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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Turkish"organ"Dr;Greece,Germany,WWII,ICJ;Israel,Greece,Cyprus gas;Egypt warns Hamas;SpaceTourism;Met Jonah,Sanctity of Life

A Turkish doctor arrested in an investigation into an alleged human organ smuggling ring protested his innocence Wednesday. "There is no such crime. There is no organ trade," Yusuf Ercin Sonmez told reporters outside a courthouse, according to Turkey's semiofficial Anatolian news agency. "There can't be evidence for something that doesn't exist," he added. He was arrested Tuesday in Istanbul's Kartal district, an officer with the financial crimes department of Istanbul Police told CNN. Sonmez, 53, was the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant issued by the District Court of Pristina in Kosovo. The offenses listed by Interpol: crimes against life and health, people smuggling, trafficking and illegal immigration. Sonmez was questioned by a prosecutor for about two hours Wednesday, then sent to a criminal court "with the prosecutor's demand for his arrest for 'organized organ trading,' " the Anatolian news agency said. Sonmez was then released by the court pending trial. Last month, European authorities charged in a report that executives who control Kosovo may have stolen organs when the Kosovo Liberation Army was fighting Serbian forces in the late 1990s. Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci called it "a political accusation based on no facts or proof" and "pure fabrication." The report said Thaci, a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, was the "boss" of a prominent faction in the militia that "apparently wrested control" of "illicit criminal enterprises" from rivals across the border in Albania. "Numerous indications seem to confirm that ... organs were removed from some prisoners ... to be taken abroad for transplantation," read the report. It suggested that illegal organ trafficking continued after the war ended... Dick Marty of the Council of Europe, author of the draft report, said nearly 1,900 people who disappeared during the conflict still have not been found, and another 500 disappeared after NATO troops arrived in June 1999. The report is based partially on investigations by European Union officials and was written for the Council of Europe's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. European Union officials in Kosovo have said that anyone with concrete evidence of war crimes or organized crime should come forward. Kosovo was a province of Serbia but declared independence in 2008. About 70 countries have recognized the declaration, but Serbia does not, and international organizations including the United Nations and the European Union continue to have administrators in Kosovo.

Greece on Wednesday said it would contest an appeal by Germany at the International Court of Justice targeting an Italian ruling that gave compensation to Greek victims of a German wartime atrocity... The issue of wartime reparation claims over Germany's four-year occupation of Greece, which ruined the country financially and left thousands dead, has complicated relations between Athens and Berlin for decades. It surfaced again last year, when Germany's resistance to a loan bailout for debt-hit Greece sparked an ugly exchange of recriminations between Greek and German media, while some Greek politicians also noted that Nazi forces had looted state gold reserves and that Berlin should be less smug over money. In 2007, a court in Florence, Italy, slapped a financial charge on two buildings owned by the German state at the request of relatives of Greek victims of a Nazi massacre in the central Greek village of Distomo in 1944. The plaintiffs had turned to the Italian courts after their attempts to win compensation in Greece stalled. After Germany appealed to the ICJ, Greece had until Friday to state its position, Papandreou said. In 1997 a Greek court ordered Germany to pay 28.6 million euros (37 million dollars) to the Distomo plaintiffs but opposition from Berlin and reluctance from Greek justice ministers meant the ruling was never enforced. The massacre at Distomo on June 10, 1944 left 217 people dead. Germany has always refused to pay, arguing that the issue of compensation was settled by a bilateral agreement with Greece dating from 1960.

Greek prime minister George Papandreou had a telephone discussion Tuesday night with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, during which they agreed to set up a joint Greece-Israel ministerial council and also discussed the next steps in the procedure of enhancing their bilateral ties that was commenced last summer. The ministerial council, which will be chaired by the two prime ministers, will comprise ministers from both countries, for the purpose of boosting Greece-Israel cooperation in specific sectors. The first meeting of this new inter-state body is planned sometime in the next two months, and has been assigned by the prime ministers to their respective foreign ministers, Dimitris Droutsas of Greece and Avigdor Lieberman of Israel, who begins a two-day visit to Athens on Wednesday. Lieberman's visit is in reciprocation of a visit by Droutsas to Israel last October. The two ministers will meet at 13:30 on Wednesday and are expected to review bilateral cooperation, as a continuation of the agreement they had signed for the deregulation of charter flights and the agreement on cooperation and exchanges between the two countries' diplomatic academies. The Israeli official is also expected to discuss energy cooperation issues, as well as regional issues, with Iran and the Middle East issue as the focus, in planned meetings with President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister George Papandreou and Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Israel's Delek Group has proposed to Cyprus the creation of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on the island to process reserves Israel has discovered offshore and Cyprus hopes to find nearby, according to a newsflash issued by the Middle East Economic Survey. Delek has written to the Cypriot government proposing cooperation to set up a multi-purpose facility that would receive and process gas into LNG, at a site proposed by the Cypriot authorities. The Israeli company is a partner of U.S. energy firm Noble, which has reported large reserves of natural gas in two offshore fields close to Israel since 2009. Noble also has a concession to drill for hydrocarbons in a field in Cypriot waters, close to the Israeli finds. Delek has been looking at options for exporting gas, which included building an LNG facility in Israel or Cyprus or exporting it through a pipeline to Greece. Delek would supply gas from the offshore fields Leviathan and Tamar, some 60 kms south east of Cyprus, and suggested that any gas discoveries made offshore Cyprus could also be processed at the facility, the MEES report said. Noble and Delek have described the Leviathan find as the world's biggest in the past decade, with an estimated 16 trln cubic feet (tcf) of gas, while Tamar was the largest gas find in the world in 2009, at 8.4 tcf. Cypriot officials estimate that there are reserves in the region of 10 tcf in their block, about 65 km from Tamar. MEES said a multi-purpose gas facility in Cyprus would probably include production of natural gas liquids, including liquid petroleum gas (LPG), in substantial quantities. If realised, the report said the project has the potential to transform natural gas supply balances in the region and possibly impact transit projects through Turkey, including the proposed Nabucco pipeline, which has a design capacity of 31 bln cubic meters (bcm) a year. The state run Electricity Authority of Cyprus recently concluded a consultation process to find a strategic partner to build a 600 mln euro ($779 mln) LNG regasification facility at Vassiliko along the southern coast of Cyprus. The results of the consultation were not disclosed, pending government selection of a company to supply gas to Cyprus over a 20-year period.

Egypt warned Hamas that continued rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel could prompt an Israeli war on the Strip meant to root out the source of the attacks, Reuters quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying on Wednesday. "Egypt has told Hamas the Gaza situation was similar to that before December 2008," the source said hinting that a second Operation Cast Lead may be in the offing if attacks on Israel's Negev communities continue. "Hamas does not want a new escalation unless it is forced into it," the source said. On Sunday, Hamas said that it was in contact with other groups in the Gaza Strip to reduce the recent attacks in the area so as to avoid another war with Israel, apparently as a result of Egypt's warnings... Mortar and rocket fire from Gaza have increased recently, with some 20 attacks directed at southern Israel since the beginning of 2011. The IDF has responded to the attacks with air strikes targeting the terror infrastructure in Gaza. Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Tuesday that the rocket fire would not be tolerated.

Russia will reopen its Soyuz space ships to paying tourists in 2013 after a hiatus since 2009, the US-based company that organises the trips with Russia's space agency said Wednesday. From 2013, three space tourists per year will be able to book seats on Soyuz flights to the International Space Station (ISS), the Virginia-based company, Space Adventures, said in a statement. The company has signed an agreement with the Russian space agency and Energia, the state-owned company that designs the Soyuz capsule, to offer the commercial flights... Flights will become possible in 2013 when Russia plans to raise its production of Soyuz capsules from four to five per year, the company said, in a move that will allow it to increase the number of flights to five per year. The last space tourist was the Canadian Guy Laliberte, the billionaire founder of Cirque du Soleil, who returned to Earth in October 2009 after an 11-day flight. The first space tourist, Denis Tito, travelled to the ISS in 2001. All together, seven space tourists have taken part in missions. Laliberte did not reveal the cost of his ticket, but his predecessor, US software pioneer Charles Simonyi, paid $35 million for his trip. Since Laliberte's return, Russia has since limited flights on its cramped three-seater Soyuz spaceships to professionals only, as the US space agency NASA prepares to retire its own shuttles from service. NASA plans to send its Endeavour shuttle into space for its last scheduled flight in April this year, after which Russia's Soyuz ships will be the only way to reach the ISS.

The text of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah's 2011 Message for Sanctity of Life Sunday, slated to be observed in all parishes on Sunday, January 23, may be found in downloadable PDF format by clicking here. Liturgical petitions and prayers for Sanctity of Life Sunday also may be found below. They also are available in PDF format here. Information on the annual March for Life in the US capital on Monday, January 24, in which Metropolitan Jonah and hundreds of Orthodox Christian faithful will participate, is available in an earlier release posted on the OCA web site and can be read by found by clicking here.