Tuesday, September 25, 2012

TEHRAN — A senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander says Iran deployed a domestic-built reconnaissance drone that can stay aloft for 24 hours. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Corps’ aerospace division, said the drone is named Shahed-129, or Witness-129, and has a range of 1,250 miles.

That covers much of the Middle East, including Israel, and nearly doubles the range of previous Iranian drones.

Gen. Hajizadeh spoke during an interview Tuesday on Iran’s state TV. He claimed that Iranian scientists designed and developed the drone.

Iran has said it also seeks to develop a drone with attack capabilities.

Iran says it is fighting an intelligence battle with the U.S. and Israel, which accuse Tehran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges.


Hamas officials say leader plans to step down

GAZA CITY — Khaled Meshaal, head of the Hamas movement, has reaffirmed his decision to relinquish leadership of the group, Hamas officials said Tuesday.

In January, the movement announced its longtime leader in exile was ready to step down from his post, but said members were hoping he would reconsider.

Hamas officials in Gaza and outside the Palestinian territories said Tuesday that Mr. Meshaal is determined to give up the leadership. His departure comes after growing friction between the leadership in exile, formally based in Damascus but dispersed since the Syrian uprising began, and the leadership in the Gaza Strip.

Since taking control of the coastal strip, the Hamas movement in Gaza has boosted its profile, growing financially independent but also openly disagreeing with decisions taken by the leadership in exile.


Zarqawi nephew nabbed trying to enter Syria

AMMAN — A top Islamist lawyer said Tuesday that the nephew of slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among six jihadists arrested in Jordan last week as they tried to cross into Syria.

“Jordanian border guards on Saturday arrested six mujahedeen, including Abu Asyad, the nephew of Zarqawi, as they attempted to go to Syria for jihad,” Musa Abdullat, a leading lawyer for Islamist groups, told Agence France-Presse. “They are expected to be charged and jailed for between five and 15 years.”

Jordanian-born Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq in 2006.

The government has said without elaborating that Jordanian border guards clashed at dawn Saturday with armed men in a border area and arrested all of the gunmen.

Jordan shares borders with Iraq, Israel, Syria, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia. It has beefed up its security along the border with Syria.


Government approves aid for Syrian people

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Cabinet on Tuesday decided to provide humanitarian aid to war-torn Syria and launch a relief campaign via the Iraqi Red Crescent, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

The Cabinet decided “to provide humanitarian aid and begin a popular campaign of humanitarian relief for the brotherly people of Syria, via the Iraqi Red Crescent,” Mr. Dabbagh said, without providing further details.

“The campaign includes collecting donations to support families that were harmed, and try to reach all [affected] Syrians and refugees, wherever they are,” Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki’s spokesman, Ali Mussawi, told Agence France-Presse.

A protest movement in Syria has descended into an all-out civil war between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad, which the U.N says has killed 20,000 people and forced 250,000 to flee the country.

Iraq has pointedly avoided calling for Mr. Assad’s departure from office, and instead has urged an end to violence by all parties.

From wire dispatches and staff reports