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Guantanamo Bay prison still in use despite Obama's campaign promise, Syria's Assad blames unrest on "foreign conspiracy," Yemeni masses reject US-backed immunity law, and more.
Al Jazeera English | Apr 12
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross has urged US president Barack Obama to do more to help the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. P...
Syria's Assad blames unrest on 'foreign conspiracy' [New TV, Lebanon]
Reporter, Female # 1
In his fourth speech since the unrest began in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad confirmed that the Arab League is a reflection of the polarizing Arab situation, adding that what used to happen secretly now occurs openly. He indicated that Muslim-Christian diversity is the symbol of Syria's pan-Arab identity, and that terrorism should be combated, not Islam.
Guest, Male # 1 (Bashar al-Assad, Syrian President)
If some countries are seeking to link Syria's Arabism to Arab League membership, we say to them, "you are suspending the Arabism of the League; you are incapable of suspending Syria's Arabism. The League's Arabism is suspended without Syria."
Reporter, Female # 1
President al-Assad confirmed that a reform policy is being adopted while combating terrorism. He stressed it is unfeasible to carry out internal reforms without dealing with the situation on the ground.
Reporter, Female # 2
The opposition's first reaction to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's speech came via the Syrian National Council that confirmed in a conference in Istanbul that al-Assad's speech is an invitation to civil war. The council pointed out that the Syrian people are moving forward with their revolution to regain their freedom and dignity. The chief of the council, Burhan Ghalyoun, said the council will meet with officials at the United Nations to ask them to refer the Syrian situation to the Security Council. Meanwhile, the frequency of anti-regime protests rose as demonstrators rejected al-Assad's speech, which they considered an invitation to strife between the united Syrian people. For its part, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ten people were killed today and 40 others injured during a peaceful protest in Deir az-Zour. And while al-Assad's speech was the center of attention, a delegation of Arab League monitors was attacked by unidentified protestors. Two Kuwaiti officers were slightly injured. This comes after an Arab League vehicle was fired at in the city of Homs, causing the monitors to leave for Damascus.Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Arabi said 11 Arab observers were slightly injured in an attack in Syria. He denounced the attacks on observers, holding the Syrian government completely responsible for their protection. El-Arabi considered the attack a fundamental breach of protocol by the government. He threatened to freeze the work of the delegation if its members are endangered and their mission obstructed. In the Emirates' first position since the delegation began its mission, the UAE foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, pointed to a lack of Syrian commitment to allow Arab monitors to fulfill their duties. He said it is unfortunate that the delegation is being attacked, adding that such acts are directed by non-opposition elements. As for Saudi Arabia, it said Syria is not helping the observers. The official Syrian response came via Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi. He said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem met with the head of the monitors' delegation, Mohammad Ahmad Mustafa al-Dabi, indicating that al-Dabi presented the results reached by the Arab observers. Al-Makdissi said al-Moallem confirmed Syria's commitment to the protocol it signed with the Arab League and its readiness to completely cooperate while protecting the Arab observers. For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry commended the work of the delegation, saying the deployment of Arab monitors in the country is exerting a stabilizing influence and helping to provide a truthful and objective picture of what is happening there.
Israel prepares for flood of Syrian refugees when Assad falls [IBA, Israel]
The Israeli army is preparing for a possible flood of Syrian refugees following the fall of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. This according to IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, who told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that members of Assad's Alawite sect are expected to seek shelter in Israel should Assad be removed from power. Gantz told the lawmakers that Israel would create shelter for the Syrian refugees on the Golan Heights. Gantz also expressed Israel's fear that with the fall of Assad, an increasing number of weapons from Syria could make their way to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.
Israeli MKs approve harsh penalties for illegal migrants [IBA, Israel]
Back here at home, the government's battle against illegal immigration moved into high gear last night when the Knesset passed a controversial bill designed to discourage infiltration. According to the new legislation, an illegal alien may be held in custody for up to three years without trial. The Knesset debate on the amendment to the illegal migrants bill went on for hours last night before it was passed with 37 votes to 8 with one abstention. Most members of the cabinet were clearly pleased by the result.
Israel increases defense budget by six percent in 2012 [Dubai TV, UAE]
Presenter, Male #1
Contrary to what most countries are forced to do because of the world financial crisis, Israel is raising its defense budget by nearly six percent this year. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the spending of an additional 780 million dollars in order to counter what he described as "deepening instability in the region." He said the funds will be provided by cutting the budgets of other ministries and with the army's savings. Shuruk Asaad reports from Jerusalem.
Reporter, Female #1
Israel is monitoring the changes in the region and its concerns are reflected in the prime minister's decision to increase the defense budget by 780 million US dollars, which raises the entire budget to nearly 13 billion dollars. Israel acknowledges that it's dealing with what it referred to as a "new map" of the region. Israeli officials admit they have lost several regional allies such as Turkey and Egypt. In addition, they have serious concerns about what may result from the situation in Syria, as well as concerns about Iran, Hezbollah, and the Palestinians.
Guest, Male #2 (Ofir Gendelman, Spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister)
We are witnessing the ongoing Arab revolutions, as well as regional and political changes. Naturally, these changes will affect our relationships with these countries. We're watching what is happening in Syria, and what is happening in Iraq after the US withdrawal, and of course, we're also watching Iran's nuclear weapons development. All that will have an impact on our future. Therefore, at the end of the day, we should take precautions to prepare us in case of emergency.
Reporter, Female #1
Netanyahu's decision came as a challenge to the opposition and many Israelis who demanded a cut in the defense and military budgets in order to mitigate the damages caused by the financial crisis.
Guest, Male #3 (Eli Nissan, Journalist, Israeli TV)
Israel is facing new challenges. Therefore, the defense ministry's budget cannot be cut in light of the recent developments in the Middle East. Especially since Israel does not know for certain what will happen at the border with Egypt, and what the fate of the Assad family and the Assad regime will be. Therefore, Israel is forced to maintain the defense ministry budget for now, even though it is very large.
Reporter, Female #1
Israel's fears are increasing regarding what it refers to as the rise of Islamists nearby and any unexpected events that may occur. However, it confirms its army's readiness in the north near Lebanon and in the south near the Sinai, as well as at the checkpoints near the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. So as usual, Israel gives its top priority to its army and the so-called defense ministry. As they say in Israel, be prepared because anything is possible. Shuruk Asaad, Dubai TV, occupied Jerusalem.
Guantanamo Bay prison still in use despite Obama's campaign promise [BBC Arabic, UK]
Presenter, Male #1
Tomorrow marks the ten-year anniversary of the arrival of the first group of prisoners at the US Guantanamo Bay detention camp. After all these years, the controversy is ongoing about the prisoners' fate, and the demand to close the prison persists.
Reporter, Male #2
Ten years have passed since the most infamous and notorious prison in the world opened. 779 people were detained here, mostly during the war on Afghanistan and the war on terror following the September 11 attacks. 171 prisoners are still being held at Guantanamo Bay. Eighty-nine of them are eligible for release according to military and intelligence stipulations. However, US Congress stipulations have prevented their release due to reasons mainly linked to the prisoners' countries of origins. The prison was built during the era of former US President George Bush. Many considered it a mark of shame on a country once considered to be the defender of freedom. The prisoners were denied trials, lawyers, visits, and information, and US law does not apply to them. The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is rented from Cuba and is not considered to be on US soil, nor is it required adhere to the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war. The Bush administration said the detainees at Guantanamo are enemy fighters, meaning they have no rights. The detention camp became known for using violent interrogation methods, most notably water-boarding.
Guest, Female #1 (Hina Shamsi, American Civil Liberties Union)
On the ten year anniversary of Guantanamo, it could not be more clear that the place is a catastrophic failure legally, ethically, morally, and in terms of our national security. It is a place that was a laboratory for torture and represents the principle of indefinite military detention without charge or trial by the United States. It is a failure of our democratic values and the time has come to close it.
Reporter, Male #2
Guantanamo Bay detention camp was supposed to close over two years ago, as promised by incumbent President Barack Obama at the beginning of his presidency. Obama did not keep his promise and there is no evidence indicating that Guantanamo will close any time soon. His defenders say the detainees include people that cannot be tried on US soil because it will increase the likelihood of attacks against the US. In addition, certain people who are still considered a threat to US national security cannot be released. Critics respond by saying that maintaining the status quo of the detention camp is a reason in and of itself for breeding more terrorists.
Yemeni masses reject US-backed immunity law [Al-Alam, Iran]
Presenter, Female # 1
Yesterday, the Yemeni parliament witnessed sharp disputes between the ministers about granting President Ali Abdullah Saleh legal immunity. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the immunity provision was negotiated as part of the Riyadh agreement. Washington's statements come after Amnesty International and the United Nations called for rejecting immunity for Saleh.
Reporter, Female # 2
Despite feigning sympathy for the so-called "Arab Spring," the American administration does not view the protests in Yemen as part of this wave. The latest statements from Washington indicate it views granting immunity for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his aides as non-negotiable and non-debatable. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said immunity is part and parcel of the Riyadh agreement. The American statements came in response to criticism by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday. Pillay described the immunity law as a slap in the face of justice. However, developments of the situation in Yemen indicate a joint Saudi-American play is in motion, with its acts written during the Riyadh agreement. During his visit to Riyadh, the head of the national government, Mohammed Basendowah, continues a series of events whose repercussions are causing fear for the Yemenis stationed at the country's squares. It is worth mentioning that American support for the Yemeni regime, despite the latter's responsibility for the bloodshed of Yemenis for over ten months, dates back three decades. During that time, Saleh pledged loyalty to the White House that, in turn, ensured its policies were implemented in Yemen under the supervision of Saudi Arabia, forming most of the country's security and military institutions and determining the fate of the country. So after all this trouble, how can the United States view the collapse of the regime of an ally and stand idly by? The US is looking for a safe and honorable exit for the regime. However, it seems the natural mobilization will not stand still. This is the status of the Yemeni revolution. Despite conspiracies to kill it, the size of demonstrations keep growing, even after the Riyadh agreement was signed. And with it, the scale of the repression grows. Yesterday, security forces attacked protestors in Sanaa and Taiz, leading to the deaths of several. Observers believe the American administration will face another defeat, similar to those experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the revolution achieves its demands and those in the squares overthrow the signatories of the Riydah agreements and their allies.
Iran begins uranium enrichment at Fordo site [Press TV, Iran]
Well Iran has begun enriching uranium at its Fordo site near the city of Qom. The site was declared by the International Atomic Energy Agency two years ago. Enriching uranium at the Fordo site. Iran has begun uranium enrichment at the Fordo site, over two years after the facility, near the city of Qom, was declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It is producing uranium enriched up to 20 percent to be used at Tehran reactor that makes medical radioisotopes for cancer patients. Iran says all activities at the nuclear site, are under the permanent supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, an issue approved by the agency. The news drew reactions especially from western countries. The US State Department has said the enrichment represented "a further escalation" of Iranian violations of United Nations agreements on its nuclear program, and called on Iran to suspend enrichment activities.
Bahrainis protest in front of UN office in Manama [Press TV, Iran]
On to Bahrain now, as anti-regime protestors have gathered in front of the United Nations office in the capital Manama to push for their demands. Reports say security is tight around the sit-in and a helicopter is hovering above the crowd. The main opposition party al-Wefaq has organized the gathering. Regime forces barred the protestors from a rally planned by the party a few days ago. On Tuesday, Saudi-backed forces attacked anti-regime protestors in the villages of Dair and Bani Janrah. The protestors were calling for the downfall of the al-Khalifa monarchy. They also call for the release of political prisoners and an end to the Saudi-backed crackdown on rallies. Dozens have been kill and many tortured or arrested.
Court hears closing arguments for Mubarak trial [Press TV, Iran]
On to Egypt now as ousted President Hosni Mubarak has appeared before court for a second straight day. The court heard the closing arguments of lawyers of Mubarak's regime's crackdown on protestors. The trial was then postponed to next Tuesday. Prosecution lawyers have demanded the death penalty for Mubarak, accusing him of ordering the killing of protestors during the popular uprising which led to his downfall last year. Mubarak has denied the charge that he ordered security forces to open fire on demonstrators. Nearly 800 people were killed by the Mubarak regime forces during the protest.
Political tension beefing up in Pakistan over corruption cases [Press TV, Iran]
Pakistan's Supreme Court warns that it could dismiss the country's prime minister over non-implementation of its decision to reopen corruption cases against the president. More trouble for the civilian government in Pakistan after it defied the Supreme Court ruling to reopen corruption cases against the President. After months long proceedings, the country's highest court has now threatened to take a series of measures against the government for non-implementation of its decision. The controversy centers on the amnesty granted to politicians including President Asif Zardari from corruption charges in 2007 by then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. However, in late 2008 the Supreme Court declared the amnesty unconstitutional and ordered the revival of all corruption cases.
Baghdad bombings target Shi'ite pilgrims [Al-Forat TV, Iraq]
Presenter, Male #1
In an attempt to hinder pilgrims from heading to the holy city of Karbala, terrorists detonated two booby-trapped vehicles targeting convoys of pilgrims in the Sha'ab and Bayaa districts in Baghdad. Five pilgrims were martyred and 34 others were wounded in the attacks. A security source said the first attack targeted the Sha'ab district, killing and wounding nine pilgrims. The second bombing took place near the Husseiniat of A'imat al-Baqii in the Muwasalat neighborhood of Bayaa District, martyring four people and wounding 27 others.
Presenter, Female #1
The streets of the Iraqi capital Baghdad are filled with masses of pilgrims walking on foot towards the holy city of Karbala. Citizens from the cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Mosul set up service tents on the road from Baghdad to Karbala to compete with local residents to provide hospitality to the pilgrims paying respect to Abu Abdullah al-Hussein. Fatima al-Hassani reports.
Reporter, Female #2
Pilgrims are walking to the holy city of Karbala to mark al-Arbaeen, the end of the forty days of mourning for Imam al-Hussein's martyrdom, peace be upon him. Millions of pilgrims of various ages from all Iraqi provinces are on their way to pay their respect. Roads and streets of the capital Baghdad, a passageway to Karbala, were filled with large crowds of pilgrims from the northern provinces as well as residents of Baghdad heading towards the Qibla of the Free.
Guest, Female #3
We don't feel tired because we want to mourn our Lady Zainab. That's why we don't feel tired or despair. Despair turns into comfort. We are not tired now, and God willing we will not get tired even after arriving there. I was hoping to be bombed on this road to Hussein. My only wish in life is to be martyred. I'm not scared of any bombing, and I brought my younger son with me.
Reporter, Female #2
Meanwhile, organizers of the convoys eagerly offer the pilgrims to Abu Abdullah, peace upon him, all the services that they can provide such as food, shelter and hospitality.
Guest, Male #2(Sheikh Ahmed, Sheikh of al-You Riyash Tribe of Tikrit)
I'm a tribal Sheikh from Salah al-Din Province. I'm the chief of al-Barias Tribe. I came here to provide service to the pilgrims of the Prophet's family. This is a humanitarian message. We are here to serve Abu Abdullah and everyone, God willing. They came from all over the country, including Ramadi and Tikrit. We want our Iraq to become one, and God willing our nation will be united
Reporter, Female #2
Millions of pilgrims travel thousands of miles, leaving behind everything to head to the city of martyrs, Karbala.