We need lawmakers to enact the people’s will on gun control

Just two weeks ago, a gunman entered a school in Georgia with an AK-47 and began shooting. An Australian baseball player was senselessly murdered in Oklahoma City. Elementary schools in Colorado hold drills where five-year-old kids hunker down behind tables while an “active shooter” knocks at the door. Just this week, Colorado voters ejected in recall elections two state senators who had sponsored new gun control laws in the wake of the Aurora cinema mass shooting. And the grim parade of gun violence in our cities marches on.

This madness must end – and it will when Congress stops ignoring the will of the American people and makes our nation and the entire world safer by passing common-sense and constitutional gun safety measures. The vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, agree on what needs to be done to cure our gun violence epidemic, which will not only save lives, but spare America from embarrassment in the world.

Australia’s former deputy prime minister, Tim Fischer, said last Friday:

They cannot expect not to have any criticism of it worldwide … I am angry because it is corrupting the world, this gun culture of the United States.

Indeed,the US has six times the gun death rate of other first world countries. This is not the America our founding fathers envisioned.

At our nation’s birth on 4 July 1776, our founding fathers endowed Americans with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Those overarching rights are being eroded by the proliferation of gun violence.

Look no further than the elementary school down the road from me in Sandy Hook, and ask: is the desire to purchase any gun whatsoever without a background check more important than the life of a six-year-old child? Or 20 children and six teachers, for that matter? Is it more important than enacting a strong anti-trafficking law to shut down the “iron pipeline” into our cities? Does this desire justify trying to recall two state senators in Colorado who voted for background checks, high-capacity magazine limits, and restricting domestic violence offenders from purchasing guns? Most gun owners would say no. A loud minority says yes.

Let’s ignore this vocal fringe group, some of whom openly advocate treason (in violation of article 3 section 3 of the constitution). Instead, Americans must come together to call for Congress to put politics aside and pass common-sense measures that the majority of Americans, including gun owners, support.

First, the gun safety movement is not about “grabbing” guns. We appreciate traditional American gun culture grounded in hunting and shooting sports. We are not looking to take away any guns except the military-style weapons that were covered by Senator Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons bill and high-capacity magazines.

These measures do not impact hunting and shooting sports. An AR-15 with a 30-round magazine is not necessary to kill a deer; it’s a military-style weapon meant to kill many people quickly. It has consistently been the weapon of choice for mass shootings. It does not belong on our streets, in our schools, or in our movie theaters.

We literally dodged a bullet a couple weeks ago at an elementary school in Georgia. Will we be so fortunate the next time a mentally disabled person shows up at a school? What if it were your kid’s school?

First, we need to ban military-style weapons and 30-round magazines, so that when the next unstable individual slips through the cracks in our healthcare system, their ability to access an assault weapon won’t be easier than buying a beer.

Second, the measures being sought in Congress do not include a national gun registry. This should allay the fears of gun owners. The recent set of bills, which a majority in the Senate supported, expressly outlawed a national registry. Besides, the NRA already maintains a national gun owner registry.

Third, gun reform advocates are not seeking to eliminate or revise the second amendment. Just as the right to free speech under the first amendment is not unlimited under the constitution, reasonable restrictions on gun ownership are also constitutional. You can neither falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater, nor carry a bazooka into one.

The US supreme court has made clear that the right “secured by the second amendment is not unlimited”. The justices have determined that:

[T]he right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose … nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

The loud minority of gun rights proponents refuse to recognize these limitations on the second amendment. Ironically, in states like Missouri, they are also pushing “nullification” of the relatively weak federal gun control laws we do have – even though those efforts subvert the constitution itself.

Fourth, a federal anti-trafficking bill that includes real penalties for “straw buyers” is imperative, since firearms are being transported through many states. A strong bill will dry up the “iron pipeline”, the supply of cheap and plentiful firearms into our cities.

Finally, universal background checks would help reduce the risk of a firearm ending up in the hands of a criminal, a person affected by mental illness, or a terrorist. Currently, under federal law, a person on our terrorist watchlist can buy the Bushmaster AR-15 – the weapon used at both the Sandy Hook elementary school and at the Aurora movie theater – in a private transaction, without any questions being asked.

Moreover, many gun owners want to know that if they sell their firearm, the buyer is not on the terrorist watchlist or is not a felon. For these and other reasons, the majority of gun owners support the enactment of universal background checks. We should demand that our elected officials support universal background checks and refuse to tolerate the pro-gun lobby’s efforts to subvert those wishes because they want to sell more guns.

These are the common-sense measures being sought. They will save lives and help transform our nation into the one envisaged by its founders, of peace, hope and love.

Then, we could return our schools, neighborhoods and theaters to the safe havens of our childhoods. Since 14 December 2012, Americans have awoken to the gun violence epidemic, and are speaking out. New groups, such as the Newtown Action Alliance, Moms Demand, Team 26, Sandy Hook Promise, United Physicians of Newtown and others have united with older coalition members – from the country lanes of Newtown, to the college classrooms of Virginia Tech, and to the inner cities of Hartford, Newburgh, Baltimore and Chicago – to take back the US and to achieve greater gun safety.

This is the “Connecticut effect”. We are silent no more.

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Can New X-Ray Vision Technology Defeat the Staying Power of IEDs?

A new X-ray system of innovative optical processing technology will allow soldiers to identify potential bombs from the safety of their vehicles, providing a potentially powerful weapon against insurgents’ signature weapon, the IED.

Although IED attacks in Afghanistan reached a high in 2011 of 16,000 that has been sustained through the first half of 2013, casualties and injuries have been dramatically reduced to nearly half from 2011 to 2012. Yet, IEDs still remain the largest threat to deployed troops and their use on a global scale appears to be on the rise, according to the Department of Defense. The devices are a problem the Pentagon has spent billions of dollars to combat since the start of the Iraq insurgency.

Unveiled last month in London, Raytheon UK‘s Soteria vehicle-mounted system is the latest solution offered by the defense industry. Soteria, named after the Greek goddess of safety, provides high-definition IED detection, which allows personnel to remain in the safety of their vehicle while being able to detect, confirm and diagnose threats from a significant stand-off distance.

The sophisticated roof-mounted sensor scans ahead of the vehicle and feeds the shape, size, orientation and exact location of hidden IEDs to an in-vehicle display. Soteria is also equipped with ground vibration monitoring capabilities in the front of the vehicle, making it best suited to lead convoys according to Raytheon.

In simulation, Soteria was able to locate and classify the most difficult to detect of explosive devices, including those with low and zero metal content, says Raytheon.

“The system can be applied to a wide range of scenarios including minefield clearance, which remains a significant menace in various world regions, as well as in other operations such as disaster relief,” said Bob Delorge, chief executive of Raytheon UK, in a statement.

The stand-off IED and suicide bomber detection systems market has ballooned in recent years from $250 million in 2009 to a projected $1.5 billion in 2014.

Despite the significance of the threat, a solution to the problem has remained elusive for the Department of Defense and the defense industry.

The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) has gone from a 12-person Army task force founded in 2006 to a 1,900 person, $21 billion juggernaut with little to show for it (except for these ray guns).

Last month, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko reported that the Department of Defense awarded $32 million in contracts for thousands of anti-IED systems, called culvert denial systems, but that hundreds were improperly installed or not installed at all.

“This case shows so clearly that fraud can kill in Afghanistan,” said Sopko in a statement. “We will find out if contracting officers did not do their job and if that proves to be true and Americans have died, we will hold those individuals responsible.”

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Calif. Officers Arrest 60 During Gang Sweep

SAN BERNARDINO — Officers from a specialized Inland Empire gang taskforce swarmed through the streets Friday night in an attempt to curb gang activity that has plagued the city for months, police officials said.

More than 60 people were taken into custody during the 10-hour sweep. Several weapons and an unknown amount of drugs were seized, police said.

“This is one of many tools we have to take our city back from those that want to control it by using fear and violence,” said an undercover officer of the SMASH (San Bernardino movement against street hoodlums) taskforce. “These gang members need to know we aren’t going away, and we’ll use everything we have to keep residents safe.”

Some residents were not happy with police coming into their apartment complexes and they made that point clear to officers.

“SMASH is going to get smashed one of these days,” said James Jones. a friend of a resident who lives in the Evergreen Apartments at 1555 Pumalo Street.

Another woman, who asked to be kept anonymous in fear of retaliation from her neighbors, said she was glad police came through.

“It makes me feel safer when they are here,”

she said. “If I could afford to move I would.”

The taskforce included officers from Rialto, Fontana, Barstow, Upland, San Bernardino City Unified School District, Redlands, District Attorney investigators and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies.

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Seized N Korean ship: Cuban weapons on board

Cuba has admitted being behind a stash of weapons found on board a North Korean ship seized in the Panama Canal.

The Cuban foreign ministry said the ship was carrying obsolete Soviet-era arms from Cuba for repair in North Korea.

The ship was seized by Panama last week after “undeclared military cargo” was found hidden in a shipment of sugar.

United Nations sanctions prohibit the supply of arms to North Korea in the dispute over its nuclear programme.

A Cuban foreign ministry statement said Cuba reaffirmed its commitment to “peace, disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, and respect for international law”.

It said the vessel was carrying 240 tonnes of obsolete defensive weapons – two anti-aircraft missile complexes, nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG-21bis fighter planes and 15 MiG engines.

The Cuban statement said they were all made in the mid-20th Century and were to be repaired and returned to Cuba.

“The agreements subscribed by Cuba in this field are supported by the need to maintain our defensive capacity in order to preserve national sovereignty,” the statement went on.

Cuba said the ship’s main cargo was 10,000 tonnes of sugar.

The vessel, called Chong Chon Gang, left Russia’s far east on 12 April and travelled across the Pacific Ocean before entering the canal at the start of June, with Cuba as its stated destination.

Panamanian officials said the ship was carrying a cargo of sheet metal on its journey through the canal.

However, the vessel disappeared from satellite tracking systems after it left the Caribbean side of the canal, resurfacing on 11 July.

Experts say this may indicate that the crew switched off the system which automatically communicates details of their location.

Panamanian officials tried to communicate with the vessel, suspecting it could be carrying illegal goods initially thought to be drugs.

The crew did not respond, so the ship was boarded and the weaponry was uncovered.

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Despondent Firefighter May Have Been Seeking ‘Suicide By Cop’ Death

CHICAGO (CBS) — Police on Thursday shot and critically wounded a Chicago firefighter who was described as suicidal and despondent.

The shooting happened at the CVS Pharmacy at 103rd and Pulaski in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood early in the afternoon, according to sources.

The firefighter, who reportedly was on medical leave, was trying to be shot on purpose, in a so-called attempted “suicide by cop,” police union spokesman Pat Camden said. Chicago Police News Affairs said initial reports characterized the subject as suicidal.

The firefighter was known to be despondent. Camden said the man’s wife told 911 dispatchers that he called her shortly before the shooting and said he couldn’t take it anymore.

The firefighter had called his wife and was upset, sources said. She called police, who responded to the scene.

Once police arrived, the man made the sign of the cross and exited his van with a black object in a shooting position. That’s when police shot him.

“Fearing for their lives, officers then discharged their weapons striking the offender,” Chicago Police News Affairs said in a written statement.

Witnesses said they heard about 15 shots. Investigators determined the man did not actually have a gun.

About 12:45 p.m. Fire Department paramedics took an adult male gunshot victim to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in critical condition, according to a Fire Media Affairs spokesman.

Police News Affairs said the matter remains under investigation.

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Newcomerstown school district to let some employees carry guns

NEWCOMERSTOWN — An eastern Ohio school district will allow some employees to carry guns on school property beginning this fall.

The Newcomerstown Exempted Village School District board las month approved a policy authorizing employees designated by the board and superintendent to carry guns.

The district released few details of the plan that will go into effect in the coming school year. Board President Jerry Lahmers says it would be counterproductive if the general public knew how many people were authorized to carry weapons or in which buildings they worked.

But he tells Channel 3 News that could include principals, teachers or other employees.

Lahmers says the change is a reaction to the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut.

The Newcomerstown District has about 1,100 students in 4 buildings with 130 employees.

Only recently it adopted measures that are standard in many other schools.

Those include a buzz-in security system and requiring visitors to sign in at the door of school buildings.

The policy is being crafted with input from the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office, Newcomerstown’s Police Department and the Buckeye Firearms Association.

That group offered offered free firearms training to Ohio teachers and school personnel.

Those carrying guns must get tactical training and be recertified by the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Department annually. They also must have a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Schools officials say the policy should help keep students safe.

Lahmers said a parents’ group recommended the new gun policy.

But some students expressed reservations about the dangers of guns in schools to Channel 3 News.

At least one other school system in Ohio has adopted a policy of giving employees access to guns.

Sidney Schools, north of Dayton, are forming a response team of employees who will have be able to get to to handguns stored in safes in school buildings.

The Newcomerstown plan raises possible questions about insurance coverage.

Insurance providers in the state of Kansas have balked at covering school systems that arm employees.

Lahmers says discussion are continuing with Newcomerstown Schools’ insurance company.

He believes the firm is interested in and favorably views additional steps that increase security.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Several times every day, at airports across the country, passengers are trying to walk through security with loaded guns in their carry-on bags, purses or pockets, even in a boot. And, more than a decade after 9/11 raised consciousness about airline security, it’s happening a lot more often.

In the first six months of this year, Transportation Security Administration screeners found 894 guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags, a 30 percent increase over the same period last year. The TSA set a record in May for the most guns seized in one week — 65 in all, 45 of them loaded and 15 with bullets in the chamber and ready to be fired. That was 30 percent more than the previous record of 50 guns, set just two weeks earlier.

Last year TSA found 1,549 firearms on passengers attempting to go through screening, up 17 percent from the year before.

In response to a request from The Associated Press, the agency provided figures on the number of firearm incidents in 2011 and 2012 for all U.S. airports, as well as the number of passengers screened at each airport. The AP analyzed the data, as well as weekly blog reports from the agency on intercepted guns from this year and last year.

TSA didn’t keep statistics on guns intercepted before 2011, but officials have noticed an upward trend in recent years, said spokesman David Castelveter.

Some of the details make officials shake their heads.

As one passenger took off his jacket to go through screening in Sacramento, Calif., last year, TSA officers noticed he was wearing a shoulder holster, and in it was a loaded 9 mm pistol. The same passenger was found to have three more loaded pistols, 192 rounds of ammunition, two magazines and three knives.

Screeners elsewhere found a .45-caliber pistol and magazine hidden inside a cassette deck. Another .45-caliber pistol loaded with seven rounds, including a round in the chamber, was hidden under the lining of a carry-on bag in Charlotte, N.C. A passenger in Allentown, Pa., was carrying a pistol designed to look like a writing pen. At first the passenger said it was just a pen, but later acknowledged it was a gun, according to TSA.

A passenger in March at Bradley Hartford International Airport in Connecticut had a loaded .38-caliber pistol containing eight rounds strapped to his lower left leg. At Salt Lake City International Airport, a gun was found inside a passenger’s boot strapped to a prosthetic leg.

TSA doesn’t believe these gun-toting passengers are terrorists, but the agency can’t explain why so many passengers try to board planes with guns, either, Castelveter said. The most common excuse offered by passengers is “I forgot it was there.”

“We don’t analyze the behavioral traits of people who carry weapons. We’re looking for terrorists,” he said. “But sometimes you have to scratch your head and say, ‘Why?’”

Many passengers found to have guns by screeners are arrested, but not all. It depends on the gun laws where the airport is located. If the state or jurisdiction where the airport is located has tolerant gun laws, TSA screeners will frequently hand the gun back to the passenger and recommend locking it in a car or finding some other safe place for it. The government doesn’t track what happens to the people who are arrested.

Is it plausible that some people are so used to carrying guns that they simply forget that they have them, even when they’re at an airport about to walk through a scanner? Or do some people try to bring their guns with them when they fly because they think they won’t get caught?

Jimmy Taylor, a sociology professor at Ohio University-Zanesville and the author of several books on the nation’s gun culture, said some gun owners are so used to carrying concealed weapons that it’s no different to them than carrying keys or a wallet.

The most common reason people say they carry guns is for protection, so it also makes sense that most of the guns intercepted by TSA are loaded, Taylor said. Many gun owners keep their weapons loaded so they’re ready if needed, he said.

Even so, Taylor said he finds it hard to believe airline passengers forget they’re carrying guns.

“My wife and I check on things like eye drops and Chapstick to see if we’re allowed to take them on a plane, so it’s a little difficult to imagine that you aren’t checking the policies about your loaded firearm before you get to the airport,” he said.

Occasionally passengers stopped by TSA are people who are used to carrying guns because they work in law enforcement, security or the military, but that doesn’t appear to be the case most of the time.

Robert Spitzer, an expert on gun policy and gun rights, theorizes that for some, the “I forgot” answer is an excuse, “just like somebody who walks out of a store with an unpaid-for item in their pocket. The first thing that person will say is, ‘I forgot.’ Do people forget sometimes? Sure they do. But are there also people who try to shoplift to get away with something? Sure there are, and I think that’s no less true with guns.”

Eighty-five percent of the guns intercepted last year were loaded. The most common type of gun was a .38-caliber pistol.

Airports in the South and the West, where the American gun culture is strongest, had the greatest number of guns intercepted, according to TSA data.

Of the 12 airports with the most guns last year, five are in Texas: Dallas-Fort Worth International, 80 guns; George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, 52; Dallas Love Field, 37; William P. Hobby in Houston, 35, and Austin-Bergstrom International, 33. Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta had the most for any airport, at 96. Others include Phoenix Sky Harbor, 54; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International in Florida, 42; Denver International, 39; Seattle-Tacoma International, 37; Orlando International Airport in Florida, 36, and Tampa International in Florida, 33.

When expressed as a proportion of airport traffic volume, small airports in the West and South led the way. The airport in Roswell, N.M., had 8.5 guns intercepted per 100,000 passengers last year; Cedar City, Utah, and Provo, Utah, both 6.5; Longview, Texas, 4.9; Dickinson, N.D., 4; Joplin, Mo., 3.8; Twin Falls, Idaho, 3.4; Fort Smith, Ark., 3.3, and Walla Walla, Wash., and Elko, Nev., both 2.9.

By contrast, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where TSA screened nearly 27 million passengers last year, there was a single passenger found to have a gun.

“There are some Americans who believe that there are no limits, that they not only have a constitutional but a God-given right to have a gun and ‘By gosh, if I want to bring a gun on a plane I’m going to do it,’” said Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York-Cortland.

TSA’s count of guns intercepted doesn’t include all the other kinds of prohibited “guns” that TSA screeners find, like flare guns, BB guns, air guns, spear guns, pellet guns and starter pistols. Screeners find half a dozen to several dozen stun guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags each week. Last December, screeners stopped a passenger in Boston with seven stun guns in his bag. He said they were Christmas presents. The same week, screeners spotted 26 stun guns in the carry-on bag of a passenger at JFK. TSA has found several stun guns disguised as smartphones, and one that looked like a package of cigarettes.

Passengers are allowed to take guns with them when they fly, but only as checked baggage. They are required to fill out a form declaring the weapons and to carry them in a hard-sided bag with a lock.

Most of those who are stopped with guns are reluctant to talk about it afterward. One who didn’t mind was Raymond Whitehead, 53, of Santa Fe, N.M., who was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey in May after screeners spotted 10 hollow-point bullets in his carry-on bag. Whitehead, who is completely blind, also had a .38 caliber Charter Arms revolver in his checked bag that he had failed to declare. He said in an interview with the AP that he was unaware of the specifics of the rules for checking guns, or that hollow-point bullets are illegal in New Jersey.

Whitehead acknowledged that it seems “counterintuitive” for a blind man to have a gun but said he keeps a loaded gun handy for protection from intruders. In such a situation, he said, he would call out a warning that he had a gun and spray bullets in the direction of the noise if the intruder didn’t leave.

“I have five shots, and if I fan it out I’m going to hit you,” said Whitehead, a National Rifle Association member who owns five guns.

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UO police officers allowed to carry guns starting fall term

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Armed police officers will be on the University of Oregon campus when students return to Eugene in the fall.

The state Board of Higher Education voted unanimously Friday to allow officers with the newly formedUniversity of Oregon Police Department to carry guns.

University president Mike Gottfredson said armed officers are needed to ensure the safety and security of students and employees. The panel agreed, but board member Jim Francesconi warned that Portland has been divided by several controversial police shootings in the past decade.

If such an incident happens on campus, “it is going to be incredibly traumatic,” said Francesconi, a former Portland city commissioner and mayoral candidate.

University officers now carry batons, pepper spray and restraints, and call city of Eugene police if more powerful weapons are needed. School officials say officers must have guns to confront an active shooter and to safely perform routine police tasks, such as conducting traffic stops and transporting suspects to jail.

Most public four-year schools in the United State have campus police, according to a 2008 survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The survey also found that 88 percent had sworn officers and 76 percent had armed officers.

“It’s very standard for campuses of our size, we have close to 25,000 students, to have a police department,” said Jamie Moffitt, UO vice president for finance and administration.

But it hasn’t been standard in Oregon. The state’s seven public universities did not have the authority to create campus departments until 2011, when the University of Oregon asked the state Legislature to change the law.

None of the other six universities has approached the board about developing an armed police force. OregonState University, Oregon’s Pac-12 Conference rival, contracts to have armed state troopers provide police service on its Corvallis campus.

Before July 2011, the University of Oregon had a similar arrangement with Eugene Police Department. The city officers, who had guns, did not provide 24-hour coverage and the contract stipulated that they could leave campus to answer higher-priority calls in Eugene.

With enrollment growing and the city confronting budget problems, the university decided its own sworn police force would better serve the 295-acre campus. The university police department expects to have about 25 sworn officers when fully staffed. It has already purchased 20 Glock handguns.

Though no opponents of an armed police force traveled to Portland for Friday’s meeting, the idea is notuniversally embraced. More than three-quarters of the students who voted in a 2011 campus referendum said the department should remain without sworn officers or access to firearms.

Comments submitted more recently to the university note that the campus has little violent crime. “I cannot recall any incident where I felt that the situation would have turned out better if only someone with a gun would have gotten there sooner,” wrote an opponent identified as a graduate student.

The police department, led by Chief Carolyn McDermed, spent the past year conducting campus forums to ease concerns ranging from racial profiling to the potential chilling of free expression.

Sam Dotters-Katz, the incoming student body president, won his election despite his strong support for armed officers. He said student safety is the “most important promise” the university can make to parents and a ride-along with officers showed him the challenges.

“It’s a contentious issue,” Dotters-Katz said. “And I’ll tell you this, my two vice presidents don’t support the arming of the OPD, and I do.

“I don’t make any statements that this is the clear opinion of the student body,” he added. “This is my opinion because of what I’ve seen and what I’ve learned about the complex security needs we face.”

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Syrian president says Damascus received shipment of Russian missiles: Hezbollah TV

The Syrian president has told Lebanon’s Hezbollah-owned TV station that Damascus received the first shipment of Russian air defence missiles, according to remarks released Thursday.

Bashar al-Assad’s comment on the arrival of the long-range S-300 air defence missiles in Syria will further ratchet up tensions in the region and undermine efforts to hold UN-sponsored talks with Syria’s warring sides.

Israel’s defence chief, Moshe Yaalon, said earlier this week that Russia’s plan to supply Syria with the weapons is a threat and that Israel was prepared to use force to stop the delivery.

The Al-Manar TV, owned by the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group, released al-Assad’s comment on the Russian missiles through its breaking news service to clients on Thursday morning. An official at the station confirmed to The Associated Press that the remark was from the interview. The TV is to air the exclusive interview later Thursday.

On Monday, the European Union lifted an arms embargo on Syria, paving way for individual countries of the 27-member bloc to send weapons to rebels fighting to topple al-Assad’s regime. The move raised fears of an arms race in the Middle East.

Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent months that are believed to have destroyed weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah. It is not clear whether Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace in these attacks.

But with the Russian missiles in Syria’s possession, the Israeli air force’s ability to act could be limited.

Israel has lobbied Moscow over the planned sale of S-300 air-defence missiles to Syria but on Tuesday, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said his government remained committed to the deal.

The S-300s have a range of up to 200 kilometres and the capability to track and strike multiple targets simultaneously. Syria already possesses Russian-made air defences, and Israel is believed to have used long-distance bombs fired from Israeli or Lebanese airspace. The S-300s would expand Syria’s capabilities, allowing it to counter airstrikes launched from foreign airspace as well.

Monday’s decision by the EU paved the way for individual countries to send weapons to al-Assad’s outgunned opponents. The EU’s move may have little impact on the conflict since no single European country is expected to send lethal weapons to the rebels anytime soon.

Britain and France, the main military powers in the EU, had pushed for lifting the embargo. They have argued that Europe’s threat of arming the rebels in the future would force Assad to negotiate in good faith.

Russia, an al-Assad ally, harshly criticized Europe’s decision to allow the arming of Syrian rebels, saying it undercuts international efforts to bring the opposing sides in Syrian conflict together for a peace conference.

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Russia, India Sign Weapons Deals Worth Billions

Russia and India signed weapons deals worth billions of dollars Monday as President Vladimir Putin sought to further boost ties with an old ally.

Putin and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed cooperation between their countries as officials signed a $1.6 billion deal for 42 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets that will be license-built in India from Russian components and a $1.3 billion contract for the delivery of 71 Mil Mi-17 military helicopters.

“We agreed to further strengthen the traditions of close cooperation in the military and technical areas,” Putin said after the signing.

Singh said the talks included discussions on the security situation in the region, including Afghanistan.

“India and Russia share the objective of a stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, free from extremism,” Singh told reporters after the talks.

Russia and India have shared close ties since the Cold War, when Moscow was a key ally and the principal arms supplier to New Delhi.

The ties slackened after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but grew stronger again after Putin came to power in 2000, seeking to revive Moscow’s global clout and restore ties with old allies.

While the volume of Russian-Indian trade has risen sixfold since 2000 and is expected to reach $10 billion this year, the growth has slowed in recent years. And even though India remains the No. 1 customer for Russia’s arms industries, Moscow has recently lost several multibillion-dollar contracts to Western weapons makers.

Russia has maintained its strong positions in the Indian market with $30 billion worth of arms contracts with India signed in 2000-2010 that envisaged supplies of hundreds of fighter jets, missiles, tanks and other weapons, a large part of which were license-produced in India. The countries have cooperated on building an advanced fighter plane and a new transport aircraft, and have jointly developed a supersonic cruise missile for the Indian Navy.

But the military cooperation has hit snags in recent years, as New Delhi shops increasingly for Western weapons. The Indians also haven’t been always happy with the quality of Russian weapons and their rising prices.

In one notable example, in 2004 Russia signed a $1 billion contract to refurbish a Soviet-built aircraft carrier for the Indian Navy. While the deal called for the ship to be commissioned in 2008, it is still in a Russian shipyard and the contract price has reportedly soared to $2.3 billion. The target date for the carrier’s completion was moved back again this year after it suffered major engine problems in sea trials. Russian officials now promise to hand it over to India in the end of 2013.

India has also demanded that Russia pay fines for failing to meet terms under a 2006 contract for building three frigates for its navy, the third of which is yet to be commissioned.

Russia recently has suffered major defeats in competition with Western rivals in the Indian arms market.

Last year, Russia lost a tender to supply the Indian Air Force with 126 new fighter jets worth nearly $11 billion to France’s Dassault Rafale. And last month, Boeing won India’s order for a batch of heavy-lift helicopters worth $1.4 billion.

Russia has sought to downplay recent defeats of its arms traders, saying that other weapons deals with India are under preparation.

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