Russia Criticizes EU's Unilateral Sanctions on Iran

Moscow, (IRNA) - The Russian Foreign Ministry criticized in a statement on Wednesday the unilateral sanctions imposed by the European Union on Iran and expressed its "deep concern" over the issue.

  The statement urged efforts to hold fresh talks between Iran and the Six states: the US, UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany.

Moscow referred to the unilateral sanctions by the EU as a "palpable blow" to the unity of the six nations.

 "We will continue to consistently seek to achieve the organization of the next round of negotiations ... as soon as possible," the statement said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently expressed the country's disagreement on the new anti-Iran bans.

 

ST

Greeks go on strike as EU leaders meet

 ATHENS, (Reuters) - Greek workers walked off the job for the second time in three weeks on Thursday, hoping to show EU leaders meeting in Brussels that a new wave of wage and pension cuts will only worsen their plight after five years of recession.

 Streets emptied in central Athens as most business and public sector activity ground to a halt at the start of the 24-hour strike called by the country's two biggest labour unions, ADEDY and GSEE.

 Greece is stuck in its worst downturn since World War Two and must make at least 11.5 billion Euros of cuts to satisfy the "troika" of the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF, and secure the next tranche of a 130-billion-Euro bailout.

 "Just once, the government ought to reject the troika's absurd demands," said Yannis Panagopoulos, head of the GSEE private sector union, one of two major unions that represent about 2 million people, or half of Greece's workforce.

 "Agreeing to catastrophic measures means driving society to despair and the consequences as well as the protests will then be indefinite," he said.

European Union leaders will try to bridge their differences over plans for a banking union at their two-day summit which starts on Thursday but no substantial decisions are expected, reviving concerns about complacency in tackling the debt crisis which exploded three years ago in Greece.

The strike brought much of the country to a standstill. Ships stayed in port, Athens public transport was disrupted and hospitals were working on emergency staff, while public offices, ministries and many shops including bakeries were shut.

 Five separate marches later on Thursday are expected to culminate in demonstrations outside parliament, which in the past have ended in clashes between police and protesters. Metal fences were put up outside parliament on the central Syntagma square and about 4,000 policemen were being deployed.

 

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Putin: Russia will NOT Be Dictated to on Arms Sales

MOSCOW (ST) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that only the U.N. Security Council could restrict Russian weapons sales abroad.

"Only sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council can serve as a basis for limiting weapons supplies," Putin said, according to state-run Itar-Tass News Agency.

"In all other cases, nobody can use any pretext to dictate to Russia on how it should trade and with whom," he was quoted as telling a meeting of a state commission on the arms trade.

 

M. Daoud

Rare Earthquake Rattles New England

A rare 4.0 magnitude earthquake rattled New England, last night. While some of our readers on the West Coast would barely even blink with such a shake, it caused confusion and consternation for many around the epicenter about 30 miles outside of Portland, Maine.

The Bangor daily reports that the largest earthquake to strike the region measured 5.1 and it happened in 1904.

"According to the Geological Survey, tremors were felt as far north as upper New Hampshire and Vermont, and Maine, and as far south as Connecticut. People in Greater Boston were buzzing in the immediate aftermath.

"Paul DiNatale, of Newburyport, said in a phone interview that his house shook for 20 seconds, and at first he thought there was a problem with his boiler.

'It was a scary experience,' he said."

In Dayton, Maine, the Daily News reports, there was a standoff going on when the earthquake struck.

"Things were rattling and shaking. I thought there was an explosion going off. My neighbor came over all shook up. A picture had fallen off her wall," Ron Smith, owner of Goodwin's Mills General Store in Lyman, told the paper.

Sue Hadiaris, of Saco, told the AP her whole house shook.

"It felt like a train was coming through the house," she said.

But her 15-year-old niece looked at the bright side: "We can cross that off our bucket list," she said.

The AP adds that there were no immediate reports of damage.

Top Vatican Officials Expected to visit Damascus Next Week

 VATICAN CITY, (S.T)_  Pope Benedict XVI is to send a delegation, including top Vatican officials and New York's cardinal  to Syria, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The Vatican No. 2, Cardinal TarcisioBertone, said that the delegation would likely travel to Syria next week.

The group will consist of seven churchmen, including New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Holy See's top official for inter-religious dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, and the archbishop of the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa.

Syrian official sources have not yet confirmed the date of the visit.

On September 15, the pontiff, calling himself "a pilgrim of peace," denounced as a "grave sin" the transfer of weapons from any country to Syria.

"The import of weapons has to finally stop. Without the import of arms the war cannot continue. Instead of importing weapons, which is a grave sin, we have to import ideas of peace and creativity." said the Pontiff.

The United States and other western nations are providing terrorist groups in Syria with weapons. In addition,  the Obama administration has not denounced the reported arming of these groups by certain Gulf states and other nations.

 B. Qaddour

Source: agencies

 

 

 

Arms for Syrian rebels go mostly to extremists – report

 Most of the arms funneled to Syrian rebels reportedly end up in the hands of hard-line extremists, including those affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

The Syrian armed opposition is supplied with small arms from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, while their other foreign allies like the US provide logistical help for the transactions. However according to classified US assessments of the conflict, most of the weapons go to jihadists rather than to secular-minded groups, reports The New York Times.

 

“The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” an American official familiar with the outlines of those findings told the newspaper.

The reports suggest that the more plentiful shipments orchestrated by Qatar are particularly likely to go to hard line groups.

The US is frustrated there is no central clearinghouse for the arms shipments and no effective way of vetting the groups that ultimately receive the weapons. CIA head David Petraeus secretly visited Turkey last month, reportedly in an effort to steer up the supply through its territory, the NYT says.

The complexity of the situation cuts the other way too, as the middlemen in Lebanon and Turkey, who funnel Saudi and Qatari weapons to the Syrian rebels, often cannot profile their customers too,the NYT reports.

The situation may have ramifications for the upcoming presidential election in the US. The Obama administration has been keeping the Syrian rebels at arm’s length, avoiding either sending arms to them directly or approving supply of heavy weapons. The reason was precisely the lack of confidence that those would not end up in the wrong hands.

 

French Defense Minister: African Mali intervention in 'weeks'

 PARIS, African military action in Mali after a March coup will start within weeks, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tuesday.

 "It's a matter of weeks, not months, weeks," the minister told France 2 television, calling the desert region that was overrun by the extremists.

 He however reiterated that France would "not send troops on the ground" to join the West African force, but would provide "logistical aid" and help in planning.

 Since spring "a number of groups, hundreds of rebels, fundamentalists and those involved in trafficking arms, drugs and humans" have "sliced Mali in two," he said.

 "The integrity of Mali assures Europe's security," he said.

 Le Drian said UN guidelines for such action would have to be respected.

 The UN Security Council on Friday gave a 45-day deadline for intervention, saying the plan should include "means and modalities of the envisaged deployment, in particular the concept of operations," personnel needed and a cost estimate.

 The text, which was mainly drafted by France, also urges authorities in Bamako and representatives of "Malian rebel groups" controlling the north to "engage, as soon as possible, in a credible negotiation process."

 European Union foreign ministers on Monday approved moves to "urgently" plan for a possible military mission in Mali.

 This will touch on "the organization and training of the Malian Defence forces, taking into account the conditions needed to efficiently fulfill a possible mission, including the full and entire support of the Malian authorities," the EU statement said.

 The most likely scenario will be the quick dispatch of some 150 senior army trainers, an EU official said.

 The UN is to provide "military and security planners" to ECOWAS, or the Economic Community of West African States, and the African Union to assist with the preparations, according to the UN resolution.

 After details for military intervention are submitted, the 15-member council would still have to pass a second resolution to give the green light to the deployment. That is not expected to happen before the end of the year.

 French President Francois Hollande has stressed the resolution was not just about facilitating a military intervention, but had a political component as well, with armed groups urged to halt attacks and join reconciliation efforts.

 AFP

 

Lavrov: No Confirmation of Cluster Munitions Used

LUXEMBOURG, (ST)_ Russia's veteran Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, asserted that Syria has never used cluster munitions as claimed by human rights organizations.

In press statements here Sunday, Minister Lavrov added that “There are a lot of illegally supplied weapons in the Middle East and it is often very difficult to indentify their origin,”

 “There is no confirmation of that,” Lavrov underscored, reiterating that “The region is loaded with weapons, which are being brought into Syria and other countries in huge amounts and illegally.”

Syrian Army and Armed Forces General Command categorically refuted the news circulated by media outlets of fabrications and lies that the Army used cluster bombs against the foreign-backed mercenary armed terrorist groups.

In a Statement, the General Command underline that the Syrian Army doesn't have such kinds of bombs, warning against the ongoing misleading media campaigns as to divert attention from the heinous crimes perpetrated by the foreign-backed armed terrorist groups against Syria and the Syrians.

M.A. Al-Ibrahim