- - Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TURKEY

Official: Israel at fault in convoy deaths

ISTANBUL | Israel should admit sole responsibility for the killing of nine activists during a raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday.

A U.N. inquiry into the May 31 Israeli commando raid on the aid convoy was scheduled to meet for the first time later in the day. The killing of the activists, all Turks, although one also was a U.S. citizen, almost caused a breakdown in relations between the Jewish state and its once-close ally.

“No one else can take the blame for killing civilians in international waters,” Mr. Davutoglu told journalists. “Israel has killed civilians and should take the responsibility for having done so.”

The Turkish minister appeared to be responding to comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to a separate Israeli inquiry into the fatal raid.

Mr. Netanyahu said Turkey had ignored repeated warnings and appeals “at the highest level” to halt the flotilla, which was organized by an Islamic charity based in Turkey.

Turkey has no responsibility in the attack on the Mavi Marmara flotilla,” Mr. Davutoglu said.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Israeli panel that Israel had exhausted all other options before carrying out the raid.

SAUDI ARABIA

Giant clock set for ‘Mecca time’

MECCA | Muslims around the world soon could be setting their watches to a new time when the world’s largest clock begins ticking atop a soaring skyscraper in Islam’s holiest city, Mecca.

Saudi Arabia hopes the four faces of the new clock, which will loom over Mecca’s Grand Mosque from what is expected to be the world’s second-tallest building, will establish Mecca as an alternate time standard to the Greenwich median.

The clock is targeted to enter service with a three-month trial period in the first week of the holy month of Ramadan on or about Thursday, according to the Saudi state news agency SPA.

It boasts four glimmering 151-foot-wide faces composed of high-tech composite tiles, some laced with gold, standing more than 1,320 feet over the Holy Haram compound.

The tower’s height will reach 1,983 feet, SPA said. On its website, Premiere Composite, which is responsible for cladding the top section, including a shimmering spire topped by a golden crescent moon, puts the planned height at 1,947 feet.

That would make it the world’s second-tallest building — ahead of Taiwan’s 1,670-foot-tall Taipei 101 but well behind the Burj Khalifa, the 2,717-foot skyscraper inaugurated in Dubai in January.

IRAQ

Iran envoy says sanctions won’t affect Iraq trade

BAGHDAD | Iran’s new envoy to Baghdad said on Tuesday that the latest round of sanctions imposed on his country would not affect growing trade with Iraq, which is worth billions of dollars.

Hassan Danaie-Far’s remarks to reporters came during his first news conference since arriving in the Iraqi capital to replace former Ambassador Hassan Kadhami-Qomi.

“The sanctions will not affect economic relations between the two countries,” Mr. Danaie-Far said at the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad.

The U.N. Security Council hit Iran with a fourth set of sanctions on June 9 over its nuclear program. The United States and European Union have since imposed even tougher punitive measures of their own, which contain provisions to penalize Tehran’s trading partners.

IRAN

Iran to arm ‘Bladerunner’ boats

TEHRAN | Iran will mass-produce replicas of the Bladerunner 51, often described as the world’s fastest boat, and equip them with weapons to be deployed in the Gulf, a top commander said Tuesday.

“The Bladerunner is a British ship that holds the world speed record. We got a copy [on which] we made some changes so it can launch missiles and torpedoes,” said Gen. Ali Fadavi of the Revolutionary Guards’ navy.

“The Revolutionary Guards will be equipped with many” of them within a year, he said at a ceremony marking the delivery of 12 other speedboats equipped with missiles and torpedoes to the Guards.

The Bladerunner 51, weighing 16 tons and measuring 45 feet long, is manufactured at the ICE Marine shipyard in Britain and can reach a maximum speed of 65 knots.

Powered by two 1,000-horsepower engines, the boat reportedly conducted a 2005 tour of the British Isles in a little more than 27 hours at an average speed of 63 knots.

Gen. Fadavi did not fully explain how Iran managed to get a copy of the boat, saying only that it had come “via South Africa.”

He said a U.S. ship had tried to intercept the boat before it entered Iranian waters 18 months ago but added that Iranian forces protected it and ensured its arrival.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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