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Blasts, suicide bombers strike busy central Baghdad, killing at least 18

Four massive explosions -- at least one set off by a suicide bomber -- rocked a busy area of Baghdad on Thursday. The blasts came in quick succession around 1 p.m. not far from the fortified area known as the Green Zone, where international and government employees work,according to CNN.

Black smoke filled the sky as fires raged for nearly two hours and frantic Iraqis shouted out for their loved ones. One woman screamed, "My son!"

At least 18 people were killed and 53 were wounded, police officials in Baghdad told CNN.

In one of the attacks, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vest inside the Justice Ministry building, Iraqi security officials told CNN.

Iraqi state television reported that three gunmen rushed into the building, but Iraqi forces killed them. Iraqi forces continued to search the building to make sure employees were safe, the government-run news outlet said.

It's unclear at this time how the bomber and gunmen were able to get to the Justice Ministry, considering there are multiple checkpoints and other security measures in place to help keep the high-traffic area secure.

Three hours after the blasts, Iraqi military helicopters were still hovering over the Justice Ministry as the sounds of sirens wailed.

The attacks come as the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war nears. The invasion began on March 20, 2003.


Syrian MP Describes Qatar, S. Arabia as Puppets of US, Zionist entity in Region

A Syrian parliamentarian lashed out at Qatar and Saudi Arabia for their plots against Syria, and stressed that they are acting as puppets of the US and Israel in the region.

Mohammad Zahir Ghanoom told FNA on Wednesday that some Persian Gulf Arab littoral states, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are the "real plotters" in Syria,according to FNA.

"These countries' attempts to dispatch terrorists to Syria, fund these terrorists and facilitate the trend of arm smuggling to them came to a point that they could undermine tranquility and security in Syria for a short period of time," the Syrian lawmaker stated.

Ghanoom said that "Doha coalition" and Qatar are tools in the hands of the Zionist enemy and the US, and stated that they are still sending terrorists and arms to Syria under the support of the superpowers such as the US and the western states.

The Syrian legislator, however, noted that the plots of Qatar and Saudi Arabia will no longer produce fruit for them due to the proper measures taken by the Syrian government and army to thwart their plots.

In January, sources said that a large number of spying cells from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are operating in Syria to help the armed rebels topple the Damascus government.

Informed sources told the Palestinian al-Manar weekly that Israeli, Saudi, Turkish and Qatari intelligence officers, backed by the US, have infiltrated into Syria via the Turkish borders, adding that each spying cell is comprised of 16 agents.

According to the sources, the main goal of the intelligence groups is gathering intelligence, especially in the form of footage and images, from Syria's sensitive and important sites, the country's military grid and power in particular.

Al-Manar had also earlier reported that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been financing and supplying armed rebels in Syria with more explosive materials they have recently purchased from the US, Israel and UK in a bid to help the terrorists carry out their anti-government operations in the Syria.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have smuggled the explosives to Syria with the assistance of the intelligence services of the Arab country's neighboring countries, including Turkey, the al-Manar quoted informed security sources as saying in December.

The sources also disclosed that there are special terrorist garrisons in Turkey which are administered by the security officers of Israel and western countries.


Lahoud : Syria will Emerge from War Victorious

Beirut, (ST) _Former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud on Tuesday reviewed with  the Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim developments in Lebanon and the region,  and the situation in Syria.

Following the meeting,  ambassador Abdul Karim said  "The meeting with President Lahoud was an opportunity to discuss developments. President Lahoud believes that what is happening in Syria is linked to the invasion of Iraq ,aggression against Lebanon in 2006 and targeting  the Palestinian cause and the States that embrace it , especially Syria."

Abdul Karim reiterated what was stated by Lahoud that  Syria  will emerge victorious from this war.

Abdul Karim stressed that the political solution is ultimately the inevitable result, thanks  to two years of Syria 's steadfastness , cohesion of its army , nationalism of her people  and after threats against the region are exposed.

Lahoud also discussed with President of the Arab Struggle Movement MP Faisal Daoud the general situation in Lebanon and the region.

"The policy of self-distancing  pursued by the Lebanese government is wrong, " al-Daoud said, adding  that : "everyone should realize that Lebanon will remain steadfast  and backbone of the fight against the Israeli enemy".


T. Fateh

Clashes Flare in Palestinian Camp in Lebanon

Lebanese security officials said clashes between rival factions in Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp have killed one person and injured at least 13. 

The clashes in the Ein el-Hilweh camp near the Southern city of Sidon began Monday night after a member of the extremist "Fatah al-Islam" group was shot and wounded in what appeared to be a personal dispute, AP reported. 

The incident sparked a firefight in which a Palestinian from the mainstream Fatah group was killed and five people were injured. 

The officials said heavy clashes with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades resumed Tuesday.

 At least 8 people were injured Tuesday, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with media.


Patriarch Lahham Rejects Foreign Interference in Syria

BEIRUT,(ST)_Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, of Antioch and All the East for the Greek-Orthodox  Church stressed  rejection to outside interference in any Arab country , noting  "My message is that we should not say we are against foreign intervention in Syria but external interference in any Arab country is prohibited and  we must be masters of ourselves . "

In statements to  the Lebanese al-Jomhoria daily on Monday , al-Lahham  refused to say that the Church is neutral towards what is happening in Syria: " We want all the best for Syria, but not through  violence, murder and terror" .

" Syria is also Proper  Syria, which includes Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq so the crisis entitled  the region ", he said considering that the so-called revolutions are not carried out by weapons.

On the flow of weapons to armed terrorist groups he said: "arms come from Croatia and elsewhere. It is a shame that even Europe sent arms to us."

He criticized the  position of the international community concerning Syria  : " They only care for their interests and how they can  promote their weapons. They do not care for us being Muslims or Christians."

As for the  repercussions of the crisis in Syria on Lebanon , Lahham said :  Like it or not will  we will be influenced by  its repercussions,"  stressing that the problem of Syria today is the problem of a divided  and of different alignments  Arab world, calling on the Lebanese "to shoulder their  responsibility and change their  performance."

"The issue of Palestine is the major issue. Democracy and the hope in a true Arab Spring will vanish, as long as this cancer represented occupation continues to exist."

T. Fateh