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Archive for June 19th, 2007

North Korea has finally received millions of dollars at the heart of a dispute that stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations, and must quickly shut down its only reactor, the U.S. envoy to the negotiations said Tuesday.

About $25 million in North Korean funds were frozen in a Macau bank blacklisted by the United States over allegations of money-laundering and other financial crimes. The financial dispute halted nuclear negotiations for more than a year, and the U.S. approved the release of the money this year to help end the standoff.

“My understanding is that today it was deposited in a North Korean account in Russia,” U.S. envoy Christopher Hill told reporters in Tokyo.

“I think this is the time when everyone needs to kind of quicken the pace and work very hard” toward disarmament, he said. “We’re going to really have to pick up the pace if we’re to get back on our timelines.”

Hill told reporters that the transfer involved “the total amount” of disputed North Korean funds, and said it was “something like $23 million.”

It was not clear why the amount was different from previously reported.

Hill, on a regional tour to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo, had said he hoped to see a shutdown “within weeks, not months.”

Russia’s Interfax-China news agency cited an unidentified North Korean official on Monday as saying Pyongyang plans to shut down the reactor in the second half of July.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, plans to send inspectors to North Korea next week, possibly as early as Monday, to discuss how to monitor and verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, as agreed to by Pyongyang under a February agreement.

Hill said he said he has been in contact with the IAEA and it understands the “need to move quickly.”

Under a deal reached in Beijing with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, North Korea had pledged to shut down the reactor by the middle of April. No new deadline was set, however, after Pyongyang missed the first deadline due to the banking dispute.

South Korean officials said, meanwhile, that North Korea had fired a short-range missile toward waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan but the test — the third since late May — would not hinder the disarmament negotiations.

The officials said the range of the missile was about 62 miles and the launch was believed to be part of “routine drills.”

North Korea fires short-range missile: NHK | Top News | Reuters.com

North Korea has fired a short-range missile towards the Sea of Japan, public broadcaster NHK said on Tuesday.

Quoting a Japanese government source, NHK said one missile was fired earlier in the day, adding that it was not a ballistic missile.

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Dissident leaders historic peaceful march for liberation of political prisoners in Cuba

Marta Beatriz Roque, the Cuban economist who has become one of the most prominent dissidents in that country, led a peaceful march this past weekend to demand the release of Jose Antonio Mola Porro, a political prisoner sentenced to two years in jail.

Roque, who has herself been imprisoned and harassed for her efforts to bring democracy back to Cuba, led a group of over 70 dissidents who demanded the unconditional release of Mola Porro, who was released in 2006 but was taken back to prison in November of that year for participating in the Congress of Independent Libraries.

Last May 14 he should have been released, but without any trial he was sentenced to another year in prison.

The unprecedented peaceful march led by Roque reached the Attorney General’s office of the Camaguey Province, where Mola Porro’s wife presented a request for his release, while the 70 dissidents remained outside under intense scrutiny by state police officers.

Stefania has posted some photos of the march.

protesta en Camaguey (CUBA)

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I wrote some days ago about the possibility of Hamas imposing Sharia Law and how it was feared both by Israelis and Palestinians. Well, it is happening just now:

WorldNetDaily: Christians warned: Accept Islamic law

Christians can continue living safely in the Gaza Strip only if they accept Islamic law, including a ban on alcohol and on women roaming publicly without proper head coverings, an Islamist militant leader in Gaza told WND in an exclusive interview.

The militant leader said Christians in Gaza who engage in “missionary activity” will be “dealt with harshly.”

The threats come two days after a church and Christian school in Gaza was attacked following the seizure of power in the territory by the Hamas terror group.

“I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza,” said Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a “military wing” to enforce Muslim law in Gaza.

Jihadia Salafiya is suspected of attacking a United Nations school in Gaza last month, after the school allowed boys and girls to participate in the same sporting event. One person was killed in that attack.

“The situation has now changed 180 degrees in Gaza,” said Abu Saqer, speaking from Gaza yesterday.

“Jihadia Salafiya and other Islamic movements will ensure Christian schools and institutions show publicly what they are teaching to be sure they are not carrying out missionary activity. No more alcohol on the streets. All women, including non-Muslims, need to understand they must be covered at all times while in public,” Abu Asqer told WND.

“Also the activities of Internet cafes, pool halls and bars must be stopped,” he said. “If it goes on, we’ll attack these things very harshly.”

Abu Saqer accused the leadership of the Gaza Christian community of “proselytizing and trying to convert Muslims with funding from American evangelicals.”

Read all…

Anyway, West offers cash and talks to keep Abbas in charge as partner for peace-News-World-Middle East-TimesOnline

America and the European Union moved swiftly to shore up Palestinian moderates yesterday, releasing millions of dollars for the new Government based in the West Bank.

Washington and Brussels announced the lifting of economic sanctions after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, sacked all members of Hamas, the militant Islamic group, which staged last week’s bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip. In a telephone call yesterday President Bush told Mr Abbas that the US would support “Palestinian moderates”.

Later Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, reaffirmed America’s commitment to the “two-state solution” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, first promised by Mr Bush five years ago. Palestinians faced a choice, she said, between pursuing more violence or peace and a better life.

The US has recognised Mr Abbas and his new Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, as the legitimate leaders of the West Bank and Gaza. Dr Rice promised yesterday that this meant the US would resume normal “government-to-government contacts”.

And from Infidel Bloggers Alliance: Stupid request of the day:

B’Tselem demands that perpetrators of war crimes in Gaza be tried and warns against revenge attacks in the West Bank
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem today calls on the Palestinian leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip to investigate all war crimes that may have been committed during the clashes in the Gaza Strip, and to bring all suspects to criminal trial.

This happens as Abbas’ aide Yasser Abed accused Iran of being responsible of fomenting the Hamas seizure in Gaza. h/t Desde el Exilio.

UPDATE: GayandRight: Christians under attach in Gaza… Who is going to defend this people??

Father Manuel Musalam, leader of the small Latin community in the Gaza Strip, said masked gunmen torched and looted the Rosary Sisters School and the Latin Church.

The masked gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the main entrances of the school and church,” he said. “Then they destroyed almost everything inside, including the Cross, the Holy
Book, computers and other equipment
.”

Musalam expressed outrage over the burning of copies of the Bible, noting that the gunmen destroyed all the Crosses inside the church and school. “Those who did these awful things have no respect for Christian-Muslim relations,” he said.

When are going to be the next outraged Christian riots when we will burn Hamas flag? 😦 This is despicable…

(Reuters) – Israel plans to tighten a financial clampdown on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that would choke off all but humanitarian and basic supplies, senior Israeli and Western officials said on Tuesday.
While opening the funding taps to the Western-backed emergency government set up by President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank,
Israel and the United States want to isolate Hamas financially, diplomatically and militarily in the Gaza Strip, which the Islamist group seized by force last week.
To that end, two senior Israeli officials said the plan was to bar Palestinian tax funds transferred to Abbas from reaching Gaza to run Hamas-led agencies and pay workers.
Gaza is a terrorist-controlled entity now,” said one of the Israeli officials, who is working with U.S. officials to isolate Hamas. “No financial assistance can go to any entity or person with connections to the Hamas-run administration in Gaza.”

The humanitarian crisis is going to be outstanding. After last year 14.000 Palestinians flee, now Gazans stream to crossing with Israel – Yahoo! News

Hundreds of terrified Gazans fleeing Hamas rule were trapped at a main crossing with Israel on Tuesday, hoping to gain permission to pass through Israeli territory to sanctuary in the West Bank.

Fearing death or persecution, Gazans began flocking to the Erez passage after Hamas militants wrested control of the coastal strip from Fatah security forces late last week. Israel, which has no interest in letting masses of Gazans pass through its territory and possibly destabilize the quieter West Bank, has refused to let most of them in, saying their lives were not in danger.
By Tuesday, about 600 people were holed up in the long, concrete tunnel that leads to the Israeli side of the crossing. Around 100 people belonged to Fatah security forces, but the rest were civilians, seeking a better life in the West Bank.
Women, children and young men sat between two high concrete walls about 10 yards apart, looking tired and sweaty. Suitcases and trash were strewn on the ground. Some families sat on mats, others on bare concrete. A breeze barely stirred between the walls, and the tunnel, which has no toilets, reeked of urine and sweat.
On Monday, gunmen allied with Hamas disguised themselves as fleeing civilians and hurled hand grenades at Israeli soldiers and Palestinians at Erez, killing a relative of a slain Fatah warlord, and injuring 15 other Palestinians.

UPDATE 3: More about Palestinians fleeing from Israel: My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Palestinians run as they try to cross to the Israel side at the Erez Crossing, in the northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 16, 2007. Dozens of Palestinians converged on the Erez crossing with Israel on Saturday, trying to leave the Gaza Strip following Hamas’ takeover. At the same time, hundreds of people looted police positions on the Palestinian side of Erez, and at one point Israeli troops fired in the air to keep the crowd at bay. The looters walked off with furniture and scrap metal. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

UPDATE 4: Also read Jules Crittenden’s “Enemy of my Enemy” h/t Abdul in Freedom’s Zone. Abdul writes:

Conveniently, the word Fatah (or Fath) was a specific label Muslims ascribed to the bloody and barbaric expansion of Islam by the sword over its first hundred years (Hmmmm – there’s aclue here somewhere as to their intentions). As an organization, Fatah is one of many borne out of the Muslim Brotherhood. Fatah logo contains two crossed assault rifles superimposed on the land of Israel covered in Islamic green. Qur’anic slogans on the graphic depiction of Fatah’s mission encourages jihad. These days, Fatah conducts its terrorist missions under the name al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. As one writer phrases it, if Fatah was Nazism, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades would be the SS. For those who have lived in a cave since WW-II, this is not something that denotes love and kindness, and tolerance of Jews and infidels that don’t follow the radical line.

UPDATE 5: Don’t laugh: Catholic World News : Gaza convent sacked; Hamas condemns action

Gaza, Jun. 19, 2007 (CWNews.com) – On June 14, a school administered by the Sisters of the Holy Rosary was demolished in the Gaza Strip. In the chapel adjoining the sisters’ convent, the crucifix and a statue of Christ were broken and prayer books burned.

Father Manuel Mussallam, the only Catholic priest currently living in Gaza, denounced the sacking of the school and convent, describing it to AsiaNews as a “barbaric act.” The incident occurred during the course of fighting between two Palestinian factions: al Fatah and Hamas.

Although the school and convent are located near a police station, a spokesman for Hamas– which now controls the Gaza Strip– said that the group was not responsible for the violence against the Catholic nuns. Salah Bardawil said: “The Christians are our brothers in Gaza and everywhere, and we will protect their holy places and school, as we do our Islamic schools.”

We will protect every Christian in the earth the moment they submit. In the meantime, we will ransack their places… to remind them who is in charge…

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-Comment-Faith-TimesOnline

Sir Salman Rushdie celebrates his 60th birthday today in familiar circumstances: he is once again the subject of death threats across the Islamic world.

Eighteen years after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill him, a government minister in Pakistan said yesterday that Rushdie’s recent knighthood justified suicide bombing.

The question of blasphemy in The Satanic Verses, Rushdie’s 1988 tale of a prophet misled by the devil, remains a deeply sensitive issue in much of the Muslim world and the author’s inclusion in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last week has inflamed anti-British sentiment.

Gerald Butt, editor of the authoritative Middle East Economic Survey, told The Times: “It will be interpreted as an action calculated to goad Muslims at a time when the atmosphere is already very tense and Britain’s standing in the region is very low because of its involvement in Iraq and its lack of action in tackling the Palestine issue.”
Hardliners in Iran revived calls for his murder yesterday. Mehdi Kuchakzadeh, a Tehran MP, declared: “Rushdie died the moment the late Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] issued the fatwa.”

The Organisation to Commemorate Martyrs of the Muslim World, a fringe hardline group, offered a reward of $150,000 (£75,000) to any successful assassin.

Forouz Rajaefar, the group’s secretary general, said: “The British and the supporters of the anti-Islam Salman Rushdie could rest assured that the writer’s nightmare will not end until the moment of his death and we will bestow kisses on the hands of whomsoever is able to execute this apostate.”

Effigies of Rushdie and the Queen were burnt in Pakistan, where presidential elections at the end of the year have destablised an already volatile political climate. Hundreds of protesters in Multan, Karachi and Lahore set fire to British flags and chanted “Death to Britain, death to Rushdie” and Islamist leaders called for nationwide protests after Friday prayers.

Burning Shalman’s efigy.

Burning Queen Elisabeth II’s effigy.

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h/t Confessions of a Closet Republican.

Also read the Project of the Muslim Brotherhood h/t Desde el Exilio and the Turkish Islamist party’s project for Europe h/t Free Thoughts.

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