- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ISRAEL

Foreign minister warns against Palestinian state

JERUSALEM | Israel’s hard-line foreign minister warned Palestinians against plans to unilaterally declare independence next year, saying in an interview Tuesday that such a move could prompt Israel to annex parts of the West Bank and annul past peace agreements.

Avigdor Lieberman also made harsh comments about Turkey, Israel’s increasingly alienated ally, saying the Turkish prime minister was coming to resemble Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

Mr. Lieberman, who heads an ultranationalist party, has become known for a belligerent tone that has earned him critics abroad and inside Israel. His remarks Tuesday on Palestinian independence took aim at a Palestinian policy that has emerged as U.S. attempts to restart peace talks have stalled.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whose Western-backed administration has a limited governing role in the Israeli-controlled West Bank, announced plans to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state, possibly as early as 2011 — even without a peace deal.

TURKEY

Power struggle ensues in coup-plot case

ANKARA | A power struggle between Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government and its fiercely secular military escalated Tuesday when prosecutors asked for formal charges against a senior general accused of plotting to overthrow the civilian leadership.

The former head of the country’s National Security Council, Gen. Sukru Sariisik, joined dozens of serving and retired senior officers accused of conspiring to destabilize the government in a conspiracy dubbed Balyoz, or “the sledgehammer.”

Prosecutors have not made public any evidence or even details of the accusations since they were first made in January.

But the national newspaper Taraf has published what it calls leaked copies of documents by the conspirators detailing their plans. Those include blowing up at least two major mosques during Friday prayers; assassinating some Christian and Jewish leaders; and shooting down a Turkish warplane and blaming it on Greece, the country’s historic rival.

IRAQ

Iraq seeks to cut Gulf War reparations

UNITED NATIONS | Iraq is seeking to reduce the amount of annual oil revenue it sets aside for war reparations, primarily to Kuwait, by 80 percent, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations told Reuters on Tuesday.

Nearly 20 years after Iraq, then under the rule of Saddam Hussein, invaded its oil-producing neighbor, Baghdad is pressing the U.N. Security Council to “forgive this compensation or reduce the percentage.”

Iraq has said it owes $25.5 billion in reparations, with $24 billion due to Kuwait alone.

Under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, Iraq is setting aside 5 percent of its oil revenues to pay war reparations that resulted from the invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990 and 1991.

IRAN

Sanctions on oil will fail, official says

TEHRAN | The idea of international sanctions on Iranian oil exports is a joke, a senior Iranian official said on Tuesday, adding that Iran would not abandon its disputed nuclear work despite mounting international pressure.

President Obama is pushing for new U.N. sanctions to pressure Iran to stop its sensitive nuclear activities, which Washington and its European allies believe is a cover to develop bombs.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said restricting Iran’s oil and gas exports — an idea not included in the latest proposals agreed by Western powers — was “illogical” and that all sanctions would fail.

“Countries need oil to guarantee their economic growth … talking about imposing sanctions on Iran’s oil sector is like a joke,” Ramin Mehmanparast told a weekly news conference. “Such a move would hurt other [importer] countries.”

The U.S. already bans imports of Iranian energy, but the world’s fifth biggest oil exporter has willing buyers around the world.

SYRIA

IAEA inspects reactor in uranium-traces probe

VIENNA | U.N. inspectors have been able to revisit a Damascus nuclear research reactor as part of a probe into possible covert atomic activity in Syria, diplomats said on Tuesday.

But Syria continues to deny inspectors follow-up access to a desert site where Israel bombed a building in 2007 that U.S. intelligence reports said was a nascent, North Korean-designed nuclear reactor geared to yield atomic bomb fuel.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been checking whether there could be a link between the Damascus reactor and the bombed Dair Alzour site after discovering unexplained particles of processed uranium at both.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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