SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Britain said Friday that it wants to grant diplomatic recognition to Syria’s fledgling opposition coalition sooner rather than later, a move that would bolster the political legitimacy of rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Earlier this week, France became the first Western power to recognize the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, an umbrella organization formed last weekend to unite the various factions ranged against Assad’s government. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his country would follow suit once it had, in essence, vetted the group, its membership and its aims.
“We would like to be able at an early stage to recognize them as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” Hague told reporters after talks Friday with the coalition’s top leaders here in the British capital.
“I wanted to meet them myself before the United Kingdom takes that step,” Hague said. “We need their assurances about being inclusive of all communities. We need to see that they have genuine support within Syria.”
He called the new organization an “encouraging development” in the uprising against Assad, which has been plagued by squabbling among various rebel groups.
But mindful of previous failed attempts at unity and of concerns over the possible presence of Islamic extremists in the coalition, Hague said more discussions are necessary before Britain throws its full diplomatic weight behind the group.
France’s announcement Tuesday that it was recognizing the coalition echoed the leading role it took vis-à-vis the rebels who last year toppled Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi and formed a new government. Paris was the first to grant formal recognition to Libya's Transitional National Council, a move that was eventually adopted by other Western countries and that helped pave the way for their intervention, including the establishment of a “no-fly” zone over Libya.
It is not likely that Syria will follow the same pattern, at least not immediately. Although tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict, the West remains leery of direct involvement in the uprising for fear of destabilizing the region or precipitating a wider war beyond Syria’s borders.
Hague gave no indication that Britain or the rest of Europe was ready to supply Syria’s rebels with the heavy weapons they have requested.
“We don’t rule out any option on Syria, but we are conscious that this ultimately needs, whatever happens, a diplomatic and political solution,” Hague said. “A military victory of one side over the other would be a long, expensive process in terms of human life. And so our top priority remains to achieve a diplomatic and political solution.”
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Syrian opposition groups meeting in Qatar have signed an initial unity agreement to form a new leadership against President Bashar al-Assad.
On Sunday, participants in talks agreed to unify the multiple military councils in command of the insurgents inside Syria under pressure from the US and its regional allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
This is while the newly chosen leader of the main foreign-backed Syrian opposition group has admitted that several hundred foreigners are fighting along insurgents against the Syrian government.
The president of the so-called Syrian National Council, George Sabra was chosen as the new SNC leader during Qatar meetings.
The unrest in Syria began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of the army and security personnel, have been killed in the turmoil.
Syria accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey as well as some Western countries of fanning the flames of violence in the country.
In a recent interview with Russia Today TV, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed the likelihood of any Western-led military intervention in Syria, saying the price of such intervention, if it happened, “is going to be more than the whole world can afford.” /S.R— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — As a shocked Pakistan prayed for her recovery, Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for writing a blog about daily life in the war-torn Swat Valley, was still in a critical condition Wednesday after surgery to remove a bullet, her surgeon told NBC News.
Doctors said her head, face and neck started swelling Tuesday night, prompting doctors to call an emergency meeting at 1 a.m. Wednesday (4 p.m. ET) when they decided to operate on her.
Surgery at the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar started at 2 a.m. and was completed at 5 a.m. Wednesday (5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday ET). The doctors' panel treating Malala, which includes military and civilian staff, is led by senior neurosurgeon Mumtaz Khan.
Talking to NBC News after the surgery, Khan said Malala's brain had started swelling as its left portion was damaged by the bullet.
He said they operated on the damaged part of her brain and neck and removed the bullet from her body.
"Malala is still in critical condition and had been shifted to the intensive care unit of the hospital, but I am optimistic and by the grace of Allah she will recover," Khan said.
A plane is on standby at Bacha Khan International airport to take her to the United Arab Emirates for treatment if doctors decide this is necessary.
Malala was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize in 2011 for a blog she wrote under a pseudonym for the BBC's Urdu-language news service. She started writing it when she was just 11.
She also won the National Peace Prize in Pakistan, was honored with a school named after her, and quickly became an outspoken critic of the Taliban in Pakistan and a public advocate for peace.
In her blog, Malala chronicled life in the Swat Valley under the brutal and oppressive rule of the local faction of the Pakistani Taliban, who carried out public floggings, hung dead bodies in the streets, and banned education for girls.
In early 2011, the militants had added Malala to their hit list.
Nosheen Abbas, of BBC Urdu, told NBC News that Malala was "very passionate about education, and she spoke about that a lot to me."
"It angered her deeply when girls' schools were closed, and she was affected, and her class fellows were affected. She would talk about (hiding school bags)," she said.
"She was so open about what they were doing to her city, and she was so vocal about it -- that is what made her so threatening," she added.
Abbas tried to explain why the Taliban had reacted so strongly.
"When it's coming from a child, it's innocent, it's honest, it's open, and I think that's what was so threatening," she said of the blog.
"I think that code of honor that used to exist where women and children, they weren't attacked, they were honored in a way never touched. I think that no longer exists, I think that is what it shows," she added.
Grief across Pakistan
Meantime, the shooting drew a huge outpouring of reaction across Pakistan. The front pages of national newspapers carried pictures of a bandaged and bloody Yousufzai being brought to hospital. "Hate targets hope" the Express Tribune said in a headline.
Pakistan's president, prime minister, and heads of various opposition parties joined human rights group Amnesty International and the United Nations in condemning the attack.
"Pakistan's future belongs to Malala and brave young girls like her. History won't remember the cowards who tried to kill her at school," Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on Twitter.
The attack was also condemned by many leaders of ethnic Pashtun tribes in northwest Pakistan.
"This attack is against Pashtun and Islamic practices," said Khurshid Kaka Ji, leader of a jirga, or tribal council, in Swat, a one-time tourist destination of peaks and meadows where the military has battled the Taliban intermittently since 2007.
"The security forces and police deployed should capture the attackers and punish them. If they do not catch these people, then the peace that Swat has gained through bloodshed will be shaken." www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Armed forces carried out two qualitative operations against terrorists near al-Orouba and the Sports clubs in Bustan al-Basha Neighborhood in Aleppo.
The operations resulted in the killing of a number of terrorists.
The competent authorities confiscated 38,000 Liters of oil being prepared to be smuggled out near al-Barkoum Bridge in Aleppo.
Our armed forces direct painful blows to the armed terrorist groups in al-Hosn town in Homs countryside
The armed forces directed painful blows to the armed terrorist groups which were attacking the citizens and the law-enforcement forces in al-Hosn town and the adjacent villages in Homs countryside.
SANA reporter quoted a source in Homs province as saying that the armed forces killed and injured a large number of terrorists, among them a non-Syrian terrorist nicknamed “Abu Kassar”, the leader of one of the armed groups and terrorist Sameh Abdullah al-Daea who was injured.
Competent authorities also arrested terrorists Hlail Hamdan bin Shehadeh and Awad al-Bakri bin Khalaf while they were riding in a stolen car on al-Raqqa-Tal Abyad road.
Armed Forces Arrest Two Terrorists in Jaramana
A unit of the armed forces , in cooperation with the citizens, stormed a hideout for an armed terrorist group in Jaramana city, Damascus Countryside.
SANA reporter quoted an official source as saying that the armed forces arrested two terrorists and confiscated a counterfeit money machine and a sum of counterfeit foreign currencies with them.
Syrian forces air strikes targeted rebel-held police stations inside Aleppo city on Friday, ahead of talks between visiting peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and opposition groups in the 18-month conflict.
An AFP correspondent said three loud explosions were heard in Damascus, where Brahimi spent his first night ahead of meetings with the opposition groups tolerated by the government of President Bashar Al Assad.
Among those the UN and Arab League envoy is scheduled to meet is the opposition National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, which brings together Arab nationalists, Kurds and socialists.
Hassan Abdel Azim, spokesman for the opposition bloc, said a delegation would meet Brahimi to inform him of their suggestions for a way out of crisis.
Brahimi, who was appointed earlier this month, said the conflict was getting worse, on arrival at Damascus airport on Thursday.
“We came to Syria to hold meetings with our Syrian brothers because there is a big crisis, and I think it is getting worse,” the Algerian veteran troubleshooter said, quoted by Syria’s Sana news agency.
Brahimimet Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Thursday night. Muallem assured Brahimi of “Syria’s full cooperation” and stressed that any initiative must be based on “the interests of the Syrian people and their freedom of choice without foreign intervention”, Sana reported.
On the battlefront, Syrian forces on Friday used fighter jets and helicopter gunships to pound the city and province of Aleppo, where fierce clashes raged around a military airport, monitors said.
Warplanes bombarded the rebel-held towns of Al Bab and Marea near Aleppo city, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that army forces and rebels fought around Minnigh military airport.
In the central Aleppo district of Midan, Syrian forces carried air strikes on two police stations which the rebels had taken over, according to Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
“Whenever the rebels take a police station, the government destroys them,” Abdel Rahman said by phone. “Now no one controls these posts,” he said, adding that “government forces have deployed throughout Midan to try and push out the rebels”.
In the Hanano district in the northeast of Aleppo city, air strikes destroyed another police station in the hands of the rebels, Abdel Rahman said.
Near the capital, at least 15 soldiers were killed or wounded in an attack on their vehicle in the restive town of Douma, where clashes broke out near the municipal building, the Observatory said.
In Damascus itself, three large explosions were heard in the late morning, according to an AFP reporter. The Observatory said that security forces swept its southern districts of Midan and Nahr Aisha.
The Observatory also reported “fierce clashes” inside the capital.
In Lebanon, Pope Benedict on Friday started a weekend visit with a call for an end to arms imports to Syria. “Arms imports must stop once and for all, because without arms imports, war cannot continue,” he told reporters on his plane.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Jafaria News
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Yemeni human rights organizations have held a press conference to protest against US assassination drone attacks, which have killed and injured scores of Yemenis, Press TV reports.
The press conference was held on Sunday in the capital Sana'a, where prominent local human rights organizations condemned the drone attacks, saying the assaults were a clear violation of their national sovereignty.
“There is no doubt that the US drones are infringing our territory, our airspace and sovereignty everyday and the US has admitted its responsibility for several airstrikes,” said Abdu Rahman, a Yemini lawyer.
In the latest incident, which occurred last Sunday, a drone attack in al-Bayda province in the south of Yemen killed eleven people -- including women and children.
A report by Yemen's National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms claims that over 300 Yemenis have been killed in drone assassination attacks in South Yemen since the beginning of the year.
Yemeni activists say their country has become a second Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Washington claims that its airstrikes target militants, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.
The United Nations has called the US drone attacks targeted killings that flout international law.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A coalition of religious and conservative organizations filed a lawsuit attempting to stop a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana before it comes to a vote in November. The Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values, which filed the lawsuit in the state Supreme Court on Friday, includes Larry Page of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, Jerry Cox of the Family Council Action Committee, Bill Wheeler and Alan Talburt of Families First Foundation, and Bob Hester of the Arkansas Family Coalition.
In August, medical marijuana legalization advocates turned in a petition with 74,000 signatures, well over the number required to get the issue on the ballot. Now, opponents of the initiative are calling it “bad law based on bad science” and “one hundred percent illegal.”
Medical marijuana has been legalized in 17 states and the District of Columbia, but Arkansas is the first Southern state to push the issue. Many medical groups have called for an easing of marijuana restrictions, which are currently hindering research into its therapeutic value. The American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians have called for a federal review of its classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no health benefits.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Two US health and environment organizations sued the federal government on Wednesday for what the groups say is a failure to implement and enforce a new food safety law that could help prevent thousands of deaths caused by food-borne illnesses each year.
The groups said government officials had repeatedly missed mandatory deadlines for issuing final regulations required by the Food Safety Modernization Act.
They are asking a federal court to order officials at both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Office of Management and Budget to force the agencies to start enforcing th law.
RELATED: 10 weirdest global fast foods
"President Obama says the passage of this bill is one of the hallmarks of his first administration," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director with the Center for Food Safety, which is one of the plaintiffs.
The other plaintiff is the Center for Environmental Health. Both it and the Center for Food Safety are non-profit public interest advocacy groups.
Over the past year, the United States has had numerous outbreaks from food-borne illnesses tied to salmonella, E. coli and listeria. In July, food sickness was linked to cantaloupe.
About 3,000 deaths are caused by food-borne illnesses and about 48 million people, or one in six Americans, gets sick from food contamination every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The bill is useless unless the agencies actually promulgate regulations that make it work," said Kimbrell. "This is very serious. They are twiddling their bureaucratic thumbs while Americans become sick and die."
A spokeswoman for the FDA had no immediate comment and an official with the Office of Management and Budget could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was the first food safety overhaul in over 70 years for the United States. It was signed into law in January 2011. But lacking implementation of the law's provisions, most of the U.S. food system continues to operate under what public health advocates say are outdated laws. The new rules have remained at the White House's Office of Management and Budget since late 2011 when the Food and Drug Administration submitted proposed versions.
The rules would establish standards for possible sources of contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables, and make importers responsible for the safety of food they import. They would also force food companies to identify possible causes of contamination and specify actions to prevent them.
According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, FDA has failed to meet hundreds of deadlines established with the law, seven of which are the required promulgation of major food safety regulations.
FDA was supposed to establish standards for analyzing and documenting hazards and implementing preventative measures by July 4 of this year, but did not do so, the suit says.
As well, FDA was to set minimum standards for safe production and harvesting of certain types of fruits and vegetables and publish notice of its proposed rulemaking by Jan. 4, 2012, but did not do so, according to the lawsuit.
"These are the basics on standards, procedures, traceability... upon which the entire system is based," said Kimbrell. "They haven't done what is required to actually begin the process of getting this new food safety law in place."—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: CS Monitor
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — Jewish and Muslim groups throughout Europe showed a rare unified front this week in an emergency conference in Brussels to address the June 26 ruling by a regional court in Cologne, Germany, denouncing circumcision.
Representatives of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, European Jewish Association, Germany’s Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs and the Islamic Centre of Brussels met. Joining them were MEP’s from Germany, Finland, Belgium, Italy and Poland, as well as many legal and medical experts.
The court ruling, which caused an international uproar, suggests that circumcision “causes bodily harm and should be performed on males old enough to give consent.” The ancient Jewish custom is to circumcise male infants eight days after birth while the time for Muslim circumcision varies according to family, tradition and country.
There are approximately 4 million Muslims and 150,000 Jews living in Germany. In their first official response since the ruling, Jewish and Muslim groups are demanding that the German parliament protect their religious freedom.
“We consider this to be an affront (to) our basic religious and human rights,” the joint appeal states. “Circumcision is an ancient ritual that is fundamental to our individual faiths and we protest in the strongest possible terms this court ruling. To that end we will vigorously defend our right to maintain our mutual tradition and call on the German parliament and all political parties to intervene in overruling this decision as a matter of urgency.”
Medical experts stated that the courts’ concerns for the physical wellbeing of circumcised males were unfounded. Dr. Igor Byshkin, a noted urologist from Cologne opined that circumcision “is the most common operation worldwide with 25-33% of the global population being circumcised.”
He mentioned that world medical organizations have repeatedly reported that circumcision is not harmful and actually protects against serious infections. “In the US, 56% of the population is circumcised.”
For many of the Jews in attendance the medical reasoning for banning circumcision seemed to be a thinly-veiled guise of growing anti-Semitic practices throughout Europe. During the meeting, Rabbi Yitzhak Shochet, from the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, spoke of a “shock” situation.
“What happens in one city tends to spill over into other cities,” he said, stressing that circumcision “is the oldest and most fundamental practice in Judaism. It is synonymous with our spiritual essence. The reason why Jewish life has continued despite persecution lies in circumcision.”
Even more shocking, he said, “is that it is a German court inflicting the ban.”
EJA director, Rabbi Menachem Margolin stated, “This ruling is an attempt to send a message to Jews in Europe that they’re not welcome.”
“It’s a duty of Europe to suppress such dark views to prevent a repetition of history. To allow Jews to live in religious freedom but also to send a message that what happened in the past can’t happen again,” he continued.
Rabbi Yisroel Diskin, Chief Chabad representative to Germany, mentioned that members of his local community in Munich have began asking him if they should now go abroad to do circumcision. “I told them they should do it in Germany. We should send the message everywhere that circumcision will continue.”— www.shafaqna.com/english/
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — Egyptian and Arab human rights organizations have demanded the release of Egyptian journalist Shaimaa Adel, who was detained three days ago by the Sudanese authorities over covering the current unrest in the country.
Egyptian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian, Moroccan and Palestinian organization issued a joint statement on Monday calling for her immediate release.
News about her release circulated, but without formal confirmation the organizations believe she is still under arrest.
“The Sudanese authorities insist on attacking journalists viciously violating all international protocols that oblige countries to protect journalists who work in conflict zones and at dangerous times,” said the joint statement.
Sudanese students and activists took to the streets of the capital Khartoum to protest the high cost of living and denounce the crackdown on public freedoms last month.
Sudan police cracked down on protesters arresting dozens of them and reports of excessive violence towards the students was shared on social networks.
The result has seen nationwide demonstrations erupt in the past week demanding the end of Omar al-Bashir’s rule of the country.
On Sunday, two protests were organized for Adel’s release outside the Sudanese embassy in downtown Cairo and another outside the press syndicate where tens of journalists and activists, including Adel’s mother, called for her immediate release and questioned her safety.
Adel is the second detained Egyptian journalist in Sudan after journalist Salma al-Wardany was also detained for a few hours two weeks ago.
The organizations called on the the Sudanese government to free the writer and take responsibility for her safety.
They also called on the Egyptian foreign ministry to care about Adel’s case and move towards freeing the young reporter and demanded that newly elected President Mohamed Morsi intervene and contact his counterpart in Sudan to speed her release.
The signed organizations pleaded with the Arab League to formulate a protocol that guarantees the safety and protection of media workers in other Arab countries. A total of 29 Egyptian and 35 Arab rights organizations signed the statement.— www.shafaqna.com/english/