1. Former military chiefs held in Turkey plot probe
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police detained former heads of the air force and navy and other senior officers on Monday in an investigation into an alleged plot to undermine the Islamist-rooted government and trigger a military coup.
The swoop, one of the largest in European Union candidate Turkey against the secularist armed forces, further raised tensions between the ruling AK Party and the military, which has been implicated in several alleged plots in the past year.
Former Air Force Commander Ibrahim Firtina, former Naval Commander Ozden Ornek and ex-Deputy Chief of the General Staff General Ergin Saygun, were among those held, broadcasters said.
Current armed forces chief General Ilker Basbug delayed a trip to Egypt as a result, broadcaster CNN Turk reported. In total seven serving officers and seven retired officers were detained.
Interior Minister Besir Atalay, accompanying Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on an official visit to Spain, said he was being kept informed of developments, state-run Anatolian news agency reported.
NTV said the suspects held in Ankara were being flown to Istanbul for questioning over the “Sledgehammer” plot after police raids in the cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
Neither police or the military had any immediate comment.
Financial markets showed little reaction to the detentions, but Wolfango Piccoli from the Eurasia political risk consultancy said they looked set to trigger another escalation in the tense relations between the military and the AK Party.
“The government is now embroiled in an open and bitter power-struggle with the judiciary and the military, raising the risk of a head-on confrontation that would badly damage political stability,” Piccoli said.
Such detentions would have been unthinkable in the past for the military, which has ousted four governments in the last 50 years. However, its powers have waned in recent years due to democratic reforms aimed at securing EU membership.
Other senior military officers have been indicted on charges of planning a separate plot to overthrow the AK Party, which has its roots in political Islam.
According to previous media reports on the Sledgehammer plan, denied by the military, the army had plotted to provoke Greek fighter jets into shooting down a Turkish military jet.
Turkey and neighbouring Greece have longstanding territorial disputes and came close to war in 1996 over an islet in the Aegean, though relations have improved in the last decade.
The alleged plot also involved planting bombs in mosques and museums in Istanbul to stir chaos. Last month Taraf newspaper said it had obtained 5,000 pages of documents and tapes on the plan which was aimed at justifying an army takeover in 2003.
The military has said documents quoted by the paper were part of a military training seminar but were never meant to be carried out and were not part of a conspiracy.
The latest detentions coincide with rising political tensions due to a clash between Erdogan’s government and the secularist judiciary over the arrest of a prosecutor who had investigated Islamic groups.
That prosecutor has been accused of links to an alleged far-right militant network, “Ergenekon”. More than 200 people, including military officers, lawyers and politicians, have been arrested in the case since it came to light 2-1/2 years ago.
Critics of the government say the Ergenekon investigation has also been used to hound political opponents.
2. Lebanese PM Sleiman and Cyprus — time to implement agreements
During a press conference held Wednesday February 17, 2010 at the embassy headquarters in Beirut, the ambassador of Cyprus in Lebanon Mr. Kiriakos Koros said Michel Sleimane’s visit to Cyprus aimed, above all, to tighten bilateral relations, and namely to promote tourism in both countries. “Since the official establishment of the Cyprus Embassy was officially established in Beirut, several contracts have been signed between the island and the country of cedars. Today, it is time to implement these contracts”, the ambassador said.
…On the political level, Mr. Koros focused on the Lebanese support to the island in international forums. Lebanon, he said, should be alerted, and even sensitive on issues concerning Cyprus. “Being elected for the non-permanent seat within the Security Council but also as it is an integral part of the Arab League, Lebanon can now echo Cyprus requests in international forums,” Koros said.
The two countries also stressed the need to comply with UN resolutions and move the peace process forward in the Middle East. “The two countries share many political opinions, particularly concerning the need to freeze the settlement process in the Palestinian territories and the importance to establish peace in the Middle East” he added.
To conclude, Mr. Koros stressed the need to coordinate between Lebanon and Cyprus and exchange experiences so as to meet the interests of both the Cypriots and the Lebanese. He also praised the key role assumed by the Maronite community in Cyprus, as it was serving as a cultural bridge between the Lebanese and the Cypriot society.
3. Ahmadinejad calls for independent states to be ready for changes in world
“Today that capitalism is collapsing, the independent states should prepare themselves for huge global developments, and this necessitates promotion of the level of mutual and all-out cooperation,” Ahmadinejad said in a meeting with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Assembly Speaker, Evariste Boshab, here in Tehran today.
Ahmadinejad described expansion of mutual and multilateral cooperation among independent states as the key to resistance against the pressures imposed by the bullying powers.
4. Iran to speak to IAEA about “unreal parts” of Amano’s report
“Unfortunately Amano’s report is two-sided and some unreal issues have been intermingled with real issues,” member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Esmae’il Kowsari told FNA….The latest report on Iran presented by Amano to the agency’s Board of Governors on Thursday vindicates the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities and confirms that Iran’s program is faced with no technical or legal problems.
Yet, Amano’s first report on Iran’s nuclear program, similar to ElBaradei’s reports, is comprised of technical and legal as well as political aspects. Those parts which deal with the legal and technical issues underline the technical success and legality of Iran’s nuclear program and the peaceful nature of the country’s nuclear activities. However, a number of issues fabricated by the western media are stated in the report on Iran which Iranian officials say has no legal rationale.
Despite, Amano’s previous claims that he wants to focus on “the facts” and pursue a more technical approach than his predecessor Mohammad ElBaradei, he also complained about the level of Iran’s cooperation with the Agency. This is while the agency has repeatedly praised Iran’s full cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog agency in is previous reports.
5. and where do those “unreal parts” come from? Israel urges Iran oil embargo even without UN approval
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Monday for an immediate embargo on Iran’s energy sector, saying the U.N. Security Council should be sidestepped if it cannot agree on the move.
…If the world “is serious about stopping Iran, then what it needs to do is not watered-down sanctions, moderate sanctions … but effective, biting sanctions that curtail the import and export of oil into Iran,” Netanyahu said in a speech.