|Southwest Asia News Digest
Primakov: No Proof Iranian Nuclear Program Is Military
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)Russian representatives intervened into the tension surrounding the Iranian nuclear program, and indeed many Middle East issues, during a Dec. 20-22 conference in Jordan. The event, titled "Middle East 2020: Is a Comprehensive Settlement Possible?" and co-sponsored by RIA Novosti and the Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, featured former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov as a keynote speaker, as well as Alexander Saltanov, the deputy foreign minister, and representation from Israel, the Palestinians, Arab media, and many others.
Both Primakov and Saltanov indicated to the Jerusalem Post that the Russian government sees no evidence that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Saltanov, while he dismissed the notion that Russia would not support any new sanctions against Iran, said, "We should work through the diplomatic process to the very end, and encourage Iran to get involved in dialogue not only on vague issueslike the nuclear programbut also involving Iran in the region to solve problems." He added that "Iran has a positive potential."
Primakov, a senior Russian strategist and diplomat, told the conference that "Russia has no concrete information that Iran is planning to construct a weapon. It may be more like Japan, which has nuclear readiness but does not have a bomb." He added, "There is no doubt that the Iranian program and the lack of clarity about it has caused great nervousness in Israel, but if Israel attacks Iran, it will cause great instability and will only postpone the Iranian program, not end it." He warned that an effort to solve the issue by force would further radicalize Iran. "In that situation, Iran could consider it absolutely vital to have nuclear weapons."
Mottaki: Nuclear Swap in Turkey Is Acceptable
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told Iranian state television on Dec. 24, that Turkey would be an acceptable site for swapping nuclear material under a United Nations proposal. The proposal is for Iran to give up its stockpile of low-enriched uranium in return for 20% enriched fuel rods that could be used in a research reactor, but are unsuitable for nuclear weapons.
Mottaki said that Iran "does not have a problem with Turkish soil" as the location for the exchange, which is a shift from an earlier demand that the exchange take place inside Iran. On Dec. 25, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu welcomed Mottaki's remarks, saying Turkey would continue its efforts to help end the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.
Netanyahu and His Lackeys Preventing Prisoner Exchange
Dec. 28 (EIRNS)The long, drawn-out process of working out a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is being blocked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lackey Uzi Arad, one of the Israeli officials involved in illegally obtaining secret documents from Pentagon official Larry Franklin in 2004-05. (Franklin pleaded guilty in 2006 to criminal charges relating to his pilfering of secret documents, and unauthorized distribution of classified information to Israeli agents. Because of the case, Arad was banned from the United States, a status that was only reversed when Netanyahu demanded that he be recognized as the Prime Minister's National Security Advisor).
Regarding the prisoner exchange, roughly 70% of Israelis polled supported an exchange "at any cost," reported the Israeli press. Still, Bibi and Uzi are putting up roadblocks. There is a demand that 100 Palestinians of those freed be deported, an unacceptable demand. The second is the active lobbying by Arad to sabotage the deal. He gave interviews, as a "source close to the Prime Minister," to Yedioth Ahronoth and Channel 2, attacking both the army Chief of Staff and the head of the Shin Bet for supporting an exchange.
Well-informed sources in Washington report that one of the most outrageous of the Israeli demands is that Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, a member of the Fatah executive board, and a popular candidate for the next Palestinian Presidential elections, not be allowed to enter the West Bank if he is released from Israeli prison. The Israelis are reportedly demanding that Barghouti either be confined to Gaza or exiled to another country.
Egypt Invests in National Power Network, Including Nuclear
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)Egypt is eager to develop a peaceful nuclear program with the cooperation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in order to provide more electric power to the country, reported NNN-Kuna news agency on Dec. 25. NNN-Kuna cited Egyptian Minister of Electricity and Energy Hassan Yunis, who also said that new energy deals are in the works that will link several power grids with the national network in Egypt, and will provide around 99% of the electricity to the Egyptian people, as well as electric power to the industrial, agricultural, commercial, and tourism sectors.
Yunis stated that contracts will be signed with the first stage of the project, to commence on 2011, costing around 1.5 billion Egyptian pounds (EGP1=$0.18), and that the deals would lead to the linkage of the Al-Owainat eastern region with the national network of power-grids. Similar deals worth EGP107 million were signed in November.
The signing of the deals would come within the 2007-12 strategy to develop Egypt's power network. The investments in the strategy would cost around EGP80 billion ($14.6 billion).