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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Israel Rules Out Nuclear-Free M.East, U.S. Warns of Consequences of Attack on Iran

Israel will not attend a conference on a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, to be held in Finland, said the head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC). Shaul Horev was speaking at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. He said that the situation in the region was not “conducive” to a nuclear weapons ban and that “such a process can only be launched when peaceful relations exist for a reasonable period of time in the region”. Meanwhile, U.S. officials have warned Israel that neighbours such as Egypt and Jordan could annul their peace treaties and sever all diplomatic ties if the country decided on an unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot quoted an Israeli official who said Washington had warned the country about an angry public backlash that would be beyond the control of Arab leaders. “What happened with the film against Mohammed is just a preview of what will happen in case of an Israeli strike”, said the unnamed official.

“The Country Is Being Destroyed”, Says U.N. Envoy to Syria

The United Nations special envoy to Syria, Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, said during an interview to Al Jazeera that the situation in the country was the worst since the conflict began 18 months ago. “It is worse because people are being killed and the country is being destroyed”, said Brahimi. He added that the fact that business still carries on as normal in central Damascus is “true, but that is not significant and that is not the important thing in Syria today”. Speaking more generally about the danger of a wider conflict engulfing the region, the U.N. envoy said that “these kinds of conflicts cannot be bottled up within one country, they will invariably spill over”. When asked if Syria was his most difficult mission, Brahimi described the Lebanese civil war lasting from 1975 to 1990 as “just as difficult” and Iraq as “horrible”, but that “the thing you are doing is always the most difficult”. He is scheduled to return to U.N. headquarters in New York to report on his progress next week.

Slain U.S. Ambassador to Libya Feared He Was on Al-Qaeda Hit List

Ambassador Chris Stevens, killed in Libya amidst an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, had expressed concerns about the safety of the mission in the months leading up to his death. A source “familiar with his thinking”, interviewed by CNN, said that the U.S. diplomat was worried about becoming a potential target of al-Qaeda or any of the number of extremist groups operating in Libya, mentioning that his name was among those on a terrorist “hit list”. Matthew Olsen, director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, said that it was unlikely that Stevens and his team were killed by protesters. Speaking before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, Olsen said that “they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy”. Olsen’s words seemed to contradict U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said that the government had received “no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent”.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Hints Court Will Hear Same-Sex Marriage Case

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed on Wednesday that the Defense of Marriage Act would go on the high court’s agenda within its current session. She was speaking at the University of Colorado in Boulder and was asked by a student whether the Supreme Court would consider applying the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause to sexual orientation. The Defense of Marriage Act, enacted in 1996, is a federal law that defined marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman. The law also states that no U.S. state is required to recognise a same-sex marriage celebrated in another jurisdiction. It was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in New York and awaits arguments before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the final judicial rung before the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg was reported to have smiled at the question, but said she couldn’t answer. She added that she could not comment on matters that would come before the court, and that the Defense of Marriage Act would “most likely” come before the end of the current term.

Key Index Points to Renewed Eurozone Recession

An index that measures services and manufacturing activity published on Thursday suggested that Europe has suffered its sharpest contraction since June 2009. The Markit Flash Eurozone Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) fell to 45.9 in September, its lowest point for 39 months. A figure below 50 indicates a contraction, suggesting that the eurozone was heading back into a recession. Markit’s chief economist Chris Williamson, interviewed by the BBC, said that the eurozone’s downturn had “gathered further momentum in September, suggesting that the region suffered the worst quarter for three years”, adding that it had sent the region “back into a technical recession”. He also said that Germany’s rate of decline had slowed substantially, but that France is now starting to struggle.

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