MID-WEEK NEWS FOR MARCH 11, 2009
A summary of news from international sources
Sweden accused of antisemitism
The Davis Cup match in Malmö has ended, but the controversy around the game and the decision to play without an audience continues. Strong Israeli criticism has accused Sweden and Malmö of antisemitism. In an article in the Jerusalem Post yesterday, Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman said they believe that the decision to let the match be played without an audience was governed by prejudices that “echoes of Nazi antisemitism.” The authors accuse the politicians of the Malmö Recreation Board for having given in to pressure from the city’s anti-Israeli Muslim minority, states Swedish Radio Eko. Malmö commissioner, Ilmar Reepalu, dismisses the criticism. “It is absurd. We have from the outset made it clear that it is about safety, not about Jews. And after what happened last Saturday, it is well clear to all what might have arisen was a dangerous situation if we had to evacuate the hall with 4 000 people. . . .” Even Bengt Forsberg, chairman of the Recreation Committee, believed that it was right to play without a paying audience. . . . (On Saturday) A total of nine people were arrested in fierce riots outside the Baltic area. A 22-year-old man is under arrest on suspicion of attempted aggravated assault. . . . According to the police most of those who participated were masked activists. Malmö police chief Ulf Sempert was satisfied with the weekend’s assignments. “We succeeded fully in our work.” Despite the violence, no physical injuries were reported, neither with the police or demonstrators. In previous violent demonstrations, police have internally been reproached for having been too passive. “No such criticism occurred in connection with the weekend’s unrest, ” says Ulf Sempert.- Translated from the Corren.se, March 9, 2009.
Colombia approves extradition of drug traffickers and the link between Hezbollah
BOGOTA – The Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia authorized the extradition to the United States of Lebanese Chekri Mahmoud Harb, arrested in October last year and accused of being a link between Hezbollah and Colombian drug traffickers. According to the newspaper El Espectador, the North American Drug Agency (DEA) could “see” the links between the office of Harb, a criminal organization that works to trafficking in the department (state) of Antioquia, and Hezbollah through information revealed by an alleged “confidential witness”. The publication states that, together, the two organizations (planned) to send “drugs to the United States, Mexico, Europe and the Middle East, and set a strategic route to Africa to expand their illicit business.” The witness was discovered after a scheme to infiltrate the office. According to research, Chekri Mahmoud Harb, currently detained in a maximum security prison, was in charge of managing the traffic and wash the money obtained from drug sales. The authorization for the extradition of the Lebanese was given on March 4, according to El Espectador. Translated from the Jornal do Brasil, March 10, 2009.
Iran, Syria violate UN arms transfer ban
Iran supplied arms to Syria in violation of a UN Security Council resolution banning arms transfer as part of measures against Iran’s nuclear activities, the US and Britain said Tuesday. Details of the arms transfer to Syria were not made public, but the US and British ambassadors called for efforts to stop weapons deals between Tehran and Damascus. US Ambassador Susan Rice said the 15-nation council should take action to end Iran’s weapons procurement to Syria. “My statement (in the council meeting) clearly condemns Iran’s transportation of weapons to Syria,” Rice told reporters following a closed-door meeting of the council to discuss a fresh report on sanctions against Iran. . . .British Ambassador John Sawers said the arms transfer was a ‘clear violation’ of the UN Security Council resolution that bans supply, trade or transfer of any arms and related material from Iran to all states. Any transfer and procurement of weapons from Iran is a breach of international obligations under a UN resolution.. . .The council discussed the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear activities, particularly Iran’s advanced uranium enrichment. The IAEA said Iran now has more than 5,500 centrifuges installed, of which about 4,000 are actively enriching uranium. Sawers said Iran had ‘no plausible civilian use’ for most of the centrifuges.’ Iran has also refused access to IAEA inspectors to the heavy water reactor at Arak, for the second time in a row,’ Sawers said. “This is of particular concern because the reactor’s design at Arak is ideally suited to producing plutonium, which could be used for nuclear weapons.” – Irish Sun, March 10, 2009.
Hamas Official Denies Receiving Videotape of Abducted Israeli Soldier
Cairo – Dr Musa Abu-Marzuq, vice chairman of Hamas’s Political Bureau, has denied received during his visit to Gaza Strip last month a written message or a videotape of captured Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit Speaking by telephone to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said that he was on a family visit to the Gaza Strip to see his mother and other family members, did not meet any leaders from the Hamas movement’s military wing Al-Qassam Brigades, and did not carry any written messages from soldier Gil’ad Shalit or videotapes of him. He added: “I have no information about Shalit and do not know if he is dead or alive. The factions holding soldier Shalit are the ones who know his fate and will not give any information about him without a price.” He stressed that “the prisoners’ swap deal is with Cairo and there is nothing new in this dossier which will remain in Egypt’s hands regardless of the many brokers Israel brings to us.” He went on to say that “Israel is sometimes sending English brokers, sometimes Germans and French, Russians, and Arabs to act and bypass the Egyptian mediation. But we assert that this dossier is with Cairo and Shalit will not be released except with the release of all the number of prisoners we have demanded, which is 450 prisoners and in accordance with the criteria laid down by us, in addition to 550 others who are children, women, ministers, and Legislative Council members.” In reply to a question about Israel’s insistence on linking the calm dossier to Shalit’s release, Abu-Marzuq said “Shalit’s release is linked to the prisoners’ swap deal. We reject linking the prisoners’ issue to the calm. This is the movement’s final stand and it will not budge from it at all.” – Asharq Al-Awsat, London, March 11, 2009.
160 thinkers to attend Islamic unity conference
TEHRAN — Mohammad Ali Taskhiri, secretary general of the Forum for the Rapprochement of Islamic Schools in the world, told reporters on Tuesday that 160 thinkers from 45 countries will attend the 22nd Islamic Unity Conference. The conference called “Islamic Ummah: Challenges, Strategies” will bring together 60 thinkers from Iran and another 100 from the other countries including the U.S., the UK, France, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate, Egypt, Oman, Sudan, Kuwait, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Syria, Tunis, Hong Kong, Turkey, Iraq, Gambia, Pakistan, Indonesia, ,Jordan , Qatar and so forth. . . the conference is to review the important challenges faced by Islamic nations to maintain their unity. The ayatollah said the Gaza war and arrest warrant against the Sudanese president by The Hague-based court will also be discussed by the participants.. . .The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. – Tehran Times, March 11, 2009.
Palestinian support for Hamas rises
A major new poll of Palestinians has shown a strong increase in support for the militant Hamas group following the 22-day Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. It shows a significant increase in support for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh while a fall in support for the more moderate, Western-backed Mahmoud Abbas, who leads the Palestinian Authority. Support for Mr Haniyeh as preferred Palestinian president has increased from 38 per cent before the Gaza war to 47 per cent, while support for Mr Abbas has fallen from 48 per cent to 45 per cent. Despite the increase in support for Hamas, Fatah would still win an election, with a reduced majority, in the West Bank and the majority of Palestinians believe they are worse off after the war in Gaza. The poll was taken by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research and involved a sample of 1270 adults in face-to-face interviews in 127 randomly selected locations. It has a 3 per cent margin of error. The centre publishes four major reports a year. In its last report, in December, the survey found an end to the slow decline in Hamas’s popularity and continued stability in Fatah’s popularity despite Hamas’s then boycott of reconciliation talks scheduled to take place in Egypt. . . .- The Australian, March 11, 2009.
Letter asks (Canadian) Prime Minister to muzzle minister
Jason Kenney’s office dismissed as “pathetic” a letter circulated yesterday by the Canadian Arab Federation calling for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to slap a muzzle on his Immigration Minister. The letter, signed by about two dozen Arab organizations across the country, urges Mr. Harper to “restrain” Mr. Kenney and “put an end to his dangerous campaign of attacking CAF with slandering and damaging accusations for which he has provided no evidence.” It cites apprehension over Mr. Kenney’s decision to review the CAF’s public funding, a move the Immigration Minister took after the federation’s president, Khaled Mouammar, called Mr. Kenney a “professional whore” over his support for Israel. . . Alykhan Velshi, a spokesman for the Immigration Minister, immediately jumped on the lack of high-profile Arab organizations on the list, such as the National Council on Canadian-Arab Relations and the Islamic Society of North America. “That these groups aren’t signatories is to me very telling,” Mr. Velshi said. “In fact, their absence underscores how unrepresentative the signatories are of the grassroots of the community. Most of them barely exist even on letterhead, some don’t have Web sites, or any ongoing operations or programs.” Those who did sign represent a “tiny” and “quite radicalised minority” of Arab-Canadian organizations, Mr. Velshi suggested, adding the Immigration Minister’s position on the CAF remains unchanged.
“Groups that promote hatred and anti-Semitism don’t deserve a single red cent of taxpayer support. End of story,” Mr. Velshi said. . . .
The Prime Minister’s Office lined up behind Mr. Kenney, saying Mr. Harper was “very supportive and proud” of the Immigration Minister’s work. National Post, Canada, March 10, 2009.