- - Monday, June 27, 2011


Military reveals underground missile silos

TEHRAN — Iran on Monday unveiled underground silos that can hold missiles capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf as it began 10 days of war games, the country’s latest show of military force amid a standoff with the West over its disputed nuclear program.

State TV broadcast footage of the underground silos, claiming that medium- and long-range missiles stored in them are ready to launch in retaliation for an attack on Iran.

The silos are widely viewed as a strategic asset for Iran in the event of a U.S. or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.

An officer in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is in charge of the missile program, said Tehran has constructed “numerous” underground missile silos that satellites can’t detect. He did not elaborate.

The state television report broadcast footage of underground launching pads for the Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of more than 1,240 miles — putting Israel, U.S. bases in the Gulf region and parts of Southeastern and Eastern Europe within reach.


Syrian opposition meets in Damascus

BEIRUT — Critics of Syria’s authoritarian regime, at a rare gathering in Damascus, called Monday for a peaceful transition to democracy and an end to the Assad family’s 40-year-old monopoly on power.

Otherwise, they said, Syria’s current chaos might destroy the country.

Almost 200 opposition figures and intellectuals gathered to produce “a vision about how to end tyranny,” said an organizer.

While unprecedented in its size, the public meeting at a Damascus hotel — the first since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule began in March — had the government’s approval, leading to criticism that the regime was trying to take on a veneer of openness while continuing its bloody crackdown on dissent.

Many regime opponents stayed away for that reason.

Still, the dissident gathering, at which the government was not represented, would have been unthinkable a few months ago in tightly controlled Syria.

It came as the regime was reeling under the pressure of a relentless protest movement, and authorities were clearly anxious to show they were making concessions.


Israel drops threat to deport, ban journalists

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government on Monday dropped a threat to issue lengthy deportation orders against journalists aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla in an attempt to scale back a crisis with the international media.

On Sunday, Israel’s government press office in a letter warned that any journalist caught on board the flotilla would be violating Israeli entry laws and could face deportation and a 10-year ban from the country.

The warning sparked an outcry from foreign journalists and was fiercely debated in the Israeli media.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that, after the issue was brought to his attention, he ordered authorities not to apply the regular measures taken against infiltrators and to find a formula for the reporters intending to take part in a flotilla that violates Israel’s entry laws.

He did not provide any details — only that an exception will be made for the journalists on board.


Banks ready for Greek debt rollover

PARIS — French banks are ready to help troubled Greece by accepting a significant debt rollover, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday, a move that could push other banks to pitch in to the Europe-wide effort to keep Athens from defaulting.

Mr. Sarkozy said the plan would see banks reinvest their Greek debt holdings into new bonds over 30 years. That would give Greece valuable funding to manage its huge debt load and buy it time to reform its economy.

French banks are among the biggest holders of Greek sovereign debt — some $21 billion — with Germany’s financial sector also heavily exposed, amounting to $22.7 billion, according to the Bank of International Settlements.


Priest: 80 migrants kidnapped from train

MEXICO CITY — Masked gunmen stormed a northbound train and kidnapped at least 80 Central American migrants presumably bound for the United States, a priest who runs a migrant shelter said Monday.

The Rev. Alejandro Solalinde said migrants who escaped the attack told him armed men in ski masks and civilian clothes intercepted the train as it passed through southeastern Mexico on Friday.

The gunmen then allegedly forced migrants to climb down from atop the cars and stuffed some into at least three waiting SUVs.

Mr. Solalinde, who runs a migrant shelter in nearby Oaxaca, said he suspects that the Zetas drug cartel was involved because it operates in the area.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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