Bahrain accused of pre-Grand Prix arrests

Plainclothes police officers have arrested 20 people so far in raids in towns around the Gulf state's Sakhir circuit, the New York-based watchdog said.

Bahrain has been rounding up pro-democracy activists ahead of its controversial staging of the April 21 Formula One Grand Prix two years after a bloody crackdown, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

"Bahraini authorities are carrying out home raids and arbitrarily detaining opposition protesters in advance of the Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend," it said.

"These raids and detentions suggest that officials are more concerned with getting activists out of circulation for the Formula 1 race than with addressing the legitimate grievances that have led so many Bahrainis to take to the streets," said HRW's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.

"The Bahraini authorities have a responsibility to ensure the safety of those attending the Formula 1 Grand Prix, but that should not extend to arresting people for exercising their legitimate rights to free speech and assembly," Whitson said.

"Night-time raids of targeted people by masked officers who show neither arrest nor search warrants appear intended to intimidate them, their families and their supporters."

The  Bahraini regime  was rocked by month-long pro-democracy protests in early 2011 that were crushed with the help of Saudi-led troops,according to NDTV.

Last year's Bahrain Grand Prix was accompanied by a week of angry protests but demonstrators stayed away from the desert circuit and the race passed off without incident.

A total of 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests erupted in February 2011, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.


China Stresses Iran's Right to Peaceful N. Technology

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei once again underlined Iran's right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

"As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran possesses the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes while following relevant international obligations," Hong said on Wednesday.

The Chinese diplomat voiced Beijing's readiness to work with the relevant parties to continue to play a constructive role in settling the issue.

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman's remarks came after Iran and the six world powers held 4 rounds and two days of talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, last week.

The Iranian team was led by lead negotiator Jalili, who is also the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), and the G5+1's representatives were presided by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The last round of the talks between Tehran and the six world powers was held in Almaty on February 26-27.

Also, experts from Iran and the G5+1 reviewed the two sides' proposals in a meeting in Istanbul from March 17 to 18. The two sides' experts outlined topics of the talks between the chief negotiators of Iran and the G5+1.


Libyan arms fueling warfare in Syria, Mali, Gaza Strip – UN report

Arms out of post-Gaddafi Libya are empowering militant groups, including terrorists and criminal gangs across the Middle East and Africa, a UN report said. Twelve countries are involved in the illicit trade of weapons, including portable SAM missiles.

Eighteen months after the civilian conflict and NATO bombing campaign ousted Muammar Gaddafi, most of the weapons in the country remain in control of civilians and militias, according to a UN Security Council report. The trafficking of those arms is both a lucrative business and a major security threat to the entire region, the report revealed.

"In the past 12 months, the proliferation of weapons from Libya has continued at a worrying rate and has spread into new territory: West Africa, the Levant and, potentially, even the Horn of Africa," the panel said. "Illicit flows from the country are fueling existing conflicts in Africa and the Levant and enriching the arsenals of a range of non-state actors, including terrorist groups."

The recipients are empowered not only by the sheer number of new arms in their possession, but also by new kinds of weapons,according to RT.

"Cases, both proven and under investigation, of illicit transfers from Libya in violation of the embargo cover more than 12 countries and include heavy and light weapons, including man-portable air defense systems, small arms and related ammunition and explosives and mines," experts wrote in the 94-page report.

Proliferation of portable surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) has long been deemed one of the most alarming consequences of the turmoil in Libya, as such weapons may be used by terrorists to shoot down civilian aircraft. Experts claim they have confidential information that 30 SAMs have been trafficked from Libya to Chad’s capital Ndjamena.

Other trafficking destinations for these weapons include Syria and Mali, both of which have witnessed violent conflict. Some Libyan ammunition has been found in Somalia, where Islamist group Al Shabab is rebelling against the weakened central government.

UN experts said that the arms trafficking had been organized from various locations in Libya, including Misrata and Benghazi, through Turkey or northern Lebanon: "The significant size of some shipments and the logistics involved suggest that representatives of the Libyan local authorities might have at least been aware of the transfers, if not actually directly involved."

The experts also said they found that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had violated the arms embargo on Libya during the 2011 conflict, supplying weapons and ammunition to anti-Gaddafi forces.

Last month, the UN Security Council eased sanctions against Libya to allow the supply of non-lethal military equipment, including ballistic armor and armored vehicles to its government. Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan’s cabinet is struggling to bring the country under control, disarm local militias and provide some degree of security to the population.

But large parts of the country remain unruly and refuse to take orders from Tripoli. Tensions are high between coastal regions over how profits from the country’s oil trade should be distributed, while many areas inside the country are largely left to govern themselves independently.


Russian Aid to Displaced Syrians in Lebanon

MOSCOW,(ST)_ The  Russian Emergency Ministry sent today ( Wednesday)  a plane loaded with humanitarian aid to displaced Syrians in Lebanon , victims of  criminal acts, carried out by armed terrorist groups. A similar plane of humanitarian aid for displaced Syrians in Jordan will be sent tomorrow to Jordan.
Russia  Today online quoted a source at the ministry as saying that the plane is  loaded with 27 tons of humanitarian aid will arrive in  Lebanon today, adding that the aid comes at the  directive of the Russian leadership.
Last week, Russia sent two aircrafts to Jordan and  Lebanon carrying humanitarian aid and raw foodstuffs  to displaced Syrians .


T. Fateh

Iran, Armenia Reject Foreign Interference in Syria

TEHRAN,(ST)_Both the Armenian President Serj Sarkisian and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi  stressed that foreign interference in Syria's internal affairs exacerbated its  crisis.

Meeting with Salehi in Armenia, President Sarkisian  considered  outside interference in Syria 's affairs led to the increasing violence and killings and consequently  the aggravation of the crisis.

Sarkisian described relations between his country and Iran as remarkable, expressing hope to enhance the scope of bilateral cooperation in all economic, trade, cultural and political fields, stressing the importance of exchanging political and economic bodies between the two countries.

Salehi stressed that foreign intervention exacerbated the crisis in Syria  and reiterated his country's support for the political program proposed by the Syrian government  to resolve the crisis .


He also stressed his country's support for the Syrian people to be able to exercise their right to self-determination under a safe and stable environment, noting  Iran's open and transparent position  about the crisis in Syria.

Salehi expressed thanks over Armenia's stances about Iran's peaceful nuclear file.

However, Salehi is in a visit to the Republic of Armenia to participate in the constitutional oath  ceremony  of the  Armenian President on the occasion of his re-election for a new term of office.


T. Fateh