Archive | June 3rd, 2013

Far rights continue marches against Islam in Britain

Nargess Moballeghi, Press TV, London

Demonstrations by far-right extremist groups in Britain have been allowed to take place across the country. The British National Party and the English Defense League are small in number and supporters. But, they’ve been making hue and cry and getting a lot of media coverage.

For the second weekend in a row after the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich – the far right marched against Islam in Britain.

The British National Party, the BNP had planned to march from the military barracks in Woolwich to a local mosque. Police stopped the demo under a public order act. Instead a very small number of BNP supporters have gathered at a designated area by parliament. They want to march, but anti-fascist demonstrators have them surrounded.

Across the country, the EDL was also marching, and being confronted by anti-racist demonstrators.

About 80 BNP members were overshadowed by the huge police presence and several thousand demonstrators from the United Against Fascism, or UAF.

Tensions were high as the UAF left their police-designated area to block the BNP. Scuffles broke out and there were reports of injuries.

The police spent most of the day trying to push back resistant anti-fascist demonstrators, and arrested several dozen.

But the majority were peaceful protestors who said they wanted to show their solidarity.

BNP leader, Nick Griffin, called his a political protest to a political problem. He said it’s time to stop believing what he described the lie that Islam is a religion of peace or that foreign policy has nothing to do with it.

Although strongly against the first statement, it’s ironic that both sides agree on the second – that foreign policy has A LOT to do with it.

The Woolwich attackers specifically spoke about British military presence in Muslim countries. But the government has absolutely rejected any link.

The problem is, that denial is becoming a dangerous breeding ground, for extremists on both sides.
By ignoring the link, radicalization inside Britain remains unresolved. And far-right parties like the BNP take full advantage – by saying what that mainstream politicians refuse to even acknowledge.

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Zionist cleric Yu$uf al-Qaradawi has called on Sunni Muslims to join NATO rats the fighting the Syrian regime, as he lashed out at Hezbollah for sending its men to fight Zio_NATO rats in Syria.

Zionist Qaradawi,  also hit out at Iran for backing the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Every Muslim trained to fight and capable of doing that (must) make himself available” to support the Zio_NATO, the cleric said at a rally in Doha late Friday.

“Iran is pushing forward arms and men (to back the Syrian regime), so why do we stand idle?” he said, branding Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which means the party of God in Arabic.

Hezbollah, a close ally of Iran and the Syrian regime, is openly engaged in the fight against the NATO rats in Syria. It has also fought for years against IsraHell, arch rival of Iran and Syria.

“The leader of the party of the Satan comes to fight the Sunnis… Now we know what the Iranians want… They want continued massacres to kill Sunnis,” Zionist Qaradawi said.

“How could 100 million Shiites (worldwide) defeat 1.7 billion (Sunnis)?” he exclaimed, “only because (Sunni) Muslims are weak”.

The Zionist Rabbi blamed himself for previously backing Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah who gained popularity after steadfastly leading his group in the fight against IsraHell in 2006.

“I defended the so-called Nasrallah and his party, the party of tyranny… in front of clerics in Saudi Arabia,” .

“It seems that the clerics of Saudi Arabia were more mature than me,” Zionist Qaradawi said.

But the Zionist Rabbi  insisted that his call to fight Hezbollah is “not against all Shiites”.

Fighters of Hezbollah are engaged in fierce battles against Zio-NATO Rats  to capture the Syrian town of Qusayr near the Lebanese borders.

Zionist Rabbi Qaradawi hosts a popular show on Al-Jazeera satellite television and has backed the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria.


Good News: Assad’s forces have gained upper hand


As hopes for a Syrian peace conference fade and the opposition falls into disarray, President Bashar Assad has every reason to project confidence.

Government forces have moved steadily against rebels in key areas over the past two months, making strategic advances and considerably lowering the threat to the capital, Damascus.

With army soldiers no longer defecting and elite Hezbollah fighters actively helping, the regime now clearly has the upper hand in a two-year civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people.

In TV interviews this week, Assad and his foreign minister boasted of achievements and suggested that the military offensive would continue regardless of whether a peace track is in place.

“What is happening now is not a shift in tactic from defense to attack, but rather a shift in the balance of power in favor of the armed forces,” Assad said.

“There is no doubt that as events have unfolded, Syrians have been able to better understand the situation and what is really at stake,” Assad told Al-Manar TV, owned by the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group.

Military analysts and activists in Syria say that Assad’s forces have shown renewed determination since roughly the beginning of April, moving to recapture areas that had long fallen to rebels.

Significantly, Syrian troops appear to have gained the edge in the central Homs region.

Homs is important partly because it links Damascus with the coastal heartland of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The rebels are mostly from the country’s Sunni Muslim majority. The coast also is home to the country’s two main seaports, Latakia and Tartus.

Syrian troops and Hezbollah forces have been clearing the town of Qusair in Homs province, where rebels have been entrenched for a year.

State-run Syrian TV said yesterday that troops captured the village of Jawadiyeh outside Qusair, closing all entrances leading to the town and tightening the government’s siege.

For the rebels, holding the town means protecting their supply line to Lebanon, just 6 miles away. Days ago, the rebels called on opposition forces around the country to join them in defending Qusair.

In an interview with Al-Mayadeen TV on Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said he expected the fall of Qusair to the regime “within days.”

The commander of the main Western-backed umbrella group of Syrian rebel brigades, Gen. Salim Idris, said this week that unless rebels receive weapons quickly, they might not be able to hold Qusair.

The army has also pushed back rebels in some areas around the capital. According to residents, that’s led to a decline in mortar shells.

“The army has broken the atmosphere of fear and terror inside Damascus that the rebels created by firing mortars,” said Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut.

Jaber said troops have cleared up to 80 percent of the areas around Damascus in the past two months.

Equally important, he said, is the successful offensive the army is conducting in the area south of Damascus that links the capital with the Jordanian border.

Despite a surge in rebel advances near Jordan earlier this year, the government now appears to control much of Daraa province south of Damascus, an opposition stronghold and the birthplace of the uprising.

Politically, Assad can still count on the support of his Russian and Iranian allies — and the growing disarray of the Western-backed Syrian opposition.

Yesterday, Russia’s MiG aircraft maker announced plans to sign a new agreement to ship at least 10 fighter jets to Syria.

Hours after the announcement, the U.S. and Germany lashed out at Moscow’s intentions to provide the Assad regime with an advanced air-defense system, which could prolong the war.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia’s transfer of the S-300 missiles would not be “helpful” as the U.S. and Russia jointly try to get the Syrian government and opposition into peace negotiations. The talks were initially planned for Geneva this month but have been delayed until July.

Syria’s main political opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, faced stiff criticism for spending meetings in Turkey this week mired in personal issues and quarrels about membership.

On Thursday, the coalition announced that in light of “massacres” in Qusair, it would not attend peace talks. That torpedoes the only plan for trying to end Syria’s civil war that the international community had been able to agree on.

With prospects for a diplomatic solution dim, President Barack Obama will likely face renewed pressure to help the rebels militarily.

Yesterday, Republican Sen. John McCain said rebels need ammunition and heavy weapons to reverse the battlefield situation. McCain returned Thursday from a trip to Syria.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Good News: Assad’s forces have gained upper hand

‘UK ready to arm Zio-NATO Rats if peace talks fail’


Britain is prepared to send arms to Syrian rebels should peace talks set for this month fail to bring about an end to the conflict, the Financial Times reported on Friday, citing UK officials.

The EU ban on arming rebels expired last Monday, paving the way for the UK to send weapons to forces fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

France and Britain, the biggest supporters of scrapping the embargo, have officially said they had not yet decided to arm rebel forces in Syria. A British official cited in the Financial Times report said, however, that, barring a diplomatic solution to the conflict, it was highly probable the UK would arm the rebels.

“The precise timing has not yet been finalized and no decision has yet been taken. But we are likely to be… shipping arms to the rebels by August,” the official said.

“What I expect is that over the next two or three months, Western powers will move low-grade arms supplies in bulk to the rebels. The rebels need ammunition, and a lot of it, just to keep fighting,” he said.

The United States and Russia are trying to convene an international conference this month to end the 26-monthold conflict.

Washington is hoping that the conference, known as “Geneva 2” after a first conference last year in the Swiss city, will lead to a transitional government in Syria.

The Financial Times quoted another British official as saying that, both in London and Paris, there are expectations that the US will also begin arming rebels should the June peace conference fail.

The Times quoted Syrian opposition forces as saying the UK had promised to arm rebels as part of its efforts to coax the opposition to take part in the conference.

Syria’s opposition cast doubt on Friday on hopes of any meaningful progress in the international peace talks, after Assad said only a referendum could decide whether he should leave power.

George Sabra, the acting head of the Syrian National Council opposition coalition, said it would stay out of any such talks as long as Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas were fighting alongside Assad’s forces.

It was not clear if the statement by Sabra was the fragmented organization’s final word.

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Syria Accuses Erdogan of Terrorizing Turks



Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Syria’s former ally Turkey on Saturday of “terrorizing” his own people and called on him to resign.

“The demands of the Turkish people do not justify this violence, and if Erdogan is incapable of using non-violent methods, then he should quit,” state television cited Zohbi as saying after rioting in Istanbul.

“Erdogan is leading his country in a terrorist way, destroying the civilization and achievements of the Turkish people.”

Zohbi’s remarks came as Erdogan vowed to press ahead with a controversial plan to redevelop an Istanbul park, calling for an immediate end to violent protests against the project that have spiraled into anti-government demonstrations.

On Saturday police used tear gas against protesters in Taksim Square, the epicenter of the protests that have left dozens of people injured and have earned Turkey a rare rebuke from its ally the United States.

Erdogan admitted there had been cases of “extreme” police action against demonstrators.

“The fact that he suppresses peaceful demonstrations proves that Erdogan is disconnected from reality,” Zohbi said, adding: “The Turkish people do not deserve such savagery.”

“We wish the Turkish people only stability and calm, and urge that Erdogan act wisely and not treat the Turks the way he has treated the Syrians,” he added.

Ankara, formerly a key ally of Damascus, supports the rebels battling to oust President Bashar Assad’s regime. Some 400,000 Syrians who have fled the violence at home are now refugees in Turkey.

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Public Meeting: Understanding Gezi Park, the AKP, and the Turkish protest movement


Main speaker: Turkish journalist and NUJ activist

Friday 7 June 2013 6.45pm – 8.15pm

274 Moseley Road, Highgate, Birmingham, B12 0BS 

This meeting is kindly hosted by community advocacy service United We Stand [Served by the Number 50 bus from town every 5 minutes: stop outside Birmingham Car Auctions opposite Old Fire Station] 

With the unprecedented wave of violence unleashed upon demonstrators in Istanbul and around Turkey, many are now asking “why the bloodshed?”  freelance Turkish journalist based in Birmingham where she is an active member of Birmingham NUJ. She is speaking in a personal capacity. The presentation will be followed by Q&A and general discussion.


United We Stand:  Community and advocacy service

274 Moseley Road,  Birmingham, B12 0BS

Tel: 0121 446 4371

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10.00am-3.00pm

Not-for-profit Reg No.07790337


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IsraHell-Mexico: Military Cooperation to Crush Zapatistas Liberation Movement



Earlier this month, Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca, Mexico’s newly-appointed secretary of public security in Chiapas, announced that discussions had taken place between his office and the Israeli defense ministry. The two countries talked about security coordination at the level of police, prisons and effective use of technology (Israeli military will train Chiapas police,” Excelsior, 8 May [Spanish]).

Chiapas is home to the Zapatistas (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), a mostly indigenous Maya liberation movement that has enjoyed global grassroots support since it rose up against the Mexican government in 1994. The Zapatistas took back large tracts of land on which they have since built subsistence cooperatives, autonomous schools, collectivized clinics and other democratic community structures.

In the twenty years since the uprising, the Mexican government has not ceased its counterinsurgency programs in Chiapas. When Llaven Abarca was announced as security head in December, human rights organizations voiced concerns that the violence would escalate, pointing to his history of arbitrary detentions, use of public force, criminal preventive detentions, death threats and torture (“Concern about the appointment of Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca as Secretary of Public Security in Chiapas,” Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (Frayba) Center for Human Rights,14 December 2012 [PDF, Spanish]).

Aptly, his recent contacts with Israeli personnel were “aimed at sharing experiences,” Abarca has claimed. This may be the first time the Mexican government has gone public about military coordination with Israelis in Chiapas. Yet the agreement is only the latest in Israel’s longer history of military exports to the region, an industry spawned from experiences in the conquest and pacification of Palestine.

Weapons sales escalate

The first Zionist militias (Bar Giora and HaShomer) were formed to advance the settlement of Palestinian land. Another Zionist militia, the Haganah — the precursor to the Israeli army and the successor of HaShomer — began importing and producing arms in 1920.

Israeli firms began exporting weapons in the 1950s to Latin America, including to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic under the Somoza and Trujillo dictatorships. Massive government investment in the arms industry followed the 1967 War and the ensuing French arms embargo. Israeli arms, police, military training and equipment have now been sent to at least 140 countries, including to Guatemala in the 1980s under Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator recently convicted of genocide against the Maya.

Mexico began receiving Israeli weaponry in 1973 with the sale of five Arava planes from Israel Aerospace Industries. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, infrequent exports continued to the country in the form of small arms, mortars and electronic fences. Sales escalated in the early 2000s, according to research that we have undertaken.

In 2003, Mexico bought helicopters formerly belonging to the Israeli army and Israel Aerospace Industries’ Gabriel missiles. Another Israeli security firm, Magal Security Systems, received one of several contracts for surveillance systems “to protect sensitive installations in Mexico” that same year, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In 2004, Israel Shipyards sold missile boats, and later both Aeronautics Defense Systems and Elbit Systems won contracts from the federal police and armed forces for drones for border and domestic surveillance (“UAV maker Aeronautics to supply Mexican police,Globes, 15 February 2009). Verint Systems, a technology firm founded by former Israeli army personnel, has won several US-sponsored contracts since 2006 for the mass wiretapping of Mexican telecommunications, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.

Trained by Israel

According to declassified Defense Intelligence Agency documents [PDF] obtained via a freedom of information request, Israeli personnel were discreetly sent into Chiapas in response to the 1994 Zapatista uprising for the purpose of “providing training to Mexican military and police forces.”

The Mexican government also made use of the Arava aircraft to deploy its Airborne Special Forces Group (Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales, or GAFE). GAFE commandos were themselves trained by Israel and the US. Several would later desert the GAFE and go on to create “Los Zetas,” currently Mexico’s most powerful and violent drug cartel (“Los Zetas and Mexico’s Transnational Drug War,” World Politics Review, 25 December 2009).

Mexico was surprised by the Zapatistas, who rose up the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Mexican government found itself needing to respond to the dictates of foreign investors, as a famously-leaked Chase-Manhattan Bank memo revealed: “While Chiapas, in our opinion, does not pose a fundamental threat to Mexican political stability, it is perceived to be so by many in the investment community. The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy.”

Marketing “stability”

Today, faced with a people in open rebellion against their own annihilation, the perception of stability continues to be an important modus operandi for the Mexican government. For Israel, the Oslo “peace process” and the Palestinian Authority’s neoliberal turn has similarly helped cultivate an illusory perception of peace and stability while the colonization of Palestine continues.

Indeed, “creating an atmosphere of stability” was the stated goal of the recent Mexico-Israel contacts, and the desire for at least the perception of it might help explain why an Israeli presence in Chiapas is now going public, or rather, according to journalist Naomi Klein, is being “marketed.”

Yet managing perceptions can only remain the short-term goal of governments whose shared ambition is to annihilate. And just as Israel shares with Mexico its military experiences against Palestinians, it is equally likely that Israel could apply some of Mexico’s counterinsurgency tactics to its oppression of the the Palestinian people.

The military relationship between Israel and Mexico is how the Zapatistas themselves have long recognized their connection to the Palestinian struggle.

This message was underscored by Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos when Israel was bombing Gaza in early 2009 (“Of sowing and harvests,” My word is my weapon, 4 January 2009). Despite the distance between Chiapas and Gaza, Marcos stressed that their experiences made the people of the two territories feel close to each other.

It is worth recalling Marcos’ words: “Not far from here, in a place called Gaza, in Palestine, in the Middle East, right here next to us, the Israeli government’s heavily trained and armed military continues its march of death and destruction.”


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Syria–Erdogan is ‘detached, wild’


Deep rift between Turkey, Assad regime, reaches streets of Istanbul. Syrian Information minister attacks Turkish response to mass protests, various media criticize US


Damascus is taking advantage of the opportunity to attack Turkey. Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi had things to say Saturday about Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s methods of responding to mass protests in his country.

“The oppression of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan against nonviolent demonstrations is something that is unrealistic and reveals that he is detached from reality,” al-Zohbi said. “The Turkish people, our brothers, do not deserve this wildness and there is no justification for Erdogan to challenge his people.”

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, a deep rift has grown between the two countries. Estimates regarding the extent of the killings – about 80,000 people thus far – has served to exacerbate the tone and turned political criticism into a chasm that has brought the two country’s armies to the edge of conflict.

Now, the Syrian regime and media are taking advantage of happenings in Turkey – a local environmental protest which developed into a chain of mass demonstrations against the government – to attack Erdogan and divert the international spotlight a bit from what is happening in Syria.

The official Syrian news agency SANA described in detail the events in Istanbul under the headline, “Continued mass protests against the authoritarian Erdogan government.” According to the Assad-associated news agency, “The protests reflect the growing dissatisfaction of the public with the ways of the Erdogan government and are an expression of opposition to its policies in relation to the crisis in Syria.”

Erdogan also received criticism in the article which stated that he “continues with his plans despite widespread popular protests.” The article also made its statement on the US State Department, which it said was, “merely expressing concern for a number of wounded.”

Hezbollah, a Lebanese ally of Assad, also highlighted the events in Turkey. “Protests against the government of Erdogan growing and Turkish President is concerned,” said the Shiite group’s Al-Manar TV network, which broadcast photos of wounded from the events.

The Almayadeen Lebanese channel, also associated with Hezbollah, noted, “These are the most violent protests in Turkey in a decade,” adding sarcastically that the United States reminded its ally that it needed to respect individual freedoms.

The protest in Taksim Square began on Monday, after a number of trees were uprooted by authorities to make way for the establishment of a commercial center as written in the local development plan. The local protests gathered momentum and became a mass uprising against the policy of Erdogan and his party, the Islamist “Justice and Development Party.”

On Friday, violence erupted at dawn, when the police force raided a camp protesters had set up in the square and slept in for several days. The protesters said that the protest “is not about the cutting down of trees anymore,” but against the Turkish prime minister and against his party.

The protest expanded from Istanbul to other cities, including Ankara. For now, tens of thousands of people are participating in protests throughout Turkey, and a pair of the longest bridges in the Bosporus Strait, normally connecting the two parts of Istanbul, close periodically due to the events. Some streets at the center of the conflict have been closed as well.

About 1,000 people were injured in the riots, including one who was injured in the head, and several individuals who lost their eyes. The events led Erdogan to admit that “mistakes were made” and that police used excessive force. President Abdullah Gul called on police to “act proportionately.”

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TURKEY PROTEST : Erdogan is a dictator

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Egypt fears grow as Ethiopia builds giant Nile dam


Diversion of water of the Nile River began earlier this week

The Associated Press
Ethiopia started to divert the flow of the Blue Nile river to construct a giant dam on Tuesday, according to its state media, in a move that could impact the Nile-dependent Egypt.
Ethiopia started to divert the flow of the Blue Nile river to construct a giant dam on Tuesday, according to its state media, in a move that could impact the Nile-dependent Egypt. (Elias Asmare/Associated Press)

Ethiopia’s construction of Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam on the world’s longest river threatens to affect flows of water to Nile-dependent, water-starved Egypt, where there is growing outrage, anger and fear.

Egypt in the past has threatened to go to war over its “historic rights” to Nile River water but diplomats from both countries this week played down the potential for conflict.

“A military solution for the Nile River crisis is ruled out,” Egypt’s irrigation and water resources minister, Mohammed Baheddin, said Thursday amid newspaper reports recalling the threats of war from Egypt’s two previous leaders, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.

Ethiopia on Tuesday started diverting the flow of the Blue Nile for construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Eighty-five percent of Nile waters originate in Ethiopia yet the East African nation whose name has become synonymous with famine thus far utilizes very little of those waters.

Colonial-era agreements

Ethiopia’s decision challenges a colonial-era agreement that had given downstream Egypt and Sudan rights to the Nile water, with Egypt taking 55.5 billion cubic metres and Sudan 18.5 billion cubic metre of 84 billion cubic metres, with 10 billion lost to evaporation. That agreement, first signed in 1929, took no account of the eight other nations along the 6,700-kilometre river and its basin, which have been agitating for a decade for a more equitable accord.

Map of the Nile Rive locating the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. A section of the river has been diverted to complete construction of the huge dam which is worrying downstream countries dependant on the river for water.

Map of the Nile Rive locating the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. A section of the river has been diverted to complete construction of the huge dam which is worrying downstream countries dependant on the river for water. (Reuters)And Ethiopia’s unilateral action seems to ignore the 10-nation Nile Basin Initiative to promote co-operation.

Ethiopia is leading five nations threatening to sign a new cooperation agreement without Egypt and Sudan, effectively taking control from Egypt of the Nile, which serves some 238 million people.

Mohammed Abdel-Qader, governor of Egypt’s Gharbiya province in the Nile Delta, warned the dam spells “disaster” and is a national security issue for the North African nation.

Dam spells “disaster”

“Taking Egypt’s share of water is totally rejected … The Nile means everything to Egypt,” said Gov. Abdel-Qader.

Baheddin said Egypt already is suffering “water poverty” with an individual’s share of 640 cubic metres well below the international average of 1,000 cubic metres.

Egypt protests that others along the Nile have alternative water sources, while the Nile is the sole water source in the mainly desert country.

Ethiopian officials say the dam is needed to provide much-needed power for development.

At a ceremony marking the diversion of the Nile, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnin said Ethiopia could export cheap electricity from the dam to energy-short Egypt and Sudan. He insisted the dam would not affect the flow of water to Egypt.

Experts say otherwise.

Alaa el-Zawahri, a dams engineer at Cairo University and an expert on a national committee studying the ramifications of the Ethiopian dam, said Egypt stands to lose about 15 billion cubic metres of water — 27 per cent of annual share — each of the five years that Ethiopia has said it will take to fill the dam. The country’s current share already is insufficient.

Egypt also would lose between 30 and 40 per cent of its hydropower generation, he said.

“If I was more of an optimist, I would say it will cause significant damage (to Egypt),” he told The Associated Press. “If I was being pessimistic, it is a catastrophe.”

A traditional felucca sailing boat carries a cargo of hay as it transits the Nile River passing the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt on January 22. Amr Nabil/Associated Press

A traditional felucca sailing boat carries a cargo of hay as it transits the Nile River passing the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt on January 22. Amr Nabil/Associated Press”Potentially catastrophic” is the opinion of Haydar Yousif Hussin, an Italian-based Sudanese hydrologist who has worked on Nile water issues for 35 years. The dam’s reservoir “will hold back nearly one and a half times the average annual flow of the Blue Nile” and “drastically affect the downstream nations’ agriculture, electricity and water supply,” he said in an article published in the South African magazine Infrastructure News.

Given the massive size of the dam, it could lose as much as 3 billion cubic metres of water to evaporation each year, Yousif added.

Mekonnin said the dam construction is at 21 per cent and should be complete by 2015. Ethiopia has said the massive dam, located 60 kilometres from Sudan’s border, is being built with a storage capacity for 74 million cubic metres of water and generating power of 6,000 megawatts — 30 per cent more than the electricity produced by Egypt’s Aswan Dam, built on the Nile in the 1960s.

But very little other information is available.

“It remains irresponsible for Ethiopia to build Africa’s biggest hydropower project, on its most contentious river, with no public access to critical information about the dam’s impacts,” Yousif wrote. He urged Ethiopian officials to “allow some light to penetrate this secretive development scheme.”

Funding unclear

Ethiopia has timed the dam’s construction while Egypt is at its weakest. The government announced the project in March 2011, when Egypt’s government was overwhelmed by the Arab Spring revolution. The Nile diversion came the day after leaders of the two countries met in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on the sidelines of an African Union summit, and days before Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan were due to issue a technical report on the dam.

Information about the funding of the project is also unclear.

The World Bank and other donors have refused involvement, reportedly because of Egyptian lobbying of countries like the United States, which considers Egypt a key ally and pivotal to security in the region.

The contract for the $4.8 billion project was awarded without competitive bidding to the Italian company Salini Construttori, according to Yousif and other experts.

Ethiopia says it is funding the massive project on its own, urging citizens to buy bonds that earn 5 or 6 per cent interest. Norway’s Development Today magazine quoted Kjetil Tronvoll of Oslo’s International Law and Policy Institute as saying that government employees are being pressed to donate one month’s salary to the dam and, when people protested, they were arrested.

A journalist who wrote an article criticizing the fund-raising methods, Reeyot Alemu, was arrested, tried for terrorism and sentenced to two years’ jail, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The issue of the dam also highlights traditional differences between Africa’s northern Arabs and the blacks of the south.

That perception must be corrected, Egypt’s assistant for foreign affairs, Essam el-Haddad, wrote on Egypt’s foreign policy blog.

“Egypt’s rejection of the project reinforces a negative stereotype of Egypt that is spreading among the people of Africa … that this country is the reason for the absence of development and economic progress in African countries because it has acquired, unduly, the largest share of (Nile) water for its development,” he wrote. “Egypt seeks to be a real partner in development in Africa.”

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