Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blic: Serbia ready to welcome Putin, says PM

30 September 2014 | 13:24 | FOCUS News Agency
Blic: Serbia ready to welcome Putin, says PMPicture: AFP
Belgrade. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic is to meet with Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Alexander Chepurin, writes Serbian Blic daily.
On Sunday the Serbian Prime Minister announced that Belgrade was getting ready for the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It is known that the Russian President will visit Belgrade soon. This will be officially confirmed by his cabinet very soon,” Vucic remarked.
A press conference is scheduled after the meeting between the PM and the Ambassador.

World Bank approves US$150 million project for Albania's power sector recovery and reforms

September 29, 2014
 Prind Media one of the articles that accused PM Berisha with World Bank, for Corruption

WASHINGTON, September 29, 2014—The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved US$150 million in IBRD financing for the Power Recovery Project in Albania. The project will support Albania’s power sector reforms, particularly to improve the reliability of the electricity supply and the financial viability of the sector

The power sector is facing serious financial and operational challenges in Albania, manifested by a large unfunded deficit of about US$550 million and a large level of technical and commercial losses of about 42 percent – the highest in the region – due to non-payment of electricity bills by consumers, as well as poor collection rates. Energy generation relies almost entirely on hydropower, which means that emergency power imports are often required during dry seasons.
The Government's reform efforts for power sector recovery include diversifying generation sources, reducing distribution losses and improving collection, and improving the power market model in line with EU directives. A comprehensive Sector Recovery Plan will be implemented to address the pressing sector issues, especially its fiscal viability.

"The Power Recovery Project supports the implementation of government reforms, and will help to increase investment; improve management and performance, especially in distribution; and reduce inter-company arrears," said Tahseen Sayed, World Bank Country Manager for Albania. "The project will support the sector recovery plan to address longstanding technical and financial issues."
The  project consists of four components : i) providing short-term complementary power import support; ii) upgrading distribution infrastructure; iii) upgrading the transmission meter/data center; and iv) supporting power sector reforms and project implementation.

"The key project entities are the Distribution Company, OShEE, which will benefit from the reduction of losses and improved billing and collection rates; KESh, Albania’s main generation company, which will benefit from improved financial sustainability; and the Transmission System Operator, OST, which will benefit from the installation of an enhanced metering data center to facilitate the market restructuring,” said Salvador Rivera, World Bank Senior Specialist for Energy and Project Team Leader. “The project is a first, necessary step to support sector reforms, leading to improved quality of service and reliability.”

Since Albania joined the World Bank in 1991, the Bank has financed a total of 83 projects with over US$1.95 billion of IDA credits and grants and IBRD loans to the country

The western Balkans and the EU

In the queue

The door to membership remains open, but the region must do more to get it


TO THOSE who oppose further European Union expansion to the western Balkans, the statement in July by Jean-Claude Juncker, the new European Commission president, was heartening. Negotiations would continue, he said, but “no further enlargement will take place over the next five years.” The political message seemed to be that the whole process was being slowed down.
The statement was “controversial and populistic,” says Stefan Fule, the outgoing enlargement commissioner, because no Balkan country would have been ready to join in the next five years. “It was a wrong message to the western Balkans at a wrong time”. Rumours spread the enlargement job would be dropped in Mr Juncker’s new commission. A few angry words (and tweets) from Carl Bildt, the outgoing Swedish foreign minister, helped head that off. To drop the enlargement portfolio, he said, would be a “very bad signal” and an “abdication of responsibility”.
The appointment earlier this month of Johannes Hahn, an Austrian, as the new commissioner, led to a search for meaning in his job title: neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations. The neighbourhood comprises six ex-Soviet countries plus the southern Mediterranean. Charles Tannock, a British member of the European Parliament, suggests that Mr Juncker’s downplaying of enlargement “is to assuage public opinion”. It has become a harder sell, he says, because of fears of organised crime and migration, quite apart from the unrelated controversy about a future membership of Turkey.

The western Balkans have lost the previous strong support of Britain, which mainly worries about immigration these days. But Germany has become more active. However, the deeper problems lie not within the EU but in the region itself. The progress of Bosnia, with its dysfunctional government, has been stalled for eight years. That of Macedonia remains blocked by a dispute with Greece about its name. Kosovo is so far behind that it remains the only country west of Ukraine whose citizens cannot travel to the EU’s Schengen zone without a visa.

This leaves Montenegro, which is negotiating, Albania, which became an official candidate in June, and Serbia, which has a green light to begin talks and hopes to do so by the end of the year. Tanja Miscevic, Serbia’s chief negotiator, has mixed feelings. Putting the emphasis on negotiations is a good thing, she says, but political commitment also matters.
There is a risk, says a new report by The Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group of analysts, of a “Turkish scenario” of talks that never end. That could open up other dangers, including meddling by Russia or Turkey. The report suggests that giving up the goal of EU membership, even if not formally, would have consequences “for democracy, inter-ethnic relations and for long-term economic investments”.

Luckily the western Balkans will shortly acquire one new ally in Brussels: Federica Mogherini, the Italian who is to be the EU’s high representative for foreign policy. Her country, like Mr Hahn’s, knows the Balkans well and understands that enlargement is a security issue. A stable Balkans is an asset for all, but an unstable and poor one could export crime and migrants or even lurch back into conflict. For Mr Juncker, says Miroslav Lajcak, the Slovak foreign minister, enlargement is clearly not a priority; but this need not cause the Balkans undue alarm. As Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign-affairs committee gruffly sums up, they just need to do their homework.

Today's Zaman 

 

 

Is Turkey supporting radical Islamists?

I announced in my previous column that the Culture, Education and Training Association (AKEA) and 16 other foundations and associations in Kosovo which the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) supported were shut down because of allegations that they were affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra. I continue to receive reactions from Islamists in Turkey to this column and I will respond to these reactions in my next column. But allow me to first elaborate further on the connection between TİKA and AKEA based on new information. TİKA's official report for 2009 confirms it equipped the main headquarters of AKEA and contributed to the renovation of the building. TİKA's support for AKEA is not limited to this, but I believe this example is sufficient to prove support.


So why does TİKA support institutions that are kept under constant surveillance because of their radical Islamist orientation and why does it put Turkey under the spotlight as if there are no other humanitarian relief organizations? The answer to this question lies in the intelligence reports prepared by Kosovo and Turkish and Western agencies. The reports basically say: The image that Kosovo imports jihadists disturbs the people particularly because of its detrimental effect on its cause to gain further legitimacy in the international arena. Kosovar authorities took action because the number of Kosovars in ISIL exceeds 160 and some of them serve as heads and leaders in the organization despite the fact that there is little inclination towards and interest in political Islam in the country (the two political Islamist parties receive only 3 percent of the vote).

In addition, both the opposition and the government are acting jointly in this case because a Kosovar ISIL militant, Lavdrim Muhaxheri, was shown on his Facebook account beheading an “infidel,” another Kosovar killed Turkish troops whom he referred to as infidels and the son of Naim Ternava, the head of the Kosovar Islamic Union, called for support to the jihad in Syria.
As I noted in my previous column, the institutions shut down by the Kosovar authorities include AKEA and the Kosovo branch of the Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Foundation. AKEA, formerly known as Urtesia (Wisdom) Culture and Solidarity Association, is an institution unofficially founded by Husamedin Abazi in 1997 while he was a student of Islamic studies in Riyadh; the association was then formally instituted in 1999 in Kosovo. Abazi was an ardent member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Riyadh who was authorized to establish a branch in Kosovo.

Contrary to the allegations coming from Islamists in Turkey, AKEA is an institution which was expelled by the Kosovar UN administration in the aftermath of 9/11 because it was an al-Qaeda affiliate and received support from Saudi authorities. In other words, al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have supported AKEA since the beginning. In Turkey, on the other hand, it has been supported by the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH). The Turkish government reportedly first interacted with AKEA members in 1999. A group of 33 who constituted the core of AKEA flew from İstanbul to Macedonia in March 1999 to join the war in Kosovo. The group was barred entry by the Macedonian authorities and had to return to İstanbul. They were settled by the Turkish authorities as refugees in the Kırklareli Gaziosmanpaşa Guest House. The group, supported by İHH, reorganized itself; it even seized control of the camp administration. The group was frequently visited by its leader, Abazi, and visitors from Egypt.

The gendarmerie also followed the activities of the group; it confiscated equipment belonging to the group, including computers, in a raid. They were taken to Albania under the coordination of a civil society group which is still influential in shaping the foreign policy of the current Turkish government without being deported as they held the status of refugees. Owing to financial aid by the same civil society group, they established a publishing house, FOCUS-A, after the war. They sponsored joint activities with LOGOS, a sister organization administered by Adnan Ismaili in Macedonia, and organized youth camps. Ahmet Davutoğlu, the currently prime minister of Turkey, paid visits to the camps in 1999, 2000 and 2001. On one of these visits, Abazi, in a sermon, referred to Sufi orders and religious communities in Turkey as the mother of distorted and perverted ideas; the current prime minister remained silent on this allegation.

AKEA translated Davutoğlu's “Stratejik Derinlik” (Strategic Depth) into Albanian; it was published by FOCUS-A. Davutoğlu, of course, extended his support. First a new building was constructed in Arberia/Dragodan, an upscale neighborhood of Prishtine under TİKA sponsorship. Kürşat Mamat, who currently serves like a project coordinator of İHH but is actually the TİKA coordinator in Palestine and was TİKA Kosovo coordinator at the time, took care of this project; he never took seriously warnings by Kosovar intelligence and the Turkish police and military authorities. AKEA's projects were later supported in different forms.

In 2012, Davutoğlu, the Turkish foreign minister at the time, expressed strong support in Kosovo when he joined a ceremony marking the opening of the Yunus Emre Foundation; it was Ramadan; the official program included an iftar with the participation of Kosovar and Turkish authorities; but he broke his fast at the AKEA office while the guests were waiting in another place for the official program. Rumors have it AKEA received $1.5 million in financial support from Murat Ülker to open a madrasah in Kosovo with the support of Bilal Erdoğan in early 2013. However, despite intense efforts, Prime Minister Hashim Thaqi considered warnings by Kosovar and Western intelligence agencies and so the madrasah was not opened.

Greek intrigue: What's hiding in ancient tomb?

264 68 7 LINKEDIN 3 COMMENTMORE
ATHENS — Athenians, Spartans, Macedonians, Persians and Romans once marched through Amphipolis in northern Greece thousands of years ago.
Today, armies of politicians, journalists and archaeologists have occupied the small town after diggers recently unearthed a massive tomb guarded by a pair of carved stone sphinxes and two caryatids, or sculptured female figures, a few miles outside the town center.
"I don't know who the tomb is hiding, but I really like that everyone is talking about this," said Nikoletta Stavroulaki, 29, an unemployed Greek who is captivated by the archaeological site's progress. "Historians from around the world are expressing different opinions, and I'm following all this. This creates amazing suspense."
With a perimeter of about 1,600 feet, the design of the massive tomb discovered two months ago suggests an important leader was buried there, leaving some to wonder whether it is the resting place of Alexander the Great.
Greek TV stations have been conducting live broadcasts from the dig, updating their audiences on the excavation's daily schedule. Meanwhile, newspapers have splashed paparazzi-style photos of lead archaeologist Katerina Peristeri on their front pages.
Peristeri, who has been digging at the site for two years, has repeatedly stressed she hasn't found conclusive evidence suggesting who might be in the tomb, and she believes it was likely built after Alexander died in Babylon around 323 B.C.
Judging from the caryatids' dress, University of Athens archaeologist Olga Palagia believes the tomb dates from the Roman era. Due to its size, she thought it was likely a monument to an event that occurred near ancient Amphipolis.
"An excavation is dated by the things the excavators find inside, first from the ceramics and secondly from the inscriptions and the coins," Palagia explained on Greek television. "Right now there has been no evidence of these things, so we look at the sculptures."
Peristeri, meanwhile, has lashed out at archaeologists who have fueled speculation about the site.
"I am outraged by colleagues who, without knowing the excavation or the archaeological site of Amphipolis, go on television for five minutes of fame," she said on a TV broadcast. "This excavation isn't done only for the benefit of archaeology, but also for the sake of the country in a very critical time period. Everyone is watching."
Her statements, however, have only seemed to garner more attention to the dig. Pundits are speculating that if the tomb doesn't belong to Alexander, his murdered wife and child or one of his top generals could be inside.
Politicians are getting in on the hoopla, also — Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stopped by for a photo-op last month.
"It is definite we're in front of an important find," Samaras said. "The Macedonian land continues to thrill and surprise us, revealing from its guts unique treasures that compose and weave this amazing mosaic of our Greek history for which all of us Greeks are proud of."
The notoriety and political overtones of the find have put archaeologists in the awkward position of asking for less attention.
"It is the first time that an excavation is underway with television requirements and timetables," the Association of Greek Archaeologists said in a press release after Samaras' visit. "We express our agony on the possible pressure our colleagues are under in their effort to conduct a scientifically correct and fully documented excavation in TV studio conditions."
University of Athens political scientist Yiannis Metaxas worries that all the excitement over the tomb is overshadowing its true worth as a remarkable discovery.
"If in the end these are important finds — they are being undermined by all this noise," he said.

Monday, September 29, 2014

"Moskva" Warship in Corfu 

Russian Warship come back in Ionian sea in Albanian border, since 1961



Russian "Warships" in the Ionian Islands as the Russian Fleet flagship, the cruiser «Moskva» stealing impressions and crew to "flood" the ports of Corfu and Lefkada. The visit of the ship was within the established annual celebrations in honor of the Russian admiral and Holy Russian Orthodox Church, Theodore Ousakof and tightening of intellectual and historical ties between the two countries.
2bThe "Russian Week Ionian Islands" was completed yesterday and today «Moskva» departs from Lefkada probably on the Black Sea. Had tied from Sunday off the coast of the Castle and the crew transferred to small boats in the floating bridge and then walk to Agios Minas.
13Many locals rushed to the beach to admire the imposing Russian ship. Something that did the inhabitants of the island of Corfu, the first station of the «Moskva» in Ionian islands. Apart from the flagship of the Russian Fleet traveled to the islands 30 Russian parliamentarians, officials and journalists in Moscow to give this to one of the largest Russian - Greek Social Forum, taking place internationally since 2002.
Outgoing EU Commissioner in Tirana
 Fule: Political debate, not on the streets
29/09/2014
Fule: Political debate, not on the streets
The Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fule, declared that the opposition’s boycott doesn’t help with the country’s integration.

“Leaving the Parliament and continuing the political battle on the streets doesn’t help the country’s integration, or the ambition of the Albanian people to get integrated at the European Commission”, Fule declared in a joint conference for the media with Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Fule appealed the opposition and the government to use the window that was opened today, so that the opposition returns in Parliament and the Government takes measures for the opposition to have everything they need to do their job.

“It’s not the parties who win in this moment, but the Albanian people”, Fule declared.

Prime Minister Rama expressed his readiness to answer to any claim of the opposition, with the purpose to return in Parliament.

“We are ready to vote for establishing any parliamentary commission”, Rama underlined.

Dnevnik, Croatia: Is Bulgaria Russia’s Trojan horse in the EU?

29 September 2014 | 11:54 | FOCUS News Agency
Dnevnik, Croatia: Is Bulgaria Russia’s Trojan horse in the EU?Picture: Focus Information Agency
Zagreb. Annual “Russophile festivities” held close to the Koprinka lake in Central Bulgaria attracted more than 7,000 people, including some MP runners, Croatian online news edition Dnevnik.hr writes.
The media comments that the European Union (EU) is the only guarantee for Bulgaria and that the country is also a member of NATO. However, the majority of the Bulgarians are attracted to the East.
According to a survey of the Mediana institute, 40% of the Bulgarians are against the sanctions on Russia.
At the Russophile fair Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria, Yuriy Isakov, expressed his satisfaction with the fact that this meeting was “so close and carved to the hearts of Bulgarians despite the political situation”.
Dnevnik comments further that the two countries shared common languages, the Cyrillic alphabet and the Orthodox Christianity, while during the communist era Bulgaria was considered Russia’s most loyal alley.
“The attempt of the West to cause a quarrel between our brotherly nations is doomed to failure,” commented historian Danail Danailov.
“The nostalgia for Russia is expressed in some Bulgarians since a quarter of a century after the democratic change the small country, inhabited by 7.4 million people, continues to be the poorest in the EU.
On the eve of early parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, the tension between the EU and Russia gives hopes to the ultranationalist party Ataka, which started losing voters’ support.
At the meeting close to Koprinka Ataka leader Volen Siderov said that he would do his best for Bulgaria not to be turned into a firing ground against Russia,” Dnevnik.hr writes further.
The news edition adds that speaking of the big political parties in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was represented at the event, too.
“The socialists were more moderate compared with Ataka and asked for balanced policy in the name of the national interests,” the article reads further.
“The right wing in Bulgaria, headed by former prime minister Boyko Borisov, focuses on Bulgaria, while the Reformist Bloc – Borisov’s possible future coalitional partner, wants removal of the Russian monuments in the Bulgarian capital city Sofia,” Dnevnik comments.
“According to analysts, the new Bulgarian government will have to find a balance between Russia and the EU.
Ognyan Minchev with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, thinks that Bulgaria has a paradoxical position.
“The country is member of the EU and NATO but Moscow is controlling its energy sources, while the Bulgarian oligarchy protects the Russian economic and strategic interests,” Minchev comments,” Dnevnik writes further.
The Croatian news edition also stresses on the fact that both the leftist and the rightist in Bulgaria were unanimous over the need to build the South Stream gas pipeline project.
“In the meantime, Bulgaria’s balancing meets with suspicion in Europe. The European media comment that Germany and the rest of the EU member states were afraid that Moscow may use its influence in Bulgaria to split the Union.
“Bulgaria is the Russian Trojan horse in the EU,” political scientist Daniel Smilov says,” the article reads further.

Dnevnik, Macedonia: Strasbourg calls for recognition of the Macedonians in Bulgaria

29 September 2014 | 11:27 | FOCUS News Agency
Dnevnik, Macedonia: Strasbourg calls for recognition of the Macedonians in Bulgaria
Skopje. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) within the Council of Europe published its fifth report on Bulgaria last week and called Sofia to recognise the Macedonian minority and guarantee its rights, Macedonian Dnevnik daily reads.
The report also says that Bulgaria shows certain progress but problems connected with intolerance and xenophobia remained.
The document says that the approach towards the Roma people and the big number of Roma kids dropping out of school were serious problems.
Leader of the OMO Ilinden-PIRIN party, which is not registered in Bulgaria, said that it was good that the report outlined the problems faced by the Macedonians in Bulgaria. According to Stoyko Stoykov, they have won another moral battle but there is no instrument to make Bulgaria implement these recommendations.

Utrinski vesnik, Macedonia: No positive outlook for name dispute solution

29 September 2014 | 11:21 | FOCUS News Agency
Utrinski vesnik, Macedonia: No positive outlook for name dispute solutionPicture: AFP
Skopje. After two meetings over the Macedonia-Greece name dispute held in New York, there is no positive outlook for finding a solution soon, writes Macedonian Utrinski vesnik daily.
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov met with UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon and said that the illegal blockade of Macedonia’s deserved NATO membership did not set conditions for security and stability in the Balkans.
He also called for observation of the UN resolutions and the ruling of the International Court in The Hague.
Meanwhile, there was a meeting of the Macedonian and Greek Foreign Ministers in New York. After the meeting Macedonian minister Nikola Poposki said that the two countries had opposite positions.

NATO's planned Balkan expansion a 'provocation' - Russia's Lavrov

Mon Sep 29, 2014 














SARAJEVO (Reuters) - NATO's potential expansion to the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro could be seen as a "provocation", Russia's foreign minister was quoted as saying in a newspaper interview published on Monday.
Moscow has opposed any NATO extension to former communist areas of eastern and southeastern Europe, part of a competition for geo-strategic influence since the end of the Cold War that sits at the heart of the current conflict in ex-Soviet Ukraine.
Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia share an ambition to join the Western military alliance, following in the footsteps of Albania and ex-Yugoslav Croatia, which became members in 2009.
Asked about the integration of the three into NATO, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Bosnian daily Dnevni Avaz: "With regards to the expansion of NATO, I see it as a mistake, even a provocation in a way.
"This is, in a way, an irresponsible policy that undermines the determination to build a system of equal and shared security in Europe, equal for everyone regardless of whether a country is a member of this or that bloc."
Russia has energy interests in the Balkans and historical ties with the Slavs of the region, many of them Orthodox Christian like the Russians. But Moscow's influence has waned as the countries of the former Yugoslavia seek to join the European mainstream with membership of the EU and NATO.
The tiny Adriatic republic of Montenegro appears closest to NATO accession. Bosnia's bid is hostage to ethnic bickering that has slowed reforms, while Macedonia remains blocked by a long-running dispute with neighbouring Greece over the name of the landlocked country.
Only Serbia, perhaps Russia's closest ally in the region, is not actively pursuing membership of NATO given political sensitivities lingering since the alliance's 1999 air war against then-strongman Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to halt a wave of atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Lavrov confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would visit Serbia in mid-October to mark the 70th anniversary of Belgrade's liberation from Nazi occupation by Yugoslav Partisan fighters and the Soviet army.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Matt Robinson/Mark Heinrich

Why Albania Was The First Stop On The Pope's European Tour

Guest post written by Edi Rama
Mr. Rama is the Albanian Prime Minister

The visit of Pope Francis to Albania last week was a highlight in my country’s history. But more than that, it was a powerful message for the world. First, because he chose one of Europe’s poorest countries to begin his European tour. Second, and more importantly, he chose a country where the Muslim majority co-exist peacefully with Christians. He came, a universal spiritual leader and the flag-bearer of the human endeavor against prejudice and divisions among people on grounds of faith, ethnic background or social provenance; and he was received by both Christians and Muslims with no distinction. That is a rare miracle in the increasingly turbulent and fearful world in which we are living. I was proud of the face Albania presented to him, and to the world, a remarkable example of inter-religious coexistence.
It was hugely significant to us that he began this series of events in Europe not in the heart of Europe, not in the EU, but in the Western Balkans. A region famed through history for conflict, not least the one which erupted from Sarajevo 100 years ago; a region which has endured a century of ideological wars, ethnic conflicts, religious divergences, bloody unrest border to border. But which today is a region of peace and cooperation. To think for a moment of that history is to understand why we felt so moved by his visit, and the sight of hundreds and thousands of Christians and Muslims swarming the martyrs’ boulevard from the early hours. In Communist Albania, clergy were killed, Churches burned to ashes. Today the leaders of our various faiths are a vital part of our civic society, working together for the good of the people.
The message that sends to the world is vital at this time. Because, as Pope Francis told the crowds, World War III has already begun.
Some might disagree. But as he spoke, the barbarous advance of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant continued, bringing with it mayhem, murder, instability that crosses borders and, if unchecked, will leave no country on earth untouched: all in the name of religion, a perverted view of a faith, Islam, which we know to be peaceful in its thinking and intent.
That it is war is clear from the way they are pursuing it. Our response must be just as clear. Because it affects us all. When the severed heads of murdered innocent men, there to help the vulnerable or tell the world what is happening, are used as message carriers to the US and its allies, we must surely see this is a war akin to a fight against a deadly pandemic that spreads with no distinction of borders, conventions or rules set by previous experience.
The fight against this abhorrent plague that is threatening our world, our liberty, our rights as human beings and our aspirations as societies of democratic countries can only be fought together. Part of that fight is military. But part of it is to show the power and the benefit of harmonious coexistence among religions, communities, ethnicities and countries.
We should not shy from the military part of this. Sometimes it is war that will deliver peace. Pope Francis landed in Albania in the very year where Albanians, both Muslims and Christians, joined with other neighbours in the region to seal an historic process started in 1999 with the bombing of Belgrade, and the courageous fight led by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to halt the ethnic cleansing of Albanians by Slobodan Milosevic. Their acts of war ended the ethnic cleansing, brought about the fall of an evil dictator, which in turn led to the peace agreement sealed last year between Kosovo and Serbia, in the name of a common future in the European Union.
From that crossroads, the Holy Father came here to speak not only to Albanians or to the peoples of this region, but to all of Europe about the need to have faith and unity, and to overcome boundaries and limitations of the present in order to protect our common future. We look at the way the conflict now impacts on Turkey, and we see common cause. We hear of the plans of terror groups to launch attacks on Western targets, and we see common cause. We witness the spread of this evil message of hatred in the name of religious belief, and we must see common cause on halting that spread, large and small country alike, together. Western Europe and Western Balkans, together. Christian and true Muslim, together.
The Balkans needs Europe. But Europe needs the Balkans. That too, I believe, is a reason why The Pope came here, by his presence to deliver that message. At a time so many affluent European countries are turning in on themselves, they should be looking outwards, in the name of building a common shield that will defend us from an epidemics that kill the strong as well as the weak, the rich as well as the poor, unless we stand and fight together.
These murderers have shown there is no depth to their barbarism, which means there is no limit to the terror they would wreak upon our world. Democratic Europe, as their war comes ever closer, must fight back not only with weapons, but with the strength of unity against a fantasy gone rampant, against people who would return our to the dark abyss of past millennia. We are a poor country, but one that is willing to play our part in that; a part we can only play in co-operation with others in Europe and the wider world.
History has not been kind to Albania. But we have learned from it. That much was clear from the way our people came out to see, hear and celebrate with Pope Francis. He, a Catholic leader, understood that Albania deserves respect for our unanimously voiced affiliation to the democratic world as Europeans; we do not deserve the prejudice that sometimes goes the way of Muslim countries. Albanians should be respected for all the blood and suffering they consecrated to Christianity, giving forty martyrs to the Catholic Church only a few decades ago, and not be subjected to frivolous or unfair judgement because they pray to Allah in a country where Christmas and Bajram are also celebrated without boundary of fear.
The Pope is not alone in understanding the role the Balkans has to play in ensuring peace and prosperity for our times. His visit follows historic steps taken by Chancellor Merkel. She fought hard for Albania to secure EU candidate status. She also brought together, for the first time early in September, all the region’s leaders for a meeting in Berlin, to convey her insight that, beyond the impasse of the enlargement policy, the EU intends to bring the Balkans closer by building new bridges of support and cooperation.
Our world needs leadership in the face of so many current global challenges. Chancellor Merkel has shown it. So has the Pope. A Prime Minister of Albania will never have the power of a German Chancellor or the reach of a Pope. But we have a part to play. The Balkans has a big part to play. Our major challenge today to steer clear from this deadly epidemic of religious conflict which, in this region, would automatically spill over into an ethnic conflict and lead to renewed disputes about the current borders of peace. That is our challenge. But it is a challenge for the whole of Europe, and one we must face together, with courage. Angela Merkel and the Pope have led the way. Others now need to follow. This is a war that Europe must fight together.

Golden Dawn: Australian branch of far-right Greek party raises cash

Ultra-nationalist party raises funds and clothing in Australia using an unregistered charity and sends donations to Greece

theguardian.com,
golden dawn
A concert was held on September 19 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of musician Pavlos Fyssas, allegedly by Golden Dawn members. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images
The Australian branch of Greece’s ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party is raising funds locally using an unregistered charity.
A Melbourne-based charity named Voithame Tin Ellada (VTE) – which translates to “We are helping Greece” – has been raising cash and clothing from Australia’s Greek community since late last year.
The donations are ostensibly sent to Greece to help citizens afflicted by the country’s financial downturn. A shipping container of clothing collected from Australians was sent to Greece in March.
Photographs on the charity’s Facebook page show its members clad in matching T-shirts bearing the far-right party’s name and swastika-like logo.
A Christmas fundraising drive – asking donors to deposit their money into a Greek bank account – was announced on the page last week by Golden Dawn’s Australian representative, Ignatius Gavrilidis.
Gavrilidis confirmed to Guardian Australia that VTE was affiliated with the controversial Greek political party, whose leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, is in detention awaiting trial on charges of running a criminal organisation.
But Gavrilidis said the money raised by VTE’s fundraising efforts only went towards buying food for the needy. “We buy the food direct from the producers and Golden Dawn takes delivery of the goods … We use their labour, they hand out the food where it’s appropriate,” he said.
“They [the recipients] need to hold citizenship. As long as they hold citizenship, it gets distributed to them.”
The organisation is not registered with either federal or state charity regulators.
Golden Dawn’s anti-immigrant, antisemitic and homophobic rhetoric has found favour with some in a Greek population reeling from the country’s financial crisis, and the party has become the third-largest political force in Athens.
Its members have been accused by human rights groups of leading street attacks on dark-skinned immigrants, gays and Muslims. All 18 Golden Dawn members of the Greek parliament were arrested in police raids last year after an anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, was murdered, allegedly by thugs affiliated with the party.
Since the crackdown, the party has increasingly turned to its overseas branches to help deliver aid and build support among the Greek population, Gavrilidis said.
“The [Greek] government has virtually financially dried the party; they’ve stopped any funding, any entitlements they get as a party,” he said. “So to continue to help those in need they are reaching out to those beyond their borders.”
Gavrilidis said VTE was set up in November 2013 by members of the Greek community not associated with Golden Dawn. “But these individuals failed to attract support, and I offered my assistance, and they were more than happy to get it off the ground,” he said.
Within two months the organisation had been absorbed into Golden Dawn’s Australian branch, he said. “We decided to aid VTE and back them up, and we became VTE ourselves.”
Sotiris Hatzimanolis, the editor of the Greek community newspaper Neos Kosmos, said it was “not really common knowledge” within Australia’s Greek diaspora that VTE was a front for Golden Dawn.
Victorian Liberal MP Nicholas Kotsiras, who is of Greek heritage, said he was “disappointed” that Golden Dawn was fundraising in Australia.
“Our aim should be to take away the oxygen of the group so they disappear as quickly as they appeared,” he said.
Kotsiras said he would raise VTE with the Consumer Affairs Department: “I’d like the authorities to take a good look at it.”
Golden Dawn announced last month that two of its European MPs, the former army generals Eleftherios Synadinos and Georgios Epitideios, would visit Australia later this year to raise funds and awareness of the group.
The proposed visit, scheduled for November, has been condemned by ethnic community leaders, trade unions and senior members of the Greek community.

Putin intends to visit Serbia

NEW YORK -- Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to visit Serbia for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Belgrade's liberation from German occupation.
Tanjug
Tanjug
Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to visit Serbia for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Belgrade's liberation from German occupation, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday.
Putin will attend the ceremony marking the anniversary, Russia Today has reported.

Moscow hopes the agreements Belgrade is going to make with the EU will not harm the relations between Serbia and Russia, the Russian TV station said on its website.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Germany unable to fulfill 'some' NATO obligations – MoD

Published time: September 28, 2014 18:19
Eurofighter Typhoon.(Reuters / Michaela Rehle)
Eurofighter Typhoon.(Reuters / Michaela Rehle)

Berlin would not currently be able to keep its defense promises to its NATO allies, Germany’s defense minister Ursula von der Leyen told Bild am Sonntag.
“With our airborne systems we are currently below the target figures announced one year ago, defining what we would want to make available to NATO within 180 days in the case of an emergency,” von der Leyen stated.

On Saturday, German magazine “Der Spiegel” also reported that the fleet of 60 Eurofighters previously pledged could not currently be provided. On Friday, there had been an emergency meeting over the matter, reported Süddeutsche Zeitung.

At the moment, only 24 out of a total of 109 Eurofighters are ready for service, and 38 of 89 – less than half - of Tornado fighters could be utilized properly. In a war in the Baltic, the army would be overwhelmed.

Last Monday it also became known that the German navy only has three operational helicopters and on Saturday it emerged that a Tiger gunship helicopter had lost a weapons carrier during an exercise.

“From 2016 it will be necessary to increase the budget - by whatever amount of money is necessary to fulfill all our commitments,” Christian Democrat defense expert Henning Otte told the “Welt am Sonntag.”

The recent report prompted a heated debate in the Defense Committee as to the readiness of the German armed forces and its ability to provide international aid and respond to a crisis call.

On Friday the Defense Minister summoned all chiefs of forces.

After a discussion, they concluded that meetings were imperative and should take place more regularly in the future, with the next to be scheduled for 14 days’ time.

It comes as Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the UN General Assembly on Saturday that Berlin was ready to take on a greater international role.

Fearing political crisis, Greece plots escape from bailout

Fearing political crisis, Greece plots escape from bailout
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address a joint news conference in Berlin on Sept. 23, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)
September 28, 2014, Sunday/ 03:05:58/ REUTERS / ATHENS

Four years after a messy descent into emergency funding to stave off bankruptcy, Greece's government is trying to pull the plug on a deeply unpopular bailout program to secure its own survival.
Under growing pressure from anti-bailout leftists, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras desperately needs a new narrative to get the backing of lawmakers in a crucial presidential vote next year and rally Greeks fed up with four years of austerity.
It is a gamble with high stakes for the Greek economy and Athens' relations with its eurozone peers. Failure by Samaras to get his presidential nominee elected would trigger new polls that his anti-austerity rivals would almost certainly win.

In Berlin earlier this week, Samaras for the first time publicly acknowledged that Athens hoped to wean itself off a 240-billion-euro ($305-billion) EU/IMF aid package a year before its scheduled end in early 2016.

He offered no details, but Athens is calculating that declaring an end to the reviled bailout could be just the political game-changer it needs, with the end of bailout funding from the European Union in December offering a logical moment to seal the exit of the International Monetary Fund as well. "It makes political sense, completely 100 percent," a source familiar with the discussions said. "The IMF is not pushing to leave, the government is pushing for it."

Pulling this off, however, will almost certainly require Athens to notch up rapid-fire successes on several fronts -- a swift end to its current bailout review, securing debt relief and the backing of European partners for going it alone.

In addition, forgoing over 12 billion euros in IMF loans and finding its own financing, just two years after a sovereign debt restructuring, remains a risky bet. "If Greece completes this review with the blessing of the troika, who say 'Great, you've done a lot', maybe gets debt relief and a monetary agreement with the EU, then the markets may say 'That's good' and it can raise 10 billion over the next year," the source said. "It's a plausible financing scenario but there are risks for a country with emerging market access," the source added, referring to Greece's still low credit ratings.

Juggling risks

Athens is largely gambling that the political risk of not attempting an exit outweighs the financial risk of failing. Sentiment is finally turning in its favor: four years of austerity have produced a primary budget surplus, it has successfully tapped debt markets twice this year and its economy is set to grow in 2014 after a six-year recession.

European partners -- busy with a crisis in Ukraine, a widening Middle East conflict and a stagnant eurozone economy -- may well be willing to help Athens along to avoid upsetting the fragile pro-bailout political order in Greece.

In a sign of the change in mood, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday praised Greece's efforts and promised Berlin would "do everything it can" to support Athens. She did not comment on Samaras's plan for an early bailout exit, which Greek officials say would avoid the anomaly of the IMF supervising a European nation alone.
Europe wants to ensure Athens does not slide back into the fiscal evasions that brought it to the brink of bankruptcy -- a risk Athens plans to address by presenting a plan for further reforms to strengthen the economy and government finances.

But if the IMF were to leave at the end of the year after disbursing 3.5 billion euros due at the end of the current review, Athens would forego over 12 billion euros. The IMF has also estimated an additional funding shortfall of 12.6 billion euros starting in mid-2015, though Athens disputes that, saying it does not need additional money beyond the current bailout.

Part of the shortfall could be met from leftover funds worth over 11 billion euros held by Greece's bank bailout fund -- assuming European bank stress tests do not reveal major capital needs for Greek banks and EU authorities approved such a move.

After ending a four-year exile from debt markets this year with two bond issues that showed keen appetite for its higher-yield bonds, Athens is increasingly confident.

Debt relief talks due to start later this year on a package of lower interest rates and longer maturities may also help the IMF to declare that Greece's debt -- set to peak at 177 percent of GDP this year -- is now sustainable. Indeed in Berlin this week Samaras took pains to say an exit by the IMF would not be a "divorce" but rather, "a success.”

Radical left ahead

For Samaras, all this will have to happen before February or March next year when he needs the support of 180 deputies in the 300-seat parliament to push through his nominee for president.

He has only the support of 154 deputies from his New Democracy party and Socialist PASOK coalition partner, but a bailout exit could help lure some of the 24 independent lawmakers and perhaps even a small anti-bailout party.

The radical leftist Syriza party, which has 71 seats in parliament and won the EU elections in May on an anti-austerity platform, has pledged to block the government's candidate.

Failure to elect a new president would require a general election, which Syriza would almost certainly win according to opinion polls that give it a 2 to 6 percentage point lead. "The government is now playing all its cards in an effort to get the 180 deputies it needs ... to stay in power," said political analyst John Loulis. "But there is a sense of political instability and a government that is wearing out."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Italy plan Albania or Colombia game
Italy are reportedly planning a friendly on November 18 against either Albania or Colombia.
The Azzurri will be together for the Euro 2016 qualifier with Croatia on November 16, so this test would be a chance for Antonio Conte to see less-used players in action.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, negotiations are at an advanced stage to play against Albania on November 18.
They are fresh from a shock 1-0 victory away to Portugal and have an Italian Coach, Gianni De Biasi.
However, the Federation is also trying to organise an encounter with Colombia, which would bring more prestige and more fans to the stadium.
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!

British jets deployed on 1st Iraq anti-ISIS mission

Published time: September 27, 2014 
A British Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon. (Reuters/Giampiero Sposito)
A British Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon. (Reuters/Giampiero Sposito)
Armed British RAF jets have been deployed on their first mission in Iraq since UK lawmakers voted to authorize military strikes against so-called Islamic State (IS) targets in the country.
A Ministry of Defense Spokesman (MOD) confirmed on Saturday that "Royal Air Force Tornados continue to fly over Iraq and are now ready to be used in an attack role as and when appropriate targets are identified."
UK MPs vote overwhelmingly for ISIS airstrikes in Iraq
The spokesman added that no running commentary on the jets' movements would be forthcoming, but they "are pleased with the response time achieved."
On Friday, MPs in Britain's House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to take part in military action against Islamic State (also known ISIS, or ISIL).
The motion proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron's government was passed overwhelmingly by 524 votes to 43 – a majority of 481.
Britain’s three biggest parties, coalition government partners the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, plus the opposition Labour party, all officially backed the bombing campaign. The government insisted the intervention was legal under international law because it was requested by the Iraqi prime minister.
The measure did not propose any UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria, where a US-Arab coalition began bombing IS militants on Tuesday. A year ago, British MPs rejected airstrikes on Syria to oppose the government of President Bashar Assad.
Cameron told MPs early in Friday's debate the situation in Syria is “more complicated” than Iraq because of its "brutal dictator" President Assad, and the civil war that has been ongoing there for the past three years.
He noted, however, that there was a strong case for attacking IS in Syria, a proposition which both Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon have cited as a distinct possibility.
Cameron added that there was no “legal barrier” to expanding operations into Syria, though MPs were far from united on such a move.

Catalonia president orders independence referendum on Nov. 9

Published time: September 27, 2014 08:58
Edited time: September 27, 2014 12:22
Catalonian separatist supporters wave estelada flags in front of Catalonia's Parliament before the approval of a regional consultation law in Barcelona September 19, 2014. (Reuters/Albert Gea)
Catalonian separatist supporters wave estelada flags in front of Catalonia's Parliament before the approval of a regional consultation law in Barcelona September 19, 2014. (Reuters/Albert Gea)

The president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, has signed a decree calling an independence referendum for Nov. 9. The secessionist drive of the Spanish region has been rebuked by Madrid, which vowed to block the vote.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called a government meeting Monday that is expected to provide a legal response to Barcelona’s announcement. Madrid plans to challenge the vote in the constitutional court.

READ: Catalan parliament approves November independence vote
 
Last week the Catalan parliament voted to hold an independence referendum in November, with 106 MPs in favour and 28 against.

Support in Catalonia for seceding from Spain grew in the relatively prosperous northeast province over years of economic hardships and austerity measures. A recent opinion poll by the Omnibus Opinion Studies Center showed that almost 60 percent of Catalans would vote for independence.
Madrid insists that holding a referendum would be illegal and unconstitutional.
Following Mas’s statement, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the Madrid government will hold an emergency cabinet meeting within days and that the referendum will be challenged in the Constitutional Court.

"This referendum will not be held because it is unconstitutional,'' she said during a press conference on Saturday.

 

The West Gives Putin Too Much Credit

Barely a year has passed since Russia threw down the gauntlet to the West over Ukraine, when Moscow made plain its objections to the European integration sought by Kiev. With breakneck speed, the dispute turned into a full-out war imposed (though never declared) by the Kremlin against its smaller neighbor. Relations with the West, meanwhile, have returned to a confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War.
In this conflict, President Vladimir Putin has shown cunning, boldness and determination, while Western leaders have appeared disoriented, indecisive and ultimately weak. This, and Moscow's seemingly unstoppable march from one victory to the next, has fueled despair among those suffering from Russian aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere, while drawing admiration among Kremlin supporters in Russia and beyond. However, and admittedly against all appearances at this stage of the conflict, Putin has clearly overplayed his cards.
When Putin retook office in 2012, the new-old president vowed to restore Russia's standing in the world. In his view, a new multipolar world order was emerging, one that was no longer led by the West and in which Russia could play a key role.
To do so, Russia was to re-integrate the post-Soviet space and lead its own regional bloc, to limit Euro-Atlantic integration on its Western borders and to build new alliances in the East and elsewhere in the world. Two years into his presidency, and accelerated by the Ukraine crisis, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Putin is failing on all of these accounts.
First, the Russian president has proven unable to stem the centrifugal forces that are driving the former Soviet Union ever further apart. His grand design for a Eurasian Union isn't attractive to Russia's former satellites, whose populations have grown fond of independence and whose local rulers defend their mostly autocratic rule.
Coercion in turn, as applied to Ukraine, has irrevocably alienated Russia's most important neighbor. Those still willing to risk doing business with Russia, meanwhile, can ask for highly favorable terms. In doggedly pursuing this integrationist agenda, Moscow will see the Eurasian Union becoming an expensive drain on its resources, rather than a way to increase its regional and global sway.
Second, Putin has dramatically underestimated the unity and strength of the West. His plans to drive political, ideological and economic wedges between Europe and the U.S. have largely been frustrated. Instead, after long months of hesitation and faced with ever-greater tragedy in Ukraine, the European Union and NATO have regained their sense of purpose.
In lockstep, the U.S. and the EU have rolled out wave after wave of political and economic sanctions. The EU sped up the association process with Ukraine, as well as with Georgia and Moldova, and it is pressed ever harder to provide these neighbors with a clear European perspective. NATO has effectively returned to its original mission and has started to reinforce the defense of its Eastern-most members. In short, rather than preventing Western influence, Putin's approach has brought Euro-Atlantic structures closer to Russian borders than ever.
Third, Putin has grossly overestimated the global support that he might elicit with his challenge to the West over Ukraine. None of the emerging powers in the BRICS group has openly sided with the Kremlin. If anything, China took advantage of Russia's international isolation to wrestle Moscow into a bargain on long-term gas supplies.
Nor have Putin's closest partners — Presidents Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan — expressly backed his actions in Ukraine, preferring instead to stick to cautious and pragmatic neutrality. Meanwhile, public opinion across Europe, which has traditionally viewed Russia favorably, has swung in the other direction, with majorities now opposed to Kremlin policies. In attempting to put Russia into the driver's seat against Western dominance, Putin has succeeded only in becoming an international pariah.
Fourth, Putin has misjudged the dynamics of nationalist sentiment inside Russia. After his contested re-election in 2012, it seemed that tapping into Russian patriotism would be an effective way to boost his legitimacy. With the annexation of Crimea, the Russian president rode these feelings to record heights.
But Putin will soon realize that nationalism is insatiable, and that his authority will be dangerously eroded if he sidesteps the nationalists' demands for "Novorossia." In short, Putin has made himself hostage to a sentiment that will push him from conflict to conflict with Russia's neighbors.
Finally, Putin demonstrates little grasp of his country's economy, its global exposure and vulnerability, and the heavy price it is now paying for his geo-political adventures. Already slowed by a falling oil price, the Ukraine crisis and Western sanctions have brought Russia's economy to the brink of recession.
Foreign direct investment has effectively stopped. Capital flight, already massive before the Ukraine crisis, has nearly doubled. Key companies and banks are cut off from global financial markets, and their refinancing needs are rapidly draining Moscow government coffers. Scores of companies have gone bust. The energy sector, Russia's life line, is forfeiting its future profits because it no longer has access to Western technologies.
Faced with this economic nightmare in the making, it is nothing short of delusional if Putin sees this situation as an opportunity for Russia to become self-sufficient.
These multiple failures expose Putin's fatal weakness, and his increasingly shrill threats against critics at home and abroad only testify to his growing anxiety. Indeed, his war against Ukraine may well be the first step toward his demise. Like many of his fellow autocrats the world over, he will cling to power at the expense of his own people and of others. The international community and Russians themselves must respond resolutely, and calling his bluff will go a long way in the right direction.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Omonoia: Disappointment for violation of human rights in Albania

The Greek Minority organization in Albania, declared that Tirana continues the violation of the human rights


Greek media wrote that the National Council of Omonia gathered a few days ago has handled very carefully the current political situation in Albania.

 
Greek minority organization has expressed its dissatisfaction to the Left Alliance which is in power.

Violation of minority rights related to administrative reform, ownership, unequal education and participation in public administration.  


Also, the General Council of Omonia said that the Party of Human Rights as soon undertake initiatives to remedy these issues open

Omar the Chechen heads jihadist most wanted list

US reveals jihadist most wanted list
Islamic State terrorist Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, known as Omar the Chechen.
INTRICATE details of the Islamic State’s sophisticated network have been revealed by the US, along with a wanted list of 14 key terrorist fighters and facilitators.
The dossier, compiled by the US Treasury and state departments, names people with crucial roles in moving foreign fighters into Syria, and training them, as well as financiers, arms brokers and the man in charge of hostage-taking operations.
It lays bare a network which is raising funds in Qatar, sourcing weapons in Libya and luring new recruits from Britain, Denmark and Albania.
By naming individuals as facilitators of terrorism, the US hopes to attack the efforts of IS, Nusra Front and al-Qa’ida “to raise, transport and access funds that facilitate foreign fighters”. The move to designate the individuals as foreign terrorist fighters means that they are now subject to sanctions, and Americans are legally barred from assisting them.
The dossier was published after President Obama led the Security Council in passing a resolution, co-sponsored by 104 nations, to take legal action against foreign fighters trying to join the extremists.
It identified Tarkhan Batirashvili, a Georgian national known as Omar the Chechen, as overseer of an Islamic State prison near Raqqa where foreign hostages were held. He is said to have led a force of 1,000 Islamic State fighters against the Assad regime forces.
Another of those named was Tariq al-Harzi, a Tunisian in his 30s who was one of the first terrorists to join the terror group. Now a leading fundraiser, he was in charge of receiving foreign fighters at the Turkish border and providing them with weapons training. He organised $2 million in donations from Qatar, and ordered an attack on UN staff in Lebanon.
Others included: Amru al-Absi, an IS leader in Aleppo “in charge of kidnappings”; Salim Benghalem, a Frenchman convicted of murder in 2007 who carried out “executions” in Syria; Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a Kosovan Albanian who posted online images of himself beheading a man; and Murad Margoshvili, a Chechen leader in Syria who built a terrorist training base near the Turkish border.

Fearing political crisis, Greece plots escape from bailout

ATHENS Fri Sep 26, 2014
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addresses a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin September 23, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addresses a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin September 23, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Related Topics

(Reuters) - Four years after a messy descent into emergency funding to stave off bankruptcy, Greece's government is trying to pull the plug on a deeply unpopular bailout program to secure its own survival.
Under growing pressure from anti-bailout leftists, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras desperately needs a new narrative to get the backing of lawmakers in a crucial presidential vote next year and rally Greeks fed up with four years of austerity.
It is a gamble with high stakes for the Greek economy and Athens' relations with its euro zone peers. Failure by Samaras to get his presidential nominee elected would trigger new polls that his anti-austerity rivals would almost certainly win.
In Berlin earlier this week, Samaras for the first time publicly acknowledged that Athens hoped to wean itself off a 240-billion-euro ($305-billion) EU/IMF aid package a year before its scheduled end in early 2016.
He offered no details, but Athens is calculating that declaring an end to the reviled bailout could be just the political game-changer it needs, with the end of bailout funding from the European Union in December offering a logical moment to seal the exit of the International Monetary Fund as well.
"It makes political sense, completely 100 percent," a source familiar with the discussions said. "The IMF is not pushing to leave, the government is pushing for it."
Pulling this off, however, will almost certainly require Athens to notch up rapid-fire successes on several fronts - a swift end to its current bailout review, securing debt relief and the backing of European partners for going it alone.
In addition, forgoing over 12 billion euros in IMF loans and finding its own financing, just two years after a sovereign debt restructuring, remains a risky bet.
"If Greece completes this review with the blessing of the troika, who say 'Great, you've done a lot', maybe gets debt relief and a monetary agreement with the EU, then the markets may say 'That's good' and it can raise 10 billion over the next year," the source said.
"It's a plausible financing scenario but there are risks for a country with emerging market access," the source added, referring to Greece's still low credit ratings.
JUGGLING RISKS
Athens is largely gambling that the political risk of not attempting an exit outweighs the financial risk of failing.
Sentiment is finally turning in its favor: four years of austerity have produced a primary budget surplus, it has successfully tapped debt markets twice this year and its economy is set to grow in 2014 after a six-year recession.
European partners -- busy with a crisis in Ukraine, a widening Middle East conflict and a stagnant euro zone economy -- may well be willing to help Athens along to avoid upsetting the fragile pro-bailout political order in Greece.
In a sign of the change in mood, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday praised Greece's efforts and promised Berlin would "do everything it can" to support Athens.
She did not comment on Samaras's plan for an early bailout exit, which Greek officials say would avoid the anomaly of the IMF supervising a European nation alone.
Europe wants to ensure Athens does not slide back into the fiscal evasions that brought it to the brink of bankruptcy - a risk Athens plans to address by presenting a plan for further reforms to strengthen the economy and government finances.
But if the IMF were to leave at the end of the year after disbursing 3.5 billion euros due at the end of the current review, Athens would forego over 12 billion euros. The IMF has also estimated an additional funding shortfall of 12.6 billion euros starting in mid-2015, though Athens disputes that, saying it does not need additional money beyond the current bailout.
Part of the shortfall could be met from leftover funds worth over 11 billion euros held by Greece's bank bailout fund - assuming European bank stress tests do not reveal major capital needs for Greek banks and EU authorities approved such a move.
After ending a four-year exile from debt markets this year with two bond issues that showed keen appetite for its higher-yield bonds, Athens is increasingly confident.
Debt relief talks due to start later this year on a package of lower interest rates and longer maturities may also help the IMF to declare that Greece's debt - set to peak at 177 percent of GDP this year - is now sustainable.
Indeed in Berlin this week Samaras took pains to say an exit by the IMF would not be a "divorce" but rather, "a success".
RADICAL LEFT AHEAD
For Samaras, all this will have to happen before February or March next year when he needs the support of 180 deputies in the 300-seat parliament to push through his nominee for president.
He has only the support of 154 deputies from his New Democracy party and Socialist PASOK coalition partner, but a bailout exit could help lure some of the 24 independent lawmakers and perhaps even a small anti-bailout party.
The radical leftist Syriza party, which has 71 seats in parliament and won the EU elections in May on an anti-austerity platform, has pledged to block the government's candidate.
Failure to elect a new president would require a general election, which Syriza would almost certainly win according to opinion polls that give it a 2 to 6 percentage point lead.
"The government is now playing all its cards in an effort to get the 180 deputies it needs ... to stay in power," said political analyst John Loulis. "But there is a sense of political instability and a government that is wearing out."
(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou and Deepa Babington, writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)