Report backs Nisman’s claims on Argentina-Iran conspiracy in AMIA bombing


Iran financed the 2007 campaign of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in exchange for impunity for Iranians in the AMIA bombing, a Brazilian magazine reported.

According to Veja on Saturday, the deal brokered by Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, also provided the Iranians with nuclear know-how.

“I need you to broker with Argentina for aid to my country’s nuclear program,” Iran’s then-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told Chavez on Jan. 13, 2007, according to the testimony of three former Chavez Cabinet members who now live in the United States and are collaborating in the investigation by Argentina. “We need Argentinians to share their knowledge on nuclear technology; without this collaboration it is impossible to advance our program.

“Don’t worry about the expenses required for this operation; Iran will support everything necessary to persuade the Argentines,” Ahmadinejad added. “I have another issue. I need you to discourage the Argentinians from insisting that Interpol capture the authorities of my country.” Chavez agreed.

Six Iranians have been on the Interpol international police agency’s most wanted list since 2007 in connection with the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 and injured hundreds.

The revelation backed the accusation made in January by the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who claimed that Kirchner decided to “not incriminate” former senior officials of Iran and tried to “erase” their roles in planning the bombing, but added that the agreement started in 2007 in Venezuela.

Argentina has accused the Iranian government of directing the AMIA attack and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah of carrying it out, but no arrests have been made in the case.

Venezuela bought $6 billion in Argentina’s bonds to cover the latter’s debt in 2007 and 2008, according to the Veja report. The Argentine government also received cash for the agreement.

One of the cooperating Venezuelan officials said that a suitcase carried by a Venezuelan-American businessman, Guido Antonioni Wilson, containing $800,000, which he brought into the country without claiming and was seized, came from the Iranian regime and was bound for the presidential campaign of Kirchner. The official said that Chavez was the middleman.

Kirchner and Chavez have denied the allegations.

Veja reported that the exchange of nuclear secrets was managed in Argentina by Minister of Defense Nilda Garre, now ambassador to the Organization of American States in Washington. Iran was interested in the Argentine experience with its heavy-water nuclear reactor Atucha because it wanted to produce plutonium for use in nuclear weapons using only natural uranium.

“I can’t say that the government of Argentina gave nuclear secrets, but I know it took a lot by legal means and illegal means in exchange for something valuable to the Iranians,” the former officials told Veja.

Congressmen tell Obama to increase pressure on Iran over nukes


In the wake of Iran’s recent election, a bipartisan group of congressmen are calling on President Obama to increase pressure on Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

The new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, was perceived to be the most moderate of the candidates and “while this was not a free and fair election, judged by international standards, its outcome reflected considerable dissatisfaction by the Iranian people with an autocratic and repressive government that has internationally isolated Iran,” the letter from the congressmen to Obama noted.

The June 28 letter was signed by Reps. Ed Royce, (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and 43 other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The letter pointed out that “Iran’s election unfortunately has done nothing to suggest a reversal of Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capacity.” It also noted that Rouhani previously served as his country’s nuclear negotiator and had indicated his support for the program in a post-election news conference.

“Our diplomatic goal must be to reach a negotiated settlement in which Iran agrees to verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program. For this outcome to be realized, Iran must face intensifying pressure,” the congressmen wrote.

Iran’s new president still Khamenei-approved, Netanyahu says


The election of cleric Hassan Rohani as president of Iran does not change anything, since he was shortlisted by the country’s radical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Candidates who did not conform to Khamenei’s extremist outlook were not able to run for the presidency, Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, a day after Rohani’s election.

Netanyahu pointed out that “among those whose candidacies he allowed was elected the candidate who was seen as less identified with the regime, who still defines the State of Israel as ‘the great Zionist Satan.’ ”

It is Khamenei who ultimately determines Iran’s nuclear policy, the Israeli leader said.

“Iran will be judged by its actions,” Netanyahu said. “If it continues to insist on developing its nuclear program, the answer needs to be very clear — stopping the nuclear program by any means.”

Rohani, who is seen as much more moderate than the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will take office in August after receiving slightly more than 50 percent of the vote. Some 72 percent of the 50 million eligible voters turned out.

The combative Ahmadinejad was barred from running for reelection due to term limits.

“This victory is a victory of wisdom, a victory of moderation, a victory of growth and awareness, and a victory of commitment over extremism and ill temper,” Rohani said Saturday on state television.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “Iran must abide by the demands of the international community to stop its nuclear program and cease the dissemination of terror throughout the world.”

In its statement on Saturday, the White House congratulated the Iranian people for participating in the political process and “their courage in making their voices heard.” The statement said it respected their vote.

“It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians,” the White House said.

On Sunday, the British newspaper The Independent reported that Iran will  send 4,000 Revolutionary Guard troops to Syria to aid President Bashar Assad against rebel forces in his country’s two-year civil war. The decision reportedly was made before the start of the presidential election.

Iran also proposed opening up what it called a “Syrian front” against Israel in the Golan Heights, according to the Independent.

Russia’s Putin says Iran nuclear push is peaceful


Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he has no doubt that Iran is adhering to international commitments on nuclear non-proliferation but regional and international concerns about Tehran's nuclear program could not be ignored.

Putin, whose country is among six world powers seeking to ensure that Iran does not seek to develop nuclear weapons, also said Iranian threats to Israel's existence were unacceptable.

His remarks appeared aimed to strike a balance between the interests of Iran, on the one hand, and on the other, Israel and global powers seeking to ensure Tehran does not acquire nuclear weapons.

“I have no doubt that Iran is adhering to the rules in this area. Because there is no proof of the opposite,” Putin, whose country is one of six leading those diplomatic efforts, told Russian state-run English-language channel RT.

But he criticised Iran for rejecting a Russian offer to enrich uranium for Tehran's nuclear programme and took aim at aggressive Iranian rhetoric about Israel, with which Putin has been improving ties in recent years.

“Iran is in a very difficult region and when we hear … from Iran that Israel could be destroyed, I consider that absolutely unacceptable. That does not help,” Putin said.

Putin suggested that Washington was exaggerating dangers posed by Iran, saying “the United States uses Iran to unite Western allies against some real or non-existent threat”.

Putin said that concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, which Tehran says is purely for peaceful purposes including power generation, must be addressed.

Last week, Russia joined China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany in pressing Iran to cooperate with a stalled investigation by the U.N. nuclear agency into suspected atomic research by the Islamic state.

In a June 5 joint statement intended to signal their unity in the decade-old dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, the six powers said they were “deeply concerned” about the country's atomic activities.

Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Michael Roddy

Israel strikes Syria, says its targeting Hezbollah arms


Israeli jets devastated Syrian targets near Damascus on Sunday in a heavy overnight air raid that Western and Israeli officials called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah.

As Syria's two-year-old civil war veered into the potentially atomic arena of Iran's confrontation with Israel and the West over its nuclear program, people were woken in the Syrian capital by explosions that shook the ground like an earthquake and sent pillars of flame high into the night sky.

“Night turned into day,” one man told Reuters from his home at Hameh, near one of the targets, the Jamraya military base.

But for all the angry rhetoric in response from Tehran and from the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it was unclear whether the second such raid in 48 hours would elicit any greater reaction than an Israeli attack in the same area in January, which was followed by little evident change.

The Syrian government accused Israel of effectively helping al Qaeda Islamist “terrorists” and said the strikes “open the door to all possibilities”; but Israeli officials said that, as in January, they were calculating Assad would not pick a fight with a well-armed neighbor while facing defeat at home.

Denying it was weighing in on the rebel side on behalf of Washington – which opposes Assad but is hesitating to intervene – officials said Israel was pursuing its own conflict, not with Syria but with Iran, and was acting to prevent Iran's Hezbollah allies receiving missiles that might strike Tel Aviv if Israel made good on threats to attack Tehran's nuclear program.

What Israel was not doing, they stressed, was getting drawn into a debate that has raged in the United States lately of whether the alleged use of poison gas by Assad's forces should prompt the West finally to give military backing to oust him.

Israel was not taking sides in a civil war that has pitted Assad's government, a dour but mostly toothless adversary for nearly 40 years, against Sunni rebels, some of them Islamist radicals, who might one day turn Syria's armory against the Jewish state.

It is a mark of how two years of killing in which at least 70,000 Syrians have died has not only inflamed a wider, regional confrontation between Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Arabs, some of them close Western allies, but have also left Israel and Western powers scrambling to reassess where their interests lie.

Egypt, the most populous Arab state and flagship of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts where elected Islamists have replaced a Western-backed autocrat, has no love for Assad. But on Sunday it condemned Israel's air strikes as a breach of international law that “made the situation more complicated”.

ROCKETS TARGETED

Israel does not confirm such missions explicitly – a policy it says is intended to avoid provoking reprisals. But an Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the strikes were carried out by its forces, as was a raid early on Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama said had been justified.

A Western intelligence source told Reuters: “In last night's attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his aim for Israel was to “guarantee its future” – language he has used to warn of a willingness to attack Iran's nuclear sites, even in defiance of U.S. advice, as well as to deny Hezbollah heavier weapons.

He later flew to China on a scheduled trip, projecting confidence there would be no major escalation – though Israel has reinforced its anti-missile batteries in the north.

Syrian state television said bombing at a military research facility at Jamraya and two other sites caused “many civilian casualties and widespread damage”, but it gave no details. The Jamraya compound was also a target for Israel on January 30.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar television showed a flattened building spread over the size of a football pitch, with smoke rising from rubble containing shell fragments. It did not identify it.

Syrian state television quoted a letter from the foreign minister to the United Nations saying: “The blatant Israeli aggression has the aim to provide direct military support to the terrorist groups after they failed to control territory.”

Obama defended Israel's right to block “terrorist organizations like Hezbollah” from acquiring weapons after Friday's raid, and a White House spokesman said on Sunday: “The president many times has talked about his view that Israel, as a sovereign government, has the right to take the actions they feel are necessary to protect their people.”

It was unclear that Israel had sought U.S. approval for the strikes, although the White House spokesman said: “The close coordination between the Obama administration, the United States of America, is ongoing with the Israeli government.”

Obama has in recent years worked to hold back Netanyahu from making good on threats to hit facilities where he says Iran, despite its denials, is working to develop a nuclear weapon.

On Sunday, some Israeli officials highlighted Obama's reluctance to be drawn into new conflict in the Middle East to explain Israel's need for independent action.

Syria restricts access to independent journalists. Its state media said Israeli aircraft struck three places between Damascus and the nearby Lebanese border. The city also lies barely 50 km (30 miles) from Israeli positions on the occupied Golan Heights.

Tehran, which has long backed Assad, whose Alawite minority has religious ties to Shi'ite Islam, denied the attack was on armaments for Lebanon and called for nations to stand firm against Israel. A senior Iranian commander was quoted, however, as saying Syria's armed forces were able to defend themselves without their allies, though Iran could help them with training.

Hezbollah, a Shi'ite movement that says it is defending Lebanon from Israeli aggression, declined immediate comment.

ISRAELI CONCERNS

Analysts say the Fateh-110 could put the Tel Aviv metropolis in range of Hezbollah gunners, 100 km (60 miles) to the north, bolstering the arsenal of a group that fired some 4,000 shorter-range rockets into Israel during a month-long war in 2006.

“What we want is to ensure that inside the Syrian chaos we will not see Hezbollah growing stronger,” Israeli lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu, told Army Radio.

“The world is helplessly looking on at events in Syria, the Americans in particular, and this president in particular,” he added of Obama. “He has left Iraq, Afghanistan and has no interest in sending ground troops to Syria … That is why, as in the past, we are left with our own interests, protecting them with determination and without getting too involved.”

Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by Syrian activists showed a series of blasts. One lit up the skyline of Damascus, while another sent up a tower of flames and secondary blasts.

Syrian state news agency SANA said Israeli aircraft struck in three places: northeast of Jamraya; the town of Maysaloun on the Lebanese border; and the nearby Dimas air base.

“The sky was red all night,” one man said from Hameh, near Jamraya. “We didn't sleep a single second. The explosions started after midnight and continued through the night.”

Central Damascus was quiet on the first day of the working week, and government checkpoints seemed reinforced. Some opposition activists said they were glad strikes might weaken Assad, even if few Syrians have any liking for Israel: “We don't care who did it,” Rania al-Midania said in the capital. “We care that those weapons are no longer there to kill us.”

Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Marwan Makdesi in Damascus, Maayan Lubell, Dan Williams, Jeffrey Heller and Crispian Balmer in Jerusalem, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Roberta Rampton Aboard Air Force One and Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Will Waterman

Hosting U.S. defense chief, Israel hints at patience on Iran


Israel suggested on Monday it would be patient before taking any military action against Iran's nuclear program, saying during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel there was still time for other options.

With Iran's presidential election approaching in June there has been a pause in hawkish rhetoric by Israel, which has long hinted at possible air strikes to deny its arch-foe any means to make an atomic bomb, while efforts by six world powers to find a negotiated solution with Tehran have proved fruitless so far.

“We believe that the military option, which is well discussed, should be the last resort,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters at a news conference with Hagel.

“And there are other tools to be used and to be exhausted,” Yaalon said, listing diplomacy, economic sanctions and “moral support” for domestic opponents of Iran's hardline Islamist leadership.

Iran has denied seeking nuclear weapons capability, saying it is enriching uranium only for domestic energy purposes while calling for the elimination of the Jewish state. Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.

U.S. President Barack Obama has in the past clashed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how urgent the need may be to consider military action against Iran. Washington has suggested more time should be given for concerted diplomacy combined with sanctions pressure to produce a peaceful solution.

But with Obama recently installed in his second term, and Netanyahu in his third, the allies have publicly closed ranks. The United States projects more defense aid for Israel after the current disbursements of some $3 billion a year expire in 2017. And Hagel unveiled the planned sale to Israel of missiles, warplane radars, troop transport planes and refueling jets.

“These decisions underscore that the military-to-military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is stronger than ever, and that defense cooperation will only continue to deepen in the future,” Hagel said.

By contrast, the Bush administration in 2008 declined to provide Israel with refueling tankers and missiles that might be used in a strike on Iran.

MILITARY OPTIONS REMAIN ON TABLE

Before taking the helm at the Pentagon, Hagel had stirred ire among pro-Israel Americans for remarks including skepticism about the feasibility and desirability of such military action.

But in Israel, the second foreign country he has visited as defense secretary after Afghanistan, Hagel hewed to Obama's line. “All military options and every option must remain on the table in dealing with Iran,” he said.

“I support the president's position on Iran. And it's very simple and I have stated it here … Our position is Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon – the prevention of Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Period.”

Iranian media reported on Monday that Iran and officials from the United Nations nuclear watchdog would hold a new round of talks on May 21 in Vienna. The International Atomic Energy Agency wants inspectors to restart a long-stalled investigation in Iran's suspected atomic bomb research.

From Israel, Hagel travels to Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The latter two Gulf Arab countries, which are also wary of Iran's nuclear ambitions, stand to win a major U.S. arms sale.

After lengthy disagreement, Israeli and U.S. estimates of when Iran might be able to produce a first nuclear weapon now largely dovetail to a time frame of about a year.

Hagel also said that non-military pressure on Iran has yet to be exhausted. “The sanctions on Iran are as potent and deep and wide a set of international sanctions that we have ever seen on any country. And those will continue to increase,” he said.

“Whether it leads to an outcome that we desire remains to be seen … and as I said, the military option is always an option.”

After the news conference, Hagel boarded an Israeli military helicopter for an aerial tour of the Golan Heights frontier.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

Iran announces ‘comprehensive’ offer in resumed nuke talks


Iran said it has made a “comprehensive proposal” to “establish a new bedrock for cooperation” in resumed talks about the Iranian nuclear program between Tehran and six world powers.

The announcement by Ali Baqeri, deputy head of the Iranian delegation, came after the opening session in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Friday of talks.

Baqeri, who spoke as Iranian officials took a break for lunch and prayers, did not offer any details, the New York Times reported.

He suggested that Iran had more than met demands from American and European officials that his country offer a concrete show of willingness to address international concerns about its nuclear program.

“These steps are referred to as confidence-building measures, but they are part of a comprehensive set of measures,” he said at a news conference at a central Almaty hotel.

At the last round of talks in February, the international negotiators — the United States, Britain, France, German, Russia and China – offered a modest easing of international sanctions if Iran takes steps to limit its own supply of dangerous enriched uranium. That proposal would require Iran to shut its enrichment plant at Fordow.

While Iran says its nuclear program is exclusively for civilian purposes, American, Israeli, European and other western officials suspect that Tehran is seeking the technology for nuclear weapons.

After lavish Chavez funeral, Maduro sworn in as interim president of Venezuela


Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late Hugo Chavez, was sworn in as the interim president of Venezuela amid opposition calls that the choice was unconstitutional.

Maduro, the former foreign minister, took the oath of office on Friday night promising to uphold the legacy of his political patron.

“I take the sash of Chavez to complete his oath and continue his way, the revolution and forward movement of independence and socialism,” a solemn Maduro vowed.

Earlier in the day, the heads of 55 states attended Chavez's lavish funeral at the military academy in Caracas.

Henrique Capriles Radonski, the leader of the opposition, held a news conference calling Maduro's swearing-in unconstitutional. Radonski, who lost to Chavez by an 11-point margin in elections held last October, read aloud a passage from the constitution drafted by Chavez's party in 1999 that called for the speaker of the National Assembly, currently Diosdado Cabello, to fill the position.

“Nicolas, they did not elect you,” said Capriles, who identifies as Catholic and is the grandson of Holocaust survivors.  “The people have not voted for you, kid.”

The constitution calls for new elections within 30 days; no date has been set for a vote.

David Bittan and Efrain Lapscher, the leaders of CAIV, Venezuelan Jewry's umbrella group, said on Friday that their group's mission would not change regardless of the victor of the expected presidential race.

“In the future, we'll have elections and we can change governments or the same government will stay, but we will have the same issues,” Lapscher said. “We will try to give the best Jewish life possible and we will combat anti-Semitism if it comes from the government, their supporters or outside.”

During his 14 years in office, Chavez championed Venezuela's poor, setting up an elaborate welfare system with the country's vast oil wealth while haranguing the opposition. An avowed critic of what he called “U.S. imperialism,” he severed ties with Israel and formed alliances with countries such Cuba, Iran, Libya and Syria.

At Chavez's funeral, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kissed the coffin of the late leader, who once called him a “kindred spirit.” Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, often referred to as the last dictator of Europe, shed tears.

The ceremony's host made special mention of the presence of representatives of Palestine, which drew particular applause, and Bashar Assad's embattled government in Syria.

In a eulogy, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson described Chavez as a champion of the poor and called for better ties between the U.S. and Venezuela.

Maduro placed a gold sword — a replica of the one that belonged to 19th century liberator Simon Bolivar, one of Chavez's heroes — on the late president's coffin.

State-owned TV channels broadcast images from the funeral live under a banner that read “Chavez, forever.”

“It's just his body, just his body,” gushed an anchor. “Chavez lives on.”

Kerry sees ‘finite’ time for Iran nuclear talks


Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday there was “finite” time for talks between Iran and world powers on its disputed nuclear program to bear fruit, but gave no hint how long Washington may be willing to negotiate.

Israel, Iran's arch-enemy and convinced Tehran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, has grown impatient with the protracted talks and has threatened pre-emptive war against Tehran if it deems diplomacy ultimately futile.

Kerry's sentiment was largely echoed by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who said that the negotiations cannot be endless like the debates of philosophers over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

“There is a finite amount of time,” Kerry, in the Saudi capital Riyadh on his first overseas trip as the top U.S. diplomat, said of the talks between a group of six world powers and Tehran, Saudi Arabia's main regional adversary.

Kerry was speaking at a news conference with Prince Saud al-Faisal, who suggested Iran was not showing enough seriousness about the discussions, which he said “cannot go on forever”.

Iran was positive last week after talks with the powers in Kazakhstan about its nuclear work ended with an agreement to meet again. But Western officials said it had yet to do anything concrete to allay their concerns about its nuclear aspirations.

The United States, China, France, Russia, Britain and Germany offered modest relief from economic sanctions in return for Iran reining in its most sensitive nuclear activity but made clear that no breakthrough was in the offing quickly.

“We can't be like the philosophers who keep talking about how many angels a pinhead can hold,” Prince Saud al-Faisal said.

“They (the Iranians) have not proved to anybody the urgency in their negotiation,” he said. “They reach common understanding only on issues that require further negotiation. And so this is what (has) worried us.”

The United States and many of its allies suspect Iran may be using its civil nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons, a possibility that Israel, which is regarded as the Middle East's only nuclear power, sees as a mortal threat.

The possibility also deeply disturbs many Arab countries in the Gulf who, some analysts say, could choose to pursue their own nuclear programs if Iran were to acquire an atomic bomb, leading to a destabilizing arms race.

In Vienna on Monday, the U.N. nuclear watchdog raised pressure on Iran to finally address suspicions that it has sought to design an atomic bomb, calling for swift inspector access to a military base where relevant explosives tests are believed to have been carried out.

DIPLOMACY “FIRST CHOICE”

Iran says its program is solely for peaceful purposes, such as generating electricity and making medical isotopes.

Kerry, in the final stages of a nine-nation, 11-day trip that will also take him to Abu Dhabi and Doha, also had lunch with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the possibility of reviving peace talks with Israel.

Making his first trip abroad as secretary of state, Kerry also met Saudi Crown Prince Salman but a U.S. official said he would not see Saudi King Abdullah, who turns 90 this year.

Kerry said a diplomatic solution on Iran is still preferred by the United States and Saudi Arabia.

In 2008, Riyadh's ambassador to Washington said King Abdullah had repeatedly urged Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” by striking Iran's nuclear facilities, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

“We both prefer – and this is important for Iranians to hear and understand – we both prefer diplomacy as the first choice, the preferred choice,” Kerry said. “But the window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open indefinitely.”

Echoing Western concerns about a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East in the event that Iran obtained a nuclear bomb, Kerry made a series of arguments for Gulf Arab countries not to pursue a military nuclear capability.

These included standing U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring such arms, the dangers of nuclear proliferation, the diversion of resources that could otherwise go to economic development, and the general trend by the United States and Russia toward reducing their doomsday arsenals.

“The threat is not just the threat of a nuclear bomb, the threat is also the threat of a dirty bomb or of nuclear material being used by terrorists,” said Kerry.

In December 2011, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said that if Tehran did gain nuclear weapons capability, Saudi Arabia should consider matching it.

Riyadh has also announced plans to develop 17 gigawatts of atomic energy by 2032 as it moves to reduce domestic oil consumption, freeing up more crude for export.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Angus McDowall and Mahmoud Habboush; writing by Sami Aboudi; editing by William Maclean and Mark Heinrich

For Netanyahu, N. Korea nuclear test offers lesson on Iran


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed on Monday to North Korea's latest nuclear test as proof the world must keep up pressure on Iran to prevent it acquiring atomic weapons.

In a speech to a gathering of international Jewish leaders, Netanyahu said sanctions alone could not stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb, and held out the prospect of military action as a last resort.

“Have sanctions, tough sanctions, stopped North Korea? No. And the fact that they produced a nuclear explosion reverberates everywhere in the Middle East, and especially in Iran,” he said.

“They have to be coupled with a robust, credible military threat,” Netanyahu said, repeating a call he has made in previous speeches on the Iranian issue.

If all that fails to deter Iran, “then it will have to be stopped another way”, he said, alluding to military action.

The United States and some of its Western allies share Israel's suspicion that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapon capability under the guise of a civilian atomic energy programme.

Despite four rounds of United Nations sanctions, Iran has defied international demands to scale back uranium enrichment.

Its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday his country did not want to acquire nuclear weapons but that, if it did, no world power could prevent it from obtaining them, according to Iranian media.

North Korea carried out a nuclear test last week, its third in defiance of U.N. resolutions. Israel said the international community must make clear to North Korea that such activities cannot be tolerated.

Referring to Iran, Netanyahu said: “Their development of nuclear weapons will spark a nuclear arms race. It will make the Middle East a nuclear tinderbox. It will change the world.”

Netanyahu told the U.N. General Assembly in September that Iran could produce enough highly enriched material by summer 2013 to make a single atomic bomb.

Last week he said new centrifuges Iran was installing for uranium enrichment could cut by a third the time needed to create a nuclear bomb.

Diplomats believe, however, that Iran may have resumed converting small amounts of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, thereby slowing a growth in stockpiles that could be used to make weapons.

In his speech on Monday, Netanyahu reiterated that Iran would top the agenda next month when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Israel. Obama will also visit the occupied West Bank and Jordan during the trip.

Israel is widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power. It has never confirmed or denied this.

Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer

Filmmaker Claude Lanzmann honored at Berlin film festival


French documentary filmmaker and producer Claude Lanzmann will be honored at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival, where he spoke about filming his famous “Shoah” documentary.

Lanzmann, 87, will receive an Honorary Golden Bear for his lifetime achievement on Thursday evening.

“I was happy, I was moved and I was proud,” Lanzmann told some 200 people who gathered for a conversation between the filmmaker and German film historian Ulrich Gregor, the day before the award ceremony.

Lanzmann became famous for his 10-hour and 13-minute documentary, “Shoah,” which was released in 1985 and took about 11 years to make. A digital restoration of the film was shown at the festival, which began Feb. 7 and runs through Feb. 17.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Lanzmann recalled how he had tricked old Nazis into giving him interviews. He said that a turning point in the filmmaking came when he set foot in the Polish village of Treblinka, where the death camp was located. Nearly 1 million Jews were gassed there, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“I was loaded like a bomb, but the fuse was missing” before entering the village, Lanzmann recalled. Before that moment, “I could not admit that a village called Treblinka with people living inside it could exist. But it did exist.” Lanzmann then found and interviewed residents who remembered the death camp.

German audiences were shocked by the film when it came out, recalled Lanzmann, who watched them from the back of movie theaters. After the screenings, he and young Germans “had very long discussions that lasted long into the night,” he added.

Though Lanzmann said he did “not believe in messages,” he hopes his work has had an impact in countries where Holocaust denial is common. “Shoah” has been shown in Iran and in Turkey, broken up into one-hour segments, with translation into Turkish and Farsi

Lanzmann said he had written an open letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who in 2006 hosted a conference for Holocaust deniers. Ahmadinejad said he wanted to see corpses before he would believe that the Holocaust took place. “I told him that there is not one single corpse in ‘Shoah,’” because in extermination camps “there were no traces.”

“I said [to Ahmadinejad], ‘The best proof of the Shoah… is the absence of corpses. There is no trace. It was a perfect crime,'” Lanzmann said.

Six films by Lanzmann, related to Israel and the Holocaust, were screened at the festival.

UN inspectors see new centrifuges at Iran nuclear site, diplomat says


U.N. nuclear inspectors have seen a small number of advanced centrifuges at an uranium enrichment plant where Iran has said it will install and operate them, a diplomatic source said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Iran's atomic energy chief said it had started installing a new generation of machines for refining uranium at the Natanz plant, an announcement likely to annoy the West and complicate efforts to resolve a dispute over its nuclear work.

The diplomatic source, who declined to be identified, suggested the centrifuges were positioned for installation at the Natanz facility. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regularly visits Iranian nuclear sites, including Natanz.

Iran had already told the IAEA that it planned to introduce new, so-called IR2-m centrifuges to its main enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz – a step that could significantly speed up its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.

Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, or, if refined to a high degree, provide material for bombs, which the West suspects is Tehran's real purpose – something Iran strenuously denies.

If deployed successfully, new-generation centrifuges could refine uranium several times faster than the model Iran now has.

It was not clear how many of the new centrifuges Iran aimed to install at Natanz, which is designed for tens of thousands; an IAEA note to member states on Jan. 31 implied that it could be up to 3,000 or so.

Iran's atomic energy chief, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, said on Wednesday the new machines were specifically geared for lower-grade enrichment of uranium to below 5 percent purity.

Iran has been refining some uranium up to a concentration of 20 percent fissile material, only a short technical step from weapons grade of 90 percent.

It is this stockpile that has prompted Israel and the United States to warn that they will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran being able to build a nuclear warhead.

Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Report: Iran converting enriched uranium to reactor fuel


Iran announced that is converting some of its enriched uranium to reactor fuel.

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that some uranium enriched to 20 percent purity was being converted into fuel for a research nuclear reactor in Tehran, the New York Times reported, citing the Iranian state news agency IRNA.

Details of the work were sent to the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International atomic Energy Agency, according to the spokesperson.

The conversion of the uranium means some depletion of Iran's stockpile of uranium that is approaching an enrichment suitable for a nuclear weapon.

IAEA deputy director Herman Nackaerts is scheduled to meet in Tehran with Iranian officials on Wednesday.  Iranian negotiators will meet later this month in Kazhakhstan with representatives of the world powers for multilateral talks over making Iran's nuclear program more transparent.

The Iranian spokesman also said Tuesday that the IAEA's request to inspect the Parchin military base could be honored if the organization agrees to acknowledge the Islamic Republic's right to have a nuclear program.

The IAEA has been trying to see Parchin for the last year. Satellite photos of the site near Tehran indicate that it has been used for nuclear weapons experiments. Other satellite photos show that it has since been sterilized, making it difficult to detect the kind of nuclear experiments that took place.

Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for domestic, peaceful purposes. Western powers believe Iran is preparing to build nuclear weapons.

Iran denies involvement in Bulgaria bomb attack


Iran played no part in the bombing of a bus last year that killed Israeli tourists, its ambassador to Bulgaria said on Friday, rejecting Israeli charges that it was involved in the attack.

Bulgaria has accused the Iranian-backed Hezbollah of carrying out the July attack, a charge the Lebanese Shi'ite Islamist militia dismissed as part of a smear campaign by its arch foe Israel.

“This (the attack) has nothing to do with Iran,” Gholamreza Bageri told reporters. “We are against any form of terrorism and strongly condemn such actions.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week accused Hezbollah and Iran of waging a “global terror campaign” after the attack in Burgas, which killed five Israeli tourists, their Bulgarian driver and the bomber.

Given the link to an attack on European Union soil, Brussels is considering adding Hezbollah – which is part of the Lebanese government and waged a brief war with Israel in 2006 – to its list of terrorist organizations.

The United States already lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group and U.S. and Israeli authorities want the European Union to take a similar position, which would mean Brussels could act to freeze its assets in Europe.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Jon Boyle

Ahmadinejad seeks strategic axis with Egypt


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the first visit to Cairo by an Iranian leader in more than three decades, called for a strategic alliance with Egypt and said he had offered the cash-strapped Arab state a loan, but drew a cool response.

Ahmadinejad said outside forces were trying to prevent a rapprochement between the Middle East's two most populous nations, at odds since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and Egypt's signing of a peace treaty with Israel in the same year.

“We must all understand that the only option is to set up this alliance because it is in the interests of the Egyptian and Iranian peoples and other nations of the region,” the official MENA news agency quoted him in remarks to Egyptian journalists published on Wednesday.

The two countries have not restored diplomatic ties since Egypt overthrew its long term leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but its first Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, gave Ahmadinejad a red-carpet welcome on Tuesday to a summit of Islamic nations.

“There are those striving to prevent these two great countries from coming together despite the fact that the region's problems require this meeting, especially the Palestinian question,” Ahmadinejad said.

Egypt's foreign minister played down the significance of the visit, telling Reuters the Iranian leader, one of several heads of state to get the red-carpet treatment, was in Cairo chiefly for the Islamic summit beginning on Wednesday, “so it's just a normal procedure. That's all.”

He had earlier reassured Gulf Arab countries that Egypt would not sacrifice their security.

Egypt's leading Sunni Muslim scholar scolded Ahmadinejad on Tuesday when he visited the historic al-Azhar mosque and university over Tehran's attitude to its Gulf Arab neighbors and attempts to spread Shi'ite influence in Sunni countries.

In his meeting with Egyptian reporters, MENA said Ahmadinejad denied accusations Iran was interfering in Bahrain, where a Shi'ite majority lives under minority Sunni rule.

Three Egyptians and a Syrian were detained on suspicion of trying to attack the Iranian president at another mosque, security sources said. They were held overnight but released on bail of 500 Egyptian pounds ($75) each on Wednesday.

Video footage shot by a Turkish cameraman appeared to show a bearded man trying twice to throw a shoe at Ahmadinejad as he was mobbed by well-wishers on leaving the Hussein mosque.

The president was not hit but was hustled to his car by security men, stopping to wave before he was driven away.

The security sources said the three Egyptians held were all members of the al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, a hardline Islamist group that took up arms against the state in the 1990s but has moved into mainstream politics since Mubarak was toppled.

In the Arab world, throwing a shoe is a serious insult. An Iraqi journalist hurled a shoe at then-U.S. President George W. Bush during a news conference in Baghdad in 2008, forcing Bush to duck to avoid being hit.

Al-Ahram daily quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in an interview that Iran had offered to lend money to Egypt despite being under international economic sanctions over its nuclear program.

“I have said previously that we can offer a big credit line to the Egyptian brothers, and many services,” he said. He did not say if there had been any response.

The president said the Iranian economy had been affected by sanctions but it is a “great economy” that was witnessing “positive matters”, saying exports were increasing gradually.

The United States and its Western allies have sought to choke off Iran's vital oil exports by embargoing imports from the Islamic republic and cutting its access to shipping, insurance and finance.

Egypt disclosed on Tuesday that its foreign reserves had fallen below the $15 billion level that covers three months' imports despite recent deposits by Qatar to support it.

Tourism has been badly hit by unrest since the uprising that toppled authoritarian Mubarak, and investment has stalled due to the ensuing political and economic uncertainty.

Ahmadinejad said there had been scant progress on restoring ties between the two countries.

“No change happened in the last two years, but discussions between us developed and grew, and His Excellency President Mohamed Morsi visited Iran and met us, as he met the Iranian foreign minister. And we previously contacted Egypt to know about what is happening with Syrian affairs,” he said.

One persistent obstacle to ties in Cairo's eyes was the naming of a street in Tehran after an Egyptian Islamist militant who led the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, who signed the treaty with Israel.

“On the question of the street name or its removal, these are matters that will be dealt with gradually,” Ahmadinejad said.

Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Philippa Fletcher

Iran says Israel will regret Syria air strike


Iran told Israel on Monday it would regret its air strike against Syria last week, without spelling out whether Iran or its ally planned any military response.

“They will regret this recent aggression,” Saeed Jalili, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told a news conference in Damascus a day after holding talks there with President Bashar al-Assad.

Jalili likened Israel's attack on a military compound north-west of Damascus on Wednesday to previous conflicts including its 34-day war with Lebanon's Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah in 2006, all battles that he said Israel had lived to regret.

“Today, too, both the people and the government of Syria are serious regarding the issue. And also the Islamic community is supporting Syria,” he said.

Jalili said Iran, in its current role as head of the Non-Aligned Movement, would work on Syria's behalf on the international stage in response to the attack.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday the attack on a Syrian arms complex showed Israel was serious about preventing the flow of heavy weapons into Lebanon, appearing to acknowledge for the first time that Israel had carried out the strike.

Diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources say Israeli jets bombed a convoy near the Lebanese border, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah.

Reporting by Dominic Evans in Beirut and Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Syria may hold uranium stash, Western and Israeli experts say


Western and Israeli security experts suspect Syria may have tonnes of unenriched uranium in storage and that any such stockpile could potentially be of interest to its ally Iran for use in Tehran's own disputed nuclear program.

They say natural uranium could have been acquired by the Arab state years ago to fuel a suspected nuclear reactor under construction that was bombed by Israel in 2007.

U.S. intelligence reports at the time said the site in Syria's desert Deir al-Zor region was a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor designed to produce plutonium for atomic arms.

Syria, ravaged by a war the United Nations says has killed 60,000 people, has denied accusations of a clandestine nuclear programme. Its envoy in Vienna, where the U.N. nuclear watchdog is based, was not available for comment on Friday.

“Someplace there has got to be an inventory of fuel for the reactor. It doesn't make sense to have a nuclear installation, a nuclear reactor, without any fuel,” proliferation expert Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment think tank said.

But, he added, “to my knowledge there hasn't been any substantiated accounts identifying where that material may be located.” It would likely have come from North Korea, he said.

Even if Syria did have such a stockpile, it would not be usable for nuclear weapons in its present form, a fact that makes it less of a pressing concern for the West than fears that government forces may use chemical arms against their foes.

The Financial Times newspaper said this week Syria may hold up to 50 tonnes of unenriched, or natural, uranium – material which can fuel atomic power plants and also provide the explosive core of nuclear bombs, but only if refined to a high degree.

Some government officials have raised concerns that Iran might try to seize it, the FT said, without identifying them.

Though such a quantity in theory could yield material for several atom bombs, it would first have to be enriched much further, from 0.7 percent of the fissile isotope in natural uranium to 90 percent, in a technically complicated process.

Iran, which denies Western accusations of atomic bomb ambitions, has said its mines can supply the raw uranium needed for its nuclear programme and that it has no shortage problems.

The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which for several years has been seeking access to the destroyed Deir al-Zor site as well as three other locations that may be linked to it, declined to comment on the FT report.

A recently retired Israeli security official said he believed Syria was keeping uranium at a site near Damascus, one of the places the IAEA wants to inspect, but he did not say what he based this on.

IRAN CONNECTION?

The former Israeli official said rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who now control a crescent of suburbs on the outskirts of the capital, may get hold of the stockpile and make its existence public.

“Then it would put paid to the Syrians' claims that they never had a reactor in the first place,” he said.

Another possibility was that Syria, “knowing the material is no longer secured, could ship it out to Iran, which is certainly in need of more uranium for its own nuclear plans,” the former Israeli official, who declined to be named, added.

But a veteran Israeli intelligence analyst who now works as a government adviser said the figure of 50 tonnes of uranium cited by the Financial Times was “not at all familiar to me”.

A Western diplomat said there had been speculation about possible uranium – perhaps in the form of natural uranium metal to fuel a reactor – in Syria because of the destroyed Deir al-Zor site but that he knew of no specific details.

“It is plausible. But as far as I know no one has ever had any idea where the material is,” he said, adding it would not be easy to ship large quantities to Iran without detection.

Syria says Deir al-Zor was a conventional military facility but the IAEA concluded in May 2011 that it was “very likely” to have been a reactor that should have been declared to its anti-proliferation inspectors.

If there is a stockpile of uranium in Syria, it would be of use for Iran as it faces a potential shortage, said Mark Fitzpatrick, a proliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think-tank.

“Syria has been getting quite a bit of help from Iran. This would have been one means of repaying them,” he said. “There is evidence that Iran is looking around the world for uranium.”

Israel, which is widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, and Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to develop a capability to make atomic bombs.

The Islamic state says its programme to refine uranium is solely intended for peaceful energy and medical purposes.

Some Western analysts have said Iran may be close to exhausting its supply of raw uranium, known as “yellow cake”, although IAEA reports suggest it still has plenty of natural uranium gas to use for its enrichment work.

“If there is an undeclared inventory of 50 tonnes of uranium then, if I were Assad, I would want to spirit it out of there and the most likely place would be Iran,” Hibbs said.

2012 Top Ten Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs


1.  EGYPT’S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

Today effectively rules the Arab world’s largest and most important nation

MOHAMMED BADIE

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD’S MORAL GUIDE

“The Jews have dominated the land, spread corruption on earth, spilled the blood of believers and in their actions profaned holy places. Zionists only understand the language of force and will not relent without duress. This will happen only through holy Jihad.”

– Mohammed Badie

 

FUTOUGH ABD AL-NABI MANSOUR

EGYPTIAN CLERIC, HEADS RELIGIOUS ENDOWMENT FOR THE MATROUH GOVERATE

“Oh Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters – Oh Allah, disperse them and render them asunder, Oh Allah, demonstrate your might and greatness upon them.”

At a nationally televised service at el-Tenaim Mosque attended by Egyptian President Morsi, cleric Al Nabi Mansour prays, Morsi was shown fervently answering “Amin” (Amen).

– Futouh Abd Al-Nabi Mansour, October 19, 2012 – source: MEMRI

 

2.  IRANIAN REGIME

MAHAMOUD AHMADINEJAD

PRESIDENT OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN

“It has now been some 400 years that a horrendous Zionist clan has been ruling the major world affairs. And behind the scenes of the major power circles, in political, media, monetary, and banking organizations in the world, they have been the decision-makers, to an extent that a big power with a huge economy and over 300 million population, the presidential election hopefuls must go kiss the feet of the Zionists to ensure their victory in the elections.”

– President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, July 1, 2012, Speaking to Ambassadors of Islamic Countries 

 

MAJOR GENERAL HASSAN FIROUZABADI

ARMED FORCES CHIEF OF STAFF

“The Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel.”

– Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, August 5, 2012 

 

MOHAMED RAHIMI

FIRST VICE PRESIDENT

[The Talmud] “…teaches [the Jews] how to destroy non-Jews so as to protect an embryo in the womb of a Jewish mother.” As ‘evidence’ of Jewish control of international illegal drug trade, the vice president alleged that there isn’t “a single addict among the Zionists.”

At a ceremony in Tehran marking International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

 

3.  ISRAEL SLANDERED BY BRAZILIAN CARTOONIST

CARLOS LATUFF

CARTOONIST

During the recent conflict instigated by Hamas against the Jewish state, the Brazilian cartoonist slandered Israel and her Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for doing what every world leader would do against the onslaught of rocket attacks targeting innocent civilians.

November 2012

 

4.  EUROPEAN FOOTBALL (SOCCER) FANS’ ANTI- SEMITISM

The problem of anti-Semitic abuse at soccer matches which until recently has been limited to Eastern Europe, has been revived in Western Europe. The most serious situation has been a resurgence of anti-Semitic chanting toward one particular team, Tottenham Hotspur, which is based in a traditionally Jewish section of London. In a recent match against a rival West Ham United, sections of its fans chanted, “Adolf Hitler’s coming for you” and “You’re getting gassed in the morning” and making hissing noises like the sound of a gas chamber. A reporter for the Telegraph said, “We are not talking about a few isolated crooners here. A significant proportion of West Ham’s travelling support participated.“ Because Tottenham has the largest Jewish fan base in England, it has long been the target of anti-Semitism—so much so that the fans have adopted the slurs “Yid” and “Yiddo” as a way of deflecting abuse.

 

5.  UKRAINE’S ANTI-SEMITIC “SVABODA” (FREEDOM) PARTY

OLEG TYAGNIBOK

LEADER OF THE SVABODA PARTY

In recent elections the radical right party won 41 seats in the Ukrainian Parliament (12% of the popular vote). Tyagnibok has called for purges of the approximately 400,000 Jews and other minorities living in Ukraine and has demanded that Ukraine be liberated from what he calls, the “Muscovite Jewish Mafia.”

Oleg Tyagnibok

 

IGOR MIROSHNICHENKO

MEMBER OF UKRANIAN PARLIAMENT SLANDERS U.S. ACTRESS MILA KUNIS

MP Igor Miroshnichenko, recently labeled noted Ukrainian-born American actress Mila Kunis, a ‘zhydovka’, (dirty Jewess). Zhid is an insidious slur used against Jews since the times of the Czar and invoked by the Nazis and their collaborators as they rounded up the Jews to murder them at Babi Yar and in the death camps. Mila Kunis’ family, like countless thousands of other Ukrainian Jewish families, left the Ukraine in the first place because of anti-Semitism. The Wiesenthal Center has urged Prime Minister Azarov to publicly denounce the political extremists.

 

6.  GREECE’S GOLDEN DAWN PARTY

NIKOLAOS MICHALOLIAKOS

GOLDEN DAWN FOUNDER

Nikolaos Michaloliakos, Golden Dawn’s founder appeared to give a Nazi salute in the Athens City Council. He claims that it was merely “the salute of the national youth organization of Ioannis Metaxas.”

In May 2012, he told an interviewer that six million did not die in the Nazi

Holocaust. He called the figure an exaggeration. “There were no ovens. This is a lie…there were no gas chambers, either”

– Nikolaos Michaloliakos

See related Youtube: http://youtu.be/yXy7f17GXtQ

The Times of London reports that Golden Dawn’s member Artemis Matthaiopoulos, elected MP for the town of Serres, was the front man of the Nazi punk band Pogrom. One of the band’s songs, “Auschwitz” included anti-Semitic lyrics such as “f*** Wiesenthal”, “f*** Anne Frank”, “f*** the whole tribe of Abraham”, “Juden raus” and “The Star of David makes me vomit.” Matthaiopoulos is the second neo-Nazi rocker to represent Golden Dawn in the Greek Parliament.

 

ILIAS KASIDIARIS

SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GOLDEN DAWN PARTY

During a session of the Greek Parliament that was discussing an assault charge against Kasidiaris, he read from the notoriously anti-Semitic “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion’s” protocol #19. It alleges that Jewish leaders seek to discredit patriots as part of their attempt to take over governments: “In order to destroy the prestige of heroism, we shall send them for trial for theft, murder and every kind of abominable and filthy crime.”

– Ilias Kasidiaris

 

7.  FAR-RIGHT HUNGARIAN JOBBIK PARTY

MARTON GYONGYOSI

FOREIGN POLICY CABINET

On October 26, Marton Gyongyosi, far-right party leader criticized Hungary’s foreign ministry for supporting Israel and raised the specter of dual loyalty by calling for background checks on Hungarian Jewish citizens. “I think now is the time to assess how many people there are of Jewish origin here, and especially in the Hungarian parliament who represent a certain national security risk of Hungary.”

– Marton Gyongyosi

Gyongyosi’s remarks spurred other lawmakers to wear Jewish stars in protest and led to public demonstrations.

 

8.  NORWAY HONORS PROMOTER OF ANTI-SEMITIC CONSPIRACY CANARDS

TROND ALI LINSTAD

Trond Ali Linstad’s website warns readers to “beware the Jews” and the “influence they have in newspaper, in other media, and in many political organs.” Linstad depicts violence against Israel as a “great success” and supports use of the slogan -”Kharibat Khybarj” a jihadist term for terrorism against Jews. He also alleges “every president in the US must adapt to the Jewish lobby,“ which he says undermines US policy.

Trond Ali Linstad

Despite his notorious record, in 2012 Linstad was nominated by King Harald V for the Royal Service Medal, which recognizes people for work in the arts, science, industry and public service!

 

9.  INFLUENTIAL GERMAN MEDIA PERSONALITY’S BIGOTRY

JAKOB AUGSTEIN

OWNER/EDITOR, DER FREITAG WEEKLY

CONTRIBUTOR, SPIEGEL ONLINE

“With backing from the US, where the president must secure the support of Jewish lobby groups, and in Germany, where coping with history, in the meantime, has a military component, the Netanyahu government keeps the world on a leash with an ever-swelling war chant.”

“Israel’s nuclear power is a danger to the already fragile peace of the world. This statement has triggered an outcry.Because it’s true. And because it was made by a German, Guenter Grass, author and Nobel Prize winner. That is the key point. One must, therefore, thank him for taking it upon himself to speak for us all.”

“Israel is threatened by Islamic fundamentalists in its neighborhood. But the Jews also have their fundamentalists, the ultra-orthodox Hareidim. They are not a small splinter group. They make up 10% of the Israeli population. They are cut from the same cloth as their Islamic fundamentalist opponents. They follow the law of revenge.”

“The fire burns in Libya, Sudan, Yemen, in countries which are among the poorest on earth. But those who set the fires live elsewhere. Furious young people burn the American, and recently, the German flag. They, too, are victims, just like the dead at Benghazi and Sanaa. Whom does this all this violence benefit? Always the insane and unscrupulous. And this time it’s the U.S. Republicans and Israeli government.”

“Gaza is a place out of the end of times….1.7 million people live there on 360 sq. kilometers. Israel incubates its own opponents there.”

All translated quotes from Spiegel Online

Jakob Augstein

 

Respected Die Welt columnist Henryk M. Broder, who has testified as an expert in the Bundestag about German anti-Semitism, labeled Augstein a “little Streicher” adding: “Jakob Augstein is not a salon anti-Semite, he’s a pure anti-Semite…an offender by conviction who only missed the opportunity to make his career with the Gestapo because he was born after the war. He certainly would have had what it takes.”

 

10.  Louis Farrakhan

In the past, Louis Farrakhan has claimed that Jews controlled the slave trade, the US Government, and continue to seek world domination. In 2012, Farrakhan intensified his anti-Semitic rhetoric.

“Jews control the media. They said it themselves… In Washington right next to the Holocaust museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident?”

October 21, 2012 at Mosque Maryam in Chicago

“…Did you know the Koran says that Jews are the most violent of people? I didn’t write it, but I’m living to see it.”

February 26, 2012 – Savior’s Day Speech, Chicago

“Brothers and sisters, you’ve gotta stop being guided by the controlled media that is owned by Zionist forces that want to make you pawns in the struggle of Israel and Zionism.”

“Guidance in a Time of Trouble” speech in San Diego, 5/27/12

“I don’t know how many Jews were killed. I know something happened in Nazi Germany, and if it’s one million, two million, three million; it’s one million, two million, three million too many. But to deny a person the right to challenge your articulation of numbers and to put you in jail if you deny aspects of the Holocaust… You can’t speak about Jews. You can’t criticize Jews. If you do, you’re an anti-Semite.”

Farrakhan: How many of you are lawyers? Only have one in the house? No wonder we go to jail so much, brother! But at the top of the law profession, who are the top in law?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: Sorry I didn’t hear you.

Audience: Jews!

Farrakhan: Any doctors in the house? Ain’t got no doctors? Oh there’s one way in the back. At the top of the medical profession, the top in that are members of the Jewish community. Anybody in media? Who’s the top in that field?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: Anybody a rapper in the house? There’s rappers. You can rap, ain’t nothing wrong with that, but at the top of that are those that control the industry. Any of you have Hollywood ambitions, Broadway ambitions? Who’s the top of that?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: Same people! They’re masters in business. Well I’m not a businessman I’m a banker. Well who’s the master of the bankers?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: TALK TO ME!

Audience: Jews!

– Holy Day of Atonement Keynote Address, Mosque Maryam, Chicago

Iran, U.N. nuclear agency to resume talks in December


Iran will return to talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency next month, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday, the latest push to seek a peaceful end to a dispute that has raised fears of a new Middle East war.

The IAEA announcement came days after U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election, which some analysts say may give fresh impetus to diplomatic efforts to end a decade-old standoff with a country the West accuses of working towards nuclear weapons capability.

In a stark reminder of how tensions could escalate, the Pentagon said on Thursday that Iranian warplanes fired at an unarmed U.S. drone in the Gulf last week.

The IAEA said it hoped the talks in Tehran on December 13 would produce an agreement to allow it to resume a long-stalled investigation into possible military aspects of Iran's nuclear program.

The agency says it has “credible information indicating that Iran had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” and wants Tehran to give it access to sites, officials and documents to clarify the issue.

Iran denies it wants nuclear bombs and has repeatedly ruled out stopping its atomic activities.

A series of meetings since early this year, the last one in August, failed to make concrete progress.

Israel, assumed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power, has threatened military action if it looks like Tehran is close to getting nuclear weapons capability.

“The aim (of the talks) is to conclude the structured approach to resolving outstanding issues related to Iran's nuclear program,” agency spokeswoman Gill Tudor said.

A Western diplomat was skeptical, noting that the talks would only take place after the next meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation governing board.

“So it is the usual scenario: defer criticism now by promising something later. Something that has failed to materialize the last four times,” the envoy said.

INITIAL STEP?

The IAEA's talks with Iran are separate from Tehran's nuclear discussions with six world powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – which resumed in April but have also so far failed to reach any breakthrough.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton – who represents the powers in talks with Iran – sees the new IAEA-Iran meeting as long overdue.

It “could be an initial step on the path to resolve outstanding issues,” Maja Kocijancic, Ashton's spokeswoman, said, adding that Iran had so far failed to cooperate in substance.

She reiterated concerns about the Parchin military site, which the IAEA wants to visit as part of its inquiry and where Western diplomats suspect Iran is now trying to clean up any evidence of past illicit nuclear-related activity.

The IAEA mission is likely to be headed by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, the chief U.N. nuclear inspector, diplomatic sources said.

Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was not immediately available for comment.

Years of talks and sanctions have failed to end the dispute.

But, now assured of a second term, Obama, who has so far resisted calls in the United States and Israel for an attack on Iran, appears free to pursue a diplomatic settlement while threatening yet heavier sanctions if Tehran does not bend.

The United States and its allies want Iran to curb its uranium enrichment program. Iran, one of the world's largest oil producers, says the West must first lift increasingly harsh sanctions.

Additional reporting by Adrian Croft in Brussels; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

U.S. says it’s willing to meet with Iran on nukes but no talks set


[UPDATE: 6:31 pm]

The New York Times reported on Saturday that the United States and Iran have agreed in principle to hold one-on-one negotiations on Iran's nuclear program but the White House quickly denied that any talks had been set.

The Times, quoting unnamed Obama administration officials, said earlier on Saturday the two sides had agreed to bilateral negotiations after secret exchanges between U.S. and Iranian officials. The newspaper later said the agreement was “in principle.”

The White House quickly denied the report, which came two days before President Barack Obama is due to face Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in a debate focused on foreign policy.

“It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

“We continue to work with the P5+1 on a diplomatic solution and have said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally.”

The P5+1 group is composed of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia – plus Germany.

Iran had insisted the talks with Washington not begin until after the November 6 U.S. election determines whether Obama will serve a second term or whether Romney will succeed him, the Times said.

The New York Times report looked likely to fan campaign debate over foreign policy, where Romney has been hitting Obama with charges that he has been an ineffective leader who has left the country vulnerable.

The Obama administration counters that it has pressed hard on all major security challenges while at the same time winding down unpopular and expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But tensions with Iran continue to simmer, leading many analysts to say it is the largest security issue facing the United States and a potential flashpoint for broader conflict in the Middle East.

TWO TRACKS, FEW RESULTS

The United States has been working with the P5+1 to pressure Iran on its nuclear program but with few results. The United States and other Western powers have charged that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists the program is for peaceful purposes.

Israel has said it would use military force to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power but has in the past had differences with Washington over when Tehran would actually cross the “red line” to nuclear capability.

The Times story quoted an unnamed senior administration official as saying the United States had reached the agreement for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials who report to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But the White House said the Obama administration was intent on its current “two-track” course, which involves both diplomatic engagement and a tightening network of international sanctions to pressure Iran.

“The president has made clear that he will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and we will do what we must to achieve that,” Vietor's statement said.

“It has always been our goal for sanctions to pressure Iran to come in line with its obligations. The onus is on the Iranians to do so, otherwise they will continue to face crippling sanctions and increased pressure.”

“NON-STARTERS” THUS FAR

The P5+1 has held a series of inconclusive meetings with Iranian officials in the past year. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tehran's proposals to date had been “non-starters.”

While Western officials say there is still time to negotiate, they also have been ratcheting up sanctions, which are contributing to mounting economic problems in Iran.

The United States has expressed a willingness for talks narrowly focused on specific issues, preferably on the sidelines of multilateral negotiations. But Iran has been pressing for broader direct negotiations that include other regional issues including Syria and Bahrain – something the United States opposes.

“We've always seen the nuclear issue as independent,” the administration official told the Times, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. “We're not going to allow them to draw a linkage.”

The Times included the White House denial in a subsequent version of its story and said reports of the agreement had circulated among a small group of diplomats involved with Iran.

Even if the two sides sit down, American officials worry Iran could prolong the negotiations to try to forestall military action and enable it to complete key elements of its nuclear program, particularly at underground sites, the Times said.

Any talks would open a diplomatic window for the United States and Israel that could provide strategic cover should they see the need for military action down the road.

“It would be unconscionable to go to war if we haven't had such discussions,” R. Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with Tehran as undersecretary of state in the George W. Bush administration, told the Times.

<i>Additional reporting by Todd Eastham; Editing By Paul Simao and Bill Trott</i>

Romney says he and Netanyahu have same ‘test’ for Iran


Mitt Romney has said that he and Benjamin Netanyahu would employ the same “test” for Iran's nuclear program, but that a strike was “a long way” off.

Speaking to CNN on Oct. 9, the US Republican presidential candidate said: “My own test is that Iran should not have the capability of producing a nuclear weapon. I think that's the same test that [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu would also apply.”

Netanyahu is insisting the “international community” — a term which Israeli politicians often use in referring to the U.S. — draw a clear “red line” in Iran's path to obtaining nuclear weapons. Crossing the line would mean military intervention.

Netanyahu has warned that vows to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons — such as the ones made by the Obama Administration — were not enough, and that the threshold to a strike on Iran should be set at an earlier point.  

On CNN, Romney added that there should be “no daylight between the United States and Israel,” returning to a theme he has brought out frequently in recent campaign events. “We share values, and we're both absolutely committed to preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Romney also said that “we have a long way to go before military action may be necessary. And hopefully it's never necessary. Hopefully, through extremely tight sanctions, as well as diplomatic action, we can prevent Iran from taking a course which would lead to them crossing that line.”

“There's great hope and real prospects for dissuading Iran from taking a path that leads into a nuclear setting,” the former Massachusetts governor said.

If Israel were to launch a military strike, he said, “the actions of Israel would not come as a surprise to me.”

A report in Foreign Policy magazine on Oct. 8 said that Israel and the US are considering a joint surgical strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Netanyahu to set ‘clear red line’ for Iran in U.N. speech


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will set out, in his speech at the United Nations on Thursday, an ultimatum for Iran to halt its disputed nuclear drive or risk coming under military attack, an Israeli official said.

Netanyahu faces the world body after U.S. President Barack Obama disappointed some Israelis, in his own address to the annual assembly, by not calling for a deadline to be imposed on Tehran – though he did say time for diplomacy “is not unlimited”.

Israel sees a mortal threat in a nuclear-armed Iran and has long threatened to strike its arch-foe pre-emptively, agitating war-wary world powers as they pursue sanctions and negotiations.

Complicating Netanyahu's strategy have been his testy relations with Obama as a U.S. election looms, and the reluctance of many Israelis to trigger a conflict with Iran, which denies that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and has pledged wide-ranging retaliation if attacked.

“The prime minister will set a clear red line in his speech that will not contradict Obama's remarks. Obama said Iran won't have nuclear weapons. The prime minister will clarify the way in which Iran won't have nuclear arms,” a senior Israeli official said en route to New York, without elaborating.

Though he has not previously detailed when Israel might be willing to go to war, Netanyahu has said Iran could have enough low-enriched uranium by early 2013 to refine to a high level of fissile purity for a first nuclear device.

Israel worries that this final step, if taken, could happen too quickly or quietly to be prevented.

Iran has said it has no plans to enrich uranium beyond the 20 percent purity required to run a reactor producing medical isotopes. That level, however, brings raw uranium exponentially closer to the 90 percent enrichment required for bomb fuel.

Though reputed to have the Middle East's sole nuclear arsenal, Israel would be hard-put to deliver lasting damage to Iran's remote facilities using its conventional forces, or to handle a multi-front war.

WORK TOGETHER

Netanyahu's public calls for a U.S. ultimatum have deepened acrimony with Obama, a Democrat accused by his Republican rivals of being soft on the Jewish state's security. That has stirred American accusations of Israeli meddling in the November presidential elections – something denied by Netanyahu.

“The prime minister will say that Israel and the United States can work together to achieve their common goal,” said the Israeli official on condition of anonymity.

Netanyahu, who heads a broad-based, conservative coalition government, departed for New York on Wednesday saying he would take the U.N. podium for an Israel “united in the goal of preventing Iran from achieving nuclear weaponry”.

But surveys show that most Israelis – apparently swayed by the open dissent of several senior national-security figures – would oppose launching unilateral strikes on Iran, given the risk of alienating Washington and of provoking clashes with Tehran's Islamist militant allies in Lebanon and Gaza.

A poll published by the liberal Haaretz newspaper on Thursday found that 50 percent of Israelis feared for the survival of their country, should there be a conflict.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday, said Iran was under threat of military action from “uncivilized Zionists,” a clear reference to Israel. Earlier this week, Ahmadinejad said that Israel would eventually be “eliminated.”

Haaretz also ran excerpts from a leaked Foreign Ministry report that sanctions had caused greater damage to Iran's economy than anticipated by Israel.

The findings, confirmed to Reuters by an Israeli official, could undermine any attempt by Netanyahu to argue that the military alternative must be considered imminently.

Israeli opposition leader Shaul Mofaz criticized Netanyahu for sparring with Obama and voiced confidence in U.S. resolve.

“I am convinced that the United States, the president of the United States, is determined to prevent Iran going nuclear,” Mofaz told Israel's Army Radio.

Even within Netanyahu's coalition there have been misgivings about the pitch of disagreement with the United States.

Danny Ayalon, deputy to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, described Obama's Iran remarks at the United Nations as “important, albeit measured”.

Speaking on Israel Radio, Ayalon said the Netanyahu government and Obama administration were in discreet contacts and approaching agreement on setting limits for Iran.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Angus MacSwan

Obama to tell U.N.: Nuclear Iran poses existential threat to Israel


President Barack Obama declared on Tuesday the United States will “do what we must” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against threatening attacks whose consequences would be devastating.

Taking the podium at the United Nations six weeks before the U.S. presidential election, Obama sought to counter criticism of his foreign record by Republican rival Mitt Romney, who has accused him of mishandling the Arab Spring uprisings, damaging ties with Israel and not being tough enough on Iran.

Obama also challenged world leaders to stand united against anti-American violence that has swept many Muslim countries in recent weeks and to promote tolerance amid anger over a crudely made video that offended Islam. “There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents,” he said.

Seeking to step up pressure on Iran, Obama told the U.N. General Assembly that there is still time for a diplomacy but that “time is not unlimited.”

His tough talk appeared aimed at easing Israeli concerns about U.S. resolve to curb Tehran's nuclear drive, as he reasserted before the world body that he would never let Iran develop an atomic bomb and then simply contain the problem.

But he stopped short of meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand to set a specific “red line” that Iran must not cross if it is to avoid military action, and did not go much farther in his rhetoric than previously.

“A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” he said. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy.”

“The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

In an apparent allusion to recent comments by U.S., Israeli and Iranian officials, Ban opened the annual U.N. General Assembly by warning states against threatening to attack one another and sounded a pessimistic note about Arab-Israeli peace.

“I also reject both the language of delegitimization and threats of potential military action by one state against another,” Ban said. “Any such attacks would be devastating.”

U.S. officials have repeatedly said that all options are on the table against Iran – code for a possible military strike – while Israel's Netanyahu has called for a U.S. ultimatum to Iran. But Obama did not repeat that line in his speech.

On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be “eliminated.” The White House dismissed his comments as “disgusting.

Without naming Ahmadinejad, Obama took a veiled swipe at him on Tuesday, saying the world must “leave behind” those who deny the Holocaust or reject Israel's right to exist.

MUSLIM ANGER

Obama also sought to reassure U.S. voters that he is doing everything he can to head off any more violence like the September 11 attack in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three of his colleagues.

A wave of Muslim rage over an anti-Islam video made in California has swept the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Americans were stunned by images of U.S. flags again burning in the Muslim world, the focus of intense personal diplomacy by the president at the start of his term.

“The attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded,” Obama told the assembled world leaders.

This eruption of violence has confronted Obama with the worst setback yet in his efforts to keep the Arab Spring revolutions from turning against the United States – and has demonstrated that he has few easy options.

In his speech, he faced the delicate task of articulating U.S. distaste for insults to any religion while at the same time insisting there is no excuse for a violent reaction – a distinction rejected by many Muslims.

The crisis has exposed a deep divide over the issues of free speech and blasphemy at a time when Islamist forces are in the political ascendant in the Middle East after several veteran dictators were ousted.

“There is no speech that justifies mindless violence,” Obama said. His audience listened mostly in polite silence, offering only a smattering of applause, but he drew laughter when he said that people say “awful things” about him every day and he accepts it.

Obama defended his approach to the Arab Spring but offered no detailed solutions to an array of crises that threaten to chip away at a foreign policy record that his aides hoped would be immune from Republican attack.

He also had harsh words for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying his regime “must come to an end,” a reminder of Assad's defiance of international calls for him to end a bloody 18-month crackdown and step aside.

And Obama renewed his call for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks – something he promised to make a priority when he took office but which he has failed to advance.

ELECTION THE PRIORITY

With campaign pressures building in a close race, Obama's final turn on the world stage before facing voters on November 6 left little doubt about his immediate priorities.

He skipped the customary one-on-one meetings with foreign counterparts but went ahead with the taping of a campaign-style appearance on the popular television talk-show “The View” – a trade-off that drew Republican criticism.

Obama planned to be in and out of New York in 24 hours and off to the election battleground state of Ohio on Wednesday.

Despite Obama's international woes, administration officials are heartened by Romney's own recent foreign policy stumbles and doubt that the president's critics will gain traction in a campaign that remains focused mainly on the U.S. economy.

In addition, the White House never tires of touting the killing of Osama bin Laden and the ending of the Iraq war as Obama's foreign policy accomplishments – points that the president made his speech.

Nevertheless, the unsettled climate surrounding Obama's U.N. visit was a stark reminder that the heady optimism that greeted him when he took office, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize within months, has now cooled.

Obama's early overtures to Iran were rejected, and the expansion of its nuclear program, which it says is purely peaceful, has created tension between Washington and Israel. Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence.

Netanyahu has indicated impatience over Obama's entreaties to hold off on attacking Iran's nuclear sites to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to work.

The unusually public dispute between the United States and Israel has been exacerbated by Obama's decision not to meet with Netanyahu on his U.S. visit later this week, a move that risks alienating some pro-Israel voters.

Signaling resentment at Netanyahu's tactics, Obama told CBS's “60 Minutes” he would ignore “noise that's out there.”

Editing by Will Dunham

U.N. chief defies U.S., Israel; plans trip to Tehran


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to attend a summit meeting of leaders of non-aligned developing nations in Tehran next week, defying calls from the United States and Israel to boycott the event, U.N. diplomats said on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission said it appeared that Ban would be attending the summit next week, though he declined to speak on behalf of the secretary-general’s office.

Several other U.N. diplomatic sources said that barring any unexpected scheduling changes, Ban would attend the meeting of some 120 non-aligned nations in Tehran.

“It’s a very important bloc of nations,” a diplomatic source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “Of course the SG (secretary-general) is going. He can’t not go.”

A Security Council diplomat said it was important for the secretary-general to go. He said Ban should not turn his back on the entire non-aligned movement because one member, Iran, happens to have a president who doubts the Holocaust and questions Israel’s right to exist.

Ban’s spokesman declined to comment.

Diplomats said they did not expect Ban to raise Iran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is peaceful and Western powers and their allies fear is aimed at nuclear weapons, and its leaders’ anti-Israeli remarks during his public speech during the non-aligned summit.

Such rebukes would be better left to Ban’s expected private bilateral meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, envoys said.

The Tehran summit, which Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi will also attend, takes place Sunday through Friday. Mursi is the first Egyptian head of state to visit Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

BAN UNDER PRESSURE TO BOYCOTT SUMMIT

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Ban to cancel his plans to participate in the Tehran non-aligned summit, according to Israeli media reports.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made clear to reporters in Washington last week that the United States would also like the U.N. chief to boycott the event.

“The fact that the meeting is happening in a country that’s in violation of so many of its international obligations and posing a threat to neighbors … sends a very strange signal with regard to support for the international order, rule of law, et cetera,” Nuland said.

“We’ve made that point to participating countries,” she said. “We’ve also made that point to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.”

Nuland added that if Ban does go, “we hope he will make the strongest points of concern.”

Last week Ban sharply criticized Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, describing their latest verbal attacks on Israel as “offensive and inflammatory.”

Ahmadinejad said there was no place for the Jewish state in a future Middle East, echoing previous remarks he has made about Israel. He has also repeatedly called into question the Nazi extermination of Jews during World War Two – the Holocaust.

Khamenei said last week that Israel would one day be returned to the Palestinian nation and would cease to exist.

Separately, Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission in New York, defended the Tehran summit in a letter to the editor of The Washington Post. He was responding to an editorial in the newspaper, which said Ban’s presence in Tehran “will dignify a bacchanal of nonsense.”

Miryousefi said the Post’s editorial board “unjustifiably smeared Iran and mocked the upcoming Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran.

“By bringing dozens of world leaders together, the summit promises to make significant contributions to the movement’s lofty objectives,” he wrote.

Editing by Stacey Joyce

Dear Ahmadinejad: Let me tell you about cancer


This column originally appeared at WashingtonPost.com.

When the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad compares Israel to a cancer, I take it personally.

On Monday, you see, I traveled to Israel to co-officiate at a wedding. And I have cancer.

I’ve been in remission from lymphoma for several years, and I visit Israel on average once or twice a year. So, as someone who claims a perverse expertise, permit me to point out three problems with his analogy:

First, cancer is, by definition, spreading. “Growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell,” Edward Abbey memorably wrote. Therefore a cancerous nation should, by definition, spread and grow large. Yet Israel (even if it annexed every bit of the West Bank) has given back far more territory than it ever conquered.

[Related: EU’s Ashton condemns ‘hateful’ Iran remarks on Israel]

The Sinai Peninsula dwarfs the other lands that were captured in a war that Israel did not start. Indeed, the lands Israel returned (more than 20,000 square miles) are larger than Israel itself. Israel is around 8,000 square miles, smaller than New Jersey, while Iran, which is 167,618 square miles, is slightly larger than California. Of course, this does not count the other Arab and Muslim nations of the world, of which there are more than 40, as opposed to one Jewish state. So on behalf of those who suffer with cancer and poor math skills everywhere, I wish Ahmadinajad would demonstrate a mathematical awareness consistent with his doctorate in engineering.

The second problem in the analogy is that healthy cells predate cancerous ones. Cancer is something that afflicts a body after it is formed. Since the State of Israel goes back 3,000 years, and Islam began in the 7th century (thus dating 1,500 years), it seems anachronistic, to say the least, to imply that Israel is an alien growth. Here, of course, a trained engineer may be forgiven for his ignorance of biology and history.

Finally, may I say as someone who has gone through two neurosurgeries and chemotherapy, at this stage of cancer treatment we know only how to either cut it out or blast it away? So how does one eliminate a cancerous people? The analogy leads inevitably, inexorably, to the prospect of genocide. When you define a nation as a cancer you imply the solution is mass murder. My cancer was put into remission by a line leading into my vein that dripped life-giving poison. What would the Iranian leadership use as a “cure” for Israel? Radiation, no doubt.
Ahmadinejad’s accusation is neither an idle threat nor overblown rhetoric. Iran eagerly pursues nuclear weapons. And as Abba Eban memorably said, there are things in Jewish history too terrible to be believed, but nothing too terrible not to have happened.

Do you suppose the world community will stir at this outrage? With “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the world’s most notorious anti-Semitic forgery, available in hotels in Jordan and on TV serials in Egypt, are there rounds of condemnations at the United Nations? Will Ahmadinajad no more be invited to international gatherings and symposia? Will the Muslim nations arise and say as one that we do not speak of people and nations in that manner? Will the world recognize that the Iranian leadership dreams of combining the two great warning signs of history, Hiroshima and Auschwitz?

No, this is what will happen: The furor will abate, the world will convince itself that he doesn’t really mean it, or he doesn’t really have power. He will be applauded on the streets of Arab capitals, and the nations will swallow some sleeping draught composed of complacency, indifference, foolishness and a pinch of anti-Semitism.

As I walk in Israel, I will see the eyes of a people who have never, not for a single day since the founding of the state, been accepted by their neighbors. I will know that if tomorrow the military situation were reversed, and Israel’s enemies had her firepower and she had theirs, there would not be roadblocks, housing and land disputes and voting discrimination as now exist against Palestinians, but wholesale slaughter. I will remember that whatever one thinks of the settlements, there were unremitting attacks against Israel before a single settlement existed.

In the background I will hear the voice of a malevolent man with power. It is not an unfamiliar voice in Jewish history. Thousands of years have taught us that when evil speaks, it is always in earnest. Asked what was the lesson of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel answered, “That you can get away with it.” Ignore this voice and we will learn that lesson once more.


Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, David Wolpe is the author of seven books including “Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times” and his latest, “Why Faith Matters.” Follow him on Facebook.

Israel minister: Possible war with Iran could be month-long affair


War with Iran would probably turn into a month-long conflict on various fronts with missile strikes on Israeli cities and some 500 dead, Israel’s civil defense minister said in an interview published on Wednesday.

“There is no room for hysteria. Israel’s home front is prepared as never before,” Matan Vilnai, a former general who is about to leave his cabinet post to become ambassador to China, told the Maariv daily.

The interview coincided with Israeli media reports over the past week suggesting that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before the U.S. presidential election in November.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that Washington does not believe Israel has made a decision on whether to strike.

“I don’t want to be dragged into the debate,” Vilnai said, when asked if Israel should go to war against Iran. “But the United States is our greatest friend and we will always have to coordinate such moves with it.”

Echoing an assessment already voiced by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Vilnai was quoted as saying hundreds of missiles could hit Israeli cities daily and kill some 500 people in a war with Iran, which has promised strong retaliation if attacked.

“There might be fewer dead, or more, perhaps … but this is the scenario for which we are preparing, in accordance with the best expert advice,” Vilnai said.

“The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on several fronts,” he said, alluding to the possibility Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Palestinian militants in Gaza would also launch rockets at Israel.

Israel has built a sophisticated missile shield likely to stop some of the salvoes and regularly holds civil defence drills to prepare for rocket strikes.

Vilnai made no mention in the interview of the impact a month of conflict would have on Israel’s economy should Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial center, be hit by long-range missiles.

Tel Aviv was not struck by missiles during Israel’s three-week war in the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009 and in a 34-day conflict with Hezbollah in 2006. But it came under Scud rocket fire from Iraq during the 1991 Gulf war.

War jitters with Iran, which denies accusations that it is striving to develop nuclear weapons, caused steep declines in Israeli financial markets on Monday although some of those losses were recovered on Tuesday.

“Just as the citizens of Japan have to understand they are likely to be hit by an earthquake, Israelis must realize that anyone who lives here has to be prepared for missiles striking the home front,” Vilnai said.

Vilnai is set to leave office by the end of August. Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he will be replaced by Avraham Dichter, a previous head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller; editing by Crispian Balmer

Panetta: Iran sanctions have not yet stopped nuclear program


Two days before his visit to Israel, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that though tough international sanctions have not yet caused Iran to drop its nuclear ambitions, they would eventually persuade the regime to “do what’s right.”

Speaking in Tunisia on Monday, Panetta said that the sanctions have caused significant damage to Iran’s economy, according to the Associated Press.

“These sanctions are having a serious impact in terms of the economy in Iran,” he told reporters, according to the AP. “And while the results of that may not be obvious at the moment, the fact is that they have expressed a willingness to negotiate and they continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution.”

As Iran’s alleged quest for a nuclear weapon continues, Israel’s leadership has raised the possibility of striking Iran’s nuclear facilities, a move that the Obama Administration has argued is premature at this point. The Obama administration has, however, repeatedly declared that “all options” are on the table.

Panetta will meet with Israeli leaders on Wednesday.

Also on Monday, members of the Senate and House of Representatives agreed on a sanctions bill aimed at further reducing Iranian oil revenues.

How to deal with Iran’s nuclear program has been a central foreign policy issue of the U.S. presidential campaign.

Iran threatens Israel; new EU sanctions take force


Iran announced missile tests on Sunday and threatened to wipe Israel “off the face of the earth” if the Jewish state attacked it, brandishing some of its starkest threats on the day Europe began enforcing an oil embargo and harsh new sanctions.

The European sanctions – including a ban on imports of Iranian oil by EU states and measures that make it difficult for other countries to trade with Iran – were enacted earlier this year but mainly came into effect on July 1.

They are designed to break Iran’s economy and force it to curb nuclear work that Western countries say is aimed at producing an atomic weapon. Reporting by Reuters has shown in recent months that the sanctions have already had a significant effect on Iran’s economy.

Israel says it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear aims. The United States also says military force is on the table as a last resort, but U.S. officials have repeatedly encouraged the Israelis to be patient while new sanctions take effect.

Washington said the EU’s oil ban might force Tehran to give ground at the next round of nuclear talks, scheduled for this week in Istanbul.

Announcing three days of missile tests in the coming week, Revolutionary Guards General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said the exercises should be seen as a message “that the Islamic Republic of Iran is resolute in standing up to … bullying, and will respond to any possible evil decisively and strongly.”

Any attack on Iran by Israel would be answered resolutely: “If they take any action, they will hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the earth,” said Hajizadeh, head of the Guards’ airborne division, according to state news agency IRNA.

The missile tests will target mock-ups of air bases in the region, Hajizadeh said, adding that its ability to strike U.S. bases in the Gulf protects Iran from U.S. support for Israel.

“U.S. bases in the region are within range of our missiles and weapons, and therefore they certainly will not cooperate with the regime,” he told IRNA.

Iran has repeatedly unnerved oil markets by threatening reprisals if it were to be attacked or its trade disrupted.

The threat against the Jewish state echoed words President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke in 2005, saying Israel “must be wiped off the page of time” – a phrase often translated as “wiped off the map” and cited by Israel to show how allowing Iran to get nuclear arms would be a threat to its existence.

The EU ban on Iranian oil imports directly deprives Iran of a market that bought 18 percent of its exports a year ago. The sanctions also bar EU companies from transporting Iranian crude or insuring shipments, hurting its trade worldwide.

“They signal our clear determination to intensify the peaceful diplomatic pressure,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

The EU sanctions come alongside stringent new measures imposed by Washington this year on third countries doing business with Iran. The United States welcomed the EU sanctions as an “essential part” of diplomatic efforts “to seek a peaceful resolution that addresses the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said he hoped the sanctions would force Tehran to make concessions in technical-level talks with six world powers later this week.

MALICIOUS POLICIES

“Iran has an opportunity to pursue substantive negotiations, beginning with expert level talks this week in Istanbul, and must take concrete steps toward a comprehensive resolution of the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear activities,” Carney said in a statement.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – foes of Iran which face it across the oil-rich Gulf – announced their own joint air force exercises on Sunday which they said would take “several days,” their state news agencies reported.

In three rounds of talks between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, the Western powers have demanded Tehran halt high-grade uranium enrichment, ship out all high-grade uranium and close a key enrichment facility.

The talks lost steam at the last meeting in Moscow last month and there was not enough common ground for negotiators to agree whether to meet again. Officials – but not political decision-makers – meet in Turkey on Tuesday.

Washington sees the sanctions and talks as a potential way out of the standoff to avert the need for military action, but has not said it would block Israel from attacking Iran.

Tehran says it has a right to peaceful nuclear technologies and is not seeking the bomb. It accuses nuclear-armed states of hypocrisy. Officials said they were taking steps to reduce the economic impact of the new sanctions.

“We are implementing programs to counter sanctions and we will confront these malicious policies,” Mehr news agency quoted Iranian central bank governor Mahmoud Bahmani as saying.

Bahmani has struggled to prevent a plunge in the value of the rial currency and steadily rising inflation as the sanctions have taken effect. He said the effects of the sanctions were tough but that Iran had built up $150 billion in foreign reserves to protect its economy.

Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said oil importing countries would be the losers if the sanctions lead to price rises.

“All possible options have been planned in government to counter sanctions,” Qasemi said on the ministry’s website.

Last Friday, another Revolutionary Guards commander, Ali Fadavi, said Iran would equip its ships in the Strait of Hormuz – the neck of the Gulf and a vital oil transit point – with shorter-range missiles.

Additional reporting by Marcus George and Isabel Coles in Dubai and by Jeff Mason in Washington; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Peter Graff

Egypt’s Morsi keen to renew long-severed Iran ties


Egypt’s Islamist President-elect Mohamed Morsi voiced interest in restoring long-severed ties with Tehran to create a strategic “balance” in the region, in an interview published on Monday with Iran’s Fars news agency.

Morsi’s comments are likely to unsettle Western powers as they try to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear program, which they suspect it is using to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies this.

Since former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a popular uprising last year, both countries have signaled their interest in renewing ties which were severed more than 30 years ago.

“We must restore normal relations with Iran based on shared interests, and expand areas of political coordination and economic cooperation because this will create a balance of pressure in the region,” Morsi was quoted as saying in a transcript of the interview.

Fars said it had spoken to Morsi a few hours before Sunday’s announcement that declared him the winner of Egypt’s presidential election.

Asked to comment on reports that, if elected, his first state visit would be to Riyadh, Morsi said: “I didn’t say such a thing and until now my first international visits following my victory in the elections have not been determined.”

Rivalry between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran has been intensified by the “Arab Spring” revolts, which have altered political certainties in the Middle East and left the powerful Gulf neighbors vying for influence.

In a message to Morsi on Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated him for winning the vote.

“I emphasize expanding bilateral ties and strengthening the friendship between the two nations,” Ahmadinejad wrote, according to state television.

Iran has hailed Morsi’s victory over former general Ahmed Shafik in Egypt’s first free presidential election as a “splendid vision of democracy” that marked the country’s “Islamic Awakening” – a phrase Iranian politicians use to describe the events of the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath.

Western diplomats say in reality Egypt has little real appetite to change relations with Iran significantly, given the substantial issues the new president already has to face in cementing relations with regional and global powers.

“Iran is hoping for Egypt to become a deterrent against an Israeli attack as well as a regional player that Iran can use as a potential counter-balance against Turkey and Saudi Arabia,” said a diplomat based in Tehran.

“Egypt, at least under present circumstances, would side with either of these against Iran.”

CAMP DAVID REVIEW

In contrast to comments Morsi made in a televised address after his victory was announced on Sunday, Fars news quoted him as saying Egypt’s Camp David peace accord with Israel “will be reviewed”, without elaborating.

The peace treaty remains a lynchpin of U.S. Middle East policy and, despite its unpopularity with many Egyptians, was staunchly upheld by Mubarak, who suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood movement to which Morsi belongs.

The Sunni Brotherhood, whose Palestinian offshoot Hamas rules the Gaza Strip, is vehemently critical of Israel, which has watched the rise of Islamists and political upheaval in neighboring Egypt with growing concern.

Egypt’s formal recognition of Israel and Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution led in 1980 to the breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two countries, among the biggest and most influential in the Middle East. They currently have reciprocal interest sections, but not at ambassadorial level.

Egypt’s foreign minister said last year that Cairo was ready to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran, which has hailed most Arab Spring uprisings as anti-Western rebellions inspired by its own Islamic Revolution.

But Iran has steadfastly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Tehran’s closest Arab ally, who is grappling with a revolt against his rule, and at home has continued to reject demands for reform, which spilled onto the street following the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Editing by Andrew Roche and Robin Pomeroy

Israel says clock ticking after Iran talks fail


Israel has responded to the failure of the latest nuclear talks between world powers and Iran with a familiar refrain: sanctions must be ramped up while the clock ticks down toward possible military action.

With diplomacy at an impasse, there is satisfaction among Israeli leaders at what they see as a tough line taken by the West in the negotiations on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israeli political sources said on Thursday.

A member of the British negotiating team quietly visited Israel on Wednesday to brief officials on this week’s Moscow talks, the sources said, and new U.S. and European sanctions against Iran are due to come into effect in the next two weeks.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak stuck closely to his stated line, without offering any new sense of urgency, when asked by the Washington Post how much more time Israel can allow for diplomacy to work.

“I don’t want to pretend to set timelines for the world,” he said, “but we have said loud and clear that it cannot be a matter of weeks but it (also) cannot be a matter of years”.

Preparations for any strike against Iran, which Israel and Western powers suspect is trying to develop the capacity to build a nuclear bomb, are closely guarded in Israel.

But Barak said that even in the United States, which has counseled against jumping the gun while a diplomatic drive with Iran is under way, “at least on a technical level, there are a lot of preparations”.

Iran and six world powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – failed to secure a breakthrough in Moscow at what was the third round of the latest diplomatic initiative, and set no date for more political talks.

DEMANDS

Last month, and again in Moscow, the powers asked Iran to close the Fordow underground facility where uranium is being enriched to 20-percent fissile purity, and to ship any stockpile out of the country, demands that come close to Israel’s.

Israeli Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Wednesday.

“I explained that after the failure of the … talks in Moscow, the West must impose a full oil embargo on Iran and tough financial sanctions,” Mofaz said on his Facebook page, adding: “In parallel, preparations for other options must continue.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not commented publicly on the Moscow talks. He had complained that the months of talking had given Iran a “freebie” to continue enrichment.

The right-wing leader has been cautioned by former Israeli security chiefs against ordering attacks on Iran, amid skepticism about how effective Israeli air strikes would be.

Iran, which has called for Israel’s demise, says its nuclear program is designed for energy production alone. Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, says a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to its existence.

Barak, in the newspaper interview, held out little hope that diplomacy would persuade Iran to bend.

“By the third meeting in a negotiation, you know whether the other party intends to reach an agreement or, alternatively, whether he is trying to play for time to avoid a decision,” he said.

“It seems to me that the Iranians keep defying and deceiving the whole world. But it’s up to the participants in the negotiations to reach this conclusion. We cannot afford to spend another three rounds of this nature just to allow the Iranians to keep maneuvering.”

Weighing into the debate, Israeli President Shimon Peres told an audience in Jerusalem: “There’s not much time. If the Iranians … don’t heed the warnings, the calls and the economic sanctions, the world will look to other options.”

Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Kevin Liffey