Just to give a dimension to the problem, the Russians supposedly left 25 MILLION mines in place when they pulled out. Add the countless numbers of mortar rounds, artillery rounds, and other explosives scattered around throughout the country, and it's easy to understand how the volunteer mine-clearers may have missed a few.
Posted by: Old Patriot ||
And don't forget the mines in the form of children's toys or dolls left by the Soviets.
Posted by: Alaska Paul ||
The Chinese forces can join coalition forces in Afghanistan, a private TV channel quoted British PM Gordon Brown as saying on Friday. According to the channel, Brown told New York's Council on Foreign Relations that China sending troops in Afghanistan was a possibility. He said he believes nations not currently involved in fighting will likely join the mission, adding all nations see Afghanistan as a frontline in the fight against terrorism.
be a good way too see how the chinese military does in situtaions if they actual got into the fight. O fcourse there are no teling human violations they could commit and it WOULD be blamed on the US
If China send troops, that reduces the pressure on the EU countries to do what they weren't going to do anyway. Then, too, it would be so much easier for China to take sponsorship of the Taliban away from Pakistan if there were a convenient place for meetings. Not that I'd want to suggest China would ever think such a thing; after all, China has never thought such a thing so many other places.
(SomaliNet) India has proposed a UN peace-keeping force under "a unified command'' to prevent the ever-mounting pirate attacks off Somalia, two days after the Indian Navy repulsed pirate attacks on a Saudi and an Indian merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden.
Meanwhile, the Indian delegation at the ongoing 101st council meeting of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in London recommended that the body should move the UN for establishing such a peace-keeping force.
Though the Indian Navy is coordinating with other foreign navies in the Gulf of Aden, which include US and European naval task forces, a formal UN peace-keeping force will go a long way in thwarting piracy in a concerted manner in this vital trade route.
Operating mainly from Somali ports of Eyl and Hobyo, pirates have created havoc for international shipping, having attacked 83 ships since January, hijacking 33 of them, in the region.
"The Indian delegation urged IMO to take urgent steps to provide assistance and security to international shipping irrespective of flag, nationality of seamen etc of the vessels. The call was supported by many other member-countries,'' said an official.
Shipping secretary APVN Sarma told the IMO council meeting that concerted action was needed since over 12% of the entire world's seaborne oil trade, around 50% of the dry bulk transportation and 33% of container trade passes through this vital sea lane.
Highlighting the problems, Sarma said the ongoing "disjointed efforts'' being made by several countries on their own had led to some navies laying down priorities in giving assistance to only those ships flying a particular flag or having seaman of a particular nationality.
Indian warships, as reported earlier, are patrolling the Gulf of Aden since last month to protect Indian merchant vessels transiting from Salalah (Oman) to Aden (Yemen) from pirates.
The decision to deploy the warships in the region was taken by the government after Somali pirates hijacked Japanese-owned Stolt Valor on September 15. The fate of the 18 Indians on board Stolt Valor, however, still hangs in the balance, with the pirates demanding a ransom upwards of $2.5million to free them.
An Al-Qaeda group says seven of its fighters were killed when they attacked the US mission in Yemen in September and also claims an embassy official died in the strike, a US monitoring service reported on Friday.
The Yemen interior ministry had said six Yemeni soldiers, six civilians and six attackers, including one wearing an explosives belt, were killed in the September 17 attack on the highly-fortified US embassy in Sanaa.
The SITE Intelligence Group said an Al-Qaeda in Yemen branch had in an internet posting named the seven "martyrs" and had given a vivid description of how they had had breached the razor-tight security of the embassy in two vehicles. It said the group comprised scholar and fighter Lutf Muhammad Abu Abdul-Rahman and six of his students.
The group, Al-Qaeda in the South of the Arabian Peninsula, threatened further attacks to deliver a "taste of horrors." "So, tighten your guard, increase your security measures for embassies and all dens of the Crusaders," the group warned.
It also claimed that a US administrative official had died in the clash but that his death was later reported as having been due to a car accident, SITE said in a release. The US Embassy in Yemen posted a statement on its website saying administrative officer Jeffrey Patneau "died on October 4, 2008 from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident in Sanaa ... (on) September 29, 2008. "Recent claims to the contrary ... regarding the circumstances of Mr. Patneau's death are completely false," it added without elaborating.
At the time of the embassy attack, US President George W. Bush said it was an attempt by extremists to drive the United States out of regions like the Middle East.
Yemen said some days after the incident it was holding six key suspects, including an Islamist militant, Abu Ghaith al-Yamani, who had claimed responsibility for the assault. It said some of those being had links to Al-Qaeda.
In recent months Yemen has seen a series of assaults on security services and oil installations claimed by groups linked to Al-Qaeda. Experts have said that after being set back by the increased US military presence in Iraq, Islamists are focusing on Yemen as a new territory for their operations.
French anti-terrorist police are holding 10 alleged members of a violent anarchist movement suspected of sabotaging power cables on high speed TGV train lines.
But it now transpires that the alleged culprits were netted thanks to information from the FBI, which allegedly linked two of them to the home-made bomb attack on an army recruitment centre in New York's Times Square in March.
Julien Coupat, 34, the suspected head of the "anarcho-autonomist" group, and his 25-year old girlfriend, known only as Yldune L, were stopped allegedly trying to enter Canada from the US illegally in January. It was claimed they were carrying anarchist texts in English and photos of an army recruitment centre in New York.
Although they had left the US before the bomb attack, they had allegedly been spotted shortly before at American anarchist meetings in New York.
Tipped off by the FBI, France's domestic intelligence services and anti-terrorist police had been watching them for months in a tiny village in the Corrčze region, central France.
Police also carried out arrests in the northern city of Rouen, the Meuse region in the northeast and in the Paris area.
Tens of thousands of French were hit by severe delays at the weekend when power was cut by metal bars hooked onto overhead electric cables on TGV lines around Paris.
"These individuals are characterised by a total rejection of any democratic expression of political opinion and an extremely violent tone," said Michele Alliot-Marie, the interior minister.
NICE, France -- France's U.S.-friendly president sent a clear message Friday to the next American administration: Plans for a U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe are misguided, and won't make the continent a safer place.
Because after all, everyone knows that the Iranians don't have the bomb and aren't working on intermediate range missiles ...
Nicolas Sarkozy also warned Russian President Dmitry Medvedev against upping tensions by deploying missiles on the borders of the European Union in response to the U.S. planned missile defense system.
Quiet or Putin will cut off the gas for your continent ...
Sarkozy's comments, at a summit with Medvedev, were the strongest to date by an American ally against the missile-defense plans -- and undercut the rationale behind U.S. President George W. Bush's European security strategy. "Deployment of a missile defense system would bring nothing to security ... it would complicate things, and would make them move backward," Sarkozy said at a news conference with Medvedev. Medvedev smiled and pointed his finger at Sarkozy in approval.
It's like this, Nick: we're trying to help. We think Iran is a threat, and we think protecting Europe from that threat is a good idea that benefits all of us. But we're not absolutely wedded to the proposition, especially with Bambi about to take office, so if you Y'urp-peons can't be bothered to defend yourselves, we just might walk away and leave you to your fate.
The remarks came at the end of a week in which the United States and Russia rejected each other's proposed solutions to the standoff over the missile plans, making it increasingly likely that it will not be resolved before U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes office. Obama has not been explicit about his intentions on European missile defense, saying it would be prudent to "explore the possibility" but expressing some skepticism about the technical capability of U.S. missile defenses.
At this point it wouldn't bother me if Bambi packed it in ...
Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said in a statement he "was surprised" about Sarkozy's remarks, made at an EU-Russia summit. "France never consulted with us such a standpoint," he said. "As far as I know a stance on the missile defense was not part of the French presidency mandate for the EU-Russia summit." France currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Sarkozy said he was worried about Russia's threat to deploy short-range Iskander missiles near Poland in response to the U.S. move. "We could continue between Europe and Russia to threaten each other with shields, with missiles, with navies," he said. "It would do Russia no good, Georgia no good and Europe no good."
He's already set to make a trade, our missiles for the Russian missiles. France, of course, wouldn't give up a thing.
Sarkozy said he would discuss the missile issue with NATO counterparts at a summit early next year and proposed a pan-European security conference after that, to include Russia. Medvedev welcomed the idea.
Course he did. He and Putin have the Euros buffaloed completely. Putin will accomplish what Brezhnev never could do: he'll neuter the Euros and separate them from the U.S.
edvedev stuck to Russia's stance. He suggested that the Russian threat to install missiles in the Baltic Sea region of Kaliningrad -- announced just hours after Obama's election -- was "a response to the behavior of certain European states that agreed to deploy new (missile defenses) on their own territories without consulting anyone."
Friday's summit made a key step toward rapprochement between Russia and the European Union: The EU announced the resumption of partnership talks with Russia that had been put on hold because of the war in Georgia. Critics, including the United States and Georgian governments and human rights groups, say it is too soon to forgive Russia, in effect, when Russian troops remain implanted and unchecked in the two breakaway Georgian provinces at the core of the war.
Sarkozy, temporarily in charge of the 27-nation EU, insisted that the resumption wasn't "a sign of weakness."
They have so many other signs of weakness this one wasn't necessary ...
"All rhetoric aside, they knew Bush had their back. But with Bambi in office, they are on their own, and they know it."
Yep. The French know which way this tree is falling and have no intention standing underneath it.
Sad though. Sarkozy is one of the better European leaders and if he's willing to jump ship this soon in the game I can't wait to see what the rest of Europe will do when The One assumes office.
(AKI) - Turkey has reached agreement with the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq on a strategic plan to counter violent separatists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). According to Turkish media reports citing the Firat news agency, the administration in northern Iraq led by Massoud Barzani will cut links between Europe and the PKK, which uses bases in northern Iraq as a springboard to launch cross-border attacks on neighbouring Turkey.
Turkey also wants Barzani to force PKK militants to leave northern Iraqi territory, the agreement says.
The agreement also includes the deployment of special Turkish forces to strategic locations in northern Iraq, in addition to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, in a bid to cut logistic, political and military support to the PKK.
In return Turkey will recognise the Barzani administration, Firat reported. Turkey will also open an embassy in Erbil and invite Barzani to the Turkish capital of Ankara, it added.
Turkish officials claim 2,000 PKK terrorists are hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq, where they enjoy free dom of movement.
Turkey, backed by intelligence from the United States, has stepped up its campaign to crackdown on the PKK both inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, since the organisation increased its attacks on Turkish soldiers, as well as civilians.
A tribal jirga of the Auriazai clan of Mamoond tribe in Bajaur Agency on Friday set a two-day deadline for the Taliban to surrender before a tribal lashkar. The jirga, held in Kuga area of Mamoond tehsil, told the Taliban that upon failure to leave by Sunday, a tribal lashkar would torch their houses. Meanwhile, the ongoing military action against Taliban continued and security forces targeted Nawagai and Mamoond areas, and destroyed Taliban hideouts. The Khyber Agency administration has sent a notice to local tribal elders in Jamrud warning that in case of a failure to expel Taliban from their areas, they would have to face the consequences under the FCR. An elder said, on condition of anonymity, it was the government's duty to control the situation and protect the people and their properties. He also showed a copy of the notice. He said the government could not be exempted from responsibility for the anarchy in the Tribal Areas.
US forces have begun working with Pakistan's military to take on Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters along the Afghan border, a development US officials say reflects Islamabad's new willingness to go after Taliban, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Friday.
The US and Pakistan are waging a co-ordinated military campaign known as Operation Lionheart, which involves US strikes on insurgent targets in the Kunar region of Afghanistan and a full-scale Pakistani campaign in the region of Bajaur, the report said.
According to the WSJ, US troops have recently conducted operations in Afghanistan in co-ordination with Pakistani forces across the border in Bajaur Agency. It quoted senior US official as saying they are sharing extensive real-time intelligence with their Pakistani counterparts. The two sides have also worked closely to seal the border and prevent insurgents from fleeing military operations in one country to havens in the other, the officials said.
Right direction: In an interview in Kabul, Gen David McKiernan, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the US-Pakistani relationship now appeared to "be moving cautiously in the right direction".
The report quoted ISPR spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas as saying support from NATO forces in sealing the Afghan side of the border helped stop the flow of Taliban fighters in Bajaur, where Pakistan says its forces have killed more than 1,500 Taliban since August. "The co-operation greatly helped our forces in combating the militants in the area," Abbas said.
The WSJ noted the Central Intelligence Agency has used unmanned aerial drones to fire dozens of missiles into Pakistani territory recently, killing several senior Al Qaeda leaders.
Improved: The report quoted US Ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood as saying Pakistan's stance against the Taliban 'has improved' since a new government led by President Asif Ali Zardari took power.
"What we're talking about here is a new agreement or a new common understanding of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour and a new willingness to attack that unacceptable behaviour in a co-ordinated way," Wood was quoted as saying.
US Chief of Army Staff Gen George Casey said US commanders in Afghanistan have begun meeting their Pakistani counterparts once a week. "There's good contact going on," he said.
Countries attending a UN inter-faith conference on Thursday rejected the use of religion to justify acts of terrorism, the killing of innocent civilians, violence and coercion. "E pur si muove."
A declaration agreed by participants from 80 nations at the high-level meeting -- called 'Culture of Peace' -- expressed concern over "serious instances of intolerance, discrimination, expressions of hatred and harassment of minority religious communities of all faiths".
The participants also underlined the importance of promoting dialogue, understanding and tolerance, as well as respect for all religions, cultures and beliefs.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon read the declaration near the end of the meeting that was initiated by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and brought 14 world leaders to New York -- including the US, Pakistani, Afghan and Israeli presidents.
"King Abdullah's initiative has come at a time when the need for dialogue has never been greater," Ban told a press conference. It has brought together people who might not otherwise have a chance to interact ... the challenge now is to go beyond words we have heard."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Thursday the creation of a Palestinian state side-by-side with an Israeli state "can be achieved by goodwill".
Many speakers spoke out against religious extremists and stressed the importance of tolerance and freedom of religion.
US President George Bush echoed this theme saying, "We believe God calls us to live in peace and to oppose all those who use His name to justify violence."
President Asif Ali Zardari called terrorism, discrimination and violence against women 'un-Islamic'. He urged all countries to unite behind an international agenda in which "hate speech aimed at inciting people against any religion must be unacceptable, (and) injustice and discrimination on the mere basis of one's faith must be discouraged".
All British troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of next year, the country's national security adviser claimed yesterday. Muwafaq al-Rubaie revealed negotiations on a pull-out between London and Baghdad began two weeks ago.
Britain has 4,000 troops in Iraq, mostly based near the southern city of Basra. A phased cutback of combat soldiers was expected next year but it was thought that up to 1,000 who are involved in training Iraqi troops would stay.
But yesterday Mr al-Rubaie said: 'By the end of next year there will be no British troops in Iraq.'
The Ministry of Defence said that 'no timetable' for withdrawal had yet been set and also denied a report that 2,000 more British soldiers are likely to be sent to Afghanistan to meet an expected request from incoming U.S. President Barack Obama. There are 8,100 British forces in Afghanistan, with the operational thrust in Helmand Province, but military chiefs have warned against sending those troops withdrawn from Iraq to join the Afghan fighting against the Taliban.
Mr Obama is planning to send two more combat brigades to Afghanistan and is expected to call on other Nato allies to beef up their deployments when he takes office in January.
A recent ICM poll for the BBC found that more than two-thirds of the public believe all British troops should be withdrawn from the troubled country in the next year.
Reports of the Iraq pull out and possible increase in Afghan numbers came as two Royal Marines killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday were named as Neil Dunstan and Robert McKibben. The soldiers were from UK Landing Force Command Support Group, working to gather information to improve troops' awareness of the surrounding area and conditions in the Garmsir district of southern Helmand when their vehicle was hit by a massive explosion.
The pair are the first to be killed while using the military's new heavily armoured £600,000 three-man Jackal, which was designed to be mine resistant and is fitted with electronic equipment to detect roadside bombs. A third Marine was seriously injured. Their deaths took the British military death toll in Afghanistan and Iraq to 300 - 176 in Iraq and 126 in Afghanistan.
Tributes have poured in to the two soldiers, both of who had joined the Marines relatively late, at the age of 27, and had excelled as part of the reconnaissance force in Afghanistan.
Marine Dunstan, 32, from Bournemouth, had been due to marry his fiancee, Katie Miller, in summer 2010. She paid her own personal tribute, saying simply : 'Neil was so proud to be a Marine and lived each day to the full. He was my soulmate and the love of my life. Neil was very much loved by all the family.'
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew McInerney, Commanding Officer of the Marines, said Dunstan's 'quiet confidence and humility was an inspiration to all those who worked with him.'
He went on: 'A quiet but natural leader, his maturity and intellect made him a valued role model and mentor to the men with whom he served. He excelled as a reconnaissance operator, a role he was passionate about and which demanded initiative and guile, qualities for which he was never left wanting. Tough and committed, he was always prepared to go the extra mile for his comrades.'
Marine McKibben, 32, from Westport, Co Mayo, in the west of Ireland had planned to join the Special Forces. Local priest Micheal Mannion said the soldier's parents, Tony and Grainne O'Malley McKibben, had been expecting him home for a visit before Christmas. In a statement his parents, brother Raymond and sisters Carmel and Rachel said: 'We are all extremely proud of our Robbie. He had very definite plans of how he wanted to live his life. He was always thoughtful, considerate and had an amazing sense of humour that touched so many lives.
'He was so full of life and was loved so much by his family and by all his friends. Robbie has left a huge void in our hearts and he will never be forgotten.'
Lieut Col McInerney described McKibben as a larger than life character who was 'an immensely capable man' whose 'humility made him an example and inspiration to all he served with.'
He added: 'A true Commando, tough, unassuming and hugely convivial, he viewed life as a glass half-full. Marine McKibben had an indomitable sense of humour in the face of any adversity. Regardless of the task or conditions his 'can-do' attitude helped him and others overcome every test they encountered. Marine McKibben was a key personality within our tight-knit unit of professional specialists. He was held dear by his colleagues and leaves a great void with his passing.'
Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric will leave it to the government to decide on a controversial US military pact, but associates of the reclusive leader said it must respect Iraqi sovereignty. Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani -- revered as the highest religious authority by Iraq's Shiite majority -- rarely involves himself in politics and usually communicates his views only through associates.
"The Guide (Sistani) called for general elections which produced the country's government and the parliament," a religious official close to Sistani told AFP on condition of anonymity. "It is their constitutional responsibility to decide on the agreement."
US and Iraqi negotiators have been struggling to conclude a wide-ranging accord to govern the presence of more than 150,000 US-led troops in the country after their current UN mandate expires on December 31.
Sistani's opinion on the pact could be decisive for the country's main Shiite political bloc, which holds 86 seats in the 275-member national assembly and has expressed reservations about the draft agreement.
Another official close to Sistani insisted that the cleric had not seen the agreement but that he was familiar with its main points. "The Guide has not received a copy of the agreement and is not going to intervene on its components. He has only received the key points, and the rest is for those who will make the decision," the official said. "But if the agreement touches the sovereignty of Iraq the Guide will intervene and make his opinion clear," he added.
The cabinet was expected to vote within days on the latest draft of the agreement, which would have US-led forces withdraw from all Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the rest of the country by the end of 2011. The two sides have gone back and forth on other key details of the accord, including legal immunity for US troops and contractors and demands that the United States promise not use Iraq to launch attacks on neighbouring states.
All British troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year, Iraq's national security advisor said Friday, days before Baghdad was expected to vote on a controversial U.S. military pact.
"By the end of next year there will be no British troops in Iraq. By the end of 2009," Muwafaq al-Rubaie said, adding that negotiations between London and Baghdad on the pull-out had begun two weeks ago.
A British defense ministry spokesman in London said in response that Britain has "no timetable" for the withdrawal of its roughly 4,000 troops in Iraq, the vast majority of which are based in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. "We are hopefully making progress, we have made progress in Basra, and we are on course to meet the (British) prime minister's fundamental change of mission in 2009," the spokesman said, reiterating previously-stated plans.
Baghdad has been racing to secure separate agreements with both Britain and the United States to replace the U.N. mandate currently governing the presence of foreign troops in the country, which expires December 31.
Iraq's cabinet was expected to vote on the so-called Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a wide-ranging U.S. military pact, either Saturday or Sunday. The two sides have been wrangling over the document for months.
Rubaie insisted however that the agreement Iraq sought with the British was simpler and would not take as much time to complete. He added that by the middle of next year there would be a "dramatic" reduction of British troops.
In July British Prime Minister Gordon Brown indicated he wanted to cut the number of Britain's troop in the violence-wracked country but ruled out a timetable for their withdrawal.
But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a British daily last month that British troops are no longer necessary for the security of Iraq and should go home. "We thank them for the role they have played, but I think that their stay is not necessary for maintaining security and control," he was quoted as saying in The Times.
Iraq has seen improvements in security over the past year as U.S. and Iraqi forces have allied with local tribal militias to flush insurgents and militias out of vast swaths of the country that were once ungovernable.
Aswat al-Iraq: Azerbaijan's parliament has voted to pull the ex-Soviet republic's small peacekeeping force out of Iraq, according to the U.S. newspaper Boston Globe on Friday. According to the daily, lawmakers voted 86-1 on Friday to back President Ilham Aliev's request to withdraw the 150 troops serving as part of the U.S.-led coalition.
The contingent has served in Iraq since 2003, working mostly as sentries, on patrols and protecting dams. It is unclear when the pullout will be completed.
The newspaper explained that Aliev has sought to strengthen his oil- and gas-rich country's ties with the European Union and the United States, in part to balance Russia's enormous clout in the Caspian region. The government earlier this year doubled its peacekeeping force in Afghanistan to 45 soldiers and has also sent troops to Kosovo.
Azerbaijan is another small, former Soviet country that has pulled well above its weight, especially compared to some NATO nations and others I could name. Thank you, and God bless your small nation and keep it safe.
Posted by: Old Patriot ||
That stupid, incompetent, cowboy President Bush seems to have inadvertently gotten an awful lot of unexpected countries to help with the anti-jihadi effort. Thank goodness we now have a brilliant world citizen to take over the reins and do things properly!
That;s right TW, and they are all getting their guys out of the way so the BambiXpress carrying our guys out dosen't run them down. Plus then we have to be the ones to turn out the lights, since we will be last.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Friday renewed threats to resume attacks on US forces if they don't leave Iraq, deepening the unease over a proposed US-Iraqi security agreement that would allow American troops to stay for three more years.
The threat came in a statement by the Iran-based cleric that was read to supporters gathered for Friday prayers in Baghdad's Shia Sadr City enclave and the city of Kufa, south of Baghdad. "I repeat my call on the occupier to get out from the land of our beloved Iraq, without retaining bases or signing agreements," al-Sadr said. "If they do stay, I urge the honorable resistance fighters ... to direct their weapons exclusively against the occupier."
The statement did not say exactly when and under what conditions such attacks might resume. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia launched two uprisings against US forces in 2004 and another one this past spring. In July, al-Sadr said he was disbanding most of the militia, but would keep a small combat unit of seasoned and loyal fighters in case they are called upon to fight the Americans again. In Friday's statement, al-Sadr for the first time gave that unit a name: "The Promised Day Brigade."
He also called on breakaway groups from his militia to join the brigade. He was apparently referring to so-called "special groups," which the US military says are trained and armed by Iran to attack Americans. Al-Sadr opposes the US-Iraqi security agreement under which American troops would stay in Iraq until the end of 2011. The pact has yet to be approved by Iraq's Cabinet and parliament.
Meanwhile Iraq's top Shia Muslim cleric will leave it to the government to decide on a controversial US military pact, but associates of the reclusive leader said it must respect Iraqi sovereignty. Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani -- revered as the highest religious authority by Iraq's Shiite majority -- rarely involves himself in politics and usually communicates his views only through associates. "The Guide (Sistani) called for general elections which produced the country's government and the parliament," a religious official close to Sistani told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Most Hamas leaders are interested in maintaining a cease-fire with Israel in the short term, according to a former deputy chief of the Shin Bet security service.
In an article published on U.S. Web site regarding the escalation of violence that erupted more than a week ago between Israel the Gaza Strip, the official wrote that continuing the truce would allow Hamas to achieve its other political goals.
"Although certain Hamas officials (particularly in the military wing) want to abandon the ceasefire altogether, most of its leaders will most likely continue to emphasize the truce's benefits and maintain the agreement for the near term, since it allows Hamas to make progress on other goals," wrote the official."
"The organization is concerned that a large-scale incursion by the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] would prevent it from dealing with its complex set of challenges and also endanger its main achievement, the complete control of the Gaza Strip," the official wrote. "The truce promotes Hamas's interests by buying time to advance the movement's short- and long-term goals."