hope that proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians will lead to the resumption of direct talks with the aim of two states living side-by-side in peace,” the White House said.

King Abdullah only spoke briefly after their meeting, thanking Obama for his hospitality and praising the friendship between their two countries.

“We appreciate all that you personally have done to further broaden and deepen and strengthen this relationship,” he said, speaking through in interpreter in the Oval Office.

Analysts say the Saudis want Obama to lean on Netanyahu over stalled peace talks with the Palestinians and on freezing Jewish settlements on occupied Arab land.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the King had assured Obama of his continued support for the Arab Middle East peace initiative.

This is the 2002 plan originated by King Abdullah offering Israel recognition in exchange for returning occupied territories and allowing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Last year Obama revived a long-standing U.S. request for Saudi Arabia to make gestures toward normalizing relations with Israel as an incentive to the Jewish state to take up serious negotiations over establishing a Palestinian state.

Photostream : Saudi king visits White House

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U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington June 29, 2010. (Photo : Getty)

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WASHINGTON – JUNE 29: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud speak to the media after their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House June 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. Obama and Abdullah spoke about the peace process in the Middle East.

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WASHINGTON – JUNE 29: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud laugh as they speak to the media after their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House June 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. Obama and Abdullah spoke about the peace process in the Middle East.

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WASHINGTON – JUNE 29: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud shake hands after their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House June 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. Obama and Abdullah spoke about the peace process in the Middle East. Photo : Getty)

Gen. Petraeus : Progress in Afghanistan, but Tough Times Ahead

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June 29, 2010

(VOA)  The U.S. Army General who President Barack Obama wants to send to lead American and coalition forces in Afghanistan told members of the Senate on Tuesday that there are already signs of success from the new strategy and troop surge the president announced in December.  General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the effort to establish security and develop Afghanistan’s government and security forces will continue to be difficult, but he said he believes it can succeed.

General Petraeus appeared irritated with some senators and other observers who see slower-than-expected progress in southern Afghanistan, and rising allied and Afghan military casualties, as indications the new strategy is failing.  He noted that the president only announced the new approach in December and that all of the additional U.S. and allied forces have not yet arrived.

“My sense is that the tough fighting will continue,” said Petraeus.  “Indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months.  As we take away the enemy’s safe havens and reduce the enemy’s freedom of action, the insurgents will fight back.  In the face of the tough fighting, however, we must remember that progress is possible in Afghanistan because we have already seen a fair amount of it in a variety of different forms beyond the recent security gains.”

Petraeus cited increases in the number of children attending schools, the number of markets doing business and the number of roads repaired and built to facilitate commerce.  He indicated he will continue to pursue the implementation plan developed by his predecessor, Army General Stanley McChrystal, whose resignation President Obama accepted last week following the publication of derisive comments by the general and members of his staff.

As McChrystal’s immediate superior, General Petraeus participated in developing the campaign plan and approved it.  The plan calls for securing more parts of the country, starting with key areas in the South, developing the Afghan security forces and promoting reconciliation and economic development.

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General David Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to be confirmed as President Obama’s choice to take control of forces in Afghanistan, 29 Jun 2010

“Focusing on securing the people does not, however, mean that we don’t go after the enemy,” he added.  “In fact, protecting the population inevitably requires killing, capturing or turning the insurgents.”

Petraeus welcomed the reintegration plan announced by Afghan President Hamid Karzai Tuesday, but he said many Taliban fighters will not be interested in laying down their arms and reconciling with the Afghan government unless the coalition and Afghan forces put military pressure on them.  Petraeus said he may make small changes in the campaign plan, as any commander would, but that the overall thrust will not change.

Specifically, he said he will continue the emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians, including rules for coalition troops that limit their ability to use lethal force.  But the general also indicated he is sensitive to complaints from some troops that the rules go too far, and put them in too much danger.

“I see it as a moral imperative to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform and the Afghan security forces with whom ISAF [i.e., International Security Assistance Force] troopers are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder.  Those on the ground must have all the support they need when they are in a tough situation,” he explained.

General Petraeus said he has discussed that with President Karzai and other senior Afghan officials, and that they agree the troops must be able to protect themselves and understand that there inevitably will be some civilian casualties.

The general also defended President Obama’s July 2011 deadline for beginning the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the transition to full Afghan government control.  He said the deadline creates a constructive sense of urgency among all parties involved.  But Petraeus emphasized that the pace of the withdrawal will be determined by the situation on the ground, and that U.S. forces and civilians will maintain a long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

“The commitment to Afghanistan is necessarily, therefore, an enduring one,” he noted.  “And neither the Taliban nor Afghan and Pakistani partners should doubt that.”

Although some senators expressed concerns about the deadline and other aspects of the president’s strategy, none had any criticism for General Petraeus, who is widely credited with engineering the turnaround in Iraq as the allied commander there in 2007 and 2008.  The senate is expected to confirm the general’s nomination by the end of the week, and he could be in Kabul to assume his new command by early next week.

PM Cameron ‘agrees torture inquiry terms’

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June 29, 2010

(BBC)   David Cameron has agreed the terms of a judge-led inquiry into claims British agents were complicit in the torture of terror suspects, the BBC understands.

The PM is understood to have agreed it could offer compensation if it shows they were tortured and UK agents knew.

The Tories and Lib Dems have long urged an inquiry into UK resident Binyam Mohamed’s claims that security services were aware of his torture.

The former Labour government insisted the UK did not use or condone torture.

British security services say they do not collude in torture.

Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed in May there would be a “judge-led” inquiry to the allegations.

Details could be announced as early as this week, the BBC understands.

Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed: An MI5 officer faces investigation over his case

‘Re-establish reputation’

It is understood that the inquiry will offer compensation to people found to have been victims of torture carried out by foreign security services, but with the knowledge of British intelligence officials.

The prime minister’s spokesman would only say an announcement would be made “in due course”.

Ethiopian-born Mr Mohamed says he was tortured after being held in Pakistan in 2002, and subsequently moved to Morocco and Afghanistan.

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Our officers are as committed to the values and the human rights values of liberal democracy as anybody else

Sir John Scarlett Former MI6 chief ‘Publish terror guidelines’ call

He says agents from the UK’s MI5 knew about this and fed questions to his interrogators through the CIA.

Mr Mohamed was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in 2004 and was freed last year, after charges of involvement in terrorist plots were dropped. He says the only evidence against him was obtained through torture.

The government’s reviewer of terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile, told the BBC: “I think a judge-led inquiry will have the advantage of a rigorous investigation of allegations that are made, the protection of national security and the award of compensation to anyone who’s able to prove on the balance of probability that they have been tortured or otherwise subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment.”

But he said an inquiry could not take place until criminal investigations already under way had been completed.

The Metropolitan Police are investigating the role played by a number of British security agents in Mr Mohamed’s interrogation, after a request by former Attorney General Lady Scotland.

Lord Carlile also said he hoped the judge would be assisted by people with experience of the security services world and would not expect the entire inquiry to be held in public, for national security reasons.

‘Values’

On Tuesday the Human Rights Watch group demanded that guidance given to UK intelligence officers interrogating suspects overseas be published “without delay”.

But, speaking to the BBC last year, the then head of MI6 Sir John Scarlett said there was no torture and “no complicity in torture” by the British secret service.

“Our officers are as committed to the values and the human rights values of liberal democracy as anybody else,” he said.

“They also have the responsibility of protecting the country against terrorism and these issues need to be debated and understood in that context.”

The chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, said: “This inquiry can only be of lasting benefit if its remit is wide enough to include not only complicity in the torture of terrorist suspects, but also allegations of complicity in extraordinary rendition.

“Its reach must also be broader than just the security services and must include other government officials.”

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: “This investigation must be independent, judge-led and have broad powers to call evidence and make as much as possible publicly available.

“Only this kind of inquiry can end the slow bleed of embarrassing revelation and expensive litigation and draw a line under this shameful business once and for all.”  (*)