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Monday, March 14, 2011

U.S. Churches,Japan,Man found adrift,Russians open homes;KLA trial,EULEX;Turkey's Balkans,opposes NATO;Cypriot-Israeli meeting

As news from earthquake-stricken Japan and Tsunami-devastated coastal areas worsens, U.S. churches and religious groups are pulling out all the stops to assess how they can help. The Orthodox Church in America said its hierarchs, clergy and faithful are being asked to remember in prayer all those affected by the disaster and to support efforts undertaken by International Orthodox Christian Charities [IOCC], which has assembled its emergency response team to assess needs and possible responses. "The devastation being experienced in Japan is numbing, and it is only appropriate that we respond in kind with our prayers for the suffering and departed and support for any and all humanitarian efforts," said His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah. "Not only has the earthquake -- the strongest in Japan's recorded history -- caused incalculable damage, but the tsunami it released and the attendant destruction of much of the nation's infrastructure are almost beyond comprehension. In addition to our prayers, our support of IOCC's efforts are crucial at this time."

Russians, living on its country's pacific coast, have volunteered to house some of the Japanese made homeless by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday. Vladimir Ostapyuk, Chairman of the regional branch of the Russian Union of Afghan Veterans said, "We sent an appeal to the Japanese government proposing that Japanese victims of the natural disaster be taken in to Russian families." A hotline was set-up on Monday and already 50 host families have volunteered.

After two days adrift at sea 15 kilometers off Japan's northeast coast, a 60-year-old man from Minamisoma in the Fukushima prefecture, was found clinging to a piece of his home's shredded roof on Sunday. Still among those missing, his wife, who was reportedly torn from his arms in the tidal wave. After the earthquake struck, both he and his wife returned to their home to gather their possessions. As the tsunami roared across the landscape, their attempt to flee on foot was too late and while he was able to scramble to his roof, his wife was swept away and still missing.

Two former Kosovo Liberation Army [KLA] leaders - accused of seven charges of war crimes for "inhumane treatement, torture and murder of cvilians" in illegal prison camps set-up in Albania - pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial before a court part of the EU's rule-of-law mission to Kosovo known as EULEX. The alleged war criminals are also mentioned in the Council of Europe's report linking them to Kovoso prime minister Hashim Thaci and other senior KLA commanders to organ trafficking and organised crime.

As Turkey's with the Balkan countries increased to $17.7 billion in 2008 from about $3 billion in 2000, so has its influence in the region. Turkey has the largest university campus in the Balkans - Bosnia - and has provided 85 percent of the loans for building highways through Serbia for tranport of Turkish goods to the EU. In 2009, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu linked his nation's Balkan strategy to that of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled from the 14TH - 16TH centuries. "The Ottoman centuries of the Balkans were success stories. Now we have to reinvent this." "Turkey," he declared triumphantly, "is back." While Muslims in the Balkans welcome Turkey's growing influence, Christians in Serbia, Bulgaria and elsewhere in the region, as well as the U.S. and E.U., are increasingly wary of Turkey's growing clout.

"Military intervention by NATO in Libya or any other country would be totally counter-productive," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Edrogan said, reiterating his opposition to NATO intervention in Libya. He added, "In addition to being counter-productive, such an operation could have dangerous consequences," stressing that the 28-member military alliance could only intervene when on of its members is attacked. A NATO intervention in Libya would be, he said, "unthinkable" and "absurd". Erdogan also raised strong objections to imposing sanctions on Libya.

Ties between Israel, Greece and Cyprus have improved remarkedly over the past two years, as ties with Turkey has blown cold. Marking the first trip to Israel in 11 years, Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias, arrived on Sunday night for a two-day visit. Security and defense, as well as medical cooperation between the two countries is apparent and over the past two millennia, Jews often found refuge in Cyprus. The improvement of the ties with Cyprus was manifest in Cyprus’ position regarding protest flotillas setting sail for Gaza. Cyprus has consistently refused to let these ships set sail from its ports. Christofias is scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.