|Southwest Asia News Digest
Iran To Build 19 New Nuclear Power Plants
Dec. 24 (EIRNS)Iran will soon announce a tender to build 19 new nuclear power plants, Novosti reported today. "An international tender will be announced soon for the creation of 19 nuclear power plants with a capacity of 1,000 MW each," declared Kazem Jalali, a spokesman for Iran's parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy. This is part of Iran's policy to generate 20,000 MW of electricity.
Iran's announcement is in line with the urgently necessary global renaissance of nuclear power, which is sweeping especially the Third World, but being stupidly ignored in major Western powers, such as the United States and Germany.
The Bushehr nuclear plant, currently being built by Russia, will start to generate electricity by March 2008, Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said Dec. 22. "In line with a timetable of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, electricity to be generated by the Bushehr nuclear power plant will flow into the country's power grid next year," which begins in Iran on March 21.
Larijani in Egypt, Seeking Normalization
Dec. 27 (EIRNS)Ali Larijani, head of Iran's National Security Council, is in Egypt, where he has been discussing the possibility of renewing full diplomatic relations between Cairo and Tehran. In Egypt, he has already met with Grand Sheik Mohammed Seyed Tantawi and other officials of Al-Azhar, one of Sunni Islam's most important religious centers.
Larijani also met with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, and Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "So far, we are on a positive track," Larijani told reporters in Cairo according to the Jerusalem Post. "The dialogue and the discussions are going on, but we should not be hasty."
Iran cut diplomatic ties with Egypt after the latter signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979 and provided asylum for the deposed Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Relations got even worse when Egypt backed Iraq during the 1980-1988 Gulf War.
Aboul Gheit has said that a resumption of ties could only take place if Iran takes down a large mural of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's assassin, Khaled el-Islambouli, and change the name of a street honoring him. El-Islambouli was one of the army officers who killed Sadat during a military parade in 1981.
Senior Hamas Official: Ceasefire with Israel Is Possible
Dec. 23 (EIRNS)A top advisor to Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, said today that a ceasefire with Israel is possible. "If there was a chance for a calmness ending the suffering of our people, then this will be a national interest that it must be dealt with, under the condition that Israel must stick to it," said the advisor, Ahmed Yousef, as reported by Xinhuanet.com.
This followed reports that Hamas was seeking a ceasefire, which other Hamas officials have denied. One Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, is quoted by London's Telegraph Online as denying that there is any "talk of calm" at the moment, but he didn't rule it out. "They have to stop all the destruction, and relieve the sanctions, and open the corridor between Gaza and Egypt. Everything after that can be discussed," Barhoum said.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is widely quoted as rejecting any ceasefire, and telling the cabinet that he is ruling out negotiations with Hamas because it has refused international demands to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to endorse past peace accords.
Kirkuk Bloodbath Put on Hold
Dec. 27 (EIRNS)Kurdish lawmakers agreed yesterday to a six-month delay on a referendum on whether the oil-rich city of Kirkuk should join the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan or remain under the control of the Iraqi central government. The vote defuses, for now, the potentially explosive issue of Kirkuk, which territory is claimed by both Kurds and Arabs, and has caused analysts to warn that it could trigger a fresh wave of bloodshed in Iraq that could draw in Turkey as well.
The speaker of Kurdistan's parliament, Adnan al-Mufti, reported that "the proposal made by the new UN special representative to Iraq, Steffan de Mistura, had been overwhelmingly endorsed." The parliament's agreement to delay the referendum, due to take place by the end of the year under Article 140 of the new Iraqi constitution, is important as it has been a largely Kurdish-driven process.
U.S. intelligence sources report that Kirkuk has been targeted for ethnic cleansing of all non-Kurds, in an effort to ensure that the oil-reserve-rich area falls under Kurdish control. Among the population forcefully expelled from the Kirkuk region are large numbers of Turkmens, ethnic Turks, who have lived in the area for a very long time, and who are a factor in Turkey's own claims on the oil reserves of that area. It is ironic that the Kurdish region has been touted as the safest and most secure part of Iraq, since the time of the U.S. invasion; yet, it could soon be the epicenter of some of the most violent clashes, and a possible foreign invasion.
The 'Liberation' of Iraq's Children
Dec. 24 (EIRNS)Gen. David Petraeus calls it liberation. The children of Iraq may have different names for it. Some 2 million children in Iraq face unrelenting ravages of poor nutrition, disease, and lack of schooling, according to a new UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) report. Thousands have lost their lives in violence. More have had the main breadwinner in their families kidnapped or killed. An average of 25,000 children a month have been forced to flee their homes this year.
While the Bush regime funds the occupation to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, UNICEF received but $40 million towards its $144 million appeal for Iraq this year, to fund critical needs in health, education, water, and sanitation, a spokeswoman said in Geneva. "Iraqi children are the foundation for their country's recovery," Roger Wright, UNICEF's special representative for Iraq, told Reuters. "We continue to owe them our very best in 2008 and beyond."
UNICEF has determined that only 28% of Iraqi 17-year-olds completed their final school exams this year. The number of primary school-age children not in school in 2006 was 760,000. That figure has grown over the past year, as more displaced children had their schooling disrupted, the UN said.