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Posts tagged ‘John Kerry’

Israeli Defense Minister: Israel Can’t Rely on Obama on Iran.


Israel cannot depend on the United States to lead any action against Iran’s nuclear program and can only rely on itself, the country’s defense minister said in remarks published Tuesday.

The comments by Moshe Yaalon came as world powers and Iran were about to start a new round of talks over Iran’s contested nuclear program.

The West fears the program could be used to make a nuclear weapon and seeks to scale it back. Tehran denies the program has a military dimension and insists it is for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation. If a deal with world powers is reached, sanctions imposed on Iran over the nuclear program could be lifted.

Special: Powerful New Movie Reveals Alarming Threats on U.S. Border – See Trailer Here.

Israel has criticized the ongoing talks with Tehran, saying an interim nuclear deal, struck last November, has left Iran’s military nuclear capabilities largely intact while giving it relief from some economic sanctions.

At the same time, Israel’s strongest piece of leverage, the threat of a military strike on Iran, has taken a back stage to the talks despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence it remains on the table.

Yaalon’s remarks seemed to underscore that insistence.

“We thought that the one who needs to lead the campaign against Iran is the U.S.,” Yaalon was quoted by the daily Haaretz as saying during a lecture at Tel Aviv University on Monday.

Instead, Yaalon said, the U.S. began negotiations with Iran and Iran gained the upper hand in the talks.

“If we wished others would do the work for us, it wouldn’t be done soon, and therefore in this matter, we have to behave as if we can only rely on ourselves,” Yaalon said.

Yaalon’s office confirmed his remarks but refused to comment whether he was advocating an Israeli strike on Iran. Netanyahu’s office also declined to comment.

Yaalon criticized the West, saying its leaders prefer to avoid confrontation with Iran. As for the U.S., the defense minister alleged American influence is waning in other parts of the world, such as Ukraine over the crisis there.

“Weakness certainly does not pay in the world,” he said. “No one can replace the U.S. as the world’s policeman. I hope the U.S. will come to its senses.”

Yaalon has made controversial comments about Washington in the past. In January, he was quoted as saying that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was “obsessive” and “messianic” over his Mideast peace efforts. The comments triggered an angry response from the U.S., Israel’s most important ally.

Special: Powerful New Movie Reveals Alarming Threats on U.S. Border – See Trailer Here.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Crimeans Overwhelmingly Vote for Secession.


SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — The head of the referendum committee in Ukraine’s Crimea region says more than 95 percent of voters have approved splitting off and joining Russia.

Mikhail Malishev said the initial result came after more than 50 percent of the ballots had been counted.

Speaking two hours after polls closed, Malishev said turnout was 83 percent — a high figure given that many who opposed the move had said they would boycott the vote.

Western powers and leaders in Kiev denounced it as a sham.

Underlining how Moscow’s military takeover of the peninsula two weeks ago has driven Russia and the West into a crisis with echoes of the Cold War, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama spoke by telephone and, according to the Kremlin, the Russian and U.S. presidents agreed on a need to cooperate to stabilise Ukraine.

“This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution,” a White House spokesman said. “The international community will not recognise the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.”

The Kremlin said Putin told Obama the referendum was legitimate and he expressed concern about the Ukrainian government’s failure to stamp out violence against Russian speakers in the country.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin drew attention to the inability and unwillingness of the present authorities in Kiev to curb rampant violence by ultra-nationalist and radical groups that destabilise the situation and terrorise civilians, including the Russian-speaking population,” the Kremlin said.

It said Putin suggested European monitors should be sent to all parts of Ukraine because of the violence.

Kiev said Moscow’s build-up of forces in the Black Sea peninsula was in “crude violation” of an international treaty, and announced plans to arm and train 20,000 members of a newly-created National Guard.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Moscow that Washington would not accept the outcome of the vote in the region, which has an ethnic Russian majority and was transferred to Ukraine by Soviet rulers only 60 years ago.

The White House also warned Moscow to expect sanctions while foreign ministers from the European Union, which has major trade ties with Russia, will decide on possible similar action in Brussels on Monday.

But Putin rejected Western accusations that the referendum was illegal, saying it respected the will of the Crimean people, while his foreign ministry said it had agreed with the United States to seek a solution to the crisis through constitutional reform.

 

In Kiev, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk threatened dire consequences for the Crimean politicians who had called the vote, saying separatist “ringleaders” wanted to destroy Ukrainian independence “under the cover of Russian troops”.

“We will find all of them – if it takes one year, two years – and bring them to justice and try them in Ukrainian and international courts. The ground will burn under their feet,” he told a cabinet meeting.

Yatseniuk had just returned from a U.S. trip where he won expressions of moral support but no offers of weapons. Kiev’s pro-European rulers, who took power after last month’s fall of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich to popular unrest, have been as powerless as Western governments to prevent the referendum or buildup of Russian forces on Ukrainian territory.

At a polling booth at a school in Simferopol, the Crimean regional capital, dozens of people lined up outside to cast their ballots early.

“I have voted for Russia,” said Svetlana Vasilyeva, 27, a veterinary nurse. “This is what we have been waiting for. We are one family and we want to live with our brothers.”

Vasilyeva voiced fears common among some of Ukraine’s native Russian-speakers about the consequences of Yanukovich’s exit after protests in which over 100 people were killed. “We want to leave Ukraine because Ukrainians told us that we are people of a lower kind. How can you stay in such a country?” she said.

But ethnic Tatars – Sunni Muslims who make up 12 percent of Crimea’s population – said they would boycott the vote despite promises by the regional authorities to give them financial aid and proper land rights.

“This is my land. This is the land of my ancestors. Who asked me if I want it or not? Who asked me?” said Shevkaye Assanova, a Crimean Tatar in her 40s. “For the rest of my life I will be cursing those who brought these people here. I don’t recognise this at all. I curse all of them.”

 

Crimea’s 1.5 million voters had two options: union with Russia or giving their region, which is controlled by pro-Kremlin politicians, the broad right to determine its own path and choose relations with whom it wants – including Moscow.

A local Tatar television channel broadcast the count at one small polling station. It took just a few minutes for officials to stack up the papers, virtually in a single pile. One gave the result as: “166 for, 2 against, 1 spoiled”. By “for” she clearly meant the first option on the paper, for union with Russia.

Russia has the right to keep forces on the Black Sea peninsula, including at its naval base in the port of Sevastopol, under a treaty signed after Ukraine gained independence from the wreckage of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But Ukrainian acting defence minister Ihor Tenyukh accused Moscow of going far beyond an agreed limit on servicemen – which he said was 12,500 for 2014.

“Unfortunately, in a very short period of time, this 12,500 has grown to 22,000. This is a crude violation of the bilateral agreements and is proof that Russia has unlawfully brought its troops onto the territory of Crimea,” he said.

This figure had risen from 18,400 on Friday. “Let me say once again that this is our land and we will not be leaving it,” he told Interfax news agency.

Tenyukh later said that the defence ministries in Kiev and Moscow had declared a truce until March 21 during which Russian forces, who have been arriving by boat and helicopter, would leave Ukrainian military facilities untouched.

Many Crimeans hope union with Russia will bring better pay and make them citizens of a country capable of asserting itself on the world stage. But others saw the referendum as a land grab by the Kremlin from Ukraine, whose new rulers want to move the country towards the European Union and away from Russia’s sway.

Putin defended the vote in a phone call on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying it complied with international law, including Article 1 of the U.N. Charter which states the principle of self-determination of peoples. “It was emphasized that Russia will respect the choice of the Crimean people,” a Kremlin statement said.

Putin has said he must protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine from “fascists” in Kiev who ousted Yanukovich. Western powers largely dismiss his characterisation of the new authorities as successors of Nazi-allied Ukrainian forces which fought the Red Army in World War Two.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Kerry on Sunday to encourage authorities in Kiev to stop what he called “massive lawlessness” against the Russian-speaking population.

In their second phone conversation in two days, Lavrov and Kerry agreed to seek a solution to the crisis by pushing for constitutional reforms in Ukraine, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, Kerry told Lavrov that the United States would not accept the referendum result and said Russia must pull back its forces to their bases, a senior State Department official said.

The White House also warned Putin that he faces international isolation that will hurt Russia’s economy. “You can expect sanctions designations in the coming days,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told NBC’s Meet the Press.

The administration is preparing to identify Russians whom the United States will seek to punish with visa bans and asset freezes that President Obama authorised last week.

At the United Nations, 13 Security Council members voted for a draft resolution on Saturday saying the Crimea result should not be recognised internationally, but Moscow exercised its veto while China abstained.

Tensions over Crimea appear also to be spreading in cyberspace. Unidentified hackers brought down several public NATO websites with attacks on Saturday, the alliance said.

Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Twitter that the attacks, which began on Saturday evening, continued on Sunday, although most services had now been restored.

“It doesn’t impede our ability to command and control our forces. At no time was there any risk to our classified networks,” another NATO official said.

A group calling itself “cyber berkut” – named after riot police formally disbanded by the central powers in Kiev – said the attack had been carried out by patriotic Ukrainians angry over what they saw as NATO interference in their country.

Apart from Crimea, tension is also running high in parts of the Russian-speaking industrialised east of Ukraine near the border with Russia, with clashes between rival demonstrators that Moscow has seized on to support its case that ethnic Russians are being victimised.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Israeli Minister: Kerry Pressuring the Wrong Side.


An Israeli minister on Sunday said Washington’s top diplomat was “wrong” for pressuring Israel in peace talks, a day before Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas visits the White House.

His remarks came two days after US Secretary of State John Kerry criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

“John Kerry is wrong because he is putting pressure on the wrong side,” said Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, who is considered close to Netanyahu.

“Kerry should be asking Abu Mazen (Abbas) why he is stubbornly refusing to recognise Israel as the Jewish state,” he told public radio.

The demand, which was only placed on the table several months ago by Netanyahu, has been consistently rejected by the Palestinians and is now threatening to derail the peace talks ahead of an April 29 deadline.

Kerry waded into the debate on Friday, saying he believed it was a “mistake” to raise the issue over and over again — in what was taken as open criticism of Netanyahu.

“I think it’s a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace,” Kerry told a congressional hearing, adding that Washington had made its position “clear.”

He said such recognition was clear in UN resolutions and it was also confirmed by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1988 and in 2004.

The Palestinians, who recognised Israel as a state in the early 1990s, have said that accepting its religious character would ignore its Arab minority and amount to giving up on the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees.

Israel has not formally responded to Kerry’s remarks.

Kerry is facing an uphill battle to get the two sides, which have reportedly failed to agree on anything, to clinch a framework proposal which would extend the talks beyond the April deadline until the end of the year.

On Saturday, another senior member of Netanyahu’s cabinet poured cold water on Kerry’s peace efforts by saying Abbas was not a partner for peace.

“He is not a partner for a final agreement that would include the recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people and that would end the conflict and all claims,” Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told private Channel 2 television.

“I’m sorry to come to this conclusion, but this (peace agreement) will not happen in my time,” said Yaalon, one of several hardliners in Netanyahu’s government.

Abbas will meet US President Barack Obama on Monday, and is likely to raise the issue of Israel’s pledge to release another 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners, which is due to take place on March 29.

Israeli officials have said that without any movement in the peace talks, the release is unlikely to happen.

© AFP 2014

Source: Newsmax.com

McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama’s ‘Disturbing Lack of Realism’.


Image: McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama's 'Disturbing Lack of Realism'

 

By Joe Battaglia

A day after calling Barack Obama “the most naive president in history,” Arizona Sen. John McCain continued his assault on the president’s foreign policy in an op-ed piece in Friday’s New York Times.

Specifically addressing Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, McCain wrote that the United States’ response “has exposed the disturbing lack of realism” of the Obama administration and made the country look weak in the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world.

According to McCain, President Obama’s belief that “the tide of war is receding” around the world so the United States can afford to scale back its military presence is a miscalculation.

That “reset” policy, coupled with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crossing of Obama’s “red line” without consequence, has emboldened Chinese and Iranian loyalists, al-Qaida terrorists, and aggressive actors like Putin, whom he called “an unreconstructed Russian imperialist and KGB apparatchik.”

“To people like Mr. Putin, weakness is provocative,” McCain wrote.

He added, “What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world.”

McCain echoed that sentiment in a fundraising letter penned for the Republican National Committee on Thursday.

“A secure world relies on a strong America. And a strong America relies on a robust military,” McCain wrote, according to The Washington Examiner. “Yet, sadly under President Obama, America’s military strength has been weakened and our country’s leadership in the world has been questioned. As a result, the world’s most dangerous players are flexing their muscles. Extremists are gaining ground. And these conflicts are becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies — and for us.”

Earlier in the day, McCain told Phoenix radio station KFYI, “The naivete of Barack Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry is stunning,” adding that Putin, whom he described as “amoral,” “cold,” “distant,” and “tough,” had “played us so incredibly.”

While McCain condemned Obama’s stance on Crimea to date, he outlined a plan he believes would change the course of events in Ukraine and regain global standing for the United States.

The first step McCain called for was a shoring up of Ukraine and reassuring of the Baltic states that the United States and the world will not stand for Putin bringing Russia’s neighbors “back under Moscow’s dominion.” McCain did not call for military action, but suggested an increased military presence by NATO in the region.

He also said Russia should be ostracized through a boycott of the G-8 summit scheduled for April 24-25 in Sochi, suggesting a Group of 7 meeting be convened elsewhere.

McCain added that the United States should “support and resupply Ukrainian patriots, both soldiers and civilians, who are standing their ground in government facilities across Crimea” as a way to stand with the Ukrainian people in defiance of the dismemberment of their country.

“We need to work with our allies to … show Mr. Putin a strong, united front, and prevent the crisis from getting worse,” McCain wrote. He added that the United States needs to “rearm ourselves morally and intellectually” to prevent Putin from attempting to occupy other nations along Russia’s borders.

McCain remains convinced that strong U.S.-led support of Ukraine will expose Putin’s Russia as being “not a great power on par with America,” but “a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime.” Eventually, he said, the Russian people will revolt against him the same way the Ukrainians ousted Viktor Yanukovych.

“If Ukraine can emerge from this crisis independent, prosperous, and anchored firmly in Europe, how long before Russians begin to ask, ‘Why not us?'” McCain wrote.

While McCain said that there is still hope for a reversal of course in the region, he cautioned that “hopes do not advance themselves.”

“The darkness that threatens [Ukraine] will not be checked by an America in denial about the world as it is,” McCain wrote. “It requires realism, strength and leadership. If Crimea does not awaken us to this fact, I am afraid to think what will.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Elliott Abrams: US Companies Must Not Dictate Russian Policy.


As tensions mount over Russia’s aggression into Crimea, a handful of American companies with business interests in Russia must not dictate U.S. foreign policy as the White House considers economic sanctions, said Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush.

“We can’t have our foreign policy determined by a few companies that are going to have some investments marked down,” Abrams, also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Fox News’ “Happening Now.”

Story continues below video.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held last-minute talks with Russian Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov on Friday over security in Ukraine before a vote in Crimea Sunday. Citizens of the region of Ukraine will decide if they want to rejoin Russia. U.S. lawmakers are considering economic sanctions to punish Russia for invading Crimea, and to deter further aggression into Ukraine.

Abrams suggested the White House was afraid of how Russian President Vladimir Putin would respond if the United States decided to impose sanctions against Russia. He said the administration of President Barack Obama might be fearful Putin would “hurt some American companies that are invested in Russia.”

“Putin is trying to scare us. And I’m actually unhappy, disappointed that he seems to be succeeding — not in the State Department. But he seems to be scaring people in the White House,” Abrams said.

Abrams called it “bizarre” for the United States to fear Russia’s reaction to sanctions.

Abrams said U.S. credibility in the world could be destroyed “if the Russians commit this kind of aggression, and we don’t even impose sanctions.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Wanda Carruthers

Kerry: Israel Insistence on Jewish State Declaration a ‘Mistake’.


US Secretary of State John Kerry has criticised Israel’s insistence that the Palestinians publicly declare Israel to be a Jewish state.

Kerry said Thursday that recognition had already been made in UN resolutions and by the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and it is a mistake for Israel to keep insisting on it as the two sides work towards a two-state peace agreement.

“‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in (UN) Resolution 181 where there are more than 40– 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state,'” Kerry testified at a Congressional hearing.

“In addition, chairman Arafat in 1988 and again in 2004 confirmed that he agreed it would be a Jewish state. And there are any other number of mentions,” he added.

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“I think it’s a mistake for some people to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state and peace, and we’ve obviously made that clear,” Kerry said in a session of testimony on the State Department budget.

Israeli public radio on Friday broadcast Kerry’s comments, followed by what it said was a recording of Arafat commenting on a 1988 decision by the Palestinian National Council, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s parliament-in-exile at the time.

“The PNC had accepted two states, a Palestine state and Jewish state,” Arafat says in English.

There was no official Israeli response to Kerry’s comments, but the radio quoted an unidentified political source as saying that it was “easier for the Americans to pressure Israel to give up on the demand for recognition of a Jewish state than to deal with the Palestinians.”

Israel and the Palestinians have been locked in talks that US Secretary of State John Kerry fought hard to kick-start in July after a three-year hiatus, but the negotiations have faltered over key issues.

After a meeting chaired by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday, the PLO Executive Committee blasted “attempts to extract recognition of the Jewishness of the State of Israel in order to erase Palestinian history and rights in one sentence”.

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© AFP 2014

Source: Newsmax.com

US, France Warn Russia of ‘New Measures’ Over Ukraine.


President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande warned Saturday of “new measures” against Russia if it fails to work toward defusing the crisis in Ukraine, the French presidency said.

In a phone call on Saturday, Obama and Hollande insisted on the “need for Russia to withdraw forces sent to Crimea since the end of February and to do everything to allow the deployment of international observers,” it said.
Obama’s conversation with Hollande was one of a half dozen telephone conversations he had with world leaders Saturday about Ukraine, the White House says.

He  also spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and held a conference call with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The new warnings come in the wake of Russia’s insistence that any U.S. sanctions will have a boomerang effect on the United States and that Crimea has the right to self-determination as armed men tried to seize another Ukrainian military base on the peninsula.

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In a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against “hasty and reckless steps” that could harm Russian-American relations, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

“Sanctions…would inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang,” it added.

It was the second tense, high-level exchange between the former Cold War foes in 24 hours over the pro-Russian takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after an hour-long call with U.S. President Barack Obama that their positions on the former Soviet republic were still far apart. Obama announced the first sanctions against Russia on Thursday.

Putin, who later opened the Paralympic Games in Sochi which have been boycotted by a string of Western dignitaries, said Ukraine’s new, pro-Western authorities had acted illegitimately over the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions.

“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” he said.

Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the Ukrainian border guards’ commander, said 30,000 Russian soldiers were now in Crimea, compared to the 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis.

On Friday evening armed men drove a truck into a Ukrainian missile defence post in Sevastopol, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. But no shots were fired and Crimea’s pro-Russian premier said later the standoff was over.

Putin denies the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow’s command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed his assertion.

The most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War – resulting from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after protests in Kiev that led to violence – escalated on Thursday when Crimea’s parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia.

The region’s government set a referendum for March 16 – in just nine days’ time.

JETS, DESTROYER

Turkey scrambled jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew along its Black Sea coast and a U.S. warship passed through Turkey’s Bosphorus straits on its way to the Black Sea, although the U.S. military said it was a routine deployment.

European Union leaders and Obama said the referendum plan was illegitimate and would violate Ukraine’s constitution.

The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said after meeting visiting Crimean lawmakers on Friday that Crimea had a right to self-determination, and ruled out any risk of war between “the two brotherly nations”.

Obama ordered visa bans and asset freezes on Thursday against so far unidentified people deemed responsible for threatening European Union leaders Ukraine’s sovereignty. Earlier in the week, a Kremlin aide said Moscow might refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks, the top four of which have around $24 billion in exposure to Russia.

Japan endorsed the Western position that the actions of Russia constitute “a threat to international peace and security”, after Obama spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

China, often a Russian ally in blocking Western moves in the U.N. Security Council, was more cautious, saying economic sanctions were not the best way to solve the crisis and avoiding comment on the Crimean referendum.

The EU, Russia’s biggest economic partner and energy customer, adopted a three-stage plan to try to force a negotiated solution but stopped short of immediate sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded angrily on Friday, calling the EU decision to freeze talks on visa-free travel and on a broad new pact governing Russia-EU ties “extremely unconstructive”. It pledged to retaliate.

“GUERRILLA WAR?”

Senior Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, freed from prison after Yanukovich’s overthrow, met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin and appealed for immediate EU sanctions against Russia, warning that Crimea might otherwise slide into a guerrilla war.

Brussels and Washington rushed to strengthen the new authorities in economically shattered Ukraine, announcing both political and financial assistance. The regional director of the International Monetary Fund said talks with Kiev on a loan agreement were going well and praised the new government’s openness to economic reform and transparency.

The European Commission has said Ukraine could receive up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in the next couple of years provided it reaches agreement with the IMF, which requires painful economic reforms like ending gas subsidies.

Promises of billions of dollars in Western aid for the Kiev government, and the perception that Russian troops are not likely to go beyond Crimea into other parts of Ukraine, have helped reverse a rout in the local hryvnia currency.

In the past two days it has traded above 9.0 to the dollar for the first time since the Crimea crisis began last week. Local dealers said emergency currency restrictions imposed last week were also supporting the hryvnia.

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said Ukraine had not paid its $440 million gas bill for February, bringing its arrears to $1.89 billion and hinted it could turn off the taps as it did in 2009, when a halt in Russian deliveries to Ukraine reduced supplies to Europe during a cold snap.

In Moscow, a huge crowd gathered near the Kremlin at a government-sanctioned rally and concert billed as being “in support of the Crimean people”. Pop stars took to the stage and demonstrators held signs with slogans such as “Crimea is Russian land”, and “We believe in Putin”.

IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said no one in the civilised world would recognise the result of the “so-called referendum” in Crimea.

He repeated Kiev’s willingness to negotiate with Russia if Moscow pulls its additional troops out of Crimea and said he had requested a telephone call with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov ridiculed calls for Russia to join an international “contact group” with Ukraine proposed by the West, saying they “make us smile”.

Demonstrators encamped in Kiev’s central Independence Square to defend the revolution that ousted Yanukovich said they did not believe Crimea would be allowed to secede.

Alexander Zaporozhets, 40, from central Ukraine’s Kirovograd region, put his faith in international pressure.

“I don’t think the Russians will be allowed to take Crimea from us: you can’t behave like that to an independent state. We have the support of the whole world. But I think we are losing time. While the Russians are preparing, we are just talking.”

Unarmed military observers from the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were blocked from entering Crimea for a second day in a row on Friday, the OSCE said on Twitter.

The United Nations said it had sent its assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, to Kiev to conduct a preliminary humans rights assessment.

Ukrainian television has been replaced with Russian state channels in Crimea and the streets largely belong to people who support Moscow’s rule, some of whom have harassed journalists and occasional pro-Kiev protesters.

Part of the Crimea’s 2 million population opposes Moscow’s rule, including members of the region’s ethnic Russian majority. The last time Crimeans were asked, in 1991, they voted narrowly for independence along with the rest of Ukraine.

“With all these soldiers here, it is like we are living in a zoo,” Tatyana, 41, an ethnic Russian. “Everyone fully understands this is an occupation.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

Iran Expert Timmerman: State Dept. Befriends Radical Islamists.


The State Department’s decision to allow an anti-gay Muslim cleric into the United States is an alarming sign that the government is befriending radical Islamist groups, says Kenneth Timmerman, executive director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.

“It has been the State Department’s policy under both Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry to support the Islamist groups in Syria,” Timmerman told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“The State Department policy has been systematically to aid and abet and sometimes to arm and equip these Islamist groups around the world, specifically in Libya and in Syria.”

It was Timmerman who first revealed that the State Department had issued Sheikh Mohammad Rateb al-Nabulsi a visa for a 17-city tour of U.S. mosques to raise money for the uprising in Syria.

In an interview three years ago, the cleric said, “Homosexuality involves a filthy place and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”

Timmerman said the U.S. embrace of radicals is dangerous.

“[The] mark on my forehead [is] because today is Ash Wednesday,” he said.

“If I were to appear in a Christian town in Syria today that had been taken over by these groups, the Islamist groups that Sheik al-Nabulsi is supporting, they would give me two choices . . . Get out of town really fast, convert, or die.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

US Pledges $1 Billion in Aid to Ukraine.


The Obama administration has pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the strife-torn country, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The financial assistance was seen as an attempt by the United States to show solidarity with Ukraine, which has had its Crimea region invaded by Russian forces following the overthrow last month of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said, “The United States is prepared to work with its bilateral and multilateral partners to provide as much support as Ukraine needs to restore financial stability and return to economic growth if the new government implements the necessary reforms.”

The money was expected to shore up the country’s troubled economy and to help Ukraine finance purchases of energy imports while the former Soviet republic seeks a larger bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

A senior administration official with Kerry told the Journal, “You’re seeing already a response from the United States that is isolating Russia politically and diplomatically and offering strong support for the new Ukrainian government.”

American technical experts will be sent to Ukraine to help sort out the country’s growing financial and energy problems, sources said. U.S. advisers will also help Kiev uncover assets believed to have been stolen by Yanukovych’s government.

The Journal also reported that experts will also be sent to help Ukraine prepare for its May 25 general elections.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

Netanyahu Rouses Supporters as Obama Presses for Compromise.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will rally thousands of his country’s most passionate U.S. advocates today after President Barack Obama coaxed him at the White House to compromise with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu addresses the annual Washington conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as a deadline looms on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s nine-month Middle East peace campaign. Kerry is pressing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu to accept by April 29 a structure that would guide further negotiations.

At yesterday’s meeting in the Oval Office, Netanyahu, 64, told Obama he will “stand strong against criticism, against pressure, stand strong to secure the future of the one and only Jewish state.”

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Obama, 52, who visited Netanyahu and Abbas on a Middle East tour a year ago, is inserting himself more directly into the peace talks as Kerry hits resistance from both sides. Abbas has been invited for his own White House meeting March 17. A week later, Obama is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, which has leverage over the Palestinians.

“It’s my belief that ultimately it is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine in which people are living side by side in peace and security,” Obama said. “But it’s difficult and it requires compromise on all sides.”

Netanyahu’s Response

Netanyahu responded that “Israel has been doing its part and I regret to say that the Palestinians have not.”

Kerry, who attended the White House meeting, later spoke at the AIPAC conference, where he pledged U.S. military expertise and technology to protect Israel against any threats.

“We can deliver to Israel the security that Israel needs to make peace,” Kerry said.

If Kerry’s peace effort fails, it won’t be “the end of the world,” Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said yesterday in a speech at Tel Aviv University, broadcast on Israel Radio. Shaath said that talks could continue with Kerry’s framework agreement if Israel agrees to free more Palestinian prisoners and freeze building in settlements.

‘Seize the Moment’

Obama said in a Feb. 27 interview with Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg that time is running out to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. He urged Netanyahu to “seize the moment.”

If Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach,” Obama said. “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

For Israel, the more pressing concern is Iran’s nuclear program, which was the other topic dominating their discussion. The U.S. and five other world powers have a six-month agreement with Iran, to end in July, during which the Islamic Republic is supposed to freeze some of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some sanctions.

“Iran calls openly for Israel’s destruction, so I’m sure you’ll appreciate that Israel cannot permit such a state to have the ability to make atomic bombs to achieve that goal,” Netanyahu said to reporters at the White House during his appearance with Obama.

Israel has expressed skepticism about the negotiations, and warned against the U.S. getting played by the Iranians. Netanyahu may have limited ability to enlist the U.S. Congress in keeping pressure on Iran.

A senior Palestinian official said differences with Israel have widened in the latest round of peace talks.

Israeli Skepticism

“It isn’t narrowing,” Mohammad Shtayyeh, who negotiated on behalf of Abbas until November, said Feb. 27 at his office in Ramallah.

Obama’s decision to engage in the peace process a year after he delegated the work to Kerry suggests both that Kerry got further than the White House initially predicted in restarting peace talks and that the top U.S. diplomat has run into enough obstacles that his April deadline may be in trouble.

“This framework is more than a speed bump, it is a critical piece,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “Why not strategically deploy the president?”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has blocked efforts by some lawmakers to bring new sanctions legislation up for consideration, and Obama has said he would veto any such measure should it get through Congress.

Ahead of the policy conference at AIPAC, the biggest pro- Israel lobbying group, Senate Republicans on Feb. 26 announced a new effort to try to force votes on new sanctions legislation by attaching language to popular legislation for veterans’ benefits. While AIPAC earlier called for new sanctions, it has backed away from that position.

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© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

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