The Israeli President, Shimon Peres, said that he believed the conditions were ripe for the Middle East to head towards peace and expected the region to positively change during the coming three years. Speaking to the London-based Arabic daily Alsharq Alawsat before yesterday's air strikes on Gaza, Mr Peres rejected projections that a right-wing Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu would take a radically different direction. "The public in Israel wants peace if there is a conviction that the other party wants it too", he stressed. "There have been seven wars between Israel and the Arabs and that is enough. When are we going to stop?", Mr Peres added.
According to the Israeli President, the Arab peace initiative can be a good basis for negotiations between Israel and the whole Arab world. The initiative is the result of new vision in the Arab world and can be used as a strong basis for achieving peace, he said. In a reference to the Israeli threats against the Palestinian movement Hamas, Mr Peres said that, "Israel will take all necessary measures to stop rockets, but we will not enter Gaza. There are other ways I won't tell you about, but we didn't leave Gaza to come back to it".
The Chinese navy has launched a three month mission to escort and protect merchant ships and their cargo from Somali pirates, in an unprecedented move in the history of the country's military, wrote the Bahraini Arabic newspaper Akhbar al Khaleej. Three war ships, including two destroyers and a supply vessel, left from a base in the southern province of Hainan Friday. They will operate alongside other international warships patrolling the area near the Gulf of Aden.
"It is the first time that we sail abroad to protect our strategic interests" with military force, said the Chinese navy commander Wu Shengli. "It is also the first time a maritime force is involved in an international humanitarian mission and the first time our navy is in charge of protecting ships away from Chinese waters", he added. This mission, noted Chinese media and quoted by the Bahraini daily, "sends a strong political message to the international community that China, with its enhanced economic and military strength is willing to play a larger role in maintaining world peace and security."
The Syrian flag was seen for the first time in years on Friday, flying over a diplomatic building in the Lebanese capital, reported the Jordanian daily Al Rai. According to witnesses, the flag was hoisted during the night on the premises located on the al Maqdisi street in the western neighbourhood of Al Hamra. Tens of photographers were gathered in front of the building to catch the historic moment.
The Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, had said the embassy would open its doors "immediately after Christmas", although no official date for the inauguration has been announced so far, indicated Al Rai. The Lebanese have been used to seeing Syrian flags in various parts of their country over the last 30 years, during the Syrian military presence in Lebanon, but this is the first time a Syrian diplomatic representation is opening in Beirut, noted the newspaper. Lebanon and Syria announced the establishment of diplomatic relations on October 15 for the first time since the independence of the two countries.
Libya has warned Switzerland that it will face further sanctions if it does not move to close the investigation procedure launched against a son of the Libyan leader, Muammar Kaddafi, wrote the London-based daily al Quds.
According to the newspaper, Hannibal Kaddafi was arrested in Geneva on July 15 2008 and charged with mistreating two domestic employees, a Tunisian woman and a Moroccan man, who later withdrew their complaints. He was later freed on bail, but the case had angered Tripoli. The Libyan Foreign Ministry announced in a statement earlier that the two countries had agreed to set up an independent committee to investigate the incident. The committee has now almost completed its investigation which showed that the arrest was illegal.
"The facts are now clear and display the misuse of authority and infringement of legal procedures by Geneva police, but the Swiss side in the committee attempts to issue a final report to save the face for the Swiss authorities", the ministry added. * Compiled by Mideastdigest.com