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News in Brief: 29 May 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Pakistan-India tensions spur nuclear race. Although 11 years have passed since India and Pakistan first conducted nuclear tests, the two South Asian rivals continue to produce more nuclear bombs and weapon-delivery systems, a US congressional research service and the media reported on Thursday. (Dawn)

Mousavi makes a comeback. Despite spending recent years on the political sidelines, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi is expected to give President Mahmud Ahmadinejad a run for his money in next month’s elections. But if Mousavi is elected, he’ll need to ensure reform at home doesn’t accompany a softened foreign policy, especially where the United States is concerned. (Asia Times)

Afghanistan: Civil Casualties Remains a Divisive Issue for Kabul and Washington. Despite US efforts to minimize accidents, the issue of civilian deaths remains a source of tension between American forces and the Afghan government, and it appears to be eroding popular support for coalition forces fighting Islamic militants. (EurasiaNet)

UN expected to begin probe of Gaza war. The UN says a team of independent experts mandated to probe alleged war crimes in Israel and Gaza will leave for the Middle East over the weekend. UN spokesman Rolando Gomez says the mission led by veteran prosecutor Richard Goldstone is expected to start its work next week. (Gulf News / AP)

Israel Threatens to Outlaw Palestinian. Israel is set to approve a radical new bill which threatens to legalise discrimination against its sizeable Arab minority for the first time. The bill, approved this week by the ministerial committee for legislation, would make it illegal to relate to the creation of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948 as a day of mourning, thereby banning Arab Israeli citizens from marking what Palestinians call the Nakba – their “Great Catastrophe”. Although the bill has some way yet to become law, it is already arousing considerable consternation among liberal Israeli Jews and the entire Arab community, 20 percent of Israel’s population… Under the proposed legislation, people caught commemorating the Nakba could be jailed for up to three years… This proposed new law is seen as the first translation of that slogan into a tangible loyalty test which would demand of Arab citizens that they swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish, Zionist and democratic” state if they want to be accepted as citizens. (IPS)

Netanyahu: “What the hell do they want from me?” Last night, shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told journalists that the Obama administration “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a confidante. Referring to Clinton’s call for a settlement freeze, Netanyahu groused, “What the hell do they want from me?” according to his associate, who added, “I gathered that he heard some bad vibes in his meetings with [U.S.] congressional delegations this week.” (The Cable)

Poland Seeks Missiles Regardless of Shield. The Polish government is pushing hard to reach agreement with the United States over stationing a battery of Patriot missiles near Warsaw by the end of this year, despite President Barack Obama’s decision to examine the costs and reliability of deploying a separate, and controversial, missile defense system in Eastern Europe, Polish officials said this week. (New York Times)

Army officer arrested in Turkish coup plot. Authorities have formally arrested a senior army officer over possible links to an alleged right-wing group accused of plotting to topple the government on Wednesday. (Today’s Zaman)

North Korea Test-Fires Short-Range Missile. North Korea rattled its neighbors again Friday when it fired a short-range missile off its east coast, the sixth such firing since the secretive country conducted an underground nuclear test on Monday, and a large number of Chinese fishing boats left the disputed water off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula in the past several days, according to reports from South Korea. (Washington Post)

Iranians Allege U.S. ‘Hands’ Behind Mosque Bombing. The attack was one of the deadliest such incidents in decades in Iran, where local officials have occasionally accused Washington and its allies of operating through minorities to stir up trouble in remote border regions. (RFE/RL)

Georgians maintain pressure on Saakashvili to resign. Crowds of opposition protesters have gathered in Tbilisi every day since April 9 demanding Saakashvili resign. But Saakashvili, who says he has done nothing wrong, is refusing to step down, leading to a split in the opposition between moderates who believe they will eventually meet their goal with continued peaceful protests and radicals who consider them powerless. The split spilled into the open Tuesday when opposition leaders argued during a demonstration. But leaders sought to play it down on Thursday. (Daily Star / AP)

Sri Lanka avoids war crimes probe. Sri Lanka celebrated a major diplomatic victory on Thursday after managing to torpedo Western demands for a probe into alleged war crimes committed during the offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels. A little more than a week after government troops defeated the separatist army, the island’s diplomats managed to lobby Asian support and commandeer a special session of the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Council session, called because of alarm over the high number of civilian casualties as well as the island’s treatment of displaced Tamil civilians, ended on Wednesday with a resolution praising the outcome of the war. (The News)

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