Monday, March 24, 2008

Brussels: Possible Muslim majority in 15-20 years

Olivier Servaix, sociologist at Université catholique de Louvain, said in an interview to La Libre Belgique last week that Brussels, would have a Muslim majority in 15-20 years, due to the community's high birth-rate. According to Servaix, a third of the population of Brussels is Muslim. Since 2001, Mohammed is the most popular name for new-born boys.

Mahfoud Romdhani, a local parliamentarian, says that this projection should be taken carefully, since not all immigrants from Muslim countries are Muslim, or practicing Muslims.

Though this might be true, the youth are showing a return to Islam, and about 75% of Muslims consider themselves practicing today.

Molenbeek is one of the most Muslim suburbs of Brussels. Philippe Moureaux, the mayor of Molenbeek has done much to reach to his Muslim constituency, such as creating a council of mosques subsidized by the municipality, or opening the municipality slaughterhouse during the Eid al-Adha.

Servias says that currently it is peaceful, but there might come a day of social explosion, and somebody might also try to capitalize on the high unemployment in Brussels, over 20%, which affects mainly the Muslim population.

Jean-Francois Bastin (65), a Belgian convert to Islam who now calls himself Abu Abdullah Abdulaziz Bastin, founded the Party of Young Muslims (PJM, Parti Jeunes Musulmans) in 2004. Bastin believes that immigrants should stop feeling colonized and that it's now time for Belgium to adapt. He wants more visible mosques, calls to prayer, schools and retirement homes. The party received less than 5,000 votes in the previous local elections in its two districts, Molenbeek and Anderlecht.

Source: Islam in Europe
Source: Le Figaro (French)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Victims Of Moroccan Islamist Identified

On February 18 this year, Moroccan authorities arrested several individuals, claiming that they belonged to an "Islamist network". Initially 23 persons were apprehended, with that number soon rising to 32. The leader of the group was identified as Abdelkader Belliraj, an individual who had spent some time in Belgium.

On February 20, Morocco's Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa gave a press conference. He claimed that during raids, weaponry had been recovered. This included nine Kalashnikovs, two Uzi machine guns replete with six magazines and a silencer, seven Skorpio sub-machine pistols with ten chargers and 5 silencers, 16 automatic pistols and other munitions and detonators.

Benmoussa said the Islamist network had financed itself through crime, with proceeds from a 2001 robbery at the HQ of Brinks, Luxembourg being smuggled into Morocco. The amount from this raid was nearly $4 million. The money was then laundered through businesses, tourism projects and real estate. Jewellery stolen in Belgium was also smuggled into Morocco where it was melted down into gold ingots.

Benmoussa said the group had been in contact with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2001. From 2001 to 2004 it was linked to the Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain, or GICM. In 2001, 2003 and 2004 the group had links with the GSPC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) in Algerian terror training camps in 2005.

Belliraj's group had tried to get terrorist training from the Hizbullah-run camps in Lebanon in 2002. The Interior Minister said that the "Belliraj" network was planning to use explosives in terror attacks, to assassinate Moroccan ministers, civil officials, military heads and some Moroccan Jewish citizens. Belliraj had set up the terror network in 1992, and in 1996 the group had also tried to assassinate Moroccan Jewish citizens, and had planned other attacks between 1992 and 2005.

Chakib Benmoussa also said that Belliraj, using aliases "Ilyass" and "Abdelkrim" carried out six murders in Belgium between 1986 and 1989.

By the end of the week, it was confirmed that investigators in Belgium were investigating the claims about the six killings. Now, according to FlandersNews via Expatica, the identities of the six victims have been clarified.

Belliraj usually acted on his own in his killings, preferably using a 7.65 mm revolver, but sometime he would be helped by an accomplice who was known as Bekti. This accomplice is one of the people who were arrested in Morocco on February 18 - 19.

Apparently Abdelkader Belliraj confessed to carrying out or ordering the six killings after he had been confronted with evidence gathered from other suspects by Moroccan investigators.

Already, the identities of three of the victims have been revealed. They include Saudi Arabian Abdullah al-Ahdal, the rector of the Grand Mosque in Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels, and his assistant, Tunisian-born Salim el-Beher.

Al-Ahdal and his assistant had criticized the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie. This had been issued on February 14, 1989. On March 30, 1989, al-Ahdal and el-Beher were shot dead at close range. They were both hit in the head and neck in the Grand Mosque's office.

Later in the same year, 48-year old Joseph Wibran, the president of the co-ordination committee of Jewish organisations in Belgium (CCOJB) became one of Belliraj's alleged victims. Mr Wibran worked as head of the immunology department at Erasme Hospital in Anderlecht, Brussels. On October 3, 1989, he was killed in the parking area outside this hospital.

Around this time, Belliraj also murdered victim number 4, the odd-job man who worked at the Saudi Embassy in Brussels. This man is said to be the Egyptian chauffeur to the Saudi ambassador in Brussels.

Another named victim was a Jewish greengrocer called Raoul Schouppe, who worked in the vicinity of Brussels South station. Additionally he met his sixth victim in this region, at a restaurant. This victim, a 53-year old gay man, had apparently tried to proposition Belliraj. The victim's body was later dumped in Braine-le-Chateau in Walloon Brabant.

Strangely, despite attacking Jews and plotting terror attacks, Belliraj had also worked as an informant. De Tijd newspaper claimed on its website earlier this month that Belliraj's information had also provided "crucial information" to Belgium's intelligence services. Some of this information had allowed them to "foil an attack in another European country". The name of this other country has not been named.

It appears that Belliraj was paid for providing this information.

Source: Western Resistance.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ex-Model Waris Dirie Found Safe in Belgium

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Police on Friday found Waris Dirie, three days after the Somali-born model who launched a worldwide campaign against female genital mutilation had vanished.

Dirie, 43, appeared to be in good health and was being questioned by police about the disappearance, said Estelle Arpigny, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office.

She declined to give further details, saying it was unclear what had happened since Dirie vanished early Wednesday. Belgian media reports said police found her Friday afternoon walking the Brussels' Grand Place square.

Hours earlier, police had announced they were launching a nationwide search for the former model, who had last been seen getting into a cab after a mix-up over a hotel.

Dirie gained international fame as a model posing in Chanel ads and acting in the 1987 James Bond movie "The Living Daylights" before launching her campaign against female genital mutilation in 1996.

She shocked the world with a best-selling book "Desert Flower" that described how her genitals were sliced off with a dirty razor blade without anesthesia, and then stitched together.

Now a U.N. goodwill ambassador, she was due to speak on genital mutilation in Brussels at two conferences on women's rights organized by the European Union, including one on Thursday attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

News of Dirie's disappearance came a week after French police said they had found the body of another former model of African origin who had campaigned against female genital mutilation. Guinean-born Katoucha Niane was discovered floating in the River Seine in Paris.

The French police said an autopsy showed no signs of foul play, raising the possibility that she may have fallen accidentally into the river. However, Katoucha's family members say they suspect homicide.

Dirie's manager, Walter Lutschinger, said she had been involved in an altercation in a hotel reception area after a taxi driver took her to the wrong branch of the Sofitel hotel chain. The police were called and drove Dirie around Brussels looking for the correct hotel because she had apparently forgotten where she was staying.

Read the rest from: Fox News.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Waris Dirie, former model and women’s rights campaigner, reported missing.

March 7, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Waris Dirie, a former model who has campaigned against female genital mutilation and written an international best-seller about her experiences, is missing, police and her manager said Friday.

Dirie, 43, has not been seen since early Wednesday when police saw her getting into a taxi in Brussels, manager Walter Lutschinger said in a telephone interview.

“We are really very scared,” said Lutschinger, who has been her manager for seven years.

Dirie - who was born in Somalia and now lives in Vienna, Austria - gained international fame as a model posing in Chanel ads and acting in a James Bond film before launching her campaign against female genital mutilation in 1996.

She recounted her own experiences of suffering genital mutilation as a child in the book “Desert Flower,” which became an international best-seller.

Dirie was due to speak to two conferences on women’s rights organized by the European Union in Brussels this week, including one Thursday attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Dirie’s disappearance comes a week after French police said they’d found the body of another former model of African origin who had campaigned against female genital mutilation.

Guinean-born Katoucha Niane’s body was found floating in the Seine River in Paris. French police said an autopsy showed no signs of foul play, pointing to the possibility that the 47-year-old Niane may have fallen accidentally into the river.

On Friday, Belgian police launched an official missing persons appeal for Dirie, asking the public for information. The police said they also were looking for the taxi driver that took her from the area between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Lutschinger said Dirie had been involved in an altercation at a hotel reception after a taxi driver had taken her to the wrong branch of the Sofitel hotel chain after a visit to a night club. The police were called and drove Dirie around Brussels looking for the correct hotel, after she had apparently forgotten where she was staying.

At one hotel, while staff and police were checking for her name on a computer, Dirie walked out and climbed into a taxi that drove away, Lutschinger said police told him.

He said hotel staff told him Dirie had said she was going to buy cigarettes before getting into the vehicle. Lutschinger said he thought she was carrying little money and no identification documents or cell phone when she vanished.

Dirie’s description of how she underwent genital mutilation without anesthesia as a child shocked those who knew her from glossy fashion magazine covers, Chanel perfume ads and her role in “The Living Daylights,” a 1987 James Bond film.

She chronicled her own experience in a best-selling autobiography, “Desert Flower,” and three sequels, “Desert Dawn,” “Desert Children” and “Nomad’s Daughter,” and served as a U.N. goodwill ambassador to fight the practice.

“There are millions of children - young, hopeless, desperate - who need help, a voice, somebody, somewhere,” she told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview.

Dirie was due to travel to the Netherlands to receive an award Friday in the town of Kerkrade.

By PAUL AMES , Associated Press and Aoife White.


On the Net:

Waris Dirie Foundation:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Missing Irishman's dead body 'found' and identified in Brussels City Morgue after ten days of search

Brussels March 6: The family of an Irishman who went missing in Belgium over a week ago say they have identified his body.

33-year-old Conor Synnott from DĂșn Laoghaire, Co Dublin, disappeared in the early hours of 23 February.

His family began searching for Mr Synnott the next day with the help of the Belgian police.

Mr Synnott's body was found by police later that day close to where he had last been seen, near the Courts of Justice.

Today Belgian police asked the family to identify the body, which had been at the city morgue for the past ten days.

Mr Synnott had been living in Brussels since last August.

His family said he had been suffering from depression in recent months.

Source: RTE News.
News story from 3rd of March 2008: Search continues for missing Irishman.

Belgium drops Myanmar rights case against Total

BRUSSELS (AFP) — Belgian authorities dropped Wednesday a legal case brought by refugees from Myanmar targetting the French oil group Total, which they accused of crimes against humanity, their lawyer said.

Investigators looking in to the matter "declared the case closed," lawyer Xavier Deswaef told AFP, describing the decision as "surreal".

Although his clients could lodge one final appeal against the decision, they would "think twice before" pursuing further action, Deswaef said.

Last October, Belgian authorities reopened the long-running case in which the refugees accused Total of having used forced labour provided by the military regime to build a gas pipeline.

The four refugees accuse Total of having provided logistic and financial support in the 1990s to the military junta, which they hold responsable for forced labour, deportations, murder, arbitrary executions and torture.

Total has also faced legal action in France against its labour practices in Myanmar, where it has operated since 1992.

But last year the group was cleared of charges in France that it relied on forced labour to build the 1.2-billion-dollar (785-billion-euro) gas pipeline after an out-of-court settlement with the alleged victims.

The Belgian case has run for six years, during which changes to the law have muddied the judicial waters.

However, the court ruled that the defendants should benefit from a 2005 decision in their favour, even though the relevant legislation had subsequently been toughened up.

Source: AFP.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Belgium Donates 86 millions Euros For Funding Terrorism

Ramallah 5 March 2008, Belgium is giving 86 million Euros in funding in favor of the Palestinians over the next 4 years, due to a convention concluded yesterday in Ramallah between the Belgian Minister of 'Cooperation and Development' Charles Michel and the Palestinian Minister of the 'plan' Samir Abdullah.
The biggest slice of the sum, 50 million Euros will be transferred directly to the Palestinian Authorities, the rest, 36 million Euros will serve to fund urgent actions, alimentary aid, for UN offices and certain NGO's active in Palestine.

Charles Michel insisted that the new axis of cooperation Belgo-Palestinian has got two priorities, education and upkeep of the local governance of Palestine.

Source: Metrotime.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Heavy jail term for pornographer who filmed daughters

A Belgian court handed a child pornographer the maximum jail term of at least 10 years for making films of his daughters for a worldwide network, a report said.

The court in Bruges, western Belgium, condemned the 37-year-old named only as Pascal T. and laid down the 10-year sentence with the possibility of another 10 years behind bars if the government sees fit, the Belga news agency reported.

The convict's wife was sentenced to a suspended two-year sentence for "negligence".

The case, codenamed "Koala" dates back to 2004. It came to light in 2006 with the discovery in Australia of a video of a young Dutch-speaking girl.

That detail led to the arrest of Pascal T., the father of the girl in the film, who lived in Dutch-speaking Bruges.

The child porn network was fed mainly from films made in Ukraine, but other material was produced in the Netherlands as well as Belgium.

According to judicial sources customers could order tailor-made videos and girls as young as nine have been identified on the films, according to Eurojust.

Pascal T., had set up a studio at his home where he filmed his two young daughters, aged nine and 11 a the time, being abused.

Several suspects were picked up in Belgium, including Victor Hissel, a former lawyer for families of victims of child killer Marc Dutroux, who was charged on Monday with possessing child pornography.

His crime carries a possible one-year prison term.

Source: MSN.

Turkish parliamentary speaker slams Belgian court decision on terrorism

All countries should fight together against the global scourge of terrorism, said Toptan.

ANKARA - The speaker of the Turkish parliament has lashed out at the decision of a Belgian court to released a number of members of a far left wing Turkish terror group, saying the ruling was terrifying.

Parliamentary speaker Koksal Toptan said the decision by the court in Anvers on Thursday indicated that Belgium did not recognise the DHKP-C as a terrorist organisation.

“It is terrifying for such a verdict to come out of Belgium, one of the most important centers of Europe. A mentality assuming someone innocent because they have not committed any crime in Belgium cannot partake in fight against global terrorism,” Toptan said.

On Thursday, the Anvers court ruled that convictions be quashed against a number of members of the DHKP-C who were either being held in Belgium or were wanted on various charges.

Source: MSNBC.

Morocco busts al Qaeda-linked terror network funded by crime in Belgium

PARIS, France (AP) -- Morocco's government said it has dismantled a terrorist network that had plotted to assassinate Cabinet ministers and members of the North African kingdom's Jewish community.

Authorities believe the network has links to al Qaeda and local terror groups, the official MAP news agency said late Wednesday. A total of 32 people were arrested in sweeps this week, Moroccan newspapers said.

Morocco also has banned an Islamist political party, Al Badil Al Hadari, because some members were linked to the network, the Interior Ministry said.

The network raised money by waging holdups, selling stolen goods and taking contributions from its members, the ministry said in a statement issued Wednesday.

One suspected member of the group, with help from criminals in Europe, carried out a heist of an armored truck in Luxembourg in 2000, netting the group $25.65 million, it said.

Gold jewelry stolen in Belgium was melted down by a goldsmith who belonged to the network and then sold, the ministry statement said.

The group had plotted to assassinate Cabinet ministers, army officers and members of the Jewish community, the ministry said. Only a few thousand Jews still live in the Muslim kingdom, as many have emigrated to Israel and elsewhere.

Among those arrested was the group's suspected leader, Abdelkader Belliraj, who Interior Minister Chakib Benoussa said had links with al Qaeda and local terror groups.

Also arrested in the sweeps were political leader Mostafa Lmouatassime; Abdelhafid Sriti, a correspondent for the Hezbollah militant group's Al-Manar television; and a university professor and a police superintendent, the MAP agency reported.

Morocco, a strong U.S. ally, has been on alert since 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca killed 45 people and stunned this relatively moderate Muslim country, a popular vacation spot. Those bombings targeted a Jewish community center and cemetery, a hotel, a restaurant and a Spanish social club.

Authorities have carried out regular anti-terror sweeps since then, raising concerns among human rights groups that say many innocent people have been arrested and tortured.

In March, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Casablanca Internet cafe, and investigators later uncovered an alleged plot targeting tourist sites across Morocco. Police cornered four suspects, shooting one dead and prompting the other three to blow themselves up to avoid capture. The blasts killed a policeman and wounded 21 other people.

Two brothers strapped with explosives blew themselves up near the U.S. consulate in April.

Source: CNN.

Search continues for Irishman missing in Brussels

Monday, March 03, 2008

The family of an Irishman missing in Belgium are continuing to appeal for help in tracing his whereabouts.

Conor Synnott, who is originally from Dun Laoghaire in Co Dublin, was last seen in Brussels 10 days ago.

The Belgian police have launched a formal missing persons appeal and Interpol has been informed of the case.

Posters of the 33-year-old have also been put up in parts of the Netherlands, as Mr Synnott had expressed an interest in visiting the country.


Conor Synnott (33) has been missing from his home since the early hours of Saturday February 23rd. His last known action was to withdraw money from an ATM at Rue Haute in the jeux de balles area of Brussels at 4.45am.

He is described as being 1.65m (5ft 6in) tall, of medium build, with brown hair and blue eyes.

Any information should be passed onto the Belgian Police on free-phone +32(0)80091119.

Source: The Irish Times and Belfast Telegraph

Telekom Austria prefers Belarus to Brussels

Telekom Austria (TA) chief Boris Nemsic has said that he prefers Belarus to Brussels as a business partner.

He said: "We have been treated much better in Belarus than in Brussels. That is not a political but a business comment."

He was evidently referring to EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding's recent instruction to the mobile-phone branch to lower the cost of SMS messages and broadband internet access by June 1, 2008.

Nemsic added that the EU Commission's desire to regulate prices charged end-users reminded him of Communism.

He said: "I have lived under Communism and hate regulated prices." He was born in the former Yugoslavia.

In response, Reding's spokesman Martin Selmayr claimed that TA's revenue from its mobile-phone business had increased by 10 per cent in 2007 and added that "we don't know what he is complaining about. We hope that he not only visits (Belarus President Alexander) Lukaschenko but also comes to Brussels from time to time to speak with Mrs. Reding."

TA acquired a 70-per-cent interest in Belarus mobile-phone operator MDC for 730 million Euros in 2007.

TA's shares plunged by 14 per cent last week after presentation of preliminary results for 2007 and its outlook for 2008.

Source: Wiener Zeitung.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Dark, and very bitter

By Matthew Engel

It is now possible – a mere 205 years after the original proposal for a Channel Tunnel – to travel overland from London to a foreign capital, i.e. Brussels, in less than two hours. But Belgium no longer feels like just another country, it feels increasingly like another planet.

This isn’t routine journalistic hyperbole. The inhabited areas of Planet Earth are organised into nation-states – big, small; rich, poor; free, tyrannical – but nation-states all the same. Belgium is the first of them to begin mutating into something different. Generations of idealists, reformers and peace campaigners might feel delighted and vindicated.

At least until they start looking more closely.

In the second half of 2007, when the Belgians were unable to agree on a government, there was speculation that the country would follow Czechoslovakia and split in two – into Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia. More knowledgeable observers said it wouldn’t happen because Francophone Brussels would be marooned inside Flanders, and it was impossible to resolve that contradiction.

Since then, the political crisis has eased slightly. Just before Christmas, the caretaker government was replaced by an interim version, which is supposedly more capable of decision-making. A fully functioning government is due to emerge by March 23. Maybe.

In the meantime nothing much can be done.


It is even harder to fathom that the apparent winner of the 2007 election, Yves Leterme, is still serving as the deputy of the man he beat, Guy Verhofstadt, and seems relaxed about it, too.

And the country appears to function well enough: to start with, the trains run on time, which puts Belgium way ahead of Britain.

But this is because Belgium has reached the point where the national government has ceased to matter. Over the years, the power has either been devolved downwards, to the regions and the communes, or passed upwards, to the European Union.

Belgium doesn’t feel the need to invade anyone else (“We seek a modest profile,” as one minister put it). And the crucial development has been the introduction of the euro. If Belgium still had its own currency, political instability might have been disastrous. Now that it doesn’t, the state can wither away. Shock revelation: Marx was right after all.

The country’s raison d’etre was always a bit flimsy. It was founded in 1831 because the people shared Catholicism and a dislike of being ruled from Holland. The European powers-that-were let it happen because they didn’t want any of their rivals ruling such a vital piece of geography.

Over the years, as religion faded, the disparate parts of the country began to share little more than their currency, their king and their football team. Now the currency has gone, the king is more marginal, and the football team is useless.

But underneath the place is seething. The two sides hate each other but carry on like a long-married couple, filled with mutual loathing, but too inert to sell the house and divide the CD collection.

And the chasm keeps growing wider. Wallonia, once rich, dominant and heavily industrialised, now has some of the most run-down cities in western Europe. The old coal and steel city of Charleroi could – with a few minor adjustments – serve as a film set for a gritty drama on late communism.

Flanders, meanwhile, has the same quiet, small, business-led prosperity as Holland. The contrast between Charleroi and, say, Antwerp is staggering, both economically and linguistically. An Anglophone has no trouble in Antwerp, once a French-speaking city. But I’ve seen a look of hate come into an old lady’s eye when asked for directions in French.

It’s risky even to whisper “raison d’etre”.

Belgian amity never recovered from the first world war when (in one version) French-speaking officers refused to speak the Flemish peasants’ language and sent them, uncomprehending, to their doom, and (in the other version) the Flemings were inclined to collaboration with the Boche.

As the years pass, the hate gets stronger, and the Flemings – in particular – more uncompromising.

I arrived to a chilling headline in one French-language newspaper: “Francophones, vous n’avez pas compris”. I thought this was a quote from a right-wing extremist. It came from Karel de Gucht, the foreign minister, the man in charge of the “modest profile”.

Outsiders don’t understand either. They think Belgium is boring but amiable. Yet it is only habit and temperament that stops it turning into Europe’s Middle East.

Published: February 23 2008
Source: Financial Times.

Adopted by wolves? Bestselling memoir was a pack of lies

At just six years old, Misha Defonseca trudged across three countries to try to find her Jewish parents who had been carted off to Auschwitz by the Nazis. She collapsed in a forest but was rescued by pack of wolves who adopted her as their cub.

Her story became the best-selling Holocaust autobiography, Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years. The only problem? It was not fact, but fiction.

The book caused a literary sensation on release in 1997. But more than 10 years later – and just a few weeks after a film adaptation, Survivre Avec Les Loups (Surviving with Wolves), premiered in France – it has been revealed that not only did she invent the story but that she is the Roman-Catholic daughter of an alleged wartime collaborator.

The Belgian author admitted to the national newspaper Le Soir that she had fabricated the tale, after being presented with what the paper described as "irrefutable" evidence that her story was false. Le Soir also said her birth date was several years later then claimed in the novel.

"The book is a story, it's my story," said the writer, in a statement issued under her real name, Monique De Wael. "It's not the true reality, but it is my reality. There are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world."

Ms De Wael, who now lives in the US, issued a bizarre defence of her behaviour, highlighting the parallels between her actual childhood, and that which she invented.

"Yes, my name is Monique De Wael, but I have wanted to forget it since I was four years old," she said. "My parents were arrested and I was taken in by my grandfather, Ernest De Wael, and my uncle, Maurice De Wael. I was called 'daughter of a traitor' because my father was suspected of having talked under torture in the prison of Saint-Gilles. Ever since I can remember, I felt Jewish."

In the book, De Wael's parents are taken from their home in Belgium and herded off to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Told only that her family had "gone east", Misha sets off in pursuit, trekking across Belgium, Germany and Poland. The wolves that find her in the forest feed her and protect her from other predators.

Some time later, her strength restored, Misha continues on her journey, wandering through Ukraine, Romania and Italy before arriving back home in Belgium. She is never reunited with her parents.


Source: The Independent.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Socialist Spokesman From The European Parliament Martinez Affirm Iran Has Got The Right For Nuclear Arms

Iran's Ambassador to Belgium Ali Asghar Khaji held talks Tuesday with the Vice-President of the European Parliament Miguel Angel Martinez on promoting parliamentary ties between Iran and Europe.

The meeting focused on global and regional issues, including Iran's nuclear program.

Referring to the latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Khaji said that the report proved all the baseless allegations against Iran, while showing Tehran's commitment to its international obligations and having a peaceful nuclear program.

Khaji added although Iran had 18 months to respond to all open questions, it answered all the remaining queries in less than six months.

He stressed Iran would continue its nuclear program within the IAEA's framework of rules and regulations and under the complete supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog.

Meanwhile, Martinez who is the spokesman of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, said it was Iran's certain right to have a peaceful nuclear program.

He added that countries which have military nuclear activities are not allowed to protest Iran's peaceful nuclear activities.

Source: Islamic republic News Agency (Facts to be taken with cation)

Rwanda: Genocide Survivor Wants to Sue Belgium

A Rwandan genocide survivor has filed a suit in a civil court to prosecute the Belgian state and is also seeking for compensation estimated at 100, 000 Euros for death of her relatives during the 1994 genocide, according to "Le Soir" Belgium daily newspaper.

The financial compensation is sought on grounds that the Belgium peace keeping force failed to protect her sister, brother-in-law and their children on April 11, 1994 at the height of the slaughter.

The summon underlines responsibility of Belgium soldiers in the massacre of approximately 2, 000 Rwandans who had placed themselves under the protection of the peacekeepers at the Official Technical School (ETO) Don Bosco, situated in Kicukiro. The ETO was at the time one of the main barracks, nicknamed "Beverly Hills", of the Belgian battalion of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) headquartered in Kigali.

The plaintiff and her family had found refuge there on 8 April, just two days after the bloodbath began on April 6 following assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.

"It was decided by Colonel Marchal, then head of the Belgian battalion KIBAT of the UNAMIR to withdraw during the afternoon of 11 April 1994 peacekeepers(92) from ETO," claimed the summon.

It added:" By abandoning Rwandan refugees who were there and the fact that the site was encircled by armed militiamen (Interahamwe) of which everyone, including the Belgian soldiers knew that they [Interahamwe] were going to proceed to commit the massacres."


Alleged Moroccan extremist was Belgian spy

Morocco’s Belliraj said to have provided information to Belgium's internal security service for 8 years.

BRUSSELS - The alleged leader of a Moroccan extremist group and suspect in several murders in Belgium was a long-time informer for the Belgian authorities, local media reported Friday.

Abdelkader Belliraj, who has dual Moroccan and Belgian nationality, was arrested in Morocco last week, along with over 30 associates, as the alleged terrorist network was suspected of preparing acts of violence in Morocco.

The VTM television channel said Belliraj provided information to Belgium's internal security service for eight years.

The De Standaard daily's website ran a similar report, without giving any sources.

A spokesman for Belgium's justice ministry refused to confirm or deny the reports but said a statement may be released later.

Belliraj, 50, was taken into custody when Moroccan police announced they had dismantled "a major terrorist network with jihadist (holy war) roots."

The 35 were arrested under the north African kingdom's penal code and anti-terrorist legislation passed in the wake of Casablanca attacks on May 16, 2003, that killed 45 people including 12 suicide bombers.

Police have said the dismantled network had large caches of weapons. They were reported to be in possession of explosives, detonators, nine Kalashnikov automatic weapons, two machine-guns, seven machine-pistols and 16 hand guns.

The Moroccan interior ministry claims Belliraj was behind six unsolved murders in Belgium, committed between 1986 and 1989.

According to a Belgian judicial source, the Moroccan authorities suspect the cell of carrying out three political assassinations in Belgium in 1989.

These were a Jewish community representative and two Muslim leaders who did not support the fatwa pronounced on British writer Salman Rushdie following the publication of his book "The Satanic Verses", which angered some Muslims.

Belgian media have also reported that Belliraj was behind a fourth killing, that of the Egyptian chauffeur of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Belgium who was shot dead in 1989.

Source: Middle East Online (Arab news source - Facts to be taken with caution)

Belgium's political parties struggle to overcome differences

The Belgian government crisis has gained a little breathing space. Prime Minister-elect Yves Leterme has left hospital two weeks after being admitted for stomach problems but he still faces political problems within his own party,the Flemish Christian Democrats, if major reforms are not adopted by July. He says he'll rest three or four days as the doctors advised. From Monday he hopes to apply himself totally to the welfare of the country and its citizens.

The political situation in Belgium remains tense despite an agreement last Monday between Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons on modest reforms in the country's federal institutions.

The president of Leterme's Flemish party, Etienne Schouppe warns progress must be made: "Monsieur Leterme and the members of the government know very well that in mid-July they have to submit a draft law that should be accepted. If it's not accepted that would automatically have as a consequence the fall of the government."

Last Monday a so-called "wise men" council reached a deal that tries to bridge a gulf between Flemish parties that demand more power for the Dutch-speaking Flanders region and French-speaking parties that had resisted any change.

The question remains: will it work?

Source: EuropeNews.

Belgium Inflation Hits High

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Belgium saw inflation soar to a 17-year high of 3.6 percent in February, the country's statistical office said in a first estimate Thursday.

Prices have not risen so fast since July 1991.

The Belgian government promised last week that it would try to tackle surging prices for food and energy by talking to supermarkets and food producers as well as giving energy regulators more power to watch prices.

Gas pump prices in the country on Feb. 22 set a new record of euro1.50 (US$2.23) for a liter of petrol.

Euro inflation hit 3.2 percent last month on more expensive energy and food prices, the highest level since the currency started being used in 2002.

Greater demand from developing countries, such as China, for energy, grain and dairy products are partly to blame for the price surges.

Inflation statistics for the 15 euro currency nations will be published Friday.

Source: AP