Monday, 5 November 2007

Around the Middle East - November 4th

A look at the top stories making the headlines on Sunday, Nov. 4

The 4th of November is an important day in the Iranian calendar. It marks what is now described as Student Day, the day in 1979 when angry students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran to protest U.S. interference in the internal affairs of Iran.

The day was celebrated with parades and television specials showing images of the event and the some 90 Americans who were held for 444 days.

Not surprisingly, the takeover of the embassy remains something of a sore point for most Americans who tend to see things rather differently.

Original article published on Ohmynews International

It is now a matter of record, however, that many of the staff employed at the embassy had been actively engaged in propping up the regime of the Shah by trying to undermine opposition groups in Iran. They were directly interfering in the internal affairs of a foreign sovereign to promote Washington's one's own vested interests.

Understandable then that for millions of Iranians might be a little upset and when the opportunity presented itself, converged on what had been dubbed "The Den of Spies."

Its fair enough really. Every country spies on their neighbors and hosts to one degree or another. So probably best not to protest too much when one is caught in the act.

Also in the news was a two-hour speech by Palestinian Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniya. He accused the United States and Israel of being morally and politically responsible for the suffering of Palestinians.

Haniya said Washington has given Israel the green light to continue military attacks on the area and its effective siege of the Strip.

He also called on Fatah for political unity, saying Hamas was willing to enter talks without any preconditions. He called on Fatah to stand by Hamas in its struggle with Israel, especially in light of recent Israeli threats to re-invade the coastal strip.

The speech coincided with further Israeli attacks that left four Palestinians dead. Official sources say three of the victims were civilian workers and the fourth is believed to be a member of the Islamic Jihad.

Israeli attacks or incursions into the Strip are an almost daily occurrence, say local officials, adding to the misery of a population that is already suffering under an Israeli blockade that prevents the import of essential humanitarian goods, oil and even electricity.

This prompted the European Union's special envoy to the Middle East to express his concern over the situation of the Palestinians.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the Palestinians were being disadvantaged both politically and economically. He also expressed his concern over Israeli imposed restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, which have effectively turned the Gaza into a prison with some 1.5 million inmates.

But Blair's words were generally met with disdain from Palestinian officials who say he did little or nothing when he was Prime Minister to relieve the suffering of the Palestinians. They accuse him of following the American policy of unquestioned support for Israel when he was in power.

This is broadly true. Blair had rejected the democratically elected government of Hamas. In February 2006 Blair declared that he would not have any contact with Hamas unless it accepted Israel's right to exist.

Blair said he was optimistic that upcoming Middle East talks would offer an opportunity for progress in resolving differences between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Where his optimism comes from is anyone's guess since Israel has already said any deal for a Palestinian state would not be implemented until Israeli security is assured. I imagine for the Israeli government that "security assurance" is a somewhat subjective issue.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said while he is opposed to any timeframe to resolve final status issues, his goal is to reach an accord before U.S. President Bush leaves office in January 2009.

Israel's hard line has prompted Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmood Abbas to say he will boycott the talks planned for Annapolis later this month.

And finally, Lebanon says Israeli aircraft again violated the country's airspace. Military officials say the reconnaissance aircraft flew over Tyre and Nabatiya in contravention of a United Nations brokered ceasefire.

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