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Daily Archives: 10/25/2010

Resume talks, Israel urges Palestinians

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PM Netanyahu

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October 25, 2010 JERUSALEM (KATAKAMI / Dispatch.Com) — Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the Palestinians yesterday to avoid unilateral action and resume peace talks, a reflection of growing concern that the Palestinian leadership might be inching toward a “Plan B” in which they seek international recognition of an independent state without Israeli agreement.

Talks have stalled, just weeks after their launch, after Israel resumed settlement building in the West Bank after a 10-month moratorium. The Palestinians have said they cannot negotiate with Israel unless the curbs are renewed.

As the stalemate drags on, the Palestinians have said they are considering sidestepping Israel by seeking U.N. Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories the Jewish state captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Mideast war.

At the start of the weekly meeting of his cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to “honor their obligation to engage in direct negotiations.”

“I think any attempt to circumvent it by going to international bodies isn’t realistic and won’t advance true peacemaking in any way,” Netanyahu said. “Peace will be achieved only through direct talks.”

Netanyahu said he was in close contact with U.S. mediators in an effort to revive the talks, which were launched at the White House on Sept. 2. He said he remained committed to reaching the outlines of a deal within one year, the target set by the White House.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected Netanyahu’s call, saying Israel is acting unilaterally through settlement construction.

“We don’t want to engage in unilateral action,” he said, urging Netanyahu to “stop unilateral actions and engage as a partner in peace by stopping settlement activity.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas isn’t expected to take any unilateral action before September 2011. But he already has instructed top aides to begin preparing for options other than a negotiated deal.

The chief alternative, Palestinian officials say, is to pursue U.N. Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state.

Photostream : Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron meets Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, left, greets General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, left, greets General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, left, greets General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street in London, Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

PM David Cameron’s speech on creating a “new economic dynamism”

British Prime Minister David Cameron addresses delegates at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in central London, on October 25, 2010. Cameron vowed to help businesses create jobs and spur economic growth, less than a week after his coalition government unleashes the biggest public spending cuts in decades. (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

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(KATAKAMI / NUMBER 10.UK) — Transcript of speech given by the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron at CBI on Monday 25 October 2010 :

There is one question I want to answer today. Where is the growth going to come from – where are the jobs going to come from?

Over the course of this Parliament – and the next – I believe we can transform our fortunes.

We’re in a world of unprecedented economic change, with millions of new consumers and countless innovations where companies are starting with less investment than ever before, yet still becoming global giants within a matter of years.

This is an incredible opportunity for Britain, for new start-ups to flourish, for innovations to drive growth and create jobs.

Today, I want to set out what our strategy for growth will mean for Britain.

I want to tell you how we can create a new economic dynamism in our country – so we can build real confidence in our future.

First let me tell you what I won’t do.

I won’t engage in some sterile debate between laissez faire and hands-on government.

The question isn’t ‘should government be involved?’ because it is involved.

It taxes. It regulates. It invests.

The real question is what is the right kind of involvement?

I believe one of the most important things government can do is drive trade.

Last year the share of UK exports to China and India was just 3.2 per cent.

Indeed, the UK exports more to Ireland than to Brazil, Russia, India and China – combined.

These are shocking figures.

British Prime Minister David Cameron addresses Confederation of British Industry, (CBI), members at the annual CBI conference at the Grosvenor Hotel on October 25, 2010 in London, England. The CBI conference brings together leading politicians and business experts to discuss ways of delivering economic growth. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

My approach is clear, British business should have no more vocal champion than the British government and that’s why I have put the promotion of British commerce and international trade at the heart of our foreign and economic policy.

So when I went to India this summer, I took the biggest visiting delegation of business leaders and entrepreneurs of any Prime Minister in recent memory.

At the European Council this week, I’ll be calling for structural reforms of the single market so Europe makes a stronger contribution to world growth

And when I go to the G20 summit in two weeks, I’ll be pushing for the completion of Doha, which could add $170 billion to the global economy each year.

But the right kind of government involvement stretches beyond banging the drum for trade.

In the weeks ahead, we will be setting out how we will bring a new emphasis on well-being in our national life, and how we will work with business to spread social and environmental responsibility across our society.

But today, I want to set out what this government will do at home to help drive growth.

There are three parts to our strategy.

First, using all available policy levers to create the right framework for enterprise and business investment.

Second, using our resources to get behind those industries where Britain enjoys competitive advantages.

Third, using our power and muscle to make it easier for new companies and innovations to flourish and create a new economic dynamism.

Let me take each in turn.

First, providing a competitive environment for private sector growth.

Successful, high-growth economies are like ecosystems –they are organic, evolve through trial and error and depend on millions, billions, of individual preferences, choices and relationships.

Governments can expect to intelligently design all this as much they can expect to intelligently design the Great Barrier Reef.

But what they can do is create an environment in which businesses are confident enough to invest.

Today, British businesses are rebuilding their balance sheets because they have relatively strong profit and loss accounts.

In the first six months of this year, they ran a financial surplus worth almost five percent of GDP.

If we are to get back to strong growth, these profits need to turn into productive investment – and my message to you today is that we are providing the stability for that investment.

In five years’ time, we will have balanced the books.

The sharp tax rises and huge interest rates you feared, the uncertainty you felt – these are things you no longer need to worry about.

With our Budget in June and the Comprehensive Spending Review last week, we took Britain out of the danger zone.

The world’s responded.

Britain’s borrowing costs have dropped to the lowest for a generation.

And the IMF and OECD, you, the CBI, and the thirty-five business leaders who wrote to the Daily Telegraph last week have backed the approach we have taken in tackling the deficit.

What’s more within five years, we will have cut corporation tax from twenty-eight percent to twenty-four percent our education reforms and new apprenticeships will have started to expand our skills base and our new one-in, one-out rule for regulation will have stopped the rise of domestic red tape.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) addresses delegates at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in central London, on October 25, 2010. Cameron vowed to help businesses create jobs and spur economic growth, less than a week after his coalition government unleashes the biggest public spending cuts in decades. (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Add to these our cut in the small business profits rate and the fact we have waived national insurance contributions for new businesses in most areas of the country and you have the conditions to breed confidence and investment and boost productivity for the long-term.

And let me give you this assurance, as we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world.

But business confidence doesn’t just come from financial and human assets.

It comes from physical assets too – from our infrastructure.

For too long, we have postponed difficult decisions on this – and it shows.

Congestion on our roads cost our economy £20 billion a year.

In one year alone, there were fourteen million minutes of delay to rail journeys in our country, costing £1 billion in terms of time lost to passengers.

Other countries understand the importance of modern infrastructure to economic growth.

China is building tens of thousands of miles of roads, a new network of intercity railway lines and a dozen or so nuclear power plants.

While they’ve been moving forwards, we’ve been standing still.

Not any more.

I can announce today the UK’s first ever national infrastructure plan.

It’s a plan to completely update and modernise our infrastructure, so British business is free to compete with the rest of the world.

In the Budget, you saw the first parts of this plan, as we did not reduce capital spending compared to the last government’s figures.

Last week, in the Spending Review, we went further, and announced an additional £8.6 billion over the next four years for capital spending.

Indeed, even in these constrained times, we will invest over £30 billion in transport projects over the next four years – which is more than was invested during the past four years.

High-speed speed rail to Birmingham.

Crossrail, the Thames Gateway and the underground in London.

The Mersey Gateway.

Major improvements to the East and West Coast mainlines.

All have been given the green light.

And today, we are publishing a detailed plan setting out the infrastructure Britain needs and how we will unlock £200 billion worth of public and private sector investment to deliver it.

So we’ll work with utility companies to get more investment in our energy, with construction companies on our roads, with the telecommunications industry on broadband.

This collaboration is already working.

Virgin Media is rolling out a new superfast broadband service this week.

Combine that with the support we are giving in rural areas and BT’s planned investment and it will mean that within two years, over thirteen million homes and businesses in the UK – including some in our rural areas – will be hooked up to some of the fastest broadband speeds in the world.

This is incredibly exciting – and a clear demonstration of how determined we are to work with you to build the right framework for growth in Britain.

Right now, every part of government is thinking about what it can do to support growth from to environmental regulation to local government through better incentives for development so let us know what you think, give us your ideas.

Together, we can create the conditions in which business can thrive.

The second part of our strategy is getting behind those industries where Britain already enjoys competitive advantages.

All over the world, governments are identifying dynamic sectors in their economy and working strategically to strengthen them.

In America, President Obama is ramming home the advantage they already enjoy in clean technology with $38 billion of investment.

And Germany is building on the success of their car industry by investing €500 million in electric car technology.

What they understand is that when you’re looking for growth opportunities you don’t stick a pin in a map and drop down a research centre here or arbitrarily back an industry there – you go with the grain of what is already working.

We understand that too.

We have great industrial strengths across our country, underpinned by world-beating companies.

Green technologies in the North East.

Creative industries in London, Manchester and Glasgow.

Financial services in Edinburgh.

In retail, pharmaceuticals and advanced engineering.

We have made the strategic decision to get behind these strengths.

You saw the evidence of that in our Spending Review.

Yes, money is incredibly tight.

But we protected the science budget in cash terms.

And we are also investing £220 million in a new world-class Centre for Medical Research and Innovation £1 billion to create one of the world’s first Carbon Capture and Storage demonstration plants, with three more projects to follow and £200 million in low carbon technology, including offshore wind.

The potential for Britain to lead in this industry is immense.

We don’t just have the wind, we have the first-class research capability and a wealth of experience across the aerospace, engineering and energy sectors.

But here’s the problem.

We need thousands of offshore turbines in the next decade and beyond – each one as tall as the Gherkin.

And manufacturing these needs large factories which have to be on the coast.

Yet neither the factories nor these large port sites currently exist.

And that, understandably, is putting off private investors.

So we’re stepping in.

To help secure private sector investment in this technology, we’re providing up to £60 million to meet the needs of offshore wind infrastructure at our ports.

And to help move things forward, the Crown Estate will also work with interested ports and manufacturers to realise the potential of their sites.

It’s a triple win.

It will help secure our energy supplies, protect our planet and the Carbon Trust says it could create 70,000 jobs.

And it’s a clear demonstration of the coalition’s approach – alert to those sectors that are strong but could be stronger, alive to the possibilities they promise and active about exploiting them.

But the third – and potentially the most exciting – part of our strategy for growth is to make it easier for new companies and innovations to flourish.

For well over a century, the shape of successful business remained largely the same.

Heavy investment in capital and raw materials. Goods developed, mass-produced and then shipped around the world. Organisations growing slowly and coming to dominate markets for years to come.

But in recent decades, that pattern has been blown apart.

There has been a surge in new, young, high-growth, highly innovative firms.

It wasn’t long ago that Apple, Cisco and Google didn’t even exist – now each one has a market value of over $100 billion.

Skype, Facebook and Twitter have generated billions of dollars and reached a global scale more quickly and with less capital than any companies before.

And the most innovative firms are growing twice as fast, both in terms of employment and sales, than those that fail to innovate.

The impact this change is having on our economic landscape is unprecedented.

In 1950, the average life of a company in the S&P index was forty-seven years.

By 2020, it will fall to just ten years.

And today, many more of our jobs are dependent on new, young and dynamic businesses.

It’s astonishing to think that between 1980-2005, nearly all net job creation in the United States occurred in firms less than five years old.

And here in Britain, just six per cent of UK businesses are high-growth but they generated over half of the net employment growth between 2005 and 2008.

All this has massive policy implications for government.

To build that new dynamism in our economy, to create the growth, jobs and opportunities Britain needs we’ve got to back the big businesses of tomorrow, not just the big businesses of today.

That means opening up access to finance, creating an attractive environment for venture capital funding, getting banks lending to small businesses again and insisting that a far greater proportion of government procurement budgets are spent with small and medium-sized firms.

And in the days and months ahead we will be setting out our plans in all these areas.

But today I want to focus on two elements of our approach in particular.

One is helping to bridge the gap between innovation and commercial success.

The fact is that we are not as good as some of our competitors in turning great ideas on the drawing board into prototypes in a laboratory and actual goods and services people can buy.

That’s why I can announce today that we will invest over £200 million in Technology and Innovation Centres over the next four years.

These centres will sit between universities and businesses, bringing the two together.

They won’t just carry out their own in-house research, they will spread knowledge too connecting businesses – large and small, new and old – to potential new technologies, making them aware of funding streams and providing access to skills and equipment.

It’s the sort of thing you see in Orgreave, where the University of Sheffield, Rolls Royce and Boeing are all working together or in Germany, where their Fraunhofer Institutes have been crucial in developing the MP3 licence.

These centres will be great for research, great for business – and they’re going to put Britain back at the top table for innovation.

Another area where I am determined we help is through spreading competition.

I believe in competition.

I believe when new entrants challenge big business, everyone wins.

This hasn’t always been the view of the government.

In the 1980s, initially the government attempted to build British Telecom and Cable and Wireless into ‘national champions’ by sheltering them from competition.

This approach failed – and today there are more than 5500 telecommunications companies in Britain, generating a turnover of £60 billion and employing over 200,000 people.

But today, some industries are too uncompetitive, with significant barriers to entry and obstacles to growth.

We’re going to challenge the status quo.

As Vince Cable will tell you later today, we will merge the competition functions of the Office of Fair Trading and Competition Commission and introduce a range of other changes, to create a much tougher and more streamlined competition regime.

We want to reduce the uncertainty and the length of time it takes to make a decision in the current system.

Above all, we want to help new companies break into existing markets.

When we say we’re going to build a new economic dynamism – we mean it.

Today I have set out this government’s strategy for growth.

In some ways it’s wrong to call it a strategy – it’s more a wholesale change in attitude.

Where there was neglect about maintaining a basic framework for business, we are bringing a pro-enterprise attitude – dealing with the deficit, cutting business taxes, investing in infrastructure.

Where there was complacency about our competitive advantages, we are bringing an hands-on attitude – consolidating those strengths, getting behind key industries in every region of our country.

And where there was a backward-looking, unhelpful approach to innovation and start-ups we are bringing an optimistic attitude – backing the young insurgent companies, pulling down the barriers that are holding them back.

This is, of course, just the beginning.

In the weeks and months ahead, Ministers will be developing detailed plans to turn this strategy into action.

Everything – from bank lending to skills, green tech to high tech, competition to innovation, international trade to local growth – will be put under the microscope.

That forensic, relentless focus on growth is what you will get from this government.

What I need in return from you is a commitment to create and innovate; to invest and grow; to develop and break boundaries.

The new jobs, the new products, the new ideas that will lift us up will be born in the factories and offices you own – not in the corridors of Whitehall.

So take advantage of the changes we are making, and work with me in returning this country to prosperity.

I know this can happen.

I passionately believe our best years are ahead of us.

Together we can make the years ahead the most entrepreneurial and dynamic in our country’s history.

David Cameron promises ‘relentless’ push for growth

British Prime Minister David Cameron addresses Confederation of British Industry, (CBI), members at the annual CBI conference at the Grosvenor Hotel on October 25, 2010 in London, England. The CBI conference brings together leading politicians and business experts to discuss ways of delivering economic growth. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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October 25, 2010 (KATAKAMI / BBC) — David Cameron has promised a “forensic, relentless approach” to ensuring the UK’s future economic growth.

In his first speech to the CBI since becoming prime minister, he said the government would offer help to ensure new companies can prosper.

Mr Cameron also announced £30bn would be invested in transport projects over the next four years.

But Labour leader Ed Miliband said the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition lacked a credible plan for growth.

In his first speech to the CBI’s conference since becoming leader last month, Mr Miliband argued the government was in danger of repeating the mistakes that led to the recession, leaving it a “hostage to fortune”.

The government argues that, while 490,000 public sector positions are forecast to close, new jobs will be created by the private sector.

‘Transform fortunes’

Mr Cameron told the CBI conference in London that he knew where economic growth and new jobs would come from.

He said he wanted to help new companies break into existing markets, and pledged funding for a network of centres to make research more commercial.

Mr Cameron said: “We are providing the stability for investment – in five years’ time we will have balanced the books.”

He also said: “Over the course of this Parliament – and the next – I believe we can transform our fortunes.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Britain, for new start-ups to flourish, for innovations to drive growth and create jobs.

“To build that new dynamism in our economy, to create the growth, jobs and opportunities Britain needs, we’ve got to back the big businesses of tomorrow, not just the big businesses of today.”

‘Real passion’

The prime minister said the UK had sometimes been “complacent about our competitive advantages”, whereas the coalition wanted a change in attitude.

He told business leaders a “forensic, relentless focus on growth is what you will get from the government”.

On Transport, Mr Cameron said countries such as China had been investing massively in new roads and rail links while the UK had “stood still”.

He announced plans for “the first ever national infrastructure plan setting out the infrastructure Britain needs and how we will unlock some £200bn worth of public and private sector investment over the next five years to deliver it”.

Mr Cameron added: “Even in this very constrained time, we will invest over £30bn in transport projects over the next four years.”

CBI director general Richard Lambert said: “The prime minister demonstrated a real passion for business and an understanding that only business will create growth.

“There was a welcome emphasis on the need to re-boot the country’s infrastructure, with a coherent vision of what needs to be done over the next five years to secure economic growth.”

But Mr Miliband told the CBI that Mr Cameron has failed to learn lessons from the financial crisis and has no plan for growth.

CBI President Helen Alexander: ”We need to create prosperity for all of us”

He said: “As much as I am worried about the job cuts and pace of retrenchment in the government’s deficit reduction plan, I am equally worried about its failure to provide any sort of wider economic policy.

“Without profound change in the way we manage our economy, we are at risk of – at best – sleepwalking back to an economy riddled with the same risks as we saw before the recession hit.”

Mr Miliband called for a system of financial regulation which would better serve the needs of the economy.

He said: “If government fails to play its proper role as regulator, it’s businesses that suffer.”

The political debate at the CBI conference is centring on growth, in large part because preliminary GDP figures from the Office for National Statistics for the third quarter of 2010 are due on Tuesday.

Some economists expect them to show slower growth than figures for the previous quarter.

1,083 truckloads crossed from Israel, carrying 23,036 tons of goods, humanitarian aid and development assistance entered the Gaza Strip

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GAZA STRIP WEEKLY CROSSING REPORT FOR OCTOBER 17th – 23rd

October 25, 2010 (KATAKAMI – IDF BLOG) — The Israeli Government, together with the IDF, coordinates the delivery of a variety of humanitarian aid and development assistance to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip on a daily basis. The following report details cross-border activities for the third week of October 2010.

During this period, a total of 1,083 truckloads crossed from Israel, carrying 23,036 tons of goods, humanitarian aid and development assistance for Gaza’s civilian population.

In addition, 1,876,878 liters of Heavy-Duty Diesel fuel were transferred to the Gaza Power Plant and UNRWA, 825 tons of cooking gas, and 6 truckloads of iron and cement were transferred into the Strip.

Finnish president Tarja Halonen to visit Russia on November 8-11

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) visits the island of Seili on Archipelago Sea with Finnish President Tarja Halonen (R) during the second day of Medvedev's visit to Finland on July 21, 2010. (HEIKKI SAUKKOMAA/AFP/Getty Images)

MOSCOW, October 25 (KATAKAMI / RIA Novosti) – Finnish President Tarja Halonen will pay an official visit to Russia on November 8-11 at the invitation of her Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, the Kremlin said.

Talks between Medvedev and Halonen are scheduled for November 9.

Medvedev visited Finland in July and he invited Halonen to Russia “to discuss not only global issues, but also practical matters.”

Israel : Settlers confirm work has begun on up to 600 homes

Jewish settlement Pisgat Zeev pictured behind Israel's controversial separation barrier on the outskirts of Jerusalem, August 2010. The United States convinced the Israelis and Palestinians to relaunch direct peace talks in early September but the Palestinians suspended them later that month following the expiration of a partial Israeli settlement moratorium. (AFP/File/Ahmad Gharabli)

October 25, 2010 JERUSALEM (KATAKAMI / AP) – A senior settler official says that work has begun on up to 600 new homes in West Bank settlements since Israel lifted its curb on such construction Sept. 26, mirroring recent findings by The Associated Press and the Israeli watchdog Peace Now.

Foundations are already being dug for at least 350 apartments, while construction of another 200 to 250 homes is in more preliminary stages, the official said Sunday. A second settler official said he believes some of the construction is already more advanced, and that out of the total being built, 400 to 500 apartments have reached the stage of foundation work.

Both officials are familiar with the construction and spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release figures on the delicate topic — which has stalled U.S.-led peace talks and brought significant pressure on all sides to find a diplomatic solution.

Assessing the extent of post-freeze construction is difficult because Israel’s government has declined to release information, and settlement officials generally won’t provide detailed data.

Peace Now, which is conducting an extensive survey of building activity, has reported that work has begun on at least 600 new homes since restrictions — which Israel self-imposed in November 2009 for a predefined 10-month period — were lifted.

The AP count found that — as of early last week, about three weeks after the settlement curbs expired — work had begun on at least 544 apartments, including infrastructure, leveling ground and digging foundations.

The count was based on visits to 16 settlements and interviews with several settlement mayors who were asked about housing starts in their areas, but did not always elaborate on the stages of construction.

The building spurt of the past weeks — whatever its exact extent — compares to a total of just under 1,900 settlement housing starts in all of 2009, or 36 per week, as reported by the government. Comparing cases where foundations are being dug only, the figure of 500 in recent weeks would be about three and a half times the previous pace.

Peace Now researcher Hagit Ofran said she estimates that the pace is at least two and up to four times faster than before.

Part of the difficulty in nailing down the comparison to official data is that the government provides only delayed and periodic updates and does not start counting until construction progresses from leveling land to digging foundations.

Ofran said she believes construction tends to proceed very quickly these days from preliminary stages to foundation work because settlers and contractors are concerned about the possibility of a renewed freeze.

When building restrictions were imposed last November, contractors were allowed to continue building settlement houses whose foundations had already been poured. In this way — with the addition of allowing “exceptions” to the freeze on new starts — construction actually proceeded at a fairly brisk rate throughout the moratorium.

Ofran said that during the moratorium, settlers had prepared well for the resumption of construction. “It is not a surprise, because we knew this was coming,” she said of the building spurt. “Unless the government imposes a freeze, the settlers will continue to build.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said any new construction would be kept to a minimum, but has not elaborated. Settler leaders have complained that the government is holding up several major construction projects.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will only resume talks once building restrictions are reimposed, arguing there is no point negotiating while Israel continues to build on land the Palestinians want for a future state.

About 300,00 settlers already live among 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, and another 200,000 Jews live in east Jerusalem — both of which Israel captured in the 1967 war and are claimed by the Palestinians for their state.

Moscow new mayor faces task of preparing city for winter

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, delivers a speech while new Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin listens to during an inauguration ceremony in Moscow, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's chief of staff was named Thursday the Russian capital's new mayor in a move that would tighten federal control over Moscow's political scene and business interests. The appointment of Sergei Sobyanin underlined Putin's preeminence in Russian politics and would allow him to directly oversee Moscow's money flows that account for a sizable chunk of the nation's wealth. (AP Photo/Grigory Dukor, Pool)

MOSCOW, October 25 (Itar-Tass) – Sergei Sobyanin will begin his first working week as the mayor of Moscow with an urgent issue of the city’s preparation for the winter. Inaugurated on October 21, the new head of Moscow Monday will hold a meeting with members of the previous government of Moscow, now staying in the status of acting.

A sources in the mayor’s office told Itar-Tass that the meeting to attend which prefects were also invited, will be visiting and will be held in the south of the city – at the Chertanovo district heating station.

Sobyanin devoted his first three days in office to the study approaches to solving one of the priorities set by President Dmitry Medvedev – the transport issue. The new mayor has already taken part in an enlarged meeting at the RF Transport Ministry on Moscow’s traffic jams, in which governor of the Moscow region Boris Gromov also took part. Sobyanin’ s first tour of construction sites on Saturday also focused on the traffic jams, exactly – search for ways to cope with. The new mayor intends to concentrate its resources for the settlement of this problem, at the same time he stressed that “it is inadmissible to “dissipate strength in the road construction work.” He intends to establish next year a special road fund, and several times increase the city budget spending on transport in 2011, since it “does not correspond to the scope of problems the city is facing.”

In the view of Sobyanin, at present the city “needs to concentrate efforts on several specific facilities as soon as possible.” He has inspected the supply lines in the area of the “island of skyscrapers” – a yet unfinished Moscow City business centre.

Sobyanin, who called its construction in the heart of Moscow “a mistake in the city development,” has admitted that there is no turning back now and it only remains to minimise the consequences of this mistake – especially for the efficient organisation of transport flows. In this regard, the mayor came to the conclusion on the results of Saturday’s meeting that the system of road junctions around the business centre needs considerable improvement.

At a meeting of the city government on Tuesday, which will also be the first for Sobyanin, the government members will consider the issue of Moscow’s electric power supply scheme for a period up to 2020. Sobyanin has already said that the issue of energy efficiency, including in the construction sphere, is also a priority. Starting next year the new mayor intends to take up the introduction of new construction standards in which “the energy saving share should be 20 to 30 percent.” The city’s housing and public utilities are rather acute, especially regarding the creation of management companies and homeowners’ associations. Sobyanin instructed officials to work out by Monday specific measures to settle the problems with homeowners’ associations and demanded from prefects to “personally” deal with these problems, in order to relieve the city dwellers of them as early as by the middle of December.

In the view of the mayor, the campaign for the creation of homeowners’ associations in Moscow has already created a situation in which not citizens, but some organisations “that are cut off from the tenants” manage their houses. Therefore, officials were instructed to control in the future the relations of homeowners’ associations with the tenants, also the tariff policy and quality of provided services. Sobyanin believes the housing and public utilities sphere in the RF capital is one of the most obscure corrupt. He has already warned the city officials about personnel reshuffles that may follow after “the first signal” about extortions in that or other departments. “Please listen to my words, in order not to regret in the future, I ask you to ensure control over your departments and institutions entrusted to you,” he told the officials. “Make sure that there are no extortions or some kind of informal payments.” “This must be ruled out either directly or through some sort of shady offices, agencies or expert bodies; decisions, also on personnel, will be made on the first signal,” the mayor said. He also gave an instruction to officials: “Keep that in mind, we can not assume that this work will be done by someone, it is you who should do this work in the first place.” “The better you do it, the better your performance will be assessed,” said Sobyanin.

The Moscow ministers have already been working in the status of “acting” for nearly a month. Sobyanin so far extended these powers of the city government until a new Cabinet is formed. The new mayor also thanked the ministers for their “fruitful” work with the “acting” prefix. However, he did not rule out “rotations” in the government and suggested giving maximum authority to local self-government bodies.

The Moscow City Duma last Thursday vested Sobyanin with the powers of the capital’s mayor. The candidate, proposed by the RF president, gained support from 32 legislators of the 35 having seats in city Duma (32 of the United Russia party and three from the Communist Party). Two ballots were cast against. The meeting was attended by 34 deputies. One Communist MP is away on a sick leave. Before the voting procedure the Communists said they would vote against Sobyanin. The voting was held by secret ballot.

Obama’s Dilemma : Politics or ideology?

President Barack Hussein Obama

Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet)

Op-ed: Following expected elections defeat, Obama will find himself at political crossroads

(Part 1) President Obama in trouble: http://wp.me/pYE9h-2Sb

Part 2 of analysis

October 25, 2010 (Ynet) — If all the other troubles are not enough for President Obama, he and the Democrats also lost the support of the business sector. The legislation he initiated in a bid to reinforce the monitoring of Wall Street, and his efforts to impose taxes on the rich and protect the middle class exacted a heavy price on his plan to rehabilitate America’s economy.

Despite the economic crisis, those who think there is no money available in America are gravely mistaken. Immense sums of money are currently frozen in the large banks and major corporations, which are hesitant to invest it and stimulate the economy as long as Obama threatens to impose legislation and taxes that may harm them. The bitter result is that the economy is on hold, while Obama and the Democrats pay the price in the November elections.

The money that is changing hands within the economic elite is meant to deliver a grave blow to the ruling party. The Supreme Court contributed to this situation when it permitted companies and individuals to donate money to campaigns without revealing their identities. The ability to act discreetly and without financial limits enabled America’s wealthy, ranging from the air-conditioned office dwellers in Wall Street to the oil drillers in Texas to dramatically affect the current elections campaign; the same will apparently happen in the next presidential elections.

An astronomical sum of $3 billion had been poured into election ads in recent weeks. A quick glimpse at the TV set shows that the Republicans hold a major advantage over the Democrats. Just to illustrate, a group led by Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush’s senior advisor, easily poured $250 million into the campaign.

Jimmy or Bill?

In the first half of his term in office, Obama did things that many presidents before him did not: He successfully advanced revolutionary laws to stimulate the economy, approved a historical healthcare reform, and reinforced the monitoring of Wall Street’s dark corners.

The voters want to see immediate results, yet the fruits of Obama’s labor will only be evident years from now. Similarly, the healthcare reform is a complex process, whose achievements will only become apparent in the future.

On November 3rd, when America wakes up to a new Congress and new governors, the presidential election campaign shall in fact get underway. The great political question (with the answer to be provided only two years from now) is what kind of Obama will be sitting in the White House 11 days from now. Will he follow in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, who lost the Democratic majority in Congress and realized he has no choice but to shift to the Center? Or will he follow the example of Jimmy Carter, who insisted on promoting a liberal agenda?

Obama has already attempted to provide excuses for the expected November defeat, arguing that he was too busy with policy and abandoned politics. Indeed, this is the dilemma between the Clinton way and the Carter way: The former internalized the lessons of the Congress defeat in 1994, chose politics, and was elected for a second term in office. The latter stuck to his truth, chose to go ahead with his policy, and was kicked out of the White House after four years.

Medvedev to finalize instructions to improve life of pensioners

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev

MOSCOW, October 25 (KATAKAMI / Itar-Tass) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will hold a meeting of the State Council presidium devoted to improving the life of elderly people on Monday.

The president handles actively the problems of pensioners in the past four weeks. He held about ten meetings on pressing problems for elderly people. Medvedev explained his attention to this problem by the fact that about 40 million pensioners live in Russia.

On September 20, the president instructed Minister of Health and Social Development Tatiana Golikova “to set the priorities to improve the life of pensioners, examine the financial component, and to give close attention to pensions, medical services, medicine supplies and related issues.”

“The life quality in the country is showed by the life level of elderly people,” the president said with confidence. Therefore, Medvedev believes that the scope of basic approaches to the pension problem, including the retirement age, should be revised, but there are no ready answers yet.

“Our country is turning into a state of elderly people. There is nothing bad about it, this means that we live longer,” the president pointed out. “Anyway, it is a positive process, but we should prepare for it,” Medvedev remarked.

On International Day of Older People marked on October 1, Medvedev stated in his video blog that the care of older people is the top priority for the state and the whole society.

The president also noted that a considerable part of addresses to him are made from elderly people. “They are writing about their problems related with medical services and medicines, some difficulties to pay utility bills and about pensions. They are writing how difficult to find a job for them and about a lack of demand for them,” Medvedev said.

We want to build a network of strengthened bilateral relationships between Britain and Russia : UK Foreign Secretary

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague

William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, to Gazeta.ru

October 25, 2010 (KATAKAMI / UK IN RUSSIA) — This week Britain’s coalition government announced its spending plans for the next four years.  We are taking urgent steps to reduce the national debt and deal with the fiscal legacy we inherited.  We have shown that we have the resolve and determination to live within our means.  And we have set out to reinvigorate Britain’s diplomatic engagement with the world, elevating our links with the fastest growing economies and championing Britain as a home for business and investment. We understand that economic recovery starts at home, but that we have to look beyond our shores for new opportunities and new partners.

The scale of the economic challenge is formidable. We inherited one of the largest Budget deficits in Europe and the G20. But we have a clear vision for the future of our country. We have chosen to spend on the country’s most important priorities – the health care of our people, the education of our young, our nation’s security and the infrastructure that supports our economic growth. We are building a fairer and more responsible society, with more opportunity for people to lift themselves out of poverty, and with state support focused on those who need it most. We are reforming public services – improving transparency and accountability, giving more power and responsibility to citizens and enabling sustainable long term improvements in services. And we are building a stronger economy, with more jobs, investment and growth for a private sector-led recovery. We have protected as far as possible those areas of public spending which matter for economic growth and pursued reforms to make these more cost-effective.

We know that we cannot have sustainable growth in the economy without healthy public finances.  We have created a new independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility, so that the power to determine the growth and fiscal forecasts now resides with an independent body immune to the temptations of the political cycle.  And we have pledged to eliminate the UK’s structural deficit by the end of this Parliament, which has been welcomed by the International Monetary Fund as a necessary path to ensuring fiscal sustainability and a balanced recovery.

Our Spending Review is part of an ambitious plan to create a business environment that is one of the most competitive anywhere in the world. We understand that the British economy of the future must be one that is built on investment, saving and exports, and are determined to use our tough plans for fiscal consolidation as a springboard for growth and recovery through the private sector.   From 2011 we will gradually reduce corporation tax to 24 per cent, giving Britain the lowest in the G7 and one of the lowest in the G20.  We will reduce the small profits rate of corporation tax to 20 per cent.  We will lower capital gains tax for entrepreneurs.  And we will cut National Insurance contributions for employers, extend help to small businesses needing to access credit, and make Britain the easiest place in the world to start a business.

But let us not forget that throughout the recession the UK has remained the sixth largest economy in the world.  We have one of the most flexible labour markets in Europe and, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the least number of barriers to entrepreneurship in the world.  Our unrivalled financial services industry, our strong skills base, our global outlook and orientation, our creative talents, our world class universities and our central position between Asian and American time zones all demonstrate that we have an open economy and we are open for business.

So we have a strong base on which to build. With that in mind, we want to reinvigorate the commercial focus in our relationship here in Russia.  We are aware our two countries already enjoy excellent trade and investment relations – the UK is consistently one of Russia’s largest foreign investors.  We want to continue working with you to open up pathways into new markets and unlock barriers to investment.  We want to build a network of strengthened bilateral relationships between Britain and Russia that can act as the veins and arteries along which trade can flow in both directions so our two countries can grow and prosper together.  And that is why the new Government is pursuing mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia.  Last week during William Hague’s visit, he and President Medvedev agreed a Knowledge Partnership  to help  promote partnerships in business, science and education in support of Russia’s modernisation.  Next month’s visit by British Business Secretary Vince Cable will take forward the work of the UK-Russia Intergovernmental Steering Committee on Trade and Investment in important areas such as hi-tech innovation, energy efficiency and the Olympics.

So we are confident that we are taking the right steps at home and abroad to help economic recovery in our own countries, and to contribute to a stable and prosperous global economy.

British Deputy PM: Investigate Iraq Abuse Claims

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (File Photo)

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says allegations of prisoner abuse and civilian killings in Iraq from a cache of leaked U.S. secret military documents are “extremely serious” and must be investigated.

Clegg told BBC television (The Andrew Marr Show) Sunday that while the actions of British forces in Iraq “need to be looked at,” it would be up to the U.S. administration to answer for the behavior of its own troops.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper has examined the files released by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks in detail and says it found two cases in which Iraqis reported being abused by British soldiers.

Clegg’s Liberal Democratic Party opposed the invasion of Iraq, and he has called the war illegal. His party, in opposition when the war began, is now part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led ruling coalition.

The Conservatives supported former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to join the U.S. invasion.

Britain’s Defense Ministry has joined U.S. officials in condemning the release of nearly 400,000 classified U.S. military documents from the Iraq war, saying it could put soldiers’ lives at risk.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says the decision to release the documents “is about the truth” and that the documents contain no names or information harmful to any group or individual.

Among the revelations, the documents indicate more than 100,000 people were killed following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and that more than 60 percent of them were civilians. They also report 15,000 unknown or unreported deaths.

The files contain raw accounts from the battlefield, including incidents in which American soldiers killed civilians at checkpoints or fired on insurgents who had tried to surrender. The new documents also exhibit cases in which Iraqi forces abused Iraqi detainees.

The files indicate that while American forces informed Iraqi officials of the problems, they took no direct action to stop the abuse. There are also reports revealing Iran’s role in the war – such as incidents in which detainees spoke of having Iranian help – and the discovery of Iranian-supplied weapons.

Earlier this year, WikiLeaks published some 77,000 secret documents relating to the war in Afghanistan, including the names of Afghan informants.

Russia wants equal role in NATO missile shield: Defence Minister

Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Anatoly Serdyukov

October 25, 2010 Berlin (KATAKAMI / DefenceTalk.com)  — Russia is open to talks on NATO’s planned European missile shield but wants to play an equal role in its development, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Anatoly Serdyukov told the German weekly Der Spiegel.

“The most important thing for us is firstly to define what are the real threats to Europe, and secondly is to see Russia put on an equal footing as a participant,” Serdyukov said in an interview to be published in full on Monday.

“It is only thus can an anti-missile defence system be put in place which satisfies everyone.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is to attend next month’s NATO summit in Lisbon and said Tuesday that Moscow was prepared to discuss the Alliance’s proposed anti-missile shield.

Previous US plans to deploy an anti-missile system in former Soviet satellite states in eastern Europe angered the Kremlin, but NATO now hopes to ease these doubts by including Moscow in the planning of a broader system.

Washington insists the shield is to fend off threats from “rogue states” like Iran and is not aimed at undermining Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

“We are looking at the idea of this proposal right now,” Medvedev said after talks in the French resort of Deauville with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“But I think NATO itself should decide how it sees Russia joining this system, what it will give, in what way agreements may be reached and how to work further.

“Only after examining this proposal will we be able to give an answer as to how we will work further in relation to European missile defence.”

“For the moment, the stakes and the threats are viewed very differently,” Serdyukov told Der Spiegel.

“We don’t share all the West’s views on the capacities of the Iranian nuclear programme,” he said.

Medvedev has long promoted what he thinks should be a common European security strategy uniting the continent once split between the West and the Soviet bloc.

France, Germany and other Western powers have agreed to discuss this, but also remain tied to the NATO vision of a Euro-Atlantic pact including the United States and Canada, with a NATO-Russia council attached to it.

However Serdyukov said that in the near future the two former Cold War rivals will look at each other much more as partners.

Palestinian international appeal ‘unrealistic’: Netanyahu

FILE : Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, left, walks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with Special Middle East Peace Envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, behind center, at his residence in Jerusalem, Israel Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010. Clinton is in the region for Mideast peace talks.(Getty Images / AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / FRANCE 24 / AFP ) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday urged the Palestinians not to abandon stalled peace talks in favour of an “unrealistic” appeal to the international community.

“We expect the Palestinians to honour their commitment to hold direct negotiations,” Netanyahu said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.

“I think that any attempt to bypass them by appealing to international bodies is unrealistic and will not give any impetus to a genuine diplomatic process,” he said.

The United States convinced the two sides to relaunch direct peace talks in early September but the Palestinians suspended them later that month following the expiration of a partial Israeli settlement moratorium.

Palestinian officials have since said that if Israel does not impose a new freeze they may seek recognition of their promised state from the United States, the UN Security Council or the General Assembly.

Netanyahu said he was holding “intensive contacts with the American administration in order to restart the diplomatic process.”

But he appeared to shy away from recent reports that US and Israeli negotiators have been discussing a raft of security and other incentives in exchange for a 60-day extension of the moratorium to allow the talks to resume.

“Our goal is not just to resume the process, but to advance it in such a way that it cannot be halted in a few weeks or months,” he said.

After months of US shuttle diplomacy, Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas relaunched the talks in Washington on September 2 with the goal of reaching a full peace deal within one year.

However they remain divided on the core issues of the conflict that have bedevilled past efforts to reach a deal, and the Palestinians view the settlement dispute as a crucial test of Israel’s intentions.

They have long seen the presence of some 500,000 Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem as a major obstacle to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

Netanyahu warns Palestine against unilateral steps

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem October 24, 2010. Netanyahu urged the Palestinians on Sunday not to take unilateral steps towards statehood, saying Israel was working closely with Washington on ways to restart peace talks. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool )

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned Palestinian government against attempts to replace the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks with unilateral actions.

Palestinians have sounded ideas of alternative ways of settling the Middle East conflict in circumvention of Israel amid stagnation of the direct negotiations.

Direct talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resumed on September 2 in Washington, after an almost two-year hiatus but are on the verge of breaking down over the issue of Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank.

“We expect that the Palestinians will fulfill their obligation to carry on direct talks. I believe that any attempt to bypass the talks turning to various international organizations is unrealistic and could not give an additional impulse to the diplomatic process,” Netanyahu told a governmental meeting on Sunday.

The Israeli prime minister said he seeks for a solution which would allow Israel and Palestine to reset the negotiation process and expressed hope that such a solution would be found soon.

“Our goal is not only to resume the [negotiation] process but to create such conditions in which it [the negotiation process] will not ground to a halt after several weeks or months, but will continue as ceaseless dialogue during about a year,” Netanyahu said.

“Only direct talks may lead to peace and, I hope, we will soon return to it.”

TEL AVIV, October 24 (RIA Novosti)

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

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem October 24, 2010. Netanyahu urged the Palestinians on Sunday not to take unilateral steps towards statehood, saying Israel was working closely with Washington on ways to restart peace talks. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool )

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE) — Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of the Cabinet meeting today:

“We are holding intensive contacts with the American administration in order to restart the diplomatic process.  Our goal is not just to resume the process, but to advance it in such a way that it cannot be halted in a few weeks or months, and will enter into approximately one year of continuous negotiations on the fundamental problems, in order to try and reach a framework agreement ahead of a peace settlement.

In these negotiations, we will – of course – uphold the vital interests of the State of Israel, with security first and foremost.  We expect the Palestinians to honor their commitment to hold direct negotiations.  I think that any attempt to bypass them by appealing to international bodies is unrealistic and will not give any impetus to a genuine diplomatic process.

Peace will only be achieved through direct negotiations and I hope that we will fully return to this track soon.”

Hamas and Fatah declare start of negotiations

The rival parties are scheduled to meet next week to discuss ending their current dispute; news comes after arrests in West Bank, Gaza Strip.

October 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Jpost) —  Hamas announced on Sunday that it has reached an agreement with Fatah to hold a meeting next week to discuss ways of ending their dispute.

The announcement came as tensions between the two rival parties continued to mount following the arrest of Hamas and Fatah supporters in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Moreover, the war of words between the two sides continues to escalate despite the talk about a possible reconciliation.

Hamas and Fatah representatives were scheduled to meet in Damascus last week in another bid to end the crisis.

However, the meeting was canceled following a heated altercation between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Assad during the recent Arab summit in Libya.

Abbas’s aides accused Assad of “humiliating” the PA president by accusing him of succumbing to Israeli and American pressure to return to the negotiating table with Israel and abandoning the armed struggle option.

The two sides have yet to agree on the venue of next week’s meeting.

However, Salah Bardaweel, a Hamas legislator and spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said he did not rule out the possibility that the meeting would still be held in the Syrian capital.

Bardaweel denied claims that the political platforms of Hamas and Fatah were identical.

“Fatah leaders should not waste their time searching for similarities in the political platforms of Hamas and Fatah,” he said. “The only thing we could have in common is not recognizing Israel’s existence.”

The Hamas official said that even if his movement accepted a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, it won’t relinquish its claim to historic Palestine, “from the sea to the river.”

Bardaweel was commenting on remarks made by Osama Qawasmeh, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, who claimed over the weekend that Hamas too recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Qawasmeh claimed that Hamas was ready to recognize Israel’s existence if a Palestinian state were to be established in the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem.

Azzam Ahmed, head of the Fatah delegation to the talks with Hamas, said that the talks would focus on an Egyptian proposal that was presented to the two parties last year to end the conflict. Ahmed said that Fatah and Hamas have yet to agree on a number of points in the proposal, including holding new elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reconstructing the Palestinian security forces and the release of prisoners held by both sides.

The Fatah representative denied that an Israeli or American “veto” was preventing his faction from signing a deal with Hamas. “Fatah’s will is stronger than any American veto,” he said. “That’s why we already accepted the Egyptian reconciliation plan. Also, we won’t allow Israel to intervene in the internal affairs of the Palestinians.”

In a related development, Hamas accused Fatah-controlled security forces in the West Bank of arresting “Islamic scholar” Majed Hassan less than two weeks after he was released from Israeli prison.

Hassan, a resident of Ramallah, served three years in an Israeli prison and was released on October 7. Since then he had been summoned three times for interrogation by different branches of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. On Sunday he was summoned for the third time and arrested in a PA prison in Ramallah.