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[Transcript]  Mosaic News - 07/20/11: World News From The Middle East [VIDEO]

UN declares famine in war-torn Somalia

BBC Arabic, UK
Presenter, Male #1
The United Nations officially declared a famine in areas of Somalia. This is the first time the region has witnessed a famine in 19 years. 2.8 million people out of a total population of 3.7 million in Somalia are suffering from hunger. The international organization indicated that relief efforts are encountering difficulties due to the ongoing conflicts between the armed Islamic Youth Movement and the transitional Somali government.

Reporter, Female #1
Escaping the clutches of starvation, these Somalis fled to refugee camps in Kenya. The living conditions here cannot provide them with a dignified human life, but it may be less miserable than the situation in their country. The United Nations officially announced that a large part of southern Somalia is suffering from hunger. More than half of the country's population is no longer capable of finding food to end their hunger.

Guest, Male #1 (Mark Bowden, UN Humanitarian Aid Official in Somalia)
Somalia is facing its worst food security crisis in the last 20 years. This desperate situation requires urgent action to save lives. The humanitarian aid operations in Somalia are difficult, but they are not impossible.

Reporter, Female #1
Usually, a famine is declared when the percentage of malnourished children exceeds 30% and the daily rate of deaths from starvation reaches two out of every 10,000 people. These figures may be devastating, but the images in Somalia are even more gruesome. The daily rate of deaths has reached six out of every 10,000 people. The malnutrition rate in some regions has reached 50%. It is increasingly complicated and difficult to deliver humanitarian aid to the Somali people because of the devastating conflicts the country is witnessing between the armed Islamic Youth Movement and the transitional Somali government. The Youth Movement controls most of the country, while the government has no authority outside the capital Mogadishu. Even though the Youth Movement has demanded that the international community intervene to mitigate the crisis, nothing has improved so far. Neither the Youth Movement nor the government is free of accusations from international organizations. Amnesty International issued a resolution indicating that the armed Youth Movement is deliberately recruiting children, while the government's loyalist troops also have child soldiers. The Youth Movement completely denies the allegations that it kidnaps school children and forces them onto the frontlines, while also marrying young girls off to militants. Since the beginning of last year, more than 160,000 Somalis searched for shelter in other countries that might protect them from all these catastrophes. Sali Nabil, BBC.

Syria warns ambassadors not to leave capital

New TV, Lebanon
Presenter, Female #1
Syria has warned the American and French ambassadors not to violate Syrian sovereignty laws as the residents of Daraa and as-Suwayda support the reform program proposed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, the opposition continues to upload images of protests met with violence.

Reporter, Male #1
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem warned the American and French ambassadors not to leave Damascus without official permission. Muallem said on Syrian state-run TV that if the violation continues, a ban of any travel of more than 25 kilometers outside Damascus would be imposed. He said he hoped they would not be forced to resort to this measure. Al-Muallem clarified that Syria did not expel the two ambassadors due to its desire to have a better relationship with Washington and Paris in the future. In another position stated by al-Muallem during a dialogue forum at Damascus University, he confirmed the Syrian family's imminent need to placate the erupting anger and adhere to national unity in order to close the door on foreign challenges. He further explained that the political dimensions of the current Syrian crisis strongly indicate the danger of these interferences. In another development, tens of thousands of residents in as- Suwayda province carried a 2,300 meter-long and 18 meter-wide national flag in front of the military police building in the city center. They expressed their support for the comprehensive reform program and their rejection of foreign interference in Syrian affairs. In Daraa, citizens of al-Shajara and its neighboring villages came out in a massive demonstration to back the same cause supported by as-Suwayda's residents. Politically, a reliable source asserted that Syrian authorities sent an apology letter to the Qatari Foreign Ministry after Doha's embassy in Damascus was attacked and its activities frozen. In contrast, anti-regime Syrians uploaded videos online saying they prove that security forces continue to open fire in Homs as protests continue to demand the downfall of the regime. Activists on the same website said two people were killed in Homs after being injured, one day after 16 people were killed and a number of others were wounded during a funeral for a protest victim in the Khalidiya region. Also according to activists, three people were killed in a campaign launched by the security forces in the city of al-Qusayr in Homs province. The Coordination Union of the Syrian Revolt said in a statement that the town of Tablisa near Homs was subjected to heavy gunfire this morning. It added that a number of snipers targeted unarmed citizens in their homes in the Bab al-Sabaa neighborhood. Meanwhile, an association that refers to itself as the Human Rights Association of Syria said that security forces stormed the house of the head of the National Democratic Party, George Sabra, in the town of Qatana near Damascus and arrested him.

'Revolt' over high rent prices hits Israel

IBA, Israel
The protest against the cost of housing continued nationwide today. Protestors set up encampments in Haifa, Raanana, and the ultra orthodox community of Elad. Activists at the epicenter of the event on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard also remained fully entrenched. The protest began as a grassroots initiative by several young residents and students and has now gained support across a wide spectrum of Israelis.

Russian-Libyan talks begin in Moscow as war stalemate continues

Al-Alam, Iran
Presenter, Male #1
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is holding talks with his Libyan counterpart, Abdel Ati al-Obeidi, in Moscow to discuss solutions to the situation in Libya. Prior to this, Lavrov reiterated Russia's refusal to recognize the Libyan transitional council as the only representative of the Libyan people. He said that his country was contacting both the Libyan government in Tripoli and the opposition in Benghazi in compliance with the EU and UN suggestions. He said that the Russian efforts are attempting to bring the two sides to the negotiation table, begin preparations for conducting free and democratic elections, and implementing necessary reforms in Libya.

Reporter, Male #1
The international division over the war on Libya is widening. Russia seizes every occasion to heighten its criticism of the West's manner of dealing with the Libya issue. The West, which has blocked the paths to any political solution and become part of the conflict, does not see any other option but war to solve the crisis in Tripoli. Meanwhile, Russian leaders believe that the chance for a political solution has not passed.

Guest, Male #1 (Dmitry Medvedev, Russian President)
A bias in this conflict will not be in favor of Libya's interests. A peaceful solution is still possible. We will continue to seek middle ground for the opposition and the government.

Reporter, Male #1
Meanwhile, the developments on the ground have sometimes moved forward, but then immediately backwards. Neither side is able to resolve the battle; therefore, the media's focus is on the political maneuvers being made to find a peaceful solution. Gaddafi is still vowing to the revolutionaries that he will advance to the cities and towns they have seized, while NATO is unable to resolve the conflict but seems content with the continuation of seesaw battles between the revolutionaries and the regime.

Guest, Male #2 (Muammar al-Gaddafi)
We are on our land, in our homes, in our houses, we will fight, we will defend, we will protect them with our men, our women, our children!

Reporter, Male #1
The revolutionaries do not appear to be capable of settling the matter militarily. Gaddafi relies on the city of Brega to provide supplies and funds to his forces. Despite the revolutionaries' announcement that they had entered the city, it seems that they are still at its entrances.

Guest, Male #3
Our forces are stationed 65 kilometers from here and they are advancing towards Brega carefully and slowly.

Reporter, Male #1
The exhausting and prolonged war worries NATO's commanders and those who joined them in their war on Libya. Perhaps their incompetence is impeding them from resolving the crisis, or perhaps they do not desire a resolution. In the end, the Libyan people are the ones burdened by the high price of war, regardless of whether they try to advance east or west.

Iraqi tribal leaders warn against US forces staying after 2011

Press TV, Iran
The Iraqi National Tribal Gathering has declared its intention of resuming attacks against the US troops if they extend their presence in Iraq. The Itaqi tribal leaders have announced they are against any extension for the US forces in Iraq after 2011. The members of the Iraqi National Tribal Gathering said that the US troops will not be able to find a safe place in Iraq after 2011 and their withdrawal should be completed according the withdrawal agreement which was signed between the US and Iraq in August 2008.

Manama accused of harassing journalists critical of regime

Press TV, Iran
In Bahrain, Saudi-backed forces have attacked anti-regime protestors as the five month old revolution continues. Riot police have fired tear gas on protestors in several villages around the capital. The protestors were fired at while they were chanting the slogan, "Death to the al-Khalifa family." Protests were staged in several villages and towns near the capital Manama. Anti-regime rallies have been ongoing since mid-February when a popular revolution was triggered by the majority of Bahrainis. Since then dozens of demonstrators have been killed and hundreds more injured. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has called on Bahrain to stop harassing and intimidating reporters critical of the regime.

Yemeni government accused of trying to assassinate opposition chairman

Press TV, Iran
A Yemeni opposition figure has escaped an assassination attempt in the capital Sanaa amid escalating violence across the country. The opposition says the chairman of al-Islah party came under attack as assailants opened fire on his car. The opposition has accused the government of trying to assassinate Mohammed Abdullah al-Yadumi. It blames the national security leadership, the head of the Republican Guards, the head of the special guards, and the leader of central security for what it calls a criminal event.

The role of the ME's military institutions in the 'revolutions'

Al Jazeera, Qatar
Presenter, Male # 1
Syria's central bank Governor Adeeb Mayaleh said liquidity in banks grew by 12 percent as of July 5 of this year, despite the protests. Mayaleh said the Syrian pound remains stable despite the immense pressure on the exchange rate, adding that bank deposits rose four percent in the second quarter of this year compared to the first quarter. This comes despite reports indicating that Syria's economy is facing currency pressures that could deplete the country's reserves. Military institutions in most Arab countries are granted a large expenditure that vital sectors could desperately utilize. And despite the positive role played by the army in some Arab countries that witnessed and are still witnessing revolutions, the military institutions in other Arab states are split on how to respond to popular mobilizations. Especially since some of the army's figureheads are linked to the financial and economic interests being threatened by the revolutions.

Reporter, Male # 2
One hand with the army: this is what the Arab people hope. However, not everything one wishes is granted amid the winds of regional revolutions, since not all armies have stood by the people, nor have all of them stood against the people. The situation has differed from one country to the next. These masses are holding a funeral for their fellow protestors as they chant for the freedom they are deprived off, telling the army that the bullets directed at the demonstrator's chests are paid for by the people. For this reason, the army has the right to be with them, not against them, especially since the military institution has received more of its share in contrast to social and economic development sectors in many Arab countries. From behind a curtain, leaders display the gear and ammunition of their armies. However, rarely are the budgets devoured by this sector revealed. Reports confirm the financial allocation to this sector is large and what is hidden is even larger. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's report revealed that military spending in the Middle East and North Africa exceeded 120 billion dollars last year alone, indicating that spending has increased by one third in the past ten years. These expenditures come from the riches of the people and taxes, and even debt. Experts say military spending comes at the expense of strategic sectors, such as education, health, and infrastructure. And at a time when the Arab region has one of the highest levels of military spending in the world, it still endures poverty, unemployment, and a declining standard of living. The army plays critical role in the success of the revolutions, and regimes witnessing popular revolutions have taken into account a rainy day such as today. These regimes are accused of buying the army's loyalty with power and money. In addition, crucial positions in the institutions of some countries circulate around the sphere of families and clans, transferred from the son, the brother, and relatives. In other countries, it revolves around the cycle of corruption and the suspected link to financial interests. It has reached a level to which the street knows the names of the generals of sugar, and others of coffee and oil. This is an indication of the immersion of the army's caps in the dirt of corruption.

Diaspora youth visit Palestine for the first time

Dubai TV, UAE
Presenter, Male #1
The land of their fathers and grandfathers called for them and they responded to the call. More than 30 young Palestinians living in the United States came to learn about their motherland for the first time. Their visit is part of a program organized by the Holy Land Foundation that will continue in the coming years. Official and popular figures welcomed the visitors, who came as part of the "Know Your Heritage" initiative. The initiative aims at creating a bond between Palestinian youth and their motherland by living on the land and learning about its hardships. Our correspondent Mohamed al-Said reports from Bethlehem.

Reporter, Male #2
This is the first time they set foot in Palestine. More than 30 young men and women born and raised far away from their fathers' birthplace were driven by their longing to return to their roots. They came as part of the "Know Your Heritage" initiative, which aims at introducing them to their culture and to the land of their ancestors.

Guest, Male #3 (Rateb Rabie, Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation)
There are over seven million Palestinians in the Diaspora. We have to maintain contact with each other. If we don't start now, we will lose them. The atmosphere right now is focused on building a new Palestinian state and there must be a specific way to have contact between the Diaspora and the upcoming state of Palestine.

Reporter, Male #2
Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, may peace be upon him, was their first stop. Following irregular measures carried out by Israeli occupation forces and investigations that lasted eight hours, they entered the city through al-Qarama border crossing between Jordan and Palestine. However, getting close to their family and heritage made them forget the painful experience.

Guest, Female #1
Well, it was absolutely, totally horrible, I don't understand why they can't travel from one city to another to see their relatives. The border is very difficult to cross, and if you don't have a permit you cannot move. I will try and explain this to American citizens.

Reporter, Male #2
Due to the importance of this event, which will be organized again in the coming years, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad headed the delegation welcoming the group.

Guest, Male #4 (Salam Fayyad, Palestinian Prime Minister)
It is important to continue this interaction and connection. These groups will convey their impression of their motherland to Palestinian communities abroad. This will give Palestinian communities, not only in the United States but in various parts of the world, a chance to learn about their homeland. This is certainly a powerful factor.

Reporter, Male #2
Parallel to this first experience for Palestinians was the recruitment of thousands of Israelis to support their government and organizations; the goal of which is to add settlements in a country unwelcoming of its original owner. This is the first time these youths, born far away, visit their country. They were brought here to learn their heritage from up close. Perhaps, this is the first step for their return. Between the warm welcome that Palestine gave them and the bitter reality that its people are enduring, they will face the most difficult choice: living in their besieged motherland or continuing to drift in a large foreign world. Mohamed al-Said, Dubai TV, Bethlehem.

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