China, Italy, Iran Urge Political Solution to Crisis in Syria

CAPITALS- China has reiterated that the only realistic way for addressing the Syrian issue is to seek a political solution, according to the Chinese News Agency Xinhua.

The agency quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei as saying on Thursday that China has paid high attention to the development of the situation in Syria and played a constructive role in resolving the issue politically.

"China believed that the future destiny of Syria should be decided by the Syrian people themselves," he said.

"The pressing problem is to urge all relevant sides to cease fire and stop violence as soon as possible and start the political transition based on the communique of the Geneva foreign ministers' meeting of the Action Group," he said.

"Any action taken by the international community, including the UN General Assembly, should be conducive to realizing the above goals while observing the principles of the UN Charter and basic norms governing the international relations," he added.

According to Hong, relevant countries recently tabled a draft resolution to the 67th UN General Assembly. "As with a number of UN member states, China showed serious concern over part of the contents of the draft resolution and thus demanded sponsor countries to take into full consideration the viewpoints of all relevant sides and not forcibly push forward the vote in order not to hamper a political solution," he said.

As the sponsor countries had forcibly pushed forward the vote without fully communicating with all sides, China voted to oppose the draft resolution, he said.

He stressed that China sought no self-interest on the Syrian issue and had no intention to take sides.

"Should any solution by widely accepted by relevant sides in Syria, China would take a positive and open attitude toward it," he said.

"We are willing to make joint efforts with the international community, including the Arab countries, to persist in the direction of political solution so as to solve the crisis in Syria with a fair, peaceful and proper manner," he said.

The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution Wednesday, calling for a political transition in Syria. The resolution is not legally binding.

In the same context, Italy also called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria.

The Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino was quoted by the Italian News Agency AKI as saying in Rome that the diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria is the only way out and it must be adopted.

"There is a chance to solve the crisis diplomatically through holding Geneva Conference 2," she said.

In Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry stressed that the unbinding UN resolution adopted against Syria yesterday, doesn't contribute to solving the crisis in the country, but it will lead to further extremism among the armed terrorist groups which will commit more crimes against the Syrian people. It will also undermine all efforts aiming at attaining a political solution that ends the crisis.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqji said in a statement that the "UN resolution was issued within certain circumstances in which Syria and the entire region are in need for security and stability much more than any time before."    

H. Mustafa 

Suicide bomber targets foreigners, at least six Afghans killed

A suicide bomber in a car targeted two vehicles carrying foreign forces in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Thursday killing at least six Afghan civilians, Afghan officials said.

It was not clear if any members of the foreign force were killed or wounded.

The Hezb-e-Islami insurgent group, allied with the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the militants told Reuters.

The powerful blast took place at around 8 a.m. (11.30 p.m. EDT Wednesday), during the morning rush-hour, and caused heavy damaged to mud-built houses in the vicinity.

Helicopters buzzed over Kabul's diplomatic area after the attack and sirens whined.

"It was a powerful explosion and some of the dead civilians were badly burnt and cannot be recognized," Kane Backlash, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Health Ministry, told Reuters.

Police said the bomber drove a Toyota Corolla car into the convoy of foreign troops.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (USAF) said it was aware of an explosion and was looking into reports of USAF casualties.

"We planned this attack for over a week, our target was American advisers," Hezb-e-Islami spokesman HaroonZarghoun said by telephone, adding that the bomb killed 12 Americans.

Insurgents often exaggerate death tolls.

The group killed seven South African and Russian pilots in a bomb attack in Kabul last year.

Hezb-e-Islami, which means Islamic Party, is a radical militant group which shares some of the anti-foreigner, anti-government aims of the Taliban.

But the political wing of the group, founded by warlord and former anti-Soviet fighter GulbuddinHekmatyar, has been in nascent talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a peace deal to end the 12-year war.

The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's intelligence agency, says it thwarts a large number of attacks on the capital on a weekly basis.

The last suicide bomb attack in Kabul was in March, when a man blew himself up at a Defense Ministry gate, killing nine Afghans, during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.


"We Love Syria", Says Maduro

CARACAS, (ST)_ ''We love Syria, and the Syrian people deserve to live in peace,"said Venezuela's newly –elected President Nicolas Maduro

Maduro's remark was made during a meeting with the Marnonite Patriarch Mar Beshara Boutrus al-Rahi in Caracas on Tuesday.

The Venezuelan president said that he discussed with al-Rahi the crisis in Syria and expressed Venezuela's love to Syria.

"I'm here  to offer condolences over the demise of President Hugo Chavez and congratulate President Maduro on  winning the presidential elections,"al-Rahi stated to the Venezuelan TV.

During a ceremony held in his honor in Caracas on Sunday, al-Rahi urged the international community to shoulder its responsibilities as regards bringing peace to Syria and the Middle East.


Lavrov: We Hope Syrian "Opposition" Will Support Russian-US Agreement on Implementing Geneva Statement


STOCKHOLM-MOSCOW, (ST) – Moscow hopes that the Russian-American agreement on Syria will be supported by the Syrian "opposition", Russian Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov announced on Wednesday.

"We know that the "Syrian opposition" will hold a meeting in Istanbul. There will be another meeting in Madrid to which the Syrian internal opposition, particularly the National Coordination Committee, will be invited," Lavrov said in a statement.

He stressed that "it is important that participants in the meeting will announce their clear support for the Russian-American initiative to implement Geneva statement."

Last week, Russia and the United States agreed on supporting political solution in Syria through calling for holding an international conference on Syria to enhance the principles of Geneva statement signed on June 30th,  1012.

On Tuesday and following his meeting with his US counterpart John Kerry in Sweden, Lavrov stressed that both Russia and the United States see that the forthcoming international conference on Syria should be held in Geneva. He pointed out that it will be held at the level of foreign ministers not leaders of states.

"What is most important at the moment is to get the Syrian government and opposition's announcement of their readiness to support this initiative," Lavrov said, describing the statement issued by the Syrian government on the conference as positive.

The Russian Minister said that the opposition has had no comment so far on this issue, pointing out that he discussed with the US State Secretary the necessity that the Americans should use all possible means to force the opposition to form a delegation to take part in the conference.

H. Mustafa

Austria 's Chancellor Rejects Arming " Syrian Opposition"

VIENNA,(ST) _Austria's  Chancellor Werner Faymann  renewed his country's rejection  to lift arms embargo to "the Syrian opposition." 

The Austrian  (de Presse) daily quoted  Chancellor Faymann as saying  in a statement after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that his  country will oppose any proposal calls for providing arms to the"  Syrian opposition," adding that "Austria will defend its position before  European Union states , even if I stayed alone in its decision" , during the  meeting of the EU foreign ministers on  May 22. 

The paper pointed out that Sweden , the Baltic states and Austria strongly rejected the invitation by  Paris and London to lift the ban on the supply of weapons to the armed terrorist groups in Syria.


T. Fateh 

Worst-case scenario in Syria can be prevented only through political process - Putin

The situation in Syria is alarming, and only the soonest possible termination of the armed conflict and transition to a political settlement process can prevent the worst-case scenario, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, Voice of Russia correspondent reports.

"It is only the soonest possible termination of the armed conflict and transition to a political settlement that can prevent a negative scenario," Putin said following negotiations with "Israeli occupation entity" Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Sochi.


CIA agent 'intercepted in Moscow by FSB'

A CIA agent has been briefly detained in Moscow for allegedly trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer, Russian media report.

The man, named as US diplomat Ryan Fogle, was held overnight before being released to US officials, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said.

Russia has declared him "persona non grata" and ordered his expulsion, the foreign ministry said on its website, according to BBC.

The US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, had been summoned, it added.

This is a sensitive time for US-Russian relations. The two countries are currently involved in delicate diplomacy over Syria. At the same time, Moscow and Washington have been taking cautious steps towards defrosting relations.

But the FSB's claims to have unearthed a CIA agent are unlikely to have any long-term political consequences. Both countries know that espionage did not end with the conclusion of the Cold War. Spying happens, and so do spy scandals.

The FSB has said that America recently made "several" attempts to recruit Russian law enforcement officers, and security officials and that the Russians have monitored such attempts. That sends a message to the United States: despite recent diplomacy and talk of co-operation, Moscow is not prepared to trust Washington completely.

Mr Fogle is said to have worked as third political secretary at the US embassy in Moscow, which has issued no comment on the matter so far.

The agent was reportedly arrested with a large sum of money, technical devices and written instructions for the agent he had tried to recruit.

Both countries recently said they wished to step up security co-operation after the Boston Marathon bombing.

FSB photos purporting to show Mr Fogle during and after his detention appeared on Russian online media, such as these published by broadcaster RT.

Wearing a blue checked shirt and a plain baseball cap, he is shown being held on the ground with his hands bound, then being escorted away.

Possessions said to be Mr Fogle's are laid out on a table. They include a sum of money in 500-euro banknotes and two wigs, one of which he was apparently wearing at the time of his detention.

Also on the table are a compass, map, knife, dark glasses and small mobile phone.


"FSB counter-intelligence agents detained a CIA staff member who had been working under the cover of third political secretary of the US embassy in Moscow," the FSB said.

"At the moment of detention, special technical equipment was discovered, written instructions for the Russian citizen being recruited, as well as a large sum of money and means for altering appearance."

Still of the items said to have been in Mr Fogle's possession (14 May 2013) Russian officials said they had confiscated a large sum of money, wigs and technical equipment

Russian state TV has displayed a piece of paper, which it said was Mr Fogle's letter to the Russian officer.

Addressing the recipient as "Dear friend", the letter offers $100,000 (£65,400) "to discuss your experience, expertise and co-operation".

It goes on to say: "We can offer up to $1m a year for long-term co-operation, with extra bonuses if we receive some helpful information.


Terrorist Groups in Syria Recruiting Azeri Nationals: Report

TEHRAN - Terrorist groups are funneling Azeri nationals into Syria via Turkey to boost their terrorist attacks on Damascus, local media reports disclosed on Tuesday,according to FNA.

A report by Azeri ANS TV network unveiled shocking details on how extremist groups in Syria, including Takfiri and Wahhabi jihadists, are using different tactics to dispatch Azeri citizens from Azerbaijan's Northern cities of Zaqatala and Qusar to Turkey and then to Syria to conduct terrorist operations against the Syrian nation and government.

A majority of the people in the two regions, located near Azerbaijan's borders with the Russian Republic of Dagestan, are Muslims and extremist groups in Syria have rearranged their plans to recruit men from these two regions after people in the mainland gave a cold shoulder to the extremist groups' offer of the so-called Jihad in Syria.

"I am upset that my son has been sent to Syria by the Wahhabis. If he is to take part in any war, he would have been better off if he had been sent to Karabakh to fight against the Armenians and not the Syrians," the mother of a young Azeri who has been sent to Syria told ANS TV.

Similar media reports unveiled in March that militants from Russia's North Caucasus have joined terrorist groups in Syria.

Members of an involved in daily clashes in Russia's predominantly Muslim North Caucasus and their compatriots have trickled into Syria to join the terrorists.

In a recently distributed video, Omar Abu al-Chechen urged fellow Muslims to support the 'jihad' against the Syrian government.

The video highlights the role militants from the volatile North Caucasus region now play in Syria's civil war, fighting a government .

Rebels in Syria confirmed separately that he is in Syria and the leader of the brigade. His real name was not clear.