A summary of news stories published this week in the Arab English language press- January 21, 2009.


Iranian woman to be whipped not stoned for adultery

 (Iran will chair the UN’s US$9 billion plus ‘flagship’ agency working in the area of human rights and the empowerment of women) jewishinfoNews, January 17, 2009.

TEHRAN: Iran’s judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi has commuted a sentence of stoning to death handed down to a woman convicted of adultery to 100 lashes, a report said yesterday. The woman, identified only as 48-year-old Kobra N, was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of her husband and engaging in an adulterous relationship, the daily Etemad Melli newspaper reported. She was sentenced to eight years in prison for the first crime and stoning to death for the second. The report said the woman served the eight-year jail sentence and was kept in prison for another five years awaiting the sentence of stoning to be carried out. It added that her husband, a drug addict, had forced her into prostitution. The murderer, identified as Habib A , has been freed after serving a 10-year jail term. According to the newspaper, Ayatollah Shahrudi’s decision to spare the woman leaves nine other people, seven women and two men, in Iranian prisons awaiting execution by stoning. – Kuwait Times, January 21, 2009.

Armed men seize Jordanian relief cargo in Gaza

AMMAN: Anonymous armed men captured a 13-truck convoy laden with foodstuff donated by Jordanians after entering the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official told The Jordan Times Tuesday. Neither the convoy’s drivers nor the trucks, which entered Gaza at the Karm Abu Salem crossing, are Jordanian, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The drivers were released; the hijackers drove the trucks. The shipment was unloaded from a Jordanian convoy after it crossed into the Palestinian territories and then carried by non-Jordanian trucks rented by UNRWA into Gaza. The Palestinian Authority official said: “This is not the first incident of this kind. We have learned that the food items, which were supposed to be given to Gazans for free, were being sold in the marketplace in Gaza City.” On Monday, an 11-truck convoy carrying food items from Kuwait was also seized at gunpoint, he added. The Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation spokesperson denied he was informed of any hijacked aid convoys. Government officials in Amman did not know about the case or were not available for comment.- –Jordan Times, January 21, 2009.

Hamas rally celebrates Gaza ‘win’

GAZA CITY: Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied in Gaza City yesterday to celebrate what the Islamist movement ruling the strip termed “the victory of the resistance against the Israeli occupation forces.” The supporters filled a square in the city centre opposite the destroyed Palestinian parliament building, waving green Hamas flags and chanting victory slogans against Israel. They also chanted slogans slamming Israel and a number of Arab countries whom they regarded as collaborators, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas. The “huge participation” in the rally “is proof that Hamas was not broken in the war” and still enjoys the support of the people,” Ashraf Abu Dayya, the movement’s public relations chief, shouted over loudspeakers mounted on a van as he marched amid the crowd. – Gulf Times, Qatar, January 21, 2009.

Gaza agreement eludes Arab leaders

Arab leaders have failed to agree on a specific mechanism to support reconstruction in Gaza following Israel’s offensive there, despite vowing to provide Gazans with “all forms of support.” Disagreements over how aid should be chanelled to Palestinians blighted the Arab ministers’ meeting, held on the sidelines of an Arab economic summit in Kuwait, on Tuesday. “We have not reached a conclusion because of time constraints and some positions,” Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, told Kuwait Television, without giving details. “Under these circumstances, it is supposed that all should make concessions for the sake of Arab reconciliation … Efforts are still being made to hammer out a united position,” he said. Faisal al-Meqdad, the Syrian deputy foreign minister, said: “Realistically speaking, there are differences among Arab brothers.” – Al Jazeera, Qatar, January 20, 2009.

Iran’s nuclear facilities

Iran . . . is slowly building nuclear facilities but unless they come clear about their intentions we cannot blame the US and other European countries to continuously doubt the purpose behind their nuclear ambition,” he said. Dr Shabaan made it clear that he was not speaking on behalf of his government. He emphasized that Iran should state its purpose clearly to the international community. I think Iran should answer these questions; do you really need a nuclear energy without military goals? If Iran fails to prove it, then there is a problem. Remember that Iran was not a signatory to international agreement on non-proliferation treaty. Full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency is a requirement though I think they have failed to cooperate. They should be able to prove that they are not building nuclear facilities for military purposes but for the sake of developing nuclear energy facilities,” he reiterated. (Dr Shaaban is a professor Emeritus of Metallurgy at the Atomic Energy Authority of Egypt.) – Kuwait Times, January 21, 2009.

Gaza reconstruction: ‘If we do not destroy we cannot rebuild’

The ruinous war over Gaza is over. Gaza and its 1.5 million people have borne the brunt of Israel’s disproportionate, reckless and massive use of fire power which killed more than 1300 people most of them civilians and injured thousands. Homes, schools, government buildings, mosques whole quarters were razed down by Israeli troops as the influential and most powerful world leaders pondered on who was right or wrong and who was to blame. This was yet another of the ruinous wars in which U.S.’s lethal weapons reigned supreme. It is the fourth devastating war waged by the U.S. or its ally Israel against Arabs and Muslims in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks – Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. In all these wars it is the Arab and Muslim lands that are being ruined; it is Arabs and Muslims who are being killed in tens of thousands; it is the Arabs and Muslims who are being driven out of their homes, countries and cities. And after each war the U.S. and its Western allies make big promises to rebuild what their monstrous military machine has destroyed. But those vows of reconstruction never materialize. – Azzaman, Iraq, January 19, 2009.

Italian public divided over Gaza onslaught

The current Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, positions himself as critical of D’Alema’s [former Italian Foreign Minister] point of view. It is not possible, according to Frattini, to launch a Hamas-Israel dialogue. The primary reason is because the international community cannot legitimize another Palestinian state in Gaza Strip. Hamas has to stop the launch of missiles into the Israeli territory, continued the Foreign Minister, and it has to recognize Abu Mazen’s authority. Frattini made a further point arguing that this is the position of the Italian government, the Egyptian government, the EU, and US President Barack Obama.The need to halt Hamas from launching missiles reflects also the position of the Italian population. As a matter of fact, according to recent surveys, the majority of Italians stand in favor of Israel in the Gaza conflict. 22% of Italians declare themselves closer to the Israelis than to the Palestinians. A particular understanding for the Israeli cause has been observed among men especially those living in the North of Italy and who are right-wing voters. On the other side, 18% of Italians sympathize with the Palestinians.  In this case, pro-Palestinians are generally left wing voters. Notwithstanding the little difference in this percentage; the majority of the Italians continue to see Hamas as a “terrorist movement.” – Albawaba.com, Qatar, January 20, 2009.

Iraq to purchase 2,000 T-72 Russian tanks

In a bid to boost combat readiness of its new army, the government is said to be negotiating a massive arms deal with Russia to buy 2,000 battle tanks. But the T-72 model the government mulls purchasing is an old and outdated version of which the former army had hundreds. They proved ineffective and highly vulnerable against modern M1 Abrams and Challenger 1 which U.S. and British troops used during the Gulf wars of 1991 and 2003. Former army officers say some 400 T-72 tanks were knocked out during the 2003-U.S. invasion and the rest were smuggled to neighboring states. It is not clear why the government is opting for T-72 while Russia has manufactured much better and more battle-efficient models such as T-82 and T-92 which are specifically designed for modern warfare. Analysts fear the deal like former contracts will lack the necessary transparency and will be mired with commissions and bribes. One indication is the refusal of the negotiators to obtain parliamentary vetting and approval. The value of the contract being negotiated is not known but the size of the deal makes it one of the largest ever signed in the Middle East. – Azzaman, Iraq, January 14, 2009.


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