Saudi Arabia vehemently denounces “terrorist” attack in Stockholm

Sorour re-elected as speaker of new Egyptian parliament

Iranian President Ahmadinejad fires his foreign minister Mottaki

Barzani’s party asserts calls for self-determination right does not mean separation

South Korea, U.S. form defense alliance as North warns of nuclear warfare

A Saudi official source; said that the Kingdom strongly condemns the late terrorist attack in Stockholm, and in the same time the Kingdom expresses its denunciation to such criminal acts in all their forms, and wherever the source was.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak received this week Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani in Cairo for talks over a host of regional and international issues.

Sheikh Hamad’s current visit to Egypt reflects the flourishing bilateral ties between Qatar and the Egypt, the Egyptian Ambassador to Qatar Mahmoud Fawzi Abu Dounya told Sawt al-Arab (Voice of the Arabs) radio.

The communication between the two countries has never been interrupted even away from the eyes of the media, he said.

There is no contradiction or difference in views between Egypt and Qatar, he said, pointing to the high level bilateral co-ordination and co-operation.

The Egyptian ambassador reaffirmed his country’s strong support for the mediatory efforts being made by Qatar.

The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister conveyed a message from HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, pertaining to bilateral relations and issues of mutual concern. Later he left Cairo wrapping up a two- day visit to Egypt.

He was seen off at Cairo International Airport by Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Rasheed Mohamed Rasheed and Qatar’s Ambassador to Egypt Saleh Abdullah al-Buainain.

Sheikh Hamad has said the Arab peace initiative committee cannot provide a cover for a return to direct or indirect negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians under the present circumstances.

He told the extraordinary meeting of the committee held under his chairmanship at the Arab League that the committee will reassess the situation according to the appraisal of the Palestinian side of the situation.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said that the role and responsibility of the US in the peace process must be emphasized in accordance with the same logic announced previously by US President Barack Obama that every party must carry out its responsibility in full.

He said that the UN Security Council should play its role if the US failed to gain recognition of the Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

He warned that failing to reach that conclusion would kill the concept of the two-state solution. He also called for a US role in lifting the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip and urged inter-Palestinian conciliation which, he noted, would add to the strength of the Palestinian position.

The committee’s meeting, he said, is being convened in critical circumstances because of known reasons.

The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister reviewed the efforts made by the committee since its setting up and its incessant endeavors with the US administration to achieve peace and to reach a just settlement, referring in this respect to the vision adopted by Obama in his speech before the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2009 in which he pledged to support the solution of two states (Palestine and Israel) living side by side in peace and security, as part of a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said events which occurred afterwards proved that the Palestinian and Arab sides have played their role and shouldered their responsibility to achieve peace in the formula described by Obama, adding that since June 2009 the Arab side expressed readiness to deal positively with Obama’s proposals and to take the necessary measures for supporting the American moves for the attainment of a comprehensive peace and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with holy Jerusalem as its capital.

In this context the Palestinian and Arab side welcomed the American stance calling for an immediate halt to the Israeli settlement policy in all the occupied Palestinian territories, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister said.

He added that the Arab peace initiative committee held this year four meetings at the ministerial level and one meeting of permanent delegates. The committee stressed adherence to the main principles on which the Arab stance is based vis-à-vis the establishment of the Palestinian state on the pre-1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said, stressing that the direct talks on which the Israeli prime minister insisted required the complete halt of settlement building in all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 including Jerusalem.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said the committee underlined that the indirect talks will not be fruitful in the shadow of the illegitimate Israeli measures in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Despite all that, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said, the committee responded by giving the talks the chance requested by US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell to facilitate the role of the US in the light of its assurances to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the indirect talks will not be open and endless by setting a timeframe not exceeding four months.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said the committee announced on October 8 that it held Israel responsible for the halting of direct negotiations launched by the US president on September 2 in Washington, as a result of its continued policy of settlement.

The committee stressed that the resumption would require a complete cessation of settlement, the Premier and Foreign Minister added.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said the committee had renewed at the same time emphasis on Obama’s position contained in his speech before the UN General Assembly.

He said the committee stressed its readiness to cooperate to translate what was reported in Obama’s speech into tangible reality, including the recognition of an independent Palestinian state as called for by the US, provided that should be achieved in a year’s time from September 2010.

Sheikh Hamad criticized the Israeli action after the end of the period of cessation of settlement activity that was fixed for 10 months by its government, which refused to renew it, leading to the suspension of direct negotiations.

He added that Israel had undermined indirect negotiations and insisted on direct negotiations, and when this stage came it had deliberately emptied it of its content and its objective through its insistence on continuing to build settlements.

The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister said the US role has pushed the peace process into a new phase by asking for tackling essential issues such as the borders, security, settlements, water, refugees and Jerusalem. The US negotiations with the parties concerned will centre on progress over the next few months. This, he noted, would revive the indirect peace negotiations despite the continuation of the settlements and the lack of terms of reference.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim left Cairo last night. He was seen off at the airport by Qatar’s Ambassador to Egypt and permanent delegate to the Arab League, Saleh Abdullah al-Buainain.

Meanwhile, Egypt's new People's Assembly re- elected Ahmed Fathi Sorour as its speaker.

Sorour was given confidence by 505 votes compared with one vote for his opponent Mohamed Abdel'al, leader of the Social Justice Party, official MENA news agency said.

Zeinab Radwana and Abdel-Aziz Mostafa were elected as deputy speakers of the People's Assembly.

Sorour was nominated to the post at a meeting held by the ruling National Democratic Party.

Egyptians elected the new 518-seat assembly through two rounds of polls on Nov. 28 and Dec. 8. The NDP won 420 out of the 508 seats up for grabs, 15 seats went to the opposition parties and 69 to independents. Another ten were appointed by the president. Four seats were suspended.

In Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired Iran’s foreign minister, a move that caught many here by surprise and appeared to reflect a strengthening of the president’s power.

Ahmadinejad said in a presidential order that he had dismissed the minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, a career diplomat who for many years has been Iran’s face to the West.

Mottaki was on an official visit to Senegal and did not immediately react to the news, which appeared to catch even the state-run Iranian news media by surprise.

The firing seemed to represent a victory for Ahmadinejad, who has been embroiled in a power struggle with a faction of moderate politicians centered in the Parliament and headed by the speaker, Ali Larijani.

Political insiders said that after the 2005 election, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, forced the newly elected Ahmadinejad to accept Mottaki as foreign minister, even though Mottaki had backed Larijani’s presidential campaign. They said Khamenei had until now blocked the president’s efforts to replace him.

Lawmakers loyal to Ahmadinejad had recently been threatening to seek Mottaki’s dismissal if the United Nations approved more sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program.

But the foreign minister was never involved in the nuclear negotiations, a factor that led some analysts to dismiss the nuclear issue as a pretext for pushing him out.

Other experts said the move signaled the rising prominence of nuclear matters in Iran’s foreign policy. Ahmadinejad’s choice for acting foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, is the head of Iran’s nuclear program and has served as ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Salehi, who is fluent in English, has a doctorate from M.I.T.

With a new round of talks over Iran’s nuclear program scheduled for January, and the prospect of sanctions, it was not yet evident how the new appointment would affect Iran’s posture in negotiations over its nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at producing nuclear weapons. Tehran says it is for peaceful purposes only.

It is possible that Salehi is only a fill-in. Some Iran observers speculated that Ahmadinejad might try to replace him with a permanent candidate from his inner circle.

The firing of Mottaki could also be related to the recent release of United States diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, which made clear that many of Iran’s Arab neighbors remain deeply hostile to it. “Clearly, Iranian foreign policy has failed here and someone needed to pay the price for it,” said Trita Parsi, an Iran expert and founder of the National Iranian American Council in Washington.

Last week, after multiparty talks with Iran in Geneva produced no discernible progress in halting its nuclear program, “In the wake of the Geneva talks, we and our allies are determined to maintain and even increase pressure,” Gary Samore, President Obama’s chief nuclear adviser, said.

“We need to send the message to Iran that sanctions will only increase if Iran avoids serious negotiations and will not be lifted until our concerns are fully addressed.”

In a letter issued this week, Ahmadinejad expressed gratitude to Mottaki for his years of service as foreign minister. “Hereby, I thank you for your services as efforts during your tenure in the Foreign Ministry,” it said.

Asked about the dismissal, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was meeting with her Canadian and Mexican counterparts just outside Ottawa, said that she had no comment or insight about it. But she said that “whether one person or another is foreign minister is not as important as to what the policy of the Iranian government is.”

The latest round of sanctions, imposed by the Security Council in the spring, is making it increasingly difficult for Iran to conduct business around the world, and the United States and its allies said that new sanctions were planned in an effort to test “Iran’s pain threshold.”

Also on, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador, Simon Gass, over accusations that Britain has interfered in Iran’s internal affairs, Iranian state media said and The Associated Press reported.

Gass has been critical of Iran’s human rights record and, in an article posted on the British Embassy web site this week, wrote that the British government “will continue to draw attention to cases where people are deprived of their fundamental freedoms.”

In Iraq, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani’s nephew said the right to self-determination proclaimed last weekend by Barzani does not imply a desire for secession, the Kurdish leader's nephew said.

"The Kurdish people have the right to claim self-determination, but we decided to stay within a united Iraq," said Nechirvan Barzani, former premier of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

His uncle Massoud Barzani who is the regional president said at the opening of a week-long congress of his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) that self-determination was "a right." He said it would be presented at the meeting "to be studied and discussed."

"The statement by president Barzani has been misunderstood," his nephew said.

"If we had opted for independence, we would have announced it, but we have not decided a thing. We want to remain in a united and federal Iraq," he said.

He added that the Kurds were happy with the autonomy granted to them after the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted the now executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"Self-determination is a natural right of the Kurdish people but with what we got in 2003 with the new Iraq, we decided to stay within a federal Iraq," the former premier said.

Iraq's Kurdish north, made up of three provinces, exercises control over all policy making, except in national defense and foreign affairs.

The elder Barzani's weekend comments in the Kurdish capital of Arbil had drawn the ire of the country’s Sunni and Shiite Arab leaders, who argued that it presaged a break-up of Iraq.

"The right of self-determination is something that concerns people living under occupation, but this is not the case for Kurdistan, which has a special status in Iraq," said Alia Nusayaf, an MP with the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc.

"It makes me wonder if the Kurds asked for federalism (in Iraq's constitution) to first form a region and then to separate from Iraq," he said.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week summoned her Japanese and South Korean counterparts, Foreign Ministers Seiji Maehara and Kim Sung-hwan, to Washington for trilateral talks on the Korean crisis in an open affront to China and Russia, which had called for a resumption of six-party discussions with both Koreas, themselves, the U.S. and Japan.

Officiating over the December 6 gathering with her junior partners on her own turf, Clinton - rather than the foreign ministers of the two East Asian nations - stated, "North Korea’s provocative and belligerent behavior jeopardizes peace and stability in Asia."

The imperial metropolis and its would-be global procurator pronounce on what constitutes threats to peace and stability on another continent; the perspective of countries in the region like China and Russia don't need to be taken into account and their concerns don't need to be addressed.

Two days later America's top military officer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, was in the South Korean capital and in that of Japan the day after.

In Seoul he met with General Han Min-koo, chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, and in Tokyo with Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) chief of staff General Ryoichi Oriki. While in Japan, Mullen mentioned "the trilateral meeting on the part of our foreign ministers which occurred earlier this week in Washington" by way of indicating that his efforts paralleled those of Clinton. Soft versus hard power in the Washington vernacular, both serving the same ends.

He also assured his Japanese opposite number General Oriki that "the United States is very much – is very involved in regions all over the world but none so much as this one in terms of its importance and its commitment."

As the two top military commanders met, their armed forces were completing the eight-day Keen Sword 2011 war games which involved "units from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, working side-by-side with their JSDF counterparts at military bases throughout mainland Japan, Okinawa and in the waters surrounding Japan."

The exercise, the largest military undertaking conducted jointly by the two nations, included 44,000 troops, 400 aircraft and over 60 ships, including the USS George Washington nuclear-powered aircraft carrier accompanied by carrier and expeditionary strike groups.

In the words of a BBC correspondent aboard - and much enamored with - the super-carrier, "The USS George Washington itself is like a floating city, with 5,500 men and women living on board, 60 aircraft and two nuclear reactors which could allow it to stay at sea for 25 years without coming ashore."