Friday, August 31, 2012

ANALYSIS_ AP Analysis: Syria diplomacy stalls over safe zone

AP Analysis: Syria diplomacy stalls over safe zone



A Syrian man, who fled his home in Aleppo, due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his son while going to collect water from a tanker, as they take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

By ROBERT H. REID Associated Press
/ August 31, 2012


Read more:
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/2012/08/31/analysis-syria-diplomacy-stalls-over-safe-zone/nJcNlFquWSkz9MuolQ88eL/story.html




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WORLD_ Syria crisis: Turkey calls for 'safe haven' – Friday 31 August 2012

Syria crisis: Turkey calls for 'safe haven' – Friday 31 August 2012

• Security council dubious about Turkish plan
• Egyptian stance on Syria increases Iran's isolation
• Missing US journalist still alive, father believes

Brian Whitaker
guardian.co.uk, Friday 31 August 2012 08.57 BST
Jump to comments (186)


A Free Syrian Army fighter gestures during fighting with government forces in the El Amreeyeh district of Aleppo yesterday. Photograph: Yousself Boudal/Reuters


16:09 BST

Summary of the latest developments

• The UN security council has been discussing a Turkish call to create a safe haven inside Syria for people fleeing the conflict. However, the security council seems unlikely to agree.

Meanwhile, France has announced plans to support "liberated zones" inside Syria – though it is unclear how these might be protected.

• UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has told Syria that fighting must stop, "with the primary responsibility resting on the government to halt its use of heavy weapons".

• Rebel fighters have been attacking security compounds and bases in and around Aleppo. Activists have told AP this is part of "a major operation".

• The father of American journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria earlier this month, has said he believes his son is alive. The Committee to Protect Journalists says there is "a strong indication" that Tice is being held by the Syrian government.

• Syrian civilians' living conditions are worsening dramatically and it is becoming harder to obtain food and other basic needs, the International Committee of the Red Cross said today.

• Etihad, the UAE airline, has suspended flights from Abu Dhabi to Damascus because of "the deteriorating security position".


Read more:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2012/aug/31/syria-crisis-bashar-al-assad?newsfeed=true




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WORLD_ Missing US journalist 'detained by Syrian government'

Missing US journalist 'detained by Syrian government'


The father of American journalist Austin Tice, who went missing while working in one of Syria's most volatile regions, said on Thursday that he believed his son is alive and being detained by the Syrian government.



American journalist Austin Tice Photo: AFP/Getty Images

7:01AM BST 31 Aug 2012
The Telegraph

From his home in Houston, Marc Tice said on Thursday that he was working with his son's editors at The Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers.

"We have a belief that he's in Syrian custody, but we have not heard from the only people who would know for sure. That's the Syrians," he told The Associated Press in a Thursday telephone interview.

The father expressed gratitude to those working on his son's behalf but declined to comment further on the situation. However, in a statement to The Post and McClatchy, the Tice family said, "Austin is our precious son, and we beseech the Syrian government to treat him well and return him safely to us as soon as possible."

Austin Tice worked as a freelance journalist for both media organisations. They reported Thursday that the Czech Republic ambassador to Syria had reported that Tice was alive.

"Our sources report that he is alive and that he was detained by government forces on the outskirts of Damascus, where the rebels were fighting government troops," Ambassador Eva Filipi was quoted as telling Czech television. The Czech embassy staff in Syria will continue to seek information about Tice, she said.

Related Articles
 _
Syrian fighters 'take part of airbase and shoot down bomber' - 30 Aug 2012
 _ Morsi tells Iran that Syria's Assad must go - 30 Aug 2012
 _ Rebels claim downing of Syrian jet fighter - 30 Aug 2012

A State Department official says the US is seeking information through Czech officials, who represent U.S. interests in Syria since the U.S. closed its embassy in Damascus.

The Czechs have yet to provide the US with any information, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.

Tice recently spent time with rebel fighters in Syria and has not been heard from in nearly three weeks.

The 31-year-old former Marine was living in Washington before heading overseas, and had been attending law school at Georgetown University between deployments and his latest reporting trip, his father has said.

"We welcome any news about Austin, after three long weeks without word," Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy vice president for news, said in a statement. "If he is in fact being held by the Syrian government, we would expect that he is being well cared for and that he will quickly be released."

In a statement of his own, Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said, "If the reports are true, we urge these authorities to release him promptly, unharmed."

Source: agencies



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Thursday, August 30, 2012

WORLD_ Egypt says Syria's "oppressive regime" must go

Egypt says Syria's "oppressive regime" must go

By Yeganeh Torbati and Khaled Yacoub Oweis | Reuters – 1 hr 33 mins ago

DUBAI/AMMAN (Reuters) - Egypt called on Thursday for intervention to halt bloodshed in Syria, telling a meeting of 120 nations it was their duty to stand against the "oppressive regime" of Bashar al-Assad, prompting a Syrian walkout.



Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover after Syrian forces fired a mortar in the El Amreeyeh neighborhood of Syria's northwestern city of Aleppo August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal


President Mohamed Mursi, elected two months ago after a popular uprising toppled Egypt's long-standing leader Hosni Mubarak, said Assad had lost legitimacy in his fight to crush a 17-month-old revolt in which 20,000 people have been killed.

Mursi's scathing speech to a summit of non-aligned leaders, hosted by Assad's Shi'ite ally Iran, prompted Syria's foreign minister to accuse the moderate Sunni Islamist leader of inciting further bloodshed in Syria.

The political broadside against the Syrian president came as rebels said they shot down a fighter plane in northern Syria, where his air force has been bombarding opposition-held towns in a fierce counter-offensive against insurgents.

It was the latest strike by Assad's foes on the air power he has increasingly relied on to crush the uprising. Rebels said this week they attacked a northern military air base and shot down a helicopter that was bombarding a district of Damascus.

"The bloodshed in Syria is our responsibility on all our shoulders and we have to know that the bloodshed cannot stop without effective interference from all of us," Mursi said.

"We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom."

His comments prompted Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem to storm out of the meeting, complaining that Mursi was inciting fighters to "continue shedding Syrian blood", Syrian state television said.

ASSAD SAYS NEEDS TIME

Assad, in his first television interview since rebels took their fight into the heart of Damascus and the country's biggest city, Aleppo, said on Wednesday his fight to put down the uprising was going well but needed more time.

"Everyone wants this battle to be completed in days or weeks but this isn't reasonable, because we are in the middle of a regional and international struggle and it needs time to be resolved," he said.

Mainly peaceful protests were met with force by Assad's military, and the uprising has degenerated into a civil war with sectarian overtones and regional dimensions. The mainly Sunni Muslim rebels are backed by regional Sunni powers, particularly Gulf Arab states and Turkey.

Assad, whose Alawite community is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, has support from Iran, a rival of Gulf Arab states and Western powers. Lebanon's Shi'ite militia Hezbollah has also shown solidarity with the Syrian president.

The role of regional powers has assumed greater significance because of deadlock at U.N. Security Council, where diplomatic stalemate has marginalized the major powers.

U.S., Russian and Chinese ministers are not expected to attend Thursday's U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria, underlining the fact that both Assad's critics and backers on the council see little prospect of it taking any action.

"We wanted a resolution on humanitarian issues, but we faced a double refusal," said a French diplomat, whose country will chair the meeting in New York.

"The United States and Britain believe we have reached the end of what can be achieved at the Security Council, and Moscow and Beijing said that such a resolution would have been biased."

Nearly a year and a half after the uprising erupted, Assad's political foes are equally divided.

A member of the Syrian National Council, which once hoped to win international endorsement as the country's leadership-in-waiting, resigned this week complaining it was not doing enough to back the revolt and must be replaced by a new political authority.

"My sense was that the SNC was not up to facing the increasing challenges on the ground," Basma Kodmani, the latest council member to break from the SNC, told Reuters.


PLANE "SHOT DOWN"

The Syrian Martyrs Brigade said on Thursday it brought down a plane near the town of al-Thayabiya. Video footage on Al Arabiya television showed what appeared to be smoke in the sky and a person parachuting down. An army helicopter hovered over the area, apparently in search of the pilot.

"The brigade has started targeting the regime's air assets, including military airports," a member of the group said from Idlib, declining to give further details.

As well as targeting rebels, Assad's jets and artillery have also struck at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo province in the last three weeks, killing dozens of people as they waited in line to buy bread, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said.

It said the attacks were either deliberate or done without care to avoid the hundreds of civilians forced to queue outside a dwindling number of bakeries in Syria's biggest city, a front line in the civil war.

One attack two weeks ago killed around 60 people and wounded more than 70, it said.

The fighting around Aleppo, Damascus and the southern province of Deraa, where protests against Assad first erupted in March 2011, has prompted waves of refugees to flood into neighboring Turkey and Jordan.

Turkey urged the United Nations to protect displaced Syrians inside their own country, to take the pressure off its crowded refugee camps, and France said it was studying the issue of buffer zones in Syria, an idea Assad dismissed as unrealistic.

(Additional reporting by John Irish at the United Nations, Erika Solomon in Beirut, Marcus George in Dubai; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Jon Boyle)


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POLITICS_ John McCain: Obama ‘AWOL’ on slaughter in Syria

John McCain: Obama ‘AWOL’ on slaughter in Syria



'I’m astonished he wants America to lead from behind,' McCain says. | AP Photo


By KEVIN CIRILLI | 8/29/12 9:13 PM EDT


Sen. John McCain said Wednesday that President Barack Obama “is AWOL” on Syria, sitting by and watching people there get “slaughtered.”

“I just thought that the president wouldn’t be this bad on national security issues,” the 2008 GOP presidential nominee said on MSNBC after his speech at the Republican National Convention. “I had no idea that he would sit by and watch people slaughtered without even saying a word about it. I am astonished that he doesn’t believe in American Exceptionalism. I’m astonished he wants America to lead from behind.”

McCain believes that this year’s GOP nominees, Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, agree with him.

“I think they obviously are embarrassed, as I am, that the president of the United States won’t even speak up. When was the last time the president spoke up for these people, much less did something about it?” McCain asked. “So I’m sure their view is very different from the president, who is AWOL. In case you missed what that means: ‘Absence Without Official Leave.’”


Read more:
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/80408.html#ixzz2528dTqNu




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WORLD_ U.N. points finger at Iran over arms supply to Syria

U.N. points finger at Iran over arms supply to Syria


By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS | Wed Aug 22, 2012 3:30pm EDT


UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran appears to be supplying Syria with weapons, the United Nations said on Wednesday, as the 17-month conflict that began as a popular uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad slides deeper into civil war.


The U.N. accusation backs charges by Western officials that Iran is providing funds, weapons and intelligence support to Assad in his bid to crush the opposition. Syrian rebels also say Tehran has sent Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah fighters.

"The Secretary-General has repeatedly expressed his concern about the arms flows to the two parties in Syria, which in some cases appear to violate resolution 1747 passed by this council banning arms exports under Chapter 7 authority," U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told the U.N. Security Council.

In a prepared copy of his speech, Feltman noted that the ban was on Iranian arms exports. Resolution 1747 bans arms exports by Iran under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows the Security Council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.

The resolution was passed in response to Iran's defiance of U.N. demands that it halt its nuclear enrichment program. Iran rejects allegations by Western nations and their allies that it is developing nuclear weapons.

Next week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend a summit meeting of leaders of non-aligned developing nations in Iran. He will also meet with senior Iranian officials to discuss "Iran's nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria," his spokesman said.

Feltman also reiterated U.N. concerns at weapons being smuggled between Lebanon and Syria.

"Both the government and the opposition are focusing on military operations and the use of force, with government forces using heavy weapons on population centers," Feltman told the Security Council during a regular briefing on the Middle East.

"The Syrian people are suffering grievously from the appalling further militarization of this conflict," he said.

A U.N. Security Council panel of independent experts that monitors sanctions against Iran has uncovered several examples of Iran transferring arms to Syria's government.

Damascus has accused Qatar and Saudi Arabia of arming rebels determined to topple Assad's government. The United Nations has said more than 18,000 people have died and some 170,000 people have fled the country as a result of the fighting in Syria. U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos has said that up to 2.5 million people in Syria needed aid.

"This conflict has taken on a particularly brutal and violent character," Amos told a news conference in New York on Wednesday after visiting Syria and Lebanon last week.

"We face problems with access to people in need, particularly where there is intense and ongoing fighting, but funding is also holding us back. If we had more resources, we could reach more people," she said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Eric Beech and Stacey Joyce)




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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WORLD_ Book gives new insights on bin Laden death

Book gives new insights on bin Laden death 

Kimberly Dozier, AAP August 30, 2012, 7:32 am


Book gives new insights on bin Laden death


A firsthand account of the commando raid by United States Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden contradicts previous accounts by administration officials, raising questions as to whether the terror mastermind presented a clear threat when SEALs first fired upon him.

Bin Laden apparently was shot in the head when he looked out of his bedroom door into the top-floor hallway of his compound as SEALs rushed up a narrow stairwell in his direction, according to former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen in No Easy Day. The book is to be published next week by Penguin Group (USA)'s Dutton imprint.

Bissonnette says he was directly behind a point man going up the stairs in the pitch black hallway. Near the top, he said, he heard two shots, but the book doesn't make clear who fired them. He wrote that the point man had seen a man peeking out of a door on the right side of the hallway.

The author writes that the man ducked back into his bedroom and the SEALs followed, only to find the man crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood with a hole visible on the right side of his head and two women wailing over his body. Once they wiped the blood off, they were certain it was bin Laden.

Bissonnette says the point man pulled the two women out of the way. He and the other SEALs trained their guns' laser sights on bin Laden's still-twitching body, shooting him several times until he lay motionless. The SEALs later found two weapons stored by the doorway, untouched, the author said


A moment in history: Osama bin Laden dead


Administration officials briefing reporters in the days after the May 2011 raid in Pakistan said the SEALs shot bin Laden only after he ducked back into the bedroom because they assumed he might be reaching for a weapon.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor would not comment on the apparent contradiction but he said in an email on Wednesday, "As President Obama said on the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, 'We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country'."

No Easy Day was due out on September 11, but Dutton announced the book would be available a week earlier because of a surge of orders.

The account is sure to renew questions about whether the raid was intended to capture or simply to kill bin Laden. Bissonnette writes that during a pre-raid briefing, an administration lawyer told them that they were not on an assassination mission. According to Bissonnette, the lawyer said that if bin Laden was "naked with his hands up" they should not engage him. If bin Laden did not pose a threat, they should detain him.


Photos: Obama during the bin Laden raid


Officials from the Pentagon and the CIA, which commanded the mission, are examining the manuscript for possible disclosure of classified information and could take legal action against the author.

In a statement provided to the AP, the author says he did "not disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way".

Bissonnette's real name was first revealed by Fox News and confirmed to the AP.

Jihadists on al-Qaeda websites have posted purported photos of the author, calling for his murder.




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WORLD_ Rebel-held Syrian town seeks normalcy, weapons

Rebel-held Syrian town seeks normalcy, weapons

By Michael Gunn and Peter Carvill - Special to The Washington Times
Wednesday, August 29, 2012



Photo by: Muhammed Muheisen Syrian women and children wait Aug. 28, 2012, outside a bakery shop to buy bread in Azaz (AP)


AZAZ, Syria — Residents of this northern town recently filled in 30 graves, topping each with a headstone made from rubble bearing the lament — “To the spirit of the martyr.”

A dozen other plots lay open nearby, and locals said they would not be empty for long.

“Day by day, there are more martyrs,” said Ishan, 30, who gave only his first name for fear of retribution. “This is Azaz. It was a safe place. There are no ‘terrorists’ here. Do you think a child can be a terrorist?”

The Free Syrian Army, composed of rebels and defectors from the regime’s military, has declared nearly the entire region surrounding Azaz as “liberated.”

President Bashar Assad’s regime, however, has labeled it full of “terrorists” and has launched repeated aerial attacks on Azaz and neighboring villages — one last week killed at least 200 civilians and several rebels, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees.

In Azaz, more than 30 members of one family died in air raids as they were gathering to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid earlier this month.

“We heard the sound of the plane and the explosion,” said one older man, who declined to give his name for fear of reprisals. “They even hit the dead.”

Even so, the spirit in towns such as Azaz and nearby Suran has been one of defiance, and of change.

Townsfolk have been organizing themselves, making preparations for elections, for the days of the post-Assad rule.

On the street beside the cemetery, a white-turbaned imam clad in a long beige tunic led prayers. His voice hoarse, he yelled into the microphone, demanding justice and the fall of Mr. Assad.

Towns like these keep the 17-month-old uprising alive, say rebels. Locals hold on and try to resume normal activities, even as planes circle overhead and refugees continue to pour into their neighborhoods from elsewhere.

On Tuesday, Syrian security forces hit the eastern part of the capital, Damascus, killing about 60 people in a new front-line battle area, said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog group based in Britain.

The violence followed a bloody Monday in which 190 people — 116 civilians, 40 rebels and 34 soldiers — were killed across Syria, the Observatory said.

In Azaz, rebel fighters have the look of a makeshift fighting force, dressed in mismatched camouflage and surplus army gear. Even so, they insist they will have their victory over the Assad regime, no matter how long it takes.

Mohammed Abass was a farmer before being conscripted into military service by the regime to fight against protesters. Since the uprising began in March 2011, four members of his family have been killed, and he defected to the Free Syrian Army.

He noted the measures the rebels have taken to hold the town: Residents man a few checkpoints. Each has an old Kalashnikov rifle and a walkie-talkie to warn of planes.

“The regime will fall soon if God wills it,” Mr. Abass said. “We want weapons to take down the regime but the Arab and Islamic world need to support us.”

The Free Syrian Army insists that more help is needed from outside, such as a no-fly zone over the territory that the rebels hold. Turkey supports such plans, but the U.N. has balked at the suggestion.

A few miles south of Azaz, Suran’s town center hosts a state-owned TV tower opposite the main mosque draped with a Free Syrian Army flag.

Residents operate a few checkpoints, and bread here is much more expensive than last year.

Still, unlike besieged cities such as Homs or parts of Aleppo, locals here have just enough to survive: The soil is red and rich, home to olives and varieties of fruits. Teenagers shoot pool in a community recreation room, and barbers do a brisk business.

Town council member Mohammed Saer, 41, said that organizing Suran’s services has been a struggle. “We have shortages of everything: housing, jobs, medicines,” he said.

Still, residents look ahead.

“In the future, we will have elections. Everyone will have to be voted in, from the mokhtar [village head] to the street cleaners,” Mr. Saer said. “Foreign intervention would mean that Bashar would be gone in a week. But if we do it ourselves, it will take two years.”

“Removing him is the only solution,” he added, noting that former leaders Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Moammar Gadhafi of Libya “one by one they left, and we see that life is better without them.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Read more: Rebel-held Syrian town seeks normalcy, weapons - Washington Times

_____



"“Removing him is the only solution,”

YES


What do you think?




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WORLD_ Syria refugee exodus raises pressure for buffer zone

Syria refugee exodus raises pressure for buffer zone




1 of 24. Civilians flee the violence from the Damascus suburbs of Kfarbatna August 28, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Omar al-Khani

By Jonathon Burch and Oliver Holmes
ANKARA/BAB AL-SALAMEH, Syria - | Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:56am EDT


ANKARA/BAB AL-SALAMEH, Syria - (Reuters) - Syria's refugee exodus is accelerating and up to 200,000 people could settle in Turkey alone if the conflict worsens, the United Nations warned on Tuesday, increasing pressure for creation of a buffer zone inside Syria.


Turkey has floated the idea of a "safe zone" to be set up for civilians under foreign protection as fighting has intensified in a 17-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Up to 5,000 refugees a day have been crossing into Turkey over the past two weeks while the pace of refugees arriving at a camp in northern Jordan has doubled, heralding what could be a much bigger movement there, the U.N. refugee agency said.

Although there is no sign divided world powers are ready to back a buffer and no-fly zone, as rebels and aid organizations would like, U.N. Security Council foreign ministers are expected to discuss the idea at a meeting on Thursday.

While Turkey could in theory create a buffer zone itself, it has said it is reluctant to go it alone.

Already hosting more than 80,000 refugees, Turkey has warned it could run out of space if the number goes above 100,000.

"We are already looking at potentially up to 200,000 and are working with the Turkish government to make the necessary plans," Sybella Wilkes, spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Reuters in Geneva.

Turkey fears the presence of refugees fleeing a conflict with a sectarian dimension could worsen its own tensions as well as straining resources.

Turkey will open four new camps for Syrian refugees by next week, bringing its capacity to 120,000 people, its disaster management agency said, but thousands remain stuck inside Syria.

"We will be asking the United Nations to be more active in terms of helping the Syrians on their side of the border," said one Turkish official, who declined to be named. He complained that Turkey had received little help so far.

Relations between Turkey and Syria have deteriorated sharply during the uprising. Syria accuses its neighbor, hosting rebel forces, of backing 'terrorist' infiltration and shot down a Turkish plane in June.


FIGHTING WORSENS

The refugee flow to Turkey has grown as fighting has worsened around Syria's biggest city, Aleppo, split between rebels and Assad's forces in a street-by-street battle that has ground on for weeks.

Heavy fighting has also returned to districts around Damascus, one month after rebels were driven back from the centre of the capital. Twelve people were killed by a car bomb at a funeral in Damascus on Tuesday, state television said. Activists said the attack targeted Assad supporters.

At least 18,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million Syrians are in need of aid or assistance, the United Nations says. More than 200,000 refugees have registered in neighboring countries, though significantly more have left Syria.

At the Azaz-Kilis crossing, the main route into Turkey from Aleppo, Syrians described dire conditions for refugees still trapped on the other side of the border.

"We saw people sitting on the street and sleeping. They don't have a toilet. It's very bad ... No food. Children in the street," said Juma'a Handawi, shortly after crossing.

Pick-up trucks crammed with people, mattresses, clothes and wooden furniture ferry refugees to the border. Rebel fighters draped with ammunition belts and carrying automatic rifles loiter among women and children waiting to cross.

Ankara fears a mass influx on the scale of the 1991 Gulf War, when half a million people poured into Turkey.


OBSTACLES AT U.N.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will chair Thursday's U.N. meeting, said on Monday a no-fly zone may become an inevitability if refugee numbers continue to soar, while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Turkey this month that all measures including a no-fly zone were on the table.

But no U.N. Security Council member has formally proposed such a measure and there are legal and practical obstacles to establishing such a zone, diplomats say, as well as strong opposition from Russia and China.

"At the moment we're not expecting much," said one French diplomatic source of the meeting on Thursday.

Many of the refugees in Turkey and other neighboring states have been housed in schools and sports centers but, with the academic term due to begin, they are being moved on.

Refugees sheltering at schools in Marj, a town in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, were told to find somewhere else to stay after the education ministry ordered all schools to be cleared by September 2 for the registration of students, a local official said.

Men, women and children stood in the street in front of one school with their bags and suitcases some unsure where to go.

"I will look for a house to rent and if we can't find one, we will have to go back to Syria, and whatever will happen is going to happen," said Abu Amar, who fled from fighting in the Damascus district of Kafr Souseh last month.

Activists said the new wave of refugees to Jordan may have been caused by shelling on houses in the southern town of Busra al-Sham that killed at least 15 women and children last week.

Jordan called for help with the refugee influx.

"We are being burnt by the impact of this crisis in a direct manner," Minister of State for Information Samih Maaytah told Reuters.


(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Afif Dab in Lebanon, John Irish in Paris; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Dominic Evans; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)




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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

POLITICS_ The real Obama is humble, high achieving and way cooler than Mitt Romney. Just ask David Brooks

The real Obama is humble, high achieving and way cooler than Mitt Romney. Just ask David Brooks

By Tim Stanley US politics
Last updated: August 28th, 2012
98 Comments Comment on this article

(Dr Tim Stanley is a historian of the United States. His biography of Pat Buchanan is out now. His personal website is www.timothystanley.co.uk and you can follow him on Twitter @timothy_stanley.)


Barack Obama is currently serving the first of five terms


David Brooks of the New York Times has written an alternative biography of Mitt Romney that makes for witty reading (“He was sent to a private school, where he was saddened to find there are people in America who summer where they winter.”) But in the course of doing some internet research about this Romney fella, I found out he’s running against someone called Barack Obama. Obama’s biography makes for fascinating reading, too.

Barack Obama was born in 1961, the location marked by the appearance of a new star in the East. His mother lived on food stamps and his grandmother owned Hawaii. Between them, their son averaged out as middle-class.

From an early age, the young Obama displayed the abilities to listen to others, understand their problems and write a book about how they made him feel. At age 3, he had written his first memoir (Dreams from My High Chair) and by twelve had produced his own version of the English dictionary with the notable feature that every entry contained a reference to himself (“Godlike, adjective. ‘To be somewhat like Barack Obama’”). He excelled at every subject and could easily have become an astrophysicist or a baseball player. The schools never bothered to keep records of his grades because they embarrassed all the other kids. Obama spent most of his teenage years volunteering in the local hospital, where he helped the blind to see again. Although his academic life was challenging and friends were few, he found comfort in his middle American family that were just like you and me. Every Sunday they would gather at the local tiki bar for a simple meal of boiled Chihuahua.

Obama’s college years were challenging. A blow to the head from a jealous professor left him convinced that he was a member of the beat generation, which is why there are so many accounts of young women trying to, “You know, like, reach him?” It was while experimenting with cannabis that he made his first break with the grim Clinton orthodoxy of centrist liberalism: he inhaled. His horizons broadened, this born-again guru decided that it was time to walk away from the self-serving vanities of the legal profession and go into politics. He put on a blindfold, stuck a pin a map and found that God ("noun. 'synonym for Obama'") wanted him to start in Chicago.

Politically, Chicago is a nasty town and it’s hard to win outside of machine politics. So Obama didn’t bother to try. Promoted by his friends Jimmy “the fist” Vincente and Sam “you’ll vote the way Jimmy tells you to” Giovanni, he rose quickly in the ranks to become a state senator, where his courageous stand on abortion makes him one of the few prochoice Democrats prepared to say on record that “choice” doesn’t have to end after birth. His mix of principle, hard-headedness and a foxy wife got him noticed nationally by teenage liberals fresh out of Star Trek. Obama’s ability to make even the most complicated issues sound all about him impressed voters first at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (“As I stand here today, I can’t help but think about myself”) and then during the 2008 presidential primaries (“Imagine how great it would be if I won this election”). His inauguration was declared a new beginning and a national holiday – in Venezuela.

Within days of entering office, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, there have been military operations in Afghanistan and Libya, and drone strikes in at least 600 different countries. He has governed like a latter-day FDR, uniting the country behind a bold programme of government spending that has created at least 12 new jobs in the private sector – all of them in the Mississippi division of Chick-fil-A. Public sector spending has increased to roughly the size of the GNP of South Korea, most of which went to financing 32 years of sick leave for Mrs Ann Baumgard – an elementary school teacher in Bethesda, Maryland. Obama has nationalised healthcare, bottled water and anything that begins with the letter “T”. He is currently finishing his first term of a predicted five.

According to the New York Times, the only stiff opposition that Obama has faced has been from the National Braindead League, based in the small town of Backwater, Alabama. The NBL is almost certainly racist and would replace all tax with a form of barter based on chicken bones. They have helped nominate a man who is shorter, less cool and almost certainly less interested in himself than Barack Obama. Mitt Romney and the Braindead League don’t stand a chance.


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WORLD_ Syria: car bomb at funeral in Damascus leaves several dead

Syria: car bomb at funeral in Damascus leaves several dead

A car has exploded during a funeral in a Damascus killing several people, as the United Nations refugee agency warned that the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey could reach 200,00 as the conflict deepens.



The Observatory says more than 25,000 people have been killed since an uprising against Assad broke out in March last year Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images 

3:26PM BST 28 Aug 2012
The Telegraph

The violence followed a bloody Monday in which 190 people – 116 civilians, 40 rebels and 34 soldiers – were killed across Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the state television report of a blast in the capital’s southeastern Jaramana suburb, and said it was caused by a car bomb.

“In the suburb of Jaramana, a car laden with explosives hit a funeral held for two regime supporters,” said the Britain-based watchdog. “Some people were critically injured.”

The funeral was held for two people killed in a bomb attack on Monday, the Observatory said.

The attack came amid a marked escalation of army shelling targeting the eastern belt of Damascus, home to some of the rebel Free Syrian Army’s best organised battalions.


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The Observatory said that at least four soldiers were killed in fighting with rebels in Zamalka and Jubar, which followed fierce shelling through the night of the two eastern neighbourhoods as well as the adjacent districts of Qaboon and Ein Tarma.

On Monday, rebels from the Free Syrian Army claimed to have downed a military helicopter in Qaboon during heavy shelling and fierce fighting that also engulfed nearby Jubar as well as several towns outside the capital.

The offensive in the capital’s east follows a regime onslaught on its southwestern belt last week which, according to the opposition, included a massacre in the town of Daraya in which hundreds died.

Army bombardment Tuesday of the village of Kfar Nabal in the northwest province of Idlib, meanwhile, killed at least 13 civilians, including two women, according to the Observatory.

Gruesome footage released by the Syrian Revolution General Council, an activist network on the ground, shows pandemonium in Kfar Nabal as dozens of residents struggle to retrieve the mangled bodies of their neighbours beneath ashen coloured rubble.

Several small buses are engulfed in flames and plumes of billowing smoke are seen rising from shelled out building after what the SRGC said was an attack by warplanes.

Groups of men struggled to pick up several charred bodies, unloading them hastily on the back of a truck and the back seat of a car, which sped off for help. The footage could not be independently verified.

Elsewhere in Idlib, four rebels were killed in clashes in Ariha, while seven men were killed by government troops in the central province of Hama, bringing Tuesday’s initial toll by the Observatory to 31 victims.

In Syria’s second city Aleppo, government forces rained shells down on the Sukari district in the south and Hanano in the northeast, the Observatory reported, adding that one civilian died in shelling elsewhere in the province.

Two rebels were killed in fighting between the army and insurgents in the contested districts of Salaheddin and Saif al-Dawla in Aleppo’s southwest, it said.

Pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper on Tuesday reported that the army had “cleansed” the neighbourhood of Al-Izaa, adjacent to Saif al-Dawla district, from armed men and seized large quantities of arms and ammunition.

“This opens the way for cleansing the neighbourhood of Zabdiyeh and seizing the Saif al-Dawla and Sukari districts,” it said.

The army took back Salaheddin in early August, but pockets of resistance remain, while the rebels continue to hold sway over Saif al-Dawla and Sukari.

The Observatory says more than 25,000 people have been killed since an uprising against Assad broke out in March last year.

The figures are impossible to verify due to restrictions on the media.

Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing: "The increase in the number of Syrians arriving in Turkey has been dramatic. Compared to previous weeks in which we saw about 400-500 people arriving a day, we've been seeing peaks of up to 5,000 people in one day over the past two weeks."

A growing number of unaccompanied children without parents are also turning up in camps, the UNHCR said. Refugees from the southern Syrian province of Deraa have reported being bombed by aircraft or shelled on their journey across the border.

"We are already looking at potentially up to 200,000 and are working with the Turkish government to make the necessary plans," another spokeswoman, Sybella Wilkes, told Reuters.

The figure would include the more than 74,000 Syrian refugees already registered in Turkey, which is building at least five new camps in addition to the existing nine.

In the past 24 hours, more than 3,000 Syrians crossed into Turkey, with a further 7,000 expected in coming days.

Source: Agencies




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