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The Magog Invasion

 

 Introduction:

 

The ancient people called Magog are commonly believed to have been the ancestors of the Russian nation. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of an invasion of Israel by Russia, which has not yet been fulfilled. What could cause Russia to come against the tiny nation of Israel -- which has no oil and no real strategic value? This question has puzzled Bible scholars for centuries. However, recent developments in the Middle East have for the first time in history lent credence to this long-awaited prophecy.


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]
 
 
 

Behold a Red Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 


•What does the Bible say about “wars”?
•How can the classic literature of centuries ago impact todays (and tomorrow’s) tactics and strategies?
•Which technologies are predicted in the Bible? Which ones have yet to be witnessed?
•In what ways have the economies of scale in violence been reversed?
•What is the threat assessment and risk analysis pending today?
•In what ways can a country be regarded as a “one-bomb target”?
•What are the likely implications of trans-humanism in the quests for the “Super-Soldier”?
•How could electromagnetic pulses emerge to become the “Great Equalizer”?
•Where is the safest place to be?
 Dr. Chuck Missler, an honor graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, with an international background including three decade’s experience in the board rooms of the defense industry, reviews the major Biblical references to warfare, the trends in modern weapons technology, and some of the current preparations for war among the major powers.
 

Behold a White Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 

 

The final world dictator seeking global domination will also be an “Assyrian” who is here characterized by a bow, riding a white horse. It is interesting how many confuse this counterfeit with the rider of the white horse in Revelation 19. In chapter 6, however, this rider is among some very bad company!
 “Behold a White Horse” explores the career of the first of these “Four Horsemen” who seems to have at least 33 titles in the Old Testament and 13 in the New Testament and the common term “AntiChrist” really isn’t one of them. We also explore the only physical description of him in the Scripture!
 • Why is he a “mistaken identity”?
 • How do we know this is NOT the Christ?
 • What is the precedent condition(s) for his appearance?
 • What is the precedent condition for the unsealing of the Seven Sealed Book? What is the Seven Sealed Book?
 • Is his “bow” a pun? How? Why?
 • How can he “go forth to conquer” if he is a “peace maker”?
 • Is the Church on the earth at this time? How do we know?
 • Is He alive today? How do we know?
 • How can he be the “Seed of the Serpent”?
 Join Chuck Missler as he looks at the first of the Five Horsemen.

 

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

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Iran parliament urges ballistic missile improvements

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎53 minutes agoGo to full article
A long-range Qadr ballistic missile is launched in the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran on March 9, 2016Iran's outgoing parliament approved a motion Sunday to increase the capabilities of the country's ballistic missiles, a military programme that has been ruled dangerous by the United Nations. Tehran considers the missile programme an essential deterrent, citing the unprovoked attacks on its cities by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the nations' 1980-1988 war. Tehran's clerical rulers do not recognise the Jewish state.
 
 

Bangladesh Hindu tailor hacked to death in attack claimed by Islamic State

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
By Ruma Paul DHAKA (Reuters) - Three assailants sped up to a Bangladeshi tailor's shop by motorcycle on Saturday, dragged out the Hindu owner and hacked him to death, police said, in an attack claimed by Islamic State. Police official Abdul Jalil, quoting witnesses, said the attackers fled the scene after killing 50-year-old Nikhil Chandra Joardar outside his shop in the town of Tangail, 80 km (50 miles) northwest of the capital Dhaka. Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the killing, saying the tailor had blasphemed Prophet Mohammad, the U.S.-based monitoring service SITE said.
 

Militants free 10 Indonesian hostages in south Philippines

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
In this photo provided by the Office of Sulu Governor, Sulu Governor Abdusakur "Toto" A. Tan II, center, sits as Indonesian tugboat crewmen eat a meal after being freed in Jolo, Sulu province, southern Philippines on Sunday May 1, 2016. Abu Sayyaf militants have freed 10 Indonesian tugboat crewmen who were seized at sea in March and taken to a jungle encampment in the southern Philippines, officials said Sunday. (Office of the Sulu Governor via AP)MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Abu Sayyaf militants have freed 10 Indonesian crewmen who were seized at sea in March in the first of three attacks on tugboats that have sparked a regional maritime security alarm, officials said Sunday.
 
 

In London's mayoral race, candidate rejects 'extremism' barb

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
In this April 28, 2016 photo, Candidate for London Mayor Sadiq Khan speaks during an assembly at the London Mayor election event of London Citizens in London. In the race to become London’s next mayor, one candidate is a bus driver's son who grew up in social housing, the other a billionaire's son raised in a mansion. They are two very different London success stories, and one is about to become mayor of Europe's largest city. The contrast between Labour's Sadiq Khan and Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith is resonant in a city where soaring property prices are increasing income disparities.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)LONDON (AP) — One is a bus driver's son who grew up in social housing, the other a billionaire's son raised in a mansion. They are two very different London success stories, and one is about to become the city's next mayor.
 
 

Five years after bin Laden, Al-Qaeda down but far from out

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
Replaced as the preeminent global jihadist power by the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda nonetheless remains a potent force and dangerous threat, experts sayFive years after the killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the network he founded is far from dead even if it has suffered a series of setbacks. Replaced as the preeminent global jihadist power by the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda nonetheless remains a potent force and dangerous threat, experts say. With last year's Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and a wave of shootings in West Africa, Al-Qaeda has shown it can still carry out its trademark spectacular attacks.
 
 

Al-Qaeda after bin Laden

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
A French soldier patrols a market in Gao, northern MaliDubai (AFP) - The jihadist group Al-Qaeda has survived the death of its founder Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 and bolstered its notoriety with attacks in Africa, Europe and Yemen.
 
 

Austria, Germany press EU to prolong border controls

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎8:17:41 PMGo to full article
A barbed wire fence is erected at a border crossing between Austria and Slovenia at Spielfeld, Austria in December 2015Austria and Germany said on Saturday they were in talks with the European Union's executive body to extend temporary border controls brought in last year to help stem the migrant flow. "I can confirm that we are having discussions with the EU Commission and our European partners about this," Austrian interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told AFP. Member states must "be able to continue carrying out controls on their borders," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a written statement to AFP.
 
 

Around 20 Syrians readmitted to Turkey under EU migrant deal: Turkish PM

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎7:53:11 PMGo to full article
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Saturday around 20 Syrians had been readmitted to Turkey under an EU migrant deal designed to help stem migration to Europe across the Aegean Sea. According to the text of an address to the nation supplied in advance to the media, Davutoglu said that in return 110 Syrians had been sent to Europe for resettlement. Turkey and the EU last month sealed a controversial deal intended to halt illegal migration to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara.
 

Hindu tailor in Bangladesh hacked to death in attack claimed by Islamic State

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎3:56:47 PMGo to full article
By Ruma Paul DHAKA (Reuters) - Three assailants sped up to a Bangladeshi tailor's shop by motorcycle on Saturday, dragged out the Hindu owner and hacked him to death, police said, in an attack claimed by Islamic State. Police official Abdul Jalil, quoting witnesses, said the attackers fled the scene after killing 50-year-old Nikhil Chandra Joardar outside his shop in the town of Tangail, 80 km (50 miles) northwest of the capital Dhaka. Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the killing, saying the tailor had blasphemed Prophet Mohammad, the U.S.-based monitoring service SITE said.
 

Trevi fountain runs red with 'blood' of persecuted Christians

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎2:13:54 AMGo to full article
The Trevi fountain is illuminated in red to symbolise blood of persecuted Christians around the world in a grim makeover for one of Italy's most iconic monuments, on April 29, 2016 in RomeThe Trevi fountain in Rome was bathed in red light Friday, symbolising the spilt blood of persecuted Christians, in a grim makeover for one of Italy's most iconic monuments. Tourists looked on as survivors and relatives of victims of attacks on Christians in Africa and the Middle East made emotional pleas for an end to religious violence next to the fountain in the heart of the Eternal City. "We are here to let persecuted Christians know they have not been abandoned, they are not alone," Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) said.
 
 

Turkish leaders proudly remember 'forgotten' Ottoman WW1 victory

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:48 PMGo to full article
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addressing an audience during a seminar at the university in the Qatari capital, Doha, on April 28, 2016Turkey's leaders on Friday celebrated the 100th anniversary of a rare victory by the Ottoman army in World War I against British-led forces in today's Iraq, urging modern Turks not to forget the exploits of their Ottoman forefathers. The surrender by a British-led force at the garrison in Kut al-Amara (Kut in modern Iraq) is seen as the last Ottoman victory of the war, which ended in the defeat of the Empire and its German allies. "Turkey is changing.
 
 

Biden takes 'Moonshot' cancer campaign to Vatican

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎6:38:25 PMGo to full article
This picture released by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis (L) shaking hands with US Vice President Joe Biden on April 29, 2016 at the VaticanUS Vice President Joe Biden won Pope Francis's backing Friday for advances in cancer treatment to be made available to everyone, as he brought his "Moonshot" campaign to the Vatican. Biden, whose 46-year old son Beau Biden died from brain cancer last year, made an emotional speech at a stem cell summit thanking Francis for counselling his family during the pontiff's visit to the United States. Francis told the summit, which is being hosted by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture and US-based Stem for Life Foundation, it was unacceptable that patients suffering rarer types of cancer or childhood diseases were sidelined "because investing in them is not expected to produce substantial economic returns".
 
 

Global aid summit must not to focus on refugee crisis alone: leaders

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎4:14:12 PMGo to full article
By Sebastien Malo UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The refugee crisis triggered by conflict in the Middle East should not monopolize the first World Humanitarian Summit, which needs to find solutions to broader humanitarian problems, a top EU official and the head of a leading aid group said. The global summit in Istanbul on May 23-24 is expected to draw 5,000 government and civil society delegates who will seek to agree on how humanitarian action should meet modern-day challenges. The summit comes as hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict and poverty have crossed into Greece by sea from Turkey in the past year, triggering a humanitarian crisis.
 

London mayor rivals tackle housing in 'Box that Rocks'

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎3:27:52 PMGo to full article
If Sadiq Khan wins, he will become the first Muslim mayor of London or of any major European capital -- a fact not lost on Goldsmith's campaign as he plays catch-upThe two men battling to become London's new mayor confronted the city's housing crisis in the campaign's biggest event, as they faced 6,000 citizens in a thunderous Olympic arena. Labour candidate Sadiq Khan and his Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith were grilled on the key issue gripping London voters on Thursday, with exactly a week to go in the race for control of western Europe's biggest city. In one of the most striking events of the campaign, they were put to the test by London Citizens, a giant and influential agglomeration of largely faith-based local groups seeking to improve life in their communities.
 
 

Australia at odds with Pacific neighbors over harsh immigration policy

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎10:23:29 AMGo to full article
Protesters from the Refugee Action Coalition hold placards during a demonstration outside the offices of the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Sydney, AustraliaBy Colin Packham SYDNEY (Reuters) - Lawyers for 850 asylum seekers held in a controversial detention center in Papua New Guinea said on Friday they planned to seek potentially billions of dollars in compensation, as Australian officials prepared to travel to PNG for emergency talks. PNG announced this week the closure of the detention center it operates on behalf of Australia, which has pursued a hardline immigration policy criticized by the United Nations and international human rights organization.
 
 

Residents of Iraq's IS-held Fallujah suffer under siege

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:51 AMGo to full article
Map locates Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;BAGHDAD (AP) — Abu Jassim can only afford to provide one meal a day for his seven-member family — usually a stew made of locally grown leafy green vegetables or rice with a small portion of flat bread.
 
 

Biden presses Iraq to not let political chaos upend gains

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎11:40:27 PMGo to full article
Vice President Joe Biden meets with U.S. diplomatic and military personnel serving in Iraq, Thursday, April 28, 2016, at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. (AP Photo/Josh Lederman)BAGHDAD (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden pressed Iraq on Thursday not to let its crippling political crisis upend hard-fought gains against the Islamic State group as he returned to the country that's come to symbolize America's relentless struggles in the Middle East.
 
 

Obama expects U.S. to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this year

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎11:22:59 PMGo to full article
Internally displaced children run inside a refugee camp in Dana town after fleeing Palmyra, in northern Idlib provinceBy Jeff Mason and Julia Edwards WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday he expected the United States would meet a goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees before the end of the year despite delays and opposition from critics concerned about security implications. As Europe grappled with Syrians fleeing the country’s civil war last autumn, Obama promised to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of fiscal year 2016. "We're going to keep on pushing," Obama said when asked on Thursday whether the goal would be achieved.
 
 

Italy, Austria seek to calm tensions over Brenner border controls

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎9:48:17 PMGo to full article
A sign reading "Republic of Austria - border control" is seen at Brenner on the Italian-Austrian borderItaly and Austria on Thursday played down tensions that flared after Austria said it might reintroduce border controls at the Alpine Brenner pass to keep migrants from coming from Italy. A day after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Austria's announced plans to build a fence at Brenner was "shamelessly against European rules", Austria's new Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said he had come to Italy "to calm tempers".
 
 

Abroad, some see Trump as danger, others as mystery

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎8:55:09 PMGo to full article
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)BRUSSELS (AP) — The world is fascinated by Donald Trump, just as blindsided as many Americans are about his rise and nearly at a loss to understand what he would do as president.
 
 

Pentagon working to 'take out' Islamic State's Internet

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎8:03:30 PMGo to full article
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on operations against the Islamic State group and Middle East strategy on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on April 28, 2016The US military's secretive Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) is working to destroy the Islamic State group's Internet connections and leave the jihadists in a state of "virtual isolation," Pentagon chiefs said Thursday. In what he described as the command's "first major combat operation," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said CYBERCOM is playing an important role in the US-led military operation against the IS group in Iraq and Syria.
 
 

Hackers leak stolen Kenyan foreign ministry documents

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎7:17:01 PMGo to full article
A magnifying glass is held in front of a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in BerlinBy George Obulutsa NAIROBI (Reuters) - Online activists who claim ties to Anonymous said on Thursday they had begun to leak documents from Kenya's foreign ministry as part of a campaign to expose government and corporate corruption across Africa. HackRead, a cyber security news site, reported that a hacker affiliated with "Operation Africa" had told it: "In (a) few days you will receive full disclosure of the data – We the Anonymous will stand against corruption, child abuse, and child labor!" A link to a sample of 95 documents was published to a widely known Anonymous Twitter account, part of what it claimed was a one-terabyte stash of date from Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The documents, viewed by Reuters, appear to consist of mostly routine correspondence between Kenyan foreign ministry officials and other diplomatic missions, trade partners and international companies around the world.
 
 

Refugee baby Serbia Merkel in transit across Europe

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎7:04:35 PMGo to full article
A baby named Serbia Merkel Al Mustafa sleeps in the "Krnjaca" collective centre, in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, April 28, 2016. Serbia for the country where she was born just a few days ago, Merkel for the German leader where her Syrian refugee parents want to go in their desperate attempt to escape the war and poverty. The Al-Mustafa family is among hundreds of migrants stuck in Serbia after the official closure of the Balkan route for passage. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)KRNJACA, Serbia (AP) — She has wide brown eyes, rosy cheeks and thick black hair. Her name is Serbia Merkel al-Mustafa.
 
 

Israel nuclear reactor defects spark secrecy dilemma

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:21:37 PMGo to full article
Israel's Dimona nuclear power plant was built in the 1950sGrowing safety fears surrounding Israel's largest but ageing atomic research centre have provoked fresh questions over its future and a dilemma over the secrecy of the country's alleged nuclear arsenal. Israel, believed to be the Middle East's sole nuclear power, has long refused to confirm or deny that it has such weapons. The Haaretz newspaper reported on Tuesday that a study had uncovered 1,537 defects in the decades-old aluminium core of the Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev desert of southern Israel.
 
 

After hostage beheading, is Philippines facing IS threat?

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎3:11:55 PMGo to full article
This image made from undated militant video, shows Canadians John Ridsdel, right, and Robert Hall. Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that the decapitated head of a Caucasian male recovered Monday, April 25, 2016, in the southern Philippines belongs to Ridsdel, who was taken hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants in September 2015. (Militant Video via AP Video) NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDITMANILA, Philippines (AP) — Months before Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded retired Canadian mining executive John Ridsdel in the tropical jungles of the southern Philippines, they showed him pleading for life in a video with three other hostages that demanded a record-high ransom.
 
 

Trump vows 'America first' foreign policy

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎11:31:31 AMGo to full article
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel April 27, 2016 in Washington, DCRepublican White House frontrunner Donald Trump promised a top-to-bottom overhaul of US foreign policy Wednesday to put "America first" and make its allies pay up. In a major foreign policy speech short on specifics that left Washington experts scratching their heads, Trump warned that Europe and Asia may have to defend themselves. "'America First' will be the major and overriding theme of my administration," Trump told supporters, co-opting the slogan of America's pre-World War II isolationists.
 
 

White House hopeful Cruz taps Carly Fiorina as running mate

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎9:42:07 AMGo to full article
Republican presidential hopefuls Carly Fiorina (L) and Ted Cruz at the CNBC Republican Presidential Debateat the Coors Event Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado on October 28, 2015White House hopeful Ted Cruz went all-in as he sought to bar Donald Trump's triumphant march to the Republican nomination, naming Carly Fiorina as his running mate as the primary race hits its final stretch. The Texas senator made the surprise announcement on Wednesday, a day after Trump clinched a knock-out series of wins in five states, putting him within striking distance of the nomination as all eyes turn to next week's key vote in Indiana. Cruz tapped the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Fiorina as his would be vice presidential pick, without waiting -- as is customary -- for the end of the primary campaign.
 
 

China's HNA to buy Radisson operator Carlson Hotels

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎6:43:06 AMGo to full article
HONG KONG (AP) — A unit of Chinese conglomerate HNA Group has agreed to buy Carlson Hotels, which owns brands including Radisson and Country Inns and Suites, the latest in a flurry of overseas investments by Chinese companies.
 

China won't allow chaos or war on Korean peninsula: Xi

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:16:50 AMGo to full article
China's President Xi Jinping is photographed by a smartphone at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in BeijingBy Michael Martina BEIJING (Reuters) - China will not allow chaos and war to break out on the Korean peninsula, which would be to no one's advantage, Chinese President Xi Jinping told a group of Asian foreign ministers on Thursday. North Korea's drive to develop a nuclear weapons capability, in defiance of U.N. resolutions, has angered China and raised tension in the region. This situation would not benefit anyone," Xi said in a speech to a Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.
 
 

Samsung's profit beats forecast thanks to early phone debut

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎4:39:09 AMGo to full article
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung Electronics recorded a better-than-expected profit in January-March, as an early debut of its flagship Galaxy smartphones boosted sales of high-end phones despite flat growth in the overall smartphone market.
 

Australia's tough immigration policies hit in middle of election campaign

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎12:37:30 AMGo to full article
File photo of protesters reacting as they hold placards and listen to speakers during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, AustraliaBy Jane Wardell SYDNEY (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea and Australia will hold urgent talks about the fate of 900 asylum seekers after PNG announced the closure of the island detention center holding them, leaving Australia's tough immigration policies in disarray in the midst of a general election campaign. PNG's High Commissioner to Australia Charles Lepani said on Thursday talks would take place early next week, but responsibility for what to do with the men rested with Australia which has remained firm against taking any of the detainees.
 
 

Austria plans fence to stop migrants at major border crossing with Italy

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎8:42:19 PMGo to full article
A sign reading "Republic of Austria - border control" is seen at Brenner on the Italian-Austrian borderBy Kirsti Knolle and Francois Murphy VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria outlined plans on Wednesday to erect a fence at a border crossing with Italy that is a vital link between northern and southern Europe, escalating a stand-off between the two states over how to handle a migration crisis. Migrants are crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to Italy in growing numbers and Austria has said Rome must stop them traveling onwards towards northern Europe or it will have to introduce border controls at the Brenner Pass in the Alps.
 
 

Several Egyptians killed in clashes with smugglers in Libya

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎8:33:38 PMGo to full article
CAIRO (AP) — At least a dozen Egyptians have been killed in clashes with smugglers in central Libya, Egypt's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
 

Global press freedom at 12-year low, watchdog says

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎8:30:46 PMGo to full article
Photos of journalists who were killed are seen during a protest in Mexico City on February 11, 2016Global press freedom fell in 2015, hit by violence against journalists in the Middle East, intimidation in Mexico and concerns about free expression in Hong Kong, a watchdog said Wednesday. An annual survey by pro-democracy group Freedom House said freedom of the press worldwide dropped to its lowest level in 12 years. Freedom House said a big part of the problem was "heightened partisanship and polarization" and intimidation and attacks against journalists.
 
 

Austrian parliament passes package on tougher asylum rules

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎8:23:42 PMGo to full article
Migrants wait at Austrian-German border in AchleitenAustria's parliament on Wednesday passed tough new asylum measures, including a process under which migrants could be turned away at the border within an hour, which could be activated if lawmakers decree public order is threatened. Austria has mostly served as a conduit into Germany for refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa but it has also absorbed around 100,000 asylum seekers since last summer. Austria has also been imposing restrictions on movement, including coordinating border closures with nearby Balkan countries over the past months and it is now preparing stricter border controls at the important Brenner crossing with Italy.
 
 

Immigration puts Swedish schools to the test

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎4:46:24 PMGo to full article
Of the roughly 245,000 migrants who have arrived in Sweden since 2014, 70,000 are under the age of 18Sweden's schools were already struggling with demoralised teachers and declining test scores before the arrival of masses of young migrants whose needs have put unprecedented strain on the system. The Swedish school system already faces major challenges including an acute shortage of qualified teachers -- 60,000 more are needed by 2019 -- and declining scores in standardised international tests. A UNICEF report published in April showed that Sweden, along with neighbouring Finland, is the country where school results declined most between 2006 and 2012.
 
 

Iran's Khamenei says US lifted sanctions only on paper

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎1:56:49 PMGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali KhameneiIran's supreme leader and president accused the United States of hostility and bad faith Wednesday, saying the implementation of its nuclear deal with world powers was not being honoured. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei echoed other officials in Tehran who allege that Washington is creating hurdles for European financial institutions, more than three months after the agreement came into force. With nuclear-related sanctions lifted, US and European diplomats have said there is no bar on non-American banks doing business with Iran.
 
 

US military conducts cyber attacks on IS

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:23 AMGo to full article
A US-led coalition has been striking IS fighters in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, and officials have long stated the importance of using cyber techniques such as overloading IS networks to limit the group's communicationsThe US military is now conducting cyber attacks on the Islamic State group, a general said Tuesday as the Pentagon looks to accelerate the fight against the jihadists. "We have now begun to use our exquisite cyber capabilities in this fight against Daesh," Baghdad-based Major General Peter Gersten told Pentagon reporters, using an acronym that comes from the group's name in Arabic. In February, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and the US military's top officer, General Joe Dunford, said the United States was determined to "accelerate" the anti-IS campaign, and indicated cyber warfare would play an increasingly important role in doing so.
 
 

More migrants ferried from Greece to Turkey under EU deal

 
‎Tuesday, ‎April ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎8:49:54 PMGo to full article
A young man from Afghanistan sits on his bunk bed inside a tent at a camp for refugees and migrants in Schisto, near AthensBy Karolina Tagaris and Lefteris Papadimas ATHENS (Reuters) - Stone-throwing migrants in a Greek detention camp clashed with police on Tuesday hours after two ferries shipped refugees back to Turkey under a disputed deal intended to stem the human influx into Europe. Garbage bins were set on fire, a police spokesman said, and migrants "were throwing stones and pieces of metal at police". Just over 340 people have so far been returned to Turkey since April 4 under the accord agreed with the European Union in March after more than 1 million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond reached the continent last year.
 
 

Palestinians unveil gift of giant Mandela statue

 
‎Tuesday, ‎April ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎7:59:27 PMGo to full article
Palestinian and South African officials pose in front of a giant statue of Nelson Mandela during its inauguration ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 26, 2016Palestinians on Tuesday inaugurated a giant statue of Nelson Mandela donated by the South African city of Johannesburg to their political capital in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The six-metre (20-foot) two-tonne bronze statue was a gift from Johannesburg with which Ramallah is twinned. "I think that Nelson Mandela himself would have been extremely proud of what has been done today," Parks Tau, the mayor of the South African city, told AFP.
 

 

 

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Iran parliament urges ballistic missile improvements

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎56 minutes agoGo to full article
A long-range Qadr ballistic missile is launched in the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran on March 9, 2016Iran's outgoing parliament approved a motion Sunday to increase the capabilities of the country's ballistic missiles, a military programme that has been ruled dangerous by the United Nations. Tehran considers the missile programme an essential deterrent, citing the unprovoked attacks on its cities by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the nations' 1980-1988 war. Tehran's clerical rulers do not recognise the Jewish state.
 
 

German economy minister cancels Iran trip due to illness, official says

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
German Economy Minister Gabriel presents the spring economic outlook at a news conference in BerlinGerman Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has fallen ill and therefore canceled a trip to Iran where he was expected to co-chair an economic conference with his Iranian counterpart, a German government official said on Sunday. German industry has been hoping for a surge in exports to Iran after international sanctions were lifted in January in return for the Islamic Republic complying with a deal to curb its nuclear program. The minister had planned to co-chair an economic conference with Iranian counterpart Ali Tayyebnia in Tehran on Tuesday, and German companies had seen the event as a potential catalyst for increasing exports to Iran to as much 5 billion euros per year, double their current worth.
 
 

Yemen's Houthis seize military base, endangering peace talks

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
A Houthi follower rises a weapon as he attends a rally marking one year of Saudi-led air strikes, in Yemen's capital SanaaYemen's Houthi movement and its armed allies seized a military base north of the capital Sanaa on Sunday, dealing a setback to a shaky ceasefire and peace talks in Kuwait aimed at ending a year-long war. Unlike most of Yemen's soldiers, those at the Umaliqa base had refused to take sides in the civil war between the Iran-allied Houthis and the government, which escalated when a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in March last year. Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, Yemen's foreign minister and the government's top delegate to U.N.-backed negotiations with the Houthis in Kuwait, said the move had "torpedoed" the talks.
 
 

Iran's new parliament has more women than clerics

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
After the second round of elections in Iran a record 17 women will become lawmakers in the 290-seat parliament -- one more than the number of clerics, which has hit an all time lowIran's new parliament will have more women than clerics when its members are sworn in this month, a first in the Islamic republic and a sign of the country's evolving politics. Official results Saturday showed that reformist and moderate politicians allied with President Hassan Rouhani won a big victory in second round parliamentary elections. The outcome saw them outnumber their conservative rivals -- many hardliners lost seats -- for the first time since 2004 and capped a remarkable comeback for reformists after years of isolation.
 
 

Iran president welcomes parliamentary results

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's official IRNA news agency reports that President Hassan Rouhani has welcomed the success of the moderate-reformist bloc in parliamentary runoff elections.
 

Five years after bin Laden, Al-Qaeda down but far from out

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
Replaced as the preeminent global jihadist power by the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda nonetheless remains a potent force and dangerous threat, experts sayFive years after the killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the network he founded is far from dead even if it has suffered a series of setbacks. Replaced as the preeminent global jihadist power by the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda nonetheless remains a potent force and dangerous threat, experts say. With last year's Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and a wave of shootings in West Africa, Al-Qaeda has shown it can still carry out its trademark spectacular attacks.
 
 

Four Yemen troops dead as Aden police chief survives bombing

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎12 hours agoGo to full article
Yemeni loyalist forces and onlookers gather at the scene of a suicide attack targeting the police chief in Aden on April 28, 2016Four Yemeni guards were killed in a bombing that targeted the convoy of Aden's police chief, officials said, the second such attack on him in the southern city this week. A bomb-laden car in Aden's Mansura district exploded as General Shallal Shayae's convoy passed, damaging military vehicles and prompting clashes between his guards and Al-Qaeda suspects in the area, the officials added. In February, suspected Al-Qaeda militants opened fire on a convoy carrying Shayae and Aden governor Aidarus al-Zubaidi, but they escaped unharmed.
 
 

Moqtada al-Sadr: Iraq's powerful unpredictable cleric

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎9:46:54 PMGo to full article
Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a press conference in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq on April 30, 2016Moqtada al-Sadr is the scion of an influential clerical family who raised a rebellion after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and has now reinvented himself as a reform champion. Sadr, who has a grey-streaked, bushy black beard and wears the black turban of a "sayyid" or descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, gained widespread popularity in the months after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Sadr's intervention revitalised a moribund pro-reform protest movement, but it has also positioned him to wield a level of direct political influence that he has not had in years.
 
 

Yemen foes hold 'productive' direct talks on key issues: UN

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎8:23:38 PMGo to full article
Yemen's UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed holds a press conference at the ministery of information in Kuwait City on April 30, 2016Yemen's warring parties held "productive" face-to-face peace talks on Saturday on "key issues" in a bid to end the conflict in the impoverished Arab country, the UN envoy said. "The talks today were positive and productive... It is an encouraging beginning," Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told a news conference after the first direct talks since the delayed negotiations began on April 21. "Today, we heard the parties pledge total commitment to (UN Security Council) Resolution 2216 and related decisions, the Gulf initiative and results of Yemeni national dialogue as the basis for a peaceful solution," he said.
 
 

Saudi hands over Houthi prisoners as Yemen peace efforts inch ahead: spokesman

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎8:10:15 PMGo to full article
Yemen's Houthi movement said on Saturday its foe Saudi Arabia had handed over 40 prisoners as part of an agreement to quell border fighting as U.N.-backed peace negotiations to end Yemen's civil war crept forward. The Iran-allied Houthis and Yemen's Saudi-backed exiled government are trying to broker a peace and ease a humanitarian crisis in the Arab world's poorest country where conflict has drawn in regional powers and killed at least 6,000 people. "We received 40 prisoners, 20 of those were captured inside Yemen," Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said in a statement.
 

Iran's moderates get most parliament seats after runoff

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎7:42:28 PMGo to full article
Iranian journalists wait for the announcement of results of the country's parliamentary runoff elections at the Interior Ministry in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, April 30, 2016. Iranian moderates and reformists who support President Hassan Rouhani and last year's landmark nuclear deal have failed to secure a majority after parliamentary runoff elections but will retain the most seats in the assembly. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian moderates and reformists who support last year's landmark nuclear deal have won the largest number of seats in parliament following runoff elections, marking a shift away from hard-liners and boosting moderate President Hassan Rouhani as he looks to secure a second term in office.
 
 

Al Qaeda in Yemen confirms retreat from port city of Mukalla

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎4:49:58 PMGo to full article
Yemen's al Qaeda branch on Saturday confirmed it had withdrawn from the Yemeni seaport of Mukalla a week after government and Emirati soldiers seized the city used by Islamist militants to amass a fortune amid the chaos of civil war. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said it had retreated from the port on Yemen's south coast to save it from destruction and that a handful of its fighters had been killed. Around 2,000 Yemeni and Emirati troops advanced into Mukalla last Sunday, local officials and residents said, taking control of its maritime port and airport and meeting little resistance.
 

Rouhani allies win Iran parliament elections

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎4:46:40 PMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was voted into office in 2013Reformist and moderate Iranian politicians allied with President Hassan Rouhani won a big victory in second round parliamentary elections and capped a remarkable comeback Saturday after years of isolation. It was also an implicit public vote of confidence in Rouhani, who won a landslide election victory in 2013 and went on to clinch a historic deal with world powers over Tehran's nuclear programme that lifted sanctions. Almost a quarter of parliament's seats were at stake in run-offs Friday in what was a showdown between reformists and conservatives seeking to influence the country's future.
 
 

Iran's moderates make modest gains in run-off election

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎12:00:46 PMGo to full article
File photo of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking during news conference in IslamabadBy Sam Wilkin DUBAI (Reuters) - Politicians allied to President Hassan Rouhani came out strongest in a second round of parliamentary elections in Iran, early results showed on Saturday, but his moderate faction appeared unlikely to clinch an overall majority. If confirmed, the results suggest Iran's next parliament will be more supportive of Rouhani's drive for economic reforms, but conservatives will remain a powerful force and could limit the prospects for social change. Rouhani's allies made significant gains in that vote, held in February, ending conservative dominance of the 290-seat assembly.
 
 

U.N. says in principle open to helping in Iran-U.S. assets dispute

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎5:38:04 AMGo to full article
U.N. Secretary General Ban delivers a speech in front of Austrian Chancellor Faymann in the Parliament in ViennaBy Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations on Friday suggested it would be willing to assist in a dispute between Tehran and Washington after Iran requested U.N. help in convincing the United States to stop what the Islamic Republic says are violations of state immunity. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday to ask him to intervene with his "good offices" after the top U.S. court ruled that $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets must be paid to American victims of attacks blamed on Tehran.
 
 

Rouhani allies seek control of parliament in Iran vote

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎10:06:48 PMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was voted into office in 2013Voting was extended Friday in second round elections for almost a quarter of the seats in Iran's parliament, a crucial showdown between reformists and conservatives seeking to influence the country's future. Iran's reformists -- who have encouraged foreign investment, support moves for greater diplomatic rapprochement and seek social reforms at home -- are allied with President Hassan Rouhani's government and made major gains in the first round on February 26. Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0330 GMT) for the second round which took place in 21 provinces, but not the capital Tehran, with 68 of parliament's 290 seats being contested.
 
 

Iran moderates eye more gains in run-off parliamentary election

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:22:30 PMGo to full article
Iranian woman holds a girl as she casts her vote during a second round of parliamentary elections, in ShirazBy Parisa Hafezi ANKARA (Reuters) - Iranians voted in a second round of parliamentary elections on Friday, with allies of reformist President Hassan Rouhani seeking to wrest more seats from hardliners. Rouhani's moderate and centrist allies made big gains in elections on Feb. 26 for parliament and a clerical body that will elect the next Supreme Leader, but they failed to win a majority of the 290-member assembly. Some unconfirmed reports on Iranian news websites said Rouhani's rivals won more seats in some constituencies where vote counting had finished.
 
 

What does Iran's final Election Day mean?

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:01:15 PMGo to full article
Iran's political process, like most aspects of its government, society, and economic life, is tightly controlled by the nation's Shiite clerics, but an election gives Iranians a chance to register their satisfaction with the recent shift toward increased world engagement in exchange for economic opportunity. Recommended: How much do you know about Iran? The first round of voting showed unexpectedly high support for centrist President Hassan Rouhani and his willingness to engage with the world.
 

Iran asks U.N. chief to intervene with U.S. after court ruling

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎7:51:07 PMGo to full article
United Nations Secretary General Ban arrives to a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif at U.N. headquarters in New YorkBy Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran asked U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday to convince the United States to stop violating state immunity after the top U.S. court ruled that $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets must be paid to American victims of attacks blamed on Tehran. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote to Ban a week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, calling on the Secretary-General to use his "good offices in order to induce the U.S. Government to adhere to its international obligations." Zarif's appeal comes amid increasing Iranian frustration at what they say is the failure of the United States to keep its promises regarding sanctions relief agreed under an historic nuclear deal struck last year by Tehran and six world powers.
 
 

In northern Iraq, longstanding tensions surge even as ISIS is pushed back

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎7:20:09 PMGo to full article
Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias together in 2014 pushed out forces of the self-declared Islamic State (IS) from around the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu. As animosity continues between Kurdish and Baghdad-backed forces, and the failed cease-fires pile up, many fear it could complicate the battle against IS and set the stage for continued conflict in an area essential to Iraq’s long-term recovery.
 

Iran votes in parliamentary runoff as rare shooting wounds 4

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎7:09:05 PMGo to full article
An Iranian woman casts her ballot for the parliamentary runoff elections in a polling station at the city of Qods about 12 miles (20 kilometers) west of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, April 29, 2016. Iranians voted Friday in the country's parliamentary runoff elections, a key polling that is expected to decide exactly how much power moderate forces backing President Hassan Rouhani will have in the next legislature. The balloting is for the remaining 68 positions in the 290-seat chamber that were not decided in February's general election, in which Rouhani's allies won an initial majority. (AP Photo)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranians voted Friday in the country's parliamentary runoff elections, a key poll that will decide how much power allies of moderate President Hassan Rouhani will have in the next legislature after the landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
 
 

Iran calls on UN to help with US court asset award

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎1:54:39 AMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran asked the United Nations on Thursday to intervene with the U.S. government over a Supreme Court ruling that allows nearly $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets to be paid to victims of terrorist attacks for which the Middle Eastern country has been blamed.
 

Biden visits Iraq in show of support amid multiple crises

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎12:33:49 AMGo to full article
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden watches as President Barack Obama and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speak during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in WashingtonBy Roberta Rampton and Stephen Kalin ERBIL, Iraq/BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other top officials in unannounced visits to Baghdad and Erbil on Thursday to show support for a government battling Islamic State amid political and economic crises. It was the first visit for Biden, the White House's point person on Iraq, since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011 after nearly nine years of occupation. Islamic State, also known as ISIL, seized large portions of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014.
 
 

Iran complains to UN about US ruling on assets

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎12:18:42 AMGo to full article
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described a US court decision to use Tehran's frozen assets to compensate victims of terror attacks as "a travesty of justice"Iran told the United Nations on Thursday that it reserves the right to take "counter-measures" in response to a US court decision to use Tehran's frozen assets to compensate US victims of terror attacks. "It is in fact the United States that must pay long overdue reparations to the Iranian people for its persistent hostile policies," wrote Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
 
 

China says it will not permit war in the Korean Peninsula. Why now?

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎11:33:48 PMGo to full article
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday that his country will "absolutely not permit war or chaos" to break out on the Korean peninsula. Addressing a group of Asian foreign ministers, the comments were made in the context of a wider exploration of China's foreign policy.
 

UN envoy 'positive' as Yemen peace talks enter second week

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎8:36:35 PMGo to full article
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (R) in Kuwait City on April 22, 2016The UN's Yemen envoy on Thursday hailed the "positive atmosphere" at crucial peace talks between the country's warring sides, as negotiations in Kuwait entered their second week without a major breakthrough. UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has held several rounds of talks with Shiite Huthi rebels and a government delegation over the past two days focussing on key issues. More than 6,800 people have been killed and around 2.8 million displaced in Yemen since a Saudi-led Arab coalition began operations in March 2015 against the Iran-backed Huthis, who have seized swathes of territory including the capital Sanaa.
 
 

Fragile economy forces Iran's top leaders to form alliance

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎7:37:09 PMGo to full article
Iranian President Rouhani waves as he stands next to a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei, after he registered for February's election of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that chooses the supreme leader, in TehranBy Parisa Hafezi ANKARA (Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may have sharply ideological differences but the fragility of Iran's economy has forced them into an uneasy alliance at least for the time being. In the past, the two powerful figures had offered contrasting visions for the Iranian economy with the conservative Khamenei calling for self-reliance and the pragmatist Rouhani urging cooperation with the world. "His failure in the economic field, will lead to his political failure." While allaying the fears of Iranian hard-liners against any detente with the West, Khamenei cautiously backed Rouhani's efforts to reach a nuclear deal with the United States and other major powers in 2015, aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program in return for lifting crippling sanctions.
 
 

Israel nuclear reactor defects spark secrecy dilemma

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:21:37 PMGo to full article
Israel's Dimona nuclear power plant was built in the 1950sGrowing safety fears surrounding Israel's largest but ageing atomic research centre have provoked fresh questions over its future and a dilemma over the secrecy of the country's alleged nuclear arsenal. Israel, believed to be the Middle East's sole nuclear power, has long refused to confirm or deny that it has such weapons. The Haaretz newspaper reported on Tuesday that a study had uncovered 1,537 defects in the decades-old aluminium core of the Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev desert of southern Israel.
 
 

Iraq shuts Al-Jazeera bureau for 'instigating violence'

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎1:31:40 PMGo to full article
Al-Jazeera has repeatedly come under fire from the Iraqi authorities for coverage perceived as too friendly to the Islamic State jihadist groupThe Iraqi authorities have shut down the Al-Jazeera channel's Baghdad office, accusing Qatar's state-funded TV network of inciting violence and sectarianism. Iraq's Communications and Media Commission (CMC) sent the Al-Jazeera Media Network a letter informing it of a March 24 decision to withdraw the bureau's licence and close its office for one year. Al-Jazeera has repeatedly come under fire from the Iraqi authorities for coverage perceived as too friendly to the Islamic State jihadist group and hostile to the country's Shiite majority.
 
 

Trump vows 'America first' foreign policy

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎11:31:31 AMGo to full article
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel April 27, 2016 in Washington, DCRepublican White House frontrunner Donald Trump promised a top-to-bottom overhaul of US foreign policy Wednesday to put "America first" and make its allies pay up. In a major foreign policy speech short on specifics that left Washington experts scratching their heads, Trump warned that Europe and Asia may have to defend themselves. "'America First' will be the major and overriding theme of my administration," Trump told supporters, co-opting the slogan of America's pre-World War II isolationists.
 
 

Australia's tough immigration policies hit in middle of election campaign

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎12:37:30 AMGo to full article
File photo of protesters reacting as they hold placards and listen to speakers during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, AustraliaBy Jane Wardell SYDNEY (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea and Australia will hold urgent talks about the fate of 900 asylum seekers after PNG announced the closure of the island detention center holding them, leaving Australia's tough immigration policies in disarray in the midst of a general election campaign. PNG's High Commissioner to Australia Charles Lepani said on Thursday talks would take place early next week, but responsibility for what to do with the men rested with Australia which has remained firm against taking any of the detainees.
 
 

Dems block spending bill in dispute over Iran nuclear deal

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎9:50:05 PMGo to full article
In this photo taken Jan. 28, 2016, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senate Democrats blocked the Senate's first spending bill of the year in a last-minute fight over a Republican effort to undercut the Iran nuclear deal and scuttle U.S. plans to buy Iranian "heavy water." Still seething over last year's international pact, Cotton had offered an amendment to the energy and water bill that would thwart the Obama administration if it tried to spend the $8.6 million to buy 32 metric tons of heavy water from Iran. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats on Wednesday blocked the Senate's first spending bill of the year in a last-minute fight over a Republican effort to undercut the Iran nuclear deal and scuttle U.S. plans to buy Iranian "heavy water."
 
 

World Bank keeps its distance from Iran, despite lifted sanctions

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎9:24:49 PMGo to full article
World Bank President Jim Young Kim speaks during a news conference April 14, 2016 in Washington, DCThe World Bank aims to eradicate global poverty, but its push stops at the Iranian border despite the easing of sanctions against Tehran and the country's pressing economic needs. The Washington-based development bank seems reluctant to reengage in a country where it stopped all new projects in 2005 in compliance with the international sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear program. "We're following the situation very closely ... we don't have any specific plans yet," said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
 
 

Global press freedom at 12-year low, watchdog says

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎8:30:46 PMGo to full article
Photos of journalists who were killed are seen during a protest in Mexico City on February 11, 2016Global press freedom fell in 2015, hit by violence against journalists in the Middle East, intimidation in Mexico and concerns about free expression in Hong Kong, a watchdog said Wednesday. An annual survey by pro-democracy group Freedom House said freedom of the press worldwide dropped to its lowest level in 12 years. Freedom House said a big part of the problem was "heightened partisanship and polarization" and intimidation and attacks against journalists.
 
 

Bahrain jails 8 for life over 'terrorism'

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎7:03:01 PMGo to full article
Bahrain criminal court found three defendants guilty of detonating a blast that wounded a policeman, as well as possessing explosives and damaging police vehiclesDubai (AFP) - A Bahraini court has sentenced eight people to life in jail after convicting them of "terrorism" and violence against security forces in two separate cases, authorities said.
 
 

UN chief urges nuclear test ban treaty ratification

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎5:31:37 PMGo to full article
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks during the 20th anniversary celebration of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, CTBTO, at the UN headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)VIENNA (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the U.S. and seven other nations to ratify the treaty banning nuclear weapons testing so that the agreement can take effect.
 
 

Turkish businessman pleads not guilty to U.S. charges over Iran sanctions

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎5:10:04 PMGo to full article
A Turkish gold trader pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges that he and others conspired to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions to help the Iranian government or other entities evade U.S. sanctions. Reza Zarrab, a dual citizen of Turkey and his native Iran, entered the plea at a hearing before Judge Richard Berman in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. "We are pleased that Mr. Zarrab has finally arrived in New York so we can begin the process of defending this case," Zarrab's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told reporters outside the court room.
 

Syrian Kurdish leader sees Turkish hand in border closure

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎4:53:36 PMGo to full article
Abdul Karim Saroukhan, the head of the Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria, poses inside his office in Amuda town, in Hasaka GovernorateBy Tom Perry and Rodi Said BEIRUT/AMUDA, Syria (Reuters) - The Kurdish government in Iraq has dealt a blow to Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria by keeping the border closed for more than one month, an economic and political setback for the Syrian region as it plans for wider autonomy. The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria believes it is being targeted by the Kurdish government in Iraq in coordination with regional power Turkey, which is deeply concerned by growing Kurdish sway in Syria. The move has laid bare Kurdish divisions across the frontier that could complicate the Syrian Kurds' political ambitions: Iraqi Kurds took the step the very week the Syrian Kurds and their allies announced plans for a new system of autonomous government in northern Syria.
 
 

Undercover squad may mean more covering up for Tehran women

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎4:29:46 PMGo to full article
An Iranian woman adjusts her head scarf while crossing a street in downtown Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Sajedinia recently announced his department had deployed 7,000 male and female officers for a new plainclothes division _ the largest such undercover assignment in memory. Critics fear the unit’s main focus will be enforcing the government-mandated Islamic dress code, which requires women be modestly covered from head to toe. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Tehran resident Sousan Heidari has stopped letting her headscarf slip casually down over her neck and shoulders while driving in the Iranian capital. These days, the 22-year-old with a taste for bold makeup makes sure to pull it tightly over her dark hair, fearful of running afoul of a newly established undercover division of the morality police.
 
 

Iran's president slams US court ruling on frozen assets

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎3:58:12 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's president said Wednesday that a U.S. court ruling that allows for the seizure of Iranian assets amounts to theft and indicates continued "hostility" toward his country.
 

Radical action needed to decarbonize world energy supply: report

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎3:54:13 PMGo to full article
Smoke rises from chimneys of a thermal power plant near ShanghaiBy Nina Chestney LONDON (Reuters) - More radical action is needed to decarbonize the world's energy supply and improve energy efficiency to keep the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) said on Wednesday. The ETC is made up of global experts from energy companies, the investment sector, public and academic institutions and foundations and aims to identify ways to change the world's energy systems to low-carbon sources. The plans, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), are the building blocks of a landmark deal reached in Paris last December to limit the rise in global average temperature to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius this century.
 
 

Iran's Khamenei says US lifted sanctions only on paper

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎1:56:49 PMGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali KhameneiIran's supreme leader and president accused the United States of hostility and bad faith Wednesday, saying the implementation of its nuclear deal with world powers was not being honoured. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei echoed other officials in Tehran who allege that Washington is creating hurdles for European financial institutions, more than three months after the agreement came into force. With nuclear-related sanctions lifted, US and European diplomats have said there is no bar on non-American banks doing business with Iran.
 
 

Former refugee wants to earn Rio taekwondo medal as Belgian

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎1:29:52 PMGo to full article
FILE - This is a Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 file photo of Raheleh Asemani of Iran, left, in action against South Korea's Noh Eun-sil, during their women's under 62 Kg Taekwondo final at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. The former-Iranian taekwondo fighter who was part of the Olympic team of refugee athletes has gained Belgian citizenship and wants to win a medal at the Rio de Janeiro for her new country, she said on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)BRUSSELS (AP) — For a refugee, competing in the Olympics is an improbable dream. Now, former Iranian taekwondo fighter Raheleh Asemani seeks to go one better — earn a medal for her newly adopted nation, Belgium.
 
 

Iran's Supreme Leader says U.S. lifted sanctions only on paper

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:45:24 PMGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses workers in TehranIran's Supreme Leader accused the United States on Wednesday of scaring businesses away from Tehran and undermining a deal to lift international sanctions. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told hundreds of workers that a global deal, signed between Iran and world powers, had lifted financial sanctions, but U.S. obstruction was stopping Iran getting the full economic fruits of the agreement. "On paper the United States allows foreign banks to deal with Iran, but in practice they create Iranophobia so no one does business with Iran," he said in quotes from the speech posted on his website.
 
 

Iran parliament in the balance in election run-offs

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎9:24:40 AMGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his vote at a polling station in Tehran on February 26, 2016Nearly a quarter of Iran's parliamentary seats are at stake Friday in an election in which reformists want to consolidate their recent comeback and minimise the clout of hardline lawmakers. Reformists who backed the country's moderate President Hassan Rouhani made big gains in the first round following Iran's implementation of a nuclear deal with world powers, which lifted sanctions blamed for long hobbling the economy. Conservative MPs, including vehement opponents of the West who openly criticised the landmark agreement that reined in Iran's atomic programme, lost dozens of seats.
 
 

Iranian refugee sets himself on fire on Nauru during UN visit

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎8:42:54 AMGo to full article
People protest outside an immigration office in Sydney, in February 2016An Iranian refugee set himself on fire Wednesday during a visit by UN officials to Nauru, Canberra said, with four others reportedly attempting suicide. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton revealed the 23-year-old would be air-lifted from the Pacific island to hospital in Australia, but made clear that if he survived and recovered he would be sent back. "I can inform you that there was a 23-year-old male who had originally come from Iran, by boat, was on Nauru and outside of the detention centre, in fact in one of the settlement areas, had set himself alight, self-immolated this morning," he told a press conference.
 
 

UN chief urges end to 'madness' of nuclear weapons testing

 
‎Wednesday, ‎April ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎2:21:31 AMGo to full article
UN chief Ban Ki-moon hit at what he called "increasingly restrictive" refugee policies in EuropeUN chief Ban Ki-moon called Wednesday for the US, China and other nuclear-armed states to end the "madness" of atomic testing by finally ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which turns 20 this year. "I call on remaining states, the eight remaining states, to sign and ratify the treaty without further delay," Ban said in Vienna at an event marking the anniversary. "Nuclear testing poisons water, causes cancers and pollutes the area with radioactive fallout for generations and generations to come," he said.
 
 

AP Interview: Saudi prince unveils plans to welcome tourists

 
‎Tuesday, ‎April ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎8:32:35 PMGo to full article
Prince Sultan bin Salman talks to a Associated Press reporter at the ArabianTravel Market exhibition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. A day after Saudi Arabia outlined sweeping reform plans, the top prince spelled out for the first time in an AP interview how the kingdom aims to make tourism an important element of its shift toward less reliance on oil. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia has plans to issue select visas to welcome tens of thousands of tourists a year as part of a sweeping national reform plan aimed at showcasing the country's rich heritage, including pre-Islamic sites, and encouraging Saudis to spend some of their tourist money at home.
 
 

Third wave of migrants returned to Turkey from Greece

 
‎Tuesday, ‎April ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎7:52:40 PMGo to full article
A woman holds a baby outside a tent adorned with the EU flag at a makeshift camp crowded by migrants and refugees at the northern Greek border point of Idomeni, Greece, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Many thousands of migrants remain at the Greek border with Macedonia, hoping that the border crossing will reopen, allowing them to move north into central Europe. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)ISTANBUL (AP) — Dozens of migrants arrived in Turkey on Tuesday, Turkish officials said, as part of a migration deal with the European Union meant to stem the flow of people heading to Europe's prosperous heartland.
 
 

UN envoy says progress made in Yemen peace talks

 
‎Tuesday, ‎April ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎7:49:09 PMGo to full article
Yemeni pro-government forces, loyal to fugitive President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi gather at the military base of Nehm, in the Sanaa province east of the Yemeni capital, the frontline with the Marib region on April 7, 2016The UN special envoy to Yemen said Tuesday that warring parties have agreed to a framework for talks that will open the way for extensive negotiations to end the conflict. The announcement came after Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, whose country is hosting the talks, met with the two delegations separately and urged them to reach a peaceful solution. It also came a day after the UN Security Council urged all sides in the negotiations to be constructive.

 

 

 

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Anti-immigrant AfD says Muslims not welcome in Germany

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎6 minutes agoGo to full article
AfD Delegates vote during the second day of the AfD's party congress in StuttgartBy Tina Bellon STUTTGART, Germany (Reuters) - Delegates from Germany's anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Sunday backed an election manifesto that says Islam is not compatible with the country's constitution and calls for a ban on minarets and the burqa. The AfD, set up just three years ago, has been buoyed by Europe's migrant crisis, which saw the arrival of more than one million, mostly Muslim, migrants in Germany last year. The party has no lawmakers in the federal parliament in Berlin but has members in half of Germany's 16 regional state assemblies.
 
 

Suspected Islamic State suicide bomber kills two police in Turkish southeast: sources

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎9 minutes agoGo to full article
Police forensic experts inspect the scene after an explosion in front of the city's police headquarters in GaziantepBy Seyhmus Cakan GAZIANTEP, Turkey (Reuters) - Two police officers were killed and 23 people wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on police headquarters in the south- eastern Turkish city of Gaziantep, the governor and police sources said, in one of two attacks on security forces on Sunday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but security sources said police raided the home of a suspected Islamic State militant believed to have carried out the attack and detained his father for DNA tests and questioning. Turkey has suffered attacks recently both from Kurdish militants and Islamic State fighters, raising uncertainty at home and among NATO allies about spillover of conflict from neighboring Syria.
 
 

Islamic State suicide attacks kill 32 in southern Iraq

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎10 minutes agoGo to full article
Two suicide car bombs claimed by Islamic State killed at least 32 people and wounded 75 others in the center of the southern Iraqi city of Samawa on Sunday, police and medics said. The first blast was near a local government building and the second one about 60 meters (65 yards) away at a bus station, police sources said. Islamic State said it had attacked a gathering of special forces in Samawa, 230 km (140 miles) south of the capital, with one car bomb and then blew up the second when security forces responded to the site.
 

Twin bombings in southern Iraq kill 33

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎51 minutes agoGo to full article
A woman and child enter the general hospital in Samawa, 230 kms south of Baghdad, on February 19, 2004Two bomb blasts in the southern Iraqi city of Samawa Sunday killed at least 33 people and wounded more than 50, security and medical officials said. "The hospitals have received 33 dead," a senior official in the Muthanna health department, which covers Samawa, told AFP. An officer in Muthanna Operations Command confirmed the toll.
 
 

Iraq: Car bombings kill at least 23 people in southern city

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎56 minutes agoGo to full article
Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr storm parliament in Baghdad's Green Zone, Saturday, April 30, 2016. Dozens of protesters climbed over the blast walls and could be seen storming the Parliament building, carrying Iraqi flags and chanting against the government. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)BAGHDAD (AP) — Militants on Sunday unleashed dual car bomb attacks in southern Iraq, killing at least 23 people and wounding dozens, officials said, at a time when the country's government is struggling with mounting public unrest in the capital over delays in promised reform plans.
 
 

Iraq says oil exports, revenues increase in April

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq says April crude oil exports have increased by 2.3 percent from the previous month, filling cash-strapped coffers amid an acute economic crisis.
 

Watchdog looks to counter new chemical weapons threats

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2014 file photo, OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu talks during a press conference, in Rome. With about 92 percent of the world’s declared chemical weapons destroyed, the watchdog overseeing the elimination of poison gas and nerve agents is looking at how to counter emerging threats while still dealing with unfinished business in Syria. The OPCW is marking the anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention with a conference focusing on chemical security in a future in which extremists and criminals seem more likely than nations to launch attacks. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — With about 92 percent of the world's declared chemical weapons stockpiles destroyed, the watchdog agency overseeing the elimination of poison gas and nerve agents is looking now to counter emerging threats from extremist groups while still dealing with unfinished business in Syria.
 
 

Protesters in Green Zone, Iraq PM calls for punishment of rioters

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
Iraqi protesters open a breach in a concrete wall surrounding the parliament on April 30, 2016Thousands of protesters were inside Baghdad's Green Zone on Sunday after breaking into the fortified area and storming parliament, as Iraq's premier called for rioters to be pursued and punished. Demonstrators pulled down or scaled slabs of heavy concrete blast wall to enter the fortified area where Iraq's main government institutions are located, the culmination of weeks of political turmoil and inaction by parliament. While there is still the potential for escalation, the situation was calm on Sunday, with protesters touring the area and taking photos of places they have rarely if ever been able to access.
 
 

Australia readies key election budget

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎6 hours agoGo to full article
A violinist performs in a shopping arcade in the central business district of Sydney on April 21, 2016Australia's conservative government is pledging to drive economic and jobs growth when it hands down its budget on Tuesday, with an eye firmly on upcoming national elections that are shaping up to be a tight race. The budget is seen as a key test for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a former investment banker who ousted his predecessor Tony Abbott in a party coup in September, ahead of the polls which are widely expected in July. Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison face the tough task of balancing the need to stimulate a resources-heavy economy as it exits an unprecedented mining investment boom with calls to rein in the budget deficit and government debt.
 
 

Five years after bin Laden, Al-Qaeda down but far from out

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
Replaced as the preeminent global jihadist power by the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda nonetheless remains a potent force and dangerous threat, experts sayFive years after the killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the network he founded is far from dead even if it has suffered a series of setbacks. Replaced as the preeminent global jihadist power by the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda nonetheless remains a potent force and dangerous threat, experts say. With last year's Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and a wave of shootings in West Africa, Al-Qaeda has shown it can still carry out its trademark spectacular attacks.
 
 

Global Al-Qaeda franchises

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
Forces loyal to the Saudi-backed Yemeni president take part in an operation on a road leading to the entrance of Abyan province against Al-Qaeda fightersDubai (AFP) - Al-Qaeda franchises have emerged on several continents since Osama bin Laden founded the Sunni jihadist network in 1988.
 
 

Al-Qaeda after bin Laden

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
A French soldier patrols a market in Gao, northern MaliDubai (AFP) - The jihadist group Al-Qaeda has survived the death of its founder Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 and bolstered its notoriety with attacks in Africa, Europe and Yemen.
 
 

Daniel Berrigan, U.S. anti-war priest and poet, dies at 94

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
Berrigan died at the Murray-Weigel Jesuit Community in New York's Bronx borough, America magazine said. A passionate critic of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Berrigan gained worldwide attention in 1968 when he, his younger brother Philip, who was a Josephite priest, and seven other Catholics seized draft records from a Selective Service Office in Catonsville, Maryland. "It was Philip who came up with the idea," Berrigan told America in 2009.
 

Iraqi protesters pour into Green Zone, storm parliament

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎1, ‎2016, ‏‎11 hours agoGo to full article
Followers of Iraq's Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr storm in IraqAnti-government protesters tore down walls and poured into the Iraqi capital's heavily fortified Green Zone on Saturday, where they stormed parliament in a major escalation of a political crisis that has ...
 
 

IRAQ GREEN ZONE

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎10:15:25 PMGo to full article
Map shows the Green Zone in Baghdad and locates the Iraqi parliament and U.S. Embassy; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;
 

Protesters storm parliament in Iraq's Green Zone

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎10:11:04 PMGo to full article
Iraqi protesters climb over a concrete wall surrounding the parliament after breaking into Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" on April 30, 2016Thousands of angry protesters broke into Baghdad's fortified Green Zone area on Saturday and stormed the Iraqi parliament building after lawmakers again failed to approve new ministers. Jubilant crowds, most of them supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, invaded the main session hall, shouting slogans glorifying their leader and claiming that they had rooted out corruption. The capital was already on high alert for a major Shiite pilgrimage, participants in which were targeted in a bombing that killed 23 on Saturday, but extra security measures were taken after protesters stormed the Green Zone.
 
 

Iraq forces in major offensive on IS-held town

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎10:10:07 PMGo to full article
Iraqi pro-government forces and Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units hold position in Kirkuk on April 30, 2016 as they launch an operation to retake the town of al-BashirIraqi forces launched a final assault Saturday to retake the Turkmen majority town of Bashir from the Islamic State jihadist group, Kurdish authorities said. Pressure for an operation to retake the town had grown in March after IS launched a chemical attack from Bashir on the nearby town of Taza that killed at least three children. "Bashir village is surrounded and 80 percent has been cleared," the Kurdistan Region Security Council said on social media.
 
 

Sadr followers dig in inside Baghdad's Green Zone, political crisis deepens

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎9:53:57 PMGo to full article
Followers of Iraq's Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are seen in the parliament building as they storm Baghdad's Green Zone after lawmakers failed to convene for a vote on overhauling the government, in IraqBy Stephen Kalin and Ahmed Rasheed BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Hundreds of supporters of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed parliament inside Baghdad's Green Zone on Saturday and camped out nearby after Sadr denounced politicians' failure to reform a political quota system blamed for rampant corruption. The protesters, who had gathered outside the heavily fortified central district housing government buildings and many foreign embassies, crossed a bridge over the Tigris River chanting: "The cowards ran away!" in apparent reference to departing lawmakers. The initial breach was mostly peaceful, but around sunset security forces fired teargas and bullets into the air in an effort to stop more protesters from entering.
 
 

Moqtada al-Sadr: Iraq's powerful unpredictable cleric

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎9:46:54 PMGo to full article
Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a press conference in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq on April 30, 2016Moqtada al-Sadr is the scion of an influential clerical family who raised a rebellion after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and has now reinvented himself as a reform champion. Sadr, who has a grey-streaked, bushy black beard and wears the black turban of a "sayyid" or descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, gained widespread popularity in the months after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Sadr's intervention revitalised a moribund pro-reform protest movement, but it has also positioned him to wield a level of direct political influence that he has not had in years.
 
 

UK strikes in Syria, Iraq kill 1,000 IS fighters: Ministry of Defence

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎9:23:18 PMGo to full article
British Royal Air Force aircraft is seen on the tarmac at the British airbase at Akrotiri, Cyprus on December 3, 2015British air strikes have killed nearly 1,000 fighters of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq in the past 18 months, according to new Ministry of Defence figures. Figures released under Freedom of Information laws revealed 974 militants were killed in Royal Air Force (RAF) strikes in Iraq between September 2014, when the British bombing campaign began, and last month. Another 22 were killed in Syria between January and March this year, following the decision by the British parliament to extend the mission to Syria in December.
 
 

The Latest: Iraq PM says situation in Baghdad under control

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎7:32:38 PMGo to full article
Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr storm parliament in Baghdad's Green Zone, Saturday, April 30, 2016. Dozens of protesters climbed over the blast walls and could be seen storming the Parliament building, carrying Iraqi flags and chanting against the government. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest on anti-government protests in Iraq (all times local):
 
 

Protesters start leaving Iraq parliament: AFP photographer

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎7:20:26 PMGo to full article
Iraqi protesters climb over a concrete wall surrounding the parliament after breaking into Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" on April 30, 2016Baghdad (AFP) - Iraqi protesters, most of them supporters of powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, were leaving the parliament building they stormed earlier on Saturday, an AFP photographer reported.
 
 

Germany to ask European Commission to allow extension of border controls

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎3:19:23 PMGo to full article
Migrants are transferred to another immigration centre by a ferry boat on the southern Italian island of LampedusaGermany will ask the European Commission to allow an extension of temporary border controls within the Schengen zone of passport-free travel beyond mid-May, Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere said on Saturday. Germany and some other European Union members have introduced temporary border checks to control or halt record flows of migrants fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere and traveling to western Europe via the Balkans. Germany took in more than one million migrants last year.
 
 

Turkish airstrikes target Kurdish rebels overnight

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎12:44:40 PMGo to full article
ISTANBUL (AP) — The Turkish military says it conducted overnight airstrikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey.
 

IS claims responsibility for Baghdad bombing that killed 21

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎12:43:06 PMGo to full article
Shiite pilgrims march toward the Imam Mousa al-Kadhim shrine to commemorate the anniversary of the Imam's death in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, April 29, 2016. The anniversary of the 8th-century Imam's death draws tens of thousands of Shiites from all walks to converge on his golden-domed shrine in northern Baghdad. The pilgrims typically march to the shrine while hundreds of tents are erected to offer them free food, drinks and services. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)BAGHDAD (AP) — The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a bombing Saturday east of Baghdad, according to a statement posted on an IS-affiliated website. The attack killed at least 21 people and wounded at least 42 others, according to Iraqi police and hospital officials. The IS statement described the attack as a three-ton truck bombing.
 
 

Bomb attack on Shi'ite pilgrims in Baghdad kills at least 19: sources

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎12:24:45 PMGo to full article
People gather around a crater after a suicide bomb attack in a southeastern suburb of BaghdadA suicide bomber driving a car killed at least 19 people and wounded 48 others on Saturday in an attack claimed by Islamic State on a group of Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims in a southeastern suburb of Baghdad, Iraqi police sources said. A second explosion near a Shi'ite militia checkpoint in the capital's Dora district killed two and wounded three others, police sources said. Amaq news agency, which supports Islamic State, said a fighter in the Nahrawan district had driven a truck loaded with three tonnes of explosives into the gathering of Shi'ite pilgrims.
 
 

Turkish warplanes hit PKK targets in southeast Turkey, northern Iraq: sources

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:16 AMGo to full article
A Turkish F-16 fighter jet takes off from Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, TurkeyThe Turkish army carried out air strikes in rural parts of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq, targeting logistics posts used by Kurdish militants, security sources said on Saturday. Twenty jets took off from Diyarbakir air base late on Friday and bombed sites used by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants for food and weapons support in Hakurk, Avasin and Qandil in northern Iraq, the sources said. Two separate rounds of air bombardments were carried out in Sirnak province near the Iraq border after receiving an intelligence tip-off, the sources said.
 
 

Bomb attack on pilgrims kills 23 in Iraq as hundreds protest

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎2:03:25 AMGo to full article
A policeman walks past the wreckage of a car at the site of a car bomb attack targeting Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad's Nahrawan area on April 30, 2016A car bomb targeting Shiite pilgrims killed at least 23 people near Baghdad on Saturday, as hundreds protested in the capital for reforms and parliament made another attempt to reshuffle the cabinet. Iraq has been hit by weeks of political turmoil surrounding Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's efforts to change the government. Both Washington and the United Nations have warned the crisis could distract from the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, which carries out frequent bombings against civilians.
 
 

Unpredictable and Deadly: North Sinai’s Insurgency

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎2:00:00 AMGo to full article
Unpredictable and Deadly: North Sinai’s InsurgencyWelcome to one of the most unruly, dangerous and unreported places on the planet.
 
 

Colorado's Jon Keyser makes state GOP US Senate primary

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎30, ‎2016, ‏‎1:06:39 AMGo to full article
DENVER (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Jon Keyser will appear on his party's primary ballot after all, a Denver judge ruled Friday.
 

Collapse of Syrian cease-fire a reprieve for Islamic State

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:02:00 PMGo to full article
The fraying of the two-month-old cessation of hostilities in Syria has meant a return of the aerial and heavy-weaponry attacks on civilians that have made the five-year-old civil war so deadly. The nine-week lull in fighting corresponded with some of the Islamic State’s most significant setbacks in Syria. One example is the recapture of Palmyra by government forces earlier this month.
 

Turkish leaders proudly remember 'forgotten' Ottoman WW1 victory

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:48 PMGo to full article
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addressing an audience during a seminar at the university in the Qatari capital, Doha, on April 28, 2016Turkey's leaders on Friday celebrated the 100th anniversary of a rare victory by the Ottoman army in World War I against British-led forces in today's Iraq, urging modern Turks not to forget the exploits of their Ottoman forefathers. The surrender by a British-led force at the garrison in Kut al-Amara (Kut in modern Iraq) is seen as the last Ottoman victory of the war, which ended in the defeat of the Empire and its German allies. "Turkey is changing.
 
 

Across Arizona, parents name children after Pat Tillman

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:33:37 PMGo to full article
ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS APRIL 30-MAY 1 - FILE - In this Dec. 20, 1998, file photo, Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman celebrates after tackling New Orleans Saints running back Lamar Smith for a loss in the third quarter of an NFL football game in Tempe, Ariz. Pat Tillman became an inspiration when he walked away from a lucrative NFL career to fight for his country after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a decision that ultimately cost the football star turned soldier his life. Now Tillman’s legacy lives on through the parents who have named their children after him. (AP Photo/Roy Dabner, File)TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Doctors told Jeff Okrepkie and Stephanie Ottolini not to expect children. Though her cervical cancer had been in remission since 2012, the odds of conception were minimal.
 
 

UN ready to help on Iran assets dispute if US agrees

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:11:38 PMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leaving after delivering a speech during a conference entitled "Implementation of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) a new chapter in Iran's economy", on January 19, 2016, in TehranUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is ready to help settle a dispute between Iran and the United States on Tehran's frozen assets, but only if both countries make that request, a UN spokesman said Friday. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on Ban to use his "good offices" to press the United States to release all frozen assets in US banks, in a letter sent Thursday.
 
 

Islamic State-linked hackers post target list of New Yorkers

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎8:19:54 PMGo to full article
Picture illustration taken in Zenica shows man typing on a keyboard in front of a computer screen on which an Islamic State flag is displayedBy Joseph Ax NEW YORK (Reuters) - A group of hackers linked to Islamic State has posted online a list of thousands of New York residents and urged followers of the militant group to target them, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. Federal agents and New York City police officers have been contacting the individuals on the list to inform them of the posting, but the source said law enforcement does not believe there is any credible threat. In a statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said, "While our standard practice is to decline comment on specific operational and investigative matters, the FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of information collected during the course of an investigation that may be perceived as potentially threatening in nature." The list includes names, home addresses and email addresses.
 
 

At the Vatican, Biden seeks common cause with pope on cancer

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎7:55:16 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis shakes hands with US vice president Joe Biden as he takes part at a congress on the progress of regenerative medicine and its cultural impact, being held in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Friday, April 29, 2016. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden found common cause with Pope Francis on Friday at the Vatican for a global commitment to fund cancer research.
 
 

In northern Iraq, longstanding tensions surge even as ISIS is pushed back

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎7:20:09 PMGo to full article
Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias together in 2014 pushed out forces of the self-declared Islamic State (IS) from around the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu. As animosity continues between Kurdish and Baghdad-backed forces, and the failed cease-fires pile up, many fear it could complicate the battle against IS and set the stage for continued conflict in an area essential to Iraq’s long-term recovery.
 

Aleppo: A key Syrian battleground

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎4:42:58 PMGo to full article
The damaged Al-Quds hospital building (R), pictured following airstrikes on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Sukkari in AleppoThe city of Aleppo, capital of the eponymous northern province, is strategically vital to all sides involved in Syria's five-year civil war and at the centre of escalating violence imperilling a landmark ceasefire. Syria's onetime economic powerhouse, Aleppo and its surrounding countryside has suffered some of the worst fighting in a conflict that has killed more than 270,000 people. A spike in fighting has killed more than 200 people in the past week, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights -- the most serious violations of a truce agreed between the US and Russia that began on February 27.
 
 

Nine sentenced in Kosovo for terrorist offenses

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎4:05:48 PMGo to full article
PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A Kosovo court has sentenced nine ethnic Albanians to jail terms for organizing and taking part in terrorist groups for terrorist offenses.
 

OPEC oil output near record high in April as Iran, Iraq growth offsets outages: Reuters survey

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎3:37:50 PMGo to full article
OPEC logo is pictured at its headquarters in ViennaBy Alex Lawler LONDON (Reuters) - OPEC's oil output rose in April to close to the highest level in recent history, a Reuters survey found on Friday, as production increases led by Iran and Iraq more than offset a strike in Kuwait and other outages. Top exporter Saudi Arabia, however, made no major change to output, the survey found, despite the kingdom hinting it could boost supply after OPEC and non-member nations failed to agree to freeze output at a meeting on April 17. "This rally doesn't have strong legs." Supply from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries rose to 32.64 million barrels per day (bpd) this month, from 32.47 million bpd in March, according to the survey, based on shipping data and information from sources at oil companies, OPEC and consultants.
 
 

Biden gets papal blessing for his global war on cancer

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎2:52:09 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis meets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Paul VI hall at the VaticanU.S. Vice President Joe Biden took his crusade against cancer to the Vatican on Friday and heard Pope Francis call for an "economic paradigm shift" where medical research is dictated by need rather than profit. Biden, who lost his 46-year-old son Beau to brain cancer last year, has vowed to pursue a global push to accelerate cancer cures and treatments by marshalling private and public sector resources to combat it as well as rare diseases. Biden, who flew to Italy from an unannounced trip to Iraq, and the pope, made back-to-back speeches to doctors and researchers from around the world who attended a Vatican conference on regenerative medicine called "Cellular Horizons".
 
 

U.S., allies conduct 22 strikes against Islamic State: U.S. military

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎2:34:38 PMGo to full article
The United States and its allies carried out 22 strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria on Thursday, focusing on the Mar'a area of western Syria and the city of Fallujah in Iraq, according to military figures released on Friday. The U.S.-led coalition carried out five air strikes against the militants around Mar'a in northwestern Syria, destroying six fighting positions, four mortar positions and a vehicle, the military said in a statement. The coalition carried out four strikes against militants around the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah, about 40 miles (65 km) west of Baghdad.
 

Congress Is Taking an $18 Billion Gamble With the Pentagon’s War Fund

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎2:00:00 PMGo to full article
Congress Is Taking an $18 Billion Gamble With the Pentagon’s War FundIn the pre-dawn hours of Thursday morning, the influential House Armed Services Committee voted to advance a $610 billion spending roadmap for the U.S. Defense Department in fiscal year 2017. The national defense authorization act (NDAA) sets spending levels for all Pentagon efforts, including troop pay. Congress has passed the sprawling legislation for 54 straight years, and while the bill’s enormous price tag matches the topline asked for by President Obama, this year’s draft makes a gamble on funding that not even the Defense Department is thrilled about.
 
 

Helmet cam footage shows Islamic State in battlefield chaos

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎12:54:35 PMGo to full article
An Islamic State fighter is seen carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in Iraq(Reuters) - Islamic State may exult in online portrayals of jihadis sweeping victoriously across Iraqi battlefields, but a camera recovered from the helmet of a dead fighter offers a contrasting picture of chaos and panic in a battle with Kurdish peshmerga. A fighter named Abu Hajer is shown in footage seized by Peshmerga firing from one of three Islamic State armored cars advancing across a barren plain towards a Kurdish position. "Abu Hajer! Stop firing!" shouts Abu Radhwan, the camera in his helmet picking up anguished faces as it swings erratically from views of rifles and munitions on the floor of the armored car to the brown fields and blue sky ahead.
 
 

Residents of Iraq's IS-held Fallujah suffer under siege

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:51 AMGo to full article
Map locates Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;BAGHDAD (AP) — Abu Jassim can only afford to provide one meal a day for his seven-member family — usually a stew made of locally grown leafy green vegetables or rice with a small portion of flat bread.
 
 

IRAQ

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎9:44:27 AMGo to full article
Map locates Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;
 

Today in History

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎6:01:15 AMGo to full article
Today is Friday, April 29, the 120th day of 2016. There are 246 days left in the year.
 

U.S. Army names first female infantry officer

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎1:36:08 AMGo to full article
Captain Kristen Griest participates training at the U.S. Army Ranger School on Ft. Benning GeorgiaCaptain Kristen Griest became the U.S. Army's first female infantry officer this week, the Army said, in a milestone for the U.S. military as it opens up combat roles for women. Griest was one of two women who made history last year after becoming one of the first female soldiers to pass the Army's grueling course to qualify for the elite Rangers unit. Earlier this month, the Army said it had approved requests from more than 20 women to enter the infantry and armor branches, both of which face the possibility of combat.
 
 

Knights of Columbus CEO: UN Has Vital Role in Resolving Genocide in Middle East

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎1:30:00 AMGo to full article
NEW YORK, April 28, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Nations can play a vital role in helping resolve the genocide and related humanitarian crisis now unfolding in the Middle East, said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson in a presentation at the world body's headquarters in New York. Anderson spoke at the U.N. as part of a panel discussion sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See that focused on human rights abuses, including the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, in the Middle East and elsewhere.
 

House committee votes to require women to register for draft

 
‎Friday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎12:57:28 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2011 file photo, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., talks to reporters in Washington. A divided Armed Services Committee, in which Speier is a member, backed the provision in a sweeping defense policy bill that the full House will consider next month, touching off a provocative debate about the role of women in the military.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — Women would be required to register for the military draft under a House committee's bill that comes just months after the Defense Department lifted all gender-based restrictions on front-line combat units.
 

 

 

US wants Mosul offensive on IS in April-May

 
‎20 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:50 AMGo to full article
Smoke billows after an US air strike near the Mosul dam, Iraq's largest, on the Tigris river, on August 17, 2014The US wants Iraq to launch its offensive to retake the strategic northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group in April or May, military officials said. Mosul is believed to be held by 1,000-2,000 IS fighters and 20,000-25,000 Iraqi troops are needed to carry out the offensive, an official with US Central Command said on Thursday. US-led coalition aircraft have recently focused air strikes in the area of Mosul and Kurdish forces have made inroads on the ground nearby. Kurdish peshmerga forces have also launched successful offensives against IS-held roads near Mosul, which is in the north of the country.

 

 


 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

 
 

Apparent N. Korea mid-range missile launch failed again: South

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
Seoul April 28, 2016 - North Korea on Thursday tried and failed in what appeared to be its second attempt in two weeks to test a powerful, new medium-range ballistic missile, South Korea's defence ministry said.

A ministry official said the North had fired what was understood to be a Musudan missile at around 6:40 am (2140 GMT Wednesday) from Wonsan on the east coast, but it plunged back to earth seconds after launch.

"It is believed to have failed," the official told AFP.

There had been widespread intelligence reports in recent days that the North was preparing for another flight test of a Musudan, which is capable of striking US bases on the Pacific island of Guam.

North Korea initially launched a Musudan on April 15 -- the birthday of founding leader Kim Il-Sung -- but the exercise ended in what the Pentagon described as "fiery, catastrophic" failure, with the missile apparently exploding just after take-off.

The failed tests come as the country is gearing up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress next month, at which Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.

-- Nuclear test fears --

There is growing concern that Pyongyang is preparing to conduct a fifth nuclear test in the run-up to the event which opens May 6.

In recent months the North has claimed a series of major technical breakthroughs in developing what it sees as the ultimate goal of its nuclear weapons programme -- an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to targets across the continental United States.

The achievements trumpeted by Pyongyang have included miniaturising a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile, developing a warhead that can withstand atmospheric re-entry and building a solid-fuel missile engine.

Last Saturday, it successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and was promptly criticised by the UN Security Council.

Existing UN resolutions forbid North Korea from the use of any ballistic missile-related technology, and South Korea said it would push for fresh penalties to be imposed on Pyongyang.

"The government strongly condemns this additional ballistic missile launch ... which is a clear violation of UN resolutions and an act of provocation," the foreign ministry in Seoul said in a statement.

It said it would work with other UN members to "try to put the North's regime under more sanctions."

- Longer range -

The Musudan is believed to have an estimated range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres (1,550 to 2,500 miles). The lower range covers the whole of South Korea and Japan, while the upper range would include US military bases on Guam.

The missile has never been successfully flight-tested.

Two failures in swift succession will be seen as an embarrassment for the leadership, especially ahead of the party congress which is meant to celebrate the country's achievements.

Speaking last weekend during a visit to Germany, US President Barack Obama warned that North Korea was making dangerous progress even when its efforts fell short of outright success.

"Although, more often than not, they fail in many of these tests, they gain knowledge each time," Obama said.

"We take it very seriously, so do our allies and so does the entire world," he added.

Anxiety has been high on the divided Korean peninsula since Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and a rocket launch a month later that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.

The UN Security Council responded with its toughest sanctions to date, angering the North, which has since made repeated threats of attacks targeting the South and the United States.

 

 

Israel nuclear reactor defects spark secrecy dilemma

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) April 28, 2016 - Growing safety fears surrounding Israel's largest but ageing atomic research centre have provoked fresh questions over its future and a dilemma over the secrecy of the country's alleged nuclear arsenal.

Israel, believed to be the Middle East's sole nuclear power, has long refused to confirm or deny that it has such weapons.

The Haaretz newspaper reported on Tuesday that a study had uncovered 1,537 defects in the decades-old aluminium core of the Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev desert of southern Israel.

The defects at the centre, where nuclear weapons were allegedly developed, were not seen to be severe and the risk of a nuclear outbreak is very limited, the report said.

However, there are growing calls for new safeguards and even a new research centre -- which could present the country with a decision on whether to acknowledge for the first time that it has nuclear weapons.

The US-based Institute for Science and International Security estimated in 2015 that Israel had 115 nuclear warheads.

At the same time Israel has strongly opposed other regional powers, most notably its arch-foe Iran, obtaining nuclear weapons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also one of the most vociferous critics of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that was implemented in January, leading to the lifting of international sanctions on Tehran.

Officially the Dimona centre focuses on research and energy provision.

But in the 1980s nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at the centre, alleged to a British newspaper that it was also used to create nuclear weapons.

He was later jailed for 18 years for the revelations.

- 'Waiting for disaster' -

The core of the Dimona reactor was provided by France in the late 1950s and went online a few years later.

Common practice is that such reactors are used for only 40 years, though this can be extended with modifications.

Uzi Even, a chemistry professor at Tel Aviv University who was involved in the creation of the reactor, is concerned about the safety of the site and has campaigned for a decade for it to be closed -- "so far, to no avail".

He called for it to be shut off for security reasons. "This reactor is now one of the oldest still operating globally," he said.

Michal Rozin, a lawmaker with the leftwing Meretz party, has called for a radical shakeup in policy in the light of the safety worries.

"The nuclear reactor has no supervision besides the body that runs it, the Israel Atomic Energy Commission," she wrote in a letter, seen by AFP, to the parliamentary foreign and defence committee.

"We don't need to wait for a disaster to make a change."

Israel's atomic energy agency said in a statement that the country had the "highest international standards" of security and safety, adding that many reactors can last for far longer than 40 years.

- 'Political matter' -

While a challenge, safely closing a nuclear reactor and opening a new one is far from impossible, Arthur Motta, chair of Nuclear Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, told AFP.

"Technically it is not a difficult problem," he said. "Nuclear energy is so dense, the volume of a reactor that provides a whole city with energy is just (the size of) a building."

"It is more a political matter."

And there are a number of political reasons why the site has remained open, not least the thousands of jobs at risk, Even said.

Building a new site could also see Israel pushed to officially declare its nuclear capabilities.

While Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, officials do not formally confirm or deny the claims -- a policy often dubbed deliberate ambiguity.

As such, the country has yet to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty -- which would require its sites to undergo regular inspection of its facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Motta explained. The IAEA declined to comment.

"I don't think we have the capability to build a new reactor (alone)," Even said. "And no one will sell us a reactor before we sign the non-proliferation agreement."

Writing in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, investigative journalist and security specialist Yossi Melman called it a "strategic dilemma of the first order".

"If it were to sign the treaty (Israel) would be able to obtain nuclear reactors."

"But it would also have to declare and reveal what it has, nuclear-wise, and the monopoly it allegedly has on this in the Middle East."

 

 

UN Council considers response to N.Korea missile test

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) April 28, 2016 - The UN Security Council is weighing a response to North Korea's failed test-firing of ballistic missiles, diplomats said Thursday following emergency closed-door talks in New York.

The consultations were urgently requested by the United States following North Korea's unsuccessful launch of two missiles and as fears grow that the regime is preparing to conduct a fifth nuclear test.

"We are looking at a response," said China's Ambassador Liu Jieyi, who holds the council presidency this month.

Japanese Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa said his government "condemns the series of grave and very clear violations of Security Council resolutions."

"This is a threat to Japan's national security," he said.

Yoshikawa added that council diplomats were unanimous in condemning the latest launches during the closed-door meeting and that they were preparing to issue a statement.

North Korea has made three unsuccessful bids in two weeks to test-fly a Musudan medium-range missile, which is capable of striking US bases on the Pacific island of Guam.

The first effort on April 15 -- the birthday of founding leader Kim Il-Sung -- ended in what the Pentagon described as "fiery, catastrophic" failure, with the missile apparently exploding just after take-off.

South Korean military officials say the North is desperate to register a successful launch ahead of next week's ruling party congress, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons program to new heights.

The Security Council has repeatedly condemned the missile launches and stressed that they violated UN resolutions that bar Pyongyang from developing nuclear and ballistic missile technology.

In March, the Security Council imposed the toughest sanctions to date on North Korea after it carried out its fourth nuclear test and fired a rocket that was seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.

It was the fifth set of UN sanctions to hit North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006.

 

 

N. Korea sets party congress date amid nuclear test fears

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 27, 2016 - North Korea on Wednesday formally set May 6 for the opening of a landmark ruling party congress -- the first in nearly four decades and an event many fear will be preceded by a fifth nuclear test.

Anticipation over the congress, last held in 1980, has been mounting since the North signalled its intention to hold the gathering way back in October.

Kim Jong-Un is expected to use the event to cement his position as supreme leader and take credit for pushing his country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.

No details have been provided of the agenda, but it will be scrutinised for any key policy changes or reshuffles among the elite.

The actual starting date had been a closely guarded secret before Wednesday's announcement by the politburo of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

In a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency, the politburo said the congress -- only the seventh in the party's history -- would open on May 6 but did not specify how long it would last.

The 1980 congress took four days, and South Korea's Unification Ministry said it expected next week's gathering to go on for "four or five days".

- Fifth nuclear test? -

There has been growing speculation that North Korea may carry out a fresh nuclear test just ahead of the event as a display of national pride and strength.

On Tuesday South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said the North was understood to have "completed preparations" for a test, and could press the button at any time.

Such a move would constitute a dramatic act of defiance in the face of tough UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after its most recent nuclear test in January.

Some analysts have suggested that, by carrying out a fifth test so soon after the fourth, the North might hope to avoid a heavy package of additional sanctions -- but Park insisted that the international community's response would be swift and severe.

"Although the current sanctions are strong, we can impose even stronger sanctions that fill up any holes," the president said.

In recent months the North has claimed a series of major technical breakthroughs in developing what it sees as the ultimate goal of its nuclear weapons programme -- an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to targets across the continental United States.

These claims have included success in miniaturising a nuclear device to fit on a missile, developing a warhead that can withstand atmospheric re-entry and building a solid-fuel missile engine.

Earlier this month Kim monitored the test of an engine specifically designed for an ICBM that he said would "guarantee" an eventual strike on the US mainland.

- Blaming the US -

In a statement carried by KCNA late Tuesday, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said US hostility had pushed North Korea into making "drastic progress in bolstering nuclear attack capabilities".

In the run-up to the congress, the North has also carried out a series of provocative missile launches, including the failed test on April 15 of a powerful new medium-range ballistic missile known as a Musudan.

The South's Yonhap news agency on Tuesday quoted unidentified government sources as saying the North had put another Musudan on standby for imminent testing.

Existing UN resolutions forbid North Korea from the use of any ballistic missile-related technology.

The Musudan is believed to have a range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres (1,550 to 2,500 miles). The lower range covers the whole of South Korea and Japan, while the upper range would include US military bases on Guam.

North Korea has stoked nationalist sentiment ahead of the congress and the South Korean military said Wednesday it had detected another possible propaganda exercise, with the construction of a half-size replica of South Korea's presidential Blue House on an artillery range outside Pyongyang.

"The North is apparently preparing to showcase a mock attack on the Blue House using the replica as a target," said an official with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

 

 

Statement by General John E. Hyten on proposed use of excess ICBM motors for commercial launch

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
Peterson AFB CO (SPX) Apr 28, 2016 - At the 32nd Space Symposium I was asked whether I supported the US government making decommissioned ICBM motors available to the commercial space industry.

I want to clearly state that I believe this decision is a matter of national policy and law which rests with Congress. We look forward to working with Congress as this matter is considered.

I stated that I believe it's appropriate to consider leveraging the considerable investment that the American taxpayer has made in developing, manufacturing and maintaining these motors.

However, in doing so, we must not put the small launch market at risk.

We should study the issue carefully to determine if the engines could be sold to commercial industry at a reasonable price, and in reasonable numbers that do not provide an unfair competitive advantage.

Doing so would recoup some of the investment that the taxpayers have made, rather than waiting until the motors become unusable and have to be destroyed.

I absolutely understand and value the health of our launch industrial base, and I'm encouraged by the innovation and investment I see from the industry.

We want to encourage this vibrant market, and will do the analysis to make sure that any policy proposal to make the ICBM engines available takes the long term health of the small launch segment into account.

 

 

Iran's Khamenei says US lifted sanctions only on paper

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) April 27, 2016 - Iran's supreme leader and president accused the United States of hostility and bad faith Wednesday saying the implementation of its nuclear deal with world powers was not being honoured.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei echoed other officials in Tehran who allege that Washington is creating hurdles for European financial institutions, more than three months after the agreement came into force.

With nuclear-related sanctions lifted, US and European diplomats have said there is no bar on non-American banks doing business with Iran. But it is not happening in reality, Khamenei said.

"On paper they say that foreign banks can do business with Iran but, in practice, they are fomenting Iranophobia to prevent relations.

"The United States creates disruptions and then asks us afterwards: 'Why are you suspicious'?" Khamenei told workers in the capital.

European officials have told AFP their bankers fear they could face fines or even criminal cases against their US subsidiaries if they rush back to Tehran.

At a separate event, President Hassan Rouhani criticised a decision by the US Supreme Court last week to make $2 billion of frozen Iranian assets available to American victims of terror attacks.

US officials blame Tehran for attacks including the bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

Tehran threatened on Monday to take action in the International Court of Justice against the US if the $2 billion belonging to Iran's Central Bank is "diverted" to 1,000 Americans affected by the ruling.

"This is a totally illegal action and contrary to international rules and immunity of central banks," Rouhani said, calling it "a violation and open hostility by the United States against the Iranian people".

The US court verdict comes despite hopes for better relations between Tehran and Washington, foes since the Islamic revolution of 1979 ended the rule of the US-backed Shah.

That tumult was followed by students' storming the US embassy and a 444-day hostage crisis.

More than two years of talks led to the nuclear agreement between Iran and major powers led by the United States and it involved the first open direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran since the revolution.

But it has not heralded a thaw on other issues.

US sanctions still exist to punish Tehran for its ballistic missile programme and what Washington says is its sponsorship of "terrorist groups" in the Middle East.

 

 

UN chief urges end to 'madness' of nuclear weapons testing

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) April 27, 2016 - UN chief Ban Ki-moon called Wednesday for the US, China and other nuclear-armed states to end the "madness" of atomic testing by finally ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which turns 20 this year.

"I call on remaining states, the eight remaining states, to sign and ratify the treaty without further delay," Ban said in Vienna at an event marking the anniversary.

"Nuclear testing poisons water, causes cancers and pollutes the area with radioactive fallout for generations and generations to come," he said.

"We are here to honour the victims. The best tribute to them is action, to ban and to stop nuclear testing. Their sufferings should teach the world to end this madness."

The CTBT, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 1996, bans all nuclear explosions.

It has been signed by 183 states and ratified by 164 including Russia, France and Britain, three of the nine countries which have, or are thought to have, nuclear weapons.

But to enter in force, the treaty needs 44 particular "nuclear technology holder" states to ratify it, eight of whom have yet to do so.

These eight include the other six in the nuclear club -- the United States, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel -- as well as Iran and Egypt.

The US, China, Egypt, Iran and Israel -- the latter widely assumed to have nuclear weapons although it has never confirmed it -- have signed the treaty but not ratified it.

US President Barack Obama said in a major speech on nuclear weapons in Prague in 2009, shortly after taking office, that he would "immediately and aggressively pursue US ratification".

Seven years later, with Obama leaving office in January 2017 and the opposition Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, the issue appears to have been put on on the back burner.

- Cold War -

Between the first nuclear test in the desert of New Mexico on July 16, 1945 and September 1996, more than 2,000 tests took place worldwide.

With the end of the Cold War, the US carried out the last of its 1,032 tests in 1992, Russia in 1990, its 715th. Britain's last was in 1991, France's and China's in 1996.

Since September 1996, there have been two tests by India and two by Pakistan in 1998, while North Korea said it conducted tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, and on January 6 this year.

Despite this de-facto "moratorium" on testing outside of North Korea, however, Ban said it would "never substitute for the legally binding CTBT".

The US was one of first countries to sign the CTBT in 1996, with then-president Bill Clinton calling it the "longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in arms control history".

But a push in 1999 to ratify the treaty in Congress failed, in what Arms Control Association analyst Daryl Kimball says was a "highly partisan and rushed vote".

"Since then, US partisan politics have prevented the United States from reconsidering the treaty. US inaction has, in turn, given the leaders of the seven other (holdout) states... an excuse for delay," Kimball told AFP.

Opposition from US lawmakers in 1999 was due in part to concerns that there was no international system of monitoring in place to make sure there was no illicit testing of nuclear weapons.

But in fact the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the Vienna body set up to prepare for the treaty's entry into force, already has several hundred test detection stations in operation.

"Today, the questions that led many senators to vote 'No' have been answered and the CTBT is very much in the US security interests," Kimball said.

China's ambassador to UN in Vienna, speaking at the same event as Ban, said that the Chinese government "has consistently expressed its close support of the CTBT and we are trying hard to try to ratify the treaty as soon as possible."

He said however that there was opposition in the National People's Congress, China's equivalent of a parliament.

 

 

S. Korea's Park says North ready for nuclear test

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 26, 2016 - North Korea is ready to carry out a fifth nuclear test and could press the button at any time, South Korea's president said Tuesday, amid reports Pyongyang has readied a powerful, new mid-range missile for an imminent flight test.

Concern has been growing for weeks that the North is building up to another nuclear experiment ahead of a rare, ruling party congress to be held early next month.

"We assess that they have completed preparations for a fifth nuclear test and can conduct it whenever they decide to," President Park Geun-Hye said during a meeting with local media.

If North Korea does go ahead, it would constitute a dramatic act of defiance in the face of tough UN sanctions imposed after its most recent nuclear test in January.

Some analysts have suggested that, by carrying out a fifth test so soon after the fourth, the North might hope to avoid a heavy package of additional sanctions -- but Park insisted that the international community's response would be swift and severe.

"Although the current sanctions are strong, we can impose even stronger sanctions that fill up any holes," the president said.

- Grave 'miscalculation' -

"North Korea's miscalculation is that by ignoring warnings from the international community and continuing to launch provocations, it will not defend its security, but only speed up its own collapse," she added.

In recent months the North has claimed a series of major technical breakthroughs in developing what it sees as the ultimate goal of its nuclear weapons programme -- an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to targets across the continental United States.

These have included success in miniaturising a nuclear device to fit on a missile, developing a warhead that can withstand atmospheric re-entry, and building a solid-fuel missile engine.

Earlier this month, leader Kim Jong-Un monitored the test of an engine specifically designed for an ICBM that he said would "guarantee" an eventual strike on the US mainland.

The South's Yonhap news agency on Tuesday quoted unidentified government sources as saying the North had readied a medium-range Musudan missile for an imminent test launch.

Existing UN resolutions forbid North Korea from the use of any ballistic missile-related technology.

The Musudan is believed to have an estimated range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres (1,550 to 2,500 miles). The lower range covers the whole of South Korea and Japan, while the upper range would include US military bases on Guam.

The missile has never been successfully flight-tested.

A test firing on April 15 ended in what the Pentagon described as "fiery, catastrophic" failure -- apparently exploding seconds after launch.

According to the Yonhap sources, North Korea had prepared two Musudans for the test, but the second launch was called off after the first failed.

"The remaining missile now appears to be standing by for launch," one of the sources said.

 

 

UN says N. Korea missile test 'extremely troubling'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) April 25, 2016 - The United Nations on Monday described North Korea's latest missile test as "extremely troubling" and called on Pyongyang to "cease any further provocative action."

North Korea launched the ballistic missile from a submarine on Saturday, prompting the Security Council to issue a strong condemnation of the latest test-launch.

"The latest launch is extremely troubling as it constitutes a violation of relevant Security Council resolutions," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"Once again we urge the DPRK to cease any further provocative action," he said.

North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test in January and has since test-fired missiles and launched a satellite-born rocket that was seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-UN hailed the latest missile launch as an "eye-opening success" and declared that Pyongyang now had the ability to strike Seoul and the United States whenever it pleases.

In March, the Security Council imposed the toughest sanctions to date against North Korea over its defiance of resolutions banning the development of nuclear and ballistic missile technology.

It was the fifth set of UN sanctions to hit North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006.

 

 

UN slams N. Korea missile launch, Obama rejects test offer

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:19 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) April 25, 2016 - The UN Security Council echoed international condemnation Sunday of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test by North Korea, while US President Barack Obama dismissed Pyongyang's offer of a nuclear moratorium.

Saturday's test, personally monitored by supreme leader Kim Jong-Un, was the latest in a series of provocative moves by Pyongyang that have further fuelled tensions on the divided Korean peninsula following the North's fourth nuclear test back in January.

There are growing concerns that Pyongyang is building up to a fifth nuclear test ahead of a key political gathering early next month.

The Security Council said the SLBM launch marked a "serious" violation of UN resolutions aimed at curbing the North's nuclear drive, and urged Pyongyang to refrain from any further provocations.

A proven SLBM capability would take North Korea's nuclear strike threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.

Kim Jong-Un hailed the test as an "eye-opening success" that underlined the country's ability to strike South Korean or US targets "anytime".

South Korea's defense ministry said the missile, fired from a submarine in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), flew around 19 miles (30 kilometers) and demonstrated clear technological progress from previous tests.

- Quick deployment -

Deployment could begin in three to four years if Pyongyang dedicates enough resources to the project, ministry spokesman Moon Sang-Gyun told reporters.

Hours after the launch, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-Yong, speaking in New York, said Pyongyang would be willing to halt further nuclear tests if Washington announced an end to its joint military exercises with Seoul.

The annual drills always raise tensions on the Korean peninsula, with the North condemning them as provocative rehearsals for invasion

The United States had flatly rejected the same moratorium offer made by the North in January last year, and Obama, currently on a visit to Germany, was equally dismissive this time around.

"We don't take seriously a promise to simply halt until the next time they decide to do a test," the president said during a joint press briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"They're going to have to do better than that," he added.

South Korea also waved off what it described as a "ridiculous attempt" to link sanctions-violating nuclear tests with regular military exercises.

- Clear and present threat -

At the same time, Obama warned of the very real dangers posed by North Korea's continued weapons testing, including the recent SLBM launch.

"Although, more often than not, they fail in many of these tests, they gain knowledge each time," he said.

"We take it very seriously, so do our allies and so does the entire world," he added.

North Korea's state television showed pictures of the missile, emblazoned with the name "North Star," trailing a large plume of smoke as it soared out of the water.

It also showed what it claimed were underwater images of the missile being ejected from the submarine, using key "cold launch" technology.

Experts have suggested that the North's previous SLBM tests were conducted from a submerged platform.

North Korea is currently gearing up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress -- the first in 36 years -- at which Kim is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear and missile weapons program to new heights.

In recent months, the North has claimed a series of significant technical breakthroughs, including success in miniaturising a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile and testing an engine designed for an inter-continental ballistic missile that could reach the US mainland.

 

 

N. Korea's Kim hails 'successful' submarine missile test

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:41:40 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 24, 2016 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un hailed a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test as an "eye-opening success", state media said Sunday, declaring Pyongyang has the ability to strike Seoul and the US whenever it pleases.

Saturday's launch came amid growing concern that Pyongyang is preparing a fifth nuclear test.

But it was followed just hours later by a North Korean offer to impose a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing if the United States suspends annual military drills with South Korea.

The US and Britain denounced the SLBM test as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and called on the North to refrain from further moves that could destabilise the region.

The North's state-run KCNA news agency said the test, personally monitored by Kim, confirmed the reliability of the country's underwater launching system.

It also cited the young leader as saying Pyongyang was now capable of "hitting the heads of the South Korean puppet forces and the US imperialists anytime as it pleases."

Still images broadcast on state television showed Kim on the deck of the submarine before watching the test through binoculars from shore and meeting the crew and scientists afterwards.

"This eye-opening success constitutes one more precious gift the defence scientists and technicians are presenting to the great leaders and the party," KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

South Korea's defence ministry said the missile, fired from a submarine in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), flew around 30 kilometres (18 miles) and that the test showed "certain technological progress" in the North's SLBM capability.

"It is believed... that the North would be able to deploy the SLBM weapon within three to four years, or even sooner if it dedicates all its resources on the project," ministry spokesman Moon Sang-Gyun told reporters.

- Nuclear test offer -

Pictures showed the missile, with "The North Star" emblazoned on it, soar out of the water and fly into the sky, leaving a massive plume of smoke above the sea surface.

State TV also showed what it claimed were underwater images of the missile being ejected from the submarine, using key "cold launch" technology.

North Korea has been pushing to acquire an SLBM capability that would take its nuclear strike threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.

The isolated country has conducted a number of what it says were successful SLBM tests, but experts had previously question the claims, suggesting Pyongyang had gone little further than a "pop-up" test from a submerged platform.

The latest launch comes as the North gears up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress early next month -- the first in 36 years -- at which Kim is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear and missile weapons programme to new heights.

Many analysts and senior Seoul officials have suggested the regime may carry out a fifth nuclear test as a display of defiance and strength ahead of the May party congress.

In an interview with the Associated Press in New York, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-Yong said Pyongyang would be willing to halt further tests if Washington announced an end to annual joint military exercises with Seoul.

South Korea dismissed the proposal and warned it would seek further sanctions for the SLBM test it called an "open provocation".

"We strongly urge the North to... stop making a ridiculous attempt to link our regular joint military drills, which are defensive in nature, with a nuclear test that is banned under UN Security Council resolution," the foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday.

The annual drills always raise tensions on the Korean peninsula, with the North condemning them as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

The North made exactly the same offer in January last year, when it was flatly rejected by the United States.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January, followed by a rocket launch a month later that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.

The UN Security Council responded by slapping its strongest sanctions to date on Pyongyang.

 

 

US to buy 32 tonnes of heavy water from Iran: official

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:41:40 AMGo to full article
New York NY (AFP) Apr 23, 2016 - The United States will buy 32 tonnes of heavy water from Iran to help it scale back its nuclear program, the State Department said Friday.

"This transaction provides US industry with a critical product, while also enabling Iran to sell some of its excess heavy water," spokesman John Kirby said.

Iran has agreed to scale back its nuclear program and place it under international inspection as part of an accord with world powers it implemented in January.

In return, it is supposed to receive sanctions relief, but tens of billions of dollars in frozen Iranian funds are still stuck in foreign banks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York later Friday to discuss ways to move forward.

The State Department was not able to say how much Washington will pay for the Iranian heavy water, which is produced as part of the nuclear energy process.

But Kirby confirmed that the purchase was designed to help Iran meet its obligations under the accord implementation process, known as the "JCPOA."

"Iran's compliance with the JCPOA meant that this material had already been removed from Iran, ensuring that it would not be used to support the development of a nuclear weapon," he said.

"Our purchase of the heavy water means that it will instead be used for critically important research and non-nuclear industrial requirements," he added.

"We expect the heavy water to be delivered to the US in the coming weeks, initially stored at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and then resold at commercially reasonable prices to domestic commercial and research buyers."

 

 

US to buy excess nuclear materials from Iran

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:41:40 AMGo to full article
Washington (Sputnik) Apr 25, 2016 - The United States and Iran are expected to finalize a deal for Washington to purchase an estimated $8.6 million worth of heavy water to help Iran comply with its nuclear agreement, according to US media reports on Friday.

According to US officials, the purchase is intended to help Iran quickly reduce its stockpile of nuclear material as required by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and encourage other countries to make similar purchases.

"The idea is: Okay, we tested it, it's perfectly good heavy water. It meets [specifications]. We'll buy a little of this," US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal. "That will be a statement to the world: 'You want to buy heavy water from Iran, you can buy heavy water from Iran. It's been done. Even the United States did it.'"

The Energy Department has not specified how it will pay for the 32 tons of heavy water. The material is expected to be used in scientific research and could also be sold to private companies for commercial purposes, according to the media outlet.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are expected to meet in New York on Friday to discuss a number of key issues related to the implementation of JCPOA.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

US insists European banks can now deal with Iran

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:41:40 AMGo to full article
New York (AFP) April 22, 2016 - The United States insisted Friday that foreign banks should feel free to do business with Iran after Tehran's compliance with a nuclear deal with world powers.

Secretary of State John Kerry downplayed fears that Asian or European banks could fall afoul of Washington's continuing sanctions against Iran's non-nuclear activities.

And, as Kerry met with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for the second time in a week, Washington itself agreed to buy 32 tonnes of Iranian heavy water.

These parallel moves in support of non-US trade with Iran will enrage President Barack Obama's domestic critics, who argue he has already ceded too much ground to Tehran.

"I want to emphasize we've lifted our nuclear-related sanctions as we committed to do," Kerry told reporters, sitting alongside Zarif in a New York hotel.

"And there are now opportunities for foreign banks to do business with Iran," he said.

Kerry said that this included those banks that are holding an estimated $55 billion in frozen Iranian assets, who have been nervous about returning the funds even after the deal.

"Unfortunately, there seems to be some confusion among foreign banks and we want to clarify that as much as we can," Kerry admitted.

And, he promised, if banks have questions about the remaining sanctions targeting Iran's missile program and sponsorship of militant groups, "they should just ask."

Zarif welcomed the statement.

"Iran has implemented its part of the bargain," he said.

"And we hope that with this statement ... that we see serious implementation of all the JCPOA benefits that Iran should derive from this agreement," he added, referring to the deal.

Separately US officials said they would spend $8.6 million to buy Iranian heavy water, even as the nuclear deal came under sustained attack from critics in both countries.

Hardliners in Tehran argue that President Hassan Rouhani has been tricked into surrendering control of Iran's nuclear program without getting much in return.

And in Washington, Obama's critics claim he plans to allow an unreformed Iran access to US finance despite the separate sanctions remaining in place.

- Heavy water deal -

The State Department defended the heavy water deal.

"This transaction provides US industry with a critical product, while also enabling Iran to sell some of its excess heavy water," spokesman John Kirby said.

He said the purchase had come after Iran met its obligations under the nuclear accord implementation process.

And he added: "This material had already been removed from Iran, ensuring it would not be used to support the development of a nuclear weapon."

The heavy water purchase immediately came under attack in Washington as another concession to Tehran and a crack in the wall barring Iran from the US financial system.

"Once again, the Obama administration is handing Iran's radical regime more cash," declared Ed Royce, chairman of the House foreign affairs committee.

"US purchase of this sensitive material goes well beyond what is required by the nuclear agreement."

House Speaker Paul Ryan did not mince his words.

"This purchase -- part of what appears to be the administration's full-court press to sweeten the deal -- will directly subsidize Iran's nuclear program," he said.

"It's yet another unprecedented concession to the world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism."

But a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted to AFP the transaction did not break any rules.

"Regardless of whether or not this is in US dollars, this licensed transaction is limited in scope," he said.

"This routing through third-country financial institutions is similar to the mechanism that has been used for years to allow other authorized transactions," he said.

- Frozen billions -

Kerry admitted this week that Iran has thus far been able to access only around $3 billion of the $55 billion the State Department estimates that it is owed.

US sanctions still exist to punish Iran for its missile program and sponsorship of Middle East "terrorist groups," and Washington officials' hands are partly tied.

Washington had hoped European and Asian banks would free up the frozen funds and allow Rouhani's government to show its people the benefits of international cooperation.

But European officials have told AFP their bankers fear they could face fines or even criminal cases against their US subsidiaries if they rush in.

The US has scrambled expert teams -- "akin to a roadshow," in spokesman Kirby's phrase -- to reassure international bankers that they can do business.

- Enraged Republicans -

But the spectacle of American officials effectively working to promote foreign business engagement with the Islamic republic has enraged Obama's Republican opponents.

Lawmakers have threatened to pass renewed bars on Iranian interaction with the US financial system, through which many dollar-denominated transactions pass.

But officials feel the credibility of the nuclear deal, which was implemented in January, depends on Iran's moderates being able to point to economic progress.

In theory, the European Union lifted its nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran at the same time as Washington.

But Iran's Revolutionary Guards, still under sanctions for their role in sponsoring attacks by Middle East militant groups, have extensive business interests.

And any private sector investment or financial services provided to Iran that was found to be linked to the group could expose European banks to US prosecution.

 

 

N. Korea pushes for meet with 'abducted' defectors in South

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:41:40 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 22, 2016 - North Korea announced Friday its decision to send to Seoul the relatives of a dozen defectors it insists were abducted by the South.

Pyongyang argued that a meeting between the family members and recent North Korea defectors would expose the "fiction" that they had escaped to South Korea voluntarily.

The 12 women, working as staff in a North Korean restaurant in China, arrived in the South earlier this month, along with their manager.

Seoul said they had planned their group defection together, while the North insisted they were tricked into defecting by South Korean spies who effectively "kidnapped" them with the connivance of the manager.

The North Korean Red Cross had initially offered on Thursday to send the relatives to Seoul, saying refusal by South Korea would be tantamount to "self-admitting the group abduction".

Seoul's Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, swiftly rejected the idea and stressed again that the 12 women had defected voluntarily.

In Friday's statement, the North Korean Red Cross said it would not take no for an answer.

"The families of the abductees are eagerly asking for face-to-face contact with their daughters as they were forced to part," the statement said.

"At their earnest requests, our side again seriously notifies your side of our decision to send them to Seoul via Panmunjom," it added.

Panmunjom is the UN truce village situated on the inter-Korean border.

The statement called on the South Korean Red Cross to take "immediate technical measures" to allow the relatives to cross the border and travel to Seoul.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul said it was unaware of any official notice being received.

It is extremely unlikely that the South would allow such a meeting to take place, on the grounds that it would be exploited by the North for propaganda purposes.

Nearly 30,000 North Koreans have fled poverty and repression at home to settle in the capitalist South.

But group defections are rare, especially by staff who work in the North Korea-themed restaurants overseas that are a key source of hard currency for the regime in Pyongyang.

They are generally handpicked from families that are "loyal" to the regime and go through extensive ideological training before being sent abroad.

Anyone caught fleeing the country can be subject to harsh punishment, as can the families of those who successfully defect.

Relatives are often featured in state propaganda, either making tearful pleas for defectors to return home or berating them for betraying the motherland.

 

 

US-Russia plutonium disposal talks expected 'at some point'

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:41:40 AMGo to full article
Washington (Sputnik) Apr 22, 2016 - US Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman said that the United States will eventually discuss Russian concerns over the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement regarding changes in the means of plutonium disposal.

The United States will eventually discuss Russian concerns over the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) regarding changes in the means of plutonium disposal, US Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman told Sputnik.

"We have an agreement in place [with Russia] that says we can each change the means of disposal by agreement. So I expect at some point we will discuss that," Countryman said on Thursday.

Under the US-Russian PMDA, originally signed in 2000, both parties agreed to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium, enough to produce 17,000 nuclear bombs.

In signing the updated PDMA in 2010, the United States agreed to convert its plutonium into a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel at a reprocessing facility in the state of North Carolina.

As a result of major cost overruns, in 2015 the United States abandoned its MOX facility, opting instead for a less expensive process of diluting and storing the plutonium at a site in the state of New Mexico.

Prior to the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, earlier in April, Russian President Vladimir Putin objected to the changes the US made to its disposal program, arguing it was not the means agreed to under the PDMA.

Russia to Join Nuclear Management Academy
The National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute) will become the first Russian university to launch a MA program meeting IAEA standards in the area of nuclear management technologies.

Russia will launch a MA program meeting IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) standards in the area of nuclear management technologies for the first time. The first students will enroll in August and join the program at MEPhI on September 1.

Earlier, Mikhail Strikhanov, rector of the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, and Nikolai Geraskin, head of the Physical Engineering Education Center, signed an agreement with IAEA. According to its provisions, MEPhI will become an official member of IAEA's International Nuclear Management Academy.

MEPhI graduate Mikhail Chudakov, now an IAEA Deputy Director General, told RIA Novosti that the academy's educational framework had been drafted.

"IAEA experts visit universities wishing to join the academy," he said. "This is needed to graduate high-class experts boasting a certain range of nuclear technology expertise in line with a standard format."

The University of Manchester was the first to join this process, and MEPhI is next. According to Chudakov, Tokyo University will be the third to offer the program.

Chudakov believes that the nuclear sector's sustained high level of safety and security depends on skillful decisions and the effective management of INMA-monitored processes.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

N. Korea on path to develop inter-continental missiles: US general

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:41:40 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 19, 2016 - Unless it is stopped, North Korea will eventually acquire intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, the four-star general selected to lead US forces in South Korea told lawmakers Tuesday.

Speaking at his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Vincent Brooks warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was determined to build rockets that could one day reach as far as the United States.

"It's very clear through the parades that they've done, what systems they have and some of the attempted launches that ... over time, I believe we're going to see them acquire these capabilities if they're not stopped," Brooks said.

Senator John McCain, who chairs the committee, asked Brooks how concerned he was about the "immaturity and unpredictability of the rotund ruler in Pyongyang."

"I'm very concerned about the direction he's going, and it's evident that he's not yet deterred from his pursuit," Brooks responded.

"If confirmed, I intend to be a close partner with the Republic of Korea to make sure they're ready."

The US military has kept a huge contingent of troops in South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The two Koreas technically remain at war, because the conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Currently, about 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea, and the two forces have very close military ties and continually conduct joint training.

Brooks also voiced concern about North Korea's pursuit of building submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

"While they have not been successful, this is like watching someone ride a bike and falling off of it, but eventually they could become a BMX champion," he said.

The Pentagon is confident it has adequate missile defenses to protect against a threat from North Korea, but officials have watched with increasing alarm as Kim pushes forward with his nuclear tests and missile program.

Pyongyang last week conducted a test of what appeared to be a medium-range missile, but the rocket suffered a catastrophic failure on launch.

Washington and Seoul are discussing the deployment to South Korea of a sophisticated THAAD system -- Theater High Altitude Area Defense System -- to protect against ballistic missiles from the North.

McCain indicated that the committee would move forward with Brooks's nomination.

 

 

China, India move closer to military hotline: Xinhua

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:41:40 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) April 19, 2016 - China and India are moving towards setting up a military hotline, Chinese state media reported, with a border dispute and tensions over terror sanctions still lingering over relations between the Asian giants.

China "reacted positively" to the idea of setting up a hotline, the official Xinhua news agency cited Defence Minister Chang Wanquan as saying Monday during talks with his Indian counterpart.

The world's two most populous nations are jockeying for regional influence in Asia and their relationship is coloured by territorial disputes at both ends of the Himalayas.

In 1962 they fought a border war over the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which Beijing claims as South Tibet.

Tensions rose in 2014 when hundreds of Chinese troops allegedly moved into mountainous areas of Ladakh under Indian control, as China's President Xi Jinping arrived in India on a landmark visit.

Xinhua late Monday cited Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar as saying India "hopes to beef up bilateral exchanges and cooperation (with China) in all sectors".

Parrikar repeated a call for clear demarcation of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries, Indian news agency PTI reported.

But it added that China "expressed reservations over such a move" which was proposed last year when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited China.

India reacted angrily earlier this month after China blocked its request to add Masood Azhar, head of the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, to a UN sanctions blacklist.

China enjoys close relations with India's arch-rival Pakistan, and is pursuing a multi-billion-dollar slew of infrastructure projects there.

In a bid to gain Chinese investment, Islamabad said in January it was considering upgrading the constitutional status of a northern region which is also claimed by India.

PTI reported that Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj asked Beijing Monday to "review" its position on Azhar, who is accused of masterminding an attack on the Pathankot airbase in the northern state of Punjab.

 

 

New technique could improve detection of concealed nuclear materials

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:41:40 AMGo to full article
Atlanta GA (SPX) Apr 21, 2016 - Researchers have demonstrated proof of concept for a novel low-energy nuclear reaction imaging technique designed to detect the presence of "special nuclear materials" - weapons-grade uranium and plutonium - in cargo containers arriving at U.S. ports. The method relies on a combination of neutrons and high-energy photons to detect shielded radioactive materials inside the containers.

The technique can simultaneously measure the suspected material's density and atomic number using mono-energetic gamma ray imaging, while confirming the presence of special nuclear materials by observing their unique delayed neutron emission signature. The mono-energetic nature of the novel radiation source could result in a lower radiation dose as compared to conventionally employed methods. As a result, the technique could increase the detection performance while avoiding harm to electronics and other cargo that may be sensitive to radiation.

If the technique can be scaled up and proven under real inspection conditions, it could significantly improve the ability to prevent the smuggling of dangerous nuclear materials and their potential diversion to terrorist groups.

Supported the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the research was reported April 18, 2016 in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, and the Pennsylvania State University conducted this research, which is believed to be the first successful effort to identify and image uranium using this approach.

"Once heavy shielding is placed around weapons-grade uranium or plutonium, detecting them passively using radiation detectors surrounding a 40-foot cargo container is very difficult," said Anna Erickson, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech's George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. "One way to deal with this challenge is to induce the emission of an intense, penetrating radiation signal in the material, which requires an external source of radiation."

The technique begins with an ion accelerator producing deuterons, heavy isotopes of hydrogen. The deuterons impinge on a target composed of boron, which produces both neutrons and high-energy photons. The resulting particles are focused into a fan shaped beam that could be used to scan the cargo container.

The transmission of high-energy photons can be used to image materials inside the cargo container, while both the photons and neutrons excite the special nuclear material - which then emits gamma rays and neutrons that can be detected outside the container. Transmission imaging detectors located in the line of sight of the interrogating fan beam of photons create the image of the cargo.

"The gamma rays of different energies interact with the material in very different ways, and how the signals are attenuated will be a very good indicator of what the atomic number of the hidden material is, and its potential density," Erickson explained. "We can observe the characteristics of transmission of these particles to understand what we are looking at."

When the neutrons interact with fissile materials, they initiate a fission reaction, generating both prompt and delayed neutrons that can be detected despite the shielding. The neutrons do not prompt a time-delayed reaction with non-fissionable materials such as lead, providing an indicator that materials of potential use for development of nuclear weapons are inside the shielding.

"If you have something benign, but heavy - like tungsten, for instance - versus something heavy and shielded like uranium, we can tell from the signatures of the neutrons," Erickson said. "We can see the signature of special nuclear materials very clearly in the form of delayed neutrons. This happens only if there are special nuclear materials present."

Earlier efforts at active detection of radioactive materials used X-rays to image the cargo containers, but that technique had difficulty with the heavy shielding and could harm the cargo if the radiation dose was high, Erickson said. Because it uses discrete energies of the photons and neutrons, the new technique minimizes the amount of energy entering the container.

Researchers at Georgia Tech - led by Erickson - and at University of Michigan and Penn State University - led by Igor Jovanovic, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences - demonstrated that the technique works in a laboratory setting by detecting uranium plates and rods.

In testing conducted in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the Bates Linear Accelerator Center, the researchers used a fan-like pattern of particles created by an ion accelerator and emitted at 4.4 and 15.1 MeV. The particles passed through a shielded radioactive material, and were measured on the other side with Cherenkov quartz detectors connected to photomultiplier tubes.

"This provided proof that the physics works, and that we can use these particles to actually distinguish among various materials, including special nuclear materials," Jovanovic said. The technique has not yet been tested under the real-world conditions of a steel cargo container, but such demonstration may take place in the near future.

Paul Rose, Anna Erickson, Michael Mayer, Jason Nattress and Igor Jovanovic, "Uncovering Special Nuclear Materials by Low-energy Nuclear Reaction Imaging", (Scientific Reports, 2016).

 

 

China Tests New Multiple-Warhead Missile, Raising Concerns in Washington

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:00 AMGo to full article
Beijing (Sputnik) Apr 21, 2016 - China has reportedly tested its newest intercontinental ballistic missile Dongfeng-41 (DF-41), which is the world's longest-range missile.

The Dongfeng-41 is a Chinese nuclear solid-fueled road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that can fire six to 10 nuclear multiple independently targetable warheads at a distance of more than 10 thousand kilometers.

The test of the DF- 41 overlapped with the visit of both the Chinese and US military leaders to the South China Sea, according to the US-based Washington Free Beacon, citing a source in the Pentagon.

The missile test also coincided with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter's visit to the aircraft carrier USS Stennis, which was sailing in the South China Sea last week, the publication further noted.

The launch of the Chinese missile was registered by American satellite tracking systems. The source did not specify from where the launch was made this time.

Earlier the publication reported, "US intelligence agencies estimate the DF-41 when deployed will carry up to 10 MIRVs-vastly increasing Beijing's current warhead stockpile, which is based on single-warhead missiles, and currently estimated to include around 300 warheads."

Earlier Kanwa Asian Defense Journal published the information stating that, China will put the 'world's longest-range missile' into service by 2016.

Information on the development of new third-generation ballistic missiles by China first time appeared in press back in July 2014, when the United States published a report on "trends in military and security spheres."

The report said that China is improving its level of armaments and intensifying its military training, which is seen as a threat to Washington.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

Iran has seen only $3 bn returned since nuke deal: Kerry

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:00 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 19, 2016 - Iran has so far seen only around $3 billion in previously frozen assets returned since it struck a nuclear deal with world powers, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday.

The extent to which Tehran stands to gain from the agreement to place its nuclear program under tight controls has been a matter of fierce debate since Iran signed the accord last year.

In the United States, Republican opponents of the deal have alleged that it will allow Iran to get its hands on more than $100 billion with which it could fund "terrorism" against American allies.

Meanwhile, in Iran, officials have complained that the country has yet to see much benefit from the end of nuclear sanctions, as banks and private companies have been slow to renew ties with the former pariah.

The US administration has been trying to find its way between the competing claims, insisting it has met its side of the bargain in lifting sanctions while vowing it will not tolerate Iranian backsliding.

And so Kerry, who is to meet with his Iranian counterpart Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on Tuesday, hit back against critics of the deal, insisting their figures are wrong.

"Remember the debate over how much money Iran was going to get?" he said to delegates at a dinner hosted by the progressive pro-Israel group J Street.

"Sometimes you hear some of the presidential candidates putting out a mistaken figure of $155 billion. I never thought it would be that.

"Others thought it would be about $100 billion, because there was supposedly about $100 billion that was frozen and so forth," he continued.

"We calculated it to be about $55 billion, when you really take a hard look at the economy and what is happening," he said, giving the usual State Department estimate.

"Guess what folks. You know how much they have received to date? As I stand here tonight, about $3 billion."

The United States has not had diplomatic relations with Tehran since April 1980, but Kerry got to know Zarif while negotiating the nuclear deal, and the two speak fairly regularly.

Tuesday's meeting in New York will be the pair's first face-to-face encounter since January 16, when they met in Vienna to formally implement the accord.

Iranian officials have since begun to complain the United States has not lived up to its side of the agreement, as sanctions aimed at its missile program and financing of militias abroad have continued.

But Washington has also pointed the finger, warning that it retains the right to impose new sanctions if Iran's ballistic missile tests breach separate United Nations resolutions not covered by the nuclear deal.

 

 

'Limited' activity at N. Korea nuclear test site: US think-tank

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:00 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 18, 2016 - Recent satellite images show only "limited" activity at North Korea's nuclear test site, despite reports that Pyongyang is on the verge of conducting a fifth underground test, a US think-tank said Tuesday.

But while the images contain little to suggest a test is imminent, analysts at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University noted that North Korea has become increasingly expert at masking its preparation work.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye told her cabinet Monday that intelligence sources had detected signs that Pyongyang was preparing a new test, an assessment echoed the same day by her defence ministry.

North Korea is gearing up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress early next month, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.

Numerous analysts have suggested the regime might carry out a fifth nuclear test as a display of defiance and strength just before the congress opens.

In its analysis on Tuesday, the US-Korea Institute said the most recent satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri test site showed "very limited activity", although key areas were clear of snow and being maintained.

"While there is little evidence that a test is imminent, the possibility cannot be ruled out since the North has demonstrated the ability to conduct detonations on short notice by slow rolling preparations, masking significant indicators from satellite view," it said.

North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests. The most recent was on January 6, to which the UN Security Council responded by imposing its strongest sanctions to date over the North's nuclear weapons programme.

 

 

Georgia detains six over alleged plan to sell uranium

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:00 AMGo to full article
Tbilisi (AFP) April 18, 2016 - Georgia has arrested three of its nationals and three citizens of Armenia for trying to sell the radioactive substance uranium-238, the ex-Soviet country's security services said Monday.

"They were planning to sell the nuclear material, the uranium (U238) for $200 million in Tbilisi," Georgia's State Security Agency said in a statement.

"They have been detained," the statement said, adding that a court had ruled all six suspects be remanded in pre-trial detention.

The statement said an unspecified amount of the substance was found stored in a container in the home of one of the suspects. The interior ministry declined to provide further details.

If charged and found guilty, the suspects face up to 10 years in prison.

Uranium-238 -- the most common isotope of natural uranium -- cannot undergo nuclear chain-reactions, but can be used for the production of a fissile substance, plutonium-239.

The case highlighted concerns that unsecured nuclear materials across the former Soviet Union could be sold to violent extremists.

Over the past five years, Georgia and Armenia have reported numerous cases of their citizens trying to sell radioactive substances.

In 2012, Armenia foiled a deal to sell radioactive strontium-90. In 2010, Georgia thwarted sale of another radioactive substance, caesium-137.

Also in 2010, Georgian police arrested two Armenian men accused of smuggling 18 grammes (0.6 ounces) of highly enriched uranium from Armenia to Georgia and trying to sell it to an undercover agent posing as an Islamist extremist.

 

 

Kerry to meet Iran's Zarif in New York

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:00 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 18, 2016 - US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday, officials said, amid tensions over the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.

The United States has not had diplomatic relations with Tehran since April 1980, but Kerry got to know Zarif while negotiating last year's Iran nuclear deal, and the two speak fairly regularly.

Tuesday's meeting in New York will be the pair's first face-to-face encounters since January 16, when they met in Vienna to formally implement the nuclear deal, which imposes controls on Tehran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iranian officials have since begun to complain the United States has not lived up to its side of the agreement, as Western banks and corporations have been reluctant to renew business ties.

But Washington has also pointed the finger, warning that it retains the right to impose new sanctions if Iran's ballistic missile tests breach separate United Nations resolutions not covered by the nuclear deal.

 

 

Nobel laureates to visit N. Korea for 'silent diplomacy'

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:00 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 18, 2016 - A trio of Nobel laureates will take part in a "humanitarian" visit to North Korea later this month, even as suspicions grow that Pyongyang is preparing to carry out a fifth nuclear test.

The Vienna-based International Peace Foundation, which is organising the trip, said Monday it was an exercise in "silent diplomacy" that would focus on such topics as economic policy and medical development.

The three laureates from Norway, Britain and Israel, who won their Nobels for economics, medicine and chemistry, will give speeches and hold seminars with students at some of the North's elite schools, including Kim Il-Sung University.

"The events will not engage in rhetoric by making political statements," the foundation said in a press release.

"Listening to and engaging with the young generation of (North Korea) may be a gateway to establish a dialogue which could contribute to a wider understanding beyond politics and power play," added its founding chairman, Uwe Morawetz, who has visited the North six times over the past two years to prepare the visit.

The trip is likely to be criticised in some quarters at a time when the focus of the international community is on tightening North Korea's diplomatic and economic isolation.

The April 29-May 6 dates mean the visit might also coincide with a fresh North Korean nuclear test.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye confirmed Monday that increased activity had been detected at the North's nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, suggesting an underground detonation could be imminent.

Numerous analysts have predicted Pyongyang may carry out a fifth test just before a rare ruling party congress next month, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.

No formal date has been set for the congress, but South Korea's intelligence agency says it will likely be held May 7.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January, triggering the most extensive UN sanctions to date aimed at cutting funding sources for its nuclear development.

The Nobel laureates will hold a press conference in Beijing after returning from their visit.

S. Korea's Park says North preparing nuclear test
Seoul (AFP) April 18, 2016 - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Monday said North Korea appeared to be readying for a fifth nuclear test in defiance of tightened UN sanctions imposed after its last test in January.

"Signs that it is preparing a fifth nuclear test have recently been detected," Park told a cabinet meeting.

Her remarks followed South Korean media reports in which unnamed government and intelligence officials spoke of a spike in activity at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

A fresh test would see Pyongyang doubling down in the face of tough sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council, and would throw down a gauntlet to the international community as it struggles to find new ways to curb the North's nuclear ambitions.

North Korea is gearing up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress early next month, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.

Numerous analysts have suggested the regime might carry out a fifth nuclear test as a display of defiance and strength just before the congress opens.

"It is uncertain what kind of unexpected provocations it would stage," Park said at the cabinet meeting.

The South Korean Defence Ministry said it was alert to the likelihood of a fifth test.

"Given current activities, we believe that there is a possibility that the North may stage an underground nuclear test, and are monitoring the situation accordingly," ministry spokesman Moon Sang-Gyun told reporters.

South Korea's vice foreign minister will discuss the North Korean threat during trilateral talks this week with his US and Japanese counterparts in Seoul.

Tension has been high on the divided Korean peninsula since the January test and a rocket launch a month later that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.

The UN Security Council responded by imposing its strongest sanctions to date over the North's nuclear weapons programme.

Pyongyang has responded defiantly, staging a series of short- and mid-range missile tests and claiming a series of significant technical breakthroughs in its nuclear strike capability.

It claimed it had miniaturised a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile and successfully tested an engine designed for an inter-continental ballistic missile that could reach the mainland US.

While some experts say the claims are exaggerated, most acknowledge that the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes have made significant strides.

 

 

Mysterious Lab Guarding Russia's Nuclear Secrets Marks 70th Anniversary

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:00 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Apr 18, 2016 - April 9 marks the 70th anniversary of the creation of the nuclear institute at Sarov, which would become one of the most important and sensitive military facilities in 20th and 21st century Russian history.

The facility, formally known as the Russian Federal Nuclear Center of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF), was formed in April 1946 in Sarov, a closed city in central Russia. It would become the heart of the Soviet, and later Russian nuclear research program. The facility was so secret that until 1991, the town was referred to only as Arzamas-16, and was not listed on public maps.

Marking the historic occasion, RFNC-VNIIEF director Valentin Kostyukov sat down with Russia's RIA Novosti news agency to discuss the institute's glorious past and its plans for the future. In any case, he suggested, it wouldn't be exaggeration to say that the famous institute, which remains shrouded in mystery to this day, was and remains "the pride of Russia."

The institute, first known simply as KB-11 ('Design Bureau-11'), "became our country's first nuclear center," Kostyukov recalled. "The achievements of its professionals laid the foundations to our country's nuclear deterrence capabilities, which continue to serve as the crucial foundation of Russia's military technical security to this day."

In August 1949, scientists at KB-11 developed the RDS-1, the first Soviet nuclear warhead. "This test," Kostyukov noted, "demonstrated that our country had mastered one of the key technology sets of the 20th century. The 1950s saw the testing of thermonuclear weapons, whose development laid the foundation for the creation of the [security] guarantee of nuclear deterrence."

Scientists at the center had to put forward and to implement dozens of original and ambitious ideas, which enabled the USSR to eventually catch up to the US's nuclear capabilities, despite America's vast superiority of resources.

"The unique system of labor organization at KB-11, which concentrated not just outstanding scientists, but also talented designers, engineers, technologists, and managers, all of whom passed through the school of industrialization and the Second World War, quickly led to the creation not just of individual nuclear weapons, but their mass production."

The institute's achievements, Kostyukov noted, serve to illustrate the tremendous technical and scientific achievements that are possible when the right conditions are met. These, the director said, include the existence of a "supertask" of momentous, life-changing importance, the unification of the efforts of top specialists, and the necessary support from the state.

Today, Kostyukov pointed out, the institute remains one of Russia's most important centers of high technology, working in areas including nuclear weaponry, conventional high-tech weaponry, and innovations for the civilian economy.

The latter include innovations in the field of IT, including Russian-made supercomputers, the associated software, and information security technologies, primarily for use by state institutions, in both the defense, state, space and civilian sectors.

Ultimately, Kostyukov noted, "it can be said without exaggeration that the RFNC-VNIIEF is the treasure and pride of Russia."

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

Iran's economy bustling, IMF says

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎5:53:46 PMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Apr 18, 2016 - The Iranian economy is outperforming the region as a whole mainly because of higher oil production and the lifting of sanctions, the IMF said.

In transcripts published Sunday, Masood Ahmed, the director of Middle East and Central Asia programs at the International Monetary Fund, said the Iranian economy is expected to grow by about 4 percent this year. That expansion should help lift the net growth for oil exporting nations by about 2 to 3 percent, he said from Washington.

"This is mainly due to the increased growth in Iran, because of the effect of lifting sanctions and the higher oil production that comes from it," he said in his remarks. "In Iran this year, we are expecting an extra 600,000 barrels or so per year of oil production."

Sanctions pressures eased in early 2016 following a nuclear deal signed in July between Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany. Full trade in Iranian crude oil remains restricted because some financial maneuvers are still blocked by U.S. sanctions.

A tanker of crude oil, the first to leave Iran since mid-2012, left for the European market last month.

Though sanctions relief means more Iranian oil on the market, the Iranian government has tried to make its economy less dependent on oil for revenue. Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, said the economy exports around $50 billion worth of non-petroleum products, "which is not sufficient."

Iran is outperforming its peer economies. The IMF said members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group that includes members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, should see economic growth slow from 3.75 percent last year.

"Economic growth in the GCC countries this year is expected to be below 2 percent in part as these countries are tightening their public spending in response to the oil price drop," Ahmed said.

Iranian representatives were not on hand for a weekend meeting in Doha to consider oil production levels. Saudi Arabia said no deal to keep output steady was possible without Iran's participation.

 

 

S. Korea's Park says North preparing nuclear test

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎5:53:46 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 18, 2016 - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Monday said North Korea appeared to be readying for a fifth nuclear test in defiance of tightened UN sanctions imposed after its last test in January.

"Signs that it is preparing a fifth nuclear test have recently been detected," Park told a cabinet meeting.

Her remarks followed South Korean media reports in which unnamed government and intelligence officials spoke of a spike in activity at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

A fresh test would see Pyongyang doubling down in the face of tough sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council, and would throw down a gauntlet to the international community as it struggles to find new ways to curb the North's nuclear ambitions.

North Korea is gearing up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress early next month, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.

Numerous analysts have suggested the regime might carry out a fifth nuclear test as a display of defiance and strength just before the congress opens.

"It is uncertain what kind of unexpected provocations it would stage," Park said at the cabinet meeting.

The South Korean Defence Ministry said it was alert to the likelihood of a fifth test.

"Given current activities, we believe that there is a possibility that the North may stage an underground nuclear test, and are monitoring the situation accordingly," ministry spokesman Moon Sang-Gyun told reporters.

South Korea's vice foreign minister will discuss the North Korean threat during trilateral talks this week with his US and Japanese counterparts in Seoul.

Tension has been high on the divided Korean peninsula since the January test and a rocket launch a month later that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.

The UN Security Council responded by imposing its strongest sanctions to date over the North's nuclear weapons programme.

Pyongyang has responded defiantly, staging a series of short- and mid-range missile tests and claiming a series of significant technical breakthroughs in its nuclear strike capability.

It claimed it had miniaturised a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile and successfully tested an engine designed for an inter-continental ballistic missile that could reach the mainland US.

While some experts say the claims are exaggerated, most acknowledge that the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes have made significant strides.

 

 

Iran says West not sticking to commitments on easing sanctions

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎5:53:46 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 15, 2016 - The international community is not sticking to its promises to lift sanctions on Iran in the wake of the nuclear deal, the country's central bank governor said Friday.

Valiollah Seif said the US-led world powers involved in the negotiations leading up to the agreement continue to set obstacles to its economic revival.

"The impact that we were expecting to get is not what we see, at least on a tangible basis," he told a forum at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington.

"We still don't have normal conditions, we're still in abnormal conditions."

Tehran and the major powers led by the United States agreed in July 2015 to lift sanctions that had locked down much of the Iranian economy for years in exchange for limits on Tehran's nuclear program.

The move allowed the country to resume a high level of oil exports and opened up more trade opportunities. But with the US still maintaining some sanctions on the country, its access to the global financial system remains limited.

Seif, in the US capital for the IMF-World Bank spring meetings, pointed to the reticence of European banks to engage with the country in fear of falling afoul of US sanctions.

"They have been asked not to work with Iranian banks, and they're afraid," he said.

"It's because of the heavy penalties that have been imposed upon then."

A number of leading European banks have been heavily fined by US authorities in recent years for doing banking business with countries under sanctions, including Iran.

France's BNP Paribas had to pay $9 billion in 2014 for breaking such sanctions.

The United States continues to keep Tehran locked out of its banking system, which makes it hard for anyone doing large transactions with the country in US dollars.

"We want both sides of the agreement, especially the US, to take the required measures to remove the obstacles," Seif said.

EU foreign policy chief visits Iran
Tehran (AFP) April 16, 2016 - The European Union's top diplomat Federica Mogherini arrived in Tehran on Saturday on her first visit since a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers came into force as tensions surface over its implementation.

Mogherini, who was the lead negotiator for the six powers who struck the deal, was accompanied by other top EU officials. She was to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Her one-day trip comes after Iran raised concerns about banking sanctions, with officials saying the West, particularly the United States, is still creating hurdles to its access to the global financial system.

On Friday, the governor of Iran's Central Bank said the international community was not sticking to its promises.

"The impact that we were expecting to get is not what we see, at least on a tangible basis," Valiollah Seif told a forum at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington.

The six powers led by the United States agreed in July last year to lift sanctions that had locked down much of the Iran's economy for years in exchange for limits on Tehran's nuclear programme.

The move allowed Iran to resume a higher level of oil exports when the deal was implemented in January, as well as opening up more trade opportunities.

But with the US still maintaining some sanctions on the country, Iran's access to global finance remains limited.

Seif, in the US capital for the IMF-World Bank spring meetings, pointed to a reluctance by European banks to engage with Iran for fear of falling foul of US sanctions.

"They have been asked not to work with Iranian banks, and they're afraid," he said.

"It's because of the heavy penalties that have been imposed upon them," he said, referring to huge fines imposed in the past.

Ahead of her trip to Tehran, Mogherini said banking, investment and trade were on the agenda of her talks, as well as the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, where the West has been looking for Iran's cooperation with peace efforts.

 

 

Preparations in 'final stages' for N. Korea nuclear test: report

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎5:53:46 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 17, 2016 - A surge in activity at North Korea's atomic test site suggests preparations for a fifth nuclear test are in their final stages, possibly before a key political event in early May, South Korean media reported Sunday.

The frequency of vehicle, workforce and equipment movements at the Punggye-ri site have "increased two to threefold," since last month, Yonhap news agency said, citing multiple government sources.

Officials believe the trucks seen moving in and out of the complex are likely carrying nuclear technicians.

"If they are signs of nuclear test preparations, it seems the preparations are in the final stages," Yonhap quoted one government source as saying.

North Korea is gearing up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress early next month, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.

Numerous analysts have suggested the regime might carry out a fifth nuclear test as a display of defiance and strength just before the congress opens.

A successful test might also go some way to erasing the embarrassing failure on Friday of a medium-range ballistic missile test meant to mark the birthday of the nation's founder Kim Il-Sung.

Pyongyang has claimed a series of achievements in recent months, including miniaturising a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile, developing a warhead that can withstand atmospheric re-entry, and building a solid-fuel missile engine.

Tension has been running high on the divided peninsula since the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and a rocket launch a month later that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.

The UN Security Council responded with its toughest sanctions to date, angering the North. It has since made repeated threats of attacks targeting Seoul and Washington.

N. Korea claims restaurant workers tricked into defecting
Seoul (AFP) April 15, 2016 - Pyongyang's state media Friday claimed a group of 13 North Koreans working at a restaurant China had been tricked into defecting by South Korean spies.

The 13 -- a male manager and 12 female employees of a Pyongyang-run restaurant -- arrived in Seoul last week, South Korea's Unification Ministry said.

Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee said they had been under pressure to meet their quota for hard currency remittances to Pyongyang and had become disillusioned with the North's propaganda after being exposed to foreign media.

The South Korean government estimates Pyongyang rakes in around $10 million every year from some 130 restaurants it operates -- with mostly North Korean staff -- in 12 countries, including neighbouring China.

North Korea's propaganda website Uriminzokkiri claimed that the manager, who it said was bribed by South Korean spies, had tricked the 12 others into thinking they were going to a new workplace.

"The manager, in connivance with (South Korean) spies, tricked the employees into believing that they were moving to a different workplace in a far-off place" before putting them on a plane, it said in a commentary.

It said the "abduction" was part of the South's "heinous" anti-Pyongyang smear campaign.

South Korean daily Hankyoreh Sinmun quoted the Chinese owner of the restaurant in Ningbo, in eastern Zhejiang province, as saying the manager had stolen more than 1.2 million renminbi ($185,000) from the restaurant, which had a total of 20 North Korean employees.

The seven remaining North Koreans were staying with North Korean embassy officials and were expected to return home, the owner was quoted as telling the paper.

The 13 defectors were still incommunicado, being questioned by South Korean authorities.

The North's Red Cross spokesman Tuesday claimed the 13 were kidnapped by the South and demanded it apologise and return them immediately or face "unimaginable consequences and strong countermeasures".

Separately, the North Korean website also accused Seoul of trying to influence South Korea's parliamentary elections held on Wednesday.

A seemingly unstable North Korea has traditionally worked in favour of the ruling conservative party.

But President Park Geun-Hye's ruling Saenuri Party suffered a shock electoral defeat that broke its 16-year parliamentary majority and threatened its chances of retaining the presidential Blue House in 2017.

 

 

 
 

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US, UN condemn Syria hospital bombing in war-ravaged Aleppo

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:17:21 AMGo to full article
Aleppo, Syria (AFP) April 28, 2016 - The United States and the United Nations Thursday condemned an air strike on a hospital in Syria's Aleppo, with Washington demanding that Russia restrain its Syrian ally.

UN officials also voiced alarm at the "catastrophic deterioration" of the situation in Syria and appealed on world powers to salvage a February 27 truce.

But in Aleppo on Thursday, fighting between rebels and regime forces killed 53 civilians -- the highest toll for a single day in a week of violence that has cost more than 200 lives, according to a monitor.

The Syrian army was meanwhile poised to launch an offensive against rebels who control part of the northern city.

Secretary of State John Kerry expressed "outrage" over Wednesday's air strike that hit Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo's rebel-held Sukkari neighbourhood.

He said it appeared to be "a deliberate strike on a known medical facility" and said Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, must restrain the Damascus regime.

"Russia has an urgent responsibility to press the regime to fulfil its commitments under UNSCR 2254, including in particular to stop attacking civilians, medical facilities, and first responders, and to abide fully by the cessation of hostilities."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said attacks that target civilians are "inexcusable" violations of humanitarian law.

"There must be accountability for these crimes," he said.

The city's last remaining paediatrician and three children were among the 20 people killed in the air strike overnight on the Al-Quds hospital, which was supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

A civil defence group known as the White Helmets told AFP 30 people were killed in the strike on the hospital and a nearby block of flats.

- Truce 'barely alive' -

The Aleppo violence has raised fears for the ceasefire in other areas of Syria and called into question the future of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva that have now gone into recess.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura warned that the hard-won February 27 ceasefire was now "barely alive" and could collapse "any time".

Speaking late Wednesday after a third round of Syria peace talks fizzled out, De Mistura also urged its co-sponsors Russia and the United States to take action to rescue it.

He said the United States, which supports some rebel groups, and regime ally Russia needed to act, calling on them to organise a high-level Syria meeting before negotiations resume.

UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien further raised the alarm on Thursday in remarks made at the UN Security Council.

"We must all be ashamed this is happening on our watch," said O'Brien, urging world powers to salvage the truce.

"You must not squander the opportunity presented by talks in Geneva and by the cessation of hostilities to put an end to the massive human suffering in Syria," he said.

And the UN's Jan Egeland, who heads an international humanitarian taskforce for war-ravaged Syria, spoke of a "catastrophic deterioration" of the situation in the country.

"The stakes are so incredibly high," Egeland told reporters in Geneva, and warned that "the lifeline to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people... may be broken."

- 'Humanitarian disaster' -

Rebel rocket and artillery fire on government-held neighbourhoods on Thursday killed 22 civilians, including two children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Regime air strikes on rebel-held districts, including Bustan al-Qasr, killed 31 civilians, including three children, said the British-based monitor.

An AFP correspondent said every building in sight in the Bustan al-Qasr district had had its windows blown out.

"It is the worst day in Aleppo in five years. The regime did not spare a single neighbourhood," said one resident.

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that Aleppo city was "on the brink of humanitarian disaster".

The pro-government Al-Watan newspaper and a Syrian regime source meanwhile said the army was preparing to take the whole of Aleppo.

"Now is the time to launch the battle for the complete liberation of Aleppo," the paper said, adding that it "will not take long to begin, nor to finish".

A regime source told AFP that "the army is preparing a huge operation in the coming days to push the rebels away from the city by encircling it and creating a security zone".

Rebels have controlled eastern districts of Aleppo city since 2012, while western neighbourhoods are held by the regime.

Control of the surrounding province is divided between a myriad of armed groups -- jihadists of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, Kurdish militia and various rebel factions as well as the army.

Further north in the province, rebels including the powerful Islamist Ahrar al-Sham group and Kurdish forces fought fierce battles Wednesday and early Thursday that left 64 fighters dead, a monitor said.

More than 270,000 people have been killed in Syria and millions forced from their homes since the conflict erupted in 2011.

burs/hkb/pg

 

 

UN envoy says progress made in Yemen peace talks

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:17:21 AMGo to full article
Kuwait City (AFP) April 26, 2016 - The UN special envoy to Yemen said Tuesday that warring parties have agreed to a framework for talks that will open the way for extensive negotiations to end the conflict.

The announcement came after Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, whose country is hosting the talks, met with the two delegations separately and urged them to reach a peaceful solution.

It also came a day after the UN Security Council urged all sides in the negotiations to be constructive.

The two delegations "agreed to an agenda for negotiations which is a framework for discussing security, economic and political issues," UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told a press conference.

He said "comprehensive negotiations" would start on Wednesday in line with UN Security Council resolution 2216, which is seen as a basis for any peace plan.

It states that the rebels must withdraw from seized territories and disarm before talks can progress.

But Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the UN wants all the main issues to be discussed in parallel by joint committees.

He said no timeframe has been set for the talks which should continue as necessary to achieve a "comprehensive peaceful settlement."

"We don't want to go back to Yemen without a peaceful settlement," Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.

More than 6,800 people have been killed and around 2.8 million displaced since a Saudi-led Arab coalition began operations in March 2015 against the Iran-backed Huthi Shiite rebels who have seized swathes of territory, including the capital Sanaa.

Since the delayed peace talks started on Thursday, the two delegations have struggled to reach an accord on ways to firm up a ceasefire that went into effect on April 11.

The negotiations represent the best hope in months for a settlement to the conflict.

The 15-member UN Security Council on Monday stressed the importance of agreeing on a "roadmap" to implement security measures including the withdrawal of heavy weapons.

The rebels have insisted that no ceasefire can be established without an end to coalition air strikes and sorties.

The government side wants the rebels to lift the siege on cities, open humanitarian passages and release prisoners.

oh/dr

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Syria truce tested as Aleppo bombardment kills 25

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎29, ‎2016, ‏‎11:17:21 AMGo to full article
Aleppo, Syria (AFP) April 26, 2016 - Air strikes and shelling on Syria's second city Aleppo and a town to its west left 25 civilians reported dead Tuesday, as a surge in violence tests a troubled ceasefire.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply concerned" by the fighting and urged both sides to stick to the two-month-old truce and troubled peace talks in Geneva.

"The cessation of hostilities should go on, otherwise it will be very difficult for humanitarian workers to deliver," Ban told reporters in Vienna.

The fighting severely threatens the February ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia and comes as UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva stall.

Syria's main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), halted its formal participation this week in the latest round of talks that began on April 13.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura is due to give a progress report to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, when the talks are scheduled to go into recess.

A Syrian opposition group tolerated by President Bashar al-Assad's regime said Tuesday it had asked the United Nations to merge all opposition factions into one delegation at the next round of peace talks.

The comments came from Syria's former deputy premier Qadri Jamil, who was sacked by Assad in 2013 and now heads the so-called Moscow Group, an opposition faction close to the Kremlin which has met repeatedly with De Mistura at negotiations in Geneva.

- Rescue workers 'exhausted' -

On the ground, at least two male civilians died in rebel rocket fire on government-controlled areas in the west of Aleppo city on Tuesday afternoon, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In the rebel-held east, the air strikes and shelling came down "like rain", one resident told AFP.

Fifteen civilians were killed in air strikes on several rebel-held districts, according to civil defence volunteers known as White Helmets.

Another three civilians -- two women and a child -- were killed in government artillery shelling on another eastern neighbourhood, they said.

"The planes are bombing markets, residential areas... We're exhausted, we can't keep up," one civil defence worker said.

Five of their own were killed when the White Helmets headquarters in the town of Al-Atarib, controlled by Islamist rebels, was hit by an overnight air strike, the group said on Twitter.

It was not immediately clear whether the strike on Al-Atarib, 35 kilometres (20 miles) from Aleppo, was carried out by Assad's air force or his ally Russia.

An ambulance and a fire truck, both damaged, were parked in the bombed-out headquarters, surrounded by rubble and twisted metal frames.

A civil defence worker in Aleppo city said he and his colleagues were afraid their local headquarters would also be targeted.

- 'Killing machine' -

Fighting has surged on several fronts in Aleppo province, which is criss-crossed with supply routes that are strategic for pr