- - Tuesday, November 8, 2011

ISRAEL

Defense chief warns Iran about option of strike

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister warned Tuesday about the threat of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear program and rejected suggestions that the Jewish state would be devastated by an Iranian counterattack.

Ehud Barak spoke a day before the U.N. nuclear agency released a critical report about the Iranian program.

The report implicates Iran in bomb-building and erases any doubts about the nature of the program, which Iran says is designed to produce energy, not weapons.

Mr. Barak told Israel Radio that he didn’t expect the International Atomic Energy Agency report to persuade Russia and China to impose what he called “lethal” sanctions on Iran to pressure Tehran to dismantle its nuclear installations.

“As long as no such sanctions have been imposed and proven effective, we continue to recommend to our friends in the world and to ourselves not to take any option off the table,” he said.

SYRIA

U.N. counts 3,500 deaths in 8 months of uprising

BEIRUT — The death toll from the eight-month Syrian uprising has reached 3,500, the United Nations said Tuesday, as activists on the ground reported that fresh attacks by Syrian troops killed two people in a rebellious central city where the military has struggled to consolidate control.

The toll provided by the U.N. human rights office is based on figures gathered outside the country, and includes dozens killed since the brokering of a peace plan by the Arab League last week and during a major Muslim holiday on Sunday.

IRAN

Ahmadinejad calls U.N. nuclear chief a U.S. pawn

TEHRAN — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the head of the U.N. nuclear agency as a U.S. pawn on Tuesday in the run-up to the release of evidence about an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, in a rare official declaration of a monetary figure, also said that Iran’s nuclear budget is roughly $270 million a year.

He said that Iran will not withdraw from its nuclear activities, which Tehran insists are not geared toward weapons production.

The Iranian leader seemed to be striking a defiant stance in the face of increased pressure on Tehran from traditional adversaries such as the U.S., as well as the more sympathetically inclined China.

Tehran refuses to comply with U.N. Security Council appeals to suspend uranium enrichment and start negotiations on its nuclear program.

In remarks broadcast on state television, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano is simply repeating U.S. allegations.

“He delivers the papers that American officials hand on him,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “I am sorry that a person is heading the agency who has no power by himself and violates the agency’s regulations, too.”

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Jailed blogger’s family fears dangerous smear campaign

DUBAI — The family of a jailed blogger on trial for advocating political change in the United Arab Emirates said Tuesday that he is a victim of an organized smear campaign, which has called for his execution.

The trial of Ahmed Mansour and four other activists before Abu Dhabi’s Federal Supreme Court has become emblematic of the crackdown on dissidents launched by the United Arab Emirates in the wake of uprisings across the Arab world.

The prosecution and the vilification of the defendants are likely to have a chilling effect on any further criticism of the United Arab Emirates’ political system.

Mr. Mansour and the others are charged with insulting rulers and endangering national security.

The five activists, including an economics professor who has lectured at the Abu Dhabi branch of Paris’ Sorbonne University, were arrested in April after they signed an Internet petition calling for reform in the oil-rich Gulf federation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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