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ARAB TIMES, SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2011

MIDEAST

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Drone crash unmasks US spying in Iran ISIS says explosion near Isfahan, not a nuclear site WA S H I N G T O N , Dec 10, (RTRS): The crash of a CIA drone in Iran has brought into the open what US intelligence agencies would prefer kept secret: intense spying efforts in a country where the United States has no official presence.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Ramadan alZaalan, 12, during his funeral in Gaza City on Dec 10. Zaalan was killed with his father Bahjat in an Israeli air strike on a civilain house in Gaza, medics said. (AFP)

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Secularists reassured

‘No Islamic dress code for women’ RABAT, Dec 10, (RTRS): The man set to become Morocco’s first Islamist prime minister said on Friday his government would not try to make women dress more modestly. Abdelilah Benkirane is to lead a coalition government after his Justice and Development Party (PJD) became the latest Islamist movement in the Middle East to win an election in the wake of the “Arab Spring” revolutions. The party is anxious to reassure powerful secularists in the Moroccan establishment, foreign investors, and the tourists who provide much of the country’s revenue, that it will not try to impose a strict Muslim moral code. “We are proud that our point of reference is Islamist,” Benkirane, the PJD’s secretary general and prime minister designate, told a small group of reporters invited to a briefing. “I will never be interested in the private life of people, Allah created mankind free. I will never ask if a woman is wearing a short skirt or a long skirt.” “But there are things forbidden by the law. I think even in some European countries, people cannot be naked in public places,” he said. On relations with countries in Europe, Morocco’s biggest trading partner, Benkirane said: “They are our friends and we need them and they will need us ... Morocco not only has historical ties to Europe but philosophical ones.”

Concert The most high profile test of Moroccan Islamists’ stance on moral issues came last year, when PJD politicians said they were opposed to gay singer Elton John giving a concert in the country. He went ahead and performed anyway. Benkirane declined to answer questions on what economic policies his government would pursue. Economists say Morocco needs to tame its budget deficit, stimulate growth and tackle the poverty and unemployment that are fuelling unrest. Morocco’s monarch, who has the final say on all issues of defence, national security and religion, this week named a bitter opponent of the PJD, Fouad Ali el-Himma as a royal adviser. That appointment could signal an attempt by the palace to rein in the Islamist-led coalition. Asked about el-Himma, Benkirane said it was customary in Morocco not to comment on decisions made by the monarch. “I am forming the new government in a country whose head of state is King Mohamed VI, he is my boss. It is not my business how the head of state, who is my boss, manages his royal court,” said Benkirane.

News in Brief Chemical weapons use denied: The Turkish military denied on Thursday it was using chemical weapons in its fight against the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and said it did not even possess such arms. “There have been no chemical weapons or ammunition registered in the inventory of the Turkish Armed Forces,” said the General Staff, which presides over the armed forces, according to the Anatolia news agency. “The fight against the separatist terrorist organisation continues in compliance with national and universal rules of law,” it added. The military was responding to claims published in some media at home and abroad that the army was using chemical weapons in its operations against Kurdish rebels. The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) also accused the army several times of using such weapons. The claims are “baseless, biased and aimed at slandering the Turkish armed forces,” the General Staff said. Listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK took up arms for Kurdish independence in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives. (AFP)

Iran on Thursday aired with great flourish footage of the captured drone, which appeared largely intact. Pentagon and CIA spokesmen would not comment on whether it was the missing US RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aircraft. A person familiar with the situation confirmed that the drone that crashed was on a surveillance mission over Iran. It is believed to have crashed because of a malfunction and not from being shot down or computerhacked by the Iranians, a US official said on condition of anonymity. Although there are risks that Iran could attempt to reverse engineer the technology, or sell it to other countries, like China, US officials believe that Iran will not be able to mine the drone’s computer systems to

Iraqis shop at Shorja market in Baghdad on Dec 10. The withdrawal of US troops from Iraq more than eight years after the invasion leaves a country grappling with political deadlock and vulnerable to regional inteference and a domestic insurgency. (AFP)

learn details of the US surveillance mission. US surveillance of Iran through various means has been going on for years, US officials and others with direct knowledge of the situ-

ation say. A private US defense expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that when he visited the command center at a US military base in the Gulf

region in 2008, it was clear that the installation was receiving multiple feeds of electronic surveillance information from inside Iran. Some of the information

appeared to be transmitted from high-altitude aircraft and some from electronic sensors which the United States had somehow installed on the ground in Iran, the expert said.

The United States has no official presence in Iran so it is difficult to determine exactly what is going on inside its borders. One recent incident has yet to be fully unraveled. On Nov 28, there were contradictory reports out of Iran on whether an explosion had occurred in the city of Isfahan, which is also home to a major nuclear site. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said he has been studying imagery of that area and no damage was detected at the Isfahan nuclear site. But, he said, “it is credible there was an explosion, but not at the nuclear site.” He said it was puzzling that Iranians clearly said an explosion at a missile depot two weeks earlier had been an accident, but did not provide similar clarity about Isfahan. “We’re trying to figure out what actually happened,” he said. “Explosions are happening in Iran, and Iran is not making a big deal out of them. They are either calling them accidents or saying they didn’t happen, and therefore when these things continue to happen it could be because intelligence agencies are actually now playing sabotage,” Albright said.

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