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Assad: Syria Will Stand with Iran

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday that his country will stand with Iran "on all the major issues," and denied that Syria was negotiating with Israel. Syria's contacts with Israel do not qualify as negotiations, he said in an interview with local media that was reported by Israel's Channel 10.

The only way Syria would break its ties with Iran would be "if Teheran sided with Israel and America sided with the Arabs," Assad joked. Senior Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, have suggested that Israel must negotiate with Syria in order to lure it away from Iran and other terror-supporting states.


Israel to Replace Olmert as Uncertainty Grows Over Peace Process

By Luis Ramirez (VOA-Jerusalem)

Members of Israel's ruling, centrist Kadima party will head to the polls Wednesday to pick a new leader to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert, who is under investigation for corruption, plans to step down after the vote.

The change of leadership occurs as Israelis face growing uncertainty over the future of the peace process with the Palestinians, the threat of Iran's nuclear program, and the terrorist group Hamas' control of the Gaza Strip.

Israel is likely heading for general elections in the coming months and analysts say concerns about security will push Israelis to vote for a more right-wing candidate, possibly the Likud party's Binyamin Netanyahu, who is perceived as strong on security.

In these Kadima party primary elections, the front-runners are foreign minister Tzipi Livni and transportation minister Shaul Mofaz, a former chief of staff and defense minister. Both have pledged to be tough on security issues, saying they will not tolerate a nuclear Iran or militants in the Palestinian territories.

Opinion polls have shown Livni in the lead; despite concerns by some who say she does not have enough security experience.

Still, some Israelis interviewed on the streets Tuesday said they see Livni, with her clean reputation and experience in negotiating with the Palestinians, as a last hope for peace.

Analysts say it will be weeks before it is known what new direction Israel's leadership will take. Whoever wins these primaries will have to set up a new governing coalition.

The United States wants to see a peace agreement by the end of the year, but there is little hope that will happen. Both sides report no signs of progress. Livni has cautioned against rushing into a premature deal.

The Palestinians say an agreement must address all of their long-standing concerns, which include the right of return for Arabs displaced from their places of origin in Israel, the status of Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, and Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.


Italian Prime Minister Warns: Ahmadinejad Means What He Says

By IsraelNationalNews.com & YnetNews.com

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi accused Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday of "lunacy" and warned against taking his words too lightly.

"I think we must pay the utmost attention to the lunacy of someone who says, perhaps for internal reasons, that Israel must be wiped off the map," Berlusconi said in a speech to a Jewish organization in Paris.

Iran began a broad military exercise of its air defenses on Monday, according to Iranian news reports. The aim of the exercises was reportedly to improve the readiness of Iran's anti-aircraft capabilities in the event of a possible aerial attack.

The exercise was spread out over half of Iran's territory, involved defense against different types of attacks and checked the readiness of the radar systems, rockets and anti-aircraft batteries.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has put its elite Revolutionary Guards in charge of defending the oil-rich Gulf against any enemy attacks, a top military advisor to Khamenei said on Tuesday.

The Guards would not hesitate to "confront foreign forces," the advisor – Yahya Rahim-Safavi – told the official IRNA news agency. "After the Americans found out about this decision they told their warships not to get close to Iranian territory because the Revolutionary Guards do not hesitate to immediately confront foreign forces," he said.

The 'Zionist regime' lacks the diplomatic, economic and social ability to launch a wide-scale war, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's senior military advisor stated Tuesday. General Yahya Rahim Safavi's remarks were made in response to threats made by Israel and the possibility that the Jewish state would attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

"Iran's armed forces, including the Revolutionary Guards, and 11 million members of the Basij (the Guard's voluntary force) are fully prepared to deal with any attack," said Safavi, a former Guards commander.

The Revolutionary Guards is a military organization founded following the 1979 Muslim revolution in Iran and it is loyal to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The organization is comprised of some 200,000 soldiers in the navy, air and ground forces, and its main duty is to defend the Islamic regime and infiltrate the revolution values. It operates alongside the regular army.

Addressing the possibility that the US will attack Iran, Safavi said that "there are 200,000 American soldiers stationed in the region, and in such a case they will be in serious danger. The Americans will not enter a conflict on a fourth front, in addition to the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Georgia.

"The America's have instructed their forces that in light of the transfer of responsibility for the Persian Gulf's defense to the Revolutionary Guards, they must not approach the Iranian vessels under any circumstances."

The Iranian general noted that "the Revolutionary Guards' missiles are capable of covering the entire Persian Gulf and there is no vessel that can evade their shooting range. Our armed forces are capable of controlling the Strait of Hormuz with their defensive equipment, which includes missiles, an air force, navy and submarine missiles."


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