Inside the Middle East
July 29, 2010
Posted: 1015 GMT

By Mark Tutton for CNN

(CNN) - A cinema in the West Bank city of Jenin will next week open for
business for the first time in 23 years, following a remarkable chain of events
that began with the death of a Palestinian boy.

In 2005, 11-year-old Ahmed Khatib was shot and killed in Jenin by Israeli
soldiers who mistook his toy gun for a real one.

The Israeli government apologized for the incident, and in an
extraordinary gesture, Ahmed's father, Ismael Khatib, decided to donate Ahmed's
organs to six Israelis, both Arabs and Jews.

Ismael and Ahmed's story is told in the 2008 documentary "Heart of
Jenin," made by Israeli director Leon Geller and German filmmaker Marcus

The film follows Ismael as he visits the families of children who
received Ahmed's organs, including an Orthodox Jewish family.

"Heart of Jenin" has won numerous awards, including the German Film Award
for Best Documentary, but Vetter realized there was nowhere to show the film in
Jenin itself, because the city's only cinema was closed in 1987 during the
first intifada.

Vetter and Khatib were inspired to set about renovating Jenin's
long-abandoned cinema.

"A city with 70,000 people without a cinema is sad - there's nothing you
can do and nowhere to go," Vetter told CNN.

"I decided to stop making documentaries for a year and try to establish
the cinema.

"We wanted to get the Jenin youth involved and give them a vision to
believe in, something to aim for."

Khatib said he hoped the cinema would help keep Jenin's youngsters off
the streets and out of danger. Read full story

Filed under: Culture •Israel •Palestinians •West Bank

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July 27, 2010
Posted: 718 GMT
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July 25, 2010
Posted: 821 GMT

By the CNN Wire Staff

Tehran, Iran (CNN) - The head of Iran's nuclear energy agency announced Saturday that the country had launched a "serious" nuclear fusion research program, according to state-run Press TV.

Iran's atomic organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi, pictured here speaking in Tehran in April.
Iran's atomic organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi, pictured here speaking in Tehran in April.

Ali-Akbar Salehi, the chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said as many as 50 scientists were participating in the research to break into alternative energy, Press TV said.

The process of nuclear fusion consists of forcing hydrogen nuclei to collide at high speed and fuse together, which releases energy, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) website.

The goal is to eventually develop fusion plants to generate electricity, the IAEA said, but research worldwide is still in the early stages. The agency called nuclear fusion a "long term, sustainable, economic and safe energy source."

Salehi acknowledged the project will take time.

"It takes 20 to 30 years before this process can be commercialized but we have to use all the capacity in the country to provide the necessary speed for fusion research," Salehi said, according to Press TV.

Iran is under fire for other aspects of its nuclear program, which Tehran claims is for peaceful purposes. However, the United States and other Western nations fear Iran is attempting to develop a nuclear weapon.

The United Nations has issued four rounds of sanctions against the country for not being more transparent about the goals and status of its nuclear program.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed into law new U.S. sanctions against Tehran that he called another step in demonstrating that "the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

Filed under: Iran •Science & Technology

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July 20, 2010
Posted: 1049 GMT

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Filed under: General •Palestinians •Video

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July 14, 2010
Posted: 1013 GMT

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Shahram Amiri - a nuclear scientist Tehran claimed was kidnapped by U.S. agents - told a state-run television station in Iran that he was abducted by U.S. intelligence officials and faced "psychological warfare and pressure that are much worse than being in prison."

A man who says he is Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri appears in a YouTube video.
A man who says he is Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri appears in a YouTube video.

State-run Press TV said Wednesday that Amiri spoke in an interview after his escape, telling the channel, "I think I will be unable to get into details during this limited period of time and I will postpone it to when I am hopefully in my dear country Iran, so I can speak to the media and my own people with ease of mind and tell them about my ordeal over the past 14 months."

Amiri has left the United States and is headed back to Iran, the country's state-run media said Wednesday morning.

"Following the Islamic Republic's efforts and with the effective cooperation of the embassy of Pakistan in Washington ... Shahram Amiri left the United States and will arrive in Tehran via a third country," the news agency, IRNA, reported - quoting a foreign ministry spokesman.

Amiri, who is a researcher from Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, mysteriously disappeared in June 2009 while on a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, according to Iranian media reports.

On Monday, Amiri went to Iran's Interest Section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington and asked to be sent home.

The Iranian government has accused the United States of involvement in Amiri's disappearance, with Iran saying the researcher was taken to force him to give up data about Tehran's nuclear program.

In the Press TV interview, Amiri said he was kidnapped in Medina, Saudi Arabia, by three men in a van.

"Once I got into the van, the man who was inside said to me, 'Don't make any noise.' I was confused at the moment and had no idea what was happening," Amiri said Wednesday.

According to Amiri, he was later drugged and transported to the United States in a plane.

"I was under very special circumstances for 14 months in the United States. I was not completely free, nor was I like a prisoner, that is, in shackles as viewers might think," Amiri added. "I was in a completely unique situation which is very difficult to describe."

Press TV reported that Amiri was offered $10 million in bribes to cooperate with the United States.

A top Iranian lawmaker recently claimed that newly found documents back up Tehran's claims that the CIA is responsible for Amiri's disappearance, Iranian media reported Sunday.

Javad Jahangirzadeh, a member of Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said Iranian officials had turned over the documents to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran.

The U.S. State Department has denied that charge.

A U.S. official, who is not authorized to talk to the media about such issues, told CNN last month that it would be "ludicrous, absurd and even preposterous" to claim an individual was kidnapped by the United States and held against his will.

Read full story...

Filed under: Iran •Science & Technology •U.S.

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July 12, 2010
Posted: 1324 GMT

By the CNN Wire Staff

Jerusalem (CNN) - An aid ship trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza still plans to aim for the Palestinian territory, its organizer told CNN on Sunday, despite Israel's foreign ministry saying it would likely dock elsewhere.


But the activists on the boat will not resist if they are confronted by the Israeli military, said Youssef Sawani, the executive director of the Gadhafi Foundation, which is sending the boat.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the ship "an unnecessary provocation."

The ship, launched by a charity headed by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son, set sail from Greece on Saturday carrying 2,000 tons of aid.

It should take 70 to 80 hours – about three to three-and-a-half days – to reach Gaza, Sawani said.

The Gadhafi Foundation refers to the ship as the Hope, although it appears to be registered formally as the MV Amalthea. It is Moldovan flagged and run by ACA Shipping, based in Greece.

"This is purely a humanitarian effort," he said, adding "The Israelis should seize this opportunity and allow the goods into Gaza."

Aside from the ship's crew, Sawani says nine others are on board: Six Libyans, one Moroccan and one person from Niger, all of whom work with the Gadhafi Foundation, plus a journalist from Al Jazeera, Sawani added.

Israel insists on controlling the entry of all goods into Gaza, which is run by the militant movement Hamas, because it says it must keep weapons out of the hands of people determined to attack it.

Barak said Israel would not allow the aid ship to dock in Gaza, but said it could unload goods elsewhere and Israel would allow them to enter the Palestinian territory by land after Israel inspects them.

"Goods can be transferred into Gaza through the port of Ashdod after they are inspected, but we will not allow the transfer of weapons or ammunition into Gaza," he said. "We recommend to the organizers of the flotilla to allow navy vessels to escort it to the port of Ashdod or sail directly to el-Arish" in Egypt.

Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish aid ship in May, resulting in violence between the troops and the activists on the ship that left nine Turks dead. The raid prompted international condemnation and threatened Israeli-Turkish relations.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen and Guy Azriel and journalist Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this report.

Filed under: Gaza •Israel •Libya

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July 8, 2010
Posted: 850 GMT

By Saeed Ahmed and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN

(CNN) - Iran has laid down the law: mullets won't make the cut.

The Islamic regime, which strictly enforces head coverings for women, issued grooming guidelines for the guys this week.

A woman in Tehran on Monday stands next to a board with pictures of men's hairstyles authorized by Iran.
A woman in Tehran on Monday stands next to a board with pictures of men's hairstyles authorized by Iran.

Among the do's that are now don'ts? The '80's Prince-style pompadour preferred by many young Iranian men, the Steven Seagal-style ponytail and the "business in the front, party in the back" sentiment of the mullet - also popular among the Persian populace.

The approved styles have a distinctly 1950s look to them: short on the front and sides for the most part. But the gel-slathered, combed-back 1980s look also received the government's blessing.

The "Islamic" haircuts were unveiled at the Hijab and Chastity Festival, a fashion event designed to show how the country's youth can be stylish yet not run afoul of the fashion police.

"Hair styles have been designed based on the shape of the neck, beard, the size of the chin and provincial cultures," said Jaleh Khodayar, the secretary of the festival. Her comments were reported by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

"In designing these hair styles, we have not tried to go backward. On the contrary, we have tried to make our designs a mixture of our traditions and Iranian culture, as well as the latest fashions and by doing so confront the cultural assault by the West (on our country)."

Majid, a 32-year-old Tehran resident who did not want to give out his last name, shrugged his head in amusement.

"I don't think these young men will stop wearing these hairstyles, even though in my opinion they are actually pretty strange," he said.

He prefers his own hair on the short side.

To the outside world, the crackdown on cuts may represent further restrictions by an already restrictive regime.

But in one way, they are a loosening of guidelines: None of the photographs of acceptable grooming styles feature models with full-grown beards - a look, a la President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that Iran had encouraged for years.

Filed under: Iran

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July 6, 2010
Posted: 953 GMT

Check out the synopsis for this month's show debuting July 7 from Istanbul.

Watch Inside the Middle East (All times GMT)
Wednesday, July 7: 08.30, 16.30.
Saturday, July 10: 08.30, 17.00, 20.30.
Sunday, July 11: 05.30, 17.30.
Monday July 12: 03.00.

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Filed under: Inside The Middle East

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July 5, 2010
Posted: 901 GMT

Filed under: Iraq •U.S.

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Posted: 838 GMT

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Moving toward direct peace talks with Palestinians will be a focus of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to the United States this week, the prime minister told Israeli Cabinet officials Sunday.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Obama on Tuesday.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Obama on Tuesday.

"We are ten minutes apart. Ramallah almost touches Jerusalem," Netanyahu said, according to a copy of remarks released by his office. "I have been ready to meet with (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) since this government's first day in office. Whoever desires peace will hold direct peace talks. I hope that this will be one of the results of my trip to Washington."

Netanyahu said he will discuss the issue in a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Currently Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating via "proximity" talks, in which U.S. officials serve as a go-between.

Last week, the White House also said Tuesday's meeting would focus on how to move proximity talks to direct talks, and on the recent "liberalization" of Israel's policy on commercial traffic into Gaza.

It will be the fifth meeting between Obama and Netanyahu since the prime minister took office last spring.

Moving toward direct talks was also a topic when Obama met with Abbas on June 9.

"We agreed that, should a progress be achieved, then we would move on to direct talks," Abbas said after the meeting.

Filed under: Israel •Netanyahu •Obama •Palestinians •U.S.

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