King of Morocco stresses two states solution as road to peace

15 gunmen of Al-Qaeda surrender to Yemeni authorities

Britain underscores importance of cooperation with Gulf states

Russia prods Iran to return to negotiations in November as Tehran loads fuel rods into Bushehr reactor

Fifteen Islamists with suspected links to Al-Qaeda surrendered Monday to the governor of the restive south Yemen province of Abyan, a security official said Tuesday.

The 15, hiding out in mountains of Mudyah and Laudar districts in Abyan province, turned themselves in to Governor Ahmed al-Mayassari in the presence of tribal leaders and their relatives, the official said, adding that the men had joined Al-Qaeda about a year ago.

Six of the surrendered are considered "dangerous", and are on a Yemeni "Wanted List," the defense ministry's news website quoted a local administration spokesman as saying.

The surrender followed a lengthy meeting Governor al-Mayassari had with tribal leaders, who assumed responsibility for their surrender.

Local authorities had pressured the families of the men to obtain their surrender, sources close to the governor said.

"Some of the men played an important role in the recent clashes between Al-Qaeda and the army in Loder and Mudia," two towns in Abyan, the official said.

The Yemeni government is under immense international pressure to crack down on terror groups since the merger in January last year of Al-Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi Arabian branches into a new outfit, the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The merger followed the massive campaign launched by Saudi Arabian forces against Al-Qaeda, which led to several of its members seeking refuge in neighboring Yemen.

Furthermore, a Yemeni court on Tuesday accused a journalist jailed since August of having served as an adviser to Anwar al-Awlaqi, a radical US-Yemeni cleric wanted by Washington for his ties to Al-Qaeda.

Abdulelah Shaea, 34, appeared at a Sana’a court specializing in terrorism cases alongside another defendant, Abdul-Kareem Daoud al-Shami, 28, both accused of "belonging to an illegal armed group and supporting the Al-Qaeda network" between 2008 and the summer of 2010.

According to the charge sheet, Shaea "worked as Anwar al-Awlaqi's media adviser and met with leaders from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and urged them to target strategic interests and foreign embassies in Yemen."

The court also accused Shaea of "spreading false news and statements via various media outlets in an attempt to promote Al-Qaeda."

The journalist said in July that security agents had kidnapped and beaten him up.

Shaea is considered to be one of Yemen's most knowledgeable journalists on AQAP -- Al-Qaeda's local affiliate -- and is known for his close ties to Awlaqi, the jihadist preacher wanted by Washington in connection with a failed attack on a US-bound airliner on Christmas Eve.

"I reject this trial. Its procedures are unfair and I ask the presiding judge to summon those who kidnapped and held me incommunicado for 35 days," Shaea said from the dock.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Tuesday condemned "the preposterous charges brought against" Shaea and called for his immediate release.

"His lawyers, who have not been allowed to visit him since his arrest in August, have said they will boycott the trial on the grounds that it is illegal and unjust," the media watchdog added.

"His physical condition has been undermined by mistreatment, torture and solitary confinement," RSF said.

In May, the group named Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh among the world's worst "predators of the press."

On the other hand, HH Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar and British Prime Minister David Cameron have agreed to build a new and dynamic partnership for the future, building on the rich shared history between their countries.

In recognition of the importance of the relationship, HH the Emir, who is now on a state visit to the UK, and Cameron reaffirmed the principles outlined in the 1971 Treaty of Friendship between Qatar and the UK.

During discussions at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday evening, they acknowledged that the UK and Qatar have a deep shared history.

The leaders agreed that “we should go further, faster in revitalizing bilateral ties for the 21st century.” They committed to building a stronger and deeper relationship between the UK and Qatar, based on a shared vision of new links and new relationships including on foreign policy, peace and regional stability, trade and investment, education, culture, sport and science.

It was pointed out that Qatar and the UK enjoyed a special defense relationship underpinned by the Defense Co-operation Arrangement (DCA) signed in May 2006.

The spirit of the DCA is to recognize UK support to the Qatari Armed Forces through training and exercises both in Qatar, providing Loan Service Officers and Training Teams to the Emiri Guard, Qatar Military Academy and the Infantry School; and in the UK with many Qatari officers graduating each year from Sandhurst, Dartmouth, the Joint Command and Staff College Shrivenham, and the Royal College of Defense Studies.

Cameron welcomed the historical ties between Qatar and Sandhurst.

Trade and investment will remain a vital component of the relationship, and both countries are determined to increase bilateral trade and investment as part of driving sustained global economic growth.

Qatar has a diverse range of investments in the UK including London institutions like Harrods, iconic real estate projects such as the Shard, and major UK businesses such as Barclays and Sainsbury’s.

HH the Emir welcomed British investment in helping Qatar to achieve its ambitious development plans. The two countries will establish a new bilateral trade and investment forum to strengthen further links in this area.

Qatar is now a major supplier of energy to the UK, and supplied fuel last year in what was the UK’s coldest winter in 30 years – Qatari liquefied natural gas imported through South Hook supplied 11% of the UK’s gas demand.

The opening of the South Hook LNG Terminal, in which Qatar is a major investor, has helped ensure that Qatar had an important new customer for its gas, while the UK had gained a trusted new energy supplier.

It was pointed out that the UK and Qatar enjoy a joint commitment to solving international disputes peacefully. The British PM commended Qatar’s successful mediation in Lebanon.

“Qatar’s work with the AU/UN Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur is also particularly welcome as are Qatar’s mediation efforts in the Eritrea/Djibouti border conflict and in Yemen, between the Huthi and the Government of Yemen,” Cameron said.

Demonstrable commitment to sustainable peace and willingness to address underlying grievances is critical to preventing a return to conflict and the work of the Qatari Government is invaluable in supporting stability and security in Yemen, he observed.

Cameron pointed out that Qatar also plays an important role in the Middle East peace process, particularly its chairing the Follow-up Committee of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Qatar and the UK reaffirmed their commitment to finding a diplomatic solution for the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.

The two countries will intensify their high level dialogue by starting regular exchanges at the ministerial level on regional issues.

The joint determination of the UK and Qatar to international development was reaffirmed and should be underpinned by intensified dialogue between the appropriate ministers.

HH the Emir and Prime Minister Cameron also discussed cultural, sporting and educational ties and asserted that there is real opportunity for strengthening collaboration between the UK and Qatar in these fields.

“The UK hosts some of the best universities in the world and will continue to welcome Qatari students who come to the UK to visit and study,” Cameron said.

HH the Emir and the British Prime Minister welcomed education and research collaborations with British institutions such as the British Library, the Royal Society, Imperial College and University College London, which is establishing a presence in Qatar.

The two countries also have shared interests and passions in hosting major sporting events. England is bidding to host the 2018 World Cup, and Qatar is one of the candidates for the 2022 World Cup.

Meanwhile, an aide to Israel's president says the king of Morocco won't meet with the Israeli statesman because of the impasse in Mideast peace talks.

The aide says King Mohammed VI cited the deadlocked talks in turning down President Shimon Peres' request to meet at an upcoming international conference in Marrakech.

Peace talks have stalled over Israel's refusal to extend building curbs in the West Bank. The Palestinians say they won't negotiate if Israel doesn't relent, but have given the U.S. until early November to try to resolve the dispute.

The aide, who wasn't authorized to discuss the issue with the media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that if Peres can't meet with the king, he won't attend the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa.

Meanwhile, Russia urged Iran on Friday to take up the offer of six major powers for mid-November talks on its disputed nuclear program, the Interfax news agency said.

Tehran had been ambiguous about its willingness to go back to talks with the United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany to dispel concerns that its declared civilian atomic energy program is a cover for the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called on Tehran to agree to negotiations chaired by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton during the week starting Nov. 15.

"We urge our Iranian friends and colleagues to officially respond in a positive manner to the invitation," Interfax quoted Ryabkov, Russia's representative to negotiations between Iran and the six powers, as saying in an interview in Brussels.

Last week, the EU proposed a three-day negotiation in mid-November in Vienna.

A senior Iranian official said on Monday Iran was ready to meet any time but said the subject must be made clear in advance, among other conditions.

Iran has long insisted on a right to peaceful nuclear technology, and that it is not seeking nuclear weapons. But its past concealment of sensitive nuclear activity and continued curbs on U.N. inspections has raised suspicion abroad.

Iran's first, Russian-built nuclear power plant is to go on line soon and the government says it plans build up to 20 reactors over the next two decades.

Talks with the six powers stalled in October 2009 and governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution two months later rebuking Iran for having hidden a second uranium enrichment project for over two years.

Russia has voiced increasing frustration with Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment in exchange for trade and diplomatic incentives on offer from the six powers since 2006.

Moscow, which long sought to temper Western efforts to isolate Iran, endorsed harsher U.N. sanctions against Tehran in June and later announced it would not fulfill a contract to sell S-300 air defense missile systems to the Islamic Republic.

Iran took a key step toward firing up its first nuclear power plant on Tuesday when it began loading fuel into the core of the Bushehr reactor on its Gulf coast.

Iran says the Russian-built facility will start producing electricity in early 2011 after many years of delay and that the West is wrong to accuse the Islamic Republic of seeking to develop weapons from nuclear technology.

For the United States and its allies, the fact that Bushehr will use fuel imported from Russia means that Iran does not need to enrich its own uranium, the part of Tehran's nuclear activity they are most worried about, if its intentions are peaceful.

Major powers want Iran to accept an invitation from European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for talks in Vienna next month to address their concerns about its program.

The following looks at how the $1-billion reactor near the city of Bushehr fits into Iran's disputed nuclear program:

Analysts say Bushehr will not bring Iran any closer to developing an atom bomb. Russia's role in supplying the fuel and operating the plant and inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog would prevent any diversion of material for military purposes.

Oliver Thraenert, senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said he did not believe the "reactor itself is a tool for Iran to develop nuclear weapons," but that other parts of its activities are.

Iran, which enriches uranium in a large underground complex at Natanz, says its nuclear program is solely meant to yield electricity or isotopes for medicine and agriculture.

Washington earlier criticized Moscow for pushing ahead with Bushehr and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in March its planned start-up was "premature".

But the criticism was not repeated after Russia in August announced it would load the fuel and the U.S. State Department said it did not regard the plant as a proliferation risk.

Offering a different route to building a bomb, weapons-grade plutonium can be derived from spent fuel rods. But under its fuel contract with Moscow, Iran must return Bushehr's fuel rods to Russia after they have been used and cooled down.

This has helped calm western concern that the Bushehr plant could help Iran master the means to assemble a bomb. Russia shipped the nuclear fuel for Bushehr to Iran in 2007-08.

Moreover, the fuel will be under the scrutiny of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, who should notice any diversion.

"In theory, there are legitimate concerns that ostensibly civilian reactors can be used for nuclear weapons," said research associate Ivanka Barzashka of the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists. "In practice, using Bushehr for weapons will be very difficult."

Iran has said it wants Bushehr to be the first in a network of nuclear power plants by 2030 that would slake rising energy demand at home and allow it to export more of its oil and gas.

Western experts say this aim is unrealistic, since Iran lacks experience in building nuclear reactors itself and it could face problems in buying them abroad due to prevailing United Nations sanctions.

"It of course depends on the sanctions and also on international assistance Iran receives or not receives ... but 20 reactors, no, this is a pipe dream," said Thraenerts.