Tag Archives: London

GCC to hold Riyadh summit on Yemen crisis

A general view of the last session of the 34th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Kuwait, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.

A general view of the last session of the 34th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Kuwait, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.

The six-state Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states will meet in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Monday to discuss regional developments, most significantly the ongoing crisis in Yemen.

Alongside the Gulf heads of state, will be French President Francois Hollande who will be the first foreign leader to attend a GCC Summit since its inception in 1981. Hollande will be on an important tour of Qatar and Saudi Arabia as he continues to foster strong ties between France and the GCC.

The GCC Summit will be also be an opportunity for the Gulf leaders to discuss bilateral relations and ways to strengthen their close ties in the face of regional challenges including the situations in Syria, Iraq, as well as Yemen.

In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries is trying to stop Iranian-backed Houthi militias and forces loyal to deposed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking control of the country.

Peace talks had collapsed after Houthi militias went on the offensive in recent months, seizing the capital Sanaa and advancing on Aden, forcing President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition launched an air campaign on Houthi targets in Yemen on March 26 to prevent the militia from taking the entire territory and to restore Hadi’s legitimate authority.

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Hush Money: West turns blind eye on Qatar’s terrorism funding

British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) shakes hands with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (L)

Qatar gives Western countries money they desperately need, and in return it gets a blind eye to its actions in the Middle East, even sponsoring ISIS and other jihadists, Danni Makki, researcher specializing on Middle East security, told RT.

The Qatari royal family is planning to create a residence in the very heart of London, converting three properties in Regent’s Park into a single mega-mansion valued at over £200 million. The Al Thani family already owns some famous London landmarks like the Shard, the Olympic Park, and Harrods. While Qatar actively buys UK property and heavily invests in Britain’s economy, the appalling situation with human rights abuses in Qatar is simply ignored by London. In fact, Britain also turns a blind eye to Qatar’s links with extremist groups in the Middle East.

RT: What do you make of the accusations that Qatar is funding terrorists? They are pretty strong, aren’t they?

Danni Makki: They are very strong. Qatar is one of the global funders of terrorism in the entire world. Fair enough, Qatar has excellent economic relations with the Western countries but it has a policy of double standards. It maintains a great relationship with the Western countries and within the Middle East it fuels bloodshed, violence and lots of conflicts as we can see now from Libya to Syria, Iraq, Somalia, even the Gaza Strip. Qatar has a hand in funding terrorism in the Middle East; there are numerous radical jihadist movements within the Middle East who get funds from Qatar. And the Qatari government has turned a blind eye to its own nationals funding these movements for a number of years now. So in essence we must put the blame the US which does exempt Qatar from accountability in regard to this matter.

RT: If all this is well-known, why don’t we see more outrage over this?

DM: Of course not because the Western governments at this moment of time have fragile economies, they are struggling, they are desperate for funds. Qatar gives them funds. In response the Western governments allow Qatar to act as it wills in the Middle East and do what they want. There is in essence a kind of socio-economic agreement. Qatar has very well-known terrorist funders living within their country. Even the US Treasury added that Qatari nationals send up to £1.5 million every single month to ISIS fighters. And this is the same Islamic State which the Western countries are attacking.

RT: Britain is very sensitive to any terror-related things. ISIS killed its citizens, British soldiers are helping to root out ISIS in Syria and Iraq…Surely it would have reacted if these allegations against Qatar were true. What’s your take on it?

DM: Indeed. Qatari funds are killing Western journalists as we speak today, and there is, especially in the Western media, a kind of direction which is saying that Qatar is a terrorist state. We can get the statements of Sir Malcolm Rifkind who was a former Foreign Secretary and Defense Secretary. He stated that Qatar should be sanctioned, and this is very significant. We can argue today that people are shopping in Harrods, on a Qatari funded basis they are committing or aiding terrorism in a sense. It’s quite amazing in a sense, but this is actually reality on the ground. Qatari nationals have funded terrorism all across the Arab world. We could argue that groups like Al-Nusra Front or Ahrar Al-Sham in Syria, these groups who have been admittedly funded by Qatar, even a mayor of Qatar in his previous interview stated that “we stopped funding terrorism, we stopped funding extremism.” Of course Qatar hasn’t stopped, it has continued funding terrorism. At the same time Qatar is playing a policy of double standards, it’s almost lying in a sense to Western nations, attempting to exert its failed influence in the Arab world. The conflict zones in Iraq and Syria are very big testaments of that. We can argue that Sheikh Muhammad al-Arifi, the extremist Arab Sheikh who is banned from entering London was invited, after he was banned twice, to Qatar on government-sponsored visits. So Qatar is very complicit in aiding extremist groups, jihadists groups, and is very complicit in terrorist activities all across the world.

RT: You argue that Britain needs Qatar for the money. But why does Qatar need Britain?

DM: Qatar needs Britain first of all because Britain has a seat in the UN Security Council, because Britain is a very important country in terms of prestige. Qatar needs strong Western partners for its investments because it uses the Western world as a gateway to more economic domination, more economic hegemony. It feels that it has feasibility to roam around the Arab world, up to attempting to overthrow governments and create rebel groups who are Islamic extremists. And the West is accepting this. Why? Because they need Qatari funds. In France alone up until the year 2012 Qatar has invested up to £15 billion. In the UK today Qatar invested tens of billions of pounds. This is very significant for the actual basis of the Western economy this time and place, especially after the credit crunch. Qatar invested millions and billions into the Western economy. So without that you can argue that Western governments rely more on Qatari funds than Qatar do on Western government’s political power.

— RT Op-Edge

On Centenary of World War I, Europe Sees Modern Parallels

Members of historical societies stood under a shower of a million poppies, representing those killed in World War I, at a ceremony Monday at the Tank Museum in Bovington, England.

Members of historical societies stood under a shower of a million poppies, representing those killed in World War I, at a ceremony Monday at the Tank Museum in Bovington, England.

LONDON — With a dimming of the lights and ceremonies across this country and in Belgium, monarchs, princes, presidents and citizens commemorated on Monday the day 100 years ago when Britain entered World War I at the start of four years of carnage once called the war to end all wars.

Some took the moment to recall more modern crises in the Middle East and Europe that are rooted in the fighting between 1914 and 1918 that toppled empires and redrew the world map. Some dwelled on a vision of reconciliation among former foes.

“We were enemies more than once in the last century, and today we are friends and allies,” Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, told a ceremony in Belgium, referring to Germany and its allies in two world wars. At Westminster Abbey, prayers were said in English and German.

But today’s myriad wars haunted the commemorations, too.

“How can we remain neutral today when a people not far from Europe is fighting for their rights?” President François Hollande of France said in Belgium. “How can we remain neutral when a civilian airliner is brought down, when there is conflict in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza?”

A century ago, as hostilities loomed, Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary, famously remarked, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

To echo those words, Prime Minister David Cameron urged Britons to extinguish the lights in their homes at 10 p.m. on Monday to leave a lone light or candle burning by 11 p.m. — the precise moment of the declaration of war on Germany.

In London, the lights went off at such landmarks as the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge over the River Thames. At Westminster Abbey, at a late-night ceremony attended by political leaders, a lone oil lamp at the tomb of the unknown soldier was extinguished at 11 p.m. by the Duchess of Cornwall, the former Camilla Parker-Bowles and wife of Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.

The fighting a century ago erupted after a series of interlocked events beginning with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, on June 28, 1914 — killings that set off a chain of events, driven by a complex web of alliances, that historians have described as Europe’s stumbling or sleepwalking into a cataclysmic conflict.

“Most were stumbling into the darkness, increasingly bound by the chains of their own and others’ making, their hope of avoiding war ever fading,” the Very Rev. Dr. John Hall, the dean of Westminster Abbey, said in a foreword to the order of service on Monday.

Many in Britain and elsewhere expected a quick end to the hostilities. But the war soon bogged down in trench warfare that consumed the energies and resources of nations at the cost of millions of lives.

Neutral at the beginning, the United States formally joined the war in 1917.

The writer H. G. Wells is often credited with coining the description of the conflict as “the war that will end war,” the title of an essay that became a jingoistic catchphrase, “the war to end all wars.”

As the conflict drew to a close, a more cynical view overtook that sentiment when David Lloyd George, the British prime minister at the time, is said to have remarked: “This war, like the next war, is a war to end war.”

The approach of the conflict in 1914 was commemorated on Sunday when Mr. Hollande and President Joachim Gauck of Germany embraced at a war memorial in the eastern French province of Alsace, near the frequently contested frontier between their nations. The occasion commemorated Germany’s declaration of war on France on Aug. 3, 1914, as German troops massed to invade neutral Belgium — the incursion that drew Britain into the war a day later.

No formal ceremonies were planned in Berlin, with German commemorations focused on Mr. Gauck’s attendance at ceremonies in lands once conquered by German soldiers. In Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin inaugurated a memorial in Moscow last week, and a museum is to open in St. Petersburg.

The scale of commemoration in Russia was unusual. Moscow usually focuses most of its commemorative efforts on World War II.

 NYTimes.com.

UN warns Britain over child voodoo rituals, pedophile sex tourists

Hundreds of children are being kidnapped in Africa and bought to the UK for voodoo rituals, a UN watchdog said, also voicing alarm about the number of British pedophiles who prey on children abroad.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) urged Britain to do more to stop this brutal form of people trafficking.

“We’re concerned about reports that hundreds of children have been abducted from their families in Africa and trafficked to the UK, especially London, for religious rituals,” Kirsten Sandberg, head of the CRC and a former Norwegian Supreme Court judge, said Thursday.

She said that trafficking for rituals was part of a wider problem where thousands of minors are brought to the UK, who end up being child prostitutes or being sexually exploited.

The CRC advised that Britain should “strengthen the capacity of law-enforcement authorities and judiciary to detect and prosecute trafficking of children for labor, sexual and other forms of exploitation, including for religious rituals.”

There have been numerous cases of children who have been brought to the UK from Africa and suffered torture and abuse, often as part of witchcraft rituals, AFP reports.

Victoria Climbie from the Ivory Coast was killed by her own relatives in 2000, who thought she was a witch.

More recently, in March 2012, Eric Bikubi and Magalie Bamu, both from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who moved to London, were found guilty of murdering Magalie’s teenage brother, Kirsty.

The prosecution argued that Bikubi had a “profound and disturbing” belief in witchcraft and although the defense said that Bikubi was suffering from schizophrenia, the judge sentenced both defendants to life in prison.

A year later the Metropolitan Police found the dismembered corpse of a Nigerian boy in the River Thames, who they believed was a victim of a ritual.

The CRC also warned about the number of British pedophiles who travel abroad – most notably to Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia and Thailand, for sex with children. Orphanages were a favored destination where sex predators could pick on vulnerable kids.

“There are continued reports that United Kingdom citizens, including some convicted sex offenders, set up charities or travel abroad, where they sexually abuse children,” Sandberg said.

She called on the British government to get its act together to toughen identification, investigation and prosecution of British citizens involved in such crimes, as well making sure convicted and known pedophiles do not travel abroad.

The UK government has said that new orders can now be applied to individuals who are deemed to pose a risk of sexual harm, even if they have never been convicted.

A national group led by the Home Office will look at ways the police and other agencies can better detect and combat sex offenders.

“Our two new civil prevention orders will make it easier to restrict the movement and activities of anyone who poses a risk of causing sexual harm to children and adults – not just those who have been convicted of sexual offences,” Norman Baker, the crime prevention minister, said in a statement.

A BBC journalist posing as a children’s trafficker trawled the bars and cafés of the Kampala underworld in Uganda in 2011. He found a kidnapper who boasted he could “offer as many children as required” without the police knowing for $15,600 a child.

‘Blair has finally gone mad’ : London mayor ridicules ex-PM over Iraq

This combo photo shows British former prime minister Tony Blair (left) and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Tony Blair’s essay on how the Middle East should blame its own religious dynamics for its troubles – instead of Western attempts at intervention – has seen London Mayor Boris Johnson launch a scathing attack on the “unhinged” former PM.

Johnson’s strong condemnation is a reaction to the arguments made in the former British Prime Minister’s piece entitled ‘Iraq, Syria and the Middle East,’ where claims range from placing blame on the Shiite government in Iraq to the inherent religious dynamics within the Middle East region, even to Syria for allowing the recent attack on Mosul to take place from within its borders, as well as Shiite fighters from Iran – all to explain why militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) are making such progress these days.

But perhaps the most off-the-wall remark that has sent everyone, from the British press to Blair’s former party mates, to Boris Johnson, over the edge was Blair’s claim that Britain should be thanked, not blamed, for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Lashing out at the former Prime Minister, Johnson wrote for The Telegraph on Sunday that “I have come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has finally gone mad.”

His essay “struck me as unhinged in its refusal to face facts. In discussing the disaster of modern Iraq he made assertions that are so jaw-droppingly and breathtakingly at variance with reality that he surely needs professional psychiatric help.”

Attacking also the former PM’s vague claim that Islam should act more responsibly in watching out for both Shia and Sunni extremism on its fringes (since extremism, allegedly, arises out of thin air), Johnson writes: “He said that the allied invasion of 2003 was in no way responsible for the present nightmare – in which Al-Qaeda has taken control of a huge chunk of the country and is beheading and torturing Shias, women, Christians and anyone else who falls foul of its ghastly medieval agenda. Tony Blair now believes that all this was ‘always, repeat always’ going to happen.”

Not so, Johnson believes.

An Iraqi weeps as he walks away from the ministries of justice and labour following a suicide bombing on October 25, 2009.

“The reality is that before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no Al-Qaeda presence in that country, none at all.” Despite his brutal tyranny, “Saddam did not have anything to do with the 9/11 attack and he did not possess Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

Hammering the point home about just what exactly British and American interventionism accomplished in Iraq, Johnson lays it out simply, “The truth is that we destroyed the institutions of authority in Iraq without having the foggiest idea what would come next. As one senior British general has put it to me, ‘we snipped the spinal cord’ without any plan to replace it. There are more than 100,000 dead Iraqis who would be alive today if we had not gone in and created the conditions for such a conflict, to say nothing of the troops from America, Britain and other countries who have lost their lives in the shambles.”

The London mayor makes the admission that he was among those that voted for the war in the belief that it was the right thing to do – after all, Saddam was considered a madman whose prolonged rule would only bring about a further stagnation in Iraq. But because there was no government waiting to replace him, as well as no institutions or infrastructure set up in place for after the devastation of the conflict, Johnson, like others, became disillusioned with the Bush/Blair plans.

By refusing to admit the colossal miscalculations and lack of foresight that led to Iraq’s present state a decade after invasion, “Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates – the possibility of serious and effective intervention.”

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) capturing dozens of Iraqi security forces members prior to transporting them to an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them.

“Yes, we helped cause the disaster in Iraq; but that does not mean we are incapable of trying to make some amends. It might be that there are specific and targeted things we could do – and, morally, perhaps should do – to help protect the people of Iraq from terrorism (to say nothing of Syria, where 100,000 people have died in the past three years),” Johnson wrote of Iraq’s neighbor, whom Blair accused of being guilty of leading his country into a war with extremist insurgents, while also accusing the West of not doing more to topple the president – the Alawite Bashar Assad, who has been fighting the same Sunni extremism plaguing Iraq for three years now.

Johnson asserts that unless Britain, with its great military spending and permanent seat on the UN Security Council, does not admit to its failures as well as enjoy its successes, it would be completely self-defeating for what it tries to accomplish.

When it comes to the question of why the Iraq invasion happened in the first place, the London mayor alleges that the former British leader’s whole campaign arose out of a desire to achieve personal “grandeur.”

“Somebody needs to get on to Tony Blair and tell him to put a sock in it – or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender. Then he might be worth hearing. The truth shall set you free, Tony.”

Boris Johnson traveled to Iraq and wrote his own piece for The Spectator in May 2003, giving his thoughts on life in Iraq after Saddam Hussein.

He reminisced about how “within the space of the last half-hour, I had slunk past a ten-year-old with an AK47 over his shoulder, chewing the fat with his dad in the door of the shop” to the harrowing theme of gunfire, and his tragic near-death experience “in a city with no recognized authority” after accidentally interfering with its shopkeeper.

“It was troubling that we were preparing war against a sovereign country that had, so far, done us no direct harm,” Johnson wrote. Despite this, he stated that the disorder was rampant and it wasn’t solely at the direct hands of the US but the subsequent post-invasion turmoil.

“Weeks after the invasion, buildings are still burning, not from missiles but from the looting. Most of the shops are shut. There is glass everywhere, and rubbish all over the streets, because there are no municipal services; and there are no municipal services because civic order has broken down,” Johnson wrote, citing the concerns of one Iraqi emphatically questioning: “Where is our gas, our electricity? They just make promises!”

Power is being contested on every corner, between Shia moderates and extremists. It is being fought for by umpteen Kurdish parties, Assyrian parties, secular parties,” he added.

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Cameron Offered Support to Muslim Brotherhood Officials Last Year

Essam El-Hadad, former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s assistant on Foreign Affairs and the father of Gehad El-Hadad, with Dr Wael Haddara, senior advisor to Morsi, in front of 10 Downing Street, after a meeting

British Prime Minister David Cameron invited the Muslim Brotherhood’s international spokesman to lunch at Chequers last year in a two-hour seminar in which the Brotherhood presented its vision and the prime minister asked what Britain could do to support it, the Middle East Eye has learned.

Gehad El-Hadad, the international spokesman, was the star attraction of a prime ministerial seminar held on 17 May last year, when the former president Mohamed Morsi was still in power and months before he was due to London on an official visit.

According to a source who was present, Cameron talked of crony capitalism under Hosni Mubarak, and the potential of free markets under Morsi. Cameron questioned El-Hadad on the Brotherhood’s vision and asked what Britain could do to support it.

El-Hadad’s answers were described by those who attended as convincing and were referrred to in Cameron’s own summary at the end of the meeting. The prime ministerial seminar was followed by lunch and a tour of Chequers. Also present was Maajid Nawaz, the co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based think tank which focusses on counter-extremism.

The lunch at Chequers was the start of a series of meetings which Downing Street officials and ministers held with senior members of the Brotherhood. On June 5 Gehad’s father Dr Essam El Hadad had a meeting with John Casson in 10 Downing Street, accompanied by Dr Wael Haddara, senior advisor to the then Egyptian president. This was in preparation for a visit by Morsi in July. Dr El-Hadad also met William Hague and Alastair Burt at the Foreign Office.

News of the private encounters with the Brotherhood will embarrass the prime minister, who has since ordered a Whitehall investigation into whether an attack on tourists in Egypt was organised by the Brotherhood in Britain. Cameron came under a hail of criticism when it was revealed that he had appointed Sir John Jenkins, the UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia to head the review.

In justifying the reason for the inquiry, Home Office ministers said it was about the government “forming its own view”.

Downing Street was at pains to deny that Britain had come under the influence of Riyadh, with whom it has lucrative defence contracts. The kingdom has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation and has placed the organisation in pole position on its threat list, above al-Qaeda.

The Whitehall review will draw on assessments provided by MI6. El-Hadad himself is under arrest in Egypt, charged with inciting and participating in acts of murder, being a member of a “terrorist group”, publishing “false news”, disrupting “national peace” and “portraying a false image abroad”.

In a statement, the Muslim Brotherhood denied it had engaged in, or promoted, acts of violence and announced it had engaged the legal services of a former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald of River Glaven QC. Since then, it has heard nothing from the Whitehall inquiry.

Tayab Ali, of ITN sollicitors, acting on behalf of the Brotherhood said: “The government argues that its terrorism related inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood is not at the behest of Saudi Arabia, but in the UK national interest. Now that it has been revealed that Cameron invited a senior spokesman of the brotherhood for lunch at Chequers, maybe the prime minister himself should testify to the inquiry that he set up.”

Ali asked how it was that contact between Cameron and the Brotherhood was not only seen as legitimate in May last year, but actively sought by Downing Street, and the same organisation is now being investigated for alleged terrorist links.

“How has the UK national interest changed now that an elected president has been ousted in a military coup, and an unprecedented clampdown is underway, comprising the shooting of unarmed demonstrators, mass arrest, torture in custody and summary justice, which contravenes all legal norms and international conventions to which the UK Government is signatory?” Ali said.

Downing Street today confirmed the seminar took place and that El-Hadad attended it. “We can confirm that Gehad el El-Hadad attended a seminar at Chequers last year which sought to bring together a diverse spectrum of views on the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s important to remember that the Brotherhood were in power in Egypt at the time and, like Governments across the region and world, we were engaging with them in order to understand them better and to try to positively influence their actions in office. This is an organisation that has rapidly risen in prominence in recent years and our understanding of its philosophy, values and impact needs to keep pace with this,” said a spokeswoman.

The decision to appoint a serving ambassador to Saudi Arabia to head the inquiry has been criticised by a former UK ambassador to Riyadh, Lord Wright of Richmond. He said in a debate in the House of Lords, that the current ambassador would be in an “extremely invidious position” since the Saudi government wishes to discredit and destroy the Muslim Brotherhood. Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said: ”This is about UK national interest and the UK government forming its own view.”

A key role in the investigation will be played by Sir John Sawers, head of MI6, a former adviser to Tony Blair, ambassador in Egypt and special representative in Iraq. MI6 will investigate claims the Brotherhood were behind an attack in February on a bus in Sinai which killed three tourists from South Korea and an Egytpian driver. One of five jihadi militant groups based in Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis said it carried out the bomb attack on the tourist bus, claiming it was part of its economic war against the Egyptian government which it described as traitors. The attack was denounced at the time by the Muslim Brotherhood.

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/exclusive-when-cameron-took-muslim-brotherhood-lunch#sthash.oAhjZH9y.dpuf

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Cameron Orders Investigation into Brotherhood

Britain Politics

British Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood over concerns the group is planning radical activities from a base in London, his Downing Street office said Tuesday, according to the AFP news agency.

The intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 have been tasked to gather information on the “philosophy and activities” of the group after several leaders fled to London following the toppling of Egyptian  Mohammed Morsi last year, according to the report.

The probe would include an assessment of claims that the group was behind a suicide bus bombing that killed three South Korean tourists in Egypt’s south Sinai in February and several other attacks.

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The probe could reportedly lead to a ban on the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has risen in prominence in recent years but our understanding of the organization — its philosophy and values — has not kept pace with this,” a Downing Street spokesman said in a statement to AFP.

“Given the concerns now being expressed about the group and its alleged links to violent extremism, it’s absolutely right and prudent that we get a better handle of what the Brotherhood stands for, how they intend to achieve their aims and what that means for Britain,” according to the statement.

Morsi, the group’s former leader, was ousted last July after a single year in power. He now faces trial for treason.

Egypt’s government in December declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia followed suit last month.

The British government acted following reports that Brotherhood leaders had met in London last year to decide their response to the Egypt crisis, The Times said.

They gathered in a flat above an Islamic charity office in the drab northwest London suburb of Cricklewood, the report said.

The Times quoted officials as saying it was “possible but unlikely” that the investigation would lead to a ban, with some in the Foreign Office reportedly believing it would only serve to radicalize and drive members underground.

Islamic radicalism has been a cause for concern in Britain. Just last week it was reported that England’s Department of Education is beginning to take “special measures,” in the wake of a systemic campaign of an organized takeover of public school by Islamists in the city of Birmingham.

One major issue causing concern is the number of British citizens who have travelled to Syria to fight alongside the rebels trying to oust Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

Britain’s Information Minister recently said that the “security concern” for the UK posed by individuals who have trained and fought in Syria is “a big problem” for MI5 and the police.

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Picked up for scrap at a midwestern bric-a-brac stall the remarkable story of the £20m Fabergé Egg that nearly ended up in the melting pot..

A Third Imperial Faberge Easter Egg made for Russian royalty that was bought by a scrap metal dealer at a US bric-a-brac market

The amazing journey of the Fabergé egg began in Tsarist Russia and ended up in a flat above a Dunkin’ Donuts

Spotting an intricate golden egg decorated with diamond-encrusted ribbons of leaves and roses and three large sapphires, a scrap metal dealer saw a money-making opportunity.

Purchasing the item for $13,300 (£8,000) with the intention of melting it down, little did he imagine it would leave him approximately £20m better off.

The unnamed buyer had inadvertently purchased a lost and ultra-rare Fabergé egg made for Russian royalty.

Remarkably it was saved from the melting pot because no one recognised its potential by offering him more than he paid for it.

The amazing journey of the egg began in Tsarist Russia and ended up in a flat above a Dunkin’ Donuts in America’s Mid West. The egg, which has a Vacheron Constantin watch inside it, sits on a jewelled gold stand and was given by Alexander III to his wife Empress Maria Feodorovna in Easter 1887.

It was seized by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution before disappearing and turning up on an antiques stall in the US a decade ago.

The unnamed buyer paid £8,000 based on its weight and the estimated value of it’s decoration of diamonds and sapphires, but was unable to get anyone to take it off his hands.

A Third Imperial Faberge Easter Egg next to a cupcake

The egg began to be a financial burden to its owner. In desperation one evening, the owner tapped “egg” and “Vacheron Constantin” into Google and a newspaper article emerged about its background.

The article, published in the Daily Telegraph, quoted Kieran McCarthy, director of Wartski, the London-based Royal Warrant-holding experts on Carl Fabergé’s work.

Unable to sleep for days after recognising the egg as his, the owner flew to London to show images of it to Mr McCarthy who was left speechless.

To confirm it was not a fake, Mr McCarthy flew to the small Midwest town where the owner lived so he could be sure the egg was genuine.

When Mr McCarthy saw it on the owner’s kitchen table beside some cupcakes, he confirmed it was the lost Imperial treasure.

Wartski bought the egg for a private collector who has allowed it to be displayed for four days at an exhibition at Wartski in London from April 14.

Mr McCarthy said: “It’s the most incredible discovery. We have so many discoveries but none of them are as momentous as this.

“It has travelled from Imperial St Petersburg to the rust belt of America. It’s a story that deserves to be told because it could so easily have slipped away.

“For the Fabergé community and the historical community, it is a wondrous event because the Easter egg is the ultimate target for every antique dealer and every enthusiast.”

He added: “It may never be seen again and it may disappear into the deepest, darkest vaults of a collector somewhere.”

The egg was last seen in public in March 1902 when it was shown at an exhibition of the Russian Imperial family’s Fabergé collection in St Petersburg.

In the turmoil of the Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks confiscated the valuable egg from the empress.

It was recorded in Moscow in 1922 when the Soviets decided to sell it as part of their policy of turning “treasures into tractors”.

Its fate afterwards was unknown and it was long feared that it could have been melted down for its gold value and lost forever.

But in 2011 Fabergé researchers found the egg had been sold in New York in March 1964 for just £875 at the time.

It followed the discovery of an old Parke-Bernet catalogue, and it was sold as a “gold watch in egg form case” without its provenance being known.

The revelation sparked a worldwide race to discover its whereabouts, which ultimately led to the scrap metal dealer in America’s Midwest.

The Independent.

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Report: Up to 11,000 foreign fighters from 70 nations are in Syria | World Tribune

6454778LONDON — The foreign fighters presence in the Sunni revolt in Syria has reached as many as 11,000, a report said.

The International Center for the Study of Radicalization estimated that between 3,300 and 11,000 foreigners have joined the Sunni revolt against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad

In a report, the London-based center said the fighters came from than 70 countries, including European Union members.

“We estimate that — from late 2011 to 10 December 2013 — between 3,300 and 11,000 individuals have gone to Syria to fight against the Assad government,” the report said. “These figures include those who are currently present [in Syria] as well as those who have since returned home, been arrested or killed.”

The report, based on 1,500 sources, said Arabs and Europeans comprised up to 80 percent the foreign fighters in Syria. The center also cited Islamist recruits from Africa, Canada, the United States, the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union.

“Individuals from Middle Eastern countries continue to represent the majority of foreign fighters — around 70 percent,” the report said. “We estimate that up to 6,774 non-Syrian Arabs and an additional 523 non-Arabs from the [wider] region have gone to Syria.”

The report said many of the foreign fighters joined Al Qaida’s
Islamic State of Iraq and Levant as well as the Nusra Front for the Defense of the Levant. Both militias were said to control much of northern Syria.

“Only about 20 percent of the sources stated group affiliations,” the report said. “Of those, the vast majority are with Jabhat Al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham — the two militant opposition groups that are closest to Al Qaida. To a much lesser extent, fighters were also
reported to be members of Jaysh Al Muhajirin wa-l-Ansar, Harakat Ahrar Al Sham Al Islamiyya, Katibat Suqur Al Izz, Liwa Al Umma, and Harakat Sham Al Islam, among others.”

The European element in the Sunni revolt was said to have intensified in 2013 amid the deepening intervention by Iran and its Shi’ite proxies from Iraq and Lebanon. The report estimated a three-fold increase in EU nationals from April 2013, with the largest contributions from Britain and France.

“This may have reinforced and strengthened the perception among some Sunnis that the conflict is fundamentally sectarian, and that Sunnis need to stand together in order to halt the [Shi’ite] enemy’s advance,” the report,
released on Dec. 17, said.

Report: Up to 11,000 foreign fighters from 70 nations are in Syria | World Tribune.

Britain targets Guardian newspaper over intelligence leaks related to Edward Snowden.

LONDON — Living in self-imposed exile in Russia, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden may be safely out of reach from Western powers. But dismayed by the continued airing of trans­atlantic intelligence, British authorities are taking full aim at a messenger shedding light on his secret files here — the small but mighty Guardian newspaper.

The pressures coming to bear against the Guardian, observers say, are testing the limits of press freedoms in one of the world’s most open societies. Although Britain is famously home to a fierce pack of news media outlets — including the tabloid hounds of old Fleet Street — it also has no enshrined constitutional right to free speech.

The Guardian, in fact, has slipped into the single largest crack in the free speech laws that are on the books here — the dissemination of state secrets protecting queen and country in the British homeland.

A feisty, London-based news outlet with a print circulation just shy of 200,000 — albeit with a far bigger footprint online with readers in the many millions — the Guardian, along with The Washington Post, was the first to publish reports based on classified data spirited out of the United States by Snowden. In the months since, the Guardian has continued to make officials here exceedingly nervous by exposing the joint operations of U.S. and British intelligence — particularly their cooperation in data collection and snooping programs involving British citizens and close allies on the European continent. In response, the Guardian is being called to account by British authorities for jeopardizing national security. The Guardian’s top editor, Alan Rusbridger, is being forced to appear before a parliamentary committee Tuesday to explain the news outlet’s actions. The move comes after British officials ordered the destruction of hard drives at the Guardian’s London headquarters, even as top ministers have taken to the airwaves to denounce the newspaper. Scotland Yard has also suggested it may be investigating the paper for possible breaches of British law.

The government treatment of the Guardian is highlighting the very different way Britons tend to view free speech, a liberty that here is seen through the prism of the public good and privacy laws as much as the right to open expression.

Nevertheless, the actions against the paper have led to growing concern in Britain and beyond. Frank La Rue, the U.N. special rapporteur on free expression, has denounced the Guardian’s treatment as “unacceptable in a democratic society.” The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, a Paris-based trade association, will send a delegation of “concerned” publishers and editors from five continents to London in January on a “U.K. press freedom mission.”

“The kind of threats and intimidation being experienced by the Guardian, especially compared to the different responses in the United States and Germany, is something that we should all be very worried about,” said Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, a London-based freedom of expression group.

Threat to national security?

The Guardian is among the global news outlets thoroughly studying the Snowden files and publishing key parts, a club that in addition to The Post has expanded to include the New York Times and Germany’s Der Spiegel, among others.

U.S. intelligence officials have said publicly that the disclosures endanger national security, and the head of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, has said the federal government needs to a find a way to stop them.“We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers, but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on,” Alexander told the Defense Department’s Armed With Science blog in October.

The Post does not show stories to U.S. officials in advance of publication, nor does it routinely agree to official requests. But language in some articles has occasionally been modified when officials cited very specific risks to certain intelligence operations and individuals, according to the paper’s executive editor, Martin Baron. A spokeswoman for the New York Times pointed to statements by executive editor Jill Abramson in which she said the paper had turned down at least one request by U.S. officials to withhold a story.

Although legal experts say the First Amendment offers stronger protection for the news media in the United States than their counterparts enjoy in Britain, U.S. authorities still have tools at their disposal to limit the disclosure of classified data. Those tools include the 1917 Espionage Act, which federal prosecutors have used to charge Snowden. Nevertheless, U.S. officials have thus far stopped short of the more aggressive tactics being deployed against the Guardian in Britain.

The German government has also taken a relatively hands-off approach. “At Der Spiegel we have not encountered anything similar,” managing editor Klaus Brinkbäumer said in an e-mail. “There is no serious pressure.”

In contrast, Rusbridger must explain to the parliamentary committee the paper’s dissemination and handling of the Snowden data. The move came after Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking on the floor of Parliament in October, offered comments that seemed to open the door for the editor’s public grilling.

Scotland Yard, meanwhile, has suggested that it might be investigating the Guardian in connection with the authorities’ continuing probe of David Miranda, the partner of Brazil-based freelance journalist Glenn Greenwald, who formerly worked with the Guardian on its Snowden stories.

In August, British authorities arrested Miranda at Heathrow Airport while he was on an information-gathering trip funded by the Guardian. British officials interrogated Miranda for nine hours before confiscating his laptop, cellphone, USB memory sticks and video-game consoles.

Miranda was released after being questioned, but the confiscated items remain in official custody.

Read More :Britain targets Guardian newspaper over intelligence leaks related to Edward Snowden – The Washington Post.