Venezuelans vote for president

Venezuela will hold presidential elections today(Sunday) with the main battle expected to be between the opposition leader Henrique Capriles and the successor to Hugo Chavez, the acting head of state, Nicolas Maduro.

According to opinion polls, Madura has the best chance of winning.

Special elections in Venezuela were called after the death, in early March, of Hugo Chavez.

Anniversary of 2002 coup marked in Venezuela

On Saturday Hugo Chavez loyalists celebrated a milestone in the late leader's socialist revolution ahead of Venezuela's presidential election.

Saturday marked the 11th anniversary of Chavez's dramatic return to power after a two-day coup tacitly backed by the United States.

Venezuelan state television broadcast programs in honor of Chavez and portraying the opposition candidate in Sunday's election, Henrique Capriles, as the political heir of a "right-wing oligarchy" that orchestrated the 2002 coup.

Pro-Chavez militias also gathered in commemoration at the Caracas military museum where the president's coffin is on display.

One by one, the acting president decorated each member of the so-called Bolivarian militias, armed civilian groups that Chavez created in 2009 to help defend the revolution and prevent a repeat of the 2002 coup.

To shouts of "Chavez lives," Maduro said: "Let's honor his memory, and his legacy."

Security stepped up ahead of Venezuelan elections

Security was stepped up in Caracas on Saturday as soldiers and police took to the streets of the capital on the eve of presidential elections, according to Voice of Russia, Interfax, Reuters.

Most opinion polls give acting President Nicolas Maduro, a strong lead over opposition challenger Henrique Capriles thanks perhaps to the late leader's endorsement and the surge of grief and sympathy over his death from cancer last month.

Venezuela emerges in an atmosphere of expectation and sobriety on the eve of a historic election

Upon arrival in Caracas these days one can see that the upcoming election of April the 14th mobilized and divided the people of that country. Still inside the plane, a group of passengers made an impromptu rally.

At the border checkpoint and parking lots of Simon Bolivar International Airport there are endless queues of Venezuelans coming from all over the world to vote, despite the fact that, unlike some neighboring countries in the region such as Brazil, voting is not compulsory in the country.

Everything indicates that this rivalry between Nicolas Maduro and Henrique Caprilles brought the electoral activity of Venezuelans to its limit.

The campaign of the candidates stopped officially on Saturday, so before the elections there is a so called silence day. Still, the propaganda posters are scattered throughout the capital, nor can the local media obey the rules and isolate themselves from the election race despite the official ban.


Moscow will Vote Against UN SC one-sided Resolution on Syria

MOSCOW,(ST)_ The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that Moscow will vote against a “contradictory” draft resolution on Syria,  as its authors are seeking approval for “unilateral” action through the guise of the UN General Assembly,

Russia, along with China, voted against the General Assembly’s non-binding resolutions in August  and February  2012. As with this new draft, Moscow slammed both documents as unbalanced and one-sided.


In a statement  on its online, the Russian Foreign Ministry added that the draft was proposed by several UN member-states and is expected to be put to a vote shortly, the ministry said on Saturday; Moscow has criticized the resolution for being “one-sided.”

The draft resolution blames only the Syrian government for the tragic and bloody crisis in the conflict-torn republic. This is despite the Syrian opposition’s “illegal, including terrorist, actions,” the Foreign Ministry said, adding that many such violations had been confirmed by international organizations.

In addition, the draft “completely ignores” the external logistical and financial support that the Syrian rebels already receive.

The document is also full of contradictions, the Russian Foreign Ministry explained: It supports the Arab League’s decision to delegitimize the Syrian  government while placing a range of demands on the regime, “which in fact means the recognition of its legitimacy.”

Moscow said that this “antagonism” also undermines the mandate of the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been tasked with negotiating with all parties involved in the conflict to broker a political solution.

The resolution's authors seek the General Assembly’s approval for their “unilateral plans on Syria, guided by the sole purpose of the regime change and totally ignoring regional and political consequences of such a scenario,” the Foreign Ministry said.

The new draft document is also “practically identical” to two previous UN resolutions adopted in February and August 2012, which only “hampered the crisis settlement process,” the ministry said. 

Russia has called on the draft's authors to drop the resolution, and to work with all the parties involved in the Syrian crisis according to guidelines of the June 30, 2012, Geneva Communiqué. “This document remains the only viable platform” for resolving the two-year conflict, Moscow said.

Moscow maintains that the only solution to the violence engulfing Syria is open political dialogue between the opposing sides.


T. Fateh

Measures Preventing Belgians from Fighting in Syria

BRUSSELS, (ST)_ Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Raiendres stressed the need to take all measures to prevent Belgians  from taking  part  in combat operations in other countries and the use of criminal sanctions to prevent that , calling on political parties in the country to put a barrier to the growth of radicalism and extremism.

In  a statement quoted by the Belgian francophone media,  the Belgian minister voiced  support to the issuance of a royal decree imposing  criminal penalties against Belgian citizens who  intend to participate in combat operations in other countries

He  pointed out that criminal penalties will be a deterrent factor for Belgians wishing to fight in other countries, stressing the role of Ministries of Interior and Justice in his country in this regard .

According to many  sources hundreds of young Belgians went to Syria to fight alongside terrorist groups there . 

Against this background ,the  Belgian Interior Minister Joel Malkih has been harshly criticized over the  ineffectiveness of her Ministry in solving the problem of young Belgians  heading to fight in Syria.


T. Fateh

UN SC to Meet on Syria on April 18

MOSCOW,(ST)_ The Russian News Agency Itar-Tass said on Friday  that the UN Security Council will hold a session on Syria on 18 April  during which  The UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi will report on his mission there.

The agency quoted a diplomatic source as saying that observers believe that Brahimi will express concern about his differences with the Arab League administration, which emerged after the Arab summit held in Doha on 26 and 27  of last March, and decided  handing over the Syrian  seat in the Arab League to the militant opposition and the so-called "transitional government" , a matter which green-lighted arming the  terrorist groups.

The agency also quoted Russian experts as saying that Brahimi 's  resignation is likely,  referring to what was stated by  Arab media that  the Algerian diplomat accused the Arab League of being involved in the destruction of the Syrian state and society and  in weakening  it  as an  Arab force.

T. Fateh

Ending Violence in Syria,Russia's First Priority,Says Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia's  first priority is to end the violence in Syria as fast as possible to avoid more civilian deaths and to search for a final settlement for the future of national reconciliation.

Lavrov's remarks came after meeting Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter Friday in

Neuchatel, Switzerland ,according to the AP.

On N.Korea, Lavrov supported renewed talks in Geneva, if Pyongyang were to agree to hold discussions with Russia, Japan, South Korea, the United States and China.

But both officials made clear there was no such general agreement.

"If we can re-establish that, Russia would, of course, support it," Lavrov, who spoke in Russian, said in response to a question.

North Korea agreed in principle in 2005 to scrap its nuclear program, including a presumed small stockpile of weapons, in return for aid and diplomatic incentives from other members of the six-party talks. But Pyongyang walked out of talks in 2009 and later conducted more nuclear tests.

Recently, North Korea warned it has weapons "on standby" and aimed at its foes if provoked, but has not revealed specific plans to fire a missile or carry out another nuclear test.

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, who spoke in French, said his nation had offered to host such talks "but, of course, that should be agreed by all parties and that is not the case at the moment."

Lavrov also warned the United State against naming Russians accused of human rights abuses, who are to be targeted for U.S. financial sanctions and visa bans under a new law dubbed the Magnitsky Act. The law was named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates.

Lavrov hinted that Russia has its own list of U.S. officials that would be similarly sanctioned and would release those names in retaliation, along with using the so-called Magnitsky List to possibly block future cooperation on security issues.

"Of course, Moscow will react and our American partners know about that very well," he told reporters. "And given the circumstances, I don't think they've chosen very good timing, since the American national security adviser is coming to Moscow to bring President Obama's message with his vision for the prospects of our broader cooperation."


Lavrov : G-8 reached Common Understanding on Main Issues

MOSCOW,(ST)_ Russia 's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that foreign ministers of the Group -8 were able, during their meeting in London to reach agreement on the most important international issues, including the Syrian,  Iranian and  Korean  files though there were  differences in the beginning.

"Of course, in the beginning, attitudes vary seriously, but thanks to reason  and the  good will , common positions were concluded in the context of the need to search for political  and diplomatic solutions without isolating  any party ", Russia Today online quoted Lavrov as saying to reporters after a meeting of G-8  foreign ministers on Thursday  in London , noting that " consensual positions  were reached concerning Iran ,the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula , the crisis in Syria and conflicts in Africa. "

Lavrov explained that attention was focused on other issues such as non-proliferation of nuclear weapons , counter-terrorism , the fight against drug production ,and sexual violence in armed conflict areas, stressing that "this issue  must be resolved on the ground of  UN Security Council and General Assembly  Resolutions on issues of women ,children and armed conflict ".

T. Fateh

Germany Rejects Arming Syrian Opposition

LONDON,(ST)_German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle renewed  Germany 's  position in rejecting  the arming "of the Syrian opposition."

Russia Today online quoted Westerwelle as saying on the sidelines of a meeting of  Foreign Affairs Ministers of the G-8 meeting  in London on Thursday : "What raises concern is that the weapon, which will be supplied  to Syria will fall later in the hands of" jihadists and terrorists, "adding that" the idea that fewer people will perish if more arms  will be supplied to Syria is not definite."

The German minister added that it was not expected to get any consensus or breakthrough in this regard during G-8  ministerial meeting .

In March , the  EU Governments rejected a French and British proposal to lift the ban imposed by the EU  to supply "opposition" in Syria with arms and expressed fear that will  ignite an arms race and undermine stability in the region.

T. Fateh

Moscow alarmed about al-"Qaeda’s "ever-increasing interest in Syria

Moscow is seriously concerned over al-Qaeda’s ever-increasing interest in Syria, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

According to her, terrorists plan to turn Syria into their main stronghold in the Middle East.

She referred to a message by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri that was posted on the Internet earlier this week and that focused on the situation in Syria.

She said that in the message, Al-Zawahiri urged the continuation of" jihad" in Syria, something that he said could contribute to the restoration of "caliphate"  based on the Sharia system of government, according to the Voice of Russia.

Stressing that Russia strongly condemns terrorism in any form, Zakharova lamented some Russian partners’ inability to adequately assess terrorists’ actions.