Saturday, August 9, 2008

9 Provinces of Iran Deprived of Even 3 Personal Bookshops

Source: Khorasan (fundamentalist newspaper)  in Farsi


Thursday: 24 July 2008    Page: 6

9 Provinces of Iran Deprived of Even 3 Personal Bookshops

By: Aaref

" While book reading and study is one of the characteristics of cultural development in a region ( country), the president of Publishers and Booksellers Union of Tabriz, Mr. Saeed Jalali, says: The interference of the state in publishing has caused the decline of  booksellers` activities day after day in a manner that there are not more than 3 personal bookshops in 9 provinces of the country now.


There are 9 provinces which have less than one million residents and while approximately 8 millions people live in these provinces, all of them have less than 3 bookshops altogether.


He adds: The main reason for decline of bookshops is the state interference in this field. The stare administers the provincial book fairs in different cities and this greatly causes decreasing of business activities in publishing industry.


He continues: according to Iran Statistics Center, a schoolteacher with bachelor degree earned 4.40US$/month in 1956. (50 years ago) The Buying Power of people has declined 60% up to 2006.


He adds: There were 30 bookshops in Tabriz City in 1956 while this number modified to 28 in 2006. And  also, the population of this city was 289,000 in 1956 which increased to 1,400,000 in 2006. Tabriz University had 900 students in 1956 and it extended to 66,000 students in 2006."  

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pro-Israel editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury goes on trial in Bangladesh

What the report neglects to day is that Salah Uddin has been active in fighting Islamist extremism in Bangladesh, earning the enmity of too many powerful folks. His trial should have become a cause celebre for all human rights groups. Unfortunately, "respectable" groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have studiously avoided mentioning it.
The Jerusalem Post
Pro-Israel editor goes on trial in Bangladesh
Aug. 8, 2008
by Michael Freund

After repeated delays, the trial of a Bangladeshi Muslim editor arrested for advocating ties with Israel began in Dhaka on Wednesday.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the Weekly Blitz, an English-language newspaper published in the Bangladeshi capital, is facing a series of charges that include sedition.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.

In November 2003, Choudhury was arrested at Dhaka's international airport just prior to boarding a flight on his way to Israel, where he was scheduled to deliver an address on promoting understanding between Muslims and Jews. His visit to Israel would have been the first by a Bangladeshi journalist.

Bangladesh does not recognize Israel's existence.

Since his arrest, Choudhury has been subjected to various forms of intimidation and harassment. Two years ago, the offices of his newspaper were the target of an attempted bombing by unknown assailants.

In the first day of testimony this week, the prosecution called Abdul Hanif, the officer in charge at the airport when Choudhury was detained.

Hanif accused Choudhury of being anti-Islamic, and said that he had "praised Jews and Christians" and defamed Bangladesh. The hearings were then adjourned.

Contacted by The Jerusalem Post, a spokeswoman for the Bangladeshi Mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the case, saying she was not familiar with the details.

Dr. Richard Benkin, an American Jewish activist who has been leading the fight on Choudhury's behalf, told the Post that while he was clearly concerned about the trial, he nonetheless remains cautiously optimistic.

"The judge conducted himself in a judicially correct and professional manner today, something we never experienced under the previous government which initiated these charges," Benkin said.

In a message sent to his supporters abroad after the conclusion of the first day of hearings, Choudhury remained upbeat, declaring: "Now my luck hangs in the balance of being either acquitted from the charges by the court or accorded capital punishment."

"But let us remain strong. Pray for me, for God is with us and we shall win," he said.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lebanese Parliament Speaker: Hizbolla Resistance is our pride

This statement, and others like it, must be remembered when the next war comes, and Lebanese officials insist that they have no control over Hezbollah or responsibility for it.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday told the President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pottering Hizbullah's resistance is "our pride."
Berri made the remark in an address at a lunch banquet in honor of the visiting European chief legislator.
Berri expressed gratitude for the EU's support during the 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel, stating that in the 34-day confrontation "we established Israel's failure in achieving any goal by force."
"Two years after the war came to a halt, Israel persists with violating international resolutions," Berri said.
Lebanon, the speaker told his EU guest, honors its commitments in line with UNSCR 1701.
"Resistance in Lebanon and Palestine is a reaction to the occupation," Berri stressed. 
Beirut, 07 Aug 08, 14:58

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program

By Yitzhak Santis
Director, JCRC  Middle East Project
In July the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, Russia, China, France and England) plus Germany held a multi-lateral parley on Iran's nuclear program at which Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, was present.  An offer was made to Iran that if it halts its nuclear activity these powers would refrain from moving to impose more U.N. penalties.   Iran was given a two week deadline to respond.  When Iran's response came at the end of the deadline, Iran "again ignored calls to give a final answer to a package presented by world powers to end the nuclear standoff."[1]
Now, the permanent five Security Council members plus Germany have "agreed to seek new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program after the country failed to meet a weekend deadline to respond to an offer intended to defuse the dispute."[2]  
The prospect of the Islamic Republic of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and obtaining the ability to launch missiles against countries throughout the Middle East and even Europe has alarmed the international community. [3] 
The fear is Iran wants to "develop either a nuclear bomb or the ability to make one, even if it has not decided to build one right now."  Therefore, a consensus has emerged in the international community calling for Iran to stop all enrichment because the "same technology used for producing fuel for nuclear power can be used to enrich the uranium to a much higher level for producing fuel for a nuclear explosion."[4]
According to this international consensus, if Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, this will shift the balance of power in the Middle East, specifically in the oil-rich Gulf region, thereby dangerously destabilizing world oil markets.  Further, a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to Middle Eastern stability that could provoke a perilous nuclear arms race throughout the region. 
Indeed, in response to Shi'ite Persian Iran's development of nuclear weapons predominantly Sunni Muslim Arab states - specifically Saudi Arabia, [5] Egypt,[6] and Jordan[7] - have already voiced grave concern and declared that they, too, may begin their own nuclear programs.
A nuclear-armed Iran will also negatively impact prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians given Iran's strong military, financial and political support for the radical Islamist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, which both reject making any kind of peace with Israel.  Iran-sponsored terrorist networks, particularly Hezbollah, have a long history of targeting Americans and U.S. interests.  In 1983, with Iranian support, Hezbollah killed 241 Marines as they slept in their barracks in Lebanon.
In the last several years, under the leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran has manifested increasingly threatening behavior and rhetoric toward the United States, other Western powers, Israel and the Jewish people.  Not only has Ahmadinejad repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map,[8] but his government, demonstrating its extremist character, convened in December 2006 an international Holocaust denial conference in Teheran, and staged a "Holocaust Cartoon Contest."[9]  
The National Intelligence Estimate
While there is consensus in the international community that Iran's intent is to acquire the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, there is disagreement, however, among various nations' intelligence agencies regarding the pace of nuclear weapons development. 
For instance, American intelligence agencies issued their now famous National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007 which states "with high confidence" that in 2003 Iran "halted its nuclear weapons program," but also stated that Iran "at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons" and most importantly that, "Because of intelligence gaps DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program."  The NIE also assesses that "Iran probably would use covert facilities- rather than its declared nuclear sites-for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon." [10]
Challenging the NIE: British and Israeli Intelligence
Other intelligence services, notably the British and Israeli, arrive at differing conclusions.  The Sunday Telegraph (UK), for instance, reports that:

A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of US intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defense chiefs that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons. "It's not as if the American intelligence agencies are regarded as brilliant performers in that region. They got badly burned over Iraq." [11]

More recently, the Daily Telegraph (UK), reported that
Iran has resumed work on constructing highly sophisticated equipment that nuclear experts say is primarily used for building atomic weapons, according to the latest intelligence reports received by Western diplomats.
The work is aimed at developing the blueprint provided by Dr A. Q. Khan, the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, who sold Iran details of how to build atom bombs in the early 1990s. 
Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which has overall responsibility for the country's nuclear program, has set up several civilian companies to work on the program whose activities are being deliberately concealed from the United Nations nuclear inspection teams.[12] 
Specifically, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report of May 26, 2008 "shows continued non-compliance" with UN Security Council resolutions 1737, 1747[13], and 1803 and "includes two important findings. The first is that Iran is making significant progress on developing and operating its centrifuges. The second is Iran's lack of cooperation with inspectors in addressing its alleged nuclear weapons-related work, which the IAEA calls a 'matter of serious concern.'"[14]
Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist and emeritus professor of science and security at King's College London, wrote in the Boston Globe[15] that the IAEA May 26, 2008 report states that Teheran refuses to answer specific questions.  Among these queries are:
  • Why is Iran using high explosives to implode a hemispherical shell of heavy metal? The only known use for such tests is to perfect a lightweight nuclear bomb.

  • Why is Iran developing the kinds of detonators needed in an atomic weapon?

  • Why is Iran designing, or redesigning, a ballistic missile warhead so that it can contain a nuclear weapon
Furthermore, Zimmerman notes that, 
Iran announced months ago that it is installing 6,000 centrifuges in its uranium enrichment plant, in addition to the 3,000 in operation. These activities increase Iran's near-term ability to make nuclear weapons, especially since the new ones have twice the capacity of the originals.
Local Action Taken by JCRC: The California Public Divest from Iran Act
JCRC was one of the principle parties involved in successfully lobbying the California Legislature on the
California Public Divest from Iran Act (AB 221), which unanimously passed the State Assembly on September 10th 2007 after already being unanimously passed by the State Senate the week before.  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law on October 14, 2007, making California the third state in the country to pass such legislation. 
Introduced by Assemblyman Joel Anderson, AB 221 prohibits the state's public pension funds from investing in companies with business ties to Iran's petroleum, natural gas, nuclear, or defense sectors.  Depriving Iran of investment in these sectors of their economy will send a clear message to Tehran that they must give up their nuclear weapons program.
To read JCRC's position on the Iranian nuclear issue, click here.  
[1] AFP, "Iran again fails to give final nuclear reply," August 5, 2008
[2] Jerusalem Post, "Iran's response to incentives package sidesteps key issues," August 5, 2008
[3] "Q&A: Iran and the nuclear issue," BBC, (Retrieved Sept. 17, 2007)
[4] Ibid.
[5] "Saudis consider nuclear bomb," The Guardian, September 18, 2003 (Retrieved July 18, 2008)
[6] "Egypt unveils nuclear power plan," BBC, September 25, 2006 (Retrieved July 18, 2008)
[7] "King Abdullah to Haaretz: Jordan aims to develop nuclear power," Haaretz, January 20, 2008 (Retrieved July 18, 2008)
[8] "'As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map,' said Ahmadinejad, referring to the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini." Quoted in "Ahmadinejad: Israel must be wiped off the map," Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Oct 26, 2005,
[9] "Iran displays Holocaust cartoons," BBC, August 15, 2007 (Retrieved July 18, 2008)
[10] "National Intelligence Estimate: Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," National Intelligence Council, November 2007
[11] "Iran 'hoodwinked' CIA over nuclear plans," Sunday Telegraph, December 10, 2007
[12] Daily Telegraph, "Iran has resumed A-bomb project, says West," July 7, 2008,-says-West.html (Retrieved August 5, 2008)
[13] UNSC Resolution 1747, for instance, "deploring that, as indicated therein, Iran has failed to comply" with previous resolutions call therefore calls for sanctions against Iran by all member states and international financial institutions by refusing to "enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance, and concessional loans, to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, except for humanitarian and developmental purposes."
[14] See "May 26, 2008 IAEA Safeguards Report on Iran: Centrifuge Operation Improving and Cooperation Lacking on Weaponization Issues," by David Albright, Jacqueline Shire, and Paul Brannan, Institute for Science and International Security, May 29, 2008
[15] "Time for Iran to face more sanctions," by Peter D. Zimmerman, professor of science and security at King's College London and the former chief scientist of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Boston Globe, July 6, 2007,

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What did you expect? Iran sidesteps nuclear freeze in answer on incentives

 Last update - 15:17 05/08/2008       
Iran sidesteps nuclear freeze in answer on incentives
By News Agencies
Iran's written reply to a proposal backed by six world powers aimed at defusing a row over Tehran's disputed nuclear program has been handed over to European Union officials, Iran's Fars News Agency said on Tuesday.
An Iranian official said that the letter did not mention the idea of freezing its nuclear work - a step the West demanded to avert more U.N. sanctions.
"Iran's written response to the six countries involved in the nuclear negotiations was handed to officials at the European Union by Iran's ambassador to Brussels," Fars News Agency reported, without giving any further details.
An EU source in Brussels could not confirm the report.
The six world powers had offered to refrain from steps to impose more sanctions if Iran freezes expansion of its nuclear work - an initial step in getting talks going on a broader resolution to the stand-off.
"The letter handed over is not an answer to the offered package (by world powers) ... The letter does not mention the freeze-for-freeze issue," the senior Iranian official told Reuters.
The freeze idea is aimed at getting preliminary discussions going before starting full negotiations on a package of nuclear, trade and other incentives. But those formal talks will not begin until Iran suspends uranium enrichment.
Enrichment is the part of Iran's program that most worries the West because it can have both civilian and military uses.
Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, insists it is only seeking to master technology to make electricity, and has repeatedly refused to halt its atomic work.
Washington and its Western allies said on Monday that, if Iran's response was not positive, the next step would be to expand UN sanctions. The U.N. Security Council has imposed three rounds of penalties on Iran since 2006.
Russia and China, two members of the sextet, have been reluctant to impose sanctions in the past but have, in the end, voted for all three sanctions resolutions after initial drafts were watered down.
The others in the sextet are the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

Israel has never looked so good - Beirut Daily Star

Quote from the Beirut Daily Star (yes, that's in Lebanon):
Over the past few days the two Palestinian factions seem to be close to repeated the same disastrous mistakes. We have seen Palestinians denigrating the legitimacy of other Palestinians, Palestinians making war on other Palestinians, and Palestinians arresting other Palestinians, while the Jewish state has come to the rescue of those Palestinians who fear for their lives. Israel has never looked so good.
Now if only the editors of the Daily Star would make the small conceptual leap and understand that Hezbollah, Syria and Iran are a much bigger threat to Lebanon than Israel. Don't hold your breath. This is the Middle East. No matter how many Lebanese rot in Syrian jails, no Lebanese "resistance" group is ever going to kidnap Syrian soldiers to ransom their prisoners.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
It is a damning indication of just how bad things have become in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip when Fatah militants there must look to Israel for protection from their Palestinian rivals. The Jewish state announced on Monday that it would help a group of 150 Fatah fighters who had fled weekend clashes in Gaza relocate to the West Bank, after determining that they would face "imminent danger" if they were to return home. The scenes of Israel coming to the rescue of Palestinians after a bout of Arab fratricide were reminiscent of the events of Black September, during which scores of Palestinians sought asylum in Israel to escape King Hussein's crackdown on the Palestine Liberation Organization. The only difference this time around is that instead of seeking refuge from a heavy-handed Arab crackdown, Palestinians are fleeing from the murderous hands of their own Palestinian brothers.
Achievement of the Palestinian cause requires that all factions maintain a semblance of orderliness and keep their eyes on the price of independent statehood. In this both Fatah and Hamas have been miserable failures. Both have put partisan interests ahead of national ones and therefore have failed to maintain anything like a united Palestinian front. Even the mediation attempts of Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia have not been enough to curb the political infighting and internecine bloodshed that have served to further threaten the Palestinians' very right to existence.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza has been deteriorating since the international community callously decided to punish an entire people for having exercised their democratic rights in the legislative elections of January 2006. But the Hamas movement is now exacerbating the situation by undermining the rule of law in the territory. After accusing its Fatah rivals of carrying out a deadly bombing late last week that killed five Hamas leaders and a little girl, the Islamist party launched what can be only be described as a witch-hunt, rounding up some 200 Fatah activists. Fatah provided an equally bad example of governance in the West Bank when it retaliated against the move by rounding up scores of people it branded "Hamas activists," including many judges, students and activists who have no known affiliation with the Islamist party. On both sides of divided Palestine, civilians must now add Fatah and Hamas to the long list of threats to their security and wellbeing.
The events of the last week are just the most recent example of how the situation in the Occupied Territories has gone from bad to worse under the watchful eyes of elected Palestinian "representatives." Hundreds of people were killed last year when the two groups allowed their rivalry to degenerate into street violence. Hundreds more were prevented from going about their normal activities such as attending school, going to work or expressing political views.
Over the past few days the two Palestinian factions seem to be close to repeated the same disastrous mistakes. We have seen Palestinians denigrating the legitimacy of other Palestinians, Palestinians making war on other Palestinians, and Palestinians arresting other Palestinians, while the Jewish state has come to the rescue of those Palestinians who fear for their lives. Israel has never looked so good.

Gaza Fulbright Scholars - Israel's American Friends get it wrong again

Remember this? Condoleezza Rice created an international crisis to force Israel to grant exit permits to Palestinian Fulbright scholars. Israeli officials had no choice other than to meekly obey.
The Middle East is a complex place. The US just doesn't have the expertise to operate here, and should not be telling other countries what to do. U.S. mistakes have been very costly to Israel and other countries.
Secretary Rice is always getting infuriated about something. She needs anger management courses.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 05:57 05/08/2008       
U.S. revokes visas of 3 Palestinian Fulbright scholars
By The Associated Press
The United States has revoked the visas of three Palestinian Fulbright scholars whose cases were taken up personally by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after Israel refused to let them leave Gaza for interviews, U.S. officials said Monday.
Visas for the three, along with a fourth Palestinian student from Gaza who had hoped to come to the U.S. under a different program, were approved after Rice intervened in June but were rescinded last week when new information about them was received, the officials said.
"There were four Palestinians who were issued visas about whom we then received additional information," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said.
"We decided that we needed to take a closer and harder look at them in light of the additional information we received," said Gallegos.
He also said the visas were canceled under a prudential revocation clause in immigration rules that allows them to be rescinded based on information gleaned about the holders after they were issued.
"It does not preclude the applicants from reapplying for visas in the future," he said.
Gallegos declined to comment on the nature of the new information about the four Palestinians, one of whom had actually arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington before he was told his visa had been revoked and was forced to return to Jordan.
But another official familiar with the situation said the information related to security issues that were behind the refusal by Israeli authorities to allow them to leave Gaza to be interviewed for visas at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem in May.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to privacy concerns about visa records.
The visa revocations were first reported by The New York Times.
Palestinian students cannot apply for U.S. visas in Gaza because Washington does not recognize the territory's Hamas government and has no diplomatic presence there. Israel bans all Gaza students from leaving for security reasons but has made exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
Rice had been infuriated when State Department officials canceled the Fulbright scholarships of seven Palestinian students whom Israel had refused to let leave Gaza for their visa interviews.
After she took their cases to senior Israeli officials, Israel allowed four of the seven to travel to Jerusalem for interviews in June. Although Israel opposed the move, U.S. diplomats then made a rare trip to the Gaza border in July to interview the remaining three.
One official said Rice, who had been outspoken about the negative signal the original cancellations sent to Palestinians and the broader Arab world, had ordered a top-to-bottom review of the entire Fulbright scholarship vetting process in the wake of the cancellations.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Top IDF officer: No Gaza Humanitarian Crisis; Hamas ready to take over West Bank

Nothing here we didn't know, is there? But as this is the Middle East, nobody will believe it, and Israel will still be blamed.
 Last update - 08:45 03/08/2008       
Top IDF officer: Gaza was never close to a humanitarian crisis
By Amos Harel
The economic pressure Israel placed on the Gaza Strip is what led Hamas to agree to the cease-fire, Col. Nir Press, outgoing head of the District Coordination Office in the Gaza Strip, told Haaretz.
However Press insists that at no time did a humanitarian crisis prevail in the Strip.
Press, who today ends three years as head of the coordination office said that when he began his term, right after disengagement, "there were still quite a few expectations." According to Press, a change took place not after Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in June 2007, but after Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in June 2006.
Press, who will be retiring from the army after a 26-year career, will be succeeded by Col. Moshe Levy.
Press said the directive he received was clear: "No humanitarian crisis and no direct talks with Hamas." Press also said: "The starting point has to be that the Palestinians will stay here, two minutes from Netiv Ha'asara," referring to an Israeli Jewish community on the northern border of the Gaza Strip, "and 45 minutes from Tel Aviv. Therefore, we continued our meetings with residents from the Strip during Hamas' period."
With regard to the six-week-old cease-fire, Press says Israel's economic pressure led Hamas to understand that continued rocket fire hurt Hamas. "There was a period when they thought that everything was win-win for them. They attacked the crossings and assumed that we'd close them, and they could blame us for shortages. We managed to make it clear through the Arab press that Gaza had to choose: merchandise or Qassams and mortars." Press said the Gaza Strip was never in danger of becoming a humanitarian crisis.
"The claims of electricity shortages and hunger were part of Hamas' campaign of lies." Press says he sees increased Iranian involvement in the Gaza Strip since disengagement. "It expresses itself not only by sending people for training in camps in Iran, but also in giving money to the unemployed.
Press says Iran's next goal is the West Bank. Today there is no real alternative to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. "Last month, Hamas forces took over the PA presidential complex in Gaza. The message to Fatah is 'you have no place here any more.'"

Syria and Iran - Cozy as ever

The Middle East becomes a much more interesting place, as Syria and Israel discuss peace, while Syria and Iran remain as close as ever. This from the "horse's mouth" - Syrian government news agency.
Presidents al-Assad and Ahmadinejad Discuss Boosting, Developing Bilateral,
Distinguished Syrian-Iranian Relations
Saturday, August 02, 2008 - 08:00 PM

Tehran, (SANA - Official Syrian news agency) - President Bashar al-Assad and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran held on Saturday afternoon an official round of talks during which they discussed ways of boosting and developing the bilateral, distinguished relations between the two countries.

The current regional situations were also reviewed. Points of view of the two sides agreed on the importance of establishing security and stability in Iraq, supporting the political process to establish the national reconciliation among all walks of life in Iraq and the withdrawal of all the foreign troops from Iraq to guarantee the country's unity in people and land and sovereignty.

The talks also focused on the positive developments being witnessed by Lebanon since Doha Agreement. The two Presidents expressed support to the Lebanese national reconciliation process in Lebanon.

Presidents al-Assad and Ahmadinejad discussed the situation on the Palestinian stage, stressing importance of continuing the efforts to establish the Palestinian national reconciliation as the guarantor of the Palestinian people's rights.

The two sides discussed the Iranian nuclear dossier, stressing importance of finding a political solution through dialogue to ensure Iran's right in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The talks were attended from the Syrian side by Vice President Farouk al-Shara, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, Political and Information Consultant at the Presidency Dr. Buthaina Sha'aban, Assistant Vice President Mohammad Nassif, Assistant Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous and Syria's Ambassador in Tehran Dr. Hamed Hassan.  Attending from the Iranian side were: vice President Parviz Davoodi, Minister of Housing and Urban Development Mahmoud Saeedi-Kia, Deputy Foreign Minister Alireza Sheikh Attar and Iranian Ambassador in Damascus Ahmad Mussavi.

For her part, Dr. Sha'aban stressed that the visit of President al-Assad to Tehran comes as part of cooperation between the two countries and discussion of the bilateral relations and the situation in the region.

Dr. Sha'aban, in a meeting with journalists in Damascus on Saturday, described the relations between Syria and Iran as strategic, adding that these relations proved importance in establishing stability in the region.She pointed out that the Syrian policy is based on the Syrian and Arab interests.

Dr. Sha'aban added that President al-Assad's talks with the Iranian officials will cover all the issues of interest for Syria and Iran, pointing out that the timing of the visit has nothing to do with the expiry of the deadline given to Iran to respond to the Western proposals on the Iranian nuclear dossier.

Dr. Sha'aban said that Syria and Iran agree on the unity of Iraq, keeping its territorial integrity, the withdrawal of the foreign troops form it and establishing the national reconciliation.

The Presidential Consultant pointed out that the French approach over the Middle East issues have changed in general through Paris conviction that the relations with the countries of the region serve the European and French interests as well as the peace and stability.

Dr. Sha'aban indicated that the indirect talks between Syria and Israel have no effect on the historical Syrian-Iranian relations, stressing that no circle in the world can dictate anything to Syria against her own firm policies.She said that Syria has been able to change French and European convictions, pointing out to the emergence of different way of American reading of the situations in the region.

She stressed that the American administration's policy had been a catastrophe for the world over the past few years.

Dr. Sha'aban added that the issues of nuclear enriching is guaranteed in the international laws, adding that Iran is committed to the international agreements while Israel is the party which stirs the crisis and it's the only party not committed to these agreements.

Later, President Ahmadinejad held a dinner banquet in honor of President al-Assad. The banquet was attended by members of the two official Syrian and Iranian delegations and senior Iranian officials.

Ahmad Fathi ZAHRA

Abbas, Israel, reverse policy on Fatah escapees from Gaza

Mahmoud Abbas first asked that the Fatah members fleeing Gaza be allowed to enter the West Bank, and then changed his mind it seems. Israel complied. It doesn't have to make sense. This is the Middle East.
 Last update - 12:09 03/08/2008       
Israel sends back Fatah men who fled Gaza clashes with Hamas
By Avi Issacharoff, Yuval Azoulay and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents and Reuters
Israel on Sunday returned to Gaza 32 members of a group of over 150 Fatah-linked men who had fled clashes with Hamas on Saturday, and was also planning to send the remaining men back to the coastal strip.
A Hamas official said the men returned were immediately detained by the Palestinian militant group's security forces.
Israel sent the group back on Sunday after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad withdrew an earlier request for Defense Minister Ehud Barak to allow the Gazans entry to Israel and then to transfer them to the West Bank.
The infighting with Hamas left at least nine people dead and more than 80 wounded.
Egypt was also a party to the PA's request on Saturday for Israel to allow entry to the men, who belong to the Hilles clan which is affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.
A spokesman for Barak said the wounded would remain in Israel for treatment and the rest would be returned to the Hamas-held territory.
Fatah leader Hussein Al-Shaikh, the senior civil affairs official in the Palestinian Authority, said: "We are discussing with the Israelis how to allow the people to return to Gaza."
Defense sources said it was likely that Fayyad and Abbas' backtracking is connected to power struggles within Fatah. The security establishment was examining on Sunday morning ways to ensure the safe return of the remaining men who fled Gaza.
"After the occupation refused to receive most of those who fled Gaza, dozens have returned and the Palestinian police have taken them into custody," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
Saturday's fighting erupted when Hamas forces surrounded the Shejaia district of Gaza City to arrest 11 people suspected of a role in bombings that killed seven people, including five Hamas militants, on July 25.
Hamas security forces and members of the Hilles clan then exchanged mortar shell and machine gun fire all day Saturday in what was the most violent round yet of Hamas' weeklong crackdown of political rival Fatah.
Twelve of the wounded were children, hospital officials said, and eight people were in critical condition.

Report: Sniper kills Assad's Hezbollah liaison officer

No doubt the assassination will be blamed on the nefarious forces of International Zionism. It is unlikely, however, that Israel had a hand in this. Plenty of Lebanese would be willing to do the job.  
Last update - 12:00 03/08/2008       
Report: Sniper kills Assad's Hezbollah liaison
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correpsondent, and Haaretz Service
Various reports in the Arab press on Sunday quoted senior sources in Damascus as saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad's liaison officer with the Hezbollah guerilla group was assassinated on Friday.
The sources said that General Mohammed Suleiman was shot dead by a sniper in the Syrian port city of Tartous.
According to the Syrian newspaper Albawaba, the sources told another Arabic-language newspaper, the London-based Al-Hayat, that Syrian authorities have been trying to prevent the publication of the news regarding Suleiman's assassination.
The Syrian Web site "Free Syria", affiliated with Syrian opposition leader Abd al-Halim Khaddam, also dealt extensively with the assassination, and described Suleiman as Assad's right-hand man on military matters. According to the Web site, Suleiman was also a member of Syria's Baath Party, and held the government's Lebanon portfolio.
Albawaba stated that no organization has claimed responsibility for the killing as of yet and the reports did not say who was behind it.
The reports did, however, refer to the assassination of Hezbollah's senior commander Imad Mughniyah in February, and suggested that Israel was involved in the killing.

Syria - USA academic cooperation

Is this bit of news good for Lebanon, or Israel? The source is the Syrian news agency. Note that the visit was unofficial and that the sides only 'discussed' means of activating relations.
Syria , America to Boost Scientific Cooperation
Saturday, August 02, 2008 - 01:30 PM

DAMASCUS, (SANA - Syrian news agency)- Rector of Damascus University Dr. Wael Moalla on Saturday discussed with an American Academic Delegation representing a number of American Universities and Institutions means of activating relations of the scientific and academic cooperation between the two sides.

Dr. Moalla made brief review on Damascus University , its activities, educational programs and strategy, asserting the university's care for expanding the scientific cooperation with various universities in the world.

The two sides also discussed the available solutions for activating relations of academic and scientific cooperation between them, and the need for overcoming obstacles to oppose process of the scientific rapprochement between the two sides in the future.

Nawal / Idelbi