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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Israeli Diplomats Ask Russia to Halt Arms Shipments to Syria

Israeli intelligence officials flew to Moscow late on Tuesday to attempt to convince Russia to stop its shipment of anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. The anti-aircraft batteries, if installed in Syria, would have the capacity to target civilian and military aircraft flying over Tel Aviv. The move comes a day after the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said his country would know what to do if the weapons reached Syria, implying that Israel was ready to strike the shipments. “We are unhappy with the prospect of these very serious weapons arriving in Syria but we cannot stop Russia delivering them to the Middle East. We would not strike a Russian target – our egos are big but they’re not that big” said a senior Israeli diplomat to the Guardian. The source added that he didn’t know “how upset the Russians would be if, at some point between payment and the installation of this technology in Damascus by Russian experts, something was done to damage the weaponry. As long as no Russians were hurt and they got paid, I don’t think they would care”.

Afghans Detained Illegally by British Forces in Camp Bastion

British forces have illegally detained nearly 100 Afghan citizens at Camp Bastion, prompting the Afghan ambassador to the UK to tell the BBC Radio 4′s World at One programme that they should be surrender to the local authorities on “the principle of national sovereignty”. Ambassador Mohammad Daud Yaar spoke to the radio station hours after meeting British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who confirmed that 80 to 90 people were being held at the site, but said it was not a secret detention facility. He argued that their detention was necessary since they posed a real threat to British force stationed in Afghanistan and that they could not yet be handed over to Afghan security services over concerns of possible mistreatment. Some have been held for over a year without any prospect of a trial, prompting comparisons to the detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Dan Squires, a barrister for a 20-year-old detainee, said that his client “does not know how long he is to remain detained or for what purpose. He has asked whether he will be transferred to Afghan authorities but had been told they do not consider that he has committed any criminal offence and so do not want to receive him”.

EU Eases Austerity Demands to Bolster Growth

The European Union has given France, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia more time to bring their deficits under control, effectively softening its stance on austerity. “There is no room for complacency”, said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso at the unveiling of a series of country-specific policy recommendations in Brussels on Wednesday. The Netherlands and Portugal were given one additional year to implement their spending cuts, with France, Poland, Slovenia and Spain getting another two years. Singling out France as an example, Barroso said that the country should focus on cutting red tape and improving conditions for small and medium businesses to thrive. “French companies’ market shares have experienced worrying erosion in the last decade, in fact beyond the last decade, we can say the last 20 years”, he added. Greece and Cyprus were not allowed any extra time, signalling that the Commission is still insisting on these countries meeting their targets in order to qualify for much-needed bailout loans.

Saudi Cleric Attacked for Harassment Tweet

A Saudi cleric has come under attack for urging his nearly 100,000 Twitter followers to “sexually harass female cashiers”. Abdullah Mohammed al-Dawood wrote that such harassment would be an effective way of discouraging women from working, which he compared to human trafficking because the women were being “exploited to attract business”. Saudi women had recently been allowed to work in public in shops, prompting a backlash from conservative clerics. Previously, Saudi women had only been allowed to work in all-female workplaces, mostly as professors, teachers or doctors. Hundreds of Twitter users attacked him, saying that he did not have the right to stop women working and adding that his tweet effectively condoned sexual attacks against the cashiers. Al Dawood had already stirred controversy in the past, suggesting that babies should be veiled in order to be protected from sexual molestation.

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