Thursday, 8 November 2007

Around the Middle East - November 7th

A quick look at the stories not making the headlines Wednesday 7th November

The Israeli air force reportedly dropped more than a million cluster bomblets on Lebanon 's south during the 2006 summer war.

The illegal munitions have now claimed the lives of 280 people, including 70 children. The U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center , which is trying to clear the area of the deadly bomblets, said they had identified 952 locations where unexploded munitions were still posing a grave danger to the local population.

Article first published by Ohmynews International

Obviously the cluster bombs are spread over a large area, but Israel has refused to help in the clean up operation by withholding crucial strike targeting data that includes how many bombs were dropped and where they were dropped.

In August 2006 the United Nations condemned Israel 's use of the cluster munitions in the closing days of the war, describing the action as "completely immoral." The small bomblets have an extremely long life and can effectively lie dormant for many years. Consequently, without proactive assistance from Israel, there are likely to be many more innocent lives lost in the years to come.

Cluster munitions are generally subject to an international ban, but Israel insists the weapons it uses comply with international law.

In other news, rights group Peace Now has reported that Israel is expanding its West Bank settlements in clear contravention of the U.S. sponsored "road map" peace plan. Under the deal, Israel agreed to dismantle all unauthorized outposts built since 2001. However, rather than demolition, Israel appears to be moving the opposition direction.

Peace Now says construction has been witnessed in 88 West Bank settlements, though many of them are sites that Israel hopes to retain after a final status agreement is reached.

However, the group says settlers have erected 10 more permanent structures in some of the 105 unauthorized settlements.

Observers say this will present just another obstacle to any hopes of meaningful talks at the proposed Annapolis conference. Not that anyone is really holding out much optimism for the talks scheduled for Nov. 26 and 27. Some of the main players, Syria and Saudi Arabia might not show up, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has already threatened he would boycott the process unless Israel offers a guarantee that something meaningful can be achieved.

So far , Israel has declined to offer any such assurance.

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has again thumbed his nose at a U.S. offer of talks made on the condition that Tehran first abandon its Uranium enrichment program. The president told a crowd of supporters that Iran welcomes talks, but that its independence and rights are not negotiable.

Jingoistic rhetoric, or something else? When Ahmadinejad talks about rights, he might be on firmer ground that many would give him credit for.

Under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has a legal right to work on enrichment processes. The United Nations charter further guarantees those rights. Consequently, any attempt to abrogate those rights would be illegal, right?

According to an expert on these things, the sanctions imposed on Iran by the Security Council are technically illegal and should be rescinded. Something to consider.

Something else that should give participants to the Annapolis Conference pause for thought is an opinion poll just released in Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has just been voted the most corrupt member of the country’s government. He achieved the rather onerous honor after 56 percent of respondents voted against him.

And just when we all thought that Ankara and Washington had managed to mend at least some fences after that nice fireside chat in the Oval Office, President Abdullah Gul fires off a broadside at George Bush. Indirectly at least. Speaking in Baku, Azerbaijan, Gul said Washington should be held responsible for the crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan and the terrorist activities of the PKK. He said “As the country that has occupied Iraq, Washington must lead the fight against all terrorist groups in Iraq, without discrimination.”

In his meeting with Erdogan, Bush declared that the PKK was an enemy of Turkey and the United States. But how do you go aggressively looking for your PKK “enemy” when he is hiding under the bed of your Iraqi Kurdish allies?

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