Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FP morning post 3/16

Mitchell cancels visit as U.S.-Israel tension deepens

U.S. envoy George Mitchell has indefinitely postponed a planned trip to the Middle East in the midst of what Israel's ambassador to the United States has called "most severe crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations" in decades. Mitchell had planned to travel to Israel to wrap up preparation for a new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but after Israel's announcement last week of the construction of 1,600 new housing units, it's unclear when, or if, those talks will begin.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the controversial Ramat Shlomo building project on Monday and vowed to press on with the project. "Construction will continue in Jerusalem as this has been the case over the past 42 years," he said.

Hundreds of Palestinians rioted in East Jerusalem today, hurling rocks at security forces who countered with stun grenades and rubber bullets. Tensions were fuelled by the reopening of landmarked synagogue in Jerusalem's old city and construction projects near the al Aqsa mosque compound. The Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip declared Tuesday a "day of rage and alarm" over the Israeli projects.

Netanyahu is under strong pressure to continue the Ramat Shlomo project from his conservative governing coalition. Obama administration's strongly condemned the decision over the weekend, as well as the timing of it during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the country.

Bombshell: The AP reports that Taliban No. 2 Mullah Abuld Ghani Baradar was in negotiations with the Afghan government at the time of his arrest in Pakistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was reportedly furious over the arrest and the role of U.S. intelligence in facilitating it.

Middle East
  • Dozens of agents from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration joined the investigation into last weekend's killing of U.S. embassy employees in Mexico.
  • A magnitude 6.7 aftershock hit the coast of Chile but no casualties or heavy damage was reported.
  • President Hugo Chavez defended a group of Basque separatists living in Venezuela who are wanted by Spain.
  • European finance ministers say they have agreed on a plan to help Greece get its finances under control
  • The head of the Irish Catholic church says he won't resign despite admitting that he helped cover up child molestation by a priest.
  • Opposition parties made slight gains but Vladimir Putin's United Russia party remained dominant in Russian local elections.
  • South African President Jacob Zuma is due to arrive in Zimbabwe where he will try to ease tensions in the countries ruling coalition.
  • Somalia's government reached a deal with a powerful Islamist militia group.
  • Somali pirates have freed a chemical tanker and its North Korea crew after four months.
-By Joshua Keating


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