Pope feels Palestine’s pain

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Updated 26 May 2014
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Pope feels Palestine’s pain

BETHLEHEM, Palestinian Territories: Pope Francis came face to face with the daily reality of Palestinians on Sunday, even touching the controversial separation wall, after calling for an end to the “increasingly unacceptable” Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The pope has said his three-day visit to the Middle East, which began in Jordan Saturday, has “purely religious” motives, but he grabbed headlines with a spontaneous stop at the West Bank separation wall, where he rested his forehead against the barrier in prayer.
It was a show of support that Palestinians had been hoping for, weeks after the collapse of US-brokered peace talks with the Israelis.
In an unprecedented move, Francis invited Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to his home in the Vatican for a “heartfelt prayer” for peace.
“Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment,” he said.
Neither president’s office would explicitly confirm acceptance of the invitation, though Peres’ spokesman said he welcomed it.
“President Peres, welcomes has always supported, and will continue to support, any attempts to progress the cause of peace,” he said.
Peres, 90, steps down at the end of next month.
Francis’s arrival in the West Bank early Sunday marked the start of the second stage of his brief tour aimed at easing an ancient rift with Orthodox Christians and speaking out in favor of regional peace.
“The time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable,” the 77-year-old pontiff said.
Flanked by Abbas at his official welcoming ceremony to the Palestinian territories, Francis added: “The time has come for everyone to find the courage... to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgement by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.”
Abbas raised the thorny subject of Jerusalem — claimed both by Israel and the Palestinians as their capital — accusing Israel of “systematically acting to change its identity and character, and strangling the Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims, with the aim of pushing them out.”

Surprise stop
Shortly afterwards, the “humble pope,” famed for his defense of the oppressed, halted his open jeep as his convoy passed near the controversial separation wall in Bethlehem erected by the Israelis.
The Vatican admitted the stop was a surprise.
Dressed in his white cassock and flanked by anxious Palestinian security guards, he walked over to the eight-meter (26-foot) high concrete barrier, which is topped by a guard tower.
He rested his hand and forehead on the graffiti-daubed wall, pausing for several moments in front of a scrawled appeal for his help: “Pope we need someone to speak about justice.”
The stop came as the pope was on his way to celebrate mass with 10,000 pilgrims in a packed and colorful Manger Square, next to the site Christians revere as the birthplace of Jesus.
The pope then shared his lunch with several Palestinian families, before meeting with refugee children at the entrance to Dheishe refugee camp.
Israel began building a vast barrier through the West Bank in 2002 at the height of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, saying its construction was crucial for security.
But the Palestinians see the barrier, two-thirds of which is located inside the West Bank, as a land grab aimed at stealing part of their future state.
Francis was set to meet Peres in Tel Aviv before continuing his visit with a trip to Jerusalem later Sunday.
Arriving in Manger Square in Bethlehem, Francis was greeted by a choir singing the Christmas carol “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
Catholic pilgrims had filed past security barriers into the square since dawn.
The scene was dominated by a stage where the pope celebrated mass, decked with huge Palestinian and Vatican flags and adorned with a giant tableau depicting the birth of Jesus.
The Vatican said the main reason for the visit was a meeting in Jerusalem with Bartholomew I, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, seeking to heal a nearly 1,000-year rift between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

Jewish extremists corralled
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, police arrested 26 Jewish extremists protesting at a site on Mount Zion where the pope will celebrate mass on Monday.
In a separate development, Israel’s foreign ministry confirmed that two of the three people shot dead in an attack Saturday on the Jewish museum in Brussels were Israeli tourists.
The incident has drawn condemnation from top Israeli and European officials.
“Francis comes in with a lot of political capital. He’s sort of a new Nelson Mandela, a new moral authority on the world stage,” said John Allen, Vatican expert for the Boston Globe.
“The question is: can he spend that moral capital to shame both sides into talking to each other?“
US-led peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators collapsed last month amid bitter recriminations, ending a nine-month bid to reach a solution, with no political initiative on the horizon.


Trump says Iran in turmoil since US withdrew from nuke deal

US President Donald Trump. (AP)
Updated 15 min 53 sec ago
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Trump says Iran in turmoil since US withdrew from nuke deal

  • Trump in May pulled the United States from the nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers in 2015
  • Iran’s economy is already suffering from the sanctions that Washington re-imposed after walking away from the nuclear agreement

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump asserted Monday that Iran was being roiled by nationwide riots since he pulled out of an international nuclear deal and that Washington supports the protesters.
Trump, interviewed after his summit in Helsinki with President Vladimir Putin, said that Russia still supported the nuclear accord because it does business with the regime in Tehran, so the deal is in Moscow’s interest.
“It is not good for us or for the world, but they have riots in all their cities,” Trump told Fox News.
“The inflation is rampant, going through the roof. And not that you want to hurt anybody, but that regime wouldn’t let the people know that we are behind them 100 percent.
“They are having big protests all over the country, probably as big as they have ever had before. And battles happened since I terminated that deal, so we will see,” he added.
Over the objections of allies, Trump in May pulled the United States from the nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers in 2015.
He reimposed US sanctions that had been suspended in return for controls on Tehran’s nuclear program, effectively barring many multinational firms from doing business in Iran.
Iran has been defiant in the face of the US move, saying it has left the Trump administration internationally isolated.
“The illegal logic of the United States is not supported by any of the international organizations,” President Hassan Rouhani said at the weekend.
Iran has faced mounting economic woes since Trump’s withdrawal announcement, with inflation rising sharply.
Its currency has plunged almost 50 percent in value in the past six months against the US dollar, prompting a rare strike earlier this month by traders in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar.
There have also been reports of brief scuffles and small-scale protests in recent weeks although not of mass demonstrations.