Iran Unveils 4 New Satellites

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks on as he attends the 24th Khwarizmi International Award (KIA) at the Iran's state television conference centre in northern Tehran February 5, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

TEHRAN, Iran, Feb 7 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP)  – Iran says it has built four new domestically produced satellites as part of a space program that’s worrying other nations.

State TV showed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiling the satellites — Fajr, Rasad, Zafar and Amir Kabir-1 — on Monday at a ceremony in Tehran.

State TV described them as research satellites but did not provide details. Iran says it has launched at least two satellites and has none in orbit now.

Many nations in the West and Middle East fear Iran’s space program could also bolster its ballistic missileprogram and ability to conduct space-based surveillance. The U.S. and other countries have cited fears that Iran’s nuclear program and missile program could allow it to target Europe and Israel with atomic weapons. (*)

 

 

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Shimon Peres: Gabi Ashkenazi One Of The Best Chiefs Of Staff Ever

Gabi Ashkenazi

 

Feb 7 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Israeli President Shimon Peres hosted at his Jerusalem residence Monday morning the IDF’s senior command.

At the meeting he told outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, “I was privileged to meet all 18 Chiefs of Staff before you. It took me a long time, but now, unlike you youngsters, I can do a real comparison between them. Your contribution to Israel’s security is unique and superb. You were one of the best Chiefs of Staff Israel ever had.”  (*)

Source : Israel National News

Israeli President Shimon Peres Bids Farewell To Outgoing IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi

FILE : Israel's President Shimon Peres, right, and military chief Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, center, watch a soldier light the menorah on the fourth eve of Hanukkah, in an army base near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Monday Dec. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

Feb 7 (KATAKAMI.COM / YNET) — President Shimon Peres, who is hosting the IDF General Staff in his home, complimented the outgoing IDF chief, Major General Gabi Ashkenazi, saying that “I had no doubt that I would get to see him as the chief of staff, as I have seen in him a daring but reasonable man… all the magic of Golani is on his shoulders.

“The chief of staff is morally obligated to the mothers of the sons which he commands, and is under the authority of the elected officials. The IDF chief of staff is under the civil authority, but he is also its chief advisor,” the president said.  (*)

 

South Korean Military unveils tentative defense reform plan

FILE : South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (C) encourages army soldiers during his visit to a military observation post of the front-line unit in the demilitarized zone in Yanggu, far northeast of Seoul, December 23, 2010. REUTERS/Blue House/Handout

Feb 7 (KATAKAMI.COM) — The Defense Ministry`s latest reform plan is known to include the reintroduction of extra credit for serving in the military, reduction in the number of generals, an active deterrent strategy, and a new headquarters near the five border islands in the Yellow Sea.

A military official said Sunday, “Personnel appointments will be made in April to facilitate the establishment of a new military command in the Yellow Sea islands. Personnel affairs should be resolved first to speed up the establishment.”

The ministry was planning to report Monday its 24-point defense reform package to President Lee Myung-bak, but postponed it because the presidential office asked to include the formation of an inspection team for defense reform promotion.

On the improvement of military decision-making, the ministry will urge a balance of proportion of officers in key decision-making posts from the armed forces. The details will be decided after discussion, however, which will likely spur disputes among relevant parties.

The Defense Advancement Promotion Committee had earlier stipulated the balancing of the number of top decision-making officers in the armed forces under a 1:1:1 ratio and the number of manager-level officials at the ministry and the Joint Chiefs of Staff under a 2:1:1 ratio.

On military capacity, the ministry will also distinguish areas to be enhanced from those to be trimmed.

The ministry will reduce the number of spike missiles from 130 to 90 and use the savings to expand other military capacity. In the wake of North Korea`s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last year, the government decided to deploy spike missiles in case of further provocations.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin is known to have ordered the reduction of the missile deployment in a meeting. “Missile attacks are symbolic in that they threaten the enemy in the early stages of provocations, but attacking with combat planes equipped with more weapons is more effective,” he said.

Developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense System, a spike missile has a range of 25 kilometers and can directly be fired at the North’s coastal artillery facilities 12 kilometers from Yeonpyeong. It can also destroy cannons in rear areas through video equipment.

One spike missile costs 800 million won (718,488 U.S. dollars), according to the ministry.

The number of tanks will also be reduced. Minister Kim said, “In our military environment, we don`t need all 2,300 battle tanks. When our military comes to attack North Korea with tanks, the North Korean military would`ve already been beaten by our Air Force.”

Vice Defense Minister Lee Yong-geol is known to be considering putting as a lower priority the K-2 battle tank in defense spending. The South Korean military has 2,400 tanks and North Korea 4,100, according to Seoul`s 2010 defense white paper. (*)

Source : The Donga A Ilbo

British Foreign Secretary William Hague : "We are on the side of a stable democratic future for Egypt"

British Foreign Secretary William Hague

In an interview on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday 6 February, Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke about the current situation in Egypt.

Feb 7 (KATAKAMI.COM / FCO.GOV.UK) —- Full transcript :


Andrew Marr: Well I am joined now by the Foreign Secretary William Hague. Welcome Mr Hague.
William Hague (Foreign Secretary): Thank you.

AM: Do you think that President Mubarak should go now?

WH: I don’t think that is for us in another country to say, we have the right to say a couple of things very clearly but I don’t think we have the right to choose Egypt’s President. I think where there is actual repression and where there has been abuse of the internet, trying to take over mobile phone networks, trying to drop concrete blocks on to protestors, there we are allowed to protest. Egypt is an independent country as the Minister there was just saying, but those things we are allowed to protest about anywhere in the world and it is a huge mistake by the authorities in Egypt to indulge in any of that sort of behaviour.

We’re also allowed to say that it’s in our interest to have a stable and democratic future for Egypt and we want Egyptians with different views to be able to sort out their views in a stable democratic way. It’s not our role to say the President must go on a particular day or this individual must be included in the Egyptian Cabinet, so I think we have to keep up the pressure for that orderly transition we’ve called for to visibly take place for people, the real visible and comprehensive change that will bring people together in Egypt.

AM: So what do you mean by transition?

WH: Well clearly there’s going to be a change in Egypt. The President has said he is, there is this huge pent up demand that we’ve seen that released on to the streets for political change and I think for economic change and improvement for the mass of the people in Egypt as well. Now that means getting to that point successfully, peacefully without violence or more disorder or more authoritarian Government, it means some mixture of a Government now in Egypt that is more broadly based, a review of the …

AM: …the Americans for instance are talking about a three headed provisional Government to take over …

WH: Again I don’t think it is for us in other countries the United States or Britain, to lay down the detail …we can’t lay down or enforce the details. Egypt is a sovereign nation. But what does an orderly transition look like, it looks like some mixture of a more broadly based Government that includes people from outside the ruling elite of recent years, an ability to change their constitution so that people can have confidence in a free and fair electoral process that doesn’t necessarily rely on the Parliament of today changing the constitution. It is eighty four per cent dominated by the ruling party.

AM: So …

WH: A clear timetable for elections and change which …

AM: Which could, which could leave Mubarak there until September, that would be all right.

WH: Again, you’re inviting me to arbitrate on when the President should be there…

AM: You see I mean people will say basically are you on the side of the people who are protesting or are you on the side of the Government.  That’s what people are asking.

WH: And we are on the side of a stable democratic future for Egypt. We’re not an Egyptian political party.  We are a country and so the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, we’re all in the same position on this, we want to see those sorts of changes so that Egypt doesn’t fall in to extremism or greater violence or more authoritarian Government.  But we cannot arbitrate on the daily events of that.

AM: So it’s, it’s not like, people have compared it to Eastern Europe when, when the wall was coming down and Governments in the West were able to jump up and down say this is great, we approve of this.  But you are not going to do that in the case of Egypt.

WH: Well it is a form of that because I think what we can say and should say is this is a time of opportunity in the Middle East. There are some important dangers as well and one of those of course is that the Middle East Peace Process becomes now a, a more uncertain matter. But it is, but it is a time of opportunity.

AM: Let me just ask you specifically about that, let me ask you about the peace process because that’s sort of to one side of all of this but it’s hugely connected to what happens to Egypt.

WH: It is huge and, and that is one of our central concerns in foreign policy that the Middle East Peace Process has in any case lost a lot of momentum in recent months …

AM: It’s stuck at the moment isn’t it?

WH: … we’ve been hugely disappointed by the failure of Israel to extend its settlement freeze.  It’s necessary for Israelis and Palestinians to make the compromises that, that are required to get the direct talks back on track.  It’s really necessary for the United States to continue to give strong leadership to the Middle East Peace Process supported by European countries at the same time.  That is an alarm, this comes together as a very alarming development if over the next few months the Middle East Peace Process runs in to the sand.  So I would urge Israelis, Palestinians and the US administration to redouble their efforts to get this back on track.  That, that what’s happening in Egypt shouldn’t be a distraction from the Middle East Peace Process, it underlines the urgency of carrying that forward.

AM: And is this therefore a very dangerous moment for the region?

WH: Well yes for that reason above all it is a dangerous moment, but here we’re coming back to your earlier question about we celebrated the fall of communism…

AM: Well I was going to ask you about the Muslim…

WH: … there is nevertheless of course in, in societies becoming freer and in political space opening up there is the prospect actually of a more stable future for many countries of the Middle East, but they need to be able to develop civil society, political parties, greater freedom of expression. The problem in Egypt is that those things haven’t been developed in recent years and so now they haven’t got an opposition, they haven’t got a strong democratic secular opposition to talk to, to come to an agreement about the future.

AM: To put it, to put it very bluntly, people have said in the past Mubarak may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard and there is a danger when he goes that the Muslim Brotherhood, this very, very long established radical Islamist movement in Egypt will take over. Is that really what underpins your caution?

WH: Well there is a danger of that and that is why it’s not so important when elections happen in Egypt as those elections happening at a time when the great variety of views that you can, that we’ve seen on the streets of Egypt can be properly expressed through political parties. Because if an election was held in Egypt today because they haven’t got the strong opposition democratic parties developed in order to play a real part in that.  So it, it’s the process of change over the coming months that matters more than the precise date of change and elections and that is also part of my answer to your question about, you know, should Mubarak go today, tomorrow or whenever, but it’s the process now that really matters.

AM: What about the Americans though because we’ve had rather astonishing newspaper front pages this morning.  We’ve got an American envoy saying definitely Mubarak is going to stay and should stay until September to manage the transition. And then we’ve had another message through the State Department saying no, no, no that’s not our position, we are talking to Mubarak’s number two and we’re talking about a transition before that.  Have you spoken to Hillary Clinton…

WH: Yes.

AM:  … do you understand, well can you explain to us what they’re up to?

WH:  Yes, yes I was talking to Hillary Clinton and the Prime Minister spoke to President Obama last night. They are in the same position as us, respecting the fact that Egypt is a sovereign country, but saying both in our public comments and in all our private discussions with Egyptian leaders that you are going to have to do more than you’ve done so far realistically looking at it from the outside in order to draw people in Egypt together. And, and we cannot …

AM:  … it’s not the case from your point of view, or from the Americans’ point of view that Mubarak should stay until September to oversee an orderly transition. That’s not the case.

WH: Well we’re not saying he should stay until September, nor are we saying he should resign today.  We’re saying we don’t decide who the President of Egypt is on any given day, but we can make the case for people to show, for the leaders in Egypt now to show that there’s an irrevocable change taking place. You know the reason why the demonstrators in the square in Cairo say Mubarak must go today is they want a sign of irrevocable change…

AM: Yes.

WH: …they want to know it’s not a con.

AM: Not unreasonably.

WH: That there is really something going to happen.

AM: Yeah, exactly.

WH: And, and it is vitally important for those, for the authorities in Egypt to show something is really going to happen through …

AM: But you’re not encouraging him to go.

WH: …so, well we’re saying through some combination of all the possible things that you could do to invite opposition figures in to Government, to review the constitution in a new way. Yes possibly to set up a new co presidency. There are all these options, you in Egypt decide which of those you are going to (indistinct) but you are going to have to do several of those things if you are going to show Egyptians and the world that their legitimate grievances will be responded to and, by the way, while you’re doing that avoid repression, harassment of journalists, abuse of the internet because these things are hugely damaging to Egypt and the wider world and they are wrong in principle. So that is the message of, of Western nations to Egypt and I think to go further than that is to interfere in the sovereign matters of Egypt, to not say as much as that would be not doing our duty to the people there and to our own national interests.

AM: There have been criticisms that the Foreign Office hasn’t been fast enough on its feet when it comes to British tourists in Egypt trying to get home.

WH: Well we’ve been very fast on our feet. We’ve had much greater presence at Cairo Airport than other countries.  As far as I’m aware everybody who has wanted to leave has been able to leave, we’ve chartered two special flights for that. So I’m not getting much criticism from the ground in Egypt. We haven’t changed the travel advice for the Red Sea resorts like Sharm el Sheikh because the situation on the ground there hasn’t changed.  So actually I would like to congratulate our Ambassador and the staff in Cairo who’ve dealt with a very difficult situation extremely well and assisted thousands of people successfully to leave the country.  (*)

Palestinians disappointed by Middle East Quartet's settlement stance

Middle East Quartet. Munich, February 5, 2011

 

Feb 7 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Palestinians on Sunday said they were disappointed that the Middle East Quartet refused to heed their call for unilateral statehood and failed to take a strong stance on Israel’s settlement construction, when it met on February 5 in Germany.

The quartet – the UN, the U.S., the EU and Russia – met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference amid ongoing pro-democracy protests in Egypt and discussed the current impasse facing the Palestinian-Israeli search for peace.

Direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, which resumed last September after a 20-month standoff, collapsed in December after Israel refused to stop construction in the occupied West Bank. On Saturday European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced that the next Quartet’s meeting would be held in mid-March.

“[The] continuation of the crisis in the Middle East is linked to the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian and Arab land,” spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Nabil Abu Rudeineh emphasized.

“We expected the Quartet, in such exceptional circumstances in the region, to live up to the event by asking Israel to stop all settlement activity, including in al-Quds (Jerusalem) and to recognize the 1967 borders as borders of a Palestinian state with its capital in East al-Quds,” chief negotiator for the Palestinian Administration Saeb Erekat said.

Palestinians hoped the Quartet would issue “historic decisions in light of the danger facing the region because of Israeli occupation and policies,” Erekat said. The West should stop “dealing with Israel as a state above the law,” he added.  (*)

 

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad : Democracy Good for Arabs

Palestinian Prime minister Salam Fayyad answers journalists' questions after a meeting with French president Nicolas Sarkozy on February 3, 2011 at the Elysee palace in Paris. (Photo by PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)

Feb 6 (KATAKAMI / ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) — Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Sunday that democracy was good for Arab nations, as it was good for Western nations. Democracy, he said, would encourage the rule of law and stability in the region.

“What’s good for the West is good for us, too,” he said in a speech in Paris.   (*)

PM Netanyahu: I understand Galant's disappointment

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem February 6, 2011. Israel named a new head, Benny Ganz, for its armed forces on Saturday following a shakeup in the top ranks that a deputy to Netanyahu said had undermined national security at a time of regional turmoil. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Feb 6 (KATAKAMI / YNET) — At the start of the government meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he “understands the magnitude of General Yoav Galant’s disappointment” following the cancellation of his appointment to chief of staff. Netanyahu noted that Galant is “a talented and experienced commander and fighter who contributed a great deal to the country”.

Netanyahu also addressed the appointment of Benny Gantz to the position of chief of staff and explained that “there are major shocks in our region. IDF stability is paramount at this time which is why I made the chief of staff decision over the weekend.” (*)

Transcript of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting about the next IDF Chief-of-Staff

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem February 6, 2011. Israel named a new head, Benny Ganz, for its armed forces on Saturday following a shakeup in the top ranks that a deputy to Netanyahu said had undermined national security at a time of regional turmoil. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Feb 6 (KATAKAMI) — Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today:

“The stability of the IDF is always important, but it is much more important now given the deep shocks in our region.  The IDF needs stability; therefore, over the weekend, I determined, along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to decide regarding the appointment of the next IDF Chief-of-Staff.

I would like to express appreciation for Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, a seasoned fighter with experience, who contributed greatly to the security of the state.

I know that he has undergone not simple experiences in recent months and I also understand the depth of his disappointment.  This is natural; this is human.  But in the circumstances that have been created, my duty as Prime Minister is to make clear decisions in order to lift the cloud of uncertainty from the IDF senior command.

Therefore, today, Defense Minister Barak will recommend, to the cabinet, our joint intention to appoint Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz as the 20th IDF Chief-of-Staff.

Maj.-Gen. Gantz has done the entire track which qualifies him to be the next commander of the IDF, including his recent tenure as Deputy Chief-of-Staff.  He is an experienced commander and an excellent officer.  He has all the qualities and all the necessary experience to be an excellent IDF Chief-of-Staff.

I would like to take this opportunity to also express my deep appreciation for Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh and Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizencot, who were also considered for the post.

I must note that both of them expressed their full willingness to serve under designated IDF Chief-of-Staff Benny Gantz.  I believe that this shows that the Chief-of-Staff and the General Staff will cooperate and work together as a united team.  This is important both for the IDF and the State of Israel.

On Friday, 4.2.11, an explosion occurred in an Egyptian gas pipeline leading to a halt in the supply of natural gas to the State of Israel.  Israel is prepared for such situations and has the possibility of immediately switching to alternative energy sources.  It is important to note that we are prepared for any scenario and I ask that National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau to detail these preparations and the possibilities at our disposal.  In any case, due to these advance preparations, no problems are expected in the supply of gas to the State of Israel.

I believe that the shocks in our region underscore and reiterate that Israel is an island of stability in turbulent area and we will continue to do everything to ensure the security and vital interests of the State of Israel, in the face of the major challenges yet before us as well.”  (*)

Source ; PM’s office

New Start won't keep Russia from developing Bulava missiles – deputy PM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Feb 6 (KATAKAMI.COM) — The New START arms reduction treaty will not shift Russia’s plans to continue developing Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and Yars RS-24 missiles, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Saturday.

Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exchanged the instruments of ratification for the New START arms reduction treaty and the document came into effect.

“This treaty does not envision any duties on Russia except for one: to observe the limits stated in the treaty,” Ivanov said.

“The plans we had to develop the strategic component of the armed forces remain in force, this concerns Bulava and Yars,” Ivanov said.

Ivanov emphasized that not only Russia and the United States, but all of the countries which develop and have nuclear arms should hold talks aimed at reducing strategic nuclear arsenals.  (*)

Source : RIA NOVOSTI

Shimon Peres : ‘Mubarak’s contribution to peace won’t be forgotten’


 

Israeli President Shimon Peres warns against the possibility that Muslim Brotherhood would take power in Egypt without addressing the countrys problems (Photo : The Telegraph)

Feb 6 (KATAKAMI.COM / JPOST) — Israels President Shimon Peres said Saturday that Egypts embattled leader, Hosni Mubarak, will always be remembered forpreserving three decades of peace between the two nations.

Israel is deeply worried about the prospect that Mubarak could be forced tostep down by the unprecedented street protests in Egypt and that a lessfriendly government will emerge. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warnedthat any new government must maintain their 1979 peace deal — Israels firstwith an Arab nation.

On Saturday, President Shimon Peres delivered an impassioned defense ofMubarak, crediting him with saving both Arab and Israeli lives by preventingwar in the Middle East.

“His contribution to peace, as far as Im concerned, will never beforgotten,” Peres said in an address to hundreds of visiting members ofthe European Parliament.

During the three decades Mubarak has been in power, he has consistentlyenforced the peace treaty signed by his predecessor, and he has mediatedbetween Israel and the Palestinians.

Peres warned against the possibilitythat Mubaraks ouster would bring the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypts bestorganized opposition movement, to power, saying the fundamentalist group won bring peace.

“Wee very worried about having a change in government or a change in thesystem of elections without introducing a change in the reasons that broughtthis explosion, this bitterness,” Peres said.

He appealed for foreign investment to bring technology, development andopenness to Egypt.  (*)

 

 

 

Photostream : German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets British Prime Minister David Cameron

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron chat during the 47th Conference on Security Policy in Munich February 5, 2011. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the 47th Munich Security Conference in the southern German city of Munich, February 5, 2011. Merkel called on Egyptians to show patience, saying regime change must be properly organised, citing her own experience in German reunification in 1990. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a panel discussion during the Conference on Security Policy in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sits besides Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron during the 47th Conference on Security Policy in Munich February 5, 2011. REUTERS/Jens Meyer/Pool

Full text: David Cameron's Munich speech on segregation, radicalisation and Islamic extremism

Photo provided by Munich Security Conference shows Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivering a speech at the International Conference on Security Policy in Munich, southern Germany, Saturday, Feb 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Munich Security Conference, Kai Moerk)

Feb 6 (KATAKAMI.COM) — British Prime Minister David Cameron has delivered a speech setting out his view on radicalisation and Islamic extremism.

Read the speech  :

Today I want to focus my remarks on terrorism, but first let me address one point. Some have suggested that by holding a strategic defence and security review, Britain is somehow retreating from an activist role in the world. That is the opposite of the truth. Yes, we are dealing with our budget deficit, but we are also making sure our defences are strong. Britain will continue to meet the NATO 2% target for defence spending. We will still have the fourth largest military defence budget in the world. At the same time, we are putting that money to better use, focusing on conflict prevention and building a much more flexible army. That is not retreat; it is hard headed.

Every decision we take has three aims in mind. First, to continue to support the NATO mission in Afghanistan . Second, to reinforce our actual military capability. As Chancellor Merkel’s government is showing right here in Germany, what matters is not bureaucracy, which frankly Europe needs a lot less of, but the political will to build military capability that we need as nations and allies, that we can deliver in the field. Third, we want to make sure that Britain is protected from the new and various threats that we face. That is why we are investing in a national cyber security programme that I know William Hague talked about yesterday, and we are sharpening our readiness to act on counter-proliferation.

But the biggest threat that we face comes from terrorist attacks, some of which are, sadly, carried out by our own citizens. It is important to stress that terrorism is not linked exclusively to any one religion or ethnic group. My country, the United Kingdom , still faces threats from dissident republicans in Northern Ireland . Anarchist attacks have occurred recently in Greece and in Italy , and of course, yourselves in Germany were long scarred by terrorism from the Red Army Faction. Nevertheless, we should acknowledge that this threat comes in Europe overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam, and who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens. Last week at Davos I rang the alarm bell for the urgent need for Europe to recover its economic dynamism, and today, though the subject is complex, my message on security is equally stark. We will not defeat terrorism simply by the action we take outside our borders. Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries. Of course, that means strengthening, as Angela has said, the security aspects of our response, on tracing plots, on stopping them, on counter-surveillance and intelligence gathering.

But this is just part of the answer. We have got to get to the root of the problem, and we need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of where these terrorist attacks lie. That is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism. We should be equally clear what we mean by this term, and we must distinguish it from Islam. Islam is a religion observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority. At the furthest end are those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of Sharia. Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist worldview, including real hostility towards Western democracy and liberal values. It is vital that we make this distinction between religion on the one hand, and political ideology on the other. Time and again, people equate the two. They think whether someone is an extremist is dependent on how much they observe their religion. So, they talk about moderate Muslims as if all devout Muslims must be extremist. This is profoundly wrong. Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist. We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing.

This highlights, I think, a significant problem when discussing the terrorist threat that we face. There is so much muddled thinking about this whole issue. On the one hand, those on the hard right ignore this distinction between Islam and Islamist extremism, and just say that Islam and the West are irreconcilable – that there is a clash of civilizations. So, it follows: we should cut ourselves off from this religion, whether that is through forced repatriation, favoured by some fascists, or the banning of new mosques, as is suggested in some parts of Europe . These people fuel Islamophobia, and I completely reject their argument. If they want an example of how Western values and Islam can be entirely compatible, they should look at what’s happened in the past few weeks on the streets of Tunis and Cairo : hundreds of thousands of people demanding the universal right to free elections and democracy.

The point is this: the ideology of extremism is the problem; Islam emphatically is not. Picking a fight with the latter will do nothing to help us to confront the former. On the other hand, there are those on the soft left who also ignore this distinction. They lump all Muslims together, compiling a list of grievances, and argue that if only governments addressed these grievances, the terrorism would stop. So, they point to the poverty that so many Muslims live in and say, ‘Get rid of this injustice and the terrorism will end.’ But this ignores the fact that many of those found guilty of terrorist offences in the UK and elsewhere have been graduates and often middle class. They point to grievances about Western foreign policy and say, ‘Stop riding roughshod over Muslim countries and the terrorism will end.’ But there are many people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who are angry about Western foreign policy, but who don’t resort to acts of terrorism. They also point to the profusion of unelected leaders across the Middle East and say, ‘Stop propping these people up and you will stop creating the conditions for extremism to flourish.’ But this raises the question: if it’s the lack of democracy that is the problem, why are there so many extremists in free and open societies?

Now, I’m not saying that these issues of poverty and grievance about foreign policy are not important. Yes, of course we must tackle them. Of course we must tackle poverty. Yes, we must resolve the sources of tension, not least in Palestine , and yes, we should be on the side of openness and political reform in the Middle East . On Egypt , our position should be clear. We want to see the transition to a more broadly-based government, with the proper building blocks of a free and democratic society. I simply don’t accept that there is somehow a dead end choice between a security state on the one hand, and an Islamist one on the other. But let us not fool ourselves. These are just contributory factors. Even if we sorted out all of the problems that I have mentioned, there would still be this terrorism. I believe the root lies in the existence of this extremist ideology. I would argue an important reason so many young Muslims are drawn to it comes down to a question of identity.

What I am about to say is drawn from the British experience, but I believe there are general lessons for us all. In the UK , some young men find it hard to identify with the traditional Islam practiced at home by their parents, whose customs can seem staid when transplanted to modern Western countries. But these young men also find it hard to identify with Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity. Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.

So, when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful – to stand up to them. The failure, for instance, of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage, the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone when they don’t want to, is a case in point. This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared. And this all leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology. Now for sure, they don’t turn into terrorists overnight, but what we see – and what we see in so many European countries – is a process of radicalisation.

Internet chatrooms are virtual meeting places where attitudes are shared, strengthened and validated. In some mosques, preachers of hate can sow misinformation about the plight of Muslims elsewhere. In our communities, groups and organisations led by young, dynamic leaders promote separatism by encouraging Muslims to define themselves solely in terms of their religion. All these interactions can engender a sense of community, a substitute for what the wider society has failed to supply. Now, you might say, as long as they’re not hurting anyone, what is the problem with all this?

Well, I’ll tell you why. As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called ‘non-violent extremists’, and they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. And I say this is an indictment of our approach to these issues in the past. And if we are to defeat this threat, I believe it is time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past. So first, instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we – as governments and as societies – have got to confront it, in all its forms. And second, instead of encouraging people to live apart, we need a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone.

Let me briefly take each in turn. First, confronting and undermining this ideology. Whether they are violent in their means or not, we must make it impossible for the extremists to succeed. Now, for governments, there are some obvious ways we can do this. We must ban preachers of hate from coming to our countries. We must also proscribe organisations that incite terrorism against people at home and abroad. Governments must also be shrewder in dealing with those that, while not violent, are in some cases part of the problem. We need to think much harder about who it’s in the public interest to work with. Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement. So we should properly judge these organisations: do they believe in universal human rights – including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separation? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organisations – so, no public money, no sharing of platforms with ministers at home.

At the same time, we must stop these groups from reaching people in publicly-funded institutions like universities or even, in the British case, prisons. Now, some say, this is not compatible with free speech and intellectual inquiry. Well, I say, would you take the same view if these were right-wing extremists recruiting on our campuses? Would you advocate inaction if Christian fundamentalists who believed that Muslims are the enemy were leading prayer groups in our prisons? And to those who say these non-violent extremists are actually helping to keep young, vulnerable men away from violence, I say nonsense.

Would you allow the far right groups a share of public funds if they promise to help you lure young white men away from fascist terrorism? Of course not. But, at root, challenging this ideology means exposing its ideas for what they are, and that is completely unjustifiable. We need to argue that terrorism is wrong in all circumstances. We need to argue that prophecies of a global war of religion pitting Muslims against the rest of the world are nonsense.

Now, governments cannot do this alone. The extremism we face is a distortion of Islam, so these arguments, in part, must be made by those within Islam. So let us give voice to those followers of Islam in our own countries – the vast, often unheard majority – who despise the extremists and their worldview. Let us engage groups that share our aspirations.

Now, second, we must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty.

There are practical things that we can do as well. That includes making sure that immigrants speak the language of their new home and ensuring that people are educated in the elements of a common culture and curriculum. Back home, we’re introducing National Citizen Service: a two-month programme for sixteen-year-olds from different backgrounds to live and work together. I also believe we should encourage meaningful and active participation in society, by shifting the balance of power away from the state and towards the people. That way, common purpose can be formed as people come together and work together in their neighbourhoods. It will also help build stronger pride in local identity, so people feel free to say, ‘Yes, I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am Christian, but I am also a Londonder or a Berliner too’. It’s that identity, that feeling of belonging in our countries, that I believe is the key to achieving true cohesion.

So, let me end with this. This terrorism is completely indiscriminate and has been thrust upon us. It cannot be ignored or contained; we have to confront it with confidence – confront the ideology that drives it by defeating the ideas that warp so many young minds at their root, and confront the issues of identity that sustain it by standing for a much broader and generous vision of citizenship in our countries.

Now, none of this will be easy. We will need stamina, patience and endurance, and it won’t happen at all if we act alone. This ideology crosses not just our continent but all continents, and we are all in this together. At stake are not just lives, it is our way of life. That is why this is a challenge we cannot avoid; it is one we must rise to and overcome.

Thank you.  (*)

Source : NUMBER 10 GOV.UK

British Prime Minister calls for “shared national identity”

David Cameron

Feb 6 (KATAKAMI.COM) — The Prime Minister has identified segregation and separatism as key issues behind the threat of Islamic extremism and called for a “shared national identity”.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference Saturday morning, Mr Cameron stressed the difference between Islam as a religion and Islamic extremism as a political ideology, and said that Western countries need to confront extremism rather than practice a “hands-off tolerance”.

The PM said that “the doctrine of state multiculturalism” had encouraged segregation and failed to supply “a vision of society” to which people want to belong.

He said:

“Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.

We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.

We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.

“… I believe it’s time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past.

So first, instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we – as governments and societies – have got to confront it, in all its forms.

And second, instead of encouraging people to live apart, we need a clear sense of shared national identity, open to everyone.”  (*)

Source : NUMBER 10 GOV.UK

Hosni Mubarak Meets Economic Team as Protests Enter Day 12

In this image from Egyptian state television aired Tuesday evening Feb 1 2011, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak makes what has been billed as an important speech. Mubarak has faced a week of public and international pressure to step down from the role he has held for 30 years, culminating in a day when a quarter-million people turned in the largest protest yet to demand his ouster. (AP Photo/Egyptian state television via APTN)

 

Feb 5 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — Thousands of demonstrators are in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a 12th day of protests against Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Early Saturday, gunfire rang out in the packed square, but there were no reports of casualties.

Egyptian state media report Mr. Mubarak met Saturday with his economic team, including several members of his new Cabinet, to discuss the crisis, which is costing the country an estimated $310 million a day.

On Friday, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters crammed into Tahrir Square for what they called the “day of departure” for Mr. Mubarak, who has vowed to finish his term in office.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa joined the demonstrators in the square Friday.  The long-time Egyptian political figure has said he may consider running for president.  Egyptian Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi also visited the square Friday.  

Also Friday, there were reports of clashes and shots fired into the air as military forces prevented a group of Mubarak supporters from entering Tahrir Square.  Those demonstrators rallied elsewhere in Cairo for what they called a “Day of Loyalty.”

Thousands of anti-government protesters also massed in Alexandria Friday for peaceful rallies.  A VOA correspondent says one group of anti-Mubarak demonstrators gathered in the central part of town Friday while a second group rallied at a mosque.  Thousands of people also rallied in Suez, Ismailia and other cities.

On Wednesday, a violent clash erupted in Tahrir Square between government opponents and supporters.

President Mubarak said earlier this week that he will not seek reelection when his term ends.  In a Thursday interview with the U.S. broadcaster ABC,  he said he would like to leave office now, but fears Egypt would sink deeper into chaos if he did.   

Mr. Mubarak blamed the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s largest and best organized opposition group – for the violence in the capital over the past few days.  Protesters say Mr. Mubarak’s supporters sparked the violence by attacking anti-government demonstrators on Wednesday.

An Egyptian journalist died Friday from gunshot wounds suffered a week ago.  Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud was taking photographs of fighting between protesters and security forces from the balcony of his home when he was shot.  He is the first journalist to die in the crisis.

At least eight people have died and nearly 900 have been injured in the most recent two days of fighting around Tahrir Square.  (*)

 

 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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