What They Are Saying: Turkey. European bee-eater suspected of spying for Israel?.. and more!

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Turkey suspects bird was Israeli agent. Ankara security services search bee-eater’s nostrils for Mossad surveillance equipment.

The Times of Israel reports: “”Turkish authorities are examining the carcass of a European bee-eater on suspicion that the bird was spying for Israel, Turkish websites and media have reported in the past couple of days. The story, which hit Israel’s Yediot Ahronoth on Tuesday, has apparently been reported seriously in Turkey — an indication of the dire state of Turkish-Israeli relations, and an apparent readiness to give credibility to even the most outlandish assertions of Israeli iniquity. Of particular interest to the authorities, the media reports say, were the dead bird’s nostrils, one of which is larger than the other, leading to suspicions that Mossad surveillance equipment was implanted in the beak. The big-nosed spy-bird saga began when a farmer found the dead Merops Apiaster, or European bee-eater, on his land and alerted authorities after noticing a band inscribed with the word “Israel” on the bird’s leg. Ornithologist often attach tracking bands to the legs of birds in order to learn about their flight paths and migratory travels. The Turkish Agriculture Ministry handed over the small corpse to Ankara’s security services for further investigation.””

Israel fears size of Muslim countries’ UNIFIL contingents.

Lebanon’s The Daily Star in an article today says, “Israel is worried that European peacekeepers in UNIFIL are being replaced with soldiers from Muslim countries, who might fail to take action against Hezbollah if needed, an Israeli daily reported Wednesday. “The European soldiers are increasingly being replaced by soldiers from Muslim countries such as Indonesia, and Israel fears these soldiers won’t take action as needed against Hezbollah,” Haaretz said. It added that the changes come as a result of the economic crisis in Europe. Several European countries have begun cutting their defense budgets and reducing the size of their UNIFIL contingents. According to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, there are 1,078 Indonesian peacekeepers out of 11,434 UNIFIL soldiers. The Indonesian contingent is the third largest, after Italy’s 1,141-strong force and France’s 1,102 soldiers. Both Italy and France have reduced the size of their contingents following a series of attacks against UNIFIL soldiers in south Lebanon. The report also said that Israel’s Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi visited the U.S. two weeks ago, where he held talks with the Department of Peacekeeping Forces and expressed Israel’s concern over ongoing changes within UNIFIL.”

International military drill not related to Syria unrest.

The Jordan Times has reported that “”The multinational joint military exercise “Eager Lion 2012”, which commenced on May 7, does not aim at delivering a message to the Syrian regime, Jordanian and US senior officers said on Tuesday. Jordan Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Awni Al Adwan, operations and training chief of staff, underlined that the military drill, which includes 19 countries, is not meant in any way to deliver a message to any of the neighbouring countries, including Syria. Speaking at a joint press conference with US Army Maj. Gen. Ken Tovo, Combined Joint Task Force Spartan commanding general, Adwan added that the exercise is taking place in the southern region of the Kingdom and not in the northern region near Syria. “Eager Lion 2012 has nothing to do with what is going on in Syria,” Adwan said, adding that “preparations for the military exercise started three years before the start of the Arab Spring”. He noted that traditional weapons are being used in exercise Eager Lion 2012, adding that Israel is not participating in the military drill which, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, started on May 7 and continues until May 30… According to a Combined Joint Task Force Spartan statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times on Tuesday, exercise Eager Lion is part of a long history of multilateral military exercises in Jordan which includes troops from five different continents and more than 12,000 participants.””

NATO invites Pakistan to Chicago summit.

Kuwait’s Al Watan Daily reports, “”NATO said on Tuesday it had invited Pakistan to a summit in Chicago next week, lifting a veiled threat that it might exclude the country from the talks on the future of Afghanistan.”Allies decided to invite President (Asif Ali) Zardari of Pakistan to Chicago to the meeting on Afghanistan,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement. “This meeting will underline the strong commitment of the international community to the people of Afghanistan and to its future. Pakistan has an important role to play in that future.” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen suggested on Friday that Pakistan could be excluded from the May 20-21 summit if it failed to reopen the supply routes to Afghanistan that it closed after 24 of its soldiers were killed by a NATO cross-border air attack last November. Rasmussen noted that other countries providing supply routes to NATO had been invited to the summit, which will map out a future for Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops are withdrawn at the end of 2014. President Zardari’s spokesman said he was considering whether to attend the Chicago summit and that the invitation was “unconditional and not linked to the opening of ground lines of communication for NATO or to any other issue.””

“The Palestinian government is in fact lying when it talks about a financial crisis…”

Gatestone Institute, in an article written by Khaled Abu Toameh Hasan, reports that Hasan Khreishah, Deputy Speaker, Palestinian Parliament, says that the Palestinian government is in fact lying when it talks about a financial crisis; its main goal is to get Western and Arab donors to channel more funds to Ramallah: “Corruption in the Palestinian Authority is more widespread than in the past,” he said. “We hear about the suffering and hunger of the poor and the difficulties facing the unemployed, farmers, villagers and civil servants,” Khreishah said. “At the same time, we hear about the luxurious life of senior and influential officials and the involvement of some in money laundering.” What Khreishah is saying is that Western donors, specifically the US and EU, are continuing to pour billions of dollars on the Palestinian Authority without holding its leaders fully accountable. He revealed, for example, that the chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, a company that was established by the PLO, was receiving a salary of $35,000 a month, or $420,000 a year, while the average salary of a civil servant in the Palestinian Authority ranges from $500 to $1,000 a month. Khreishah also disclosed that senior members of the PLO and Fatah have not only awarded themselves huge salaries, but also- luxurious vehicles, as well as various privileges.

Arafat’s former aide faces embezzlement charges.

Saudi Arabia’s Arab News reports that, “The shadowy financial adviser of the late Yasser Arafat is being sought on suspicion he stole millions of dollars in public funds, the top Palestinian anti-corruption campaigner said Wednesday. It is the most high-profile case since the Palestinian Authority established its Anti-Corruption Commission and a special court two years ago to deal with such cases, the panel’s chief, Rafik Natche, told The Associated Press. The former financial adviser, Mohammed Rashid, is suspected of transferring millions of dollars out of the Palestinian Investment Fund and setting up fake companies, Natche said. Rashid has in the past denied wrongdoing. Rashid left the Palestinian territories after Arafat’s death in 2004 and is moving between countries, Natche said. The Palestinian foreign and justice ministries have asked several countries to extradite Rashid and freeze his assets, Natche added but declined to say which countries are involved. Earlier, he told the Palestinian news agency Wafa that Interpol is also being asked for help. Rashid’s current whereabouts are unclear, though the Arab satellite TV station Al-Arabiya has been broadcasting a series of interviews with him since last week. It did not say where the interviews took place…”

Libyan-Egyptian border riot.

The Libyan Herald reports: “It was still unclear today what caused Monday’s outbreak of gunfire and rock throwing between Libyans and Egyptians at the border crossing at Salloum on the International Coastal Road. Traffic across the main crossing point between Libya and Egypt was halted as Libyans reportedly fired shots and exchanged volleys of rocks with Egyptians on the other side of the border. The confrontation also appears to have involved Libyans living in Solloum. No serious injuries were reported. Since the Libya revolution, the border area has seen a marked increase in smuggling. Many of the locals on both sides have strong commercial and social ties. The Egyptian side of the border, which is largely controlled by the Army, along with customs and immigration officials, saw more serious violence last July, when police and troops shot dead three Egyptians in a riot in which four police cars were torched. The protests had been sparked by the earlier killing of a local smuggler. Gomaa Abdel-Salam was reportedly shot by police as he was trying to bring copper piping across the border from Libya.”

Iran, Tunisia to expand scientific, academic cooperation.

Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency states, “In a meeting with the new ambassador of Tunisia to Iran, Arsalan Qorbani congratulated the successful holding of parliamentary elections in the country. Referring to the crucial role of people in determining their fate and institutionalizing the public opinion in the new Tunisia, he noted that Tunisia was the starting point of Islamic awakening movement in the Arab states in the third millennium. Explaining Iran’s scientific status in the region, he voiced his country’s readiness to develop mutual cooperation in various areas such as increasing scholarships, establishment of technical and scientific committee and dispatching Persian language instructors to Tunisia. The Tunisian envoy, Mohammad al-Hasayeri, for his part, hailed Iran’s achievements despite facing various sanctions and underlined the need to use the two countries’ capacities in all fields such as higher education. He welcomed Qorbani’s proposal to set up Iran-Tunisia Scientific and Technical Committee and said the Tunisian higher education and scientific research minister would visit Tehran in a bid to explore avenues for developing mutual cooperation.

Photo Credit: (photo.net)

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