Moscow reaffirms Soviet recognition of Palestine

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (L) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) review an honour guard in the West Bank town of Jericho upon the latter's arrival from the Jordanian capital Amman across the Allenby Bridge border crosssing on January 18, 2011 on his first visit to the occupied territories. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

JERICHO, West Bank, January 18 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) –  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday Moscow had recognized an independent Palestinian state in 1988 and was not changing that position adopted by the former Soviet Union.

But on his first visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank as Russian head of state, Medvedev stopped short of making a ringing declaration of recognition of Palestinian statehood by the Russian Federation that he represents.

Israel has been alarmed in the past two months by a string of recognitions by Latin American states including Brazil and Argentina which some analysts say could be a precursor to a move by the Palestinians to seek full United Nations membership.

At a news conference with Medvedev in Jericho, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: “We remember that Russia was one of the first states in the world to recognize the state of Palestine in 1988.”

Medvedev responded, saying: “Russia made its choice a long time ago …we supported and will support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”

The Soviet Union recognized a Palestinian state in 1988, after it was declared by the late Yasser Arafat in a move that won broad support in the Communist bloc and Third World but had little real impact on diplomatic and political realities.

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Photostream : Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in West Bank

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (L) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (C) review an honour guard in the West Bank town of Jericho upon the latter's arrival from the Jordanian capital Amman across the Allenby Bridge border crosssing on January 18, 2011 on his first visit to the occupied territories. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (L) welcomes Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the West Bank town of Jericho upon his arrival from the Jordanian capital Amman across the Allenby Bridge border crosssing on January 18, 2011 on his first visit to the occupied territories. (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (C) reviews an honour guard upon his arrival in the West Bank city of Jericho for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas January 18, 2011. Medvedev drove into the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Tuesday for talks with Abbas on reviving the moribund Middle East peace process. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (L) welcomes Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (C) in the West Bank town of Jericho upon his arrival from the Jordanian capital Amman across the Allenby Bridge border crosssing on January 18, 2011 on his first visit to the occupied territories. (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas (L) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) review an honour guard in the West Bank town of Jericho upon the latter's arrival from the Jordanian capital Amman across the Allenby Bridge border crosssing on January 18, 2011 on his first visit to the occupied territories. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Tunisia Overshadows Arab Summit

Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa speaks during a joint news conference with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani (not pictured) in Arbil, 310 km (190 miles) north of Baghdad January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

Jan 18 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — The head of the Arab League says Arab states should consider the lessons from Tunisia, whose upheaval has cast a shadow over an economic summit due to open in Egypt later this week.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Monday that economic and political reform in the Arab world should go together. In a speech to delegates preparing for the summit, Moussa urged wealthier Arab states to help less developed countries in the region.

The summit opens Wednesday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. It was meant to be a platform to discuss trade, business and investment. But officials now say the Tunisian uprising — triggered by political repression, rising unemployment and skyrocketing food prices — will top the conference’s agenda.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamal Merjan is reported to have told his Arab counterparts in Sharm el-Sheikh Monday that the new government is in “full control” of the country.

Arab states have made little or no comment about events in Tunisia that rattled a region of authoritarian leaders like ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Egypt has dismissed talk of spreading unrest. Libya said the protesters were too hasty in toppling their president.

Arab populations suffer from the same problems that sent Tunisians onto the streets – surging prices, poverty and political systems that offer no outlet for dissent.

U.S. Republican senators visit Afghanistan, Pakistan

In this image provided by NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks to a NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan adviser during a visit to meet Afghan National Army soldiers at the Kabul Military Training Center, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, in Kabul, Afghanistan. NTMA advisers provide guidance to Afghan National Army instructors who are charged with conducting the bulk of training for ANA recruits. (Photo/U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte)

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (KATAKAMI.COM / Xinhua) — U.S. Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced Monday he had led six other Republican senators to visit Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Senate minority leader announced in his website that he was joined on the trip by newly-elected senators Lindsey Graham, Richard Burr, Kelly Ayotte, Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey.

The curt announcement said during their trip, the senators met with U.S. troops, military officials and political leaders to discuss political, economic and security issues affecting bilateral relations.

In addition to visiting troops from their respective states, the senators met with U.S. commander David Petraeus, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, and Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army. The delegation is to return to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

The United States is currently in tenth year of fighting in Afghanistan. U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to that country in 2009. In releasing the administration’s review of his war strategy late last year, Obama said he was committed to the beginning of U.S. troops drawdown in July, 2011, but noted for the gains to be sustained over time, “there is an urgent need for political and economic progress in Afghanistan.”

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently violence in Afghanistan is likely to rise as Spring comes, and the country remains focus of U.S. national security strategy.

With U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan set to start decreasing in July and given the goal of fully transferring security to Afghan forces by 2014, the United States must continue to build a strategic partnership with Afghanistan, said Mullen.  (*)

Kremlin says Palestinian leadership should take into account HAMAS position

PHOTO FILE : Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal leaves the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters after meeting Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow February 8, 2010

MOSCOW, January 17 (KATAKAMI.COM / Itar-Tass) –The Palestinian Authority should take into account the position of HAMAS, presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko said.

He believes that the Middle East conflict can be resolved “through political dialogue and by taking into account the position of HAMAS.”

“We think it necessary to take into account the real situation because HAMAS is a real political force, and everyone should heed them, at least to the degree to which they reflect the opinion of their voters,” the aide said ahead of President Dmitry Medvedev’s upcoming visit to the Palestinian Authority slated for January 18.  (*)

Medvedev wants to discuss inter-religious dialogue in Mideast trip

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev

MOSCOW, January 17 (KATAKAMI.COM / Itar-Tass) – During his trip to Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expects to discuss issues of support for people of different nationalities and beliefs.

“Tomorrow I am heading for a visit to Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority,” the president said at a meeting with the leadership of the Federal Assembly. He reminded the audience that over the recent years Russia has built and continues building churches, museums and hotels for pilgrims in the Holy Land.

“All that strengthens Russian traditions,” the president believes. “We will also speak with colleagues about support for other nationalities and beliefs in our country,” Medvedev said.  (*)

Palestinian Authority Preparing for Medvedev Visit on Wednesday

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Jan 18 (KATAKAMI.COM / IsraelNationalNews.Com) — The Palestinian Authority (PA) is preparing for a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Jericho on Wednesday.

The PA police force and the rest of its security apparatus finished their preparations on Monday. Jericho’s mayor, police chief and regional governor toured the width and breadth of the city Monday to view the preparations for receiving the visiting dignitary in a respectable, if not fancy way.

During the Middle East trip, which starts on Tuesday, Medvedev will be visiting Jordan, as well as the PA.

His visit to Israel was cancelled because of employee sanctions at the foreign ministry. The Voice of Russia website says that Medvedev will meet President Shimon Peres during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in February.  (*)

Husband: Giffords smiled and gave him neck rub

FILE - In this March, 2010 file photo provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Giffords poses for a photo. Giffords' condition improved to serious on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, after procedures to remove a ventilator were successful. (AP Photo/Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, File)

TUCSON, Ariz., Jan 18 (KATAKAMI.COM/ AP) — The husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords says his wife’s condition has improved so much that she has been able to smile and give him a neck rub as he has kept a near-constant vigil at her hospital bedside.

The interactions with astronaut Mark Kelly are new signs of Giffords’ impressive progress in recovering from a gunshot wound to the head at a political event nine days ago. Giffords still cannot speak, because of a tube in her throat that is helping her breathe.

“She’s in the ICU. You know, gone through this traumatic injury. And she spent 10 minutes giving me a neck massage,” Kelly explained in an interview with Diane Sawyer to air Tuesday on ABC. “It’s so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, you know, she’s looking out for other people.”

Such encounters indicate higher levels of functioning, implying that “she’s recognizing him and interacting, perhaps in an old familiar way with him,” said Dr. Michael Lemole.

Dr. Randall Friese said Kelly also told doctors he saw Giffords smile. He said sometimes people see what they want to see, but that “if he says she’s smiling, I buy it.”

Kelly has also been essential in helping Giffords’ staff through the tragedy, said Mark Kimble, a Tucson staff member who stood only a few feet from Giffords when she was shot.

“There is not a doubt in his mind and not a doubt in any of our minds that she’s going to be back,” Kimble said. “He’s been cheering us up. He’ll come over and when we’re down, he’ll say, ‘Gabby’s going to make it, Gabby’s a little better today.’ That’s a big help to all of us.”

The steady progress for Giffords came on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to remember the legacy of the civil rights leader who was killed by an assassin’s bullet 42 years ago.

Political leaders invoked the assassination attempt against Giffords as they asked Americans to recommit to King’s values of nonviolence, tolerance, compassion and justice.

“Last week a senseless rampage in Tucson reminded us that more than 40 years after Dr. King’s own tragic death, our struggle to eradicate violence and to promote peace goes on,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at King’s former church in Atlanta.

Doctors upgraded Giffords’ condition from critical to serious over the weekend and say they carried out three successful procedures that demonstrate she is recovering well.

A breathing tube was moved from her mouth to her throat along with a separate feeding tube that was shifted from her nose to her stomach. Dr. Randall Friese said removing the tubes in her nose and mouth reduces the risks of infections.

Doctors also said they performed a surgery on Giffords’ eye socket to remove bone fragments to relieve pressure on her eye. There were no complications from the surgery; doctors needed to perform the eye procedure all along but waited until her condition improved to do it.

Elsewhere, doctors have transplanted the corneas from the youngest victim of the Jan. 8 shooting that left a total of six dead and 13 wounded. Christina Taylor Green’s father said Monday that the Donor Network of Arizona told him and his wife that the transplants from the 9-year-old have saved the eyesight of two children.

The suspect in the shooting, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, remained jailed in a federal lockup in Phoenix. Investigators have described him as a mentally unstable man who was kicked out a community college last year and became increasingly erratic in recent months.

He apparently became obsessed with inflicting violence on Giffords since attending one of her campaign events in 2007.

Kelly said he would be willing to meet with the parents of Loughner, who have remained in seclusion since the shooting. Kelly, who has two teenage daughters from a previous marriage, said the parents have to be in a tremendous amount of pain.

“I don’t think it’s their fault. It’s not the parents fault,” Kelly told ABC. “You know, I’d like to think I’m a person that’s, you know, somewhat forgiving. And, I mean, they’ve got to be hurting in this situation as much as much as anybody.”  (*)

Doctors: Giffords Smiling at Husband

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband, space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, are seen in an undated handout photo provided by her Congressional campaign, January 8, 2011. Giffords was hit in a shooting on Saturday at a public event of the Congresswoman's at a Tucson, Arizona grocery store that also injured at least nine other people, hospital and law enforcement sources said. REUTERS/Giffords for Congress/PK Weis/Handout

Jan 18 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — The husband of the Arizona congresswoman shot in the head during a shooting rampage this month says her condition has improved to the point where she gave him a 10-minute neck massage from her hospital room.

U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly said in an interview with ABC News that the action is typical of Giffords, who he said is always looking out for others. Giffords is in the intensive care unit at a Tucson hospital.

Kelly also said he would be willing to meet with the parents of 22-year-old Jared Loughner, the man charged in the shooting spree that killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others in Tucson. Kelly told the network that Loughner’s parents must be in a tremendous amount of pain because of the situation.

Giffords’ condition has been upgraded from critical to serious. Doctors treating Giffords say Kelly reported that he saw her smile. They say such encounters imply that Giffords is recognizing him and interacting perhaps in a more familiar way with him.

Separately, the doctors say Giffords had minor surgery to repair a fracture in the roof of her eye socket. They also say she is at the same baseline as before the procedure.

Giffords was shot as she met with constituents outside a grocery store January 8. The dead included a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

The U.S. House of Representatives resumes work this week, after a one-week suspension following the attack on Giffords. The top item on the agenda for the new House Republican majority is to try to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform initiative.

Doctors have voiced optimism regarding Giffords’s chances of recovery, saying she could be released from the hospital and moved into a rehabilitation facility within “days to weeks.” Recently, she has opened her eyes and is responding to simple commands. Doctors say she is breathing on her own.

Loughner, the suspect, has been charged with five federal felony counts, including the attempted assassination of a member of the U.S. Congress.

Officials say his trial likely will be held outside of Arizona because the federal judge, John Roll, was among those killed. (*)

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