weekend wrap 88.
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Polish rabbi's attacker gets probation
A court gave a two-year suspended sentence on Friday to a man who admitted attacking and insulting Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich on a Warsaw street earlier this year. The man was convicted of using violence and racially motivated hate speech, but was spared the maximum possible punishment of five years in prison. The accused admitted that he provoked the incident by shouting "Poland for the Poles," but denied punching Shudrich.
German submarine delivery postponed
A deal under which Germany will sell Israel two Dolphin-class submarines foresees the vessels being delivered starting in 2010, and they are not being equipped to fire nuclear weapons, an official said Friday. Some members of the German opposition have criticized the deal, citing the risk that the submarines might be used to carry nuclear weapons. "This red line should not be crossed," Nachtwei was quoted as saying by the newspaper Taz, "Otherwise it is a complete renunciation of Germany's policy of non-proliferation."
Annan asks France to lead UN force
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked France on Friday to lead the peacekeeping force until February 2007, after which time Italy would take over. European nations agreed on Friday to provide nearly half of the 15,000-member peacekeeping force. "Europe is providing the backbone of the force," Annan said after meeting with EU foreign ministers. "We can now begin to put together a credible force."
Pro-Nasrallah song popular in the West Bank
A struggling Palestinian band wrote a song praising Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
The lyrics consist of constant repetition of a few simple rhymes: "Hey, you, hawk of Lebanon. Hey, you, Nasrallah. Your men are from Hizbullah and victory is yours with God's help." The song is being played on Arab TV networks, used as a ring tone for cell phones, passed around on e-mail and distributed on pirate CDs and tapes.
El Salvador to move embassy to Tel Aviv
El Salvador announced on Friday that it would relocate its embassy in Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. El Salvador's foreign ministry issued a statement saying that the decision was made in light of the present situation in the Middle East. The Central American country was the last state to hold its official embassy in Israel's capital after Costa Rica also relocated its representatives to Tel Aviv last week.
Fatah authorizes Abbas to form unity government
Top leaders of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party on Saturday gave Abbas the go-ahead to begin forming a unity government with Hamas. Abbas believes that forming a coalition will force Hamas to moderate its anti-Israel stance and help open the way for the renewal of broader peace talks. Palestinian parliament member, Muhammad Dahlan criticized PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh for conditioning the unity government on the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
US investigates IAF bombing in Lebanon
The US State Department is investigating whether Israel misused US-made cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon. A spokeswoman for the UN Mine Action Coordination Center said it is not illegal to use cluster bombs against soldiers or enemy fighters, but the Geneva Conventions bar their use in civilian areas. The investigation could lead to sanctions if Israel were found to have violated the agreements.
Lebanon rejects international force at border crossings
Lebanon rejected on Saturday the Israeli demand that the international force to be deployed in Lebanon monitor the Lebanese-Syrian border crossings in order to enforce the arms embargo against Hizbullah. The information minister said that the Lebanese army had the authority to man the crossings. Israel previously asserted that it would not lift the air and sea blockade over Lebanon until the crossings were monitored by foreign troops.
Iran enters production phase of heavy-water
In a speech inaugurating a heavy-water production plant, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that Iran would never abandon its nuclear program and repeated that nuclear weapons were not the goal. Still, he asserted that his nation's nuclear program posed no threat to any other country, not even to Israel "which is a definite enemy." The announcement comes days before Thursday's UN deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment or face economic and political sanctions.
Hizbullah surprised at extent of Israeli offensive
Deputy Hizbullah leader Naeem Kasam said on Saturday that his organization was surprised at the extent of the Israeli attack on Lebanon following the kidnapping of the two IDF soldiers. He said he expected that the IDF would bomb areas close to the border for several days and only cause minimal damage. Kasam noted that Hizbullah had information that the US and Israel were planning to launch an attack against the organization in September or October, but the attacks were carried out earlier because of the kidnapping, prior to Israel being fully prepared for a full-scale attack.
UK Labourites defect party because of Lebanon war
Thirty-seven Labour Party members defected to the Liberal Democrat Party on Friday in response to the way Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett handled the Middle East crisis, particularly the refusal to call for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon. "When Margaret Beckett refused to back a cease-fire and instead sided with George Bush it was the breaking point for us," he said. The Labour Party says Foreign Minister Beckett has been working tirelessly for a sustainable cease-fire.
Germany demands authority to board Lebanese ships
German sailors must be empowered to board ships, even against the will of their crew, in order to stop arms smuggling to Lebanon, a senior leader said in remarks released Saturday. "We cannot expect that arms suppliers will see it as a friendly act if German and other troops guard the coast and prevent their weapons deliveries," Vice-Chancellor Franz Muentefering said in an interview to the German Tagesspiegel newspaper.