US and Israel to sign Memorandum of Understanding Friday to call for international effort to cut Hamas off from Iranian weapons

US and Israel to sign Memorandum of Understanding Friday to call for international effort to cut Hamas off from Iranian weapons

Included in the proposed agreement is Israel’s demand that the U.S. call on the international community to stop Iranian weapons’ transfer into Gaza. As part of the international effort, Israel is calling for a joint international maritime effort to seize ships carrying weapons.

US, Israel Mull Intel Pact On Gaza Tunnels

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January 15, 2009 6:43 a.m. EST


The Media Line Staff

Jerusalem, Israel (THE MEDIA LINE) – Israel and the United States are considering signing a memorandum of understanding concerning the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip, an informed source in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) told The Media Line.

The bilateral agreement will attempt to give solutions to the trafficking of weapons from Iran via Sudan, Egypt and other countries, into the hands of Hamas in Gaza.

A report about the agreement was first published in the Israeli daily Haaretz on Thursday morning.

Aiming at reaching a quick signing on the bilateral agreement, Israel’s MFA dispatched its Director General, Aharon Abramowitz, to meet on Thursday with State Department and White House officials, The Media Line has learned from its source at the MFA.

Included in the proposed agreement is Israel’s demand that the U.S. call on the international community to stop Iranian weapons’ transfer into Gaza. As part of the international effort, Israel is calling for a joint international maritime effort to seize ships carrying weapons.

Israel also aims to establish intelligence cooperation with the U.S. that would identify the sources of weapons.

If reached, the agreement will also contain a clause calling for American and European commitments to the transfer of technologies to Egypt that would help it uncover tunnels emanating from its territory.

The Israeli move comes only few days before the swearing in of Sen. Barack Obama as the next U.S. president. Addressing the conflict in Gaza, Obama told CBS on Wednesday night he would act “from day one” to stop the violence between Israel and Hamas.

“We are going to take a regional approach; we are going to have to involve Syria…[and] Iran,” said Obama.

If Israel and the U.S. sign the agreement, it will bind the next administration.

Europeans souring on Ukraine, Georgia

Europeans souring on Ukraine, Georgia

Paul Taylor

Europeans souring on Ukraine, Georgia Paul Taylor, Reuters columnist

Feted just a couple of years ago as heroes of democratic revolutions, the leaders of Ukraine and Georgia have fallen from grace among European policymakers.
While there is scant sympathy in Europe for Russia’s rough treatment of the two former Soviet republics, European Union officials have been exasperated by the behaviour of the governments in Kiev and Tbilisi.

In private, many EU policymakers blame Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for igniting last August’s disastrous war with Russia by launching an attack on rebels in breakaway South Ossetia that gave Moscow a pretext to send in the tanks.

And they accuse Ukraine’s feuding leaders of exacerbating the current gas crisis with Moscow by undermining each other’s negotiations, breaking undertakings to the EU on the smooth transit of gas and dealing with murky intermediaries.

Some charge neo-conservatives in the United States, who have campaigned actively to get both countries into the NATO military alliance, with goading them into conflict with the Kremlin.

“The neo-con agenda in that region has been a disaster for Europe,” said an EU foreign policy official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

EU officials have been loath to fault either government in public, partly because they enjoy support among ex-communist east European member states, but also because Brussels remains sympathetic to the goals of their democratic revolutions.

However, the crisis over the cut-off of Russian gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine in a dispute over pricing and debt has crystallised European disenchantment with the leaders of Kiev’s “Orange Revolution”.

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering told Reuters on Tuesday: “If the gas is blocked in Ukraine, then this will seriously damage relations between Ukraine and the EU. It is not in Ukraine’s interests to do this.”

WORST ENEMIES

An EU energy official close to the negotiations said of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko: “They are their own worst enemies.”

The crisis could have been averted, he said, if Yushchenko had not vetoed a New Year’s Eve deal negotiated by Tymoshenko with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on gas prices for 2009 and getting rid of a Swiss-based intermediary company, RosUkrEnergo, which sells all Russian gas to Ukraine.

Yushchenko denied that version of events on Tuesday and insisted he had no links to any gas supply intermediaries.

The rival Ukrainian leaders often seem unaware of how their feuding looks to investors, international financial institutions and the rest of Europe.

They conducted some of their most vicious public exchanges just as an International Monetary Fund delegation was in Kiev last October to negotiate a $16.4 billion emergency loan to Ukraine in the financial crisis as the hryvnia currency tumbled.

The European Commission would like to draw Ukraine and Georgia closer to the EU through European Neighbourhood Policy agreements on trade, economic aid, energy cooperation, institution building and the rule of law, while leaving aside the long-term question of possible membership of the bloc.

But EU officials are dismayed that Ukraine has done so little in economic reform, tackling corruption and improving transparency and the rule of law to qualify for more assistance.

“Instead of fighting corruption, they spend their time fighting each other,” the energy official said.

It was politically inconvenient that both states voiced enthusiasm for joining the EU just as the bloc was suffering enlargement fatigue after taking in 10 new members in 2004.

European states led by Germany and France blocked a drive by U.S. President George W. Bush at a NATO summit last year to grant Ukraine and Georgia a roadmap to membership. That prompted some supporters of Bush’s “democracy agenda” to accuse the Europeans of appeasing Russia, which vehemently opposes NATO expansion up to its southern border.

The allies declared instead that both countries would eventually join the Western military alliance, but set no date.

NATO foreign ministers shelved the issue in December after Washington recognised its campaign was splitting the alliance.

Now the Europeans are hoping incoming President Barack Obama will not resurrect the issue at NATO’s 60th anniversary summit in April. Neither country’s behaviour since the last NATO summit has made it a more attractive candidate for membership.

Energy Commissioner Says Ukraine Will Not Restart Gas to Europe Yet

Presidential commissioner: Ukraine won’t

restart transit unless technological deal signed

with Russia

Ukraine won't restart transit unless technological deal signed with Russia Ukraine’s presidential international
energy security commissioner Bohdan
Sokolovsky

Ukraine will not restart gas transit to Europe unless a technological agreement is signed with Russia, Ukraine’s presidential international energy security commissioner Bohdan Sokolovsky has said.

“A technological agreement, or a technological contract must be signed to define at what point which amounts of gas of what quality must be delivered into Ukraine’s gas transportation system,” Sokolovskiy said at a press briefing in Kyiv on Thursday.

Exclusively technical terms of the dealings between the Ukrainian and Russian gas systems are involved here, he said. The agreement would not cover the financial side – the price for the transit, or technical gas, Sokolovsky said.

“The national company Naftogaz Ukrainy two days ago provided two drafts to the Russian side. But Russia has yet to respond,” he said.

“Such an agreement is extremely important for transiting Russian gas to Europe,” he also said.

“In the absence of an agreement defining in what amounts and at which points gas will be received, and in what amounts and where it would be shipped, Ukraine will be physically unable to transit gas,” said Sokolovsky.

Two injured as Israeli warplanes attack media compound in Gaza

Two injured as Israeli warplanes attack media

compound in Gaza

Gaza – A journalist and a cameraman working for Abu Dhabi TV were injured when Israeli shells hit the Ash-Shuruq Tower on Umar Al-Mukhtar Street in dowtown Gaza City on Thursday.

The building contains several news agencies and networks, including Reuters, NBC, and Al-Arabiya.

An Israeli airstrike caused a fire to break out in the building. Journalists have reportedly fled the compound fearing continued Israeli strikes.

The injured journalists were taken to Ash-Shifa Hospital. They were identified as Muhammad As-Susi, who was wounded in the head, and Ayman Ar-Rezi who was injured “all over his body. “

Reuters journalists working there at the time said an Israeli missile or shell appeared to have struck the southern side of the 13th floor of the Tower.

Reuters said it evacuated the bureau, though a live camera feed that has been providing images from Gaza throughout the war continued to function. Live television images from another site showed smoke pouring from the upper floors of the 16-story building.

The One Real God Will Make You Pay For This.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!

Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.