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« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2006, 10:05:08 PM »

Iran protests to EU Council of Ministers against Middle East stance
Tehran, July 20, IRNA

Iran-EU-Foreign Ministry
Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Israel is committing state terrorism by massacring defenseless civilians in Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Lebanon and criticized European Council of Ministers for its negligence of the war crimes the occupying regime has perpetrated in the past four weeks running.

"The European Union is expected to respect human rights and its ethical and humanitarian obligation without discrimination in dealing with Israeli trampling on international law," Foreign Ministry said protesting a statement the European Council of Ministers released on July 17.

Iranian Foreign Ministry regretted that the European Council of Ministers was giving green light to the occupying regime of Israel to continue its genocide against innocent women, children and men living in Palestine and Lebanon.

"It goes without saying that the biased statement from the European Council of Minister will not serve to promote the status of the body before the world public opinion.

"Overlooking the more than 10,000 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in the territories occupied by the Zionist regime, some of them for almost 20 years, has emboldened Israel to commit illegal actions against the democratically-elected government of Palestine," it said.

Iranian Foreign Ministry lambasted the European Union for 'imposing economic sanctions against the Palestinian government as being in line with the Israeli goal to topple the democratically elected government'.

Citing Israeli state terrorism, the Foreign Ministry said that Israel was engaged in kidnapping government officials of Palestine, members of Palestinian parliament and mayors of Palestinian cities.

"The EU can undertake its role in the Middle East only if it adopts a fair attitude to the human plight.

"The EU should learn lessons from US failure in biased policy and its neglect for human rights violation in the Middle East which downgraded it before the world public opinion," Iranian Foreign Ministry said.

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« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2006, 10:06:56 PM »

 Pakistan Senate Committee condemns Zionists' attacks
Islamabad, July 20, IRNA

Pakistan-Senate-Zionist
Pakistan's Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday condemned the aggression in Lebanon and the willful killings of civilians by Zionists and described Zionist aggressions as a violation of all civilized norms of behavior and international law.

The committee in a resolution regretted the apathy and inability of the Muslim Ummah to translate its economic influence into political influence, which shows lack of vision.

Chaired by Chairman Muubgone19 Hussain Sayed, the committee expressed solidarity with the people of Lebanon and Palestine and demanded that the international community put principles before political interest and pressure Zionist regime to stop this aggression which has become a war against the people and infrastructure of Lebanon.

The resolution noted that in the last 10 days, the Zionist attacks resulted in deaths of over 300 innocent people, including women and children.

It held that if a national of a country is kidnapped by a non-state actor, the state cannot justify waging war against civilians and infrastructure of any state.

The participants of the meeting demanded of the international community to help stop the aggression of Zionist against Muslim countries.

The Committee Chairman Muubgone19 Hussain Sayed told the meeting that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has expressed his complete solidarity with the people of Lebanon and has also offered assistance on emergency basis.

Additional Foreign Secretary for Middle East Shafiq Manzar told the committee that the number of Pakistanis living in Lebanon is 200 to 300 but so far no death report of any Pakistani national has been received, adding that some Pakistanis have been shifted to Syria.

He said that Pakistan Embassy in Lebanon is in constant contact with its citizens, saying that most of the Pakistanis are workers.

He also appealed to the US and European countries to help in the safe evacuation of Pakistani nationals.

Pakistan delegation to visit Lebanon, Palestine:
A parliamentary delegation headed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Muubgone19 Hussain Sayed will visit Lebanon, Palestine and other countries of the Middle East.

Senator Muubgone19 Hussain told the committee during the meeting that the purpose of the delegation'S visit is to express solidarity with the people and to appeal to the leadership of other Middle East countries to play active role in resolving the crisis.

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« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2006, 10:08:59 PM »

 Iran's ambassador to Manila: Zionist regime violates int'l conventions
Kuala Lumpur, July 20, IRNA

Iran-Philippines-Zionist
Iran's Ambassador to Manila Jalal Kalantari conferred on Thursday with the Philippines Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo on international developments.

At the meeting, the Iranian ambassador underlined that the massacre of the Lebanese civilian by the Zionist occupiers proved that this regime is a violator of international rules and conventions.

Referring to the atrocities of the Zionist regime in Palestine and Lebanon during the last week which resulted in about one million people becoming refugees and over 300 civilians being martyred, he said the Zionist criminal even targeted infrastructure facilities such as electricity, water system, hospitals, bridges and educational centers and most of their victims were women and children.

Given the repeated violation of international rules and conventions by the Zionist regime, he said if the international community fail to immediately force the Zionists to halt their aggression, not only the stability in the Middle East region but also the global peace and stability would be endangered.

He also highlighted Iran's stands on the ongoing crisis and called for unconditional halt to the Zionist attacks and resumption of talks for exchange of prisoners of war between the two sides.

The Philippines foreign minister, for his part, declared his country's position for ending the conflicts and underlined that the current crisis should be resolved through negotiations.

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« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2006, 10:10:46 PM »

 India condemns arrest of Palestinian Ministers and Legislators
New Delhi, July 20, IRNA

India-Palestine-Condemnation
India on Thursday strongly condemned the arrest of Palestinian ministers and legislators by the Zionist regime's armed forces and called upon the Israeli regime to release them immediately.

India condemns the wholly unjustified arrest and continuing incarceration of ministers of the Palestinian National Authority and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said Navtej Sarna spokesperson, External Affairs Ministry, in a press briefing here today.

"There can be no justification whatsoever for taking such action against the duly elected representatives of the Palestinian people. We call upon Israel to release them immediately," Sarna said.

India remains deeply concerned that Israeli Armed Forces have continued to maintain their large-scale operation mounted in West Bank and Gaza in Palestine in disproportionate retaliation for the abduction of an Israeli soldier.

"We also reiterate our call for all parties to renounce violence and resolve their differences through peaceful means," he added.

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« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2006, 10:12:28 PM »

 Iran, China to establish joint market in Khorramshahr
Ahvaz, Khuzestan prov, July 20, IRNA

Iran-China-Cooperation
The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of China are to establish a jointly run border market on the Iran-Iraq border near Khorramshahr in Khuzestan province, it was announced on Thursday.

A Chinese business corporation is to invest some dlrs 75 million in the joint market in Shalamche.

An eight-person delegation from China is in Khuzestan province to conduct market research as well as feasibility studies on the project.

Managing Director of the Chinese firm Zhejiong Zhongfu said the joint market will be constructed in an area of 33 hectares and it is predicted that its construction would take about six years and implemented in three phases.

It is expected the joint market would have a turnover of about dlrs 800 million and would create employment for some 10,000 unemployed work force in the province, he said.

He expressed the hope that the joint market would create grounds for a promising development in the region.

Deputy Governor General for financial and planning affairs of Khuzestan Ali Asghar Vaheedi said in the meeting that the joint projects would be of interests to both sides, he said.

The two sides also discussed expansion of mutual cooperation, facilitating issuance of visa for businessman, providing accommodation as well as overcoming bureaucracy.

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« Reply #20 on: July 21, 2006, 12:57:38 AM »

Iran leader seeks Merkel help on Zionism


BERLIN, July 20: A letter written by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asks her to help solve the Palestinian problem and deal with Zionism, a German government official said on Thursday.

“There’s nothing about the nuclear issue (in the letter),” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the extreme sensitivity of the issue for the German government.

“It’s all related to Germany and how we have to find a solution to the Palestinian problems and Zionism and so on. It’s rather weird,” the official, who has seen the letter, said.

Iranian students news agency said on Wednesday that Ahmadinejad had written to Merkel, but until Thursday officials had not spoken about the contents.

Berlin’s relations with Ahmadinejad have been complicated by his denial of the Holocaust, in which Germany’s Nazi regime killed six million Jews, and his call for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany punishable with up to five years in prison.

“It’s extremely touchy (for the German government),” said the official, adding that the government did not yet know if or how it would respond.

“There are a lot of propaganda phrases about Israel and the Jews inside.”

In May Ahmadinejad wrote US President George W. Bush an 18-page letter discussing religious values, history and international relations.

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« Reply #21 on: July 21, 2006, 12:59:14 AM »

Iran Offers a Pledge and a Warning
By NAZILA FATHI

TEHRAN, July 20 — Iran promised again on Thursday to respond to an international package of incentives on Aug. 22 but warned that it would reconsider its position if its case was sent to the United Nations Security Council.

The announcement was in a statement issued by Iran’s National Security Council. The council is led by Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.

The statement came a week after six countries — Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia — decided to seek a United Nations Security Council resolution ordering Iran to freeze some nuclear activities or face sanctions. The six countries offered Iran the incentive package in June in return for a freeze on its uranium enrichment program.

“If the path of confrontation is chosen instead of the path of dialogue, and if there is any action to limit the absolute rights of the Iranian people, the Islamic Republic will have no choice but to revise its policy,” said the statement, which was carried by the ISNA student news agency.

“Iran has welcomed the offer and is examining it with a positive attitude,” the statement said, adding that Iran would give its answer on Aug. 22 because it needed “a logical time frame to examine the proposals.”

The statement did not elaborate on what kind of action Iran would take if its case was sent to the Security Council. But officials have said in the past that Iran might withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Iran has said the proposal contains ambiguities that need to be discussed. It has also contended that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allows it to enrich uranium.

Uranium enrichment is a process used for making fuel for nuclear reactors. But if the uranium is enriched to higher levels, it can be used for making bombs.

The statement on Thursday said Iran planned to produce 20,000 megawatts of electricity within the next 20 years and planned to produce part of the nuclear fuel for that energy domestically.

It added that Iran was committed to its obligations under the nonproliferation treaty.

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« Reply #22 on: July 21, 2006, 01:02:59 AM »

Thousands protest Mideast violence

Protesters burn Israeli flag outside country's embassy in Venezuela, demanding end to Israel's military offensive in Lebanon; crowds also take to streets in Mexico, El Salvador to press for halt to fighting
Associated Press

Protesters burned an Israeli flag Thursday outside the country's embassy in Venezuela and demanded an end to Israel's military offensive in Lebanon, while crowds also took to the streets in Mexico and El Salvador to press for a halt to the fighting.

More than 2,000 protesters, including Venezuelans of Arab descent, marched through Caracas waving Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian
flags. Many were die-hard supporters of President Hugo Chavez, who has denounced the Israeli bombardments in Lebanon as "genocide."

Dozens of protesters pumped their fists in the air and shouted "Viva Lebanon!" when one man held up a poster of Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Others raised a banner reading, "Stop the genocide by the Zionist killers!"

Venezuela has a sizeable Arab immigrant community, including many Lebanese.

More than 300 people have been killed in Lebanon since Israel's campaign began, according to Lebanese officials. At least 29 Israelis have been killed.

Protester Abdul Chaaban, 50, said he feared for the lives of his relatives in southern Lebanon, which was hit by Israeli warplanes again on Thursday as Hizbullah guerrillas fired more rocket volleys into Israel.

"There is no justification for Israel's actions," said Chaaban, holding up a Lebanese flag.

The demonstrators marched several kilometers (miles) from a city park in eastern Caracas to the Israeli Embassy, where protesters burned an Israeli flag.

Chavez on Wednesday night said the Israelis "are bombing entire cities - a true genocide."

His government has said in the past that it maintained good relations with Israel. Israeli Embassy officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

'Israel committing massacre'

In Mexico City, meanwhile, about 100 people from the Lebanese immigrant community gave a letter to UN representatives saying that "Lebanon cannot be kept as a battlefield," and urging peace. They marched to the Lebanese Embassy, where they held a moment of silence and left a vase of roses outside.

"It is a peaceful protest to repudiate the war and the amount of innocent blood that has been shed," said Jose Luis Nacif, vice president of the Lebanese Center in Mexico City.

In El Salvador, protesters gathered outside the Israeli Embassy and criticized Salvadoran President Tony Saca, who is of Palestinian descent, for not denouncing Israel.

"We want to condemn the massacre that Israel is committing in Palestinian and Lebanese territories. It is an injustice," said Jhon Nasser, from the Friends of Palestinians Association in El Salvador.

In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet said an air force plane will fly to the Syrian capital of Damascus Friday to bring home Chileans and other Latin Americans who fled there from the fighting in Lebanon. The Chilean foreign ministry said about 150 Chileans were believed to have been in Beirut when fighting broke out.

Venezuelans also have been evacuated from Lebanon to Madrid, Spain.

Officials in Sao Paulo said at least 700 Brazilians were seeking help from Brazil's government to leave Lebanon. Some 100 Brazilians were brought back to Brazil earlier this week, government officials said.

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« Reply #23 on: July 21, 2006, 01:12:33 AM »

US Muslims ask for Mideast casualties accounts
Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST    Jul. 21, 2006

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations is using an online questionnaire to collect eyewitness accounts of American citizens or permanent residents injured or killed in the fighting in Lebanon, it was reported on Friday morning.

CAIR's survey asks if the respondent was injured, then asks him or her to list the names of American citizens or permanent residents who were injured or killed. It also asks for personal information, including a passport or residency card number.

"We need to know whether any of our nation's citizens or permanent residents were harmed by Israeli attacks using American taxpayer-supplied weapons," CAIR executive director Nihad Awad said in a statement.

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« Reply #24 on: July 21, 2006, 01:13:39 AM »

Nasrallah: Nazereth children are martyrs
jpost.com staff and AP, THE JERUSALEM POST    Jul. 20, 2006

Hizbullah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, spoke on Thursday for the first time since the beginning of the week, saying Hizbullah's entire infrastructure and leadership hierarchy were still intact and functional.

"I can confirm without exaggerating or using psychological warfare, that we have not been harmed," he said, referring to an overnight strike early Thursday in which the IDF dropped 23 tons of explosives on Hizbullah headquarters in Beirut.

Of the two Arab children from Nazereth who were killed by a Katyusha rocket on Wednesday, Nasrallah said they were "martyrs for the Palestinian cause."

The Hizbullah leader offered his condolences to the family of the two brothers in an interview with Al-Jazeera television.

Al-Jazeera, which aired only excerpts of the interview, said it was taped earlier Thursday. The interviewer said the interview took place amid tight security precautions but did not say where.

Nasrallah has been in hiding since Israel's assault began July 12, though he gave a speech on Hizbullah television on Sunday.

"Hizbullah has so far stood fast, absorbed the strike and has retaken the initiative and made the surprises that it had promised, and there are more surprises," he said, warning that a Hizbullah defeat would be "a defeat for the entire Islamic nation."

Nasrallah added that, "All of Israel's talk about 50 percent of our infrastructure being damaged is nonsense."

Nasrallah said that, "even if the entire world will demand it," the kidnapped Israeli soldiers would only be released for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails through negotiations.

He did not offer any information regarding the condition of the soldiers.

Hizbullah operatives arrested in West Bank

Several of those arrested Wednesday in the Mukata in Nablus were found to be linked to Hizbullah, it was released for publication Thursday night.

Members belonging to different terrorist organizations were arrested during a joint IDF and Shin Bet operation.

Suspects included Palestinians responsible for the planning and initiation of terrorist attacks, including those belonging to Hizbullah, who were involved in the murders of Israeli citizens.

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« Reply #25 on: July 21, 2006, 01:15:11 AM »

Russia in ‘no hurry’ on Iran issue

By Our Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, July 20: Once again United States and Russia are divided on the approach to the Iranian nuclear programme which was sent to the UN Security Council, after Iran did not respond to the American and European incentives and proposals: the US wants a resolution by Friday and the Russians say they are in ‘no hurry’.

Iran has said it will respond to the incentives package by the end of August.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have been meeting daily to thrash out their differences over the new elements in the Iranian resolution proposals. So far no significant progress has been reported.

Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the council wants an answer sometime soon to a June 5 package of incentives that six world powers offered to Iran if it stopped enrichment. But he stressed the council is not trying to push Tehran.

“We are not in a rush at all. We do not want to ambush Iran in any way. We’re very much in a negotiating political mode. We do not want to dictate things to Iran” Mr Churkin said.

But the United States’ UN Ambassador, John Bolton, who said he expected to reach a resolution from the Security Council by the end of the week.

Russia in ‘no hurry’ on Iran issue
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« Reply #26 on: July 21, 2006, 01:27:55 AM »

U.S. QUIETLY ENCOURAGES ISRAELI OPERATION

WASHINGTON [MENL] -- The United States has been quietly encouraging Israel's assault on Hizbullah.

Officials said the Bush administration, after initial hesitation, has determined that the Israeli military campaign against Hizbullah was vital in the effort to reduce the threat from Iran and Syria in the Middle East. They said the administration would not pressure Israel to agree to an immediate ceasefire.

"It's a day-to-day thing," an official said. "But right now, the president feels the Israelis are fighting an important battle and need a few more days to teach Iran and Hizbullah a lesson."

Officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice initially sought to halt Israel's massive retaliation against Hizbullah, which abducted two Israeli soldiers on July 12. They said Ms. Rice, in twice-a-day phone calls, pressed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to significantly reduce the operation to prevent casualties and maintain the Lebanese government.

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« Reply #27 on: July 21, 2006, 12:12:00 PM »

Israel Considers Larger Ground Offensive
Last Update: 7/21/2006 9:00:53 AM

Chicago Tribune

JERUSALEM - After nine days of a fierce air and artillery campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli officials are weighing whether to press the offensive with troops on the ground, haunted by the lessons of a costly 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended six years ago.

As they plan their next moves, the Israelis are facing a dilemma: how to destroy Hezbollah's military capabilities without being drawn into a ground war that could significantly increase army casualties.

It might also prolong the conflict at a time when international calls for a cease-fire are increasing.

The pitfalls of a ground campaign were evident to the Israelis from the start.

After two Israeli soldiers were seized by Hezbollah guerrillas last week - the event that triggered the offensive - an Israeli armored force crossed into Lebanon and entered a lethal trap set by the militants. A tank was destroyed by a powerful mine, and a rescue team was ambushed, leaving five soldiers dead.

Over the last two days, Israeli raids to destroy Hezbollah bunkers and rocket-launchers in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel have led to heavy fighting. Four soldiers and an unknown number of guerrillas have been killed.

What began as an air war is taking on new dimensions, and as rocket attacks on northern Israel continue, Defense Minister Amir Peretz hinted on Thursday that a larger ground offensive was possible.

"Hezbollah must not delude itself that we will shrink from carrying out any action required to change the reality," Peretz said. "There is no intention of occupying Lebanon, but neither is there any intention of foregoing any military move necessary ... to bring Hezbollah to a situation where it no longer has the same ability to strike Israel with the strength it has today."

But a ground invasion carries the perils of significant casualties, and for many in Israel it brings back bitter memories of Israel's 1982 invasion and prolonged occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended after mounting losses turned public opinion in favor of a withdrawal.

Peretz has said that he does not want to get "bogged down in the quagmire of Lebanon," but continued rocket attacks from there could well draw the Israeli army in to clear out Hezbollah positions, rocket arsenals and launchers, risking entanglement in messy ground fighting.

With southern Lebanon honeycombed with Hezbollah tunnels and bunkers, the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a televised speech last week that his fighters were eager to engage the Israelis in face-to-face combat.

"I promise them surprises in the ground confrontation, which we await impatiently and with high hopes, because it will allow us a direct response to the tanks of the enemy and its soldiers," Nasrallah said. "Any ground advance will be good news for the resistance that will bring us closer to victory and humbling the soldiers of this Israeli enemy."

In the early ground skirmishes with Hezbollah near the border, anti-tank weapons and guerrilla ambushes have killed and wounded Israeli troops, even as the Israelis have inflicted losses on the guerrillas. A large-scale ground advance would likely significantly increase casualties on both sides.

"The results of a full-fledged invasion of Lebanon are quite fresh in the memory, so I don't think there is high emphasis on this possibility in Israel," said Ehud Barak, a former army chief of staff and prime minister who ended the 18-year occupation by withdrawing Israeli troops from Lebanon in May 2000.

"Special operations units are acting in Lebanon in short-distance incursions, but we are not enthusiastic about a major several-division-level invasion of Lebanon."

However, Barak added, if not enough progress is made toward Israel's goal of pushing Hezbollah back from Lebanon's border with Israel, destroying its rocket arsenal and freeing the captured Israeli soldiers, matters might look different.

"If a way will not be found to decide it from the air, and there will be no readiness by the international community to act together to put an end to it, to release the abducted soldiers and deploy the Lebanese army to the border, you can't exclude a deepening of the conflict," Barak said.

A ground offensive is "being considered on a continuous basis," Barak added. "It is clear that people here are not happy to do it, but they are not afraid of doing it if no other way will do the job."

Ephraim Sneh, who commanded Israel's occupation zone in southern Lebanon in the early 1980s, said that only ground attacks could root out Hezbollah rocket launchers and storage bunkers, but that these should take the form of sophisticated anti-guerrilla strikes, not a broad armored assault.

"If you want to achieve the goals of the operation, which is to destroy the Hezbollah infrastructure, you can't do it just by air and artillery strikes," Sneh said. "To stop rocket launchings at Israel, you have to get to places the air force can't reach. You have to shoot someone between the eyes, and you can't do that from 30,000 feet."

"But you don't have to go in with masses of armor that can be hit by rocket-propelled grenades," Sneh added. "You have to do it quick, smart, with operational ingenuity."

Meir Pail, a retired general and military historian, said that the army may ultimately have no alternative but to physically push Hezbollah beyond the Litani River, some 20 miles from Israel's border, a line Israel is reported to have insisted on in diplomatic contacts to resolve the crisis.

Alternatively, Pail said, the army may have to maintain long-term control of the Lebanese side of the border through periodic airstrikes and commando raids.

"This could go on for even years," he said.

Amos Harel, a military analyst for the Haaretz newspaper, said that the lessons of the Lebanon occupation were seared into the minds of Israeli decision makers.

"The trauma of Lebanon is still deeply imprinted in the Israeli psyche," Harel said. "You know how a war starts, but you never know how it will end."

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« Reply #28 on: July 21, 2006, 12:14:59 PM »

Somali militant urges holy war on Ethiopia

38 minutes ago

MOGADISHU, Somalia - An Islamic militia leader whose forces control the capital called for a holy war Friday against Ethiopian troops protecting Somalia's weak U.N.-backed government.
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Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, speaking on Radio Shabelle, said Ethiopia's decision to send troops to protect the transitional government in Baidoa, 150 miles northwest of Mogadishu, must be met with war.

"I am calling on the Somali people to wage a holy war against Ethiopians in Baidoa," said Aweys, accused by the United States of having ties to al-Qaida. "They came to protect a government which they set up to advance their interests."

Residents of Baidoa reported seeing hundreds of Ethiopian troops, in uniform and in marked armored vehicles, entering Baidoa on Thursday and taking up positions around transitional President Abdullahi Yusuf's compound. Ethiopian and Somali government officials have denied Ethiopian troops are in the country, though witnesses from five towns reported seeing them.

"Abdullahi Yusuf is in the pocket of Ethiopia," Aweys said in the nationwide broadcast. "He's been a servant of Ethiopia for a long time."

Islamic militants had rallied people to condemn the presence of Ethiopians after Friday prayers.

Demonstrators in Mogadishu shouted anti-Ethiopian and anti-U.S. slogans as they marched in the capital, accompanied by dozens of Islamic militiamen and trucks mounted with heavy weapons.

"We are against Ethiopian troops invading our country," read some of the banners carried by demonstrators, most of them men.

"God is Great!" shouted the protesters.

Radical Islamic militia, however, later gunned down two people during a rare demonstration against the rulers of Mogadishu.

"We don't want Islamic movements!" the protesters shouted before fleeing the gunfire, the Banabir radio station reported.

Baidoa residents appeared unfazed by the presence of Ethiopian troops. Tensions sparked by fears of attacks by Islamic militants eased Friday in the town.

The troops, wearing military uniforms, deployed near the Somali president's home in Baidoa, at the airport and on the outskirts of the town, residents said by telephone.

Ethiopia's move could give the internationally recognized Somali government its only chance to curb the increasing power of the militia, known as the Supreme Islamic Courts Council.

But Ethiopia's incursion also could be the pretext the militiamen need to build public support for a guerrilla war. Militiamen already control the capital and most of the rest of southern Somalia.

Ethiopia continued to deny its troops were in Somalia.

"There are no Ethiopian troops who have crossed the border into Somalia," Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Solomon Abebe told The Associated Press. "How can they tell who is Somali and who is Ethiopian?"

Reliance on Ethiopia appears to make the Somali government beholden to the country's traditional enemy and hurts its legitimacy. Anti-Ethiopia sentiment still runs high in much of this almost entirely Muslim country, which is why the government and Ethiopia, a mostly Christian nation, may want to keep the troop deployment quiet.

The neighboring countries are traditional enemies, although Somalia's president has asked Ethiopia for its support.

The United States urged Ethiopia on Thursday to exercise restraint and said the
European Union, the United States, the African Union, the Arab League and others in a contact group will meet soon to discuss the situation.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, carving much of the country into armed camps ruled by violence and clan law.

On Wednesday, the Islamic militia reached within 20 miles of Baidoa, prompting the government to go on high alert. The militia began pulling back Thursday as more than 400 Ethiopian troops entered Baidoa.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed concerns about the increased tensions and urged dialogue, according to a U.N. statement released Thursday.

The United States has accused the Supreme Islamic Courts Council of links to al-Qaida that include sheltering suspects in the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In a recent Internet posting, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden urged Somalis to support the militants and warned nations not to send troops.

The Islamic militia has installed strict religious courts, sparking fears it will become a Taliban-style regime.

Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia in 1993 and 1996 to quash Islamic militants attempting to establish a religious government.

During the first round of Arab League-mediated talks in Khartoum, Sudan, the government and the Islamic group agreed to stop all military action — though the Islamic group has been engaged in clashes and military deployments since.

The government first balked at a second round but agreed to resume talks under pressure from the contact group of foreign governments and international organizations.

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« Reply #29 on: July 21, 2006, 12:16:55 PM »

Israel Calls Up Troops, Warns Lebanese
Israel Warns Lebanese Civilians As It Readies for Likely Invasion; Rockets Wound 5 in Haifa
By SAM F. GHATTAS Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israel called up reserve troops Friday and warned civilians to flee Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon, as it prepared for a likely ground invasion to set up a deep buffer zone.

Hezbollah militants fired at least 11 rockets at Israel's port city of Haifa, wounding five people. Israeli warplanes pounded Lebanon's main road link to Syria, collapsing part of Lebanon's longest bridge. A U.N.-run observation post near the border was hit, but no one was hurt.

Ships lined up at Beirut's port as a massive evacuation effort to pull out Americans and other foreigners picked up speed. U.S. officials said more than 8,000 of the roughly 25,000 Americans in Lebanon will be evacuated by the weekend.

After 10 days of the heaviest bombardment of Lebanon in 24 years, Israel appears to have decided that a large-scale incursion is the only way to push Hezbollah back. But mounting civilian casualties and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese could limit the time Israel has to achieve its goals, as international tolerance for the bloodshed and destruction runs out.

An Israeli military radio station warned residents of 12 border villages in southern Lebanon to leave before 2 p.m. Friday. It was the latest warning from the Al-Mashriq station, which has said Israeli forces would "act immediately" to halt Hezbollah rocket fire.

At least 335 people have been killed in Lebanon in the Israeli campaign, according to the Lebanese health minister. Thirty-four Israelis also have been killed, including 19 soldiers.

The United States which has resisted calls to press its ally to halt the fighting was sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Mideast on Sunday, according to a senior Bush administration who spoke on condition of anonymity because Rice has not yet made her plans public.

The mission would be the first U.S. diplomatic effort on the ground since the Israeli onslaught against Lebanon began.

"We are all very concerned about the situation in the Middle East, and want to find a way forward that will contribute to a stable and democratic and peaceful Middle East," Rice said Friday as she met a three-member U.N. team.

Two Apache attack helicopters collided in northern Israel near the Lebanon border, killing one air force officer and injuring three others, two seriously, Israeli officials said. Israel's air force began an investigation.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, meanwhile, said his country was sending urgent aid to Lebanon by air and sea and he called for safe passage.

His comments came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned of a humanitarian crisis in Lebanon and called for an immediate cease-fire, even as he admitted "serious obstacles" stand in the way of even easing the violence.

"We are setting up a humanitarian air and sea port," Douste-Blazy said in Beirut. "At the same time, we demand the establishment of humanitarian corridors."

Top Israeli officials met Thursday night to decide how big a force to send in, according to senior military officials. They said Israel won't stop its offensive until Hezbollah is forced behind the Litani River, 20 miles north of the border creating a new buffer zone in a region that saw 18 years of Israeli presence since 1982.

Israel has stepped up its small forays over the border in recent days, seeking Hezbollah positions, rocket stores and bunkers. Each time it has faced tough resistance.

Israeli warplanes fired missiles that partially collapsed a 1.6-mile suspension bridge linking two steep mountain peaks, part of the Beirut-Damascus highway in central Lebanon. The bridge has been hit several times since the fighting began.

The bombing also set ablaze three buses that had just dropped off passengers in Syria, but the drivers escaped, police said.

Renewed attacks struck the ancient city of Baalbek, a major Hezbollah stronghold, and security officials said two people were killed and 19 wounded. They also attacked Hezbollah strongholds in south Beirut and elsewhere overnight.

Strikes in south Beirut killed one person, and missiles that hit a village near the border with Israel, Aita al-Shaab, killed three, officials said.

A house in the border village of Aitaroun was flattened, with 10 people believed inside, but rescuers could not reach it because of shelling, security officials said.

Air raid sirens wailed in Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, and at least 11 rockets struck in two barrages. Five people were wounded, with 23 treated for shock.

More rockets were fired elsewhere into northern Israel, the army said, with strikes reported in Rosh Pina, Safed and in several communities near the Sea of Galilee.

Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets from the Lebanese border since fighting began, forcing hundreds of thousands of Israelis into underground shelters. Eight people in Haifa were killed July 16.

A U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said an artillery shell fired by the Israeli military made "a direct hit on the U.N. position overlooking Zarit."

An Israeli military spokesman said the rockets were fired by Hezbollah guerrillas at northern Israel. The differing accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

During an Israeli offensive against Lebanon in 1996, artillery blasted a U.N. base at Qana in southern Lebanon, killing more than 100 civilians who had taken refuge with the peacekeepers.

The U.N. mission, which has nearly 2,000 military personnel and more than 300 civilians, is to patrol the border line, known as the Blue Line, drawn by the U.N. after Israel withdrew troops from south Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation.

Hezbollah said three of its fighters had been killed in the latest fighting with Israeli troops, bringing to six the number of guerrillas killed since Israel launched the massive military campaign against Lebanon after the militant Shiite Muslim group captured two of its soldiers on July 12.

Annan denounced Israel for "excessive use of force" and Hezbollah for holding "an entire nation hostage" with its rocket attacks and capturing the Israeli soldiers.

Neither side showed any sign of backing down.

The Israeli army issued a call-up of reserves. The exact number of troops was not disclosed, but a military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said it would be several thousand.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah shrugged off concerns of a stepped-up Israeli onslaught, saying the captive soldiers held by his guerrillas would be freed only as part of a prisoner exchange brokered through indirect negotiations.

He spoke in an interview taped Thursday with Al-Jazeera to show he had survived an airstrike in south Beirut that Israel said targeted a Hezbollah leadership bunker. The guerrillas said the strike only hit a mosque under construction and no one was hurt.

Lebanese streamed north into Beirut and other regions, crowding into schools, relatives' homes or hotels. Taxi drivers in the south were charging up to $400 per person for rides to Beirut more than 40 times the usual price. In remote villages of the south, cut off by strikes, residents made their way out over the mountains by foot.

The price of food, medical supplies and gasoline rose as much as 500 percent in parts of Lebanon as the bombardment cut supply routes. The World Food Program said estimates of basic food supplies ranged from one to three months.

The U.N. estimated that a half-million people have been displaced, with 130,000 fleeing to Syria and 45,000 believed to be in need of assistance.

More than 400,000 people perhaps as many as a half-million are believed to live south of the Litani, according to Timur Goskel, a former top U.N. adviser in the south. The river has twice been the border of Israeli buffer zones. In 1978, Israel invaded up to the Litani to drive back Palestinian guerrillas, withdrawing from most of the south months later.

Israel invaded Lebanon again in a much bigger operation in 1982 when its forces seized parts of Beirut. It eventually carved out a buffer zone that stopped at the Litani. That zone was reduced gradually but the Israeli presence lasted for 18 years until 2000, when it withdrew its troops completely.

Israel Calls Up Troops, Warns Lebanese
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