Israel tests US-backed missile shield as Iran nuclear deadline looms

Updated 01 April 2015

Israel tests US-backed missile shield as Iran nuclear deadline looms

JERUSALEM: A new Israeli air defense system being developed in partnership with the United States has passed advanced tests, the Israeli Defense Ministry said on Wednesday, putting it on course for possible deployment by next year.
Defense sources said tests for David’s Sling took place last week and on Tuesday, the last day before a deadline for international negotiations on Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
The terms of those talks have been vehemently opposed by Israel as insufficient and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday it was not too late for world powers to demand a “better deal.”
Apart from a potential nuclear showdown with Tehran, Israel sees threats from Syria and Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia.
“In the Middle East there is no time to waste,” a senior Israeli defense official involved in the program told Reuters.
Known in Hebrew as Magic Wand, David’s Sling is being manufactured jointly by Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and US firm Raytheon Co..
Designed to shoot down rockets with ranges of between 100 km and 200 km (63 miles and 125 miles), aircraft or low-flying cruise missiles, it will fill the operational gap between Israel’s Iron Dome short-range rocket interceptor and the Arrow ballistic missile interceptor, both already active.
The latest successful tests will likely strengthen support among US lawmakers for Israel’s request for additional funds.
Israeli officials last month asked US lawmakers for $317 million in additional funding for David’s Sling and other Israeli missile defense programs, on top of $158 million in funding already requested by the Obama administration in its fiscal 2016 budget.
Last year, David’s Sling lost out on a Polish tender after Washington made clear to the Israelis that it preferred that a rival US system win.
The latest tests were conducted under unusually strict secrecy, and had been rescheduled at least once.
Planners had considered holding one of the tests on March 3, hours ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech at the US Congress where he praised the Obama administration’s defense aid for Israel while rebuking its Iran negotiations.


Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

Updated 15 November 2019

Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

BEIRUT: Three major Lebanese parties have agreed on nominating Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, to become prime minister of a new government, the Lebanese broadcasters LBCI and MTV reported on Thursday.
The agreement was reached in a meeting on Thursday between outgoing Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician, and senior representatives of the Shiite groups Amal and Hezbollah.
There was no official comment from the parties or Safadi. The broadcasters did not identify their sources.
Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of an unprecedented wave of protests against ruling politicians who are blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Hariri remains caretaker prime minister for now.
Since quitting, Hariri, who is aligned with the West and Gulf Arab states, has been holding closed-door meetings with parties including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which had wanted him to be prime minister again.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim according to the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.
Mustaqbal Web, a Hariri-owned news website, said a meeting between Hariri, Ali Hassan Khalil of the Amal Movement and Hussein Al-Khalil of Hezbollah had discussed recommending Safadi for the post.
MTV said the government would be a mixture of politicians and technocrats. Mustaqbal Web said the type of government was not discussed, and neither was the question of whether Hariri’s Future Movement would be part of the Cabinet.
LBCI said the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party allied to Hezbollah, had also agreed to Safadi’s nomination.
They did not identify their sources.
Safadi is a prominent businessman and member of parliament from the northern city of Tripoli. He served previously as finance minister from 2011-2014 under prime minister Najib Mikati.
Prior to that, he served as minister of economy and trade in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who was backed by the West. He held that post again in the Hariri-led Cabinet that took office in 2009.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister of a Cabinet of specialist ministers which he believed would be best placed to win international aid and steer Lebanon out of its economic crisis, sources close to Hariri have said.