1/31/2016

Minister: Iran to Reclaim Mesbah Satellite from Italy


http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13941111000989


TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran will take back a satellite seized by Italy due to the sanctions regime imposed over its peaceful nuclear program, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi said.
"Italy seized the satellite for issues related to the sanctions regime and we are in the process of reclaiming it," Vaezi told reporters in Tehran on Sunday.
In relevant remarks last October, Head of the Iranian Space Organization Mohsen Bahrami said talks were underway with Rome over the returning of the Mesbah satellite.
“Because of the sanctions, the Mesbah satellite has been held under seizure by Italy for three years now, and (currently) we are engaged in talks to take it back,” said the top space official.
He said the satellite was designed and developed over 10 years ago in cooperation with an Italian company. However, the satellite, which was at the disposal of Italy for its final test, did not get the chance to be launched into space due to the sanctions.
He said the satellite was originally supposed to be launched into space by Russians and then Indians, but “this did not happen because of the sanctions, and the Mesbah satellite has not been launched (into space) yet”.
Iran has, itself, taken long strides in recent years to develop its space industry and to build different types of satellites and explorers.
In February 2015, Iran’s domestically-made National Fajr (Dawn) Satellite was launched into orbit and started transmitting data to its stations on earth.
Equipped with GPS navigation system, Fajr, weighing 52 kilos, is the fourth Iranian-made satellite which was put into orbit after three others between 2009 and 2012.
After Iran launched its first locally-built satellite, Omid (Hope), in 2009, it put two other satellites including, Rasad (Observation), and Navid-e Elm-o Sanat (Harbinger of Science and Industry) into space.

Syria peace talks hit trouble after Damascus blast kills 60

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-blast-shiite-idUSKCN0V90E1


GENEVA 

Syria's main opposition group met U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura for the first time on Sunday, but the talks ran straight into trouble after Islamic State bombers killed more than 60 people near the country's holiest Shi'ite shrine.
Representatives of the Saudi-backed Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC) - which includes political and militant opponents of President Bashar al-Assad - warned they may yet walk away from the Geneva talks unless the suffering of civilians in the five-year conflict is eased.
The head of the Syrian government delegation retorted that the blasts in Damascus, which the Interior Ministry blamed on a car bomb and two suicide bombers, merely confirmed the link between the opposition and terrorism - even though Islamic State has been excluded from the talks.
The United Nations is aiming for six months of negotiations, first seeking a ceasefire, later working toward a political settlement to the civil war that has also killed over 250,000 people, driven more than 10 million from their homes and drawn in global powers.
Only on Friday, the HNC said it would boycott the process, insisting it wanted an end to air strikes and sieges of Syrian towns before joining the negotiations. This forced de Mistura - who invited the government and opposition umbrella group for "proximity talks", in which he would meet each side in separate rooms - to set the ball rolling with only the government delegation.
Under intense pressure, notably from the United States, the HNC later relented and arrived in Geneva on Saturday. However, the group questioned how long the delegation would stay.
"In view of the (Syrian) regime and its allies' insistence in violating the rights of the Syrian people, the presence of the HNC delegation in Geneva would not have any justification and the HNC could pull its negotiating team out," the group's coordinator, Riad Hijab, said in an online statement.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the talks - the first in two years - as long overdue. "I urge all parties to put the people of Syria at the heart of their discussions, and above partisan interests," he said on a visit to Ethiopia.
A spokeswoman for de Mistura said the U.N. mediator had met the opposition delegation at its hotel, while his deputy Ramzi Ezzedine Ramzi visited the government delegates at theirs. The talks will continue on Monday.
"TOTAL" SIEGES
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged both sides to seize the opportunity to make progress. "In the end there is no military solution to the conflict," he said in a televised statement.
However, opposition delegate Bassma Kodmani denied that her side was ready yet to negotiate. "We only came to Geneva after receiving assurances and commitments ... that there would be serious progress on the humanitarian situation," she told a news conference. "We can't start political negotiations until we have those gestures."
The Syrian government's delegation head in Geneva, Bashar al-Jaafari, said the government was considering moves such as the creation of humanitarian corridors, ceasefires and prisoner releases, but suggested they might come about as a result of the talks, not before them.
"Absolutely, this is part of the agenda that we agreed upon and that will be one of the very important topics we will discuss among ourselves as Syrian citizens," Jaafari said.
Russian air strikes have killed nearly 1,400 civilians since Moscow started its aerial campaign in support of Assad nearly four months ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said on Saturday.
Kodmani said the bombings had increased in the last week. "In preparations for the negotiations everything has intensified. The sieges have become total," she said, adding later that her delegation was likely to stay at least three to four days in Geneva.

Moscow has objected to two Islamist rebel groups, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, taking any part in the talks. However, a negotiator from Jaish al-Islam, Mohamed Alloush, told Reuters he was going to Geneva to show that the Syrian government was not serious about seeking a political solution.

Big, bad Visegrad



http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21689629-migration-crisis-has-given-unsettling-new-direction-old-alliance-big-bad-visegrad?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/ed/bigbadvisegard

The migration crisis has given an unsettling new direction to an old alliance



WHEN Middle Eastern refugees began arriving in Europe last year, Martina Scheibova, a consultant in Prague, felt sympathy for them. Now she is less sure. They create a “clash of cultures”, she says anxiously. Such fears are shared by many Europeans. But unlike Germans or Swedes, Ms Scheibova is unlikely to encounter many refugees. Czech public opinion is solidly against taking in asylum-seekers; Milos Zeman, the Czech Republic’s populist president, calls Muslim refugees “practically impossible” to integrate. In the past year, the country has accepted just 520.
The backlash against refugees can be felt across Europe. Xenophobic parties are at record levels in polls in Sweden and the Netherlands, and even in Germany the Eurosceptic, far-right Alternative für Deutschland party is polling in double digits. But central Europe’s response has been particularly strong. Anti-migrant sentiment has unified the “Visegrad group” of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic—normally a disparate bunch who agree on some subjects (like opposing Europe’s climate policies) but are divided on others (like Russia). Rather than noisy opposition groups, it is governments in these countries who trumpet some of the most extreme views. And they are taking advantage of anti-migrant fervour to implement an illiberal agenda on other fronts, too.
Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, has been the loudest of the anti-immigrant voices. Mr Orban began inveighing against migrants early in 2015, after the Charlie Hebdoattacks in Paris, when the numbers arriving in Europe were still relatively low. His government now wants to introduce anti-terror laws that worry civil libertarians, though the details are vague. Fidesz, Mr Orban’s party, pioneered Europe’s illiberal wave: when it came to power in 2010 it limited the constitutional court’s powers, packed it with cronies and introduced a new constitution. Fidesz changed the electoral system, helping it win again in 2014, says Andras Biro-Nagy of Policy Solutions, a think-tank. A new media regulator was set up, headed by a Fidesz stalwart. Public television channels were stuffed with pro-Fidesz journalists, while foreign media were taxed more heavily than domestic ones. (The tax was rescinded after criticism from the main foreign channel, RTL Klub.)
For Visegrad, the game-changer was the November election victory in Poland of the nationalist conservative Law and Justice party (PiS). Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the party leader, has admired Mr Orban for years. Konrad Szymanski, the deputy foreign minister for European affairs, says Poland now plans to beef up its co-operation with the Visegrad group. The government is dead against any further European deals to allocate refugees among member states. Meanwhile, since taking power in November, PiS has sacked the heads of the security and intelligence services, weakened the constitutional tribunal (and packed it with its own supporters), and passed a new media law that lets it install loyalists to head the public radio and TV channels. The European Commission is examining whether all this violates Poland’s commitments to the rule of law.
Politics in Slovakia and the Czech Republic are a bit different, but in both countries politicians have jumped on the issue of refugees. In December Robert Fico, the prime minister of Slovakia (who is seeking re-election in March), launched a legal challenge to the EU’s migration policy, which he describes as “ritual suicide”. (Hungary filed a challenge soon after.) Bohuslav Sobotka, the Czech prime minister, is less bombastic than Mr Zeman, but he too rejects refugee quotas. Conditions for those already in the country are shoddy.
These populist politics have been a hit with voters. Last spring Fidesz was falling in the polls, while support for Jobbik, a far-right party, was surging. Today Fidesz would win a majority again. Support for Mr Fico’s Smer party had stalled last year, but since the refugee crisis erupted it has been rising. PiS’s support base is among disgruntled older voters, who are particularly fearful of immigration. This week, at a meeting staged by a conservative group in Warsaw on whether Poland was threatened by a “colour revolution”, the question of what to call refugees came up. A woman in the audience suggested “invaders”. A speaker opted for “Islamists”.
The newfound unity between the four countries delights populist politicians. “Probably the only good thing in the whole migration crisis is that the V4 [Visegrad group] has found a common voice and strategy,” says Marton Gyongyosi of Jobbik. The group “allows three small countries to punch above their weight”, says Gyorgy Schopflin, a Fidesz MEP.
The Visegrad group once aimed to accelerate its members’ integration into the EU. Its turn towards illiberalism presents Europe with a problem. Since new rules came into force in 2014, the group no longer has a blocking minority in the European Council. But it can cause headaches, particularly if it influences neighbours such as Romania or Bulgaria. Meanwhile, polls show trust in the EU has fallen in all four countries. In fact, Visegrad countries rely heavily on EU funding—it amounted to 6% of GDP in Hungary in 2013. Yet many are disappointed in Europe. “People thought we would have the same living standards as Austrians or Britons,” says Ferenc Gyurcsany, who served as Hungary’s prime minister from 2004 to 2009.
Rising Euroscepticism could backfire on the group. Informal talks on the next multi-year EU budget have begun, and Germany has hinted that it will favour countries that share the burden of refugees. Already many European officials are growing impatient with the group. Milan Nic of the Central European Policy Institute recalls the days when Austrian politicians, for example, used to talk about the Visegrad group with respect. “Nowadays”, he says, “Visegrad is like a bad word.”

1/30/2016

Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia hit by gun and bomb attack

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/29/shia-mosque-attacked-saudi-arabia

Reuters in Dubai
At least four people dead after one suicide bomber blew himself up and a second attacker was reportedly overpowered by worshippers
A suicide bomb and gun attack on Shia worshippers has killed at least four people in eastern Saudi Arabia, the interior ministry said, extending a spate of attacks on the kingdom’s Shia minority. 
At least 18 people were wounded in the assault on the Imam Rida mosque in the Eastern province town of Mahasen, a mixed Sunni-Shia district.
There was no claim of responsibility, but it resembled previous attacks by Sunni militants from Islamic State on Shias. The oil-producing Eastern province is home to Saudi Arabia’s Shia community.
This month Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia executed 47 people, most of them al-Qaida militants convicted of terrorist attacks as well as the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
The interior ministry said security forces had prevented two suicide bombers from entering the Mahasen mosque. One bomber blew himself up outside, killing four people. Security forces exchanged fire with the second attacker and arrested him.
Witnesses said worshippers overpowered the second attacker after he opened fire in the mosque, where 200 people were performing Friday prayers.
“The explosion happened outside the mosque, at the courtyard of the mosque, while another one entered with a machine gun. There are martyrs and wounded,” one witness said in an audio message circulated on social media.
“The young men grabbed his machine gun and beat him up, but he did not die. The police then came and took him away and the wounded were taken in private cars because ambulance cars did not arrive quickly.”
Another witness, speaking to Reuters by telephone, said a third attacker was believed to have been involved and that he may have fled. 
A video recording provided by activists showed a crowd surrounding a man prone on the floor, turning him over and unfastening what they said was a suicide belt around his waist. 
Saudi Arabia has suffered a string of deadly gun and bomb attacks in recent months, many of them claimed by Islamic State.
Islamic State is bitterly hostile towards Gulf Arab monarchies and is seen to be trying to stoke Sunni-Shia sectarian confrontation within Arabian peninsula states to destabilise and ultimately overthrow their dynasties. It considers Shias to be heretics.

1/29/2016

Saudi Arabia: Attack on a mosque in Saudi Shia, video capture bomber

فيديو: لحظة القبض على مطلق النار في مسجد الإمام الرضا "ع" في

1/28/2016

Quella difficile sfida al gigante cinese

http://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/commenti-e-idee/2016-01-27/quella-difficile-sfida-gigante-cinese--074806.shtml?uuid=ACmZDDIC

di 27 gennaio 2016


Quella tra Hassan Rohani e Matteo Renzi in Campidoglio è stata una conversazione franca, condotta tutta in inglese, senza intermediari. E Renzi non ha rinunciato a ricordare i legami familiari di Rohani con l'Italia. il presidente iraniano però è stato assai chiaro con il capo del governo: «Servono soft loans, crediti favorevoli e garanzie bancarie, abbiamo bisogno di soldi per chiudere i contratti con l'Italia». In poche parole i fondi li portiamo noi e poi ci saranno, e già ci sono, grandi prospettive in Iran. «Li avrete», è stata la risposta di Renzi. Questo questo vale per gli italiani e per tutti gli altri partner europei, francesi compresi: senza però farsi troppe illusioni. Negli anni delle sanzioni il posto dell'Europa in Iran è stato occupato da altri e da un gigante al quale sarà complicato se non quasi impossibile fare concorrenza: la Cina. L'Iran guarda a Ovest ma va a Est. Le cifre sono da di Alberto Negri - Il Sole 24 Ore - leggi su http://24o.it/B9JJrt

Corruption around the world

Corruption around the world, in 6 maps and charts
Collegamento permanente dell'immagine integrata

1/27/2016

Germany Backtracks on Condemnation of Saudi Executions, Agrees to Sell Arms

http://sputniknews.com/world/20160126/1033722929/germany-arms-sale-saudi-arabia.html

Despite its threat earlier this month to restrict arms exports to Saudi Arabia, the German government has nevertheless given permission for the construction of boats for the Saudi navy, Der Spiegel reported.

Despite threats from the German government to restrict arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including the delivery of defensive armaments, Germany's Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel has nevertheless agreed to the sale of arms to Riyadh, Der Spiegel reported on Monday.
The newspaper reported that Gabriel, who doubles as Germany's vice-chancellor and head of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), has been vocal in his criticism of Riyadh but has recently proved reluctant to match his decisions to the rhetoric.
"Only in December he (Gabriel) caused a small diplomatic scandal when he made a public accusation against the major partner in the Syrian talks, saying that mosques in Germany financed by Saudi Arabia are focal points for potential terrorists," Spiegel wrote.
Regarding arms sales, Gabriel told Spiegel on January 4 that "now we need to check if also we need to assess more critically the future sale of defensive armaments to Saudi Arabia, which so far we have been supplying."
"This shows that it was right to deliver neither battle tanks nor G36 assault rifles to Saudi Arabia," declared Gabriel.
Sigmar Gabriel and Saudi Arabia: Speech is Silver, Weapons are Gold,' Der Spiegel reported.
On January 5 the German federal government stated that it "noted with dismay" Saudi Arabia's execution of 47 prisoners on January 2, a move which inflamed sectarian conflict in the Middle East. 
The German government said the execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr "could also worsen religious and political tensions in the region," and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for "deescalation" and "dialogue."
The government "noted with great regret" that Saudi Arabia had broken off diplomatic relations with Iran. 
"Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, however turbulent they may be, are fundamental to resolving the crises in Syria and Yemen and to achieving stability across the entire region," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
The statement also mentioned the possibility of greater restrictions on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and cited the example of the G36 assault rifle, which it has refused to sell to Saudi Arabia. 
"Exports of military equipment are one instrument in foreign and security policy … the German government takes a restrictive approach to any exports of military equipment to the Gulf region." ​
However, despite the announcements, last week the Minister for Economic Affairs admitted that a 1.5 billion euro deal between Germany and Saudi Arabia for the construction of 15 patrol boats for the Saudi navy is nevertheless going ahead, and that construction of the boats has begun at the Lurssen shipyard in northern Germany. 
The revelation came in response to a question in the Bundestag from one of the Green Party's representatives, Agnieszka Brugger.
"Instead of making ever more big media announcements, the vice-chancellor should finally end irresponsible arms deals with Saudi Arabia," Brugger told Spiegel.


Read more: http://sputniknews.com/world/20160126/1033722929/germany-arms-sale-saudi-arabia.html#ixzz3yRyhgBkf

Bahrain court sentences 57 men to 15-year terms for prison violence

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-bahrain-security-court-idUSKCN0V31DU


A Bahraini court sentenced 57 men to 15-year jail terms on Monday for rioting in a prison outside the capital Manama last March, the public prosecutor's office said.
Bahraini security forces tear-gassed and beat inmates at Jaw prison on Mar. 8 while trying to quell clashes that erupted during family visits, local human rights group Bahrain Youth Society for Human rights said at the time.
Bahrain's public prosecutor said in a statement that the convicts had "unleashed acts of chaos, riots and rebellion inside (prison) buildings".
Jaw prison is the main facility for hundreds of people jailed over participation in anti-government protests, political violence, or involvement in armed attacks on security forces or civilians.
Bahrain, a small island state linked to Saudi Arabia by a 25 km (15 mile) causeway, is strategically important to the West as it hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
Tensions have flared in the kingdom since the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprisings led to protests in which Bahrain's Shi'ite majority demanded more rights from the Sunni monarchy. Saudi Arabia's Sunni Muslim rulers also accuse Iran's Shi'ite leadership of trying to stir unrest.
Charges in the prison riot included damaging public property, attacking police, arson and resisting authorities.
Pictures posted on social media of the prison had shown a person with a bandaged head and a man with a bleeding arm. Other photos showed young men standing in a room with overturned furniture or strewn with plastic bags.
It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the photographs, or where they were taken.
Mohammed al-Tajer, the lawyer, lamented the outcome and said that alleged violence against the inmates was ignored.
"We raised a complaint that our clients were beaten during the unrest in Jaw prison, but the court sentenced them at the end of the day, ignoring these complaints.

(Reporting By Gulf Bureau; editing by Dominic Evans)