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Daily Archives: 10/24/2010

Israel slams ‘political attacks’ by Catholic bishops

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon


October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / FRANCE 24 / AFP) – Israel on Sunday slammed critical remarks made by Middle East Catholic bishops after a meeting chaired by Pope Benedict XVI as “political attacks” on the Jewish state.

“We express our disappointment that this important synod has become a forum for political attacks on Israel in the best history of Arab propaganda,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in a statement.

“The synod was hijacked by an anti-Israel majority,” he added.

Bishops and patriarchs from across the Middle East on Saturday called on the international community to end the occupation of Arab lands in an official statement following a two-week synod held at the Vatican.

“Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable,” the synod said.

Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, head of the commission which drew up the statement, went one step further, saying: “The theme of the Promised Land cannot be used as a basis to justify the return of the Jews to Israel and the expatriation of the Palestinians.”

“For Christians, one can no longer talk of the land promised to the Jewish people,” the Lebanese-born head of the Greek Melkite Church in the United States said, because the “promise” was “abolished by the presence of Christ.”

Ayalon said he was “especially appalled” at those remarks.

“We call on the Vatican to (distance) themselves from Archbishop Bustros’s comments, which are a libel against the Jewish people and the state of Israel and should not be construed as the Vatican’s official position.”

Most religious Jews believe the land of Israel was given to them by God, and Jewish settlers often cite biblical justifications for holding onto the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories seized in the 1967 Six-Day War.

But foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said scripture had never been used by any Israeli government to justify the occupation or settlement of territory.

He also pointed out that Israel’s Christian population had grown since the establishment of the Jewish state, while in much of the rest of the Middle East Christians have fled in large numbers because of war, instability and economic hardship.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, meanwhile, welcomed the synod’s call for a two-state solution and blamed Israel for the emigration of Christians from the occupied territories.

“The international community must uphold its moral and legal responsibility to put a speedy end to the illegal Israeli occupation,” he said.

The United States convinced Israel and the Palestinians to renew direct peace negotiations in early September but the talks ground to a halt later that month when a 10-month partial Israeli moratorium on settlements expired.

Pope Benedict: Mideast peace is possible, urgently needed

Pope Benedict XVI leaves a procession by 180 members of the clergy from the Middle East in St.Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on October 24, 2010. The Holy father urged all sides in the Middle East not to give up on peace and appealed for religious freedom to be respected as he wrapped up a two-week synod of bishops from the middle eastern region. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

October 24, 2010 VATICAN CITY (KATAKAMI / CENTREDAILY.COM) — Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday called for greater religious freedom in the Middle East and said that peace there is possible, urgently needed and the best remedy to the exodus of Christians from the region.

Bishops attend a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of the conclusion of the synod of bishops from the Middle East in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010.

Benedict celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday to mark the end of a two-week meeting of Mideast bishops, called to discuss the future of embattled Christians in the largely Muslim region.

He called freedom of religion “one of the fundamental human rights, which each state should always respect” and said the issue should be the subject of dialogue with Muslims.

The pontiff said that, while freedom of worship exists in many Mideast countries, the space given to the actual freedom to practice “is many times very limited.” Expanding this space, he said, is necessary to guarantee “true freedom to live and profess one’s faith.”

The exodus of the faithful from the birthplace of Christianity has been a major theme of the meeting, which gathered about 185 bishops from Latin and Eastern rite Catholic churches across the region and from the diaspora. In addition, two imams and a rabbi were invited to address the synod.

The Catholic church has long been a minority in the Middle East but its presence is shrinking further as a result of conflict, discrimination and economic problems.

Benedict said many Christians living in the Middle East are in discomfort either because of poor economic conditions or because of the “discouragement, the state of tension and sometimes of fear” they live in.

“Peace is possible. Peace is urgent,” Benedict said in his homily. “Peace is also the best remedy to avoid the emigration from the Middle East.”

In their final communique issued Saturday, the bishops demanded that Israel accept U.N. resolutions calling for an end to its “occupation” of Arab lands, and told Israel it shouldn’t use the Bible to justify “injustices” against the Palestinians.

While the bishops condemned terrorism and anti-Semitism, they laid much of the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel. They listed the “occupation” of Palestinian lands, Israel’s separation barrier with the West Bank, its military checkpoints, political prisoners, demolition of homes and disturbance of Palestinians’ socio-economic lives as factors that have made life increasingly difficult for Palestinians.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman criticized the bishops’ statement that Israel shouldn’t use the Bible to justify “injustices” against the Palestinians.

“This has never been a policy of any government in Israel so this position sounds particularly hollow,” Yigal Palmor said Sunday. “Let he who has never sinned cast the fist stone.”

Palmor also said Israel is the only Mideast country whose Christian population is growing, and called on Christians not to flee the region. “Israel views their presence in the Middle East as a blessing and regrets their decline in Arab countries,” he said.

According to statistics he provided, there were some 151,700 Christians in Israel last year, compared with 132,000 in 1999 and 107,000 two decades ago.

Also Sunday, Benedict announced that the 2012 synod would be dedicated to the theme of evangelization. The pontiff has recently created a new Vatican office – the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization – to revive Christianity in Europe, part of his efforts to counter secular trends in traditionally Christian countries.

WikiLeaks release of Pentagon’s secret war files may jeopardize Iraq security

WikiLeaks.org founder Julian Assange

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI  / RIA NOVOSTI) — The Pentagon’s secret Iraq war reports released by the WikiLeaks website and evidencing the Iraqi authorities’ role in tortures and civilian deaths may have serious consequences for security in Iraq, an Iraqi Interior Ministry source said on Sunday.

“The release of these documents is undermining people’s trust in security forces. This trust is ever more diminishing, especially in areas populated by Sunnis,” the source who declined to give his name told RIA Novosti, adding that the release of the Pentagon’s classified files might jeopardize the process of reconciliation between Iraqi communities.

Was the U.S. military operation in Iraq a success?

WikiLeaks released late on Friday 391,832 secret reports called the Iraq War Logs that “document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army.”

The reports detail at least 109,000 deaths in the Iraq war, including over 66,000 civilian deaths, more than the United States has previously acknowledged, and also describe the cases of torture and other abuses by Iraqi and coalition forces.

“The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths. That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six-year period,” WikiLeaks said in a statement.

The Pentagon has repeatedly insisted that the release of secret documents threatens the lives of U.S. troops.

BAGHDAD, October 24 (RIA Novosti)

IDF chief backs up soldiers accounts before Turkel Committee

FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010 file photo, Israel's military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi sits before testifying in front of a state-appointed inquiry commission into the Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in Jerusalem. The Israeli commission looking into a deadly raid on a pro-Palestinian flotilla last May has summoned Ashkenazi to testify for a second time Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool, File)

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / JERUSALEM POST) — IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi appeared a second time in front of the Turkel Commission on Sunday to continue his testimony regarding the Mavi Marmara affair. He took great pains during his time before the committee to reiterate previous statement’s that the naval commandos who boarded the ship took extraordinary measures to minimize the violence on the ship and that the blame for the fighting that broke out on the ship rested squarely on the activists’ shoulders.

“The soldiers [upon reaching the ship] did not immediately open fire and even placed themselves at great risk. One [of the activists] tried to choke a soldier, who then threw a stun grenade to escape from the situation.”

Ashkenazi repeatedly emphasized that the soldiers acted in a measured manner and only hurt those whose behavior necessitated physical force. “There was no demonstration of peace activists [on the Mavi Marmara]. Peace activist do not know how to operate a weapon or to operate with gas masks and bulletproof vests in the middle of the night,” Ashkenazi said.

Also on Sunday, the Turkel Commission announced that it would welcomed testimony from any passenger who was on the Mavi Marmara on the night of May 31, 2010 and who has relevant information that could shed light on the incident.

In September, Ashkenazi warned that any resistance on board flotillas bound for Gaza could lead to more casualties.

Speaking at a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Ashkenazi said “this is a challenge for the IDF and for Israel.”

“If we see large ships bound for Gaza and force is used then we do not dismiss the possibility of casualties,” he said.

IDF Chief to Gaza flotilla probe: Israeli commandos fired 308 bullets aboard Mavi Marmara

Israel's chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi speaks during a large military exercise at the Shizafon Armored Corps Training Base in the Arava desert, north of the city of Eilat, southern Israel, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photos/Dan Balilty)


October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / HAARETZ) — Ashkenazi testifies before Turkel Commission, defends IDF decision to rappel commandos onto deck of Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship where 9 activists were killed.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi once again on Sunday defended Israel’s decision to rappel Israeli commandos onto the deck of a Gaza-bound aid ship on May 31, where ensuing clashes resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.

Testifying before an investigations committee probing the deadly events, Ashkenazi said that Israeli commandos had fired 308 live bullets aboard the ship to repel passengers who attacked them with lethal weapons, including a snatched Uzi machine pistol.

In a sometimes testy second round of testimony before the state-appointed inquest, the Lieutenant-General insisted the navy’s killing of nine Turks on the converted cruise ship Mavi Marmara had been unavoidable.

The Mavi Marmara was one of several boats, laden with supplies, aiming to violate Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel informed the organizers of the flotilla that the ships would not be allowed to reach the Gaza shores, and soldiers boarded all the ships to compel them to change course.

Ashkenazi told the six-member Turkel Commission on Sunday that navy commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara were equipped with riot-dispersal gear, but quickly switched to live fire to confront armed passengers because “if they had not done this, there would have been more casualties.”

Ankara, which wants compensation and an apology from Israel, has dismissed the Turkel panel as too lacking in scope.

The probe commission has solicited testimony from Mavi Marmara passengers – many of whom insist the commandos’ onslaught was unprovoked – and signaled it may probe Israel’s navy deeper.

Ashkenazi said 308 live rounds were fired by the troops. A top aide to the general told Reuters 70 of these were aimed to cause injury, while the rest were warning shots.

That appeared consistent with Turkish forensic findings that the nine dead activists were shot a total of 30 times, and there were gunshot wounds among another 24 passengers who were hurt.

“Those who are asking questions [about tactics] should propose an alternative solution,” Ashkenazi said.

Ashkenazi said passengers grabbed three Glock handguns and an Uzi machine pistol from commandos whom they overpowered. The troops had been dropped from helicopters onto the crowded ship as it ploughed through Mediterranean high seas at night.

“We have testimony of one activist running at them [commandos] and firing with a mini-Uzi, and them shooting him,” he said. “They hit those who were clearly involved in the attack on them, and not those who were not.”

Mavi Marmara activists have said any guns taken from the troops were disposed of, rather than used.

Ashkenazi said commandos had fired some 350 beanbag rounds and non-lethal paintballs, all according to “protocol.” The navy opted against rubber bullets – a mainstay of Israel’s tactics against Palestinian demonstrations on land – because of a lethal risk within the Mavi Marmara’s confines, Ahkenazi added.

Ashkenazi, who is scheduled to retire early next year, made clear that he had returned to testify in order to spare scrutiny from subordinates, including the admiral in charge of the navy.

Bristling at Turkish and other foreign fury over the Mavi Marmara raid yet wary of international war crimes suits, Israel set up the Turkel Commission to help prepare its submission for a separate probe under United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ashkenazi, a career infantryman, said the commission had received “word for word” accounts from marines, including two who were shot and wounded upon boarding.

Commission members asked Ashkenazi if lowering soldiers into a crowd on the ship’s deck was wise. He said there was no better way to stop the ship. “If we had a special trick to stop the flotilla, we would have used it. We maintain intimate cooperation with other armies, and we haven’t heard of another solution.”

Endorsing the commandos’ recollection, Ashkenazi said they were combat veterans who “know when they are being shot at.”

But he also seemed to make allowances for the haze of melee.

“I won’t take issue with a soldier who might confuse a slingshot, and the whizz its missile makes as it flies past, with a pistol, during night-time,” he said.

India ready to seal nuclear deal with Japan: PM Manmohan Singh

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said Japan's high technology and India's "fast-extending market," if combined, can bring about "mutually beneficial growth opportunities" for both countries.

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / FRANCE 24 / AFP) – India is ready to seal a civilian nuclear deal and boost trade ties with Japan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, as New Delhi looks to prove its friendship in the wake of Tokyo’s bitter territorial spat with Beijing.

“I am confident that we will be able to conclude an agreement (on a civilian nuclear deal), which will be a win-win proposition for both of us,” Singh told a group of Japanese media, before heading to Tokyo to meet his counterpart Naoto Kan on a three-day trip starting Sunday.

Singh said India would like Tokyo to be its partner in nuclear energy, noting that Japan has “one of the highest and most advanced nuclear technologies.”

Japan and India launched talks in June on signing an atomic civilian cooperation agreement that will allow Tokyo to export nuclear power generation technology to energy-hungry India.

But Japan, which was hit by World War II US atomic bombings, has warned India that conducting any new nuclear tests would force a halt to any civilian nuclear cooperation with the South Asian giant, as India has developed nuclear arms without signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“With regards to tests, we have unilaterally declared a moratorium on explosive testing and we have no intention” of revising that commitment, Singh said in an interview broadcast by NHK.

Singh and Kan were Monday expected to declare the completion of talks on an economic partnership agreement (EPA), which Singh said would open up the fast-growing Indian market to Japanese firms.

“I attach great importance to the potential of the economic cooperation,” Singh said. The EPA “will boost our trade and economic ties many-fold.”

Japan’s expertise in technology and India’s “fast-extending market”, if combined, can bring about “mutually beneficial growth opportunities” for both countries, Singh said, as quoted by Jiji Press.

Japan has long tried to enhance ties with emerging economies but its relations with China, Asia’s other population giant, hit rock bottom in a row following Japan’s arrest of a Chinese trawlerman last month in disputed waters.

Beijing reacted angrily to the arrest, cancelling all high level talks and civilian programmes as well as suspending exports of rare earth minerals crucial for Japan’s high-tech industries.

India has seized on this blocking of exports as a chance to step into a gap, with Singh saying New Delhi and Tokyo can cooperate on the production of rare earth minerals in India.

“This should be an added incentive for many countries which have a potential to produce rare earths to take advantage of that opportunity,” Singh said.

But he added that “It’s our sincere hope” that any Japan-China disputes involving maritime activities or maritime boundaries will be “resolved peacefully through diplomatic channels.”

Despite frequent diplomatic rows, China has replaced the United States as Japan’s top trading partner in recent years, while India only ranks as Japan’s 28th biggest trade partner.

India holds three percent of global reserves of rare earth minerals, accounting for two percent of global production, while China accounts for 36 percent of global reserves and 97 percent of global production.

State monopoly Indian Rare Earths Ltd. (IREL) hopes to “attract Japanese businesses to the refining and processing fields to help boost our price competitiveness,” the business daily Nikkei reported, quoting an unnamed senior IREL official.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves for three-nation Asia tour


(FILE) Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

October 24, 2010 New Delhi (KATAKAMI / IBNLIVE.IN) : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday left for a three-nation tour of Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam to bolster economic ties with partners in East Asia and strengthen India’s presence in the region.

The first stop of the weeklong trip is Tokyo, where the prime minister will spend three days for the annual summit meeting with Japan. From the Japanese capital, Manmohan Singh will move to Kuala Lumpur and then to Hanoi, where he will attend the 8th India-Asean and the 5th East Asia Summit.

“The Indian economy is getting increasingly integrated with those of its East Asian partners. PM’s three nation tour is organically defined by this process,” said Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on Friday.

With strengthening economic ties underpinning the weeklong trip, India is expected to announce the conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Japan, the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperaton Agreement (CECA) with Malaysia and deliberate on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA) at the 16-nation East Asia summit in Vietnam.

The third leg in Hanoi will see the prime minister hold several bilateral meetings with Asian leaders, including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The Prime Minister returns home October 30 evening.

U.K. PM David Cameron bans Baroness Warsi from attending Islamic conference

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron leaves Downing Street to attend parliament in London October 20, 2010. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Toby Melville )

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / HINDUSTAN  TIMES) — British Premier David Cameron has banned Conservative party Chair, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, from attending a major Islamic meet where a number of pro-al-Qaeda speakers are also due to appear, igniting a bitter internal row over how the government tackles Islamist extremism.

Warsi, Britain’s first woman Muslim Cabinet Minister, was told by the Prime Minister to cancel her Sunday’s appearance at the Global Peace and Unity Event billed as the largest multicultural gathering in Europe, according to The Observer.

The London-based conference is aimed at improving community relations, yet critics have pointed out that a number of speakers who are due to appear have justified suicide attacks and promoted al-Qaeda, homophobia and terrorism.

An influential voice among the international Muslim community, Warsi believes that confronting extremists at public events is a more effective way to tackle fundamentalism than a refusal to engage with them.

The report quoted a government source saying “She had hoped to attend, but there is a conflict of opinion on how extremists should be dealt with and the Prime Minister, supported by Home Secretary Theresa May, were adamant no Tories should attend.”

According to the report, Andrew Stunell, the Liberal Democrat Communities Minister, will deliver an aggressive speech against those who espouse fundamentalism.

“He will make clear that the coalition government will not tolerate extremism, hatred and intolerance in any form,” a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, said.

The conference has been organised by Britain’s most popular Muslim television station, the Islam Channel, which earlier this year was accused by a Muslim think-tank, the Quilliam foundation, of promoting extremist groups.

Canada to provide Haiti $1 mln to help fight cholera outbreak

Cholera outbreak in Haiti


October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Canada will grant Haiti $1 million to help the Caribbean country fight a cholera outbreak, The Toronto Star reported on Sunday, citing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper said the money would also go to prevent further outbreaks of water-borne disease.

Haitian health officials confirmed the first cases of cholera in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, on Saturday, saying that five people had become infected in the main outbreak area of Artibonite, to the north of Port-au-Prince, and were isolated after falling ill.

The cholera outbreak has sparked fears that the epidemic could grip thousands sheltered in refugee camps in the capital.

At least 208 people have died on the island since the outbreak of cholera nine months after a devastating January 12 earthquake killed more than 220,000 people in Haiti.

Officials have warned that the death toll from the epidemic, the first in half-century, could rise further as more than 2,000 cholera infections have been registered on the island.

A state of emergency has been declared in the epidemic-hit Artibonite. Medics and aide groups are working 24 hours to prevent the further spread of the disease.

Cholera is a bacterial infection that spreads through contaminated water, causing causes severe diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration and death within hours.

MOSCOW, October 24 (RIA Novosti)