Full U.N. Security Council Endorses Syria Peace Plan |
The U.N. Security Council said it “fully supports” former Secretary-General and special envoy for Syria Kofi Annan’s six-point plan for a peace deal to end the ongoing crisis there. In a non-binding presidential statement that requires unanimous support from Council members — including, notably, Russia and China, who had vetoed an earlier resolution — the Council called “upon the Syrian government and opposition to work in good faith with the Envoy towards a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis.” As Annan reports back, the Council threatened that it “will consider further steps as appropriate.” The Syrian government unleashed helicopters and tanks in clashes against demonstrators in the Damascus suburbs today.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime seems to think Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi and his Spanish club FC Barcelona are sending secret signals to Syrian rebels via passing formations. Syrian state TV aired a clip of a recent match between Barca and Real Madrid in which Messi and teammate Andres Iniesta pass and dribble through defenders, and eventually get the ball to Barca forward Pedro, who then scores a goal.
A run from Iniesta is said to portray the first part of a weapons supply route to Syrian rebels from Lebanon. “Here we see the first stage where arms are loaded from Lebanon,” a voiceover reportedly states as the video shows Messi making his run after a pass from Iniesta. “Then they pass through Homs and are delivered to another terrorist. We also see how they warn that they will face some obstacles until they reach Dayr Al Zawr.” Watch the clip:
Here’s a map of Barca’s supposed secret signal to the Syrian rebels:
Some have said the video is a hoax. But as Martin Rogers at Yahoo! Sports noted, the Syrian state TV program “used a segment on its nightly news bulletin to launch into a detailed description of how Barca had decided to add covert operations and international espionage to its dazzling array of talents.” (HT: Elizabeth Tsurkov)
Top European Diplomats Call For ‘Sustained Diplomatic Engagement’ With Iran |
The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland called on the West to “aim for a sustained diplomatic engagement” to end the nuclear standoff with Iran. Carl Bildt and Erkki Tuomioja, from Sweden and Finland, respectively, wrote in the New York Times that they were “deeply concerned” about all the war chatter, writing, “It is difficult to see a single action more likely to drive Iran into taking the final decision to acquire nuclear weapons than an attack on the country.” The top diplomats recounted missed opportunities for negotiations, and said the current opening should be pursued incrementally, “seek(ing) to build trust through a series of steps, as bridging the immense gulf of mistrust will not be done in a day.”
The suspected shooter of three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in Toulouse, France, was arrested in an apartment building after a standoff with hundreds of police officers. An early morning police raid to arrest the shooter turned into a firefight in which three police officers were wounded. The suspect, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, told police he belonged to al-Qaeda and was taking revenge for the Palestinian children killed in the Middle East.
The suspect, Mohammed Merah, was known by local anti-terrorism police and had traveled to the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, an area where al-Qaeda runs training camps.
The commander of the prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan tells CBS News they held a prisoner by the same name in 2008 in connection with a bombing. The suspect was sentenced to three years but escaped later that year along with 600 other prisoners. CBS was unable to confirm that the escaped prisoner was the same one arrested by French police today.
Merah is a member of the Forsan al-Izza, “Knights of Glory,” a group which the French government banned in January over suspicions it was recruiting Jihadists to Afghanistan. The group had no immediate reaction to Merah’s attack.
The bodies of the the rabbi and three children were flown to Jerusalem. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe accompanied relatives of the dead from France to Israel. At least 2,000 mourners gathered today at the Givat Shaul cemetery on the western outskirts of the city to mourn the deaths. “Talking to local French speaking people here and even to one Israeli minister,” a BBC reporter said, “they all said that this is a problem in France, anti-Semitism is still rife in France.” Watch the BBC’s report:
In a television address, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he had held a meeting with Jewish and Muslim leaders.
I told them and I tell the nation that we should be united. We cannot give in to discrimination or vengeance. We owe this to the victims who have been killed in cold blood and to our country.
Reports that the shooter has surrendered to police are inaccurate. Reuters reports that “French Interior Minister Claude Gueant denied media reports that Merah had been arrested.” About 300 police, some in body armor, are now surrounding the apartment in which Merah is holed up. The Interior Minister reported that Merah had thrown a Colt 45 pistol out of a window in exchange for a mobile phone, but was still armed.
– Gen. John Allen, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday that he will not be recommending further U.S. troop reductions until late this year.
– Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) told Allen that “it is time to find additional ways to put the Afghans in charge of their own fate as quickly as we responsibly can and bring our troops home.”
– The new budget plan released by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) contains huge cuts for diplomacy and international development programs between FY 2012 and FY 2013 while defense spending would rise over the same timeframe.
– A U.N. Security Council draft statement will express “full support” for U.N.-Arab League Syrian envoy Kofi Annan’s peace efforts with Syria while threatening Damascus with “further steps” if it failed to comply but language threatening Syria with new U.N. measures if Damascus failed to comply within a week was dropped to secure Russian support.
– Former Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan says he believes Israel will know if Iran decides to move forward with nuclear weapons production and at that point, Israel will have to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international community does not stop its program.
– “The CIA and other U.S. officials admit they now have no information about the Iranian leadership taking the political decision to produce nuclear weapons,” said Russian’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Russian radio. “But I am almost certain that such a decision will surely be taken after (any) strikes on Iran.”
– Ten European countries and Japan earned exemptions from U.S. sanctions against those who do business with Iran’s central bank because they took steps to significantly curtail their imports of Iranian oil, announced Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
– An official at the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said she was “encouraged” at an invitation from the repressive but rapidly reforming government there to invite U.S. and E.U. election monitors to the country.