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Egypt spy trials sour links with Israel
by Staff Writers
Cairo (UPI) Jun 28, 2011

Iraq: Regional stability depends on stable Syria
Baghdad (AFP) June 28, 2011 - Regional stability is interlinked with stability in Syria, Iraq's prime minister said, calling for stronger economic ties at a time when the EU and US have stepped up sanctions on Damascus.

"The stability of the region as a whole is related to the stability and security of Syria," Nuri al-Maliki told a delegation of Syrian businessmen in Baghdad on Monday, his office said in a statement.

The prime minister called for the two Arab states "to activate all fields of cooperation, especially in the sectors of the economy and business."

Trade between the neighbours totaled $6 billion last year.

"We have confidence in the ability of our Syrian brothers -- whether the people or their leadership -- to overcome the challenges they face," the Iraqi leader said.

"Continuing reforms and dialogue are guaranteed to bring security and stability" to Syria, he added.

Syrian activists say more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in a government crackdown since the March 15 outbreak of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

The European Union and United States have this month both slapped fresh sanctions on Syria.

The arrest of an Israeli-American on charges of spying for Israel has intensified fears in the Jewish state that the post-Mubarak regime in Cairo seeks to distance itself from the historic 1979 peace treaty between the two countries.

A 25-year prison sentenced imposed Thursday on an Egyptian businessman convicted of working for Israel's foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, has heightened the sense of unease in Israel about Egyptian intentions following the Feb. 11 fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

The Israeli-American, Ilan Grapel, was arrested in the Egyptian capital June 12 and accused of seeking to "sabotage the revolution" against Mubarak, a firm supporter of the 1979 treaty.

Grapel, a 27-year-old New Yorker, has denied the charges. His family says he's a third-year law student at Emory University in Atlanta.

Relations between Israel and Egypt have been tense since Mubarak was toppled and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took over the government until elections can be held.

These were scheduled for September, but the council says they may be postponed because of difficulties in political parties organizing along democratic lines.

Analysts don't believe Cairo will go so far as to abrogate the 1979 Camp David treaty, signed at the U.S. presidential retreat in Maryland -- at least not in the near term.

But Israel fears Egypt's Islamists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 and the godfather all radical Islamist groups, will become the dominant political force and confront the Jewish state.

The Brotherhood, although it has moderated its policies over the years, declared in April the Camp David accords "have lost all credibility" and run counter to the teachings of Islam.

Analysts suspect Salafist radicals are poised to emerge as a strong political force in elections, when they take place.

Cairo has already cut off supplies of natural gas to Israel and demanded it renegotiate a 2005 deal made with Mubarak that critics say involved below-market prices and lined the pockets of his sons and cronies.

Cairo also lifted its economic blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, imposed to aid Israel.

Israeli intelligence says weapons to fight the Jewish state are now flowing freely into the territory through the Sinai Peninsula.

Already, Cairo is making approaches to Iran, with whom Egypt broke off diplomatic relations in 1979 when the Shiite mullahs seized power.

The Israelis, the Americans and most Sunni Arab regimes see that as a potentially dangerous step at a time when the regional balance of power is in a state of flux.

"The bottom line is that the normalization of relations with Tehran is a question of political identity for Cairo and its new ruling elite, that is, the coming of age and maturity of Egypt as an independent actor on the regional and global scene," observed U.S.-based analyst Kaveh L. Afrasiabi.

However, U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, which abandoned longtime ally Mubarak when it was clear he was on the skids, is seeking to develop links with the new elite in Cairo.

The Pentagon said June 11 U.S. arms deals made with Mubarak's regime remain in place -- for now, anyway.

The 1979 pact has never been popular with Egypt's masses and was seen as a major source of public discontent.

But Mubarak and the military establishment supported it because it brought billions of dollars in aid from the United States for what was seen as a staunch Arab ally.

With the departure of Mubarak, Israel's strongest Arab ally, and his cronies, Cairo's policy toward Israel has become more attuned to domestic public opinion, resulting in episodes such as Grapel's arrest.

A recent poll by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center indicated more than half of Egypt's 80 million population wants the treaty annulled, while only 36 percent favor keeping it intact.

Egyptians and others were convicted of spying for Israel throughout Mubarak's autocratic rule, in what was seen by many as a means of keeping the lid on widespread distrust of the Jewish state that defeated Egypt four times on the battlefield.

"Mubarak's fall was seen by many as a great strategic loss for Israel and the United States and left many questions in the air regarding Egyptian-Israeli relations," observed Al Ahram, Egypt's leading daily.

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Germany offers NATO bomb parts for Libya
Berlin (AFP) June 28, 2011 - Germany said Tuesday it has made an offer to the NATO military alliance to supply bomb components for use in the stretched military alliance's 100-day-old operation in Libya.

"The German defence ministry has received a request of the relevant NATO agency ... Germany has expressed its general willingness to make available precision weaponry components," a ministry spokesman told AFP.

"The decision on whether the German offer is accepted lies with NAMSA," the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency, spokesman Holger Neumann told AFP, confirming a report in the online edition of Spiegel magazine.

He declined to comment on whether this was the first time that Germany had made such an offer. Germany in March abstained on a vote at the UN Security Council authorising a Libya mission to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone.

Three months after French jets flew their first missions over eastern Libya, NATO is still pounding targets across the country in what has become a war fought on multiple fronts, but with few clear victories for either side.

Outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates took a parting swipe at NATO on June 10 in Brussels, saying the Libyan operation had laid bare the inability of cash-strapped alliance members to conduct an operation without US help.

"The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country -- yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the US, once more, to make up the difference," Gates had said.

NATO took command of the mission on March 31, but only eight of the 28 alliance members are taking part in the air strikes, with Britain and France carrying the load while Washington provides refuelling and intelligence support.

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ICC courts Kadhafi aides, Libya blasts warrant
Tripoli (AFP) June 28, 2011
The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Tuesday urged Moamer Kadhafi's aides to help arrest him, as the Libyan leader lashed out at an ICC warrant against him for crimes against humanity. On the ground, rebel fighters captured an arms depot from Kadhafi forces in the desert near their mountain enclave southwest of Tripoli in a boost for their resupply, an AFP correspondent at the ... read more

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