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Diplomats: UN Nuclear Watchdog Should Inspect Iran's Nuclear Sites - Justyna Pawlak and Louis Charbonneau (Reuters)
The EU, Russia and China should reject Iran's invitation to visit its atomic sites since that is a job for the UN nuclear watchdog, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.
"We would be disappointed if Russia, or China or the European Union were to go," said a senior Western diplomat in New York. "We would be discouraging people from going."
The EU said inspections should be carried out by specialists from the IAEA, not by national ambassadors to the agency who were invited by Tehran.
A European Commission spokesman said Wednesday: "What we want to underline is that there is a process going on and it is for the IAEA to inspect the Iranian nuclear facilities."
Diplomats in New York said it was highly unlikely that the EU would agree to go on the trip.
See also Why Iran Left the U.S. Off Invite List to Tour Nuclear Sites - Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor)
Iran left the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany off the guest list to visit its nuclear facilities ahead of the next round of nuclear talks slated for later this month in Istanbul.
"The Iranians are always trying to divide the coalition, and I think the point of the meetings [for the Iranians] is not to resolve the problem, but to deflect pressure for more sanctions," says Shahram Chubin, an Iran nuclear expert with the Carnegie Endowment based in Geneva.
Israel Asks U.S. to Ban Turkish Group behind Gaza Flotilla - Dan Williams
Israel has asked the U.S. to outlaw the Turkish Islamist group IHH that was behind a flotilla that tried to break the blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza in May.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the request at a meeting with visiting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday.
UK Muslim Group Launches Poster Campaign against "Evils of Christmas" (Daily Mail-UK)
Fanatics from the banned Islamic hate group Islam4UK have launched a nationwide poster campaign denouncing Christmas as evil.
They hope the campaign will help "destroy Christmas" and lead to Britons converting to Islam instead.
The placards, which have already appeared in parts of London, feature a message claiming Christmas is responsible for paganism, domestic violence, homelessness, vandalism, alcohol and drugs. The bottom of the poster declares: "In Islam we are protected from all of these evils."
Campaign organizer Abu Rumaysah said: "Christmas is a lie and as Muslims it is our duty to attack it."
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- Iranian Government Stirs Up Anti-Semitism with Invented Massacre - Meir Javedanfar
On Dec. 10, 250 Basij students from Abu Ali Sina University in the Iranian city of Hamedan threatened to tear down the mausoleum at the graves of the historical Jewish figures Esther and Mordechai, in revenge for what they claimed were Israeli threats to infringe on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The graves of Jewish figures in Iran (which also include Daniel) have always been considered holy and respected by Jews and Muslims alike.
The narrative being promoted by the Iranian regime is that Mordechai was a murderer because - after the king's vizier, Haman, plotted to kill all the Jews of Persia - he ordered the massacre of more than 70,000 Iranians. This is being called an "Iranian holocaust." These days one can hear about the fabricated and highly anti-Jewish "Iranian holocaust" from Iranian politicians. The international community must condemn the Iranian government's anti-Semitic narratives and statements, and demand that they cease.
- Israel to Palestinians: How Can We Make Peace If You Won't Talk to Us? - Olesya Dmitracova
Israel urged the Palestinian leadership on Wednesday to return to direct talks.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told BBC Radio:
"It's clear unfortunately that the Palestinian leadership has adopted a policy where they refuse to engage directly with Israel. And I would ask them; 'How do you expect to make peace with Israel unless you're willing to talk to Israel?'"
Regev said it was a "mirage" to think there was any alternative to a negotiated peace agreement. "It was two decades ago, in 1988, that Yasser Arafat declared an independent Palestinian state and he got countries - Third-World countries, communist countries, others - to recognize that state, and I would ask the Palestinians what did that recognition give them? Did it change anything on the ground?" "We are asking for give and take, we are asking for the peace process to be a two-way street, and I ask the Palestinians: 'What are you willing to give to make this process succeed?'" (Reuters)
- Fall of Palestinian Leader Shows President's Power
Not long ago, Mohammed Dahlan was a rising political star, a Gaza security chief and darling of the West. But after a falling out with President Mahmoud Abbas, Dahlan has been essentially banished from the political scene.
The campaign against him casts an unflattering light on the Palestinian president's low tolerance for dissent and reveals the extent to which the West seems inclined to look the other way as Abbas uses largely unchecked powers to dress down political rivals. "Abbas is extremely sensitive, exceptionally thin-skinned and has an exceptionally high opinion of himself, so the mere act of making personal criticism of him puts you beyond the pale," said political analyst Mouin Rabbani, a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies. (AP-New York Times)
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- UN Refuses Lebanon Request to Intervene in Israel Gas Drilling
The UN on Wednesday declined Lebanon's request to protect the country's natural gas reserves by demarcating its maritime border with Israel. UN spokesman Martin Nesirsky said, "Security Council Resolution 1701 does not include delineating the maritime border."
The head of petroleum and natural gas exploration in the Israel National Infrastructures Ministry, Dr. Yaakov Mimran, called Lebanese claims "nonsense."
He said the latest offshore discoveries, as well as earlier finds, are absolutely within Israeli territory.
Senior Israeli officials said it was Lebanon that set the limits on its own territorial waters after it had given out exploration licenses exactly along the current borders. "What are they complaining about now?" asked one official.
- Israel to EU: Help Stop Arms Smuggling into Gaza
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday: "If you want to bring about an end to the siege of the Gaza Strip, you have to take responsibility and set up a strong, genuine and effective force to stop weapons smuggling." "I can assure you that the moment the weapons smuggling to Gaza stops, the siege will be lifted," he said.
- Netanyahu Backs Plan to Let More Palestinian Workers into Israel - Dana Weiler-Polak
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he supports a plan to increase the number of Palestinians from the West Bank allowed to work in Israel.
According to the plan - to be brought up for approval by the government on Sunday - 4,000 Palestinians would be given permits to work in construction and 1,250 in agriculture. "Beyond helping the construction and agricultural sectors, this represents an important step of trust between us and the Palestinian Authority," said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.
- Next Mideast Flashpoint Could Be Mediterranean Gas Fields - Benny Avni
Beirut government's threats to defend its maritime "rights" began last summer, immediately after Israel's offshore gas explorations showed signs of positive results, and it is now raising the tone of its demands.
According to an Israeli official, none of the five major gas discoveries to date are close enough to the Lebanese border to be seriously in dispute. Jerusalem would gladly demarcate the maritime border with Lebanon as part of a comprehensive peace deal, he added, pointing out that Israel recently demarcated its maritime border with Cyprus. Lebanon has never agreed to negotiate directly with Israel, which it considers an enemy.
(New York Sun)
See also Seismic Shift: Israel's Natural Gas Discoveries - Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The Plight of the Middle East's Christians - Jeffrey Goldberg
I've been struck by the lackadaisical coverage of the terrible attack on New Year's Day on a Coptic church in Egypt, in which 21 Christians were killed and 79 people, mostly Christian, were injured. The Salafist war on Christians in the Middle East is intensifying rapidly, with profound consequences not only for Christians in the lands of their faith's earliest history, but for the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities in the greater Middle East.
One way to think about the Muslim Arab Middle East is as a place historically intolerant of the rights of non-Arab Muslim minorities: The blacks of Sudan, who are trying to break free of Khartoum's hold; the Kurds in Iraq and Syria; Christians in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq; and the Jews of Israel, among others. In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal even to build a church.
- Obama and the Syrian Trap - Matthew R.J. Brodsky
With the Palestinian-Israeli peace process returning to a deep freeze, the Obama administration is eyeing an opportunity to make headway with Syria. To that end, President Obama confirmed the new U.S. ambassador to Syria and reports have surfaced of a recent back channel opened between the White House and Syrian officials in Damascus.
Yet the reality is that Syria will simply pocket concessions, while preserving the very status quo that Washington seeks to alter. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon tasked with investigating the string of assassinations in 2005, including that of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, is set to hand down indictments in a matter of weeks. Hizbullah will likely be held responsible, with the support and orders coming from Syrian President Assad's inner circle. By engaging with Syria now, the U.S. not only ensures that Damascus will not be held to account, but it rewards their rogue behavior and emboldens America’s enemies. The writer is Director of Policy at the Jewish Policy Center in Washington.
See also Syria Is Key to Returning Israel's POWs and MIAs - Lenny Ben-David (I*Consult)
We Will Not Be Turkey's Punching Bag - Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Jerusalem Post)
- The current crisis with Turkey began in January 2009 when Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan verbally attacked and humiliated Israeli President Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, as part of a carefully thought-out strategy.
- Israel has never sought a change in its relationship with Turkey, but Turkey's continued harsh rhetoric makes it very difficult for Israel to accept any preconditions for normalization.
- The completely unilateral change in relations is not reflective of our actions; rather, it is the result of Turkey's internal politics. The best example of this is Ankara's decision not to vote for sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council.
- On Dec. 25, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu spoke about Turkey’s quick dispatch of planes to help us battle the Carmel Forest fire, and suggested that, had the situation been reversed, Israel would not have reciprocated. Davutoglu must have forgotten our immediate response to the earthquake disaster in 1999 when 250 Israeli emergency workers were dispatched to Turkey, where they erected a field hospital and rescued many from the rubble.
- If the Turkish government is truly honest about seeking to normalize relations with Israel, it needs to stop looking for excuses and attaching preconditions. Israel should not be used as an issue in the upcoming Turkish national elections in June.
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