Mikati urges world to isolate Lebanon from Syria crisis

Mikati urges world to isolate Lebanon from Syria crisis

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati warned that the protracted crisis in Syria threatens civil peace the Middle East and said the world must isolate Lebanon from the Syria crisis.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati delivers a speech before the U.N. General Assembly. (The Daily Star/HO)
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati delivers a speech before the U.N. General Assembly. (The Daily Star/HO)

“The crisis in Syria threatens civil peace and stability in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, which requires the international community to exert great efforts to reach a political solution between the Syrian parties to stop the spiral of violence that claims hundreds of innocent victims every day,” Mikati said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly at midnight Thursday.

“It is the duty of the international community to neutralize Lebanon from the turbulent situation now and assist it to flourish and spread its [prosperity] throughout the Middle East,” he urged.

He also called on “the world to look at Lebanon as a beacon of hope and a message of freedom and pluralism, and as a chance to secure the safest and shortest way for a democratic, healthy and prosperous Middle East.”

Mikati stressed that “Lebanon adheres to the disassociation policy [from Syria unrest], but not in terms of the human duty toward Syrian refugees.”

He underscored Lebanon’s commitment to U.N. resolution 1701 and called for more world pressure on Israel to withdraw its troops from the Lebanese border village of Ghajar and Shebaa Farms.

Turning to the anti-Islam film which sparked violent protests across the region, Mikati said Lebanon denounces insults to any religion and stressed the need for building confidence through dialogue among cultures and civilizations.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mikati called for world recognition of the state of Palestine to “correct historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people.”

“No stability in the region without a Palestinian Spring,” he said, in reference to the Arab Spring or the wave of demonstrations and protests calling for democratic change in the Arab world.

He believed the “Palestine Spring” would come when Palestinians gained their rights to self-determination.

Mikati, however, said he believed that people of the Arab world are “eager for change through peaceful means and not through violence.”

He pointed out that “peace – coupled with freedom and justice – can provide security and stability to our world and put an end to tyranny, extremism, terrorism and peoples’ domination.”

“The legitimate aspirations of the peoples can only [be achieved] through peaceful transition and dialogue away from the cycle of violence and foreign intervention,” he argued before urging the international community to come out with an economic, cultural and developmental roadmap to help Middle East countries to cope with the change.

Lastly, Mikati called on the U.N. Security Council to “reconsider its restructure and its powers.”

He said the UNSC should also “expand to become more just and democratic as it takes into account the political and economic realities of the new world by increasing the number of its members and allowing small countries to participate in the membership.”

In remarks published Friday by pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, Mikati denied the presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon, saying that he has received confirmation with regards to the issue.

“There is no presence of Iran’s revolutionary guards in Lebanon,” Mikati said, referring to remarks made by the top commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard in which he said that he had sent some Guard members to Lebanon and Syria.

“We have received confirmations from all sides that the question posed to one of the security officials was about the past and that his talk focused on the presence of Iran’s revolutionary guards in Syria but he did not touch on their presence in Lebanon,” he added.

Mikati also voiced certainty that Hezbollah would not involve Lebanon in the Syria crisis, reiterating that the resistance party agreed on the Baabda Declaration which stipulates that Lebanon remain at a distance from regional and international conflicts particularly in its neighbor.

“I am certain that Hezbollah will commit to this declaration and will not allow Lebanon to be involved in any matter that does not concern it directly unless it is an attack on Lebanon,” the prime minister said.

“And we will not provoke Israel so that it would interfere in Lebanon’s matters,” he added.

Mikati also called for an honest, Arab role to stop bloodshed in Syria but “not an Arab intervention.”

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani called Tuesday for an Arab intervention force to be sent to Syria to end the violence in Syria during his speech to the 67th General Assembly at the U.N.

(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

AP Story Pure Misinformation–Hyping Panetta Interview To Imply Imminent Chemical Weapons Threat

[AP scare-mongering, followed by more reasonable version from Ynet in Israel, of all places.]

Panetta says Syria moved some chemical weapons

The Associated Press

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta listens to a question during at a news conference at the Pentagon, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
By LOLITA C. BALDOR

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says intelligence suggests the Syrian government has moved some of its chemical weapons, but the U.S. believes that the main sites still remain secure.

Panetta says he does not have enough information to confirm if any of the moves suggest that some of the material has been acquired by the opposition forces battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

It is widely believed that Syria possesses extensive chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and it has threated to use them if the country comes under attack. President Barack Obama has said there would be enormous consequences if the U.S. sees any movement or use of the weapons.

Panetta was speaking at a news conference with Canadian Minister of National Defense Peter MacKay.end of story marker

© Copyright 2012 Associated Press

Panetta: Syria moved some chemical weapons to boost security

US defense secretary says intelligence indicates Syria’s main WMD arsenal still secure, under government control

Reuters

The Syrians have moved some of their chemical weaponscapability to better secure it, but the country’s main chemical weapons sites remain intact and secure under government control, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Friday, citing US intelligence.

“There has been some intelligence that with regards to some of these sites that there has been some movement in order for the Syrians to better secure… the chemicals,” Panetta told a Pentagon news conference.

“So while there’s been some limited movement, again the major sites still remain in place, still remain secure.”

Panetta said that he does not have enough information to confirm if any of the moves suggest that some of the material has been acquired by the opposition forces battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The United States and Israel have both expressed concern that Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal – considered the largest in the world – would be compromised and wind up in terrorist hands, including those of Hezbollah.

Opposition forces have also expressed concern that the embattled regime will use its unconventional weapons, which include Sarin and mustard gas, on rebel forces and civilian population.

In August, rebel forces claimed that the Assad regime used “mass-killing thermobaric weapons” on civilians in Aleppo.

JUST THE FACTS–The New Conquistadors

JUST THE FACTS 

New Conquistadors

Just the Facts

US Removal of Radar from Honduras Creates “Open skies for drug trafficking.”

[SEE:  Behind deadly confrontations in Honduras, a new anti-drug strategy]

US radar technology

US officials announced they have suspended the sharing of radar intelligence with Honduras following the unilateral decision by the Honduran Air Force to shoot down two suspected drug flights. The announcement further destabilizes the already shaky US-Honduras counter-narcotics assistance program.

The radar technology had been in place since May as part of the US-led “Operation Anvil.” However, the US decided to suspend sharing radar intelligence August 18, according to La Prensa, following the downing of two suspected drug flights by the Honduran Air Force in July. The confusing incident led to the removal of the head of the Honduran Air Force.

The US has stated that it is willing to restore the radar system but only once it has carried out a full review that will establish strict guidelines to ensure no such unilateral actions take place in the future. Ramon Custodio, the head of Honduras’ human rights commission (known by its acronym CONADEH), said in response to the withdrawal of the radar that the country is now, “open skies for drug trafficking.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Honduras is one of the primary transit points for cocaine traversing Central America. The State Department estimates 79 percent of drug flights pass through the country.

The US’ concern, however, has not translated into a stable relationship with the Honduran government. Last month, US officials announced that police aid would be suspended to units under the command of the country’s police chief due to claims he ran death squads in the 2000s.

Hondurans are also not happy, especially with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has employed special teams to some of the more drug-ridden areas. In May, the DEA was involved in the killingof four suspected drug traffickers in the northeastern Gracias a Dios province, one of whom was a woman who was allegedly pregnant.

Still, the US is keen to continue with special operations and counter-narcotics activities in Honduras, InSight Crime has learned, and will likely proceed with greater caution going forward.

Nicaragua Follows Southern Neighbors’ Lead and Formalizes Pullout of “School Of the Americas”

Nicaragua Formalizes Pullout of SOA

Nicaragua formalizes pullout of SOA

Flying Solo: Nicaraguan military officers will no longer participate in the U.S. School of the Americas (photo/ Tim Rogers)
By David Hutt / special to The Nicaragua Dispatch 

The ‘School of the Americas’ (SOA) occupies a very dark place in Latin American history.

The U.S. military academy, based in Fort Benning, Georgia, has been training Latin American soldiers for well over half a century. More than 64,000 have passed through its doors, a significant number of which have been accused and convicted of human rights abuses. It has educated 11 dictators, including Panama’s former drug-dealing strongman, Manuel Noriega, and El Salvador’s Roberto D’Aubuisson, who controlled that country’s infamous death squads.

In March of this year, SOA graduate Pedro Pimentel Ríos of Guatemala was sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for his actions during the 1982 Dos Erres Massacre that left more than 200 dead. Three years earlier, in 2009, two-time graduate Gen. Romeo Orlando Vásquez led the military putsch against Honduras’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.

Dropping out of School: President Daniel Ortega and Father Roy Bourgeois are joined by the president’s daughter, Camila (left), Sandinista foreign policy advisor Miguel D’Escoto (right) and the SOA Watch’s Lisa Sullivan and Mary Anne Perrone (photo courtesy of SOAWlatina.org)

This month, Nicaragua became the sixth Latin American country—and the first in Central America—to announce the end of its participation in the school’s officers’ training program. In practice, Nicaragua has been slowly reducing its participation in the program over the past few years; it sent no new officers to the school this year.

In 2004, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez rather unsurprisingly severed his country’s links to the school, which he considers an “imperialist” training camp. Two years later Argentina made a similar decision. Neighboring Uruguay saw its neighbors’ pullout as an opportunity to affirm its long-standing dismissal of the school. Then came Bolivia in 2008, and Ecuador in 2012.

In 2007 Costa Rica, which has no standing army but sends police officers to the SOA for training, also toyed with the idea of discontinuing its participation. But the country decided to keep sending officers for anti-narcotics training.

In announcing his decision several weeks ago, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said, “The SOA is an ethical and moral anathema. All of the countries of Latin America have been victims of its graduates. The SOA is a symbol of death, a symbol of terror.”

Ortega went on to empathize that “We have been gradually reducing our numbers of troops at the SOA, sending only five last year and none this year. We have now entered a new phase and we will not continue to send troops to the SOA. This is the least that we can do.”

The decision came after Ortega met with a delegation from the “School of the Americas Watch” (SOAW), a campaign group that has been bringing awareness to the human rights abuses committed by SOA graduates since 1990. The group’s founder, Maryknoll priest Father Roy Bourgeois, was motivated to act after witnessing the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero in El Salvador in 1980. He describes the SOA as a “symbol of United States foreign policy whose role is always the same: to protect U.S. economic interests and control the natural resources of Latin American countries.”

In 2001, the school attempted to distance itself from the past by renaming itself the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.” It also justified its existence by commenting that “no school should be held accountable for the actions of its graduates.”

However, there have been questions about how much has changed. Maj. Joseph Blair, a former director at the school, said, “There are no substantive changes besides the name. They teach the identical courses that I taught, and changed the course names and use the same manuals.”

The SOAW delegation spent 10 days touring Nicaragua meeting representatives from rural communities, Sandinista Youth brigades and the president. Lisa Sullivan, who works as the Latin America Coordinator for “School of the Americas Watch,” described her last meeting with President Ortega in 2008.

“After sixteen years of absolute economic dependency on the U.S., and with wounds of a U.S.-funded war still raw, the timing was just not right in 2008 to announce Nicaragua’s withdrawal from the SOA,” she said.

Four years later, the SOAW delegation found the Nicaraguan president better able to listen to their cause.

“From the moment we stepped into Nicaragua, it was clear that a lot had changed in four years,” Sullivan commentated. “In recent years, the ALBA bloc of Latin American and Caribbean nations had offered Nicaragua the economic solidarity some degree of independence from the U.S. Still, the U.S. still controlled a large amount of funds for Nicaragua, and they were reluctant to anger their giant neighbor,” she said.

David Hutt is a freelance writer from London, UK, who will be on the trail of Latin America during the next year and will be working as a tour guide in León, Nicaragua. Follow his travels and misadventures on his blog, and follow him on twitter @davidhutt1990

Israeli Press Invents False Issue of Hezbollah In Nicaragua Out of Whole Cloth

By Tim Rogers
Israeli news media and members of the U.S. Congress started a whirlwind rumor that Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah is operating military training camps in northern Nicaragua. The Tico Times examines the truth behind the gossip.
Hezbollah

Dangerous gossip: To date, no proof exists to confirm claims published by Israeli media and echoed by U.S. lawmakers that the armed Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah is operating training camps in Nicaragua.   Mahmoud Zayyat | AFP

From the print edition

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – For a story that appears to be based more on fear than fact, the rumors of Hezbollah activity in Nicaragua will not go away.

Former presidential candidate and radio producer Fabio Gadea last weekend criticized the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama for not taking a stronger stance against President Daniel Ortega, who he called “a friend of the worst tyrants and enemies of the United States.”

Gadea, who lost to Ortega in last year’s presidential elections, also criticized why no one has investigated recent reports in Israeli media that claim the Lebanese Shiite military group Hezbollah is currently training terrorists in a secret location in northern Nicaragua, near the Honduran border.

“Approximately 30 members of the terrorist organization reside inside the area, which is closed to locals,” the Times of Israel reported earlier this month, citing only Israel Radio as its source. “The Hezbollah men reportedly receive all their supplies from Tehran.”

Other Israeli media outlets picked up the report, citing “local media” in Nicaragua as the source of information. In Nicaragua, however, no local media is reporting that Hezbollah has a training camp here.

Nicaraguan authorities, meanwhile, have not commented on the accusations.

“I don’t know those reports, or in what media that is being reported in,” said Nicaragua Army spokesman Lt. Col. Orlando Palacios. “I would have to see [the reports] to give an opinion on them, but for the moment I don’t have any opinion.”

Asked if the army could categorically deny the existence of Hezbollah training camps in Nicaragua without reading the articles, Palacios repeated that the army has no comment.

“I repeat, I don’t know the articles and I can’t opine on something I haven’t read. Neither the army nor I have any opinion about this at this time,” Palacios said earlier this month.

Neither the army nor any other government authority in Nicaragua has issued additional comment on the Israeli media reports.

Though the reports appear unsubstantiated, they also are cause from some concern on Capitol Hill.

On Sept. 19, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, spoke in favor of House Resolution 3783, or “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012.” The bill, which Ros-Lehtinen helped get passed in a House voice vote last week, calls for a comprehensive U.S. government strategy to counter Iran’s growing presence in the Western Hemisphere.

Ros-Lehtinen has been deeply concerned for some time with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s overtures to Latin America – a move she calls his “tour of tyrants” to meet with “his fellow tyrants: the Castro brothers in Cuba, Ortega in Nicaragua, Correa in Ecuador, Chávez in Venezuela, and Morales in Bolivia.”

The congresswoman claims that Iran’s diplomatic foray into the leftist bloc of countries belonging to the Venezuelan-propped Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) is nothing more than a front for Iran to “carry out its nefarious activities in the region” and establish a “potential platform to increase the presence of Qods Force operatives, an arm of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran.”

The alleged Hezbollah training camps in Nicaragua, which no one has proven to exist, are a perfect example of Iran’s allegedly nefarious meddling, according to the Florida congresswoman.

“According to media reports, Hezbollah, which is Iran’s proxy, has established a training base in Nicaragua.  It is also concerning that the Ortega regime in Nicaragua does not require any visas for Iranian officials to enter the country, which can then become the gateway to enter the U.S. through our southern border,” Ros-Lehtinen told the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

Ros-Lehtinen, however, has been saying that Iranian activity in Latin America poses “an immediate threat” and a “clear and present danger” to the U.S. for the past year. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any substantial proof to support that claim or suggest that Iran is up to anything other than awkward diplomacy and peddling empty promises for aid.

Officials from the U.S. Southern Command, which presumably would be very interested in any such terrorist activity in Nicaragua, said they have no idea where reports of Hezbollah training camps are coming from. José Ruiz, spokesman for U.S. Southern Command in Florida, said he has never heard of any Hezbollah activity in Nicaragua.

“We are aware of [Iran’s] growing diplomatic and economic presence in the region, we are not aware of a military presence,” Ruiz said in an interview earlier this month. “This is definitely the first time I have heard of any Iranian presence in Nicaragua of this nature.”

Miguel d’Escoto, one of President Ortega’s closest advisors on foreign policy, said the accusations made by Israeli media amounts to “absurd craziness.”

“You smear as much as you can on the wall and some will stick,” said d’Escoto, who still holds the honorary rank of foreign minister. “It’s like Al Capone accusing someone of being a thief.”

A shift toward Latin America

The warnings about the Iranian threat in Latin America started last year about the same time as the U.S. pulled troops out of Iraq. The dramatic military drawdown after a decade of fighting a two-front war in the Middle East means there is a bloated military defense industry that needs to find a new mission after the final Iraqi and Afghan contracts are doled out, some analysts pointed out.

With drug-war violence, gangs and political instability rampant throughout Mexico and most of Latin America, the Western Hemisphere might have all the ingredients the military-industrial complex – both public and private – needs to retool its mission and head back out into the field.

Add a dash of Iranian mischief and Hezbollah intrigue, and defense contractors might have the selling points they need to secure another allotment of lucrative contracts in this hemisphere, said Latin America analyst Samuel Logan, director of Southern Pulse, a Latin America risk analysis firm.

Logan said the recent deployment of U.S. Marines to Guatemala and the uptick in U.S. anti-drug trafficking operations in Honduras suggest a shifting tide might already be happening.

“The military-industrial complex that has been in Iraq for the past decade is going to be looking for the next theater to make the argument for slush money and defense contracts,” Logan said. “These guys could be hot to trot on Latin America for the next five to 10 years.”

Tim Rogers is editor of  www.nicaraguadispatch.com

“Balochistan Assembly is a dummy and its members are corrupt.”

“The allegations of Mr Chan tantamount to breach of parliamentary privilege,”

[According to Mr. Achakzai, Chan abused a lawmaker’s privilege by revealing a common understanding of the true nature of the dummy assemble.]

Balochistan lawmakers warn Chan to withdraw his statement

QUETTA – The legislators of Balochistan Assembly have strongly condemned the allegations of Public Accounts Committee’s Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan that Balochistan Assembly is a dummy and its members are corrupt.They warned that if Mr Chan did not withdraw his remarks they would bring a condemnation resolution in Balochistan Assembly which would not convey a positive massage to PPP and centre. The session of the assembly started on Thursday with Speaker Muhammad Aslam Bhootani in chair.Soon after recitation of the Holy Quran, provincial Minister for Revenue Zamarak Khan Achakzai took the floor on a point of order and came down hard on Nadeem Afzal Chan, saying Mr Chan in a TV talk- show had accused that Balochistan Assembly was a dummy because the real parties had boycotted the elections and ministers were involved in embezzlement of funds. “The allegations of Mr Chan tantamount to breach of parliamentary privilege,” he added. He said representatives of almost all the parties were present in the assembly though some parties had apparently boycotted the elections, adding that chief minister and provincial government belonged to PPP and despite that leveling such allegations by PPP leader was regrettable.Minister for Environment Mir Asghar Rind said people sitting in Islamabad did not have proper knowledge of the area and population of Balochistan and were issuing statements sitting in luxurious hotels utilizing NGOs’ funds. He clarified that no party in Balochistan had boycotted elections, however, some of them fielded their candidates indirectly. “We are not hypocrite, therefore, we contested elections openly,” he added.Shahnawaz Marri, condemning PAC chairman’s statement, said same people would also sweep in upcoming elections, adding those who boycotted the elections were sitting in Dubai and London. “Who is funding these leaders to live abroad?” he asked, adding the PPP leader should not have leveled such allegations against Balochistan Assembly.MPA Nasreen Kethran said incumbent provincial government had carried out a lot of development work despite the fact that it got development funds after NFC-Award.Other lawmakers, including Ainullah Shams, Molvi Abdul Samad, Abdul Rehman Jamali and Younus Mullazai also denounced Chan’s statement, saying he was a senior leader and he should have not used such language against Balochistan Assembly and its members. “Anchor persons always strive to make people speak such words which could lead to confusion,” they added. They suggested that through a condemnation resolution this message should be conveyed that PPP leader had breached parliamentary privilege and as for as embezzlement of funds were concerned there should be an accountability of funds and they were ready for any punishment.Upon this, speaker directed legislators to contact concerned member and he should be told to explain the allegations or withdraw them otherwise Balochistan Assembly would bring a condemnation resolution and a positive message would not go to PPP and center. Sheikh Jaffar Khan Mandokhel, on a point of order, said establishment division should review its policy of deploying officials having Balochistan domicile forcefully in the province.He said Balochistan officials should remain in other provinces and as per rules officials of other provinces should come here and serve the people. Abdul Rehman Jamali, supporting MPA Shaikh Jaffar’s viewpoint, said Balochistan officials were performing well in other provinces and they should not be forced to return to province.He said there were other officials in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that might be deployed in Balochistan.Ainullah Shams said establishment division should review its policy and deploy officials according to the rules.