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France Will Bar Muslim Cleric

Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi
© unknown
Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi
The French government will deny entry to Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Egyptian preacher, if he accepts an invitation from the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF) to visit France next month, a close aide to President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sunday.

Al-Qaradawi is one of the most widely respected Sunni Muslim clerics in the Arab world and a household name in the Middle East.

A former member of Egypt's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, he is independent of the group today but remains close to it.

The UOIF, one of three Muslim federations in France, is also close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Source: Reuters

Stop

Turkey Closes Embassy in Syria, Recalls Ambassador

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© Today's Zaman, Ali Ünal
Turkey on Monday closed its embassy in Damascus and called back its ambassador to Syria, citing a worsening security situation in the country.

Activities at the embassy in the Syrian capital are being "temporarily suspended," but Turkey's consulate in Aleppo will remain operational, a brief statement posted on the embassy's website said Sunday night.

The embassy is being closed because of the poor security situation in Syria, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity in line with ministry regulations. The Turkish ambassador and other diplomats will be returning to Turkey, he said.

The move comes two days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was on the brink of breaking diplomatic ties with Syria and withdrawing its ambassador.

The U.N. says more than 8,000 people, many of them civilian protesters, have been killed since Syria's President Bashar Assad launched a crackdown on the opposition a year ago.

USA

U.S. Pays Families of Afghan Victims in Massacre by Soldier

Robert Bales
© The Associated Press/Allauddin Khan
In this Sunday, March 11, 2012 file photo, men stand next to blood stains and charred remains inside a home where witnesses say Afghans were killed by a U.S. soldier in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was charged on Friday, March 23, 2012 with 17 counts of premeditated murder, a capital offense that could lead to the death penalty in the massacre of Afghan civilians, the U.S. military said.
Kabul, Afghanistan - The families of 16 Afghan villagers who were killed this month by a rampaging American soldier were given $50,000 by the United States for each of their relatives who died, Afghan and American officials said.

The payments were made on Saturday by American military officers at the office of the governor of Kandahar Province, where the killings took place. The people wounded in the attacks were each given $11,000, said Hajji Agha Lalai, a member of the Kandahar provincial council.

Hajji Jan Agha, who lost cousins in the killings, said he and other relatives were invited to the governor's office by foreign and Afghan officials, according to Reuters. "They said this money is an assistance from Obama," Mr. Agha was quoted as saying.

Mr. Lalai described the payments as "assistance" to the wounded and the families of the dead, but not as the kind of traditional compensation that would absolve the accused of responsibility for the crimes.

"We are grateful to the United States government for its help with the grieved families. But this cannot be counted as compensation for the deaths," he said.

In discussions before the payments were made, American officials were also careful to draw a similar distinction, saying that any eventual payments would be out of compassion for the victims, and that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of killing the villagers, would still face trial.

An American official confirmed on Sunday that payments had been made to victims but refused to discuss specifics. Compensation payments are kept private as a matter of American policy, the official said, adding that it was up the recipients to decide whether to talk about what they were given.

Health

Chavez in Cuba for More Cancer Treatment

Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro
© Agence France-Presse/Andres Piscov
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (R) and Cuba's President Raul Castro
Caracas - President Hugo Chavez, in Cuba for a new round of cancer treatment following surgery to remove a malignant tumor, said in a phone call Sunday that he would return to Venezuela in five days.

Chavez was warmly embraced by Cuban President Raul Castro on his arrival at Jose Marti airport in Havana around midnight Saturday, the state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde said on its website, describing the Venezuelan leader's demeanor as "animated" and upbeat.

Chavez said he immediately underwent the first of five rounds of radiation therapy treatment.

"I should return to Venezuela on Thursday," March 29, Chavez said in a phone call to Vice President Elias Jaua broadcast on VTV state television.

The announcement made to head off criticism that he had left Venezuela without permission from the National Assembly, the country's legislature, which must authorize a president's absence of more than five days.

Chavez, however, said that after three days of rest in Venezuela he will return to Cuba for the next session of radiation therapy.

Light Sabers

5,000-strong African Union army to hunt down Joseph Kony

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The African Union says it will create a special force to track down notorious rebel leader Joseph Kony in the heart of central Africa. The announcement follows a viral video campaign that courted controversy around the world.

­The Uganda-led mission will commence in South Sudan on Saturday, United Nations and African Union officials said at a news conference in Uganda, AP reports.

The 5,000-strong brigade tasked with bringing down Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) will consist of regional troops whose countries have been affected by the rebel group's activities.

"We need to stop Kony with hardware - with military hardware in this case," the African Union's special envoy on the LRA, Francisco Madeira, said on Friday. "We are on a mission to stop him."

The announcement follows the Kony 2012 Internet movie sensation created by the US advocacy group Invisible Children. Invisible children say the video, which has now garnered more than 100 million views, was created "to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony's rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity."

However, questions about the group's finances and widespread condemnation of the film in Uganda were followed by a very public meltdown by Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell.

MIB

Dozens of Frenchmen sent (by state) to train with 'Taliban'

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'djihadistes francaises', brought to you by the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure, in co-operation with Mossad
As France recovers from the deadly shootings committed by homegrown jihadist Mohamed Merah, Pakistani intelligence say dozens of French Muslims are training with the Taliban in north-western Pakistan.

Merah, who was shot in the head in a standoff with police, killed three Jewish children, a rabbi and three French soldiers. The 23-year-old Toulouse-born jihadist was holed up in his apartment for 32 hours before a police sniper's bullet ended the siege.

Described by his neighbors as the quiet man next door, Mohammed Merah's deeds shook the country and he boasted of having brought France "to its knees." He said his only regret was that he was not able to kill more people, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins reported.

Adding to the fears in France that such attacks may be repeated it has been revealed that some 85 French nationals have undergone training in the Taliban's Pakistan stronghold of North Waziristan in the past three years.

Comment: Yes, it did not help prevent the tragedy because it was never intended that Merah be stopped (assuming that he really did receive all this training in Pakistan in the first place). It's clear that the French intelligence services are sheep-dipping would-be 'jihadists' in order to create the 'terror threat' they need to justify their crackdown. It's Gladio all over again.


House

Israeli Court Rejects 2015 Settlement Evacuation

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© The Associated Press/Sebastian Scheiner
In this file photo taken Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 Jewish children play in the West Bank Jewish settlement outpost of Migron.
The Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday rejected the state's request to postpone dismantling a large, unsanctioned West Bank settler enclave until late 2015, dealing a serious blow to settler hopes to keep dozens of rogue outposts standing.

The ruling could ignite a violent showdown with settlers, who have vowed in the past not to abandon their hilltop stronghold, Migron. Settler leader Shimon Riklin, one of the enclave's founders, told Israel's Channel 2 TV that the evacuation of Migron "would not pass quietly."

A spokesman for the Palestinians, who claim all of the West Bank as part of a future state, was skeptical that the ruling would be carried out.

The state submitted the delay petition earlier this month, seeking to bypass the high court's earlier order to dismantle the Migron outpost by March 31 because it was built on privately held Palestinian land.

Netanyahu scrambled to find a solution that would satisfy both settlers and the court. Earlier this month, it asked the court to let Migron's settlers stay put until new homes were built for them on a nearby West Bank hilltop by November 2015.

On Sunday, the court ruled that accepting the state's agreement would be tantamount to flouting the rule of law.

Propaganda

Propaganda Alert! French Gunman's Brother Charged, Denies Role

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© Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A doctor (front R) of French special intervention police (RAID) is seen during a raid on a house to arrest the suspect, in the killings of three children and a rabbi on Monday at a Jewish school, in Toulouse March 21, 2012
A Frenchman suspected of helping his brother plot attacks against Jewish schoolchildren and paratroopers was handed preliminary murder and terrorism charges Sunday.

But Abdelkader Merah denied any role in the attacks. Investigators looking into France's worst terror attacks in years believe Merah helped his brother Mohamed prepare the killings, and are investigating whether they were linked to an international network of extremists or worked on their own.

Abdelkader's lawyer said he feels like "a scapegoat."

"No one knew anything" about what Mohamed was plotting, lawyer Anne-Sophie Laguens told reporters in Paris. She dismissed reports that Abdelkader had praised his brother's attacks. "He was never proud of those actions."

Mohamed Merah, 23, claimed responsibility for killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers earlier this month. After a 32-hour standoff with police, he died Thursday in a hail of gunfire as he jumped out a window of his apartment in the southern city of Toulouse.

Since then, attention has focused on his older brother Abdelkader Merah, who was handed preliminary charges on Sunday of complicity to murder and theft, and involvement in a terrorist enterprise, prosecutors said. Detained last week, he will remain in custody pending further investigation.

Preliminary charges under French law mean there is strong reason to believe a crime was committed, but allow magistrates more time to investigate.

Vader

Terror attacks in Belgium coincide with attacks in France: Gladio rides again?

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A 'crazed' man burned a mosque to the ground in Brussels on 13 March 2012, killing the local Imam
Something very fishy is going in Belgium, sometimes known as 'the unknown state at the heart of Europe.'

In fact, this small country of around eleven million people is really a great power in its own right. It hosts nothing less than the global military octopus NATO and most of the sprawling and expanding apparatus of the EU.

There is no conglomerate on earth that denies itself a spanking office there. Every language under the sun is heard in the temples of gastronomy for which Belgium is so widely famed.

Many of these tongues are spoken by arms traders, legit and otherwise, and narcotic traffickers.

Brussels is a veritable lobbyists' paradise, on a scale which almost puts Washington in the shade.

It is also historically one of the most active centers of political terrorism in Europe, as events of recent days have underscored once again.

Comment: Very interesting that these attacks were taking place at the same time as the shootings of paratroopers in southern France. Readers may want to watch this in order to familiarise themselves with Operation Gladio because it appears that the fascist network in Europe is being reanimated in a big way.


Mr. Potato

Thomas Mulcair: Meet NDP's New Leader

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© Agence France-Presse/Geoff Robins
Thomas Mulcair at the NDP leadership convention.
Canada - The fat lady has sung. The final ballot results at the NDP Leadership Convention had Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair beat former NDP party President Brian Topp. Mulcair is now the new leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition.

It was to be expected. The third ballot had him finish with 27,488 votes (43.8 per cent). Topp finished second with 19,822 votes (31.6 per cent). As per party rules, Nathan Cullen was eliminated. Topp would have needed to acquire more than 75 per cent of Cullen's votes to secure a victory. That was not going to happen.

Mulcair secured 57.2 per cent of the final vote in the fourth round.

So, just who is this new party leader?