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Al-Qaida Vows To Strike At Hezbollah For Lebanon Bombings

Al-Qaida's North African branch blamed Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah for twin bombs that hit the northern city of Tripoli on Friday and threatened retribution, a US-based intelligence monitoring website reported on Saturday.

Although al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is not operational in Lebanon, its statement shows a growing regional hatred against Hezbollah by radical Sunni Muslim groups and a wider, deepening sectarian divide in the Middle East.

AQIM said in tweets it knew "with certainty" that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah was responsible for the attack that killed more than 42 people in Tripoli.

"That vile party... should know that it will meet retribution soon," AQIM said, according to the SITE monitoring service.

Hezbollah, which was once lauded by both Sunnis and Shi'ites for its battles against Israel, has lost support from many Sunnis since it joined Syrian President Bashar Assad's side in his 2 1/2-year-old fight against a majority Sunni uprising.



Shelah: 'Jewish And Democratic State' An Oxymoron

Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah continued making public statements in opposition of his party on Friday, coming out against “nationality bills” like the one proposed by MK Ruth Calderon.

“Even in its best version, so-called ‘nationality bills’ are unnecessary, and unnecessary legislation should not be passed. In its worst versions, its a harmful bill for our shared lives in this land and for our image abroad,” Shelah wrote on Facebook regarding the proposals to legally define Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Shelah’s Facebook post came days after Justice Minister Tzipi Livni appointed Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison to write a “constitutional provision” on Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not approve of the appointment.

Earlier this year, Livni vetoed Calderon’s bill and another proposal on the topic by coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.



Constitutional Tweaks May Empower Mubarak-Era Politicians In Egypt

CAIRO | Sat Aug 24, 2013 9:10am EDT

(Reuters) - Changes suggested by Egypt's army-backed rulers would scrap Islamic additions to a constitution forced through under deposed President Mohamed Mursi and revive a voting system dating back to his predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

Islamists and liberals have voiced alarm about the proposals made by a constitutional committee set up by the generals who removed the Muslim Brotherhood's Mursi on July 3 amid widespread protests against Egypt's first freely elected leader.

The army has suspended the constitution adopted under Mursi late last year. It had been endorsed by a referendum after he grabbed extraordinary powers to ensure its passage, igniting some of the bloodiest street protests of his turbulent year in power.

Now an army-installed government is revising a document faulted for embedding Islamic influence in lawmaking and for short-changing human rights, especially of women and minorities, including Christians who form some 10 percent of the population.

The changes drafted by a 10-member committee - and leaked to the media on Wednesday, the same day a court ordered Mubarak freed from jail - are part of an army roadmap back to democracy.



Merkel raps China, Russia for neutering UN stance on Syria inspectors

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised Damascus allies China and Russia for blocking a Western-backed UN text demanding that inspectors probing chemical weapons use in Syria be given unfettered access.

Her comments were made in an interview with Focus magazine, extracts of which were published on Saturday, even as a top UN envoy arrived in Damascus to discuss the terms on an enquiry into the alleged chemical attacks.

"Unfortunately, the opposition of Russia and China thwarted a formal statement by the UN Security Council calling for them (the inspectors) to be granted full access," Merkel said.

A draft supported by the United States, Britain and France and calling for the powers of UN inspectors to be reinforced was circulated at a council meeting on Wednesday, in the wake of fresh allegations that chemical weapons had been used in Syria.

But according to diplomats, the council's two other permanent members China and Russia, blocked it and only agreed to a weaker statement.



Greenpeace Ship Defies Russia, Enters Arctic Route To Protest Against Oil Drilling

Greenpeace has deployed its icebreaker through an Arctic shipping route to protest against oil drilling in the fragile ecosystem, defying Russian authorities, the group said Saturday.

The Russian transportation ministry immediately accused the Dutch-flagged vessel of “crudely” violating Russian and international law.

Earlier this week Greenpeace said Russia had refused the permission to enter the Northern Sea Route on several occasions citing concerns about the icebreaker’s ability to withstand thick ice.

The global environmental group has called the move “a thinly veiled attempt to stifle peaceful protest.”

In defiance of the Russian authorities, the Greenpeace said its ship Arctic Sunrise entered the Northern Sea Route early Saturday to protest plans by the country’s top oil firm Rosneft and its US partner ExxonMobil to drill near the Russian Arctic National Park.



Manning Gender Preference Puts US Media in Quandary

WASHINGTON, August 23 (RIA Novosti) – Bradley Manning, the US Army private now in prison for leaking classified military secrets, has launched a pivotal nationwide debate for journalists with what would seem to be a relatively straightforward request: “He” now wants to be known as “she.”

“I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” Manning said in a sworn statement read Thursday by his attorney, David Coombs, on NBC’s “Today” show.

“I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun,” Manning wrote, adding, “I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”
The statement had a handwritten signature that read “Chelsea E. Manning.”

But for a prison inmate facing a lengthy term behind bars, it’s just not that simple.
The request itself may well challenge societal discomfort and push US military policies far beyond the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” standard that, until September 2011, barred declared homosexuals from serving in the military.



Guest Lineups For The Sunday News Shows

“Meet the Press” on NBC

• Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)
• Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D)
• Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)
• Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho)

“Face the Nation” on CBS

• Lewis
• Booker
• Former Secretary of State Colin Powell

“This Week” on ABC

• Lewis
• Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young (D)

“Fox News Sunday” on Fox

• Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
• Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), ranking member, House Foreign Affairs Committee
• Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R)
• Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)

“State of the Union” on CNN

• Lewis
• Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
• Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean
• Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)

Even Amid Uproar Over Alleged Chemical Attack, Syria Regime Seems Confident It Has Upper Hand

The signs would seem bad for President Bashar Assad. Blasts echo all day long over the Syrian capital as troops battle rebels entrenched on its eastern doorstep. The government admits the economy is devastated. Allegations of a horrific chemical attack have given new life to calls for international action against his regime.

Yet the regime appears more confident than ever that it weathered the worst and has gained the upper hand in the country's civil war, even if it takes years for victory.

Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil traces a slow arc in the air with his hand to show how the country has reached a turning point in "the events" _ the most common euphemism here for 2 1/2 years of bloodshed.

"If the previous trajectory was all negative, it is now on a new course of a gradual reduction of violence, until it goes back to zero," he told The Associated Press.

"The turning point changes the course of things, but it will take a while," he said. "I don't think the path downward will take as long as the path of escalation did."



Iran Slams ‘US Uranium Scenario’ as Bid to Scuttle P5+1 Talks

Source: RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, August 24 (RIA Novosti) - The US allegation about an attempt by a man from Sierra Leone to sell uranium to Iran is designed to thwart Tehran’s upcoming talks with a group of international mediators, Press TV reported on Saturday, citing a senior Iranian lawmaker.

On Friday, Western media reported that US prosecutors have charged Patrick Campbell, 33, of Freetown with attempting to sell to undercover agents 1,000 tons of yellowcake uranium he believed would be shipped to Iran. He was arrested Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport with a sample of the toxic substance concealed in his baggage.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Iran's Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, described the “US scenario” as a “joke,” the agency reported.

The Islamic Republic does not need to buy yellow cake from the citizens of other countries, he was quoted by Press TV as saying.

Read more: http://en.rian.ru/world/20130824/182945748/Iran-Slams-US-Uranium-Scenario-as-Bid-to-Scuttle-P51-Talks.html

Brings back memories...

Air War in Kosovo Seen as Precedent in Possible Response to Syria Chemical Attack

WASHINGTON — As President Obama weighs options for responding to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, his national security aides are studying the NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations.

With Russia still likely to veto any military action in the Security Council, the president appears to be wrestling with whether to bypass the United Nations, although he warned that doing so would require a robust international coalition and legal justification.

“If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work?” Mr. Obama said on Friday to CNN, in his first public comments after the deadly attack on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama described the attack as “clearly a big event of grave concern” and acknowledged that the United States had limited time to respond. But he said United Nations investigators needed to determine whether chemical weapons had been used.

Kosovo is an obvious precedent for Mr. Obama because, as in Syria, civilians were killed and Russia had longstanding ties to the government authorities accused of the abuses. In 1999, President Bill Clinton used the endorsement of NATO and the rationale of protecting a vulnerable population to justify 78 days of airstrikes.


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