- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Navy blockades north Yemen coast

CAIRO | Saudi Arabia on Tuesday imposed a naval blockade on the Red Sea coast of northern Yemen to combat Shi’ite rebels along its border, an adviser to the government said, in the latest escalation of fighting in the southern Arabian peninsula.

The Saudi move comes as Iran, the region’s dominant Shi’ite power accused by the Arabs of backing the rebels, warned neighboring countries not to interfere in Yemen’s internal affairs.

The Saudi offensive has raised concerns of another proxy war in the Middle East between Iran and Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally. Shi’ite Iran is thought to favor the rebels in Yemen while Saudi Arabia, which is Sunni, is Iran’s fiercest regional rival.

The Shi’ite rebels in northern Yemen, known as Hawthis, have been fighting the government for the past five years, but in recent months the violence has flared up and even crossed the border into Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has responded with several days of air strikes against the rebels, which continued Tuesday.

The Saudi adviser said the kingdom’s warships had been ordered to search any suspected ship sailing near the Yemeni coast. Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite television also reported the blockade.


Italy to launch Iranian satellite

TEHRAN | Iran announced Tuesday it would use Italy to launch a communications satellite after waiting years for Russia to do the job, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

General Mahdi Farahi, the head of Iran’s Aero Space Industries, said the satellite, which Israeli media claim is for espionage, would be launched by the Italians some time in the year after March 2011.

He gave no reason for the switch away from Russia, but in February Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad complained about Moscow’s continuing failure in launching the satellite.

Earlier this week, a top Iranian lawmaker also expressed dissatisfaction over Russia’s continuing delay in delivering the sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft system. Russia and Iran signed an agreement for the system in 2007, but Israel vociferously opposes the deal and has been lobbying Russia not to deliver it.

Russia is also helping Iran to build its first nuclear power plant, but its inauguration has also been repeatedly delayed.


Danish journalism student freed

TEHRAN | Iran on Tuesday freed a Danish journalism student arrested last week on the sidelines of anti-government demonstrations in Tehran, the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the capital’s chief prosecutor, Abbas Jaffari Doulatabadi, as saying.

Niels Krogsgaard had been in custody since his arrest Nov. 4 near a demonstration on the 30th anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Embassy in the city.

The Danish government had said Saturday that Mr. Krogsgaard, 31, was in custody and it was trying to make contact with him. A day earlier, the Danish journalists’ union said the man was free-lancing in Iran for a project related to his studies.

Four other journalists - two Canadians, one Japanese and an Iranian - were also arrested for reporting “without permission” on the rally. Mr. Doulatabadi said Friday that two Germans and a Canadian had been released. The Iranian journalist, Farhad Pouladi, who works for Agence France-Presse, was freed Saturday.


Cabinet mum on Hezbollah arms

BEIRUT | Lebanon’s new unity government held its first meeting Tuesday at the presidential palace, making clear from the start that it would steer clear of the thorny issue of Hezbollah’s weapons.

“We will draft a new program, but we will be building on the program agreed by the previous Cabinet,” Information Minister Tarek Mitri said in response to a question on whether the new government would address Hezbollah’s arsenal.

Mr. Mitri said that the new Cabinet, which met under the auspices of President Michel Suleiman, selected a committee charged with drawing up the new program.

The program adopted by the previous government of Fuad Siniora had also avoided tackling the issue of disarming Hezbollah as demanded by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the Shi’ite militant group’s devastating 2006 war with Israel.

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