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WAR REPORT
Turkey lifts veto on NATO cooperation with Israel
by Staff Writers
Istanbul (AFP) Dec 23, 2012


Protest against Iraq PM blocks highway to Syria, Jordan
Ramadi, Iraq (AFP) Dec 23, 2012 - About 2,000 Iraqi protesters, demanding the ouster of premier Nuri al-Maliki, blocked on Sunday a highway in western Iraq leading to Syria and Jordan, an AFP correspondent reported.

The protesters, including local officials, religious and tribal leaders, turned out in Ramadi, the capital of Sunni province of Anbar, to demonstrate against the arrest of nine guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi.

Their arrest on terrorism charges has sparked a call from Essawi for Maliki to quit or be removed.

"We are gathered today not for Essawi and his bodyguards, but to change the course of this sectarian government and to overthrow Maliki's government," Anbar provincial councillor Hikmat Iyada told the protesters.

A letter from Sheikh Abdul Malek al-Saadi, a leading Sunni cleric in Anbar, was read at the protest in which he called for Shiites in the government to respect Sunni officials, and the minority Sunni population in Iraq.

Maliki was also condemned in a separate statement issued by fugitive Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi, who praised the demonstration.

"Maliki is a prisoner of a sick mind, obsessed with power," said Hashemi, who has been handed multiple death sentences in absentia for charges he insists are politically motivated.

"The Islamic and Arab world looks at him now as the sponsor of the Safavid (Iranian) project in Iraq."

Hashemi also called for a no confidence in the premier, accusing Maliki of aiming "to get rid of his opponents".

Sectarian tensions are still significant in Iraq, which suffered years of brutal confessional violence in which tens of thousands of people were killed and many more forced from their homes.

NATO member Turkey has agreed to lift its veto on non-military cooperation between the alliance and Israel which it imposed over a deadly raid on a Turkish aid ship to Gaza in 2010, a diplomat said Sunday.

Ankara took the retaliatory measure after the Israeli army stormed the ship carrying humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip while it was in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, leaving nine Turks dead.

The decision to renew NATO links came at a December 4 meeting in Brussels of the 28-member alliance on a proposal by its Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the diplomat said.

In return, several NATO allies of Israel agreed to drop a veto against cooperating with Turkey-friendly countries notably in the Arab world.

Turkey will agree to Israeli involvement in certain NATO activities but will maintain its ban on joint military manoeuvres, and Ankara reserves the right to bar activities with Israel on its own soil.

The agreement comes after NATO agreed early this month to deploy Patriot anti-aircraft missiles along the Turkish border with Syria.

Turkey's relations with its former ally Israel deteriorated sharply after the Gaza ship raid.

Israel has rejected Ankara's demands for an apology and compensation.

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