United States President Barack Obama said Monday that he does not think Israel has decided whether to attack Iran over its disputed nuclear program, a standoff that has the Middle East on edge.
The president sought to assure allies and foes alike that the U.S. was working in lockstep with Israel to solve the crisis, "hopefully diplomatically." Obama's comments came as Israel's major allies in the West are working hard to talk it out of a unilateral military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, arguing forcefully that an attack ultimately would only strengthen the regime in Tehran.
"I don't think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do," Obama said during a pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC television. He reiterated that the U.S. has removed no option from consideration in dealing with Iran an allusion to military intervention but emphasized that the U.S. wants a diplomatic solution built around a world coalition.
Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would not dispute a report that he believes Israel may attack Iran this spring in an attempt to set back the Islamic republic's nuclear program. Obama refused to say whether the U.S. would get notice from Israel before any potential strike on Iran.
"I will say that we have closer military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we've ever had," Obama said. "We are going to be sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this hopefully diplomatically."
The U.S. is leading that persuasion initiative, even though Washington largely has concluded that outside argument will have little effect on Israeli decision-making.
"Any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive and has a big effect on us," Obama said. "It could have a big effect on oil prices. We've still got troops in Afghanistan, which borders Iran."
As for the danger of retaliation by Iran against the United States, Obama said: "We don't see any evidence that they have those intentions or capabilities right now."
Obama said Iran is feeling the pinch of sanctions but Israel is rightfully worried about its security.
Swiss Launch Investigation into Turkish Minister's Genocide Remarks
Swiss prosecutors launched an investigation on Monday into alleged remarks by Turkey's European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis, who reportedly denied the Armenian genocide, a crime under Swiss anti-racism laws, the ATS news agency reported.
Bagis reportedly made the comments to a journalist during a visit to Zurich last week.
"We have ordered a police inquiry," Andrej Gnehm from the Zurich prosecutor's office told the agency, confirming a report in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.
The minister attended a concert by Turkish singer Sezen Aksu on January 28, after attending the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos. According to Turkey's English-language newspaper Today's Zaman, he was asked about his views on a newly adopted French bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide and responded: "Switzerland is another country where it is a crime to deny the so-called genocide."
"Here I am in Switzerland today, and I'm saying the 1915 incidents did not amount to genocide. Let them come arrest me," Bagis allegedly said.
The paper said a complaint had been filed by members of Switzerland's Armenian community. The facts of the case are not yet clear, Christine Braunschweig, who is in charge of the case, told ATS.
"We don't know at the moment exactly what was said," she said.
Committee Demands Uludere UAV Footage
The head of a parliamentary commission charged with investigating the Uludere incident said they want to examine the footage taken from an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, of the botched air strike that resulted in the deaths of 34 civilians in December.
"There are steps to be taken after this. Of course, we want to watch the footage in relation to the questions you have asked. We are going to run out of time today. We want to watch them in Ankara," the head of Parliament's Human Rights Committee Ayhan Sefer Üstün said while on a visit Monday to the southeastern province of Şırnak.
The Human Rights Committee's Uludere sub-committee head, İhsan Şener, said that they learned the air raid decision was not decided by the administrative and security officials in Şırnak.
A delegation headed by Üstün paid a visit Sunday to the villages of Gülyazı and Ortasu on the Iraqi border, where the incident took place. They then moved to downtown Şırnak where they met with representatives of non-governmental organizations and Şırnak Gov. Vahdettin Özkan on Monday.
"We want the incident to come to light," Üstün said. "Our [fellow] citizens rightfully keep asking about [what] appears in the press, regardless of whether it is true or false. It would put all of us at ease for these questions to be answered in a clear and lucid manner as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, Abdülkadir Selvi, a columnist for the daily Yeni Şafak, said on Monday that the Prime Minister's Office was not informed about the air raid and the General Staff's Anti-Terror Department insistently did not confirm with local commanders that the victims were smugglers.
Turkey Upset by Rejection of UN Resolution on Syria
Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Monday expressed his country's disappointment with China and Russia's veto of a UN resolution on the Syrian crisis, saying that the cold war era was over.
"I'd like to say that we are upset about the vote at the United Nations," Gul said in a televised news conference with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Myung-Bak. "Everyone should remember that the cold war era is over."
Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council, Saturday blocked the UN resolution condemning Syria for its deadly crackdown on protests, which drew condemnation from other global powers, as well as from neighboring Turkey.
"Human rights violations and the use of military force against people have no place in the world," Gul said, adding that everything was going in the direction of a "worst-case scenario" in Syria.
Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, has been at the forefront of international criticism against the Damascus regime and has also become a haven for many Syrian opposition activists.
Greece Stepping up Security on Border with Turkey
Greece announced on Monday that it will soon begin building a six-mile-long (10-kilometer-long) fence topped with razor wire on its border with Turkey to deter illegal immigrants.
Thousands of illegal immigrants cross from Turkey into Greece at this point each year, often traveling from there to other parts of Europe.
Greek Public Order Minister Christos Papoutsis went to the border village of Kantanies on Monday to announce that work on the 13-foot-tall (four-meter-tall) fence will start next month and is expected to be finished by September at a cost of more than $4 million. It will stretch from Kastanies to the Greek village of Nea Vyssa, near the northeastern town of Orestiada.
New Kurdish TV Station Starts Broadcasting
A new Kurdish TV station, Sterk TV, started broadcasting on Monday after producing only test broadcasts since 2009.
Soon after the French-based satellite provider Eutelsat suspended Roj TV -- a Kurdish satellite TV station that was recently found to have links with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, by a Danish court -- another Kurdish TV station, Stark TV, was launched.
In a written statement released by Sterk TV, the station management said the channel will broadcast different programs reflecting the differences, colors and cultural richness of Iraqi Kurdistan as well as current affairs in Turkey and around the world.
The statement also says the channel will broadcast predominantly in the Kurmanci and Sorani dialects of Kurdish and will also include programs in Turkish.
Sterk management said the channel will discuss and analyze political developments in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Middle East and the world, with different guests and different subjects, in addition to news events, current events and special interviews.
South Korean, Turkish, Strategic Cooperation Document Signed
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Monday that the strategic cooperation document he signed with Turkish President Abdullah Gul would boost bilateral relations in a comprehensive fashion.
Speaking at a joint press briefing with Gul in Ankara, Lee said he was pleased to be visiting Turkey and defined Turkey as a "brotherly country."
"We prepared a document with President Gul to turn our bilateral relations into a strategic partnership. I believe that the strategic cooperation document we signed today would boost bilateral relations in a comprehensive way," Lee said. "Our talks were very beneficial. We discussed bilateral relations and global problems. We exchanged views on how we could promote strategic partnership relations."
"The trade volume between Turkey and South Korea is below the potential. I believe that the trade volume would increase with the realization of a free trade agreement," Lee underlined. "We decided to strengthen our relations in the fields of economy and defense industry. I thank Turkey for the stance of their government vis a vis the disarming of North Korea.
"I appreciate the leading role that Turkey played in North Africa and the Middle East. Turkey's role contributed to the democratization and economic development of the region. Turkey is a model country and a source of inspiration for Islamic countries wishing for economic development and democratization."