|Southwest Asia News Digest
Turkey and Syria Inaugurate Dam, Issue Joint Statement on Egypt
Feb. 7 (EIRNS)Turkey and Egypt inaugurated the first "friendship dam," while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad issued a statement on developments in Egypt.
The dam will be built on the Asi River, which forms a border between the two countries. Erdogan and Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri presided over a groundbreaking ceremony. The dam will straddle the frontier between the Turkish village of Ziarat and the Syrian village of al-Allani. It will generate electricity and provide water to irrigate more than 10,000 hectares of agricultural land.
"We want the whole region to prosper, together with Turkey ... that we struggle not to walk all over each other but to help each other. And we have achieved this with Syria," Erdogan said, in televised remarks at the Turkish-Syrian border. "God willing, the dam will be completed in a short time. God willing, we will jointly use the electricity to be produced, and we will jointly irrigate our fields."
The dam is one of 18 "friendship dams" that will be built along Turkey's borders with Syria, Iraq, Iran, Greece, and Bulgaria. Turkey and Syria also plan to set up a joint bank, inaugurate a high-speed train between Aleppo in north Syria and Gaziantep in southern Turkey, sand link their natural gas networks, by the end of 2011, he added.
Erdogan later traveled to Aleppo where he met with President al-Assad. They both expressed the hope that "the aspirations will be realized by the people of Egypt."
Assad and Erdogan also said they would "make every possible effort toward stability and security in Lebanon," Syria's neighbor, where the new Premier, Najib Mikati, is trying to form a government amid continuing political deadlock. They underlined the importance of Syria and Turkey "continuing their dialogue on different topics in the region in order to create a climate of security," SANA reported.
Lebanese Canadian Bank Accused of Laundering Cocaine Money
Feb. 11 (EIRNS)U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials have accused the Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars a month for a multinational drug-trafficking organization that operates from Colombia to Beirut to Canada to West Africa, involving an international network of Lebanese nationals.
DEA officials said that a complaint culminated a five-year investigation involving agents in Colombia, West Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. The officials said the case sheds light on the ways that terrorist organizations rely on the illegal drug trade to help finance their activities. "As the number of state sponsors of terror go down, and other financing streams dry up, drug trafficking is filling the void," said Derek Maltz, the DEA special agent in charge of the investigation. However, the question of what terrorist and/or paramilitary organizations are involved has not been confirmed. Some media reports claim that the case involves individuals linked to Hezbollah, but such links haven't been substantiated.
Lebanon's central bank governor, Riad Salameh, expressed support for LCB on Feb. 11, saying it was complying with international and Lebanese anti-money-laundering regulations and had a "highly professional administration and high liquidity."
Washington sources confirm that the report's essential features on the smuggling operation are accurate. The sources emphasized that Africa has become a transit area for Colombian cocaine and Afghan heroin, targeted at the vast and growing European market. Large areas of African territory are under the control of drug cartels, which have built up airport facilities and warehousing. Furthermore, diamonds and gold, both plentiful in Africa, are used to launder the drug proceeds. One source reported that gold and diamonds traded for cocaine and heroin have been traced from Lebanon, through Afghanistan, into Chechnya.