Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly appealed to U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, promising Israel would never again spy on the United States in the way Pollard did.
"Jonathan has suffered greatly for his actions and his health has deteriorated considerably," Netanyahu argued. "The people of Israel will be eternally grateful" to Obama if he pardons him, he added.
"Both Mr. Pollard and the government of Israel have repeatedly expressed remorse for these actions, and Israel will continue to abide by its commitment that such wrongful actions will never be repeated," Netanyahu said in a speech in Israel's parliament, the Knesset.
"At the time of his arrest, Pollard was acting as agent of the Israeli government. Even though Israel was in no way directing its intelligence efforts against the United States, its actions were wrong and wholly unacceptable," Netanyahu said, reading aloud the letter he sent to Obama.
The White House has received the letter and "will review it," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Tuesday.
Netanyahu agreed in December to formally request the release of Pollard, a former
U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who was caught spying for Israel in 1985 and was sentenced in 1987 to life imprisonment.
He has already served 25 years of his sentence.
In December, Pollard's wife hand-delivered a letter from Pollard to Netanyahu, pleading for help.
Many Israeli leaders over the years have requested Pollard's release, Netanyahu observed in his letter to Obama.
"Since Jonathan Pollard has now spent 25 years in prison, I believe that a new request for clemency is highly appropriate," he said.
"Jonathan Pollard has reportedly served longer in prison than any person convicted of similar crimes, and longer than the period requested by the prosecutors at the time of his plea bargain agreement," he added.
The Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on Netanyahu's request for Obama to release Pollard.
Then-CIA Director George Tenet threatened to resign in 1998 if then-President Bill Clinton pardoned Pollard, Tenet wrote in his autobiography.
Netanyahu, who was prime minister at the time, offered to make concessions in peace talks with the Palestinians in exchange for Pollard's release, Tenet said.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 1:20 PM
Iran has invited foreign diplomats to tour its nuclear facilities, ahead of fresh talks with key world powers over its controversial nuclear programme.
The offer was reportedly extended to Russia, China and several EU countries, but not the US.
US State Department spokesman, Philip J Crowley, has dismissed the offer as a "clever ploy".
Many Western countries suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its programme is peaceful.
"The representatives of some European Union countries, NAM [Non-Aligned Movement], and some representatives of the five-plus-one [world powers] have been invited to visit our nuclear sites," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.
He said the invitation was part of the Islamic republic's attempt to demonstrate "co-operation with the IAEA", referring to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"It's a clever ploy, but it's not a substitute for Iran's responsibilities to the IAEA”
Philip J Crowley
US State Department spokesman
China, a close economic ally of Iran, has confirmed it was among the invitees, but foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not say whether any of its diplomats would go.
Asked specifically whether a US representative would be invited, Mr Mehmanparast said in Tehran: "The list of the countries invited for the visit will be unveiled when it is finalised."
But the New York Times reports that the invitation has "pointedly snubbed" the United States, citing European diplomats close to the negotiations.
Washington, which has been spearheading the campaign for sanctions against Iran, swiftly dismissed the offer.
"It's a clever ploy, but it's not a substitute for Iran's responsibilities to the [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA," Mr Crowley told the New York Times.
READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE
Posted by Steve Douglass at 5:45 AM