Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, November 12th, 2008
Syria blames Israeli bombs for uranium traces
By ALBERT AJI – 2 hours ago
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria’s foreign minister suggested Wednesday that Israeli bombs may be the source of uranium traces that diplomats at the U.N. nuclear agency said were found at a suspected nuclear site.
Walid al-Moallem said the diplomatic leaks about the traces found at the site, which was targeted by Israeli warplanes in September 2007, were politically motivated and aimed at pressuring Syria.
“No one has ever asked himself what kind of Israeli bombs had hit the site, and what did they contain?” said al-Moallem, adding that the United States has used bombs containing depleted uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“These media leaks are a clear-cut signal that the purpose was to pressure Syria. This means that the subject is not technical but rather political,” al-Moallem said at a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no comment….
Oxford Business Group, 11 November 2008
Reforms to the Syrian economy, in particular the opening up of its financial sector, have led to an expansion of the base of local and foreign investments, the prime minister told a conference in Damascus.
Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Al Otari told the Syrian Banking and Investment Conference, held from October 31-November 2, that economic, legislative, financial and administrative reforms have opened up the banking sector, making it one of the primary forces for development in the Syrian economy.
While much progress has been made, further reforms are continuing, including more autonomy for the Central Bank of Syria, strengthening the regulatory and monitoring controls for the country’s banking system and providing the necessary infrastructure for the financial sector, the prime minister said…
Moment of Truth for Shiite Party Over Pact
By HAMZA HENDAWI
The Associated Press
The fate of an agreement that would keep U.S. troops here for three more years rests with Iraq’s largest Shiite party, which must choose between its two main partners: the United States and Iran.
Most lawmakers are waiting for that party, the Supreme Islamic Iraq Council, to take a position on the agreement, which parliament must approve by the end of the year. Only then will smaller groups, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s own Shiite party, commit to the deal or oppose it.
For the moment, all the parties are off the hook. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Monday that the government is still not satisfied and wants more talks on specifics.
But once both the Iraqi and American governments declare a draft final, it will be the moment of truth for the Supreme Council…
“We are generally supportive of the agreement,” said a Supreme Council lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “But we are in a very tight spot. If we say yes, people will say we are traitors. And if we say no, they will say we are Iranian stooges.”
Another Supreme Council lawmaker, also speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason, said, “It is stupid to make an enemy of America.”
“Yes, Iran is a friend and an ally. But the agreement is in the national interest and we will accept it even over Iran’s objections,” the lawmaker said….
Was the U.S. Right About Syria Nukes?
By Andrew Lee Butters
Time, 11 November 2008
Given the Bush Administration’s track record, no one ought to have been surprised when much of the Middle East raised a skeptical eyebrow in response to Washington’s claim that the Syrian site bombed by Israeli warplanes in September of 2007 was part of a clandestine nuclear-weapons program. …. It turns out, however, that the Bush Administration may well have been right about the Syrian site. Diplomats from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told the press on Monday that the U.N.
The findings at the Syrian site have yet to be declared in any official IAEA documentation, but whatever the conclusion of the IAEA’s investigation, the deepening suspicions toward the Assad regime are coming at an increasingly complicated moment in relations between Damascus and Washington. Late last month, U.S. special forces launched a raid into eastern Syria targeting an alleged al-Qaeda weapons smuggler. In response, the Syrian government shut down an American school and cultural center in Damascus, and forced American Fulbright scholars based at Syrian institutions to leave the country. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the most recent raid was simply one of dozens that had been conducted on Syrian territory by U.S. special forces under secret orders signed by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld…
Lebanon and Syria tussle over Islamist militants
By Ferry Biedermann
Financial Times, 11 November 2008
Lebanon and Syria have become embroiled in a bitter war of words that runs counter to their recent political rapprochement and centres on mutual accusations of support for militant Islamist groups.
Syrian television last week broadcast what it said were the confessions of members of the Lebanon-based Fatah al-Islam faction, admitting responsibility for a bomb attack in Damascus in September that killed 17. The Lebanese authorities yesterday said they had arrested five of the militants on suspicion of involvement “in terrorist acts”.
The controversy arises from televised claims by the militants that they had been financed by Lebanon’s anti-Syrian Future movement. The movement, led by Saad Hariri, son of murdered former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, is Lebanon’s main Sunni political party…
Damascus, meanwhile, has repeatedly accused Salafi groups of involvement in violence in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad has sent about 10,000 troops to the border in what Syria says is an attempt to contain them.
Syria and Lebanon on Monday agreed to examine the possibility of better border controls between the two countries. The Lebanese minister of interior, on a visit to Damascus, agreed with his Syrian counterpart on the establishment of a joint commission to set up the mechanisms for co-ordinating the policing of the border and co-operation in the fight against terrorism…