Daily Archives: January 8, 2012

Report: Russian naval force arrives at Syria port in ‘show of solidarity’

Bashar Assad - AP - 2/12/2011


Russian visit comes as Arab League scheduled to meet in Cairo to assess the performance of the a widely criticized observer mission; Syria activists say clashes between soldiers, defectors leave 11 dead.

A large Russian naval force arrived at the Syrian port city of Tartus, the French AFP news agency reported on Sunday, in what the regime of President Bashar Assad is calling a show of “friendship.”

Last November, a Syrian news agency reported that Russian warships were planned to arrive at Syrian territorial waters, indicating that the move represented a clear message to the West that Moscow would resist any foreign intervention in the country’s civil unrest.


Citing the official Syrian news agency SANA on Sunday, AFP reported that a large Russian naval flotilla, led by an aircraft carrier, is making a six-day port call to Tartus. SANA also quoted a Russian naval officer as saying that the a visit was “aimed at bringing the two countries closer together and strengthening their ties of friendship.”

“The commanders of the Russian naval vessels docked in Tartus took turns to express their solidarity with the Syrian people,” SANA added.

The Russian visit came as the Arab League ruled out considering a withdrawal of its widely criticized peace observers from Syria, ahead ofa meeting in Cairo to assess the performance of the mission.

Led by Qatar, an Arab League committee on Sunday was to review a report about the mission, which was dispatched two weeks ago to Syria to verify the Damascus government’s compliance with a plan to end a violent crackdown on dissent.

According to leaked excerpts, the report cites continued violence by the Syrian government on pro-democracy protesters, Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera reported.

The report mentions that Syrian authorities hold detainees in unknown places, Al Jazeera said.

The Arab League’s assistant chief, Adnan Eissa, said Saturday it was unlikely for the meeting to discuss the possibility of recalling the observers any time soon.

“No Arab country has talked about the necessity of withdrawing the observers,” he told reporters in Cairo.

He said that the Arab countries were favoring more support for the observers and better equipping them to do their job.

The observer mission reached 163 members on Saturday, after 10 more colleagues from Jordan arrived, according to Eissa.


Meanwhile, Syrian activists say 11 soldiers and several civilians have died in clashes and attacks.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting between government troops and military defectors in the town of Basr al-Harir in southern Daraa province Sunday killed 11 soldiers and wounded more than 20.

The Observatory and other activist networks reported several civilians killed in government raids in the central Homs region and eastern Deir el-Zour province. The number of civilians killed was not immediately clear and the reports could not be independently confirmed as Syria has barred most foreign journalists from the country.


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After Republican presidential candidate calls himself ‘Jesus candidate,’ ADL’s Foxman says ‘religious appeals to voters are simply unacceptable and un-American’


 In response to his comment on a radio show that “we always need a Jesus candidate,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Friday called on Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum to refrain from overt expressions of religious preferences and beliefs on the campaign trail, stating that “religious appeals to voters are simply unacceptable and un-American.”

“Senator Santorum’s remark comparing himself to a ‘Jesus candidate’ was inappropriate and exclusionary. It essentially says that those of other faiths or of no faith – whether Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, non-believers or others – do not belong,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman.

“Religious appeals to voters are simply unacceptable and un-American. Voters should be encouraged to make their decisions based upon their assessment of the qualifications, integrity and political positions of candidates, not the intensity of their religious beliefs,” he said.

The ADL said it has “long maintained that candidates should feel comfortable explaining their religious convictions to voters, but that there is a point at which an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling.”

In response to a question from a caller on a radio show, Santorum said Thursday he disagreed the economy was the main issue of the campaign. The caller commented, “We don’t need a Jesus candidate; we need an economic candidate,” to which Sen. Santorum replied: “My answer to that was, we always need a Jesus candidate. We need someone who believes in something more than themselves and not just the economy. … When we say, “God bless America,” do we mean it or do we just say it?”

Santorum has come under closer scrutiny after finishing a very close second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses. During a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Friday the senator was forced to defend his opposition to gay rights.

Taking questions from a mostly youthful audience at a school in Dublin, Santorum was quickly on the defensive. The first questioner wanted to know why he opposed gays being able to serve openly in the US military and being able to adopt children.

There are certain qualifications for being allowed to serve in the military, he said.

“I believe that does not include people who are openly gay in the military. That’s my belief. I believe the military will be much better served by having a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” Santorum said.

Santorum presents himself as the representative of the working class, but a recent Washington Post article claimed that from January 2010 to August 2011 he earned at least $1.3 million “as he cashed in on his 16 years in Congress by working as a corporate consultant, political pundit and board member.”

Santorum earned a $165,200 Senate salary and $32,245 in book royalties, according to his 2006 disclosure report.

 On gay marriage and adoption, he added: “Marriage is not a right. Not everybody can marry everybody else.”

According to an NBC News-Marist poll, Romney gets the backing of 42% of likely Republican voters in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, including those leaning toward a particular candidate.

He’s followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 22%, Santorum at 13%; Gingrich and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman are both tied at 9% and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is expected to get only 1% of the votes.


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