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News in Brief: 14 April 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Iran offers to train Afghan police in drugs fight. Iran said on Monday it was ready to help train Afghan police in fighting the drugs trade… The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic ties for three decades and are now at odds over Tehran’s nuclear plans, but analysts say they share an interest in ensuring a stable Afghanistan and in an end to opium and heroin production there. (Reuters)

Don’t Flash the Yellow Light. Israel has been steadily ratcheting up pressure on the United States concerning the grave threat allegedly posed by Iran, which seems poised to master the nuclear fuel cycle, and thus the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. The new Israeli prime minister, Likud Party hawk Benjamin Netanyahu, has warned President Barack Obama that if Washington does not quickly find a way to shut down Iran’s nuclear program, Israel will. (TomDispatch)

Iran and European Union reach formula for nuclear talks. Iran and the European Union on Monday agreed to resume talks over Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which for the first time could involve direct negotiations with the United States. (Haaretz)

‘Vague Russian pledge on no S-300s to Iran’. Israel has lobbied Russia to pull away from selling a strategic air-defense system to Iran but has received only vague assurances, Israeli defense sources said on Monday. Last week Israel agreed to supply surveillance drones worth $50 million to Russia. (Today’s Zaman)

N. Korea ‘will boycott nuclear talks’. North Korea vowed today to restore its nuclear facilities and boycott international talks on its atomic weapons program to protest the UN Security Council’s condemnation of the country’s rocket launch. (The Independent / AP)

Tough times for the Awakenings — crisis or opportunity? Like most people who follow Iraq, I’ve been watching the mounting tensions surrounding the Awakenings and the uptick in violence with some concern. I don’t think that we’re seeing the “great unravelling” quite yet, nor that we’re yet seeing a return to higher levels of violence, insurgency and civil war. But the increased violence and the growing chorus of complaints about the failures of political accommodation should be a cautionary note to the Iraqi government and to the major political players that time is running out to make the crucial political power-sharing agreements necessary before American troop withdrawals pick up their pace. (Marc Lynch)

I was born Palestinian. I hold a Palestinian Authority passport. It replaced the “temporary two-year Jordanian passport for Gaza residents” that we held until the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the mid ’90s, which itself replaced the Egyptian travel documents we held before that. A progression in a long line of stateless documentation. (Raising Yousuf and Noor: diary of a Palestinian mother)

Hizbullah and Elections. To defeat Hezbollah, the US Defense Department has spent millions of dollars since the 2006 War. “I’ve organized five major games in the last two years, and all of them have focused on Hezbollah,” said Frank Hoffman, a research fellow at the [US] Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico. (Syria Comment)

Mossad tip led to capture of Hezbollah cell in Sinai. Lines separating warring camps in the region are becoming increasingly clearer as news emerged Monday that foreign intelligence services – including Israel’s Mossad – provided Egyptian authorities with intelligence that contributed to the uncovering of a Hezbollah-run terrorist ring and led to the arrest of dozens of suspects. (Haaretz)

Pakistani President Approves Shari’a In Swat Valley. Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari has signed a regulation imposing Islamic Shari’a law in the Swat Valley in the northwest of the country, as part of a deal to end Taliban violence, state media reported. (RFE/RL)

Opposition protests for fifth day in Georgia. Georgia’s opposition vowed yesterday to boost pressure on President Mikhail Saakashvili with round-the-clock protests outside his office as up to 20,000 rallied for a fifth day. (Hurriyet)

Thai army moves to end anti-government unrest. Thai troops fire at crowds of anti-government protesters in Bangkok and protesters fight back with firebombs and rocks, propelling Thailand deeper into political crisis. The turmoil raises the prospect that the army will seize control of the country which has had 10 coups since absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932, warns an expert. (Hurriyet)

Pakistan detains ‘Mumbai plotter’. Pakistan has confirmed the arrest of another alleged plotter of the Mumbai attacks and sought further details from India to prosecute those involved in the carnage. (Al Jazeera)

Israel, Us To Hold Largest-ever Joint Missile Defense Drill. In the face of Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear capability, Israel and the United States will hold an unprecedented and massive exercise later this year to jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems. (Turkish Weekly / Jerusalem Post)

Cross Your Fingers and Carry On. Why does the government refuse to make contingency plans for peak oil? (Monbiot.com)

The Worries Facing Russia’s Banks. As the number of nonperforming loans grows, the Russian government is beginning to take the threat to the country’s banking sector seriously. (Spiegel)

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