In Lebanon, bravado about Syrian civil war is replaced by foreboding

Two Sunni gunmen in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli where fighting has killed 25 people in eig

Two Sunni gunmen in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, where sectarian conflict has taken hold. Photograph: Omar Ibrahim/REUTERS

Beirutis like to say that their city thrives on uncertainty. “We’ve been through worse,” is a common refrain. “We’re used to war every few years,” is another.

In the last few months, though, bravado has been replaced by uncertainty and fear. Residents are often heard discussing the steadily deteriorating region in more foreboding tones.

“Is war really coming?” they regularly ask each other. Amid the rumble and whirl of drills and construction cranes, many in Beirut prefer not to draw conclusions. But away from the capital, the countryside resounds to the unmistakable drumbeat of war.

The largely Sunni north has taken on an increasingly heavy burden as Syria has unravelled. Lebanese men have gone to fight on Syrian battlefields, from where hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled to Lebanon.

Two years of sporadic clashes between Sunnis in Lebanon’s second city, Tripoli, and a minority Alawite Shia community barricaded on a residential hilltop have recently taken the shape of a more enduring battle.

Here, the Syrian civil war is unmistakably cast as a sectarian bid, led by Iran, to keep Sunnis away from power in the Levant. Fighting has intensified in each of the last three weeks, as Hezbollah – the Shia militia-cum-political powerhouse – has emerged from the shadows to take a very public stake in Syria’s war.

The speech two weeks ago by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, announcing his militia’s role in seizing from rebels the border town of Qusair has heightened tensions. There is an undeniable sense that a reckoning now awaits the Shias of Lebanon, and especially their patrons in Tehran and Damascus. Nasrallah’s belligerent speech has done far more than the two-year creep of chaos across the Lebanon ranges to crystallise what is now at stake.

Hezbollah’s victory in Qusair, on behalf of Assad’s regime, is widely viewed as a first step in the escalation of the group’s role on other Syrian battlefronts. Many Sunni communities in the north are increasingly viewing the conflict in straight-up sectarian terms, believing they are being inexorably drawn into a fight that extends well beyond Lebanon’s borders.

The Shia of the south, meanwhile, cast Hezbollah’s role in Syria as a pre-emptive bid to protect them from an ancient inter-Muslim foe, salafists or takfiris – fundamentalist streams of Sunni Islam who the Shia claim are trying to attack them. This mutual demonisation is clearly hardening sectarian positions in the south and north. It is also being felt in parts of the capital, where both sects live alongside each other. Here, tensions run just as high as in the respective heartlands.

In Lebanon’s moribund parliament, though, there seems to be some kind of a detente at play. “Hezbollah sends us messages constantly that they don’t want things to get out of hand here,” said one member of the opposition March 14 political bloc. “We believe them about that. But what has been unleashed could prove unstoppable.”

Meanwhile, Beirut’s construction boom – legacies of contracts signed in better years – continues unabated. Hotels, however, stand largely empty and high-street shopping strips are deserted. Lebanon is not yet a country at war, but nor is it at peace with itself.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/09/lebanon-bravado-syria-replaced-by-fear

France: National Liberation Front of Corsica (FNLC) separatists vow to attack France again

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Corsican separatists, who claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks last year, on Tuesday warned of fresh violence as France’s interior minister toured the crime-prone island.

“We will take up arms again so that France recognizes our national rights,” the Corsican National Liberation Front (FNLC) said in a statement, denouncing Paris for supporting a centralized republic.

But after vowing “zero tolerance” for mafia groups, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said: “We will not let ourselves be browbeaten by threats.”

The FNLC, which was set up in 1976, and various other factions intent on self-rule have staged hundreds of attacks in Corsica. They have also been blamed for armed robberies and extortion through so-called revolutionary taxes.

Iran unveils new uranium mines, production facility

By on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

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Iran unveiled on Tuesday a new uranium production facility and two extraction mines, only days after talks with world powers on its disputed nuclear programme again ended in deadlock.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed the advances and boasted of mastery over “the entire chain of nuclear energy,” while demanding that the work be accelerated.

The announcements come after talks between sanctions-hit Iran and six world powers on Tehran’s nuclear drive failed to produce a breakthrough in the Kazakh city of Almaty on Friday and Saturday last week.

The mines in Saghand city operate 350 metres (yards) underground and are within 120 kilometres (75 miles) of the new yellowcake production facility at Ardakan, a city in the central province of Yazd, state television said.

The report gave few details about the Ardakan facility but said it had an estimated output of 60 tonnes of yellowcake, which is an impure state of uranium oxide later fed into centrifuges for enrichment.

Iran says its enrichment activities are aimed at feeding a peaceful energy programme.

That work, in defiance of repeated UN Security Council demands, is at the heart of international worries, with Western powers and Israel fearing the Islamic state is developing a capacity to build an atom bomb.

Diplomatic efforts to find a negotiated solution to the standoff have been underway for years, but to no avail.

Iran’s latest meeting in Almaty with the P5+1 group of powers — the Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany — failed to coax it into curbing its programme in exchange for the easing of some sanctions.

Ahmadinejad, under whose presidency the atomic programme has expanded rapidly, on Tuesday praised the advances and urged nuclear scientists to step up their work.

“I demand you to speed up your work and without any interruption,” he said, while claiming mastery over “the entire chain of nuclear energy, one that no one can take it away”.

“In the past, we depended on others to provide us with yellowcake but with the grace of God, (uranium) mines were inaugurated one after another,” he said referring to Iran’s all but depleted 600 tonnes of yellowcake acquired from South Africa in the 1970s.

Iran says it has now managed to replenish the stockpile from its raw uranium reserve of 4,400 tonnes, according to official figures.

In December 2010 it announced the delivery of a domestically produced yellowcake batch from the Gachin uranium mine, near the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas.

The discovery of the uranium mines in Saghand was announced almost a decade ago. But Western experts believe they contain poor mineral deposits.

Iran enriches uranium to both 3.5 and 20 percent levels in its Natanz and Fordo facilities. Uranium purified at high levels can be used in a nuclear weapon.

On Tuesday, the state television also reported an electron accelerator was inaugurated on the occasion of Iran’s national Atomic Energy Technology day.

The Islamic republic is under a number of UN sanctions, reinforced by international punitive measures targeting its vital oil income and access to global banking system.

The United States along with Israel, the sole but undeclared nuclear armed state in the Middle East, have refused to rule out a military option to stop what they call Iran’s quest for the bomb.

Former Pakistan PM’s nomination rejected.

Source of Picture: Dawn News

Raja Pervez Ashraf, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan

In what has to be a historical move, the Election Commission of Pakistan has rejected the nomination of the ex-PM of Pakistan, Raja Pervez Ashraf, more popularly known as Raja Rental. According to Geo News, his nomination was rejected after accusations of nepotism and the misappropriation of funds.

He is not the first politician whose nomination has been rejected, and he shall have the right to appeal this decision within the next three days, though it is doubtful whether an appeal would be very helpful. The cases against him are said to be very strong.

Thus, Raja Pervez Ashraf joins a long list of politicians who have been rejected by the ECP, in accordance to Article 62 and 63 of the constitution. Verily, for the first time, it seems that many of the corrupt people are being weeded out.

Naimatullah Khan submits objection on Pervez Musharraf

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KARACHI: Former city nazim Naimatullah Khan has submitted objection over the nomination papers of former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf from NA-250, Geo News reported Saturday.

Naimatullah Khan was of the view that Pervez Musharraf should be declared ineligible as he had violated the constitution twice.

It may be mentioned that Jamaat-e-Islami had decided to field former city nazim Naimatullah Khan advocate on the coveted NA-250 of Karachi.

Naimatullah was the mayor of Karachi from August 2001 to June 2005, before MQM’s Mustafa Kamal took over the charge.

Pir Pagara says will support Shah Mehmood Qureshi in polls

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KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi met Pakistan Muslim League- Functional chief Pir Pagara here on Saturday.

Pir Pagara assured the PTI leader of his support during election. It is to mention here that Qureshi has submitted his nomination papers for National Assembly seats from Umar Kot and Thar Parkar in Sindh.

Speaking to media after the meeting, Pir Pagara demanded that all the defaulters should be arrested. He prayed for the holding of general election on time and said time was short for the scrutiny of candidates.

He said that Punjab chief secretary was replaced but the top bureaucrat was still not changed in Sindh.

Speaking on the occasion, Shah Mehmood said that the rulers were not able to go the court of people as the Pakistan People’s Party was no more an ideological party. He said that the original PPP was sleeping in Naudero.

Qureshi said that there was no provision in the Constitution to delay the election.

NAB arrests Tikka Iqbal from Arifwala

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LAHORE: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials have arrested former provincial minister Tikka Muhammad Iqbal Khan from Arifwala, Geo News reported Saturday.

According to sources, NAB officials accompanied by local police team raided Arifwala and apprehended Tikka Iqbal.

Tikka Muhammad Iqbal is also a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate from NA-166 and PP-230.

NAB had conducted many raids to arrest Tikka Iqbal, an accused in liberty market property scam.

Refuting the allegations, Tikka Iqbal said that the charges leveled against him are not true and that he is being schemed in the case.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the NAB authorities to arrest the accused who were illegally occupying the property.