SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – North Korea has named its conditions for talks with the US – the removal of all U.N. sanctions following Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, and a promise by Washington not to engage in ‘nuclear war practice’ with Seoul.
North Korea said the Thursday demands will have to be fulfilled if Washington truly seeks any meaningful dialogue with Pyongyang.
"If the United States and the puppet South have the slightest desire to avoid the sledge-hammer blow of our army and the people... and truly wish dialogue and negotiations, they must make the resolute decision," the North's National Defense Commission said in a statement.
"Firstly, the sanctions resolutions by the U.N. Security Council that were fabricated with unjust reasons must be withdrawn," the North's top military body said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
The latest standoff between North Korea and the US – backed by South Korea – has been going on since Pyongyang’s third missile test in February of this year. A third round of UN sanctions adopted in response was then followed by joint US-South Korean war games in the waters of the Korean Peninsula.
An exchange of threats has been taking place, including Pyongyang’s promise to wage nuclear war on the US and its bases in the Pacific and South Korea. The US for its part deployed its F-22 fighter jets and the ‘USS Fitzgerald’ destroyer into Korean waters, further escalating tensions. -www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- More than 500 Yemenis are set to gather on Monday at a crucial meeting in the capital Sana'a to map a new political settlement for the troubled Arabian Peninsula country.
The UN-backed national dialogue is aimed at reconciling the impoverished nation's divisive political players.
The tough talks, scheduled to run six months, bring together 565 representatives of political groups, from southern secessionists to Zaidi Shia rebels in the north, in addition to civil society representatives.
They aim to complete the daunting task of forging national reconciliation, to draft a new constitution as well as to prepare for general elections in February 2014 after a two-year transition led by President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi.
Two years after a popular revolt, which saw former president Ali Abdullah Saleh step down, problems still make a worrying list.
The Southern Movement seeks independence or at least autonomy for the former republic of South Yemen, which united with the north in 1990.
In the far northern highlands, the Houthis - a movement seeking to revive Yemen's Zaidi Shia tradition - fought six wars against Saleh's troops between 2004 and 2010 and are spreading their influence from their base in Saada to neighbouring provinces.
The most powerful units in the army still appear to be split between loyalists of Saleh and his one-time ally and later rival, General Ali Mohssen.
Saleh himself is widely seen to be playing an obstructive role behind the scenes - so much so that he was singled out for a warning in a recent statement from the UN Security Council.
Many of the young activists who first took to the streets in February 2011 are less than satisfied with progress so far.
They fear that their movement, despite its role in unseating the long-ruling president, has just promoted rival political elites.
That is all leaving aside the presence of al-Qaeda fighters in the country as well as its economic woes and a looming food and water crisis.
A UN study last year found that some 10 million of the country's population of more than 24 million were "food insecure."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The British government welcomes the renewed attempts at reconciliation announced by the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain, a minister for the Middle East said. Bahrain announced that King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa called for a national dialogue, urging political groups and independent leaders to usher in national reforms, the official Bahrain News Agency reported Tuesday.
Bahrain has been the frequent target of criticism for its crackdown on opposition supporters in the Sunni-led kingdom. Last year, the government revoked the citizenship of several opposition leaders and briefly placed tight restrictions on public demonstrations. British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt welcomed Manama's renewed commitment to reform.
"I encourage all sides to use this opportunity for genuine and inclusive dialogue to play a constructive role in resolving the political situation," he said in a statement.
Dozens of people were killed during a 2011 uprising supported by Shiite groups in the country. The Sunni-led monarchy said it was committed to a reform agenda outlined by an independent commission of inquiry that investigated the government's response to the unrest.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, added that Washington was "encouraged" by the latest reform efforts. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Source : UPI
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The authorities and the opposition must now take steps in this direction and implement the reforms that will make it possible to take into account the aspirations of all Bahraini citizens. Only the resumption of inclusive dialogue can foster national reconciliation and restore calm on a lasting basis, while ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law. www.shafaqna.com/english
Source : France Diplomat
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Bahrain's Justice Minister has invited political parties to resume talks three weeks ahead of the second anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising. Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa issued the invitation to political societies in an apparent bid to break an impasse that has damaged Bahrain's economy.
A leading member of al Wefaq, the biggest opposition society, was guardedly optimistic about the offer. The Gulf island nation has been wracked by violence for the past two years. Khalil al Marzook, of Wefaq, told the BBC the movement was "ready to partner with the ruling family and the community to find solutions." But he added: "We need to be assured that the process is credible, we need detail about how agreement will be reached, where it will go and how the people will ratify it."
On the 14 February 2011, peaceful protesters took over an iconic Bahraini monument, Pearl Roundabout. Three days later security forces cleared the site using tear gas, batons and birdshot.
At least two protesters died and hundreds were injured. As violence escalated 35 people, including five police officers, were killed, hundreds more were hurt and thousands jailed in February and March 2011. The vast majority were Shia Muslims in a country ruled by a minority Sunni royal family
Since then, opposition and human rights activists say another 45 people have been killed, a figure which the government disputes. In October last year two policemen died of injuries sustained during clashes with protesters in villages outside the capital, Manama. Thirteen activists and politicians including the leader of the secular Waad party, Ibrahim Sharif, remain in jail, convicted and in some cases given life sentences on evidence that is widely accepted to have been obtained under torture.
Street protests and gatherings are illegal and human rights defenders are routinely detained for activities that include tweeting criticism of the king and his government.
Mr Marzook warned that if what he described as "the seasonal call for dialogue" was a ruse to discourage protests ahead of the 14 February anniversary it would serve to "deepen distrust between the people and the government."
He added the goal of the opposition remained the achievement of a constitutional monarchy something he said the authorities continue to resist.
One Bahraini commentator who asked not to be named was sceptical, saying: "There are splits within the royal family over how to move forward but at the end of the day the unity of the family will always trump the unity of the nation."
No-one from the justice minister's office was available for comment.
Source : BBC
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Bahrain opposition groups welcomed a government appeal for dialogue to break a deadlock in the restive kingdom, saying they were prepared to meet without any pre-conditions, but called for the results of talks to be put to a referendum.The Gulf Arab state, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has been convulsed by unrest since February last year following mass demonstrations led by majority Shi'ites demanding democratic change in the Sunni-led monarchy.The ruling Al Khalifa family brought in Gulf Arab troops, mainly from Saudi Arabia, and imposed over two months of martial law to end the uprising. Small-scale clashes between police and protesters now happen almost daily.Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifah told a conference on Middle East security in Manama on Friday that real progress can only come through face-to-face negotiations.Wefaq, the leading opposition group in Bahrain, said in a statement it was willing to take part in talks but the outcome should "be approved by the people".The group's leader Sheikh Ali Salman told Reuters he would push for a referendum, an idea first aired before a failed attempt at dialogue last year. But he said a referendum was a not a condition of starting talks."We have clear opinion about that. We are looking for a dialogue without any precondition and it is the same for the government - don't put any precondition," he said in an interview in Manama.
Bahrain, where the Fifth Fleet is based as a bulwark against Iran, accuses Tehran of encouraging the unrest. Iran, which is led by Shi'ite clerics, has denied meddling in Bahrain's affairs.Some Sunni Bahrainis argue against democracy in the kingdom citing what they describe as the influence of Iran's Shi'ite clerics over Bahrain's Shi'ite majority."People vote for religious figures. Their mentality is to follow the religious leader," said a prominent Bahraini Twitter user who styles himself Ateekster and asked for his real name not to be used in a phone interview.Pro-government members of parliament and advisers to the authorities have complained that it is not clear whether Wefaq could speak for the whole opposition and that it has shifted position before on possible talks.Other groups, including the secular Waad, also welcomed the call for new dialogue.In his speech on Friday, Crown Prince Salman urged all political figures to condemn street violence.King Hamad last year called for talks "without preconditions", but that initiative quickly stalled when Wefaq pulled out, saying its views were not being taken seriously.Salman said he had been indirectly contacted by the authorities but did not have any information on when talks would take place.The two sides have appeared to softened their positions in recent days. In his speech the crown prince said Bahrain needed to work harder on judicial reform and to ensure policing was equally applied to all Bahrainis.
On Friday Wefaq's leader chastised protesters chanting slogans directly attacking the king and ruling family.The authorities have banned protests, saying they often lead to confrontations that block the streets, and revoked the nationality of 31 activists. Opposition groups say brutality and repression used to put down last year's revolt, which embarrassed Bahrain's Western allies, continues."We demand that the authorities stop using excessive and systematic force against citizens," the opposition statement said.
Source : Reuters
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has called for a meeting with the opposition on Saturday to defuse a political crisis.
He was speaking hours after five people died and 644 were injured in clashes between his opponents and supporters.
Mr Morsi said he supported the right to protest but alleged that some people had been paid to foment violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood - which backed Mr Morsi for the presidency - says its Cairo HQ has been set on fire.
In a televised speech, Mr Morsi expressed sorrow over the deaths in recent days.
He said that 80 people had been detained as they had been "implicated in violent acts".
He blamed supporters of the ousted regime of President Hosni Mubarak for being behind recent violence.
Mr Morsi offered little in the way of concessions to his opponents but said that a controversial article in a recent decree which gave him sweeping powers could be modified.
US President Barack Obama welcomed Mr Morsi's call for talks, but stressed they should be "without preconditions", the White House said in a statement on Thursday.
"President Obama called President Morsi today to express his deep concern about the deaths and injuries of protesters in Egypt," the statement said.
"The president emphasised that all political leaders in Egypt should make clear to their supporters that violence is unacceptable," it added.
Mr Morsi's recent decree stripped the judiciary of any power to challenge his decisions.
The decree would be cancelled after a referendum on a new constitution planned for 15 December, whatever the result, Mr Morsi added.
Mr Morsi confirmed that the referendum would go ahead as planned, saying that if the constitution was voted down, another constituent assembly would be formed to write a new draft.
The speech is likely to inflame an already heated situation in Egypt, the BBC's Jon Leyne reports from Cairo.
It is not clear whether the opposition will be willing to take up his offer of dialogue, given that none of their demands have been met, our correspondent adds.
There will be fears that the attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters could be just the start of a new round of violence and confrontation, he says.
The April 6 movement, which played a prominent role in the 2011 uprising that ousted President Mubarak, has rejected Mr Morsi's offer of dialogue, Reuters reported.
The activist group has called for fresh protests on Friday against Mr Morsi, who narrowly won June's first free presidential election.
Earlier on Thursday, the army set up barricades outside the presidential palace after ordering protesters to leave the area.
Most anti-Morsi protesters had left the area around the palace by the 15:00 (13:00 GMT) deadline, though some opposition activists remained and their numbers increased as evening fell.
There is controversy over the proposed constitution.
Critics say the draft, drawn up by a body dominated by Morsi-supporting Islamists, was rushed through parliament without proper consultation and does not do enough to protect political and religious freedoms and the rights of women.
Four of Mr Morsi's advisers resigned on Wednesday - three others did so last week and the official Mena news agency reported a further resignation on Thursday.
The opposition said before Mr Morsi's speech that it will continue to hold demonstrations.
"We had many injuries last night, and we are not going to have their blood wasted," said an unnamed member of the National Salvation Front, a recently formed group which has united some of the most prominent anti-Morsi figures.
The National Salvation Front has brought together former presidential candidates such as leftist Hamdeen Sabahy, former Arab League head Amr Moussa, and Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the UN's nuclear watchdog.
The April 6 movement and other activist groups are mostly made up of young Egyptians who were opposed to President Mubarak's rule and many have turned against Mr Morsi in recent months.
Are you in Egypt? What is your reaction to Mr Morsi's call for dialogue? Have you taken part in anti or pro-President Morsi demonstrations? Send us your comments using the form below.www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – China has reiterated its call for dialogue with Iran over its peaceful nuclear energy program one day after the United Nations nuclear monitoring agency chief repeated his unfounded allegations against Iran.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying on Tuesday, “China has always considered that dialogue and cooperation is the only right way to properly resolve the Iranian nuclear issue”.
Hong said the five world powers [the US, the UK, France, China, and Russia] plus Germany -- known as the P5+1 group -- as well as the IAEA should boost their cooperation with Iran on the nuclear issue.
The Chinese official said, “...If all parties concerned promote dialogue and cooperation in a flexible and practical way, a solution will be found”.
Iran and the P5+1 group have so far held several rounds of multifaceted talks mainly over the Iranian nuclear energy issue.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says talks with the opposition groups are the sole solution to the unrest that has engulfed the Middle Eastern country for more than 18 months.
“The door to dialogue is open — only talks with the opposition will solve the crisis,” the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram Al-Arabi on Thursday quoted Assad as saying in an interview whose full text is to appear on Friday.
Assad added that “change cannot be achieved through foreign intervention.”
The Syrian leader noted that the foreign-backed insurgents fighting against his government will be finally defeated.
“The armed groups exercise terrorism against the state. They are not popular within society … they will not be victorious in the end”.
He also said he was “neither optimistic nor pessimistic” about the mission assigned to international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, whom he met on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi expressed opposition to foreign intervention in Syria and called for a peaceful ‘Syrian solution’ to the crisis.
He said following a Cairo meeting with his Turkish and Egyptian counterparts that more talks were needed to agree on a plan which meets the demands of all sides.
Western states have been calling for Syrian al-Assad to step down. However, Russia and China are strongly opposed to the drive to oust Assad.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the armed militants are foreign nationals, mostly from Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: WR NEWZ
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The Vatican underlined Pope Benedict XVI's push for dialogue among religions in the aftermath of the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya by a mob enraged by an anti-Muslim film.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement on Wednesday saying that `'unjustified offense and provocations" against Muslims have `'sometimes tragic results" that `'nourish tension and hatred" and unleash `'unacceptable violence."
The Vatican said respect for `'beliefs, texts, outstanding figures and symbols" of all religious is `'essential" for peaceful coexistence.
It is a message the pope will be taking on a trip to Lebanon that begins on Friday.
U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed along with three of his staff members in an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday night.—www.shafaqna.com/English