Germany, France examine radical push for eurozone integration
Germany and France are exploring radical methods of securing deeper and more rapid fiscal integration among euro zone countries, aware that getting broad backing for the necessary treaty changes may not be possible, officials say.
Germany's original plan was to try to secure agreement among all 27 EU countries for a limited treaty change by the end of 2012, making it possible to impose much tighter budget controls over the 17 euro zone countries -- a way of shoring up the region's defences against the debt crisis.
But in meetings with EU leaders in recent weeks, it has become clear to both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy that it may not be possible to get all 27 countries on board, EU sources say.
Even if that were possible, it could take a year or more to secure the changes while market attacks on Italy, Spain and now France suggest bold measures are needed within weeks.
As a result, senior French and German civil servants have been exploring other ways of achieving the goal, one being an agreement among just the euro zone countries.
"The goal is for the member states of the common currency to create their own Stability Union and to concentrate on that," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told ARD television on Sunday.
Another option being explored is a separate agreement outside the EU treaty that could involve a core of around 8-10 euro zone countries, officials say.
Big Crisis = Big Change
"The options are being actively discussed as we speak and things are moving very, very quickly," a European Commission official briefed on the discussions told Reuters.
One source said the aim was to have the outline of an agreement set out before December 9, when EU leaders will meet for their final summit of the year in Brussels.
A senior German government official denied there were any secret Franco-German negotiations, but emphasised that both countries saw the need for treaty change as pressing and were exploring how to achieve that in the best way possible.
While EU officials are clear about the determination of France and Germany to push for more rapid euro zone integration, some caution that the idea of doing so with fewer than 17 countries via a sideline agreement may be more about applying pressure on the remainder to act.
By threatening that some countries could be left behind if they don't sign up to deeper integration, it may be impossible for a country to say no, fearing that doing so could leave it even more exposed to market pressures.
Germany, France plan quick new Stability Pact
Echoing a Reuters report on Friday from Brussels, the Sunday newspaper said the French and German leaders were prepared to back a deal with other euro countries that might induce the ECB to intervene more forcefully to calm the euro debt crisis.
The newspaper report quoted German government sources as saying that the crisis fighting plan could possibly be announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the coming week.
Again, Big Crisis = Big Change
The European Commission, the EU executive arm, put forward proposals on Wednesday to grant it intrusive powers of approval of euro zone budgets before they are submitted to national parliaments, which, if approved, would effectively mean ceding some national sovereignty over budgets.
Berlin, meanwhile, is pushing to change the European Union treaty so that a country could be sued for breach of EU budget rules in the European Court of Justice.
Le Figaro said there was resistance within Sarkozy's government to allowing France's budgets to be submitted for scrutiny by an "intergovernmental conference" in Brussels, but the president would seek to rally support for this.
A closer fiscal union could eventually pave the way for joint debt issuance for the euro zone, where countries would be liable for each others' debts.
Egyptians queue to vote in first post-Mubarak election
Egyptians queued up to vote on Monday in the first big test of a transition born in popular revolutionary euphoria that soured into distrust of the generals who replaced their master, Hosni Mubarak.
In the nine months since a revolt ended the ex-president's 30-year rule, political change in Egypt has faltered, with the military apparently more focused on preserving its power and privilege than on fostering any democratic transformation.
The first phase of voting on Monday and Tuesday includes Cairo and Alexandria. The staggered voting system means the election to the lower house will not be completed till Jan. 11. Voters pick a mixture of party lists and individual candidates.
Ganzouri said on Sunday that any parliamentary majority that emerged from the elections may move to install a new government.
Egypt: military leadership and Muslim Brotherhood join forces
A popular challenge against Egypt’s generals faltered on Sunday night as the military leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood joined forces to dismiss pro-democracy protesters as the tools of a foreign conspiracy to weaken the country.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has vacillated between sympathising with the protesters and siding with the military, now looks poised to emerge as the largest party in parliament when the convoluted election season finally ends in three months time.
After decades of repression, in which thousands of their members were imprisoned and tortured, it represents a stunning reversal of fortune. But the prospect of their rise to power has terrified many in Egypt. Christian Copts, who make up eight per cent of the population, fear that recent attacks on their number by both the Islamists and the armed forces will become the norm. Some say they are preparing to leave the country.
Secular, moderate Egyptians share those fears. But on Sunday, the Brotherhood’s leader, Mohammed Badie, joined the military in dismissing the protesters in Tahrir Square as agents of the West.
"US Democracy" Set to Elect Second Mideast Terrorist Party
For the second time in six years, the United States has urged Mideast elections, and for the second time, a terrorist party is likely to win.
Voting for a new parliament in Egypt began Monday, and the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to win a least a plurality if not an absolute majority.
Unlike Hamas, the United States has not designated the Brotherhood as an illegal terrorist group, but its closeness to Hamas is revealed by the fact the Brotherhood was the organization that created Hamas.
The Brotherhood and Hamas also share the same careful long-term planning for power through ”democracy” that rests behind their short-term tactics of threats of terror to take power. “This campaign for us has been 80 years long," a volunteer from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood told the British Guardian.
The Brotherhood’s motto since it was founded 83 years ago is "Islam is the solution” and that the Koran and the Prophet Mohammad are "the sole reference point for the life of the Muslim family, individual, community, and state."
The prospect of Sharia law in Egypt – and certain change for the worse in relations with Israel – will be welcomed by Hamas in Gaza.
Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu has said, "We have the same ethics as the Muslim Brotherhood; the principles are the same."
'Iran prepping al-Qaida for large-scale attacks'
In response to any future Israeli military strike on its nuclear sites, Iran has been training al-Qaida elements in the Egyptian Sinai desert on how to coordinate retaliatory attacks, a senior Egyptian security official told WND.
The Egyptian official said there is also information Iran has been working with Islamic Salafist groups in Jordan that are allied with al-Qaida.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards helped to train al-Qaida elements in the Sinai and Gaza Strip to carry out large-scale attacks, including missile attacks, cross-border incursions, suicide bombings and explosions targeting infrastructure, such as oil and gas pipelines, the official said.
Any Iranian cooperation with al-Qaida would underscore the dangers of Tehran obtaining nuclear weapons. The country has a history of using terrorist proxies, most notably Hezbollah in Lebanon, to carry out its bidding.
Iran says 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said that Iran has up to 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel, according to the semi-official Iranian FARS news agency.
According to the report, Vahidi questioned threats against the Islamic Republic from the Jewish State, asking "How many missiles have they prepared themselves for? 10,000? 20,000? 50,000? 100,000, 150,000 or more?"
The Iranian defense minister also warned against an offensive by the United States, saying it would meet a hard defensive line were it to attack Iran.
"The US and its allies should know that Iran is so powerful that its battling will teach the US how to fight and what war and warrior mean," Vahidi told a crowd of 50,000 volunteer soldiers in Bushehr, a city where one of the country's nuclear power plants is located.
Arab sanctions find Syria's 7 neighbors on alert
Twenty-four hours before the Arab League Sunday, Nov. 27, clamped down sanctions on the Assad regime, the first ever against a member state, the armies of Syria's seven neighbors were already scrambling into position on standby on its borders for acts of retaliation.
Military suspense mounted after the Arab League vote to cut off transactions with Syria's central bank, withdraw Arab funding from projects and other painful sanctions over Bashar Assad's refusal to halt his crackdown on protest.
Israeli armored brigades pushed forward up to the Lebanese and Syrian borders; Ankara placed three armored brigades, its air force and navy in astate of preparedness, likewise Hizballah and the Lebanese and Jordanian armed forces, while the US and Russia are in the midst of a naval buildup opposite Syrian shores.
Ahead of the Arab League vote, Qatar and Turkey were reported to be airlifting "volunteers" from Libya to fight alongside the rebel Free Syrian Army, some also transporting weapons, whereas Russia has begun another airlift to deliver top-notch missiles for Assad's forces.
Bashar Assad cannot afford to avoid retaliating. If he does, it will be an admission that the backbone of his armed forces is falling apart and out of control.
Since there is no knowing what form his revenge will take, Israel, Jordan and most likely Turkey too were braced Friday for trouble.