Palestine leader in Turkey for talks

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas



December 05, 2010 (KATAKAMI / — Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Ankara on Sunday for a two-day visit and is scheduled to meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Anatolia news agency reported.

In his third visit to Turkey this year, Abbas is also set to hold official talks with President Abdullah Gül on Monday. The two leaders will preside over discussions between their delegations following a tête-à-tête meeting and are expected to hold a joint press conference as well.

According to the president’s press office, the meetings will focus on all dimensions of bilateral relations, the latest situation in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East peace process.

Direct talks between the Palestinians and Israel began on Sept. 2 but stalled three weeks later following the expiry of an Israeli moratorium on settlement construction in occupied lands, a policy the Israeli state has so far failed to re-institute.

Abbas has repeatedly threatened to quit the talks if Israel does not begin a new freeze, particularly in annexed east Jerusalem, where Palestinians want to establish the capital of a future state. Turkey has traditionally had close ties with the Palestinians and supports their claim to statehood.

Turkey has also pressed for healing the rift between Abbas’ Fatah faction and the Gaza Strip-controlling Islamist movement Hamas, while urging that the latter should not be excluded from peace efforts.  (*)

Robert Gates visits Oman; Iran, Yemen on agenda

US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates


December 05, 2010. MUSCAT (KATAKAMI / CharlotteObserver.Com) —  Oman Tensions with Iran and the escalating terror threat in Yemen will be key topics of discussion when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates meets Sunday with leaders in Oman here on the edge of the Arabian Sea.

An ally of both the United States and Iran, Oman has served as an intermediary in negotiations with Tehran, including successful mediation in October that led to the release of an American hiker held in an Iranian prison for more than a year.

Gates’ visit comes against the backdrop of the recent WikiLeaks release of some quarter million sensitive and classified diplomatic memos – or cables in diplomatic parlance. Many underscore the Arab world’s anxiety about Iran and its nuclear ambitions.

The cables detailed pleas from Arab leaders for action against Tehran, making public a broad sentiment that the largely Sunni Arab world generally only discusses in private about Shiite Iran. One of the stronger comments came from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah urging a U.S.-led attack against Iran to “cut off the head of the snake” and cripple its nuclear weapons program.

Leaders across the Middle East fear that Iran’s development of nuclear power will trigger a deadly nuclear arms race in the region.

The U.S. and others, however, have employed a two track strategy with Iran, that is one part diplomacy and one part increased sanctions aimed at crippling Tehran’s economy.

A senior U.S. official traveling with Gates said that Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said can communicate with Iran, and that productive relationship is valuable to the U.S.

Tehran, meanwhile, claimed another advance in its nuclear activities, saying Sunday that for the first time Iran had mined its own uranium, which can be processed into material used to make nuclear energy or nuclear weapons. The advance would give Iran a way to bypass U.N. sanctions.

Iran is under four sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions that forbid the supply of nuclear materials to Tehran.

Also worrisome is Oman’s neighbor to the west – Yemen, where al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has been gaining strength and plotting attacks against the U.S. and other Western interests. Officials have been trying to rally a more regional effort to help the poverty-stricken Yemen battle extremists within it borders while bolstering its economic and political stability.

Senior defense officials traveling with Gates said the secretary’s trip is largely a courtesy call and a stopping-off point for a planned visit to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, which is in the Arabian Sea between Oman and Pakistan.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said this will be Gates first visit to an aircraft carrier since he took the Defense Department post four years ago. The carrier is involved in operations in Afghanistan, regularly launching fighters to the battlefront to support the troops on the ground.

The WikiLeaks document release has set off a global uproar, with its public airing of diplomatic cables laying out blunt and critical assessments of world leaders and nations.

Gates meetings may well touch on the often embarrassing revelations, and concerns about America’s inability to keep such sensitive reports private.

Hiker Sarah Shourd of California and two male companions were walking near the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009 when they were detained by Iranian authorities and accused of illegally crossing into Iran and spying. Negotiations are continuing to gain the release of the other two, including Shourd’s fiance.  (*)

Photostream : U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visits Oman

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates greets U.S. troops while arriving and being escorted by Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi, right, the Defense Minister of Oman, at Muscat International Airport Sunday Dec. 5, 2010 in Muscat, Oman. Oman is the first stop in a visit to the Arabian Sea region for Gates. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Win McNamee/POOL)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (L) walks past an honor cordon with Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi (R), Defense Minister in Oman, while arriving at Muscat International Airport December 5, 2010 in Muscat, Oman. Oman is the first stop in a visit to the Arabian Sea region for Gates. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (L) meets with Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi (R), Defense Minister in Oman on December 5, 2010 in Muscat, Oman. Oman is the first stop in a visit to the Arabian Sea region for Gates. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Hundreds In Hong Kong March for Nobel Winner’s Freedom

Pro-democracy protesters hang photos of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese government liaison office in Hong Kong on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010. Protesters rallied in Hong Kong for the release of the jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Kin Cheung)



December 05, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Hundreds of people marched in Hong Kong Sunday to demand that China release dissident Liu Xiaobo, who will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this week.

Nearly a hundred protesters, with a heavy police escort, marched to China’s liaison office in support of Liu, who is the first Chinese recipient of the international honor.

The marchers also criticized China for putting Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest and barring other dissidents and rights campaigners from leaving the country for fear they might attend the awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway on Friday.

Liu is a co-author of “Charter 08,” a petition calling for sweeping political reforms and freedoms. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison late last year.

China has denounced the decision to award Liu the peace prize and has pressured diplomats to boycott the award ceremony.  (*)


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