SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A crowd of Tunisian citizens on Saturday staged a protest in Habib Bourguiba Street in the capital Tunis to express their rejection of the Tunisian government's recognition of the 'Doha Coalition' of the Syrian opposition.
The protesters waved Syrian flags and chanted slogans against the Zionist project targeting Syria.
The participants denounced the plot targeting Syria, chanting slogans hailing the Syrians people, army and leadership for more than 2 hours.
They condemned the stances of the west, Turkish PM Recep Tayyib Erdogan and Emir of Qatar against Syria, which is the last fortress in front of the Israeli enemy.
In statements to SANA reporter, the participants stressed the support of the Tunisian people for the Syrian leadership and army, lauding their steadfastness in the face of the most fierce
conspiracy that aims at destroying the Arab countries and fragmenting the region as to enhance the western interests in it and serve the interests of Israel.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Central African Republic rebels have met with the head of the African Union and have said they are ready to consider a coalition offer, but added that their aim is not to join the government.
A spokesman for the rebel group Seleka said on Sunday, "Know that Seleka's aim today is not to enter into a government but to allow the people of Central African Republic to be able to drive the country towards development and self-fulfillment."
Embattled President Francois Bozize said he was ready to share power with the leaders of a rebellion that has swept aside government defences to within striking distance of the capital.
"I am ready to form a government of national unity with [the rebels] to run the country together, because I am a democrat," Bozize told a news conference following a meeting with African Union Chairman Thomas Yayi Boni in the capital, Bangui.
The African Union is attempting to set up negotiations in Gabon between the government and the rebels - who have taken over large parts of the country and are moving closer to the capital.
Boziz added that he was ready to attend peace talks that are being organised by regional leaders in Libreville, Gabon, "without condition and without delay".
The three-week onslaught by the rebel alliance Seleka has highlighted the instability of the former French colony.
As fears mounted that the rebels would attack Bangui, a city of 600,000, Bozize imposed a curfew from 7pm until 5am.
The rebel forces have seized at least 10 cities across the sparsely populated north of the country.
Rebellions and coups
Residents in the capital now fear the fighters could attack at any time, despite assurances by rebel leaders that they are willing to engage in dialogue instead of attacking Bangui.
On Saturday, rebels seized the city of Sibut, 185km from Bangui.
Sibut, a key transportation hub, fell without a shot being fired because the Central African Republic (CAR) army and forces from neighbouring Chad had pulled back to Damara, 75km from Bangui on Friday, said Minister of Territorial Administration Josie Binoua.
Neighbouring African countries have agreed to send more forces to support the Bozize government.
The land-locked nation of 4.4 million people has suffered decades of army revolts, coups and rebellions since gaining independence in 1960 and remains one of the poorest countries in the world.
The current president himself came to power nearly a decade ago in the wake of a rebellion in this resource-rich yet deeply poor country.
The rebels behind the most recent instability signed a 2007 peace accord allowing them to join the regular army, but insurgent leaders say the deal wasn't fully implemented.
Rebels say they are fighting because of their "thirst for justice, for peace, for security and for economic development of the people of CAR".
They are also demanding that the government make payments to ex-combatants.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Guido Westerwelle made the remarks in Brussels on Monday ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting in the Belgian capital, which is the de facto capital of the European Union (EU).
"It is the right timing to upgrade the political recognition of the Syrian National Coalition today," Westerwelle told reporters.
"We think it will be an important means to promote the process of erosion in the regime of Assad," he claimed.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Western states have been calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. However, Russia and China are strongly opposed to the Western drive to oust Assad.
Russia and China have thrice vetoed anti-Damascus resolutions at the United Nations Security Council.
Earlier in the day, Germany ordered four Syrian embassy staff members to leave the country until Thursday.
"With the expulsion of the four embassy employees announced today we are sending a clear message that we are reducing relations with the Assad regime to an absolute minimum," Westerwelle said in a statement.
"We are counting on the (Syrian) National Coalition strengthening further and building as soon as possible functioning institutions for a political transition," he added.
Westerwelle’s comments come in stark contrast with the Syrian opposition groups’ position inside the country that favor a political solution to the crisis.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country and accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey of arming the opposition.- www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- President Barack Obama has said the US now considers Syria's main opposition group the sole "legitimate representative" of the country's people, deeming the move "a big step" in the international diplomatic efforts to end President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
Obama said the newly formed Syrian National Coalition "is now inclusive enough" to be granted the elevated status.
"Obviously, with that recognition comes responsibilities," Obama said in an interview on Tuesday with American ABC News. "To make sure that they organise themselves effectively, that they are representative of all the parties, that they commit themselves to a political transition that respects women's rights and minority rights."
The move, which was widely expected, could give new international legitimacy to the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, but stops short of authorising US arming of the opposition.
Washington has so far only provided humanitarian, non-lethal aid to the rebels, officially declining to send arms, a position White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated on Tuesday.
Recognition of the council as the sole representative of Syria's population brings the US in line with Britain, France, Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council, which took the same step shortly after the body was created at a meeting of opposition representatives in Qatar last month.
European foreign ministers met the coalition's leader, Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib, in Brussels on Monday and said in a statement that the EU accepts the bloc as "legitimate representatives of the Syrian people".
The Friends of Syria group, an international collective of countries meeting periodically, are set to meet in Morocco on Wednesday.
The group does not include Russia and China, which have blocked unified international action on Syria at UN Security Council level.
Obama's announcement follows his administration's blacklisting earlier on Tuesday of a Syrian rebel group, the al-Nusra front, saying it was trying to hijack the uprising on behalf of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The Syrian conflict started in March last year as an uprising against the regime of Assad, whose family has ruled the country for four decades. It gradually turned into a civil war, with rebels taking up arms to fight back against a bloody crackdown by the government. According to opposition activists, at least 40,000 people have been killed.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Syrian warplanes bombed Damascus suburbs and rebel-held areas in the country's north Wednesday as the government blasted the European Union for endorsing a newly formed opposition coalition.
The raids struck several eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital and the strategic northern city of Maaret al-Numan, a key supply route linking Damascus and the commercial hub of Aleppo, said two activist groups. Both the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees also reported violence elsewhere in Syria.
The state-run news agency SANA said the army continued its pursuit of "terrorists" — a government term for rebel fighters — in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen, inflicting casualties on the enemy. The report also said that attackers targeted a mosque in Daraya suburb.
Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with an uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts. The crisis has since morphed into a civil war, with scores of rebel groups across the country fighting government troops. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the 20 months of unrest, according to activists.
In violence late Tuesday, a mortar round landed near a park in the upscale Abu Rummaneh neighborhood in Damascus, wounding at least three people, the pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV said.
Assad's regime blames the revolt on a foreign conspiracy and accuses Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the United States, other Western countries and Turkey, of funding, training and arming the rebels.
Damascus on Wednesday blasted the European Union for recognizing the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition as a legitimate voice of the Syrian people.
State-run daily Al-Thawra newspaper, a government mouthpiece, derided the coalition formed earlier this month as a "deformed" newborn baby in a front-page editorial, saying all possible "cosmetic surgeries do not bode well for the evolution of this monster."
EU's 27 foreign ministers recognized the Syrian coalition during their monthly meeting this week.
The National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was formed Nov. 11 in Qatar under pressure from the United States for a stronger, more united opposition body to serve as a counterweight to the more extremist forces fighting Assad's regime.
The endorsement was a major step forward in the West's acceptance of the group, even as fast-moving events and fluid alliances have cast doubts on the direction of the rebellion. The international support comes at a difficult time for the new coalition as Syria's disparate opposition groups have been long plagued by divisions and in-fighting.
A group of extremist Islamist factions in Syria on Sunday rejected the new coalition, saying in a video statement they have formed an "Islamic state" in the embattled city of Aleppo to underline that they want nothing to do with the Western-backed bloc.
For the government, the Islamists are evidence of the militant and sectarian nature of the conflict. The rebels are mostly Sunni Muslim fighting against Assad's regime which is dominated by members of his minority Alawite sect, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam.
Al-Thawra, the regime paper, said that meeting in Qatar failed to unite the opposition groups to "the extent that some (opposition) groups have announced the establishment of an Islamic State" in Syria.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — NATO says the majority of attacks by Afghan security forces against coalition troops are driven primarily by personal grievances rather than an infiltration by insurgents.
"Some 10% we know are related to the insurgency," Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, said late Friday.
The news follows word that U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, ordered all troops in the country to carry loaded weapons around the clock following a spate of attacks by people wearing Afghan security uniforms, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the order told CNN.
Allen's order, made in recent days, was divulged amid two more so-called green-on-blue or insider attacks Friday.
There have been a record 31 such attacks this year that have resulted in the deaths of 39 NATO service members, according to a report Friday on NATO's official online video channel.
Coalition steps up fight against Afghan 'green-on-blue' attacks
The British Ministry of Defence, meanwhile, said Saturday that a British soldier was killed "by enemy action" Friday while on sentry duty in Helmand province in the south.
The death was not related to a green-on-blue attack, said Maj. Martyn Crighton, an ISAF spokesman. He did not release details about the attack or the nationality of the service member killed.
Troops in Afghan combat situations have always been armed, while only security forces have been regularly armed at the headquarters bases.
Under Allen's order, troops regardless of their tasks will now carry loaded weapons, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
While Katz did not comment on Allen's order, he said ISAF was taking steps to mitigate such attacks.
"Where there is an insurgency, there is going to be an attempt to infiltrate. You can't stop it. But what you can try to do is neutralize it," said Maj. Gen. James Ferron, a deputy commanding general.
Shootings by Afghan forces take toll on NATO troops
Ferron, who oversees NATO's training of Afghan forces, said NATO was trying to not only put a stop to the attacks, but also the conditions that give rise to such assaults.
The attacks come at a critical time for the United States and NATO, which has picked up the pace of training Afghan forces even as it prepares to withdraw its combat troops by the end of 2014.
Violence continued to wrack the country Saturday, with a report that insurgents targeted a bridge being used by people on their way to shop at a bazaar in advance of Eid celebrations that mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Four were killed and 11 wounded Saturday when a bomb exploded in the Shindand district in Afghanistan's western Heart province, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — Israel plunged toward a political crisis Tuesday after the largest party in the government quit, leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in charge of a hard-line coalition opposed to most Mideast peace moves.
The moderate Kadima Party voted to pull out of the government in a feud over attempts to reform the country's military draft. The move, just two months after Kadima joined the coalition, appeared to push the country closer to early elections, a scenario that would paralyze Mideast diplomacy for months.
Even if Netanyahu manages to hold the truncated coalition together, the sudden crisis has broader implications for Mideast peace, leaving him in charge of a narrow parliamentary majority dominated by religious and nationalist hard-liners who oppose concessions to the Palestinians.
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz brought the party into the coalition to work with Netanyahu on ending a contentious, decades-old system that has granted draft exemptions to tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students. But with a court-ordered Aug. 1 deadline to revise the law, the sides were unable to forge a compromise.
"We made a real effort to push toward a new law that would change the balance of service," Mofaz, a former military chief of staff, told a news conference.
Mofaz said he tried to forge a "new social contract," but was presented with "red lines" that couldn't be crossed. "We are going back with our heads held high to lead the nation in the opposition," he declared.
Kadima is the largest party in Israel's parliament, winning one more seat than Netanyahu's Likud Party in the last election, but it was left outside the government when Netanyahu set up his original hard-line team three years ago.
The draft exemptions have caused widespread resentment among Israel's secular majority, who are required to perform two to three years of compulsory service. Ultra-Orthodox leaders have been equally adamant in their refusal to compromise, claiming their young men serve the nation through prayer and study.
Netanyahu had sought a system that would gradually draft growing numbers of ultra-Orthodox over several years, and continue the exemptions for a smaller number of them. Mofaz wanted fewer exemptions and for the ultra-religious to be incorporated much faster. The talks were been complicated by calls for Israel's Arab minority, who are exempt from the draft, to be forced into civilian national service.
In a letter to Mofaz, Netanyahu expressed regret over Mofaz's decision.
"I am sorry that you decided to give up the opportunity to bring about a historic change. After 64 years we were very close to a significant change in spreading the burden (of army service)," he said. "I will continue to work to bring a responsible solution that Israeli society expects."
It remained unclear what would happen after Aug. 1. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on that date he would begin drafting an unspecified number of ultra-religious soldiers and propose temporary legislation until a more permanent arrangement can be made in the coming months.
Netanyahu's government, torn between religious and secular parties, was on the brink of collapse over the draft issue when Mofaz was lured into the government in an overnight deal in May. Those divisions are likely to hinder new attempts by Netanyahu to reform the draft.
Kadima's addition gave Netanyahu a majority of 94 seats in the 120-member parliament, raising hopes that they would not only resolve the draft issue but also make progress on peace matters with the Palestinians.
Mofaz, a political moderate, favors broad concessions to the Palestinians and has proposed formation of an interim Palestinian state while final borders are negotiated.
With Mofaz's departure, Netanyahu appears unlikely to float any bold proposals toward the Palestinians. During a visit this week by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Palestinian issue barely factored in discussions.
Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib refused to comment, calling the resignation an internal Israeli matter.
Mofaz came under heavy criticism from political moderates when he joined Netanyahu last May. His sudden change of mind Tuesday was certain to raise further doubts about his leadership skills, and could hurt Kadima's political prospects down the road. Opinion polls have predicted the party would plunge to roughly 10 seats, about one-third its current level, if new elections were held.
"Political cooperation born in sin was destined to end," said former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.
Livni might now try to take another run at the Kadima leadership. Analysts have also speculated that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, cleared in a high-profile corruption case last week, might also try to jump back into politics. Olmert confidants say he will not make any decision until he resolves another pending corruption case.
Yaron Ezrahi, a political science professor from Hebrew University, said Netanyahu would weather the storm.
He noted that peace efforts with the Palestinians have been stalled during Netanyahu's three-year tenure in any case, and there was little momentum to revive them.
"Who is talking about the peace process today?" said Ezrahi. "The peace process is paralyzed by the two leaderships, and not by the peoples, who are tired of war and craving peace."
Instead, Netanyahu will remain focused on working with the U.S. on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons - an issue for which he has broad public support. — www.shafaqna.com/english/