Morning Report: February 27, 2005

Arrests, condemnation follow Tel Aviv bombing. A Friday night terrorist bombing at the nightclub "The Stage" in Tel Aviv claimed the lives of four victims. The Jerusalem Post reports: 'Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Sunday that Islamic Jihad was behind the suicide bombing on Friday night in Tel Aviv. Issuing a short statement at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting in response to the attack, which cost the lives of four people and wounded some 50, Sharon said: "The orders came from Islamic Jihad in Syria. We know this for a fact."' Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz added that 'Islamic Jihad was directly responsible for the attack, taking its orders from Syria, and that its intent was to disrupt the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.' Debka reports: 'Israeli police on maximum terror alert. From Sunday, roadblocks at town entrances, special patrols at schools at crowd centers, transport terminals against at least 50 attacks known to be planned by Palestinian terrorists.' A Washington Post article (appearing here in the San Francisco Chronicle) says: 'Palestinian and Israeli security forces arrested seven Palestinians on Saturday in connection with a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv the night before, while leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Syria asserted responsibility for the attack. Among those arrested were two brothers of the presumed bomber and the man who allegedly drove the bomber to the nightclub where he detonated explosives, killing himself and four others and wounding about 50 people, Israeli security sources said. Most of the casualties were young Israelis waiting in line to enter a karaoke bar called the Stage. Israeli security sources identified the bomber as Abdullah Badran, 21, an observant Muslim and university student from the West Bank village of Deir al- Ghusun, northeast of Tel Aviv on the so-called Green Line between the West Bank and Israel.' Arutz Sheva reports: 'Syria said Sunday afternoon that the suicide bombing Friday night in Tel Aviv "contradicts Syrian policy," harms peace efforts and "gives Israel a pretext to bash the peace process."' A news bulletin from Stratfor (subscription) says, 'Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Feb. 26 condemned the Feb. 25 Tel Aviv nightclub bombing, saying that "the Palestinian Authority will not stand silent in the face of this act of sabotage."' (various)

Russia, Iran conclude nuclear deal. Iranian regime and Russian interests found common ground in Tehran on Sunday, with the signing of a long-planned deal for the completion of the Bushehr nuclear facility. From Debka: 'Iran, Russia sign nuclear fuel deal in Tehran Sunday. DEBKAfile reports: Signing delayed 24 hours over Iran’s insistence on schedule for delivery which Moscow wanted to avoid. Russians now undertake to complete Bushehr reactor core by end of 2005. This was main point at issue in Bush-Putin summit.' (Debka)

Mubarak calls for election reform in Egypt. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has called for multiparty elections. '"The election of a president will be through direct, secret balloting, giving the chance for political parties to run for the presidential elections and providing guarantees that allow more than one candidate for the people to choose among them with their own will," Mubarak said in a televised speech at Menoufia University in the Nile Delta. Mubarak, 76, said the decision was rooted in his "full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy."' Big Pharaoh is astonished. 'I never imagined what President Mubarak said today. He asked the parliament to amend the Egyptian constitution to allow multiple candidates to run for the presidency. This means that Muabark will have opponents running against him. Now, I am not stupid nor am I living in la la land. Mubarak's decision today came after immense pressure from the US and the current earthquakes (the purple revolution in Iraq and the Hariri revolution in Lebanon) that shook the region days ago. However, I credit US pressure as the number one reason. Condoleezza Rice cancelled a trip to Egypt scheduled for next week because of the arrest of Ayman Nour and Mubarak's failure to "change". Well, it seems that Bush turned out to be bloody serious about this democracy in the Middle East thing. ... ' Read the full post at the link. (Washington Post, Big Pharaoh)