Saturday, 10 November 2007

Around the Middle East: Nov. 9th

A quick look at the stories 'not' making the headlines on Friday

Bloggers around the globe have been highlighting the irony of Israel calling for the dismissal of Mohammed ElBaradei as the head of the International Atomic Agency, while the mainstream media has largely missed the point completely.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz this week accused the agency's chief of "endangering world peace.' Mofaz said, "His irresponsible attitude of sticking his head in the sand over Iran's nuclear program should lead to his impeachment."

Original article published by Ohmynews International

With what some bloggers have described as a brazen exhibition of "chutzpah" Mofaz made no mention of Israel's own "secret" nuclear weapons program that by some estimates now boasts a stockpile of between 130-200 nuclear warheads.

"Chutzpah" roughly translates as audacity bordering on arrogance or insolence.

Israel has an official policy of denial regarding its nuclear capability. As recently as December last year Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated on the record that his country would not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Speaking in Washington, Mofaz also announced that the United States and Israel have set up two working committees to construct a strategy against Iran and its alleged aspirations to join the nuclear weapons club.

Mofaz said one of the committees would deal with intelligence on Iran's nuclear programs and the other with international sanctions against Tehran.

Closer to home, there were celebrations in Tehran as two Iranian diplomats and seven pilgrims returned home after 10 months in captivity in Iraq. The men has been abducted by U.S. forces in Irbil in January, but never charged with any crime.

The United States released the prisoners after concluding it had no evidence to prove they were guilty of any wrongdoing. The U.S. had suggested the nine had been involved in aiding insurgent groups in Iraq.

Moving to Gaza, where large scale demonstrations took place after Friday prayers in support of the resistance against the Israeli occupation. During the rallies, the leadership of the Hamas resistance movement condemned attempts by the Fatah led government in Ramallah to classify Hamas as an outlaw militia.

It seems the optimism that surrounded the first attempts at reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah late last month seems to have evaporated, as the two sides appear as far apart as ever.

In related news, Arab League chief Amr Moussa has sent an urgent message to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon expressing his "deep concern" over the deteriorating conditions in the coastal strip.

Gaza has been isolated by an Israeli blockade, and Moussa warned of the worsening humanitarian situation.

Meanwhile, European envoys are heading to Lebanon as the country faces a critical deadline to elect a new president. The pro-Western parliamentary majority and the opposition have been at loggerheads over the selection process for a new president, and the vote has already been postponed twice.

Observers say Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is likely to announce a third postponement to the Nov. 24 deadline when the parliament convenes on Monday. But the envoys are expected to encourage parliamentarians to reach a quick resolution to the problem.

A highly placed source in Lebanon told regional television network PressTV that "If the Lebanese fail to elect a president it could easily lead to two rival governments and bloodshed."

By convention, the post of president is usually taken by a Maronite Christian. However, the government and opposition have been unable to agree on a "consensus" candidate -- an individual that isn't obviously pro-Western nor overtly pro-Syrian.

Another story that has failed to capture the public imagination are allegations that since 1983 new French President Nicholas Sarkozy had worked as an "asset" for the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad.

An article in the French daily Le Figaro described Sarkozy as a "sayan" or helper in gathering intelligence for the Israelis.

There is no evidence, apparently, that Sarkozy ever gave up his links to the Israeli intelligence gathering agency.

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