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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turkey:Iran applauds,Greece urges;U.S.&Cyprus Gas;Nuclear Terrorism;UN&Kosovo;Map:MidEast protests;Wonder Blog

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Turkey for distancing itself from Israel and increasing its support for the Palestinians, Iranian state TV reported Tuesday. During a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Tehran, Khamenei said political changes in Ankara – particularly its "separation from the Zionist regime" – have brought Turkey closer to the Muslim world. "This is a proper policy. The more Turkey approaches the Muslim world, the more it will be in its own and the Muslim world's favor,” Khamenei reportedly told Gul. The supreme leader, who did not address the recent protests against the regime in Tehran, added that "years of the US and the Zionist regime's hegemony in Egypt and the humiliation of people were the main reasons behind the mass protests in Cairo. Egyptians are a Muslim nation which has strong Islamic motivation.” Khamenei stressed the importance of maintaining and strengthening unity in the Muslim world and warned Muslims to not fall into the "trap of foreign powers aimed at causing discord. “If the Muslim world becomes acquainted with its high capacities and capabilities, conditions will drastically change and the Muslim world can play a role in international developments as an influential power,” he said... Earlier Tuesday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said the US and Israel were behind the anti-government protests in the Islamic Republic. The parliament condemns the Zionist, American, anti-revolutionary and anti-national action of the misled seditionists," Larijani said during a parliament session.

Greece's Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas again asked Ankara to immediately begin withdrawing its occupation forces from the island and "contribute sincerely to finding a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus issue." He stressed that such a course of action would help Turkey further its ambitions of joining the European Union. The minister underlined that if Turkey sincerely desired a solution, it must accept that the root cause of the Cyprus problem was the invasion and military occupation of the island and withdraw its forces. Droutsas reported that his talks with Kyprianou had centred mainly on the efforts underway to solve the Cyprus problem... Droutsas said that Athens expected the UN to be objective and maintain its 'good offices mission'. Expressing confidence in the UN secretary-general, the Greek foreign minister emphasised that the Greek Cypriot side and Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, in particular, had shown a very constructive attitude and very good proposals made in a constructive spirit. "Unfortunately, we do not discern or find this same constructive spirit on the other side, the side of [Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu]," he added. "Solving the Cyprus problem is the greatest challenge faced by the Cyprus Republic but at the same time it is a priority for Greek foreign policy and a wager for full normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations," Droutsas stressed. He underlined Greece's support for the efforts of the Cyprus Republic and Christofias to end the Turkish occupation in the north of the island, in the framework of finding a mutually acceptable, fair, viable and functional solution... Commenting on the recent protests by Turkish Cypriots and the reactions in Ankara, the Greek minister said these were a sign of a non-viable situation in which the Turkish-Cypriots were suffering when they could be enjoying the economic and social benefits of EU membership.

U.S. company Noble Energy said Wednesday that seismic data indicate a strong chance of a sizable natural gas find off the southeastern coast of Cyprus and that it hopes to begin drilling late this year or in early 2012. "We don't have an exact number on the amount of resources available, but the structure that we can tell from seismic looks very favorable to be a sizable quantity," Terry Gerhart, Noble Energy vice president for international operations, said after talks with Cyprus president Dimitris Christofias. Gerhart said Noble Energy's confidence of a large gas find off Cyprus is boosted by its discovery of large natural gas fields in Israeli waters close to Block 12, an 800,000-acre (1,250-square-mile) area that Cyprus licensed the U.S. firm to explore in 2007. One of the recently discovered Israeli fields, dubbed Leviathan, contains more than 450 billion cubic meters (15.9 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas. "We're working very diligently to accelerate the process to get a well drilled and certainly, hopefully, start it fourth quarter 2011," said Gerhart, adding that procedural delays could push the start date back to the first quarter of 2012. He said Noble Energy would be interested in bidding for additional exploration rights inside Cyprus' 51,000-square-kilometer (17,000-square-mile) exploration zone that is carved into 13 blocks when the island proceeds with a second licensing round in the second half of this year. Noble Energy is jointly exploiting the Israeli gas fields with Israeli energy company Delek and Gerhart said Nobel would welcome working with Delek in the Cypriot fields, "if approved." Delek last month proposed a partnership with the Cypriot government to build a facility on the island for processing and exporting natural gas found in Israeli and Cypriot waters. Cyprus' energy service director, Solon Kassinis, said the island's gas plans aim to cover domestic demand and export excess supply. "Our primary target is to examine the possibility of covering the country's gas demand as well as exporting to third countries through the establishment of a pipeline from the hydrocarbon field in Block 12," Kassinis told The Associated Press in an e-mail Wednesday. "Natural gas supply from the Israeli deposits is also considered as an option." The potential for an offshore gas bonanza has complicated oil-dependent Cyprus' negotiations with other potential liquefied natural gas suppliers, including Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

Russian and U.S. generals will meet in Lisbon in June to discuss cooperation between the two countries in fighting nuclear terrorism, the head of the Russian Military Commanders Club said on Wednesday. The discussion will take place as part of a meeting of the Elba international military commanders club, Gen. Anatoly Kulikov said. The talks will continue the three-day discussion held in October last year in Istanbul, which involved five Russian and five U.S. generals, he said. The Russian Military Commanders Club, involving more than 2,000 members, was created in January 2005 with support of then-Russian President Vladimir Putin and security services heads.

The United Nations (UN) Security Council will discuss Wednesday the latest report by Secretary-General of the world organization Ban Ki-moon about the situation in Kosovo-Metohija. Ban said in the report, obtained by Tanjug, that UNMIK was ready to fully support the investigation into the allegations about human organ trafficking in Kosovo and also expressed his expectation that there would be visible progress towards an open dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in the coming period. UNMIK remains willing to offer its full support for any possible further investigation, said the UN secretary-general. In his report, Ban expressed regret that the collapse of the ruling coalition in Pristina and the calling of early elections there had postponed the beginning of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. The UN secretary-general expressed his hope that there would be visible progress in the dialogue process and that the developments in Pristina would contribute to political stability that would lead to a prompt initiation of negotiations. Ban estimated the overall situation in Kosovo as a relatively quiet one, but still potentially unstable, as organized crime remained a concern, especially in relation to drug trafficking and smuggling. Commenting on the situation in northern Kosovo, the UN secretary-general expressed regret that certain Pristina media misrepresented the activities of UNMIK, considering the body the main obstacle for Pristina to extend its authority and implement its strategy for the north in that region of Kosovo as well. Kosovo's authorities, he added, especially those in southern Kosovska Mitrovica, regularly challenged the authority of UNMIK. Ban pointed out in the report that the dispute over the new license plates might have a negative impact on the freedom of movement, as well as on the political and security situation. He stressed that the situation could stay that way until a lasting solution was achieved, adding that a solution might be reached in the upcoming Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

Following the fall of the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, unrest has been spreading throughout the region. Could a domino effect sweep more leaders from power? Egypt - President Hosni Mubarak announced he was stepping down on 11 February after 18 days of protests. Aged 82, he had been in power since 1981. Egypt had long been known as a centre of stability in a volatile region, but that masked problems which erupted in popular demonstrations against the 30-year rule of President Mubarak on 25 January. The main drivers of the unrest were poverty, rising prices, social exclusion, anger over corruption and personal enrichment among the political elite, and a demographic bulge of young people unable to find work. With President Mubarak gone, Egypt's Armed Forces Supreme Council will run the country for the next six months, or until elections are held. The Islamist and conservative Muslim Brotherhood would be expected to do well in any free and fair elections, but fears of a lurch towards Islamist rule is the main worry for Western powers and Israel. Other countries highlighted are: Saudi Arabia; Bahrain; Iran; Syria; Jordan; Libya; Tunisia; Algeria; Morocco.

"Life in the Fast Lane; Preparing for Great Lent" is the theme of the February 2011 installment of the OCA's young adult blog, "Wonder," now available at OCAWONDER. Articles include "Fasting from Guilt" by Luke Beecham; "A Facebook Lenten Journey" by Kate Behr; "'Chocolat' and the Great Fast'' by Harry William Reineke;" Fasting and Forgiveness" by the late Metropolitan Anthony [Bloom]; and "Nourishing our Bodies During Great Lent – How to Navigate the Campus Dining Hall" by Chris Masterjohn. "Wonder," a publication of the OCA's Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry, provides thought-provoking articles geared toward young adults and college students and those who minister to them. Readers are invited to submit articles, creative writing and artwork, poetry, photos, and videos for future installments. Suggested topics are always welcome. Send all materials and comments to via EMAIL. To subscribe to "Wonder," log on to OCAWonder and click the "sign me up" link on the left of the page.