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THE MAGOG INVASION

 

 

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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]
 

 

 

 

 

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Hal Lindsey Report: 9/5/2014
9/5/2014 | 27.30

9/11... Again.

The Welcome Mat

Invasion

Don't mess with Magog

 

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Australia considers temporary visas for refugees

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:04:48 AMGo to full article
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's Parliament on Thursday appeared close to passing a bill creating a new class of temporary visas for refugees that will allow them to stay and work in the country for three to five years but prevent them from making Australia their permanent home.
 

Australia exercises sweeping new security laws, bans Syria travel

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:15:03 AMGo to full article
By Matt Siegel SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia on Thursday for the first time exercised sweeping new security powers allowing it to block citizens from traveling to overseas conflict zones such as those in Iraq and Syria, where dozens of Australians have joined Islamist militant groups. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop designated the Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa province in Syria off limits as part of a push to combat what the government says is growing radicalization among young Australian Muslims. ...
 

Congress OKs watered-down bill on US-Israel ties

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎04:55:59 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress approved legislation Wednesday deepening U.S.-Israeli cooperation after softening a push to grant Israelis visa-free travel rights to the United States even as the Jewish state persists in blocking some Arab and Muslim Americans from its territory.
 

China's top paper says West stoking extremism in Middle East

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎04:41:34 AMGo to full article
BEIJING (Reuters) - Western countries are stoking extremism in the Middle East with their support for anti-government opposition movements, China's top newspaper said on Thursday, repeating a call for non-interference in the region's turmoil. China has expressed concern about the rise of Islamic State in countries like Syria and Iraq, nervous about the effect it could have on its own unruly far western region of Xinjiang where Beijing says it faces a threat from Islamist extremists. ...
 

Global coalition stepping up against Islamic State

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎04:23:08 AMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, reaches out to shake hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during a meeting prior to a round table meeting of the global coalition to counter the Islamic State militant group at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Kerry opened on Wednesday a high-level meeting at NATO Headquarters of countries participating in the campaign against the Islamic State organization to assess what’s been accomplished and what remains to be done. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool)BRUSSELS (AP) — Islamic State militants invaded Iraq's west almost a year ago and overran the nation's second-largest city in June, threatening death and torture to opponents in their way. But the world has been slow to respond, coming together Wednesday for the first high-level meeting of scores of nations now devoted to destroying the rampant insurgency.
 
 

Doctors Without Borders hits Greece on refugees

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:32:17 PMGo to full article
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Thousands of men, women and children fleeing war-ravaged countries face dreadful holding conditions and a dysfunctional reception system after risking their lives in smuggling boats to reach Greece's Aegean Sea islands, an international medical aid organization warned on Wednesday.
 

Work on Rome subway digs up ancient farm, tools

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:31:56 PMGo to full article
In this undated photo provided by the Cooperativa Archeologia, lined up amphoras that were discovered during a subway construction in Rome. Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient commercial farm in the heart of modern Rome, taking advantage of subway construction to explore unusually deep for urban settings. They explored some 20 meters down (around six stories deep) near St. John in Lateran Basilica. Rossella Rea, the dig's leader and a culture ministry official, said Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014 a farm business from Imperial era Rome was discovered, along with an irrigation basin measuring 35 by 70 meters (115 feet by 230 feet) near an ancient water source known as Aqua Crabra.(AP Photo/Cooperativa Archeologia, ho)ROME (AP) — Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient commercial farm in the heart of modern Rome, taking advantage of subway construction to explore deeply in urban settings.
 
 

US teacher stabbed to death in Abu Dhabi

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:59:02 PMGo to full article
This image made from video released by the Abu Dhabi police department on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 shows a veiled suspect in the stabbing of an American teacher in a shopping mall restroom as seen on security camera footage in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. A statement posted on the Abu Dhabi Interior Ministry's website said the victim was stabbed Monday with a sharp tool that has been confiscated by police. Col. Rashid Borshid, head of the Criminal Investigation Department, said the attacker remains at large. He said police are investigating possible motives and the gender of the attacker. (AP Photo/Abu Dhabi police)DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An American schoolteacher was stabbed to death in a public restroom at a mall in Abu Dhabi by a suspect wearing the full black veil commonly worn by local women throughout the Arab Gulf region, according to video released Wednesday by police.
 
 

Car bomb kills three outside Iran envoy's residence in Yemen

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:38:48 PMGo to full article
Rescuers search for survivors at the residence of the Iranian ambassador after a car bomb attack in SanaaBy Yara Bayoumy and Mohammed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) - A car bomb killed three people at the Iranian ambassador's residence in Yemen on Wednesday, an attack claimed by al Qaeda militants who oppose Iran and the Yemeni Shi'ite rebels who control the capital Sanaa. Wednesday's bombing, the second in Sanaa claimed by al Qaeda in as many months, blew a large hole in the Iranian residence and sent rubble flying across the street of the well-guarded diplomatic quarter of the city, a Reuters witness said. A Yemeni civilian and two soldiers were killed, a medical official said. ...
 
 

Poverty fuels tensions as Syrian refugees brace for another winter

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:45:47 PMGo to full article
A girl makes a victory sign as boys hold an Islamic flag in Hacibayram district of AnkaraBy Jonny Hogg ANKARA (Reuters) - Syrian refugees across the Middle East, some in exile for a fourth winter, face freezing temperatures, hunger and increasing hostility from locals as governments struggle to cope with the humanitarian crisis. Lebanon and Jordan are tightening their borders to stem the flow of those trying to escape whilst in Turkey, widely praised for hosting around half Syria's estimated 3.2 million refugees, the influx threatens to upset the country's delicate social balance. ...
 
 

Rail linking Central Asia to Persian Gulf opened

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:29:59 PMGo to full article
AK-YAYLA, Turkmenistan (AP) — A railway linking landlocked Central Asia with the Persian Gulf was officially inaugurated Wednesday in a ceremony at a remote train station on the border of Iran and Turkmenistan.
 

UN resolution: Israel must renounce nuclear arms

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎03:00:11 AMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved an Arab-backed resolution Tuesday calling on Israel to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and put its nuclear facilities under international oversight.
 

Conflict, militancy hit human rights in Middle East, African nations: TRFN

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:09:12 AMGo to full article
A child, who is internally displaced due to fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, hides his face as he sits inside a tent at the Jarjanaz refugee camp in the southern countryside of IdlibBy Magdalena Mis LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Syria was bottom and Ukraine had the biggest slide in a human rights index published on Wednesday, as countries suffering from conflict grappled with human trafficking and other rights violations. The worsening situation in Syria and Iraq, two of the three worst performing countries, increased the likelihood of human trafficking, forced labor and child marriage taking place. ...
 
 

Jordan hopes for December vote on a U.N. Palestinian resolution

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:03:03 PMGo to full article
By Michelle Nichols UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Jordan said on Tuesday it plans to begin talks with United Nations Security Council members on Palestinian and European proposals for a draft resolution to end the Middle East conflict it hopes could be put to a vote this month. Jordan circulated a Palestinian-drafted resolution to the 15-member council last month calling for Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory to end by November 2016. Some Western council diplomats described the text as "unbalanced. ...
 

Lebanon detains wife of Islamic State leader

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:40:20 PMGo to full article
This file image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. On Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, Iraqi officials and state television said al-Baghdadi has been wounded in an airstrike in western Iraq. An Interior Ministry intelligence official told The Associated Press on Sunday that the strike happened early Saturday in the town of Qaim in Iraq's Anbar province. (AP Photo/Militant video, File)By Laila Bassam and Sylvia Westall BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Lebanese army detained a wife and daughter of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as they crossed from Syria nine days ago, security officials said on Tuesday, in a move seen as likely to put pressure on the Islamist chief. The woman was identified as Saja al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi, by a Lebanese security official and a senior political source. The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported she had been detained in coordination with "foreign intelligence". ...
 
 

French parliament votes for recognition of Palestinian state

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:48:26 PMGo to full article
Head of the Palestinian Mission in France, Hael Al Fahoum attends a debate on Palestine status at the National Assembly in ParisBy John Irish PARIS (Reuters) - French lawmakers on Tuesday urged their government to recognize Palestine, a symbolic move that will not immediately affect France's diplomatic stance but demonstrates growing European impatience with a stalled peace process. While most developing countries recognize Palestine as a state, most Western European countries do not, supporting the Israeli and U.S. position that an independent Palestinian state should emerge from negotiations with Israel. European countries have grown frustrated with Israel, which since the collapse of the latest U.S. ...
 
 

UN: Children lag sharply in antiretroviral effort

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:45:28 AMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Global efforts to provide antiretroviral therapy to children with HIV is lagging sharply compared to adults, according to a U.N. report released Monday.
 

Putin says Russia will scrap South Stream pipeline

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:41:49 PMGo to full article
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a joint news conference at the new Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. Putin arrived in Turkey for a one-day visit and met with Erdogan at his huge new palace on once-protected farm land and forest in Ankara, becoming the second foreign dignitary after Pope Francis to be hosted at the lavish, 1,000-room complex. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Amid spiraling tensions with the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Monday that Moscow is spiking a multibillion dollar gas pipeline project for southern Europe and will focus instead on boosting its energy ties with Turkey.
 
 

AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from the Middle East

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:02:09 AMGo to full article
In this Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 photo, Zainab Bazzal, 43, the mother of Lebanese soldier Ali Bazzal, who was kidnapped by Islamic militants, cries after she saw the picture of her son who was released by Nusra Front with a sword pointing towards his neck threatening to kill him within hours if the Lebanese authorities do not release a woman that is being held over terrorism charges, during a protest demanding that the government negotiate with the militants, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)Across the Middle East this week, many watched as an Egyptian court dismissed murder charges against former President Hosni Mubarak in connection with the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprising that ended his nearly three decades in power.
 
 

Pope, patriarch demand end to IS attacks

 
‎30 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎11:26:51 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis, left, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I bless the faithful gathered in the courtyard of the Patriarchal Church of St. George, in Istanbul, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014. Pope Francis appealed for unity between the Catholic and Orthodox churches on Sunday as he wrapped up his visit to Turkey with a liturgy alongside the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians and a meeting with young refugees from Syria and Iraq. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)ISTANBUL (AP) — Pope Francis and the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians demanded an end to the persecution of religious minorities in Syria and Iraq on Sunday and called for a "constructive dialogue" with Muslims, capping the pontiff's three-day visit to Turkey with a strong show of Christian unity in the face of suffering and violence.
 
 

Pope says it is wrong to equate Islam with violence

 
‎30 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎11:12:56 PMGo to full article
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople accompanies Pope Francis as he departs from IstanbulBy Philip Pullella ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Sunday that equating Islam with violence was wrong and called on Muslim leaders to issue a global condemnation of terrorism to help dispel the stereotype. Francis, the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, told reporters aboard his plane returning from a visit to Turkey that he understood why Muslims were offended by many in the West who automatically equated their religion with terrorism. ...
 
 

Israel observes exodus from Middle East countries

 
‎30 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎09:18:29 PMGo to full article
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has commemorated the mass migration of Jews from Middle Eastern countries following its creation in 1948.
 

Germany says 300 jihadists facing trial, anti-terrorism laws working

 
‎30 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎06:38:15 PMGo to full article
German Justice Minister Maas attends cabinet meeting at Chancellery in BerlinBERLIN (Reuters) - Nearly 300 people are facing prosecution in Germany for supporting Islamic State (IS), German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has said, adding that it was a sign that anti-terrorism laws were working and tougher legislation was not needed. "Whoever supports IS can already be prosecuted under existing laws," he told Sunday's weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag in an interview, after some politicians called for tighter laws. He added, however, that he would present a draft law by the end of the year to tackle the flow of money to IS. ...
 
 

Khamenei tells Iran armed forces to build up 'irrespective' of diplomacy

 
‎30 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎05:48:09 PMGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in TehranBy Mehrdad Balali DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday the armed forces should increase their combat capability regardless of political considerations, in an apparent allusion to continuing nuclear talks with the West aimed at easing tension in the Middle East. "Given our vast maritime borders and the enemy's huge investments in this area, our armed forces should continuously improve their (combat) readiness, irrespective of political calculations," Khamenei told a gathering of senior navy officials during a ceremony to mark the "Navy Week" in Iran. ...
 
 

Barenboim leaving La Scala after 9 years

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎11:31:56 PMGo to full article
Argentine-born conductor Daniel Barenboim talks to the media during a news conference he held at La Scala theater, in Milan, Italy, Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. Barenboim announced he will leave his role of music director of the theater at the end of November 2014. Daniel Barenboim says his main reason for leaving La Scala is to develop an academy for his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra of Israeli and Palestinian musicians. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)MILAN (AP) — One of Daniel Barenboim's focuses after leaving the role of music director for Milanese opera house La Scala next month will be opening an academy for the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra of Israeli and Palestinian musicians in Berlin.
 
 

Pope urges more Muslim opposition to IS in Turkey

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:37:31 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis follows Turkish soldiers as they hold a wreath at the mausoleum of the Turkish republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. Pope Francis is on a three-day official visit in Turkey. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Pope Francis urged Muslim leaders to condemn the "barbaric violence" being committed in Islam's name against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria as he arrived in neighboring Turkey Friday for a delicate visit aimed at improving interfaith ties.
 
 

Pope condemns 'barbaric violence' of Islamic State

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:11:30 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis addresses to media at the presidential palace in AnkaraBy Philip Pullella and Tulay Karadeniz ANKARA (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Friday fighting hunger and poverty, rather than military intervention alone, were key to stopping Islamist militants carrying out "barbaric violence" in Syria and Iraq. In a speech to Turkey's top cleric, Francis said "an extremist and fundamentalist group" had subjected entire communities in Turkey's southern neighbors to "barbaric violence simply because of their ethnic and religious identity. ...
 
 

Nearly 600 migrants get temporary shelter on Crete

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎04:07:44 PMGo to full article
A Red Cross volunteer carries a child who just disembarked from a crippled freighter carrying hundreds of refugees trying to migrate to Europe, at the coastal Cretan port of Ierapetra, Greece, on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. The ship, whose 750 passengers are mostly Syrians, including children, women and elderly men, suffered engine failure 70 nautical miles off Ierapetra on Tuesday. The migrants will be given temporary shelter at an Ierapetra indoor basketball stadium. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)IERAPETRA, Greece (AP) — Nearly 600 migrants, mostly refugees from Syria, have been temporarily put up in a basketball arena in the southern Cretan town of Ierapetra, where they arrived in a crippled smuggling ship after more than a week at sea.
 
 

Jail term of over four years sought for German Islamic State suspect

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎02:41:52 PMGo to full article
Accused member of Islamic State Kreshnik B., waits for start of his trial in FrankfurtBy Jonathan Gould FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A state prosecutor on Friday demanded a prison term of over four years for a 20-year-old German man accused of fighting with Islamic State insurgents in Syria, in the first trial of its kind in Germany. The defendant, identified only as Kreshnik B., who was born in Germany to parents from Kosovo, has shown no remorse about his actions, prosecutor Dieter Killmer told the court. ...
 
 

Austria: 13 radical Islamic suspects arrested

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎12:59:26 PMGo to full article
VIENNA (AP) — Austrian police have arrested 13 people suspected of recruiting fighters for radical Islamic groups in the Middle East.
 

French Parliament debates recognizing Palestine

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎11:01:56 AMGo to full article
PARIS (AP) — French legislators are debating whether to pressure the government to recogne a Palestinian state, in hopes that helps lead to lasting Middle East peace.
 

Oil plunge a panacea for crude-reliant Asia

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎09:11:37 AMGo to full article
People wait to cross a street in front of a Shell filling station with the electric indicator showing a liter of regular gas price, top, at 148 yen, or $1.25, per liter (554 yen, or $4.69 per gallon) in Tokyo Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. A renewed plunge in oil prices is a worrying sign of weakness in the global economy that could shake governments dependent on oil revenues. It is also a panacea as pump prices fall, giving individuals more disposable income and lowering costs for many businesses. Partly because of the shale oil boom in the U.S., the world is awash in oil but demand from major economies is weak so prices are falling. The latest slide was triggered by OPEC’s decision Thursday to leave its production target at 30 million barrels a day. Member nations of the cartel are worried they’ll lose market share if they lower production. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)A renewed plunge in oil prices is a worrying sign of weakness in the global economy that could shake governments dependent on oil revenues. It is also a panacea as pump prices fall, giving individuals more disposable income and lowering costs for many businesses.
 
 

Pope to urge tolerance in Turkey visit as Middle East wars rage

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎12:06:29 AMGo to full article
By Nick Tattersall and Ece Toksabay ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Pope Francis begins a visit to Turkey on Friday with the delicate mission of strengthening ties with Muslim leaders while condemning violence against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East. His three-day trip comes as Islamic State insurgents have captured swathes of Iraq and Syria just over Turkey's southern borders, declaring an Islamic caliphate and killing or driving out Shi'ite Muslims, Christians and others who do not share their ultra-radical brand of Sunni Islam. ...
 

For 600 migrants, harrowing sail ends in Greece

 
‎27 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:52:22 PMGo to full article
A local resident and a dog are silhouetted as a crippled freighter, left, carrying hundreds of refugees trying to migrate to Europe is towed by a Greek navy frigate at the coastal Cretan port of Ierapetra, Greece, on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. A smuggling ship carrying more than 700 men, women and children that broke down in gale-force winds while trying to reach Europe was towed Thursday to the Greek island of Crete. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)IERAPETRA, Greece (AP) — Hour after hour, the coast guard boats shuttled from the crippled freighter to a concrete pier, discharging a steady flow of humanity: Families with small children, black-clad elderly women, battered-looking youths with backpacks.
 
 

Pope condemns Islamic State violence

 
‎27 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:28:40 PMGo to full article
JERUSALEM (AP) — On the eve of a trip to the Middle East, Pope Francis is urging religious and political leaders to speak out against attacks on Christians by Islamic State extremists.
 

Brazen, beloved Lebanese singer Sabah dies at 87

 
‎27 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:19:24 AMGo to full article
In this Nov. 2011 photo, famous Lebanese singer Sabah speaks to journalists during her birthday in Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanon's official news agency says beloved Lebanese singer and entertainer Sabah has died at the age of 87. (AP Photo/Ahmad Omar)BEIRUT (AP) — Beloved for her powerful voice and brazen in the conservative Arab world for her multiple marriages, Lebanese singer, actress and entertainer Sabah never seemed far from the limelight during her six-decade career.
 
 

Russia vows support for Syria's Assad to combat 'terrorism'

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:50:38 PMGo to full article
By Denis Dyomkin and Gabriela Baczynska SOCHI, Russia/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday it would support President Bashar al-Assad to combat "terrorism" in the Middle East, indicating there was no new room for compromise on one of the key contentious issues in the Syrian conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks with Assad's foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, on the Black Sea as part of Moscow's renewed diplomatic push to restart peace talks on Syria. ...
 

Europeans debate common stand on Palestine

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:39:00 PMGo to full article
BRUSSELS (AP) — Frustrated by deadlock in the Middle East peace process, a growing number of European leaders and lawmakers are calling for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
 

British brothers jailed for attending militant training camp in Syria

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:31:35 PMGo to full article
Mohommod Hassin Nawaz is seen in this undated police custody image made available by the Metropolitan Police in LondonLONDON (Reuters) - Two brothers from London on Wednesday became the first Britons to be convicted for attending a militant training camp in Syria as Western governments increasingly warn of the threat posed by fighters returning from conflicts in the Middle East. Finding them guilty of conspiracy to attend a terrorist training camp, the judge at London's Old Bailey sentenced Mohommod Hassin Nawaz, 31, and his 23-year-old brother Hamza Nawaz, to four and three-and-a-half years in jail respectively. ...
 
 

Syria 'no-fly zone' not being considered: NATO general

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎05:13:45 PMGo to full article
Smoke rises after what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Assad in Raqqa, which is controlled by the Islamic StateBy Jonny Hogg IZMIR, Turkey (Reuters) - NATO is not considering establishing a "no-fly zone" in northern Syria, something Turkey has been calling for to alleviate security and humanitarian pressures on its southeastern borders, one of the alliance's top generals has told Reuters. Turkey has NATO's second largest military and is host for Land Command (LANDCOM), which is charged with improving the effectiveness and response time of the alliance's land forces. ...
 
 

Obama to hold talks with Jordan's King Abdullah

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎04:31:56 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will hold talks at the White House next week with Jordan's King Abdullah, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.
 

Lebanese FM: Cyprus may be jihadi transit point

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎04:31:25 PMGo to full article
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lebanon, Gebran Bassil, center, listens to the translator as his Cyprus counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides speaks during a press conference at the foreign ministry house in Capital Nicosia, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. Bassil is in Cyprus for an official visit. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Lebanon's foreign minister says more attention should be paid to the possibility of Cyprus becoming a gateway for aspiring foreign jihadis to transit in and out of the Middle East.
 
 

Qatar runs covert desert training camp for Syrian rebels

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎04:19:14 PMGo to full article
Rebel fighters prepare to fire a machine gun towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Jabal al-Akrad area in Syria's northwestern Latakia provinceBy Amena Bakr DOHA (Reuters) - At a desert base, Gulf state Qatar is covertly training moderate Syrian rebels with U.S. help to fight both President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State and may include more overtly Islamist insurgent groups, sources close to the matter say. The camp, south of the capital between Saudi Arabia's border and Al Udeid, the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, is being used to train the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate rebels, the sources said. ...
 
 

Palestinian president against Jewish state bill

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎03:58:23 PMGo to full article
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he supports Israeli members of parliament who oppose the plan to formalize Israel's status as a Jewish state.
 

Impoverished Lebanese city is target for IS group

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎02:01:22 PMGo to full article
In this Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 photo, Lebanese men reconstruct their shop that was damaged due to clashes between the Lebanese army and Islamic militants in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon. Last month’s clashes were considered the most serious because heavily-armed militants led the clashes; some were loyal to the Islamic State group and others to Syria's al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front. Previous bouts were dominated by local Sunni Muslim tough men in the Tripoli slum of Bab Tabbaneh, fighting rivals in the nearby Jabal Mohsen, loyalists of the Syrian President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) — Jamal Hayak is finally fixing up his restaurant, damaged a month ago in clashes between the army and militants in this northern Lebanese city. But he has little doubt violence will erupt again, and he says he fears next time it will be Islamic State group fighters battling in Tripoli's streets.
 
 

Impoverished Lebanese city is target for IS group

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎02:01:22 PMGo to full article
In this Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 photo, Lebanese men reconstruct their shop that was damaged due to clashes between the Lebanese army and Islamic militants in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon. Last month’s clashes were considered the most serious because heavily-armed militants led the clashes; some were loyal to the Islamic State group and others to Syria's al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front. Previous bouts were dominated by local Sunni Muslim tough men in the Tripoli slum of Bab Tabbaneh, fighting rivals in the nearby Jabal Mohsen, loyalists of the Syrian President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) — Jamal Hayak is finally fixing up his restaurant, damaged a month ago in clashes between the army and militants in this northern Lebanese city. But he has little doubt violence will erupt again, and he says he fears next time it will be Islamic State group fighters battling in Tripoli's streets.
 
 

Once maligned, Iran's Jews find greater acceptance

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎12:11:04 PMGo to full article
In this Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 photo, an Iranian Jewish man prays at the Molla Agha Baba Synagogue, in the city of Yazd 420 miles (676 kilometers) south of capital Tehran, Iran. More than a thousand people trekked across Iran this past week to visit a shrine in this ancient Persian city, a pilgrimages like many others in the Islamic Republic until you notice men there wearing yarmulkes. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)YAZD, Iran (AP) — More than a thousand people trekked across Iran this past week to visit a shrine in this ancient Persian city, a pilgrimage like many others in the Islamic Republic — until you notice men there wearing yarmulkes.
 
 

Saudi Arabia: Deaths from MERS virus reach 348

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎11:42:51 AMGo to full article
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry says that a total of 348 people have died in the kingdom after contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS.
 

As OPEC faces tough test, lower oil prices loom

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎12:58:14 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2009, file photo, oil personnel work at the Rumaila oil refinery, near the city of Basra, Iraq. OPEC's purpose is to coordinate oil output to keep prices high and stable, to maximize member countries’ revenue but make sure global demand for oil stays strong. A steep, coordinated cut in output could stop and possibly reverse what has been a 30 percent decline in price over five months. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani, File)NEW YORK (AP) — These are the moments OPEC exists for: A sharp drop in global oil prices has reduced the amount of money OPEC countries take in by nearly $1 billion a day.
 
 

Guessing game: What are OPEC nations thinking?

 
‎25 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎10:48:59 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2011, file photo, an employee works at a refinery inside the Brega oil complex, in Brega, eastern Libya. OPEC produces one-third of the world’s oil and, in theory, at least, can affect global oil prices depending on how much oil it decides to sell. In reality, OPEC member countries have different, often conflicting priorities and don’t adhere to the cartel’s official targets for production. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)NEW YORK (AP) — Does Saudi Arabia have it out for frackers in the U.S.? Or Iran? Or Russia? Will low oil prices make it easier to fight the Islamic State? Or harder?
 
 

A look at US military action across the Mideast

 
‎25 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:41:33 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2009 file photo taken with a night vision scope, Afghan women and their children wait as U.S. Special Operations forces and Afghan National Army soldiers search their home during a joint operation targeting insurgents operating in Afghanistan's Farah province. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered a top-to-bottom review of the practices of the country’s defense forces, including discussing a possible resumption of controversial night raids banned by his predecessor, The Associated Press has learned. The move appears aimed at revamping the military for the fight against the Taliban amid new indications that U.S. and international forces will play a greater role than initially envisaged. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)BAGHDAD (AP) — Here's a look at U.S. military action across the Middle East:
 
 

Emirates jails man over social media posts

 
‎25 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎05:21:06 PMGo to full article
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The son of a jailed activist in the United Arab Emirates was himself sentenced to prison and fined Tuesday after being convicted over messages sent on social media and of joining an illegal group.

 

 
 

UN chief launches campaign to end female genital mutilation

 
‎30 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎08:55:35 PMGo to full article
Kenyan Maasai women gather during a meeting dedicated to the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), on June 12, 2014, in EnkorikaNairobi (AFP) - UN chief Ban Ki-moon launched Thursday a global campaign to end the often deadly practice of female genital mutilation within a generation, as survivors said it had "shattered" their lives.
 

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Iran atom deal seeks to plug any gaps on centrifuge R&D: experts

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:10:55 PMGo to full article
Iranian workers stand in front of Bushehr nuclear power plant, 1,200 km south of TehranBy Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran will refrain from expanding its testing of more efficient models of the machine used to refine uranium under an extended nuclear agreement with six world powers, according to U.S. experts with knowledge of the issue. Iran's development of advanced centrifuges is sensitive because, if successful, it could enable it to produce potential nuclear bomb material at a rate several times that of the decades-old version now in use. Iran says it is only enriching uranium to fuel nuclear power plants. ...
 
 

Experts see Korean parallels in Sony hack

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:36:20 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this June 25, 2013 file photo, a man walks by a gate at Cyber Terror Response Center of National Police Agency in Seoul, South Korea. Some cybersecurity experts say they’ve found striking similarities between the code used in the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and attacks blamed on North Korea which targeted South Korean companies last year. Sony has not commented on any Korean connection, except to deny a report Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014 that it was poised to announce such a link. But three independent researchers told The Associated Press there are intriguing signs of a North Korean link to the attack, even as others warned it’s difficult to make a definitive connection. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Some cybersecurity experts say they've found striking similarities between the code used in the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and attacks blamed on North Korea which targeted South Korean companies and government agencies last year.
 
 

Top Asian News at 5:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:32:44 AMGo to full article
TOKYO (AP) — Japan's ruling party may be headed toward an even larger-than-anticipated victory in upcoming national elections, according to major media polls published Thursday. The Liberal Democratic Party could take more than 300 of the 475 seats in Japan's lower house election on Dec. 14, Japan's major newspapers and Kyodo news service said, based on voter surveys each did.
 

New Iran sanctions supporters seek veto-proof bloc

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:22:10 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Some members of Congress are struggling to build a veto-proof majority for new sanctions against Iran despite wide discontent among lawmakers over the lack of progress from more than a year of nuclear talks with the Middle Eastern country, recently extended for seven more months.
 

US: Iran launches airstrikes in Iraq against IS

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:18:12 PMGo to full article
Hakim al-Zamili, a parliament member and head of Security and Defense Committee, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Mixed reactions were voiced in Baghdad on Wednesday to Pentagon reports that Iran launched airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)WASHINGTON (AP) — Iranian jets have carried out airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq in recent days, Pentagon officials and independent analysts say, underscoring the strange alliances generated by the war against the extremist group that has beheaded Americans and killed and terrorized Iraqi civilians.
 
 

From Egyptian judges: conspiracy theories, mass death sentences, and freedom for Mubarak

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:00:28 PMGo to full article
A few days ago, an Egyptian judge tossed out a conviction against former dictator Hosni Mubarak that had found him responsible for the deaths of 11 protesters as he clung to power in early 2011, on rather odd procedural reasoning.
 

France is ready to step up airstrikes in Iraq

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:15:44 PMGo to full article
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, left, and France's President Francois Hollande, right, arrive for a joint media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met earlier to day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Brussels to discuss the fight against Islamic State militants. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)PARIS (AP) — France's president said that the country is ready to step up airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq, alongside the U.S.-led coalition.
 
 

U.S. believes Iran launched air raids on Islamic State in Iraq

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:11:01 PMGo to full article
Iraqi PM al-Abadi speaks to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry prior to a round table meeting of the global coalition to counter the Islamic State militant group at NATO headquarters in BrusselsBy Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has indications that Iran has carried out air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq in recent days in what appeared to be the first such operations by Iran's air force, U.S. officials said on Wednesday. A senior Iranian official denied that Iran had launched any such strikes. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had indications that Iran had used F-4 Phantoms to launch the raids in Diyala near the Iranian border in the last several days. ...
 
 

U.S. remains opposed to cooperating with Iran against Islamic State: White House

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:10:03 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House reiterated U.S. policy against cooperating with Iran in the fight against Islamic State on Wednesday in the wake of Iranian air strikes in Iraq. "At this point our calculation about the wisdom of cooperating with the Iranians hasn't changed. We're not going to do it," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. (Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
 

US man sentenced in Iran export ban violation

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:55:43 PMGo to full article
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) — The owner of a U.S. company that makes steel-processing equipment has been sentenced to 12 months on probation under a plea deal for conspiring to illegally sell an $800,000 machine to an Iranian firm.
 

US: Iran launches airstrikes in Iraq against IS

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:55:15 PMGo to full article
Hakim al-Zamili, a parliament member and head of Security and Defense Committee, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Mixed reactions were voiced in Baghdad on Wednesday to Pentagon reports that Iran launched airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)WASHINGTON (AP) — Iranian jets have carried out airstrikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants in recent days, U.S. officials and independent analysts say, underscoring the strange alliances generated by the war against the extremist group that has beheaded Americans and blown up rivals' holy sites.
 
 

U.S. remains opposed to cooperating with Iran against Islamic State: White House

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:42:45 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House reiterated U.S. policy against cooperating with Iran in the fight against Islamic State on Wednesday in the wake of Iranian air strikes in Iraq. "At this point our calculation about the wisdom of cooperating with the Iranians hasn't changed. We're not going to do it," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. (Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
 

Car bomb kills three outside Iran envoy's residence in Yemen

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:13:53 PMGo to full article
Rescuers search for survivors at the residence of the Iranian ambassador after a car bomb attack in SanaaBy Yara Bayoumy and Mohammed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) - A car bomb killed three people at the Iranian ambassador's residence in Yemen on Wednesday, an attack claimed by al Qaeda militants who oppose Iran and the Yemeni Shi'ite rebels who control the capital Sanaa. Wednesday's bombing, the second in Sanaa claimed by al Qaeda in as many months, blew a large hole in the Iranian residence and sent rubble flying across the street of the well-guarded diplomatic quarter of the city, a Reuters witness said. A Yemeni civilian and two soldiers were killed, a medical official said. ...
 
 

U.S.-led coalition damages Islamic State, but fight is long: Kerry

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:28:53 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry gives statement after round table meeting of global coalition to counter Islamic State militant group at NATO headquarters in BrusselsBy Lesley Wroughton and Adrian Croft BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The U.S.-led coalition has inflicted serious damage on Islamic State, carrying out around 1,000 air strikes so far in Iraq and Syria, but the fight against the militants could last years, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday. The United States and its allies began air strikes in September after the Sunni militants made large territorial advances. The Iraqi army, Sunni tribal fighters and Kurdish forces have since recovered some ground from the group which in its Arabic acronym is known as Daesh. ...
 
 

Correction: Vatican-Slavery story

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:26:08 PMGo to full article
In this photo provided by Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, front row, third right, poses with religious leaders on the occasion of the signing of a joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery, at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Religious leaders from a half-dozen faiths have signed on to a new Vatican initiative to end modern-day slavery by 2020, declaring that human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution are crimes against humanity. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a story Dec. 2 about religious leaders signing onto a Vatican initiative to end modern-day slavery, The Associated Press misspelled the name of one of the signatories. He is Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, not Zen Master Thich Hnat Hanh.
 
 

IAEA needs millions more for Iran monitoring

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:30:37 PMGo to full article
VIENNA (AP) — The U.N. nuclear agency says it will need an extra 4.6 million euros ($5.7 million) from members to fund extended intensive monitoring of Iran's nuclear program.
 

Al Qaeda claims attack on Iran envoy house

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎05:59:11 PMGo to full article
SANAA (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack on the Iranian ambassador's house in the capital Sanaa on Wednesday that medics said killed two Yemeni soldiers and a civilian. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula wrote on a Twitter account it has repeatedly used in the past that it had parked an explosives-laden car by the house in the city's diplomatic quarter, killing several Iranian employees and local guards. Yemeni security sources described the bombing as a suicide attack and said the ambassador and Iranian staff were unharmed. ...
 

Special Report: How Exxon helped make Iraqi Kurdistan

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎05:52:17 PMGo to full article
File photo of a worker adjusting the valve of an oil pipe at West Qurna oilfield in Iraq's southern province of BasraBy Dmitry Zhdannikov, Isabel Coles and Ned Parker LONDON/ARBIL (Reuters) - In January 2011, Exxon hired one of the best connected men in Iraq: Ali Khedery, an American of Iraqi descent who had served in Baghdad as a special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors and a senior adviser to three U.S. generals. At a meeting with Exxon a few months later to analyze Iraq's future, Khedery laid out his thoughts. Iraq under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was moving toward dictatorship and civil war, he said he told the session. ...
 
 

2 killed in bombing by home of Iran's Yemen envoy

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎05:29:51 PMGo to full article
An Iranian flag, left, lies on the ground as police troopers gather at the residence of the Iranian ambassador after a car bomb attack in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. A massive car bomb exploded Wednesday morning in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, apparently targeting the home of the Iranian ambassador, Yemeni security officials said. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A car bomb planted by al-Qaida militants exploded Wednesday near the home of Iran's ambassador to Yemen, killing two people amid a Shiite power grab in the impoverished Arab country believed to be supported by the Islamic Republic.
 
 

Diplomats worldwide target Islamic State militants

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎04:22:28 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, reaches out to shake hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during a meeting prior to a round table meeting of the global coalition to counter the Islamic State militant group at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Kerry opened on Wednesday a high-level meeting at NATO Headquarters of countries participating in the campaign against the Islamic State organization to assess what’s been accomplished and what remains to be done. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool)BRUSSELS (AP) — A global fight against Islamic State militants will likely take years to fully succeed, but nations are prepared to engage "for as long as it takes" to defeat the bloody insurgency, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday.
 
 

Afghanistan says 760,000 refugees risk deportation from Iran

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎03:29:37 PMGo to full article
Group of Afghan migrant workers enter Afghan territory after leaving Iran at the Islam Qala border in Herat provinceKABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan will send a delegation to Iran to ask the government to extend temporary visas to allow 760,000 Afghan refugees who have no documents and risk deportation to stay on for at least a year, an Afghan government spokesman said on Wednesday. There are almost 1 million registered Afghan refugees in Iran, according to the United Nations, most of whom arrived before 2001 when U.S.-led troops toppled the hard-line Taliban Islamist regime. ...
 
 

U.N. watchdog seeks $5.7 million to monitor extended Iran nuclear deal

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎03:08:25 PMGo to full article
IAEA Director General Amano arrives for a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in ViennaBy Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. atomic agency says it needs an extra 4.6 million euros ($5.67 million) from member states to finance monitoring of an extended nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, a document seen by Reuters said on Wednesday. Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, and Russia failed to meet a Nov. 24 deadline for resolving a 12-year dispute over Tehran's nuclear program and gave themselves until the end of June 2015 for further negotiations. ...
 
 

'Bibi' looks right to hold on to Israeli power

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:59:46 PMGo to full article
By Luke Baker JERUSALEM (Reuters) - One of Benjamin Netanyahu's school teachers once described him as "friendly, disciplined and obedient". Fifty years on, the Israeli prime minister could be forgiven for wishing coalition politics were the same. Barely 20 months after forming his latest government, Netanyahu dismissed two cabinet ministers on Tuesday, accusing them of undermining his authority, and announced new elections, which have been set for March 17, 2015, two years early. ...
 

Top Asian News at 11:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎01:32:38 PMGo to full article
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — No, you can't get a loan to pay for a prostitute in Thailand. And seeking assistance to evict a polecat above a ceiling in the U.S. is going to be futile. Australia is taking steps to curb such absurd requests that its traveling citizens have lodged with Australian embassies and consulates around the world.
 

Rail linking Central Asia to Persian Gulf opened

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:29:59 PMGo to full article
AK-YAYLA, Turkmenistan (AP) — A railway linking landlocked Central Asia with the Persian Gulf was officially inaugurated Wednesday in a ceremony at a remote train station on the border of Iran and Turkmenistan.
 

UN resolution: Israel must renounce nuclear arms

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎03:00:11 AMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved an Arab-backed resolution Tuesday calling on Israel to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and put its nuclear facilities under international oversight.
 

US: Iran launches airstrikes into eastern Iraq

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:56:10 AMGo to full article
Photos of the day - November 30, 2014WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says that Iran has launched airstrikes against Islamic State militants in eastern Iraq.
 
 

Iran seeks post on key U.N. committee, Israel deems it 'absurd'

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:10:16 AMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran is seeking a senior post on a United Nations committee that decides accreditation of non-governmental organizations, a move that Israel on Tuesday compared to gangster Al Capone running the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Iran was elected to the 19-member committee in April for a four-year term from 2015. The United States and Israel are also members of the committee, which acts as a kind of gatekeeper for rights groups and other NGOs seeking access to U.N. headquarters to lobby and participate in meetings and other events. ...
 

Iran dismisses UN probe of alleged work on nukes

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:02:40 AMGo to full article
VIENNA (AP) — Iran says that the UN atomic agency is out of line in pushing for new information on allegations that the country worked on nuclear weapons, and appears to serve notice that it will not cooperate with such an investigation.
 

Iran seeks post on key U.N. committee, Israel deems it "absurd"

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:47:14 PMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran is seeking a senior post on a United Nations committee that decides accreditation of non-governmental organizations, a move that Israel on Tuesday compared to gangster Al Capone running the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Iran was elected to the 19-member committee in April for a four-year term from 2015. The United States and Israel are also members of the committee, which acts as a kind of gatekeeper for rights groups and other NGOs seeking access to U.N. headquarters to lobby and participate in meetings and other events. ...
 

North Korea official makes plea for Messi visit

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:34:16 AMGo to full article
Argentina forward Lionel Messi celebrates during a World Cup match in Belo Horizonte on June 21, 2014A top North Korean football official said she wants megastar Lionel Messi to visit a new football academy in the communist state, where the Barcelona wonder is a huge hit with kids. Han Un-Gyong, a member of the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) executive committee, said children at the Pyongyang International Football School were avid fans of the Argentine. They say: "Ah, we love Messi!" Even the girls," she added. They can see all the games, China, Europe and everything at our Pyongyang International School.
 
 

Iran minister: Currency market to stabilize

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:30:16 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's finance minister on Monday predicted the country's currency market will stabilize soon after recent fluctuations, the official IRNA news agency reported.
 

Pro-Israel lobby seeks tougher Iran sanctions

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:54:21 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — The powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is urging a dramatic escalation in sanctions on Iran in response to a recent seven-month extension of nuclear talks.
 

Pentagon plays down idea of safe zone along Syria-Turkey border

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:11:25 PMGo to full article
U.S. VP Biden and Turkey's President Erdogan holds a joint news conference in IstanbulWASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Monday played down the idea of creating a buffer zone along the Syria-Turkish border after a media report cited it as a possible concession to Turkey in return for the use of bases to launch air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed U.S. and Turkish officials, reported that an agreement could include a safe zone along part of the Syrian border to protect refugees and certain opposition forces that would also "be off-limits" to aircraft from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. ...
 
 

Iran to turn uranium into reactor fuel under extended deal: source

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:29:24 PMGo to full article
Iranian workers stand in front of Bushehr nuclear power plant, 1,200 km south of TehranBy Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran will convert more of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel under an extended nuclear deal with world powers, making the material less suitable for building atomic bombs, a diplomatic source and a U.S. think-tank said on Monday. Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, and Russia failed to meet a Nov. 24 deadline for resolving their dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. They gave themselves until the end of June for further negotiations. ...
 
 

AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from the Middle East

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:02:09 AMGo to full article
In this Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 photo, Zainab Bazzal, 43, the mother of Lebanese soldier Ali Bazzal, who was kidnapped by Islamic militants, cries after she saw the picture of her son who was released by Nusra Front with a sword pointing towards his neck threatening to kill him within hours if the Lebanese authorities do not release a woman that is being held over terrorism charges, during a protest demanding that the government negotiate with the militants, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)Across the Middle East this week, many watched as an Egyptian court dismissed murder charges against former President Hosni Mubarak in connection with the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprising that ended his nearly three decades in power.
 
 

Israel observes exodus from Middle East countries

 
‎30 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎09:18:29 PMGo to full article
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has commemorated the mass migration of Jews from Middle Eastern countries following its creation in 1948.
 

Khamenei tells Iran armed forces to build up 'irrespective' of diplomacy

 
‎30 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎05:48:09 PMGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in TehranBy Mehrdad Balali DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday the armed forces should increase their combat capability regardless of political considerations, in an apparent allusion to continuing nuclear talks with the West aimed at easing tension in the Middle East. "Given our vast maritime borders and the enemy's huge investments in this area, our armed forces should continuously improve their (combat) readiness, irrespective of political calculations," Khamenei told a gathering of senior navy officials during a ceremony to mark the "Navy Week" in Iran. ...
 
 

Iran hospital manager attacked with acid

 
‎30 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:52:48 AMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Two attackers on a motorbike threw acid in the face of a Tehran hospital manager, police said Sunday, the latest in a string of such attacks that have mostly targeted women.
 

Iraq's divisions will delay counter-offensive on Islamic State

 
‎30 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:11:05 AMGo to full article
Members of the Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite fighters take part during an intensive security deployment in the town of Qara Tappa in Iraq's Diyala provincBy Dominic Evans BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. air support and pledges of weapons and training for Iraq's army have raised expectations of a counter-offensive soon against Islamic State, but sectarian rifts will hamper efforts to forge a military strategy and may delay a full-scale assault. The Sunni Islamists stormed through northern Iraq in a 48-hour offensive in June, charging virtually unopposed toward the outskirts of Baghdad, humiliating a U.S.-trained Iraqi army which surrendered both land and weapons as it retreated. ...
 
 

Bahrainis vote in second round of parliamentary election

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎04:40:29 PMGo to full article
MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrainis voted in the second round of a parliamentary election on Saturday, a poll boycotted by the tiny Gulf monarchy's Shi'ite-led opposition which accuses the government of gerrymandering and says parliament lacks powers. Voters have returned to the polls in 34 of Bahrain's 40 constituencies for the parliament, which has limited direct powers in a country where ultimate decision making resides with the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family. Al Wefaq, the main opposition group which has widespread support among the country's Shi'ite majority, said on Oct. ...
 

Yemen's Shiite, Sunni rivals hold rare meeting

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎09:11:59 PMGo to full article
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's main Sunni Islamist party says its top leaders have met with the powerful Shiite rebels who have been battling it for months and control the capital, in a rare meeting that might help ease the country's political deadlock.
 

Asian Football Confederation to celebrate 60 years

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
FILE - A Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 photo from files showing FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter announcing that Qatar will be hosting the 2022 Soccer World Cup, during the FIFA 2018 and 2022 World Cup Bid Announcement in Zurich, Switzerland. Five officials, including three long-serving FIFA executive committee members, are being investigated in the corruption probe into the bidding contests for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. A person familiar with the cases confirmed the names Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014, to The Associated Press after the five were identified in European media reports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the FIFA probe is confidential. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has backed the view that evidence in a 430-page report submitted by an investigations team cannot be disclosed. (AP Photo/Keystone/Walter Bieri, File)MANILA, Philippines (AP) — While 2014 won't be considered a vintage year for Asian football, continental organizers still have plenty to celebrate this weekend when they reflect on how far the game has come since 1954.
 
 

OPEC keeps oil output on hold despite low prices

 
‎27 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎09:37:44 PMGo to full article
Secretary General of OPEC Abdalla Salem El-Badri of Libya speaks to journalists prior to the start of a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Thursday Nov. 27, 2014. Expectations that the group would not cut output to support the market saw the global price of oil slump another US dollar 1.89 on Thursday to US dollar 75.86 a barrel, extending its losses since June, when it was as high as US dollar 115. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)VIENNA (AP) — Reflecting its lessening oil clout, OPEC decided Thursday to keep its output target on hold and sit out falling crude prices that will likely spiral even lower as a result.
 
 

Army splits that let Yemen's capital fall augur new risks

 
‎27 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎05:12:56 PMGo to full article
By Mohammed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) - As fighting raged at the First Armored Division's base in central Sanaa, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar arrived in a motorcade at the general staff headquarters and entered the building shouting "Treason! Treason!". "I knew then that Sanaa had fallen and that it was over," the officer, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. "General al-Ahmar was angry and felt utterly betrayed." While many details of the surrender of Yemen's capital by 100,000 Republican Guards to some 5,000 Houthi fighters on Sept. 21 remain murky, the nature of the capitulation bodes ill for President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi's fragile grip on power. Home to an al Qaeda branch held responsible by Washington for three attempted bombings of aircraft in the United States, Yemen is close to becoming a failed state, thanks in part to covert maneuvering from its own ousted ruler and Iran.
 

Iran's leader doesn't oppose more nuclear talks

 
‎27 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎03:56:36 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's top leader on Thursday said he would not stand in the way of continued nuclear negotiations with world powers and would accept a "fair" agreement, but vowed not to bow to bullying by the United States.
 

Iran Supreme Leader says not opposed to extension of nuclear talks

 
‎27 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎03:44:50 PMGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in TehranDUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's supreme leader made clear on Thursday he backed extended nuclear talks with world powers, shoring up Tehran's negotiating team against attacks by his hardline acolytes for failing to secure a deal that could have meant major relief from sanctions. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also said that if the talks, extended on Monday for seven months beyond the Nov. 24 deadline, ultimately failed, "the sky won't fall to the ground" and that the United States would be the biggest loser if that transpired. ...
 
 

IAEA says needs more money to monitor extended Iran nuclear deal

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:14:30 PMGo to full article
Bushehr main nuclear reactorVIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. atomic agency will need more funds from member states to help pay for its monitoring of an extended interim nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, it said on Wednesday. Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, and Russia failed to meet a Nov. 24 deadline for resolving a 12-year-old dispute over Iran's nuclear program and gave themselves until the end of June for further negotiations. ...
 
 

Turkey bans reporting on corruption investigation of ex-ministers

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎06:29:49 PMGo to full article
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan leaves an official ceremony to mark Republic Day at the new Presidential Palace in AnkaraBy Gulsen Solaker ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish court has banned media from reporting on a parliamentary investigation into corruption allegations against four ex-ministers, a move the opposition says amounts to protecting thieves. Tayyip Erdogan, then prime minister and now president, has called the corruption scandal this year a plot to unseat him. Courts have since dropped cases, including those against the sons of three ministers and businessmen close to Erdogan. ...
 
 

Saudis suggest no need for OPEC output cut

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎06:14:52 PMGo to full article
Iran's Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zangeneh talks to journalists as he arrives at a hotel for a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)VIENNA (AP) — Top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia suggested Wednesday there is no need for the cartel to cut its output ceiling despite a plunge in prices that has poorer members of the organization hurting.
 
 

Iran nuclear talks: How Khamenei got Iranians to read from same page

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎06:01:49 PMGo to full article
Just hours after nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers missed a Monday deadline, yielding instead a seven-month extension of negotiations, one sign indicated a combative return to business as usual.
 

Syria 'no-fly zone' not being considered: NATO general

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎05:13:45 PMGo to full article
Smoke rises after what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Assad in Raqqa, which is controlled by the Islamic StateBy Jonny Hogg IZMIR, Turkey (Reuters) - NATO is not considering establishing a "no-fly zone" in northern Syria, something Turkey has been calling for to alleviate security and humanitarian pressures on its southeastern borders, one of the alliance's top generals has told Reuters. Turkey has NATO's second largest military and is host for Land Command (LANDCOM), which is charged with improving the effectiveness and response time of the alliance's land forces. ...
 
 

Iran parliament ends standoff with Rouhani, approves higher education minister

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎04:53:57 PMGo to full article
By Michelle Moghtader DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's parliament voted on Wednesday to approve President Hassan Rouhani's fifth candidate to head the higher education ministry, ending an ideological tussle over a cabinet post important to his pledge to liberalize life in the Islamic Republic. Mohammad Farhadi, a centrist who held senior positions in a previous reformist administration, secured a 197-28 vote of confidence with 10 abstentions in the conservative-dominated Majlis (parliament). ...
 

Iran parliament approve science minister nominee

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎12:24:10 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's parliament on Wednesday approved President Hassan Rouhani's nominee for ministry of science, ending a long stand-off between the moderate president and the conservative-dominated assembly.
 

Once maligned, Iran's Jews find greater acceptance

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎12:11:04 PMGo to full article
In this Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 photo, an Iranian Jewish man prays at the Molla Agha Baba Synagogue, in the city of Yazd 420 miles (676 kilometers) south of capital Tehran, Iran. More than a thousand people trekked across Iran this past week to visit a shrine in this ancient Persian city, a pilgrimages like many others in the Islamic Republic until you notice men there wearing yarmulkes. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)YAZD, Iran (AP) — More than a thousand people trekked across Iran this past week to visit a shrine in this ancient Persian city, a pilgrimage like many others in the Islamic Republic — until you notice men there wearing yarmulkes.
 
 

Oil market oversupply to increase next year: Iran

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎12:08:17 PMGo to full article
The Lavan oil refinery quay on Lavan island off the south coast of Iran, pictured on May 16, 2004Vienna (AFP) - A global glut of oil will rise further next year, Iran's oil minister said here Wednesday on the eve of OPEC's meeting to decide on whether to cut its output.
 
 

Domestic pressures in U.S., Iran threaten slow-moving nuclear talks

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎03:25:42 AMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, Iranian FM Zarif and EU envoy Ashton pose for photographers in ViennaBy Louis Charbonneau and Jonathan Allen VIENNA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A seven-month extension in talks between world powers and Iran on a deal to curb its nuclear program emboldened critics in Washington and Tehran, threatening to undermine further talks. After failing to clinch an agreement that would limit Iran's nuclear program in return for lifting stifling U.S.-led economic sanctions, the sides agreed on Monday to push back, yet again, a deadline for reaching a deal, until next July. ...
 
 

As OPEC faces tough test, lower oil prices loom

 
‎26 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎12:58:14 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2009, file photo, oil personnel work at the Rumaila oil refinery, near the city of Basra, Iraq. OPEC's purpose is to coordinate oil output to keep prices high and stable, to maximize member countries’ revenue but make sure global demand for oil stays strong. A steep, coordinated cut in output could stop and possibly reverse what has been a 30 percent decline in price over five months. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani, File)NEW YORK (AP) — These are the moments OPEC exists for: A sharp drop in global oil prices has reduced the amount of money OPEC countries take in by nearly $1 billion a day.
 
 

Guessing game: What are OPEC nations thinking?

 
‎25 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎10:48:59 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2011, file photo, an employee works at a refinery inside the Brega oil complex, in Brega, eastern Libya. OPEC produces one-third of the world’s oil and, in theory, at least, can affect global oil prices depending on how much oil it decides to sell. In reality, OPEC member countries have different, often conflicting priorities and don’t adhere to the cartel’s official targets for production. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)NEW YORK (AP) — Does Saudi Arabia have it out for frackers in the U.S.? Or Iran? Or Russia? Will low oil prices make it easier to fight the Islamic State? Or harder?
 
 

UN pushes for targeted Syrian cease-fires in hopes of delivering aid

 
‎25 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎09:52:40 PMGo to full article
The United Nations envoy to Syria is pushing a plan to freeze fighting in selected areas of the war-torn country to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.
 

Iran nuke talks face obstacles even with more time

 
‎25 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:25:13 PMGo to full article
Former European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif, right, address the media after closed-door nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Facing still significant differences between the U.S. and Iran, negotiators gave up on last-minute efforts to get a nuclear deal by the Monday deadline and extended their talks for another seven months. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)VIENNA (AP) — The United States and Iran say a new deadline in nuclear talks could allow them to finally reach a deal. But Tehran's apparent reluctance to compromise may soon leave U.S. negotiators running out of ideas on how to reduce Iran's capacity to make nuclear arms.
 
 

Kazakhstan on brink of WTO membership deal, Afghanistan in line

 
‎25 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎06:05:53 PMGo to full article
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo speaks in Mexico CityBy Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - The 160-member World Trade Organization is in active discussions with 10 countries aiming to become members, including Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said in a report on Tuesday. Seychelles is set to take the 161st spot, since its membership is sewn up and only needs domestic ratification. But several bigger countries are queuing up, led by Kazakhstan. "The accession negotiations of Kazakhstan are at an advanced stage of maturity and on the threshold of conclusion, as soon as the remaining decisions are taken," Azevedo said. ...
 
 

Extended Iran nuclear talks leave bomb investigation in limbo

 
‎25 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎05:56:26 PMGo to full article
By Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) - A stalled U.N. watchdog investigation into allegations Iran conducted atomic bomb research looks unlikely to be revived by the decision to extend wider nuclear talks, diplomats and experts say. While negotiations continue on a deal to curb Iran's uranium enrichment capacity -- to lengthen the time needed should Tehran ever decide to assemble nuclear weapons -- the International Atomic Energy Agency is still trying to conduct a separate, but related, inquiry into weapons research suspicions. ...
 

Iran hardliners round on Rouhani but supreme leader backs more nuclear talks

 
‎25 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎04:53:58 PMGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in TehranBy Mehrdad Balali and Michelle Moghtader DUBAI (Reuters) - Hardliners rounded on President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday after negotiators failed to end the Iranian nuclear dispute but the man who ultimately matters, the country's supreme leader, tacitly backed a renewed push for a deal. Iranians faced the prospect of at least several more months of international sanctions that have badly hurt their living standards, after Tehran and six world powers missed a self-imposed deadline on Monday for a nuclear settlement. ...
 
 

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Yemen's al-Qaida threatens US hostage in new video

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎01:00:26 PMGo to full article
Map locates Hagr al-Saiaar; 1c x 1 1/2 inches; 46.5 mm x 38 mm;SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen threatened an American hostage kidnapped over a year ago, giving Washington three days to meet unspecified demands and denouncing U.S. actions in the Arabian Peninsula country in a new video released Thursday.
 
 

INSIDE KOBANI: Kurds doggedly defend town from IS

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:49:10 PMGo to full article
In this Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2014 photo, a Kurdish fighter fires on an Islamic State group position in Kobani, Syria. Backed by small numbers of Iraqi peshmerga forces and Free Syrian Army rebels, the Kurdish fighters, whose political founders espouse a firm left-wing ideology, are locked in fierce battles to push back militants of the Islamic State group, which swept into the town in mid-September. (AP Photo/Jake Simkin)KOBANI, Syria (AP) — The men and women of Kobani call one another "heval" — Kurdish for 'comrade' — and fight with revolutionary conviction, vowing to liberate what they regard as Kurdish land from Islamic State group militants.
 
 

Lebanon: DNA test says child is IS head's daughter

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:41:45 PMGo to full article
This file image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. Lebanese authorities have detained a wife and son of the leader of the Islamic State group and she is being questioned, two senior Lebanese officials said Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Militant video, File)BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon's interior minister says DNA tests have confirmed that a child held by authorities is the daughter of the Islamic State group's leader.
 
 

Assad says Syria war will be long, difficult: Paris Match

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:30:48 PMGo to full article
PARIS (Reuters) - Syria's conflict will be long and difficult and its army cannot be everywhere at once, President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published by a French magazine on Thursday, in which he also vowed to remain in power. Assad told Paris Match no one could predict when the war with insurgents seeking to oust him would end but said enemies had failed to win over the population, allowing the military to advance. In extracts published on Wednesday, Assad also said U.S. ...
 

Why the FBI Won’t Close the Books on the Petraeus Sex Scandal

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:30:00 PMGo to full article
Two years ago, CIA Director David Petraeus resigned under a cloud of scandal after his sexual affair with would-be biographer Paula Broadwell was exposed. The triumphant author of George Bush’s “surge ...
 

Islamic State cedes little ground despite air attacks

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:20:30 PMGo to full article
Smoke raises behind an Islamic State flag after Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters took control of Saadiya from Islamist State militantsBy Dominic Evans and Oliver Holmes BAGHDAD/BEIRUT (Reuters) - They have made enemies across the globe and endured three months of U.S.-led air strikes, but Islamic State fighters have surrendered little of their self-declared caliphate to the broad sweep of forces arrayed against them. Across thousands of square miles in Syria and Iraq, the radical Islamists face an unlikely mix of Iraqi and Syrian soldiers, Shi'ite and Kurdish militias and rival Syrian Sunni Muslim rebels. ...
 
 

Yemen's Qaeda threatens to kill US hostage in video

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:01:53 PMGo to full article
US journalist Luke Somers -- who was kidnapped more than a year ago in the Yemeni capital Sanaa -- has appeared in a video released by al-Malahem Media where he calls for help and says his life is in danger, according to the monitoring agency SITEAl-Qaeda in Yemen released a video Thursday threatening to execute a US journalist taken hostage last year. In the video dated December 2014, the hostage said his name was Luke Somers, 33, and that he was kidnapped more than a year ago in Sanaa. The photojournalist was kidnapped in the Yemeni capital in September 2013, US-based monitoring agency SITE Intelligence said. The video featured a message by Nasser bin Ali Al-Ansi, of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), threatening to kill the hostage in three days if Washington failed to meet unspecified demands.
 
 

Bomb near Baghdad's Green Zone kills two people

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:53:56 AMGo to full article
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A bomb killed two people on Thursday near Baghdad's Green Zone, the central district which houses most government buildings, security and medical sources said. The bomb struck 200 meters from the edge of zone, they said. In response, security forces closed two nearby bridges that span the Tigris river, linking eastern and western Baghdad. Bombings are frequent in the Iraqi capital, but mostly strike neighborhoods some distance from the central district which houses the Iraqi parliament and the U.S. embassy and is a base for many Iraqi politicians. ...
 

Exclusive: Swiss firm Trafigura helped Iraqi Kurds defy Baghdad to sell oil - sources

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:29:51 AMGo to full article
Trafigura logo is pictured in the company entrance in GenevaLONDON (Reuters) - Trafigura, one of the world's biggest commodities trading firms, played a pivotal role in helping Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region export oil, which the Iraqi government considered illegal, three sources familiar with the trades said.
 
 

House nears passage of $585B defense bill

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:23:21 AMGo to full article
The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is seen after being lit by House Speaker John Boehner and Make-A-Wish Foundation recipient Aaron Urban, 10, from Linthicum, Md., on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. The 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is an 88-foot white spruce from the Chippewea National Forest in Cass Lake, Minn. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is moving toward passage of a $585 billion defense policy bill that gives President Barack Obama the authority to expand U.S. military operations against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria.
 
 

Syria's Raqqa first travel ban under new Australia law

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:46:00 AMGo to full article
Women wearing a niqab, a type of full veil, walk under a billboard erected by the Islamic State (IS) group as part of a campaign in the IS-controlled Syrian city of Raqqa on November 1, 2014Australia Thursday nominated the Syrian city of Raqqa as the first place to be hit with a travel ban under sweeping new counter-terrorism measures aimed at blocking jihadists going overseas to fight. Canberra outlined plans to block citizens travelling to terror hotspots in October amid concern about the flow of foreign fighters joining militant groups in the Middle East such as Islamic State, with 70 citizens believed to have already made the journey. "Under the provisions of our foreign fighters legislation, I have today declared al-Raqqa province an area where a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in hostile activity," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told parliament. Prime Minister Tony Abbott previously said an estimated 100 Australians were also supporting jihadists within Australia with recruitment and funding, while 20 people who fought with terrorist groups in the Middle East had returned.
 
 

Australia bans travel to Syrian province al-Raqqa

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:54:52 AMGo to full article
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's foreign minister used tough new counterterrorism laws Thursday to make it a criminal offense for Australians to travel to the Syrian province of al-Raqqa because of the Islamic State movement's hold on the war-ravaged region.
 

Canada charges 15-year-old with terrorism-related offences

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:04:36 AMGo to full article
MONTREAL (Reuters) - Canadian police charged a 15-year-old youth with terrorism-related offences on Wednesday, alleging that the teenager had committed a robbery "for the benefit, or at the direction, of a terrorist group." The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) did not name the teenager, who they say had allegedly planned to leave Canada to join "terrorist activity abroad." He appeared in a Montreal court on Wednesday. ...
 

Australia exercises sweeping new security laws, bans Syria travel

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:15:03 AMGo to full article
By Matt Siegel SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia on Thursday for the first time exercised sweeping new security powers allowing it to block citizens from traveling to overseas conflict zones such as those in Iraq and Syria, where dozens of Australians have joined Islamist militant groups. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop designated the Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa province in Syria off limits as part of a push to combat what the government says is growing radicalization among young Australian Muslims. ...
 

Kerry says any Iran strikes against IS 'positive'

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎05:31:07 AMGo to full article
Islamic State (IS) militants have captured a huge swathe of territory after launching their offensive across Iraq and Syria in June 2014US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed any Iranian military action against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq as "positive" after the Pentagon said Tehran had carried out air strikes against the group. Kerry, hosting a meeting of an anti-IS coalition in Brussels, said international air strikes were finally stopping the advance of the jihadists across Iraq and Syria, but said it could take years to defeat them.
 
 

China's top paper says West stoking extremism in Middle East

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎04:41:34 AMGo to full article
BEIJING (Reuters) - Western countries are stoking extremism in the Middle East with their support for anti-government opposition movements, China's top newspaper said on Thursday, repeating a call for non-interference in the region's turmoil. China has expressed concern about the rise of Islamic State in countries like Syria and Iraq, nervous about the effect it could have on its own unruly far western region of Xinjiang where Beijing says it faces a threat from Islamist extremists. ...
 

Global coalition stepping up against Islamic State

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎04:23:08 AMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, reaches out to shake hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during a meeting prior to a round table meeting of the global coalition to counter the Islamic State militant group at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Kerry opened on Wednesday a high-level meeting at NATO Headquarters of countries participating in the campaign against the Islamic State organization to assess what’s been accomplished and what remains to be done. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool)BRUSSELS (AP) — Islamic State militants invaded Iraq's west almost a year ago and overran the nation's second-largest city in June, threatening death and torture to opponents in their way. But the world has been slow to respond, coming together Wednesday for the first high-level meeting of scores of nations now devoted to destroying the rampant insurgency.
 
 

IS group has training camps in eastern Libya: US general

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:29:03 AMGo to full article
An image made available by the jihadist Twitter account Al-Baraka news on June 9, 2014 allegedly shows Islamic State group militants waving the trademark Jihadits flag on a newly cut road between Iraq's Nineveh province and Al-Hasakah, SyriaThe Islamic State group, which overran large areas of Iraq and Syria, has set up training camps in eastern Libya and the American military is closely monitoring, a top US general said Wednesday. Western countries have been increasingly worried that Libya's political turmoil could provide fertile ground for Islamic extremists, but General David Rodriguez ruled out military action on the "nascent" camps in the immediate future. "They put training camps out there," Rodriguez, head of US Africa Command, told reporters, referring to the IS organization that seized territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria this year in a brutal and swift offensive of beheadings and forced religious conversions.
 
 

Obama's pick to head Pentagon not always on same page as president

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:19:01 AMGo to full article
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter walks towards his seat at the start of a meeting with Japanese Senior Vice Defence Minister Shu Watanabe in TokyoBy Andrea Shalal and Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ashton Carter, a veteran Washington insider President Barack Obama is expected to name as his new defense secretary, built a reputation as a behind-the-scenes team player during many years in senior Pentagon posts. But scrutiny of the 60-year-old former physicist's views on issues ranging from North Korea to Iraq to defense spending also show an independent thinker whose opinions have not always aligned fully with those of the president. ...
 
 

UN asks people to give $1 each for Syrian refugees

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:17:58 AMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The World Food Program launched an unusual campaign Wednesday to raise $1 contributions from 64 million people around the world so it can restore food vouchers to Syrian refugees who won't be getting any U.N. help in December.
 

Obama hosts Pentagon brass at time of uncertainty

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎01:29:35 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama convened top military leaders on Wednesday for an evening at the White House at a time of deep uncertainty for the Pentagon, where the defense secretary is on his way out and the military faces tough questions about its strategy in the Middle East.
 

U.S. military monitoring Islamic State training in Libya: general

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎01:27:32 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military is closely monitoring a nascent effort by Islamic State, the militant group that has overrun parts of Syria and Iraq, to train a couple of hundred fighters in eastern Libya, the commander of U.S. forces in Africa said on Wednesday. Army General David Rodriguez, head of the U.S. Africa Command, said it was not yet clear how closely aligned the trainees were with Islamic State or whether the effort should be targeted by U.S. forces. He said he had not recommended U.S. ...
 

US commander: IS has training camps in Libya

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎01:06:01 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Islamic State group has set up training camps in eastern Libya, and although they are not yet well developed, the U.S. is watching them closely, a senior U.S. general said Wednesday.
 

In Iraq, US and Iranian forces move in separate areas

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎01:03:36 AMGo to full article
Airstrikes by Iranian F-4 Phantom fighters over the weekend reflect an avoidence of confrontation between American and Iranian forcesRevelations about Iranian air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq have illustrated how American and Iranian forces are operating in separate areas to avoid confrontation, part of a fragile alignment fraught with risk, US officials and analysts say. Air raids by Iranian F-4 Phantom fighters over the weekend reflect a pattern in which Iranian or US military advisers have carved out separate spheres in Iraq as the two arch-rivals seek to defeat a common enemy -- the IS group, defence officials said. The bombing run in eastern Iraq marked the first time the Iranian air force had flown its F-4 fighters in a combat mission against the IS group, US officials said. Defence officials said both Tehran and Washington want to avoid confrontations or accidents that could spin into an international crisis or feed sectarian violence, and take pains to steer clear of the other nation's troops.
 
 

Would-be California militant is schizophrenic, lawyer says

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎01:02:33 AMGo to full article
By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - A California man accused of trying to cross into Canada to eventually join the Islamic State militant group has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, his lawyer said Wednesday. Nicholas Teausant, 21, was arrested in March as he allegedly headed to the border in hopes of joining Islamic State, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria and has claimed responsibility for beheading Western hostages. ...
 

Why is key partner in Islamic State fight absent from coalition talks?

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:55:50 AMGo to full article
When Secretary of State John Kerry gathered the 60 members of the anti-Islamic State international coalition for a pep talk in Brussels Wednesday, one of the most active countries in the fight to roll back and eventually destroy the extremist Islamist group was not even present.
 

How to topple Islamic State? 3 strengths that can be turned to weaknesses

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:43:50 PMGo to full article
The Islamic State has gained ground over wide swaths of Iraq and Syria and strengthened its hold on major cities in those areas through a combination of military organization, money, and social media savvy. 
 

Lebanon says detained woman was Baghdadi wife for three months

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:36:02 PMGo to full article
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's interior minister said on Wednesday that a women detained by security forces was the wife of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for three months, the first Lebanese government official to speak publicly on the arrest. Security officials in Lebanon, speaking on condition of anonymity, had said on Tuesday that the Lebanese army detained a wife and daughter of Baghdadi as they crossed from Syria late last month. ...
 

Defense bill hits snag over land swaps, wilderness

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:31:52 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Quick passage of a sweeping defense policy bill hit a snag on Wednesday over public lands, dividing Senate Republicans.
 

Defense bill hits snag over land swaps, wilderness

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:31:48 PMGo to full article
Quick passage of a sweeping defense policy bill hit a snag on Wednesday over public lands, dividing Senate Republicans. The $585 billion measure authorizing funds for the military includes several unrelated ...
 

US: Iran launches airstrikes in Iraq against IS

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:18:12 PMGo to full article
Hakim al-Zamili, a parliament member and head of Security and Defense Committee, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Mixed reactions were voiced in Baghdad on Wednesday to Pentagon reports that Iran launched airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)WASHINGTON (AP) — Iranian jets have carried out airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq in recent days, Pentagon officials and independent analysts say, underscoring the strange alliances generated by the war against the extremist group that has beheaded Americans and killed and terrorized Iraqi civilians.
 
 

From Egyptian judges: conspiracy theories, mass death sentences, and freedom for Mubarak

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎11:00:28 PMGo to full article
A few days ago, an Egyptian judge tossed out a conviction against former dictator Hosni Mubarak that had found him responsible for the deaths of 11 protesters as he clung to power in early 2011, on rather odd procedural reasoning.
 

Turkey-US moving closer on Syria no-fly zone: Ankara

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:56:04 PMGo to full article
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a press conference on November 18, 2014 in AnkaraNATO allies Turkey and the United States are narrowing their differences over plans to create a no-fly zone along the Syrian border, the Turkish foreign minister said on Wednesday. "When the idea of a no-fly zone and safe zone emerged everybody had differing views, and some did not even understand what it meant," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted by the state-run Anatolia news agency following a NATO meeting in Brussels. "I can say that our approach on this issue with the United States in particular is getting closer. We see the number of countries considering a no-fly zone or safe zone a must increasing," Cavusoglu added.
 
 

U.S. senator seeks formal declaration of war against Islamic State

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:42:20 PMGo to full article
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a working meeting on Capitol Hill in WashingtonBy Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator Rand Paul called on Congress on Wednesday to formally declare war on Islamic State, as debate intensified in the Senate and House of Representatives over the campaign in Iraq and Syria. The Kentucky senator introduced a Senate resolution seeking to declare that a state of war exists with the militant group, the target of four months of air strikes by U.S. and allied forces. ...
 
 

US teacher stabbed to death in Abu Dhabi mall

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:21:25 PMGo to full article
A CCTV image released by Abu Dhabi police on December 3, 2014 shows a fully veiled woman walking in a shopping mall in the Emirati capital, who is a suspect in the killing of an American teacherAn American teacher and mother of twins was stabbed to death in the toilets of an Abu Dhabi shopping mall by a suspect in a black Muslim veil, police said Wednesday. It was unclear what the motive was for Monday's attack in the upmarket Boutik Mall on Al Reem Island, which is popular with expats in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The 37-year-old woman, who worked at an Abu Dhabi kindergarten, was stabbed by a person wearing a black robe, black gloves and a niqab -- a Muslim veil that conceals the face except for the eyes. The US embassy in Abu Dhabi confirmed the death of an American citizen, saying it was working with "all appropriate authorities to seek further information".
 
 

US, Iranian forces operate in separate areas in Iraq

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:52:01 PMGo to full article
US defense officials said air raids by Iranian F-4 Phantom fighters over the weekend were part of a pattern in which Iranian or American military advisers have carved out separate spheres in IraqRecent Iranian air strikes against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq took place in an eastern region where US warplanes do not operate, the Pentagon said Wednesday, reflecting an accommodation between the two traditional rivals in their fight against a common enemy. US defense officials said air raids by Iranian F-4 Phantom fighters over the weekend targeting were part of a pattern in which Iranian or American military advisers have carved out separate spheres in Iraq. "It was in eastern Diyala province," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said of the air strike. The bombing run in eastern Iraq marked the first time the Iranian air force had flown its F-4 fighters in a combat mission against the IS group, US officials said.
 
 

Swedish premier to call for new vote on March 22

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:22:27 PMGo to full article
Swedish premier to call for new vote on March 22Sweden's prime minister said Wednesday he will call for new elections on March 22 after an anti-immigration party helped opposition lawmakers reject the left-leaning minority government's budget proposal. ...
 
 

Swedish premier to call for new vote on March 22

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:22:27 PMGo to full article
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, right, of the Social Democrats, and Minister of Education Gustav Fridolin, left, of the Green Party, give a press conference at the government chancellery in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday December 3, 2014, where Lofven announced fresh elections after his coalition government failed to get its budget through parliament. (AP Photo / TT News Agency / Pontus Lundahl) SWEDEN OUTCOPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Sweden's prime minister said Wednesday he will call for new elections on March 22 after an anti-immigration party helped opposition lawmakers reject the left-leaning minority government's budget proposal.
 
 

France is ready to step up airstrikes in Iraq

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:15:44 PMGo to full article
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, left, and France's President Francois Hollande, right, arrive for a joint media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met earlier to day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Brussels to discuss the fight against Islamic State militants. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)PARIS (AP) — France's president said that the country is ready to step up airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq, alongside the U.S.-led coalition.
 
 

U.S. believes Iran launched air raids on Islamic State in Iraq

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:11:01 PMGo to full article
Iraqi PM al-Abadi speaks to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry prior to a round table meeting of the global coalition to counter the Islamic State militant group at NATO headquarters in BrusselsBy Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has indications that Iran has carried out air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq in recent days in what appeared to be the first such operations by Iran's air force, U.S. officials said on Wednesday. A senior Iranian official denied that Iran had launched any such strikes. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had indications that Iran had used F-4 Phantoms to launch the raids in Diyala near the Iranian border in the last several days. ...
 
 

U.S. remains opposed to cooperating with Iran against Islamic State: White House

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:10:03 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House reiterated U.S. policy against cooperating with Iran in the fight against Islamic State on Wednesday in the wake of Iranian air strikes in Iraq. "At this point our calculation about the wisdom of cooperating with the Iranians hasn't changed. We're not going to do it," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. (Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
 

Paul seeks 'declaration of war' on Islamic State

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:07:38 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Potential 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul is proposing a "declaration of war" against the Islamic State.
 

Obama’s New Defense Chief Is Brilliant, but Is He a Smart Choice?

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎09:04:00 PMGo to full article
A day after the news that President Obama will choose Ashton B. Carter as the next defense secretary, here’s the early word on how well he will perform as the replacement for the departing Chuck Hagel:  ...
 

Paul seeks 'declaration of war' on Islamic State

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:58:28 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Potential 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul is proposing a "declaration of war" against the Islamic State.
 

US: Iran launches airstrikes in Iraq against IS

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:55:15 PMGo to full article
Hakim al-Zamili, a parliament member and head of Security and Defense Committee, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Mixed reactions were voiced in Baghdad on Wednesday to Pentagon reports that Iran launched airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)WASHINGTON (AP) — Iranian jets have carried out airstrikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants in recent days, U.S. officials and independent analysts say, underscoring the strange alliances generated by the war against the extremist group that has beheaded Americans and blown up rivals' holy sites.
 
 

UNESCO wants ban on Iraq, Syria art trafficking

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:49:56 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Nov. 2 2014 file photo, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listens to a question during a press conference at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, Iraq. She’s already the first female and Eastern European to head UNESCO, and could be the first female and Eastern European United Nations secretary-general, too _ if her government gets its way and she wins support from the five U.N. Security Council members. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)PARIS (AP) — The head of UNESCO is calling on the U.N. Security Council to adopt a ban on the illicit trafficking of cultural objects from conflict zones in Iraq and Syria.
 
 

U.S. remains opposed to cooperating with Iran against Islamic State: White House

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:42:45 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House reiterated U.S. policy against cooperating with Iran in the fight against Islamic State on Wednesday in the wake of Iranian air strikes in Iraq. "At this point our calculation about the wisdom of cooperating with the Iranians hasn't changed. We're not going to do it," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. (Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
 

GOP White House prospects clash on foreign policy

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:26:33 PMGo to full article
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to the U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC's 11th Annual Luncheon in Coral Gables, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. The presidential contest that's starting to take shape is exposing divisions among likely Republican candidates on the nation's role in global affairs. Among those outlining foreign policy this week: Bush, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal, as well as the party's 2008 presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)WASHINGTON (AP) — Even as they attack President Barack Obama's foreign policy, and with politics turning to the 2016 race for president, the GOP's most ambitious leaders have begun to clash with each other over the nation's role in global affairs.
 
 

U.S. leads 25 more air strikes against Islamic State militants: CENTCOM

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:23:30 PMGo to full article
An EA-18G Growler launches from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Arabian GulfWASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States military launched 14 more strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and led 11 strikes in Iraq since Monday, according to U.S. Central command. The strikes in Syria, centered near the border town of Kobani, hit a large group of militant fighters as well as various fighting positions, Central Command said in a statement on Wednesday. In Iraq, the U.S-led strikes in six cities - Mosul, Ramadi, Tal Afar, Sinjar, Qaim and Falluja - destroyed bunkers, buildings, vehicles and two weapon facilities for the militant group. ...
 
 

Oil prices recover slightly; ruble hits new lows

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:22:22 PMGo to full article
Oil prices have fallen steeply in recent weeksOil prices rebounded slightly on Wednesday but the Russian ruble hit fresh all-time lows against the dollar and the euro, while European equities marked time on the eve of an ECB meeting. On crude oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in January rose 67 cents to $67.55 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for January gained 44 cents to stand at $70.98 in London afternoon deals. Oil prices had tumbled by about two dollars on Tuesday after Iraq announced plans to boost the country's crude oil exports after striking a deal with the autonomous Kurdish region.
 
 

Iraq official: Arrested woman not IS leader's wife

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:21:29 PMGo to full article
This file image made from video posted on a militant website Saturday, July 5, 2014, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq. Lebanese authorities have detained a wife and son of the leader of the Islamic State group and she is being questioned, two senior Lebanese officials said Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Militant video, File)BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi official denied Wednesday that a woman detained in Lebanon is a wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, adding that she is the sister of a terror suspect being held in Iraq.
 
 

AP Interview: Iraq official says war hurts economy

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:18:14 PMGo to full article
Iraq's Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec 3, 2014. Iraq's finance minister says plunging oil prices and soaring costs from the country's war against the Islamic State group is hurting the country's economy. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)BAGHDAD (AP) — Plunging oil prices and soaring costs from Iraq's war against the Islamic State group is hurting Iraq's economy and will prompt government spending cuts, including in defense, the country's finance minister said Wednesday.
 
 

US teacher stabbed to death in Abu Dhabi

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:59:02 PMGo to full article
This image made from video released by the Abu Dhabi police department on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 shows a veiled suspect in the stabbing of an American teacher in a shopping mall restroom as seen on security camera footage in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. A statement posted on the Abu Dhabi Interior Ministry's website said the victim was stabbed Monday with a sharp tool that has been confiscated by police. Col. Rashid Borshid, head of the Criminal Investigation Department, said the attacker remains at large. He said police are investigating possible motives and the gender of the attacker. (AP Photo/Abu Dhabi police)DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An American schoolteacher was stabbed to death in a public restroom at a mall in Abu Dhabi by a suspect wearing the full black veil commonly worn by local women throughout the Arab Gulf region, according to video released Wednesday by police.
 
 

US Congress moves toward OK for financing war on IS jihadists

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:54:43 PMGo to full article
This October 19, 2014 photo provided by the US Navy shows an EA-18G Growler launching from the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson as the ship conducts flight operations in the US 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent ResolveUS congressional negotiators late Tuesday approved an emergency funding package to pay for military operations against the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, and a vote is expected in the coming days. A plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, proposed by President Barack Obama, is also expected to be extended. The armed services committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate late Tuesday released the final text of the defense authorization act for the 2015 budget year, which runs from October 2014 to September 2015, after months of negotiations. The House should adopt the bill by the end of the week, said Democratic Senator Carl Levin and his Republican counterpart James Inhofe.
 
 

Sentence delayed again in Florida terror case

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:47:37 PMGo to full article
MIAMI (AP) — Sentencing has been delayed again for a man convicted in Florida of supporting terrorism in a case in which an FBI employee posed online as a terror financing middleman.
 

Sentence delayed again in Florida terror case

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:32:05 PMGo to full article
MIAMI (AP) — Sentencing has been delayed again for a man convicted in South Florida of supporting terrorism in a case in which an FBI employee posed online as a terror financing middleman.
 

U.S.-led coalition damages Islamic State, but fight is long: Kerry

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:28:53 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry gives statement after round table meeting of global coalition to counter Islamic State militant group at NATO headquarters in BrusselsBy Lesley Wroughton and Adrian Croft BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The U.S.-led coalition has inflicted serious damage on Islamic State, carrying out around 1,000 air strikes so far in Iraq and Syria, but the fight against the militants could last years, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday. The United States and its allies began air strikes in September after the Sunni militants made large territorial advances. The Iraqi army, Sunni tribal fighters and Kurdish forces have since recovered some ground from the group which in its Arabic acronym is known as Daesh. ...
 
 

Assad says U.S.-led strikes on Syria ineffective: Paris Match magazine

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:48:30 PMGo to full article
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said U.S.-led strikes in Syria have made no difference and described himself as a captain trying to save his ship, in comments to a French magazine and carried by the presidency's Twitter feed on Wednesday. Coalition forces led by the United States began bombing Islamic State militants and other jihadist factions in Syria in September. Asked whether this had been helpful to him, Assad, whose forces have fought the same groups, told Paris Match: "You can't end terrorism with aerial strikes. ...
 

US-led coalition 'halting Islamic State's advance'

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎05:53:03 PMGo to full article
Islamic State (IS) militants have captured a huge swathe of territory after launching their offensive across Iraq and Syria in June 2014The US-led coalition against the Islamic State group said Wednesday it was finally stopping the advance of the jihadists across Iraq and Syria, but warned it could take years to finally defeat them. Washington meanwhile said that arch-foe Iran had launched its first air strikes against the Sunni extremist organisation, but denied any military coordination with Tehran, which is not part of the coalition.
 
 

Special Report: How Exxon helped make Iraqi Kurdistan

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎05:52:17 PMGo to full article
File photo of a worker adjusting the valve of an oil pipe at West Qurna oilfield in Iraq's southern province of BasraBy Dmitry Zhdannikov, Isabel Coles and Ned Parker LONDON/ARBIL (Reuters) - In January 2011, Exxon hired one of the best connected men in Iraq: Ali Khedery, an American of Iraqi descent who had served in Baghdad as a special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors and a senior adviser to three U.S. generals. At a meeting with Exxon a few months later to analyze Iraq's future, Khedery laid out his thoughts. Iraq under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was moving toward dictatorship and civil war, he said he told the session. ...
 
 

Iraq will ask NATO for help training its security forces

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎04:18:29 PMGo to full article
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Iraq plans to ask NATO for help training its security forces, the alliance said on Wednesday, months after the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of an offensive by Islamic State militants. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi informed NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg of Baghdad's plan at a meeting in Brussels, said Oana Lungescu, spokeswoman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO ambassadors will review the request once it is received, she said. ...
 

Iraq says woman detained in Lebanon is not Baghdadi wife

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎03:07:08 PMGo to full article
Still image taken from video of a man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in MosulBAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that a woman detained by Lebanese authorities was not the wife of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but the sister of a man convicted of bombings in southern Iraq. Security officials in Lebanon had said on Tuesday the Lebanese army had detained a wife and daughter of Baghdadi's as they crossed from Syria late last month. "The one detained by Lebanese authorities was Saja Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi, sister of Omar Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi who is detained by authorities and sentenced to death for his participation in ... ...
 
 

Top Muslim leader urges broader action against Islamist militants

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:55:33 PMGo to full article
CAIRO (Reuters) - A prominent Muslim cleric said on Wednesday the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes on Islamic State insurgents should widen its scope to include all other militant groups that were tarnishing Islam. Islamic State, an offshoot of al Qaeda, has seized wide areas of Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate to try to revive theocratic rule that prevailed in the region more than 1,000 years ago. Its militants have beheaded some prisoners and been accused of massacring and enslaving non-Sunni Muslims. ...
 

Eyeing 2016, Jeb Bush talks foreign policy

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:06:54 PMGo to full article
Eyeing 2016, Jeb Bush talks foreign policyNearing a decision on a presidential run in 2016, Jeb Bush on Tuesday reaffirmed his support for the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and pushed for a foreign policy that he said could help repair the nation's ...
 
 

China, Turkey, Angola slip in global graft index

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎02:02:49 PMGo to full article
China, Turkey and Angola are perceived as increasingly corrupt despite strong economic growth in recent years, a leading anti-graft watchdog organization said Wednesday in its annual survey. Transparency ...
 

INSIDE KOBANI: War clinic treats anti-IS fighters

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:56:29 PMGo to full article
In this Nov. 21, 2014 photo, Dr. Mohammed Arif helps to deal with a wounded patient at a field hospital in Kobani, Syria. Like much of this besieged Syrian border town, most of its medical clinics are now in ruins. Only one still stands _ its location a secret for fear it will be targeted. A small team of three doctors and five nurses work at this aid station, treating the flood of Kurdish and Free Syrian Army fighters who are holding the Islamic State militants at bay. (AP Photo/Jake Simkin)KOBANI, Syria (AP) — Like much of this battered Syrian Kurdish border town on the front lines in the battle against the Islamic State group, most of its hospitals and clinics now lie in ruins. Only one is still working — but its location is kept secret for fear it could be targeted by the militants.
 
 

Iraq’s Two-headed War: ISIS and Corruption

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎12:15:00 PMGo to full article
The troubling and embarrassing disclosure this week that Iraq has been paying salaries to 50,000 soldiers that don’t exist — they were simply made up by senior officers looking to pocket the extra pay ...
 

Displaced Iraqis get different levels of aid

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:16:47 AMGo to full article
In this Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014 photo, displaced Iraqi Shiite families take shelter at the Nabi Younis refugee camp in Baghdad's southeast suburb of Nahrawan, Iraq. With a U.N.-estimated 1.8 million Iraqis displaced this year amid the war with the Islamic State group, this country upended by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion finds itself even further splintering along ethnic and religious lines. Those divisions come into focus in the experiences of its displaced. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)BAGHDAD (AP) — At a camp near Baghdad housing Shiite families who fled the Islamic State group, the mobile homes are stocked with heaters and get more electricity than residents of the capital. Some donated food is even refused.
 
 

GOP White House prospects clash on foreign policy

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎10:07:56 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — The GOP's most ambitious leaders have begun to clash over the nation's role in global affairs as the next presidential primary season begins.
 

Conflict, militancy hit human rights in Middle East, African nations: TRFN

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:23:39 AMGo to full article
By Magdalena Mis LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Syria was bottom and Ukraine had the biggest slide in a human rights index published on Wednesday, as countries suffering from conflict grappled with human trafficking and other rights violations. The worsening situation in Syria and Iraq, two of the three worst performing countries, increased the likelihood of human trafficking, forced labour and child marriage taking place. ...

 

Military Space News, Nuclear Weapons, Missile Defence

 

 

 

 
 

Boeing to Continue Providing ICBM Guidance Systems to the USAF

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Heath OH (SPX) Dec 04, 2014
Boeing will continue to repair and supply the guidance systems of the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) to the U.S. Air Force through September 2015, keeping the weapon system adequately stocked with spare missile guidance sets and on constant alert. Under a $46.8 million contract, Boeing will serve as sole provider of maintenance and sustainment services on the NS50
 

Iran hackers penetrate key world networks: researchers

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
Iranian hackers have managed to penetrate and steal information from governments and companies around the world since 2012, posing a grave security threat, researchers say in a new report, The report by the security firm Cylance released Tuesday said the hackers have "extracted highly sensitive materials" from government agencies and major critical infrastructure companies in the united Stat
 

Russia ready to host Mideast nuclear disarmament talks: Lavrov

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Khartoum (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
Moscow is ready to host a conference on ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Sudan on Wednesday. "There should be a conference to remove weapons of mass destruction and put in place an agreement to make the Middle East a region free of nuclear weapons," Lavrov said before attending a forum on cooperation between Russia and the Arab Le
 

Iran strikes show unusual nature of anti-IS coalition: experts

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
Iranian strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq show that Tehran has become an unavoidable regional player but also highlight the unusual nature of the global fight against an extremist group that is uniting traditional foes, experts say. Both Washington and Tehran have been at pains to stress there has been no military coordination between them in the battle against IS in Iraq. But the
 

Turkey-US moving closer on Syria no-fly zone: Ankara

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Ankara (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
NATO allies Turkey and the United States are narrowing their differences over plans to create a no-fly zone along the Syrian border, the Turkish foreign minister said on Wednesday. However, his comments contrast with statements from the White House which suggest the two countries remain divided on how to respond to the Syria conflict. "When the idea of a no-fly zone and safe zone emerged
 

Sony slams 'malicious' hack attack, mum on N. Korea

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Los Angeles (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
Sony Pictures denounced Wednesday a "brazen" cyberattack it said netted a "large amount" of confidential information, including movies as well as personnel and business files. But the entertainment giant downplayed a report that North Korea was behind the attack, saying it did not yet know the full extent of the "malicious" security breach. "The investigation continues into this very sop
 

Destruction of Syria chemical facilities hit by delays

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
Syria on Tuesday blamed delays in the destruction of its remaining chemical weapons production facilities on technical problems, including the delivery of explosives, and denied it was being uncooperative. Syria had said last month that work on the destruction of the 12 hangars and tunnels would begin in November, but the Syrian company chosen to conduct the operation pulled out. Two oth
 

Coalition 'halting Islamic State's advance'

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
The US-led coalition against the Islamic State group said Wednesday it was finally stopping the advance of the jihadists across Iraq and Syria, but warned it could take years to finally defeat them. Washington meanwhile said that arch-foe Iran had launched its first air strikes against the Sunni extremist organisation, but denied any military coordination with Tehran, which is not part of th
 

Obama, Ghani to mull Afghan troop levels in 2015 talks

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
US leaders will discuss whether to prolong the timetable for the withdrawal of American troops with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani when he visits Washington early next year, a senior US official said. President Barack Obama's administration was prepared to discuss with Ghani "whether adjustments need to be made to the planning that was originally forecast for our presence there," Peter McKinl
 

UNESCO calls for 'protected cultural zones' in Syria, Iraq

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
UNESCO chief Irina Bokova on Wednesday called for the creation of "protected cultural zones" to save heritage sites in conflict-torn Iraq and Syria that were at risk of "cultural cleansing". Efforts should start with the "highly iconic site" of the Umayyad mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, Bokova told a Paris conference on safeguarding the two countries' cultural riches. "I
 

NATO agrees to keep military channels open with Russia

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
NATO said Wednesday it will keep military channels of communication with Russia open to avoid any misunderstandings over military activity, as the Ukraine crisis stokes tensions not seen since the Cold War. The 28 member states of the US-led alliance, set up originally to protect Western Europe from the Soviet Union, "agreed that at this time of tension there is a need for continued communic
 

Kerry says any Iran strikes against IS 'positive'

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday welcomed any Iranian military action against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq as "positive" after the Pentagon said Tehran had carried out air strikes against the group. Kerry, hosting a meeting of an anti-IS coalition in Brussels, said international airstrikes were finally stopping the advance of the jihadists across Iraq and Syria, but warned it
 

Iraq PM dismisses 24 interior ministry commanders

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has dismissed 24 senior interior ministry officers, a statement from his office said on Monday. It did not provide a specific explanation for their dismissal, but Abadi has been sacking and retiring a raft of top security officials since he took office three months ago. "New officers were appointed as part of the drive to reform the security apparatus
 

Gunmen kill 7 Lebanese soldiers in ambush near Syria

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Baalbek, Lebanon (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
Gunmen killed seven Lebanese soldiers in an ambush on their patrol Tuesday in the east of the country near the border with war-ravaged Syria, a military source said. "Seven Lebanese soldiers have been killed in an ambush by armed men in the desert region of Ras Baalbek," the military source said. "The attack was followed by clashes in the region between the army and those behind the ambu
 

Kalashnikov fight Russia sanctions with fashion line

 
‎04 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎07:06:27 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
The makers of Russia's iconic AK-47 assault rifle are moving into fashion to get around Western sanctions on its weapons. At a flashy event in Moscow Tuesday, Kalashnikov Concern unveiled a new look and a new red-and-black K-shaped logo as guests were handed empty AK bullet magazines. The arms producer was one of the companies targeted this year by Western sanctions imposed over Moscow's
 

India test fires nuclear capable strategic missile

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Mumbai, India (XNA) Dec 03, 2014
India on Tuesday test-fired its nuclear capable strategic missile Agni-4 from a test range off eastern state of Odisha's coast. Supported by a mobile launcher, the sleek missile was flight tested from the launch complex-4 of Integrated Test Range at Wheeler Island, at about 10:20 a.m. local time, local media reported. The test conducted by the specially formed Strategic Force Command was s
 

Russia Puts Second GLONASS-K Satellite Into Orbit: Defense Ministry

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Moscow, Russia (Sputnik) Dec 02, 2014
The second new-generation GLONASS-K Russian navigation satellite has been put into orbit, a Defense Ministry spokesperson told RIA Novosti Monday. "The Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket...has successfully put the new-generation Russian navigation satellite 'Glonass-K' into orbit," Col. Alexei Zolotukhin, a spokesperson for Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces, said. The satellite was launched f
 

US Congress moves toward OK for financing war on IS jihadists

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
US congressional negotiators late Tuesday approved an emergency funding package to pay for military operations against the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, and a vote is expected in the coming days. A plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, proposed by President Barack Obama, is also expected to be extended. Lawmakers in September had approved it to last only until Dec
 

NATO ministers boost support for Ukraine

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
NATO foreign ministers approved fresh support for Ukraine and condemned Russia Tuesday for backing pro-Moscow rebels as the alliance signed off on its new training mission in Afghanistan. "We strongly condemn Russia's continued and deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine in breach of international law," said a statement from the NATO ministers and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimk
 

LockMart completes environmental testing on 4th MUOS bird

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Sunnyvale CA (SPX) Dec 03, 2014
Lockheed Martin has completed thermal vacuum testing on the fourth satellite scheduled to launch and join the U.S. Navy's Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) constellation. This milestone comes just weeks after the company shipped the third MUOS satellite to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in anticipation of its January launch. MUOS operates like a smart-phone cell tower in the sky, vastl
 

Ashton Carter likely next Pentagon chief: reports

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
The former number-two ranking official at the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, will likely be named as the next US defense secretary, American media reported Tuesday. President Barack Obama was poised to nominate Carter - a physicist turned national security policy wonk - to replace outgoing Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, "barring any last minute complications," CNN reported. CNN cited several un
 

US says Iranian fighter jets bomb IS jihadists in Iraq

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 03, 2014
Iranian fighter jets struck Islamic State militants in eastern Iraq in recent days, the Pentagon said Tuesday, signaling Tehran's determination to confront the jihadists and Washington's tacit partnership with arch-foe Iran. The air raids marked an escalation in Iran's role in a conflict that has seen Tehran and the Washington set aside their customary hostility to battle a common enemy in
 

US diplomats to argue against new Iran sanctions

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
Top US diplomats will this week make a "strong case" to lawmakers to hold off on fresh Iran sanctions, hoping to avoid an ugly political showdown which could scupper nuclear talks. Acting Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman, who has led the tense, secretive negotiations for months, will be at the vanguard of an administration drive to persuade Congress not to push ahead with draft legislation whi
 

Lebanon arrests wife, son of IS chief Baghdadi: military

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
Lebanon has arrested a wife and son of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group that has seized large chunks of Iraq and Syria, a military source said. The two were detained by military intelligence 10 days ago near the town of Arsal, close to the border with Syria, the source told AFP, saying only that the woman was Syrian and that the boy wa
 

New peshmerga group enters Kobane from Turkey

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Istanbul (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
A second contingent of Kurdish peshmerga fighters streamed across the Syrian border from Turkey late Monday to join the fight against jihadists for the strategic town of Kobane, state media said. Some 150 peshmerga passed through the Mursitpinar border crossing to reinforce Syrian Kurds in the battle against Islamic State (IS) militants for the town, the official Anatolia news agency said.
 

Republican Budget Cuts Threaten NASA's Space Exploration Plans

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Dec 02, 2014
NASA's space program is facing budget cuts from a Republican-controlled Congress from January, which will likely have in its sights a controversial plan to redirect an asteroid around the Moon as a stepping stone to a future Mars mission. "Those who say we've got to go back to the Moon instead of an asteroid, well, show me the money," Bill Nelson, the Democrat who currently chairs the Sena
 

Researchers develop building material that cools by reflecting heat into space

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Stanford, Calif. (UPI) Dec 1, 2014
Researchers at Stanford say they've developed a material that cools itself by beaming excess heat into space; they hope it can one day be used to keep buildings cool on hot, sunny days. Traditional ideas about thermodynamics suggest an object like a building can't be cooled below the temperature of the surrounding ambient air without the assistance of a something like air conditioning.
 

Iran no longer facing 'drum of war': Zarif

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
The world is no longer beating the "drum of war" against Iran, its foreign minister said on Tuesday, citing the direct benefit of the government's nuclear talks with the West. Mohammad Javad Zarif said the decision to restart negotiations and seek a deal over the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear programme had reduced tension and would not be reversed. But Zarif, who has led the Irania
 

Pakistan adds home-made fighter jets to airforce

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Karachi (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
The head of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) said Tuesday that Pakistan had introduced 50 home-assembled multi-role JF-17 Thunder fight jets into its airforce. Air Marshal Javed Ahmed, chief of the state-owned Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), said the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had already received 50 of the home-made aircraft and that the supply of the second block would start this mon
 

Norwegian airforce films 'near miss' with Russian fighter jet

 
‎03 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:28:37 AMGo to full article
Oslo (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
A Norwegian warplane had a "near miss" with a Russian fighter jet north of Norway, the Nordic nation's military said Tuesday after showing video of the incident, which backed a complaint made to Moscow. "The Russian pilot's behaviour was not quite normal," Norwegian armed forces spokesman Brynjar Stordal told AFP, commenting on a 26-second film clip released Sunday which appeared to show a f
 

China will not go to war for N. Korea: former general

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
China will not step in to save neighbouring North Korea if the Pyongyang regime collapses or starts a war, a retired People's Liberation Army general said, possibly signalling waning patience in Beijing with its wayward, nuclear-armed ally. "China is not a saviour," Wang Hongguang, formerly deputy commander of the Nanjing military region, wrote in the Global Times newspaper, which is close t
 

Russia's Angara Space Rocket Tests to End in 2020: Defense Ministry

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik News) Dec 01, 2014
Tests of new Russian ecologically clean space rocket Angara will end in 2020, Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces commander Lt. Gen. Alexander Golovko said Saturday. "It is planned to end the flight tests of the Angara Space Rocket Complex in 2020. During this time we will have to build another launching site in the launching complex," Golovko said in an interview with Krasnaya Zvezda newspa
 

Laser link offers high-speed delivery

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Paris (ESA) Dec 01, 2014
Marking a first in space, Sentinel-1A and Alphasat have linked up by laser stretching almost 36 000 km across space to deliver images of Earth just moments after they were captured. This important step demonstrates the potential of Europe's new space data highway to relay large volumes of data very quickly so that information from Earth-observing missions can be even more readily available
 

Japan kicks off election campaign in 'Abenomics referendum'

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Sendai, Japan (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
Official campaigning kicked off in Japan on Tuesday ahead of a December 14 election that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has described as a referendum on his faltering "Abenomics" growth blitz. "We are determined to win," Abe told hundreds of voters at his initial stump speech in the northern port of Soma. "I promise to make Japan a country that can shine again at the centre of the world." Th
 

Romania to seek EU-IMF permission to boost defence budget

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Bucharest (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
Romania will seek permission from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to increase its defence budget next year in view of the separatist rebellion in neighbouring Ukraine, the finance minister said Monday. "It is very important to step up military spending, and one of the items of discussion with the IMF and the EU will concern an extension by 0.3 perent of gross domestic
 

Moscow accuses NATO of 'destabilising' northern Europe

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
Russia lashed out at NATO on Monday, saying its military drills in the Baltics could destroy northern Europe's stability and warning against Ukraine's membership in the US-led military bloc. Speaking to Interfax news agency ahead of a meeting Tuesday of foreign ministers from NATO's 28 member states, Russia's deputy foreign minister Alexei Meshkov said NATO command is "trying to destabilise
 

India, France say will press ahead with Rafale deal

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
New Delhi (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
The French and Indian defence ministers agreed to press ahead with negotiations on the sale of 126 Rafale fighter jets to India, both sides said Tuesday, after slow progress cast doubt on the estimated $12 billion deal. Successive deadlines to complete one of the world's biggest airline contracts have slipped by, leading to reports that Britain's Eurofighter could try to re-enter the race.
 

S. Korea to rebuild 'Christmas tree' tower hated by North

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
South Korea said Tuesday it would allow a Christian group to construct a new Christmas tree-shaped tower near the border with North Korea - a move certain to infuriate Pyongyang. An existing tower was dismantled by the military earlier this year, triggering protests from church groups and anti-Pyongyang activists who accused the authorities of caving in to pressure from the North. The o
 

After wrangle, Europe set to approve Ariane 6 launcher

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) Nov 30, 2014
After a two-year debate sparked by the emergence of low-cost competition, European space nations on Tuesday are likely to back plans to build a new rocket, the Ariane 6, say sources. Intended to be ready for 2020, the rocket will replace the Ariane 5, taking its place alongside the lightweight Vega and Russia's veteran Soyuz at the European Space Agency (ESA) base in Kourou, French Guiana.
 

NATO ministers to plot course on Ukraine, Afghanistan

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) Dec 02, 2014
NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday to chart a course forward after a "year of aggression" from Ukraine to the Middle East and the end of the alliance's combat mission in Afghanistan. New chief Jens Stoltenberg said on the eve of the meeting that it was a decisive time marked by Russia's intervention in Ukraine and the regional threat from the Islamic State jihadist group in I
 

RAF launches Paveway guided bombs from Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Patuxent River, Md. (UPI) Dec 1, 2014
The United Kingdom's Royal Air Force has completed the first in-flight test launches of the Raytheon Paveway IV precision-guided bomb from a Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35B fighter jet. According to Raytheon, "The Paveway family of laser guided bombs has revolutionized tactical air-to-ground warfare by converting 'dumb' bombs into precision guided munitions." "Newer versions of Pav
 

Hacker group targets company financial info

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
A hacker group has tapped into email accounts of executives in more than 100 companies that could give them lucrative access to market-moving information, a US security firm said Monday. San Francisco-based FireEye said the mysterious group, dubbed FIN4, showed deep familiarity with the way businesses work and appeared to target the accounts of officials with knowledge of merger and acquisit
 

India to launch advanced rocket next month

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
New Delhi (XNA) Dec 01, 2014
India will test launch an advanced rocket next month, a senior space official said Sunday. "The state-owned Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will test launch GSLV Mark III from the spaceport of Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh between December 15 and 20," he said, on condition of anonymity. "The test launch is to ensure the atmospheric stability of the lau
 

Service module of China's returned lunar orbiter reaches L2 point

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Beijing (XNA) Dec 01, 2014
The service module belonging to China's unmanned lunar orbiter has reached the Earth-Moon second Lagrange Point (L2), the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said Saturday. As of Friday, the service module had been flying for 28 days, and was 421,000 kilometers away from Earth and 63,000 km from the moon. All experiments are going well. The s
 

US again rules out Syria no-fly zone

 
‎02 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎06:22:04 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
Washington ruled out Monday any imminent plans to create a no-fly zone along the Turkey-Syria border, brushing aside reports that US officials are in talks with Ankara about a refugee safe haven. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the US was "open to discussing a range of options with the Turks" but that a no-fly zone over Syria was not on the table "at this point." Turkey
 

China leader vows to protect territorial interests

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Nov 30, 2014
Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a key foreign policy speech that the rising Asian nation would protect its sovereign territory, the Xinhua news agency reported, as it faces maritime disputes with several neighbours. "We should firmly uphold China's territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests and national unity," Xi told a Communist Party meeting on foreign affairs held on Fri
 

Iranian Leader Tells Armed Forces to Stay Ready for Combat

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik News) Dec 01, 2014
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian navy officials on Sunday to improve their capability for combat, irrespective of political negotiations which may be taking place. "Given our vast maritime borders and the enemy's huge investments in this area, our armed forces should continuously improve their (combat) readiness, irrespective of political calculations," Iran's supreme leader told assemb
 

China policy in question after Taiwan polls landslide

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Taipei (AFP) Nov 30, 2014
Taiwan's warmer relations with China were called into question Sunday after the island's Beijing-friendly ruling party suffered its worst-ever polls defeat in local elections, sparking the resignation of Premier Jiang Yi-huah. The rout came as the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party struggles to combat public fears of China's growing influence, as well as a slowing economy and a string of food sca
 

Egypt brands jihadist IS a 'terrorist group'

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Cairo (AFP) Nov 30, 2014
An Egyptian court on Sunday branded the Islamic State jihadist group operating in Iraq and Syria a "terrorist" organisation, the official news agency MENA reported. An Egyptian militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which pledged allegiance to IS earlier in November, has itself also been designated a terrorist organisation under a similar ruling. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, based in the restive
 

IS jihadists suffer heavy losses in Syria's Kobane

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Nov 30, 2014
Islamic State group jihadists battling for control of the Syrian town of Kobane suffered some of their heaviest losses yet in 24 hours of clashes and US-led air strikes, monitors said Sunday. At least 50 jihadists were killed in the embattled border town in suicide bombings, clashes with Kobane's Kurdish defenders and air strikes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Canada, mea
 

Iraq PM says graft probe found 50,000 'ghost soldiers'

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 30, 2014
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on Sunday announced that an investigation had uncovered the existence of 50,000 "ghost soldiers", and promised a widening crackdown on corruption. "The prime minister revealed the existence of 50,000 fictitious names" in the military, said a statement from Abadi's office issued after a session of parliament. A parliament statement said the premier scr
 

US-led strikes hit Islamic State 'capital': monitor

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Nov 30, 2014
A wave of US-led air strikes have struck at least 30 targets around the Syrian city of Raqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State group, a monitor said Sunday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes took place before midnight Saturday and hit 30 targets on the northern outskirts of Raqa. They also hit Division 17, a Syrian army base the jihadist group captur
 

Kurdish leader hopeful for Turkey peace deal within 5 months

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Istanbul (AFP) Nov 30, 2014
The jailed leader of Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) said Sunday he was hopeful the peace process with the authorities would be concluded successfully within five months with enough determination. In a statement made public after pro-Kurdish lawmakers visited him in his island prison off Istanbul, Ocalan said that a framework for the peace talks to end the three-decade rebe
 

US air base in S. Korea lifts lockdown after shooter alarm

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
A major US air force base in South Korea went into full lockdown for more than an hour Monday after what appeared to be a false alarm about a shooter at the facility's high school. "The security forces sweeps are now complete. There were no reported injuries or suspicious activity found," the 51st Fighter Wing stationed at Osan Air Base said in a post on its official Facebook page. "Ever
 

Palestinian woman shot after stabbing Israeli: army

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
The Israeli army shot and wounded a Palestinian woman on Monday after she stabbed an Israeli civilian near a Jewish settlement bloc in the southern West Bank, the military said. The civilian suffered minor injuries in the stabbing at a major crossroads near the Gush Etzion bloc, south of Bethlehem, the army said in a statement. "Security forces on site overpowered the suspect and transfe
 

Indian IS recruit goes home after having to clean toilets: reports

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
New Delhi (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
An Indian student who travelled to Iraq to join the Islamic State group has returned home disillusioned after jihadists made him clean toilets and do other menial jobs, according to media reports. Areeb Majeed, 23, left for Iraq with three friends in late May amid fears by authorities that IS militants were attempting to recruit from India's large pool of young Muslim men. The engineerin
 

Chinese farmer finds new life in an orange submarine

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Danjiangkou, China (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
In the village where he was born, a Chinese chicken breeder emerged from a lake of green to tell of his life beneath the waves in a homemade orange submarine. Tan Yong bolted together his two-tonne craft, christened the "Happy Lamb" after a popular cartoon character, in just nine months and has steered it down to depths of eight metres. The 44-year-old is one of the growing ranks of rura
 

Vietnam arrests anti-China blogger for posting 'bad content'

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Hanoi (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
Vietnamese police said they had arrested a blogger for posting "bad content" about the government, as part of a long-running crackdown on online dissent in the communist country. Hong Le Tho, 65, was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday for posting articles "with bad content and incorrect information that reduce trust in state agencies", the Ministry of Public Security said in a statemen
 

Afghan leaders look to start new chapter with Europe trip

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Kabul (AFP) Dec 01, 2014
Afghanistan's new leaders head to Europe on Monday to showcase their plans to foster peace and revive the economy, but a spate of Taliban attacks threatens to overshadow their optimistic message. President Ashraf Ghani and chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah will visit NATO headquarters in Brussels and attend a donor conference in London in a public show of unity after they signed a po
 

US Bans Technology Export for Russian Spektr-UV Telescope Project

 
‎01 ‎December ‎2014, ‏‎08:24:49 AMGo to full article
Moscow, Russia (Sputnik) Nov 28, 2014
The United States is trying to block the implementation of a major international project on the creation of a satellite observatory by banning the supply of certain technology to Russia, the Izvestia newspaper reported Thursday. "...this year, the United States introduced additional restrictions on the supply of high-tech products to Russia and this has affected our contract," Boris Shusto
 

Air Ops Lab Answering Big Questions About Future of Air Travel

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Hampton VA (SPX) Nov 26, 2014
The holiday season is upon us and you know what that can mean - crowded airports, delayed flights, and a tasty side dish of frayed nerves. It might be worth giving thanks, then, to a dedicated group of researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, who are working to change that. There, in one of the center's largest buildings, those researchers (sometimes with the hel
 

Russian warships in English Channel due to 'bad weather'

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) Nov 28, 2014
French authorities and NATO confirmed the presence of four Russian warships in the English Channel on Friday, but denied they were doing military exercises and said they were taking shelter due to bad weather. Officials quickly sought to ease fears over the presence of the flotilla after Russian media reported they were planning military exercises, with East-West tensions sky-high over Russi
 

Russia successfully test fires Bulava missile

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Nov 28, 2014
Russia's military on Friday successfully test-fired a Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile from one of its submarines in the Barents Sea, the defence ministry said. It marked the third successful test of the missile since a failed attempt a year ago. There have been 22 tests overall since 2005, with eight having failed. Friday's test was launched from Russia's Alexander Nevsky subma
 

Sony sees possible North Korea link to hack attack: report

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Nov 29, 2014
Sony Pictures Entertainment is looking into whether North Korea may have been behind a major cyberattack on the studio last week, a news website reported. The website re/code noted that the attack came as the studio neared release of a comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un. "The Interview," which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as two journalists recruited by th
 

More than 500 dead in Syria regime raids since Oct: monitor

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Nov 28, 2014
More than 500 people have been killed in 2,000 air strikes across Syria by regime forces over the past 40 days, a monitoring group said Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused President Bashar al-Assad's government of "war crimes", saying it ought to be "listed in the Guinness Book of World Records" for the large number of strikes since October 20. The Britain-based group
 

Jihadist suicide bombers hit Syria-Turkey border post

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Nov 29, 2014
Islamic State group jihadists launched a double attack Saturday on a Kurdish-controlled post on the Syrian-Turkish border for the first time, prompting fierce clashes in the adjacent town of Kobane. Kurdish officials and a Britain-based monitor said the two IS suicide attacks targeting the border post were launched from Turkish soil, claims that Turkish officials dismissed as "lies". The
 

Taiwan votes in key test for China-friendly government

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Taipei (AFP) Nov 29, 2014
Taiwan's Beijing-friendly ruling party was facing a rout Saturday as voters went to the polls for the island's biggest ever local elections, a key test ahead of the 2016 presidential race. Opinion polls suggest the Kuomintang (KMT) are heading for heavy losses as they struggle with growing fears over Chinese influence, a slowing economy and a string of food scandals. The local vote is se
 

Iraq army, tribal fighters battle jihadists in Ramadi

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 29, 2014
Iraqi forces battled Islamic State (IS) group fighters Saturday in Ramadi, where a fierce jihadist offensive threatens one of the last pockets in Anbar province still under government control. "Fierce fighting pitting security forces and tribal units against IS is taking place in the Al-Hoz, Muallimin and Bakr neighbourhoods," a police major told AFP. "The clashes have been going on for
 

From shoe banging to Ukraine, archives comb Khrushchev past

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Nov 29, 2014
Why did Moscow hand Crimea to Soviet Ukraine in 1954? Was the "red phone" hotline linking the Kremlin and Washington after the Cuban missile crisis an actual telephone? A new exhibition hopes to answer both questions, and more, by probing the past of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader who notoriously brandished a shoe at the United Nations - and sowed the seeds of today's standoff with th
 

Syria says US-led strikes haven't weakened IS group

 
‎29 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎07:20:19 PMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Nov 29, 2014
US-led strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria have failed to weaken the jihadist organisation, according to Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. Speaking on Friday night to two Middle Eastern television stations, Muallem also said "more time" was needed before a dialogue between the Syrian government and opposition could begin. "Is Daesh weaker today after two months of coal

 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

 

Iran supreme leader backs nuclear talks extension

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Nov 27, 2014 - Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei said Thursday he supported the decision to extend talks with world powers in search of a nuclear agreement, after a missed deadline for a deal.

"For the same reason I was not opposed to the negotiations, I am not opposed to their extension," said Khamenei, who has the final say on Iran's foreign and domestic policy matters.

Tehran and world powers announced Monday that talks on a comprehensive nuclear agreement had been inconclusive and would be extended until June 30 next year.

"We will accept a fair and rational agreement," but Iran will oppose "any excessive demand," Khamenei said in a speech to leaders of the bassiji Islamist militia, broadcast live on state television.

"We know that it is the American government who needs this deal, and they will be the losers if there isn't one," he added.

"The guiding principle of the Islamic system is to fight against arrogance and the arrogant government of the United States," Khamenei said, using Tehran's designation for Western powers.

"We don't have a problem with America but with the excessive and tyrannical demands" of its government, he said.

A year ago, Khamenei said he was not "optimistic" about the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany.

He has nevertheless thrown his weight behind the thorny talks and acknowledged that Iranian negotiators were facing a "difficult mission".

On Tuesday, in his first comment since Iran and world powers missed a Monday deadline for a deal, Khamenei said on Twitter that Iran would not sink "to its knees".

In Thursday's speech, he insisted again that failure to reach an agreement would not spell disaster for Iran.

"If the negotiations fail, it will not be the end of the world, because our economy is one of resistance," he said.

He also hailed Iran's negotiators led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who he said had "resisted harassment".

A final agreement is aimed at ensuring Tehran will never develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, and would lift international sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.

Iran denies that it is seeking the bomb and insists its nuclear activities are for solely peaceful purposes.

 

 

Republicans' next clash with Obama: Iran nuclear talks

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Nov 26, 2014 - The extension of international nuclear negotiations with Iran is likely to prompt a far-reaching showdown between the White House and US Republicans who seek to tighten economic screws against Tehran.

With hawkish lawmakers eager to pass new sanctions through Congress to prod the Islamic republic into a lasting deal that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, experts warned that attempts to impose economic penalties could rip apart the delicate negotiation process.

Iran and world powers agreed to extend terms of an interim deal -- which include limited sanctions relief -- for another seven months as they work toward a final accord, and President Barack Obama has largely been given a free hand by Congress to deal with Tehran over the past year.

With the deadline now postponed a second time, some lawmakers want to hold Iranian leaders' feet to the fire, insisting that since punitive sanctions brought Tehran to the negotiating table, passing new sanctions now will be the key to securing a lasting agreement.

Such a move could "undermine our entire position," George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told AFP about US negotiating efforts.

"I can guarantee you if Congress passes new unilateral sanctions, the Iranians aren't going to become more accommodating. It'll be quite the opposite."

Not only will Tehran show fury, it could erode international support for the economic embargo and "alienate Turkey, India, China and other countries that you need to uphold sanctions."

Perkovich said Iran's leadership firmly believes Washington wants nothing less than regime change in Tehran, and that congressional intervention in the negotiating process would show them that Congress "can't be relied upon to remove sanctions" in the future.

But Republicans, and some prominent Democrats, are keen to press ahead.

"We believe this latest extension of talks should be coupled with increased sanctions and a requirement that any final deal between Iran and the United States be sent to Congress for approval," Senate Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte said Monday in a statement.

Last year the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC opposed new sanctions, backing Obama's negotiation strategy. Now the group with sway on Capitol Hill says fresh economic punishment against Iran will "strengthen America's bargaining position."

"It is now essential that Congress take up new bipartisan sanctions legislation to let Tehran know that it will face much more severe pressure if it does not clearly abandon its nuclear weapons program," AIPAC said.

- 'Embarrassing' foreign policy conduct -

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman who with Republican Mark Kirk penned sanctions legislation that had backing from 60 senators but was shelved due to White House pressure, called the failure to secure a deal "disappointing and worrying."

He signaled he could push for re-introduction of his measure when Republicans take Senate control in January.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not said openly whether he would introduce Iran sanctions legislation, but in February he called the Menendez-Kirk measure "perfectly reasonable."

Obama would likely veto any sanctions during the negotiating period. And while Republicans in the new Congress may yet be able to siphon off enough Democrats to override a veto, "that's an embarrassing way to conduct foreign policy," Perkovich said.

The impact -- even if a veto stands -- could be severe, said John Bradshaw, who heads the National Security Network, a progressive think tank.

"It's not a situation that would inspire a lot of confidence in the Iranians that it's a long-term commitment by the United States, and that they should fulfil their end of a commitment in terms of inspections and suspending enrichment activities," Bradshaw told AFP.

"In the near term, the president has the advantage, but Congress can do a lot to undermine diplomacy."

Bradshaw warned of other "counter-productive" efforts being considered, including a bid to cut off funding for the State Department's work with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

 

 

Iran won't be brought to knees on nuclear issue: Khamenei

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Nov 25, 2014 - Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday that Iran would not sink "to its knees" over its disputed nuclear programme, his first comment since a missed deadline for a deal.

"In the # nuclear issue, arrogants have made their best to bring # Iran to its knees but they were not able and will not be able to do so," a tweet on his @khamenei_ir account said.

Iranian officials often refer to Western governments as arrogants.

Iran and world powers announced Monday that talks on a comprehensive nuclear agreement had been inconclusive and would be extended until June 30 next year.

As Iran's supreme guide, Khamenei has the final word on policy matters -- foreign and domestic -- and thus a decision on a nuclear deal with the five UN Security Council permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States -- plus Germany is his to make.

The merit of nuclear talks with the West -- aimed at ensuring Iran can never develop an atomic bomb -- is hotly contested in Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani relaunched the negotiations last year seeking to lift sanctions and bring about a revival in the country's ravaged economy.

However, hardliners in parliament and other powerful institutions, such as the military and judiciary, are sceptical of the talks, saying they have prompted too many concessions on the nuclear programme.

Iran denies seeking the bomb and insists its nuclear activities are for solely peaceful purposes, but its assurances have not yet convinced the West.

 

 

What hope for Iran nuclear deal?

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Nov 25, 2014 - Iran and world powers have given themselves seven more months to reach a nuclear deal, but a heightened risk of hardliners wrecking the process means they may have missed their best chance ever, analysts say.

It also remains far from certain that putting yet more time on the clock will help, when after 10 rounds of talks the two sides still remain poles apart on the fundamental issues.

US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted as much on Monday after he and foreign ministers from Iran and the other powers decided to extend their deadline for a deal to July 1, after intense days of talks in Vienna.

"These talks aren't going to suddenly get easier just because we extend them," Kerry told reporters. "They are tough. They have been tough and they are going to stay tough."

Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed that some progress has been made, with Zarif even suggesting that a deal was possible "much faster" than in seven months. They aim to have the outlines by March.

But it is clear that when it comes to the two main sticking points -- the future scale of Iran's nuclear programme and the pace of sanctions relief for Iran -- they remain perhaps as far away as ever.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany want Iran to dismantle large parts of its activities in order to make it impossible for Tehran to make nuclear weapons -- an ambition it denies.

But the Islamic republic wants to expand its activities, most notably its capacity to enrich uranium -- a process which makes reactor fuel but also, potentially, the core of a nuclear bomb.

"I promise the Iranian nation that those (enrichment) centrifuges will never stop working," President Hassan Rouhani vowed Monday, calling UN and Western sanctions "tyrannical".

"Extending is not going to make it easier," former US State Department official Mark Fitzpatrick, now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, told AFP.

"The problem is that there are fundamental differences. Iran is not willing to accept what would be required (for a deal)," he said.

- 'Fools to walk away' -

So why have the army of officials, experts and diplomats, shattered after 10 rounds of talks -- chief US negotiator Wendy Sherman has made clear she is tiring of Viennese speciality Wiener Schnitzel -- bothered putting more time on the clock?

The reason is quite simple. The alternative -- a collapse of the talks and a return to the explosive situation before last November's interim deal -- is far worse. Kerry said the parties would be "fools to walk away".

Before the November 2013 accord kicked in, Iran was enriching uranium to close to weapons-grade, the West was applying more and more sanctions and the danger of Israeli and US military action was growing.

Now, key parts of Iran's programme are frozen, meaning that, unlike before, the country is no longer creeping ever closer to potentially creating a bomb. In return, it receives around $700 million every month as overseas assets are freed up. This will continue until July.

"If either side decides to walk away, the consequences will be catastrophic," Kelsey Davenport, analyst at the Arms Control Association, told AFP.

"As long as Iran's programme remains capped and the sanctions remain capped then both parties are better off," agreed Fitzpatrick.

"Seven months is longer than anyone expected, but the longer the better."

- Obama under pressure -

But the extension carries the risk that critics in both Iran and the United States might lose patience.

Israel -- the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state -- and Gulf states are also sceptical.

Meanwhile, hardliners are waiting in the wings to undermine Rouhani, who has little to show in terms of boosting the Iranian economy from his strategy of sealing a rapprochement with the West.

But the bigger danger is for his US counterpart Barack Obama, with opposition Republicans in control of both houses of Congress from January.

No sooner had the extension been announced Monday that several Republicans advocated more sanctions.

"Now, more than ever, it's critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran's mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program," said Senator Mark Kirk.

But more sanctions -- Obama's veto could be overridden if enough rebel Democrats support new sanctions -- would be a breach of last November's interim deal and could prompt the Iranians to walk away.

"We should give the negotiators as much time as they need to finish their work," said Ali Vaez from the International Crisis Group.

"Enormous progress has been made. This is now too big to fail."

US Congress skeptical of Iran nuclear talks extension
Washington (AFP) Nov 24, 2014 - US House and Senate members reacted coolly Monday to an extension of international negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, with skeptical lawmakers demanding Congress "tighten the economic vice on Tehran" through new sanctions.

No sooner had the extension been announced in Vienna and US Secretary of State John Kerry implored US lawmakers not to "walk away" from the negotiations by slapping punitive sanctions on Iran, that several lawmakers advocated just that, setting up a potential White House clash with Congress.

"Now more than ever, it's critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran's mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program," Republican Senator Mark Kirk, who supports new sanctions, said in a statement.

"Congress will not give Iran more time to build a nuclear bomb."

Kirk has drawn up tough legislation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez, a Democrat, that would see sanctions kick in should Iran violate terms of the temporary agreement or future deal.

But the Senate leadership has refused to bring it to the floor, allowing a chance for President Barack Obama's administration to pursue its negotiations.

Menendez suggested legislative action was vital to a breakthrough.

"I intend to work with my Senate colleagues in a bipartisan manner in the coming weeks to ensure that Iran comprehends that we will not ever permit it to become a threshold nuclear state," he said.

- New sanctions 'counterproductive' -

But Senator Tim Johnson, chairman of the Banking Committee through which sanctions legislation often passes before getting a full vote, warned that imposing new sanctions "now would be grossly counterproductive."

Hawkish Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte said they supported additional sanctions as negotiations continue, and demanded "any final deal between Iran and the United States be sent to Congress for approval."

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said Obama should support new sanctions as a way to increase leverage on Iran.

"This seven-month extension should be used to tighten the economic vice on Tehran -- already suffering from falling energy prices -- to force the concessions that Iran has been resisting," Royce said in a statement.

Royce was backed by panel Democrat Brad Sherman, who said new sanctions are the "best hope for a good agreement."

House Speaker John Boehner was more vague in urging pressure on Tehran.

"Instead of giving Iran more flexibility, we should be holding this regime accountable for the threat it poses to the region," Boehner said.

Senator Bob Corker, tipped to replace Menendez as the powerful Foreign Relations chairman when Republicans take full control of Congress in January, supported a threat of new sanctions should the Iran deal ultimately fall apart.

"Congress must have the opportunity to weigh in before implementation of any final agreement and begin preparing alternatives, including tougher sanctions, should negotiations fail," Corker.

The State Department acknowledged the role of sanctions in bringing Tehran to the negotiations.

"On the other hand, sanctions are not alone going to get us the comprehensive deal," State Department spokesman Jeffrey Rathke told reporters.

 

 

Iran's Rouhani squeezed over nuclear talks extension

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Nov 25, 2014 - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani faced thinly veiled pressure Tuesday over a missed nuclear deal deadline and an unexpected seven-month extension of talks, with hardliners denouncing the diplomatic deadlock.

The failure to clinch a final agreement with world powers dominated newspaper front pages, with many editorials viewing further dialogue as pointless because the talks have not yet yielded results.

The extension was debated in parliament where the judgment of Rouhani, who told the nation late Monday a deal would still be done despite the setback, was also scrutinised.

Lawmakers have consistently said the president and his negotiators have already made too many concessions over Iran's disputed nuclear programme, a sentiment aired again in a tense parliamentary session.

Hamid Rasaie, a diehard conservative MP, said that while a final agreement would be a victory for Iran, Rouhani must resist pressure for a deal whose costs are too high.

"No critic who is caring and supportive of the Islamic republic would be happy about your defeat," he said of the possibility of no deal next year.

"Our criticism relates to your optimism towards the West," he added.

Rouhani has become a lightning rod for opponents who routinely doubt the merit of the nuclear talks, but the decision on any final agreement rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He officially supports Rouhani's policy, but has said several times the talks have achieved nothing, often blaming the United States and echoing the views of hardliners.

- Khamenei defiant -

On Tuesday, Khamenei said Iran would not sink "to its knees" on the nuclear issue, despite the efforts of "arrogants" -- purportedly Western governments -- to make it do so.

Iran's arch-enemy Israel and many in the international community suspect Tehran of using its civilian nuclear programme as a cover for developing a nuclear bomb, a charge it strongly denies.

Khamenei's comments, his first since the missed deadline, came in a speech he made in Tehran.

Rouhani on Monday sought to rally support for the talks, saying a deal was within reach and sanctions would be lifted "step by step" though he would never give up the nuclear programme.

"During all this time centrifuges were spinning," he said referring to the talks and the technical process of enriching uranium, a hotly contested issue as at high purities it can produce fissile material for an atom bomb.

"I promise the Iranian nation that those centrifuges will never stop working," Rouhani said on state television.

Those remarks were challenged by Rasaie who also criticised Rouhani for labelling his critics "illiterate" and "radical".

"Right now, neither the centrifuges spin, nor the factories work," the MP said. "We expected Mr Rouhani to apologise but unfortunately this didn't happen."

Conservative media also attacked the extension.

"Nothing" said the front page of hardline broadsheet Vatan-e-Emrooz, labelling the extra time a ruse to "cover up that negotiations in fact failed because of America's excessive demands".

- Media split -

However, Shargh, a leading reformist daily, said dialogue with the West, notably the United States, signalled "major change" for Iran and a "victory of realism, rationality and pragmatism".

Saeed Leylaz, one of Iran's top economists, said the $700 million per month Iran will receive in sanctions relief was a good result, equivalent to a daily increase of 300,000 barrels of oil.

"Increasing exports by that amount -- about 30 percent on present levels -- would be very difficult under any other circumstances," he said.

On Rouhani, he said: "He will continue to face pressure but he is the only one who can reach the nuclear agreement that most people want."

A Western diplomat in Tehran said Rouhani had bought himself time with the extension: "It is neither a defeat or a victory," he added.

In a positive economic indicator, meanwhile, the Iranian rial did not fall Tuesday, despite fears that no final deal would hurt the currency.

When international sanctions on Iran were announced in December 2011 the rial fell precipitously.

In central Tehran, the extension was welcomed.

"These negotiations are not a simple task that can reach a result quickly," said Hashemi, who gave only his surname.

"The beginning is positive. Hopefully, next time they can reach an agreement."

US Congress skeptical of Iran nuclear talks extension
Washington (AFP) Nov 24, 2014 - US House and Senate members reacted coolly Monday to an extension of international negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, with skeptical lawmakers demanding Congress "tighten the economic vice on Tehran" through new sanctions.

No sooner had the extension been announced in Vienna and US Secretary of State John Kerry implored US lawmakers not to "walk away" from the negotiations by slapping punitive sanctions on Iran, that several lawmakers advocated just that, setting up a potential White House clash with Congress.

"Now more than ever, it's critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran's mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program," Republican Senator Mark Kirk, who supports new sanctions, said in a statement.

"Congress will not give Iran more time to build a nuclear bomb."

Kirk has drawn up tough legislation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez, a Democrat, that would see sanctions kick in should Iran violate terms of the temporary agreement or future deal.

But the Senate leadership has refused to bring it to the floor, allowing a chance for President Barack Obama's administration to pursue its negotiations.

Menendez suggested legislative action was vital to a breakthrough.

"I intend to work with my Senate colleagues in a bipartisan manner in the coming weeks to ensure that Iran comprehends that we will not ever permit it to become a threshold nuclear state," he said.

- New sanctions 'counterproductive' -

But Senator Tim Johnson, chairman of the Banking Committee through which sanctions legislation often passes before getting a full vote, warned that imposing new sanctions "now would be grossly counterproductive."

Hawkish Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte said they supported additional sanctions as negotiations continue, and demanded "any final deal between Iran and the United States be sent to Congress for approval."

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said Obama should support new sanctions as a way to increase leverage on Iran.

"This seven-month extension should be used to tighten the economic vice on Tehran -- already suffering from falling energy prices -- to force the concessions that Iran has been resisting," Royce said in a statement.

Royce was backed by panel Democrat Brad Sherman, who said new sanctions are the "best hope for a good agreement."

House Speaker John Boehner was more vague in urging pressure on Tehran.

"Instead of giving Iran more flexibility, we should be holding this regime accountable for the threat it poses to the region," Boehner said.

Senator Bob Corker, tipped to replace Menendez as the powerful Foreign Relations chairman when Republicans take full control of Congress in January, supported a threat of new sanctions should the Iran deal ultimately fall apart.

"Congress must have the opportunity to weigh in before implementation of any final agreement and begin preparing alternatives, including tougher sanctions, should negotiations fail," Corker.

The State Department acknowledged the role of sanctions in bringing Tehran to the negotiations.

"On the other hand, sanctions are not alone going to get us the comprehensive deal," State Department spokesman Jeffrey Rathke told reporters.

 

 

Iran president says nuclear deal will be done

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Nov 24, 2014 - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Monday that a nuclear deal with world powers would be done despite a missed deadline in Vienna that prompted a seven-month extension in talks.

He also pledged that Iran would not give up its nuclear programme and insisted that seeking an accord with the West had not damaged its progress.

"This path of negotiation will reach a final agreement," Rouhani said on state television.

"Most of the gaps have been removed," he added, referring to major differences that have so far prevented an interim deal being turned into a comprehensive settlement.

A final agreement is aimed at ensuring Iran will never develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities. The Islamic republic denies such intent.

Rouhani urged Iranians to keep faith in the talks despite the failure so far to strike a deal and solve key issues including lifting sanctions and ensuring Iran's future ability to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

But he appeared to adopt a softer line on sanctions.

"There is no doubt that sanctions will be lifted. The question is timing," he said.

"We consider the sanctions to be tyrannical and have to lift them step by step," remarks a step back from demands made by top parliamentary officials that they all be removed at once.

"We will never give up our rights," Rouhani said, referring to the enrichment process.

"During all this time centrifuges were spinning. I promise the Iranian nation that those centrifuges will never stop working."

Rouhani's comments came after US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters "real and substantial progress" had been made during almost a week of negotiations in Vienna.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany will now seek to strike an outline deal by March 1 and to nail down a full technical accord by July 1, officials said.

Despite missing Monday's deadline, the parties are working on the basis of an agreement struck a year ago that curbs some of Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

The talks will resume next month. In view of the difficulties, many experts long believed the negotiators would put more time on the clock.

Iran will keep receiving around $700 million (560 million euros) in frozen funds per month, or $4.9 billion by July, adding to some $7 billion received since January when the interim deal was implemented.

A final agreement could see sanctions that ravaged Iran's economy removed, silence talk of war and deliver a groundbreaking political achievement for Rouhani and a foreign policy success for his US counterpart Barack Obama.

Israel's Netanyahu hails failure to reach Iran deal
Jerusalem (AFP) Nov 24, 2014 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed reports Monday that world powers had failed to strike a deal with the Jewish state's arch-foe Iran on its controversial nuclear programme.

Speaking before Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany decided to give themselves seven more months to reach an agreement, Netanyahu said such a result would be "better".

The world powers and the Islamic republic will now seek to agree an outline accord by March 1 and to nail down a full technical agreement by July 1, officials in Vienna said.

"This result is better. A lot better," Netanyahu told the BBC after hearing the initial reports that Monday's deadline for an accord would not be met.

"The deal that Iran was pushing for was terrible. The deal would have left Iran with the ability to enrich uranium for an atom bomb while removing the sanctions," he said.

The West wants uranium enrichment in Iran dramatically reduced, while Tehran wants painful UN and Western economic sanctions lifted.

Israel has long opposed negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1, and has threatened military action to stop Iran gaining a nuclear weapons capability.

"Israel always, always, reserves the right to defend itself," Netanyahu said.

Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China plus Germany have been negotiating since February to turn an interim accord reached a year ago into a lasting agreement.

Such a deal, after a decade of rising tensions, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop atomic weapons under the guise of its civilian nuclear activities -- an ambition Iran has always denied.

 

 

Signs N.Korea preparing bomb material amid nuclear test threats

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Nov 20, 2014 - New satellite imagery suggests North Korea may be firing up a facility for processing weapons-grade plutonium, as Pyongyang threatened a fresh nuclear test in response to UN condemnation of its rights record.

The images show steam rising from a re-processing plant at the North's main Yongbyon nuclear complex -- a sign consistent with maintenance and testing prior to beginning operations, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its closely followed 38 North website.

The facility is used to reprocess spent fuel from the five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon that is North Korea's main source of weapons grade plutonium.

The latest satellite pictures indicate the reactor has been shut down for 10 weeks -- longer than required for routine maintenance.

While warning it was still early to reach a definitive conclusion, the institute said evidence suggested the shutdown may have allowed the removal of "a limited number" of fuel rods for possible re-processing.

The images also showed truck activity near the vehicle door to the building that receives the spent fuel at the reprocessing complex, it said.

- Nuclear test threat -

The new analysis coincided with fresh threats from Pyongyang to carry out a new underground nuclear test following the UN adoption of a landmark resolution that condemns North Korean rights abuses.

Passed by 111 votes to 19, with 55 abstentions, the resolution also asked the UN Security Council to refer the North Korean leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible charges of crimes against humanity.

The resolution was slammed as "counter-productive" Thursday by Russia, which also shrugged off reports that Pyongyang may be firing up a facility to process weapons-grade plutonium.

"First of all, it is best to put forward such statements when they are based on facts -- not through the media," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters after talks with a special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

"In my opinion, it is counter-productive to try to make some loud statements through confrontational resolutions at the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council," Lavrov said.

In a statement carried Thursday by North Korea's official KCNA news agency, a foreign ministry spokesman rejected the resolution as a "fraud" and accused the United States of leading efforts to humiliate Pyongyang in front of the international community.

"This aggression by the US is leaving us unable to further refrain from staging a new nuclear test," the spokesman said.

"Our military deterrence will be beefed up limitlessly to guard against US military intervention and attempts for armed invasion," he added.

South Korea said its military was on stand-by and a defence ministry spokesman warned that Seoul would "not tolerate any provocation".

He added that South Korean and US agencies were both keeping a close watch on Pyongyang's nuclear facilities.

The United States said Thursday that the renewed threat of a nuclear test in the isolated state was of "great concern".

"The fact that the DPRK (North Korea) would respond to the legitimate international interest in the human rights situation there by threatening to resume nuclear testing is something that is a cause of great concern," Jeff Rathke, a State Department spokesman, told reporters on Thursday.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, most recently in February 2013.

Co-sponsored by more than 60 countries, the UN resolution drew heavily on the work of a UN inquiry which concluded in a 400-page report released in February that North Korea was committing human rights abuses "without parallel in the contemporary world."

- Rights abuses in spotlight -

Rights violations by North Korea have been known about for years, but the inquiry's exhaustive report carried the UN stamp of authority and put Pyongyang under unprecedented pressure.

It is especially sensitive to the prospect of leader Kim Jong-Un being personally indicted at the ICC, even if he would never willingly appear before the court.

Referral to the ICC would likely be blocked at the UN Security Council by veto-wielding permanent members China and Russia -- both of whom voted against the resolution on Tuesday.

As far as the prospects of another nuclear test are concerned, North Korea has been known to "double-down" in response to UN pressure before.

Its last test in 2013 was partly a response to a UN tightening of sanctions following a successful space rocket launch a few months before.

Pyongyang had mothballed the five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon in 2007 under an aid-for-disarmament accord, but began renovating it in mid-2013.

When operational, the reactor is capable of producing six kilos (13 pounds) of plutonium a year -- enough for one nuclear bomb, experts say.

burs/jg/erf

 

 

France at the UN warns N. Korea over nuclear threat

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Nov 24, 2014 - France warned North Korea on Monday that it would likely face more UN sanctions if it follows through on threats to carry out a nuclear test.

North Korea has reacted angrily to a UN resolution condemning its human rights record and calling on the Security Council to refer Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Pyongyang has said it felt no need to refrain from carrying out a nuclear test and North Korea's top military body warned Sunday of "catastrophic consequences" for supporters of the resolution.

At a UN Security Council debate on non-proliferation, French political counselor Philippe Bertoux recalled that North Korea's recent threats were a cause of concern.

"I would like to underscore that Pyongyang would, in the event of new provocations, expose itself to additional sanctions from the Security Council," said Bertoux.

The Security Council imposed sweeping sanctions on North Korea in 2013 after Pyongyang conducted a third nuclear test since 2006.

Those sanctions imposed restrictions on financial transactions and shipping, and targeted the North Korean elite with a tough ban on exports of luxury goods to the reclusive country.

Last week, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its 38 North website that new satellite imagery suggested Pyongyang may be firing up a facility for processing weapons-grade plutonium.

 

 

Iran nuclear deal deadline extended to July 1

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Nov 24, 2014 - Iran and world powers missed a Monday deadline to clinch a landmark nuclear deal and defuse a 12-year standoff but gave themselves seven more months to reach agreement.

The failure followed an intensive five-day diplomatic push in the Austrian capital Vienna involving the foreign ministers of Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Vienna, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking in Tehran, said real progress had been made in the talks and raised hopes a deal could eventually be sealed.

"This path of negotiation will reach a final agreement," Rouhani said on state television. "Most of the gaps have been removed."

In their second extension this year, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5+1, will seek to strike an outline deal by March and to nail down a full technical accord by July 1, officials said.

"These talks aren't going to suddenly get easier just because we extend them," Kerry said as he and other officials conceded a midnight Monday deadline would be missed.

"They are tough. They have been tough and they are going to stay tough," he told hundreds of journalists crowded into a tent outside the 19th century palace where the talks were held.

"But in these last days in Vienna we have made real and substantial progress and we have seen new ideas surface. And that is why we are jointly, the P5+1 six nations and Iran, extending these talks for seven months."

In the best chance to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme, the P5+1 world powers have been for months seeking to turn an interim deal into a lasting accord.

Such an agreement is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, an ambition Iran denies.

It could see painful sanctions on Iran lifted, silence talk of war and usher in a new era of cooperation between Washington and Tehran, which have called each other the "axis of evil" and the "Great Satan."

A deal could begin a process in which the "relationship between Iran and the world, and the region, begins to change," US President Barack Obama said in an ABC News television interview Sunday.

But a last-ditch diplomatic blitz in Vienna in recent days involving Kerry and the other foreign ministers failed to bridge the remaining gaps.

This included eight meetings since Tuesday between Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and numerous other gatherings in the Austrian capital.

"Despite good conditions, despite a very constructive negotiating atmosphere, we didn't get as far as we would have wished," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

- Gaps on crucial points -

Diplomats say that, despite some progress, both sides remain far apart on two crucial points: uranium enrichment and sanctions relief.

Enriching uranium renders it suitable for peaceful purposes like nuclear power. But at high purities it is also used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

Tehran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges -- in order, it says, to make fuel for a fleet of power reactors that it is yet to build.

The West wants the enrichment dramatically reduced, a move which together with more stringent UN inspections and an export of Iran's uranium stocks, would make any attempt to make the bomb all but impossible.

Iran wants painful UN and Western sanctions that have strangled its vital oil exports lifted, but the powers want to stagger any relief over a long period to ensure Tehran complies with any deal.

- More time on the clock -

Many experts long believed that the negotiators would have to put more time on the clock.

The conditions set by last November's interim deal will remain in place until July, including a continued freeze by Iran of contentious parts of its nuclear activities.

In return, Iran will keep receiving around $700 million (560 million euros) in frozen funds per month, Hammond said, or $4.9 billion by July, adding to some $7 billion received since January.

Another extension -- as happened to an earlier deadline of July 20 -- however carries risks of its own, including possible fresh US sanctions that could lead Iran to walk away.

"New sanctions legislation against Iran, which has been proposed by more than several members of Congress, would undermine the chance to reach a comprehensive deal that guards against a nuclear-armed Iran," Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport told AFP.

"The imposition of new sanctions measures will most certainly provoke Iran to take escalatory measures that could lead to a larger crisis in the Middle East."

Kerry appealed on Monday on US lawmakers -- with Republicans in control of both houses from January -- not to pass fresh sanctions on Iran.

"This is certainly not the time to get up and walk away... We look for your support (in Congress) for this extension," Kerry said.

"We would be fools to walk away from a situation where the breakout time (to make a nuclear weapon) has already been expanded... and where the world is safer."

Iran nuclear talks: more than a decade of crisis
Vienna (AFP) Nov 24, 2014 - After talks between Iran and world powers on its nuclear programme missed yet another deadline Monday, here is a summary of the main developments in the crisis since 2002.

2003

- August: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reveals that traces of enriched uranium have been identified in Natanz, central Iran, after an Iranian exiled opposition group in 2002 revealed the existence of a nuclear installation.

- October: Following an unprecedented visit by foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany, Iran suspends uranium enrichment activities but later vows it will never renounce its nuclear programme.

2005

- August 8: After the election of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Tehran resumes uranium enrichment in Isfahan, central Iran.

2006

- January: The UN Security Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- agree to have the IAEA present the issue to the full Council.

- June 6: The permanent members plus Germany, dubbed P5+1, propose a framework for talks but Iran later rejects the offer.

- December 23: The UN imposes the first of several rounds of sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology.

2007

- November 7: Iran says it has at least 3,000 centrifuges for enrichment, which in theory would allow it to produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb in less than a year.

2009

April 8: Following the November election of US President Barack Obama, world powers offer to resume negotiations with Tehran, which later declares major advances in its nuclear drive as Ahmadinejad opens a uranium enrichment site in Isfahan.

- September 25: Western nations reveal the existence of a previously undeclared enrichment site inside a mountain in Fordo.

- October 1: Negotiations resume, with an agreement in principle for Iranian uranium to be enriched abroad, but a final deal is not reached.

2010

- February 9: Iran says it has begun to enrich uranium to 20 percent at Natanz, close to the level required for a nuclear weapon.

2011

- November 8: The IAEA points to a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear activities.

2012

- January 23: After talks break down again, the EU slaps an embargo on Iranian oil exports.

2013

- August 6: Newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani says Tehran is ready for "serious" negotiations.

- September 27: Rouhani reveals he and Obama have spoken by telephone in the highest-level contact between the two countries since 1979.

- October 14: Negotiations resume

- November 24: Iran agrees to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief in a preliminary deal which comes into force on January 20.

2014

- February 18: Negotiations start on a permanent accord.

- July 18: Iran and world powers agree to extend the deadline for a permanent deal to November 24.

- November 5: Obama says the US has put forward a "framework" plan to meet Iran's energy needs. Two days later the IAEA says Iran is still failing to provide answers in its probe into possible military dimensions.

- November 11: Russia signs a deal with Iran to build two new nuclear reactors and agrees to expand the total to nine.

- November 18: Iran and the six world powers begin a final round of talks.

- November 24: Iran and world powers fail in a push to seal a landmark nuclear deal, giving themselves until March 1 to agree an outline accord and until July 1 -- or seven more months -- to reach a full technical accord.

 

 

World powers discuss extending Iran deal deadline

 
‎28 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:35 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Nov 23, 2014 - World powers and Iran began discussing late Sunday whether more time is needed to reach a nuclear deal, a US official said, as they struggled to overcome major gaps barely 24 hours before a deadline.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1) have been locked in talks with Iran for months to turn an interim deal struck in Geneva that expires on Monday into a lasting accord.

Such an agreement, after a 12-year standoff, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, an ambition it hotly denies.

But a last-ditch diplomatic blitz in Vienna this week to secure a deal appeared to be unable to bridge major differences, forcing negotiators to question whether more time is a better option.

"Our focus remains on taking steps forward toward an agreement, but it is only natural that just over 24 hours from the deadline we are discussing a range of options both internally and with our P5+1 partners," a senior US State Department official said.

"An extension is one of those options. It should come as no surprise that we are also engaged in a discussion of the options with the Iranians," added the official.

"This does not mean that we are not continuing to discuss the broad range of difficult issues and working to make progress on all the issues that need to be part of a comprehensive agreement."

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday for the sixth time since Thursday in an attempt to break the deadlock. Neither commented publicly afterwards.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a key player who arrived Sunday afternoon, also met both Zarif and Kerry separately as well as German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Britain and France's ministers had also arrived in Vienna while their Chinese counterpart was due early Monday.

"What a deal would do is take a big piece of business off the table and perhaps begin a long process in which the relationship not just between Iran and us but the relationship between Iran and the world, and the region, begins to change," US President Barack Obama in an ABC News interview aired Sunday.

- Gaps -

Diplomats on both sides say that the two sides remain far apart on the two crucial points of contention: uranium enrichment and sanctions relief.

Enriching uranium renders it suitable for peaceful purposes like nuclear power but also at high purities for the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

Tehran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges -- in order, it says, to make fuel for future reactors -- while the West wants them dramatically reduced.

Iran wants painful UN and Western sanctions that have strangled its vital oil exports lifted, but the powers want to stagger any relief over a long period of time to ensure Iranian compliance with any deal.

- Extension -

In view of the difficulties -- and of the dangers posed by a complete collapse -- many experts have long believed that the negotiators would put more time on the clock.

An Iranian source told AFP earlier Sunday, while stressing at that point that adding time was not yet on the table, that the extension "could be for a period of six months or a year."

Another extension -- as happened with an earlier deadline of July 20 -- carries risks of its own including possible fresh US sanctions that could lead Iran to walk away.

Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport told AFP that an extension of six months to a year "would not fly" with the other parties.

Any extension "will have to be very short because there are too many hardliners, particularly in Washington and Tehran, that want to sabotage this deal," she told AFP.

With nuclear deal in balance, hardliners protest in Tehran
Tehran (AFP) Nov 23, 2014 - The tensions over a possible nuclear deal involving Iran were laid bare Sunday outside an atomic facility in Tehran where a rare protest drew hardliners critical of the government's negotiators.

While the crowd was small -- about 200, mostly students, gathered at the entrance to the Tehran Research Reactor -- the event was the first such officially approved demonstration in months.

It coincided with the penultimate day of talks in Vienna between Iran and the United States and other world powers aimed at a permanent deal that seeks to block all routes to Tehran developing a bomb.

As a sign of defiance on Iran's nuclear activities, several protesters wore white lab coats in memory of four Iranian atomic scientists that Tehran says were assassinated by Israel and the United States.

"We protest the process of negotiations and the suspension of sanctions. Sanctions should be lifted altogether," said Hamed Tamanaie, one of the protesters.

"Nuclear energy is our absolute right," and "Sanctions won't stop us," read placards held by the protesters.

The crowd chanted "Death to America" while a speaker rounded on the conduct of the year-long negotiations which entered their final 36 hours with a deal hanging in the balance.

President Hassan Rouhani and Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister who is leading the Iranian side in the Austrian capital, "do not know how to do diplomacy", the speaker said.

One woman held a banner that said: "The centrifuges are not working, nor is the economy," alluding to Rouhani's pledge to restart talks to help Iran's sanctions-hit economy recover.

The protest highlighted the feelings of some Iranians that the government has already made too many concessions on its nuclear programme during the discussions of the past year.

- 'Impossible' deal -

However, an Iranian source in Vienna signalled openness to extending the talks by six months or even another year.

Such an extension would be under terms of an interim deal reached in Geneva last November that traded a temporary freeze on some of Iran's nuclear activities for limited sanctions relief, the source said.

The so-called P5+1 -- permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- have been locked in talks with Iran since February to turn the interim Geneva accord into a lasting agreement.

Such a deal is aimed at easing fears that Tehran could develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities.

The Islamic republic denies it wants to build an atomic bomb and insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

Sunday's newspaper editorials in Tehran showed stark divisions on the merit of the talks.

"Our country's nuclear challenge with the P5+1 will never achieve results," said Kayhan, a hardline conservative daily whose editor-in-chief is directly appointed by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Reaching an agreement which would bring to an end this 12-year challenge is not only far-fetched, but impossible," it added.

However, Shargh, a reformist paper that has supported Rouhani and Zarif, said there was "no going back to how it was", a reference to the tense situation on the nuclear issue under Iran's last government led by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Even if no agreement is signed on Monday, this wouldn't mean that there has been no result or that the negotiations have reached an impasse," it said.

 
 

Iran, US go face-to-face in crunch nuclear talks

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Nov 19, 2014 - Iran and the US held one-on-one talks Wednesday as a deadline loomed to reach a mammoth nuclear deal, seeking common ground on the two crucial remaining issues: uranium enrichment and sanctions relief.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers from the six powers meanwhile decided to hold off for at least another 24 hours joining the final round of negotiations before Monday's cut-off point.

Kerry remained in London before talks in Paris Thursday with the foreign ministers of France -- widely seen as one of the six powers with the toughest stance on Iran -- and of Saudi Arabia, itself no friend of Iran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country is a crucial player in the talks, will only attend if there is sufficient progress, Moscow's lead negotiator Sergei Ryabkov told Russian media.

"Right now a lot depends on Kerry's visit. Reaching a deal depends on the willingness and ability of the United States to lift sanctions" on Iran, RIA Novosti quoted a Russian source as saying.

Upping the ante, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has been in Vienna since Tuesday, said a deal was "possible" but only if the six powers did not ask for too much.

That view was echoed Wednesday by President Hassan Rouhani.

"If the other side shows the political will to reach an accord and doesn't make excessive demands, a deal could be done," he said on his website.

But Kerry, who held the latest in a string of meetings with Zarif in Oman last week, put the onus on Iran.

"It is imperative that Iran works with us with all possible effort to prove to the world that the programme is peaceful," Kerry said in London on Tuesday.

- Drums of war -

The landmark accord being sought by Monday's deadline, after months of negotiations, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities -- an ambition it denies.

It could resolve a 12-year standoff, silence talk of war, help normalise Iran's relations with the West and mark a rare foreign success for US President Barack Obama.

"A deal is in everybody's interest because it could improve the troubled global economy by making use of Iran's major economic capacities," Rouhani said in his statement.

In order to make it virtually impossible for Iran to assemble a nuclear weapon, the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany (the P5+1) want Iran to scale down its nuclear programme.

Some areas appear provisionally settled, such as the future of the Arak nuclear reactor and tighter UN inspections to better detect any attempt to build a bomb.

But two key issues remain to be resolved: uranium enrichment -- rendering uranium suitable for peaceful uses but also, at high purities, for a weapon -- and the pace at which sanctions on Iran would be lifted under a deal.

Iran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges -- in order, it says, to make fuel for a fleet of future reactors -- while the West wants them dramatically reduced, reportedly by half.

The six powers say Iran has no such need in the foreseeable future. Russia is contracted until 2021 to fuel Iran's only power reactor at Bushehr and last week signed a deal to build -- and fuel -- several others.

In exchange for any reduction in its activities, Iran wants sanctions lifted. Bur the powers want to stagger any suspension to be sure that Iran won't renege on its commitments.

"They want everything all at once and this is not realistic," one Western diplomat involved in the talks said, calling Tehran's demands "unrealistic".

- Another extension? -

Given the differences, many analysts expect more time to be put on the clock, perhaps by agreeing certain areas and leaving others for further discussion.

The alternative -- walking away -- would be "catastrophic" and "foolish", Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport told AFP.

For now though, with another extension presenting risks of its own -- fresh US sanctions, not least -- officials insist that they remain focused on getting the job done in time.

 

 

Iran nuclear talks get down to nitty-gritty

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Nov 19, 2014 - Iran and six world powers get down to business in Vienna Wednesday, groping for the elusive magic formula to secure a milestone nuclear deal that satisfies hardliners in Tehran and Washington.

The clock will be ticking though on the second day of a final round of talks, with the deadline for Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on Monday.

"This is a very critical week obviously in Iran negotiations," US Secretary of State John Kerry, expected in the Austrian capital later in the week, said in London on Tuesday.

"We hope we get there but we can't make any predictions."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, arriving in Vienna on Tuesday, said that a deal was "possible" and that if the talks fail it will be because the six powers wanted too much.

"If, because of excessive demands... we don't get a result, then the world will understand that the Islamic Republic sought a solution, a compromise and a constructive agreement and that it will not renounce its rights and the greatness of the nation," Zarif told Iranian media.

Kerry though, who held the latest in a string of meetings with Zarif in Oman last week, put the onus on Iran.

"It is imperative that Iran works with us with all possible effort to prove to the world that the programme is peaceful," Kerry said.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond echoed his comments, calling for more "flexibility by the Iranians to convince us that their intentions in their nuclear programme are entirely peaceful".

- Drums of war -

The landmark accord being sought by Monday's deadline, after months of negotiations, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities.

It could resolve a 12-year standoff, silence talk of war, help normalise Iran's relations with the West, boost the beleaguered Iranian economy and mark a rare foreign success for US President Barack Obama.

In order to make it virtually impossible for Iran to assemble a nuclear weapon, the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany (the P5+1) want Iran to scale down its nuclear programme.

Iran, which insists its nuclear aims are exclusively peaceful despite failing to declare parts of its programme in the past, wants painful sanctions lifted.

Some areas appear provisionally settled. But the big problem remains enrichment, rendering uranium suitable for power generation and other peaceful uses -- but also, at high purities, for a weapon.

Iran wants to ramp up massively the number of enrichment centrifuges in order, it says, to make fuel for a fleet of future reactors.

The West wants the number slashed, saying Iran has no such need in the foreseeable future.

Other thorny issues are the duration of the accord and the pace at which sanctions are lifted, an area where Iranian expectations are "excessive", one Western diplomat said.

- Another extension? -

Given the differences, many analysts expect more time to be put on the clock.

The alternative -- walking away -- would be "catastrophic," Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport said.

"Given the political capital that both sides have invested... it would be foolish to walk away from the talks and throw away this historic opportunity," Davenport told AFP.

For now though, with another extension presenting risks of its own -- fresh US sanctions, not least -- officials insist that they remain focused on getting the job done in time.

"An extension is not and has not been a subject of conversation at this point," a senior US official said late Monday.

 

 

Top North Korea envoy in Moscow for Putin talks

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Nov 17, 2014 - A special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Moscow on Monday for talks with President Vladimir Putin as Pyongyang seeks allies to fend off a UN resolution calling for a probe into crimes against humanity.

Choe Ryong-Hae, who holds the rank of vice marshal and is the former director of the North Korean army's powerful political bureau, is set to meet Putin on Tuesday and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.

His eight-day visit to Moscow, the third by a senior North Korean official this year, comes ahead of a vote Tuesday on a United Nations resolution calling for a war crimes probe against the reclusive state over its vast network of prison camps.

The resolution calls for the UN Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court, although Russia and China are widely expected to veto such a move.

Choe's visit comes as Russia is facing increasing diplomatic isolation over its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia is seeking to expand ties with North Korea and is eyeing a project worth about $25 billion (20 billion euros) to overhaul the Stalinist country's railway network in return for access to mineral resources.

In a close relationship dating from the Soviet era, Russia recently wrote off North Korean debts and says it wants trade turnover with Pyongyang to reach $1 billion by 2020.

While in Russia, Choe will visit Moscow and two cities in far eastern Russia, Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Moscow said the visit was aimed at "raising the level of political dialogue and ways of activating trade and economic relations."

Russia said it would reiterate demands for North Korea to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and scrap its nuclear weapons programme.

"First of all (on the agenda) is the nuclear programme, or to be precise, the prospect of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

A Russian foreign ministry source told Interfax news agency: "There can only be a political and diplomatic solution. Any other option is fraught with the risk of catastrophic consequences for the situation in the region."

Six-country talks on aid-for-denuclearisation involving Russia, China, North Korea, South Korea, the United States and Japan have been at a standstill since 2009.

 

 

Deal with Iran could end isolation but would it stop an arms race?

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) Nov 18, 2014 - A deal on Iran's nuclear programme this week would be a historic step towards ending the country's international isolation, but analysts remain divided on whether it would help stabilise the Middle East or even prevent a regional arms race.

Having spent years pushing for an agreement -- whereby economic sanctions on Iran are relaxed in exchange for concrete guarantees that it will not pursue nuclear weapons -- the West hopes the last-ditch talks in Vienna set an example to the world.

"It would... demonstrate that the global non-proliferation system works," said Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US State Department official now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"A combination of rules and pressure would have kept the number of nuclear-armed states from expanding, and that's no small achievement."

But there are many on the more hawkish side of the debate who feel the exact opposite could happen.

The Middle East is immersed in a series of bloody sectarian conflicts that have increasingly taken on the form of a region-wide struggle between Sunni and Shiite Muslim powers.

The hawks warn any rapprochement between the West and Shiite Iran will be viewed with deep concern by Sunni-led countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- America's traditional allies in the region -- who will not trust Tehran to keep its promises.

"Unless it is a spectacularly better deal than anticipated, it is going to lead to a Sunni response in which they move forward on their own nuclear programmes," said Mark Dubowitz of the right-wing Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, DC.

"The Saudis could buy a ready-formed nuclear missile from the Pakistanis tomorrow. Or more likely, they could move ahead under the guise of a civilian programme. The Turks, the Egyptians could do the same."

- 'Very cautiously' -

Others say Washington is well aware of its allies' concerns and will go out of its way to reassure them -- not just the Sunnis, but also Israel which fears a threat to its very existence from a nuclear Iran.

"Any reconciliation between the US and Iran would proceed very cautiously and on the basis of what's in America's best interests and those of its traditional allies in the region," said Robert Einhorn, a former special advisor on non-proliferation at the US State Department now at Brookings Institution.

Much will come down to the details. Regional governments will pore over the fine print of any deal, looking for weaknesses that Iran can exploit to pursue nuclear weapons without getting caught.

The outlook for Iran is more clearly positive. A deal would mark a symbolic end to 35 years of diplomatic isolation, help rebuild an economy shattered by Western sanctions and potentially strengthen the hand of moderates inside the country such as President Hassan Rouhani.

The lifting of sanctions will lead to "massive investments in the oil sector," said Bernard Hourcade, an Iran specialist at French think tank CNRS, with new contracts already prepared to attract the likes of Total and Shell.

"Banks will be able to restart international negotiations and re-open credit lines. A large market will be put in place," added Hourcade.

Russia will also be watching with mixed feelings. It worries the return of Iranian oil on the global market will lead to a further drop in prices, but also likes the prospect of selling more civil nuclear technology to Iran.

"A deal would cement Russia's position as a major player in the region since it will have a central role in implementing the deal, which will take many years. It ensures the US remains dependent on Russia," said Shashank Joshi, of the Royal United Services Institute in London.

- Don't get excited -

Before anyone gets too excited, however, analysts warn it is far from certain that Iran and the West will forge an agreement before the deadline on November 24, with most predicting another extension.

"The most that's achievable is agreement on some of the key parameters of a deal such as enrichment capacity and phasing of the sanctions relief," said Einhorn.

Even a complete deal will not have the dramatic impact many are anticipating, added Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group.

"A nuclear agreement could potentially serve as a gateway allowing Iran to renew cooperation with the West on issues of common interest such as stability in Afghanistan and Iraq, extremism in Syria, and European energy security," he said.

"But this is not guaranteed. The history of Iran's relations with the West is replete with misunderstandings and missed opportunities."

Kerry arrives in Britain as Iran nuclear talks loom
London (AFP) Nov 18, 2014 - US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Britain on Tuesday for meetings focussed on the Middle East ahead of crunch talks in Vienna this week over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Kerry was due to meet with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond later on Tuesday to discuss Iran, as well as the Ebola epidemic and tensions in Ukraine.

He will then meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to talk about "the next steps to try to de-escalate the situation on the ground in Jerusalem", a US official said.

Kerry will also meet with former British prime minister Tony Blair, an international special envoy to the Middle East.

Violence has been raging in Jerusalem since July, with clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces on a nearly daily basis.

Later on Tuesday Kerry will hold talks with Oman Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi bin Abdullah following the latter's visit to Tehran.

He will also meet Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, which is taking part in US-led air strikes against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria.

Shortly before departing for London, Kerry acknowledged the vital nature of the upcoming talks with Tehran in Vienna ahead of a November 24 deadline to reach agreement on its nuclear drive.

"We are obviously entering a key period with the negotiations regarding Iran's nuclear program, and I will go to Vienna at the appropriate moment," Kerry said at a Washington forum.

The UN Security Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany will negotiate with Tehran on a complex comprehensive agreement that Washington hopes will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.

Iran's leaders insist its nuclear push serves purely civilian purposes such as energy, but many in the West fear Tehran is seeking an atomic bomb.

Republicans, who will soon control both chambers of the US Congress after elections earlier this month, have been infuriated by the tentative rapprochement of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, toward Iran.

They warn Obama is being fooled by the new, more moderate face of the Islamic republic, which aims to win billions of dollars in sanctions relief and say it will still covertly seek to develop a nuclear weapon.

 

 

Iran nuclear deal could seal historic Obama coup

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Nov 17, 2014 - A nuclear deal with Iran would be a rare coup for a beleaguered President Barack Obama already seeking to shape his White House legacy, but analysts caution that renewing full ties will take longer.

Iran and the United States have had no direct diplomatic relations since the 1979 storming of the US embassy in Tehran, when radical students held a group of American diplomats hostage for 444 days.

After a decade of stop-start talks, both sides have engaged seriously over the past year with the group of global powers, known as the P5+1, to hammer out a complex comprehensive nuclear agreement.

But the two nations have been driven to the negotiating table by their own agendas.

"If there is an agreement that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability through diplomatic and peaceful means that's a major achievement for US diplomacy, and internationalism," said Alireza Nader, a senior policy analyst with the RAND Corporation.

As the world awaits the outcome of next week's all-out push in Vienna toward a November 24 deadline, Nader warned it was impossible to "read the tea leaves."

Like most observers, he says so much has been invested and the stakes are so high that the most likely scenario is the emergence of the contours of a deal with some last details still to be worked out.

A deal permanently removing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran would be a stunning victory for Obama.

With just two years left of his second term, the Democrat is under fire at home and abroad for his perceived chaotic and timid foreign policy particularly in dealing with the chaos in the Middle East.

For Iranians, it could spell the lifting of a rigorous global sanctions regime that has crippled the country's economy.

- Uneasy bedfellows -

But "if there is a deal, it won't make for friendship between Iran and its erstwhile antagonists," cautioned Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US State Department official focused on non-proliferation issues now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"Friendship no, uneasy bedfellows yes," he said.

In Washington, any dealings with Iran are highly politically charged.

Many Republicans, who now control both chambers of Congress after elections earlier this month, have been infuriated by the tentative rapprochement of Obama, a Democrat, toward Iran.

They accuse the president of ignoring the existential fears of key regional ally Israel, which is vehemently opposed to any dealings with Iran.

And their anger was only further fueled by reports of a secret letter from Obama to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last month.

Republicans warn Obama is being fooled by the new, more moderate face of the Islamic republic, which aims to win billions of dollars in sanctions relief and will still covertly seek to develop a nuclear weapon.

Legislation is already pending before US lawmakers that instead of lifting sanctions would impose even harsher ones.

Such a move would be "naive, dangerous and not a viable option," said Kelsey Davenport, an analyst with the Arms Control Association.

"Further sanctions could push Iran away from the negotiating table and the US closer to a military strike."

But a political dustup is brewing, with Republicans claiming Obama is seeking to go behind their backs and use presidential authority to ease as many sanctions as he can without seeking congressional approval.

- Softly-softly -

Meanwhile, any normalization of ties would also prove "harmful for the conservative establishment in Iran, because they need the United States as an enemy," Nader said.

"They're worried that if Iran opens up even more to the West that would undermine their basis of power."

Other key US allies such as Sunni Saudi Arabia have been wary of US moves to engage with Shiite Iran.

But there are hopes among some that a nuclear deal may hold the key to unlocking channels to discuss other conflicts notably in Syria and Iraq.

US diplomats have acknowledged raising the issue of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL, on the sidelines of the nuclear talks.

But they are taking a cautious approach.

Iran remains blacklisted by the US as a state sponsor of terror, and Washington has serious concerns about its human rights record.

"The US administration is quite wary of Iran's regional intentions and its behavior," said former top US diplomat on non-proliferation Robert Einhorn, now an expert with the Brookings Institution.

"While it recognizes that there are issues on which they share common interests, such as the defeat of ISIL, there are also areas in which their interests conflict such as on Syria."

 

 

N. Korea issues fresh warning of retaliatory strikes

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Nov 15, 2014 - North Korea on Saturday warned of retaliatory strikes days after South Korea fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol near the border.

South Korean troops on Monday fired warning shots as the North's patrol approached the military demarcation line (MDL) that designates the border, but there was no exchange of fire and the group eventually turned back.

"The south Korean puppet military warmongers should be mindful that such reckless military provocations in the area of MDL may invite unforeseeable retaliation strikes, which will immediately lead to a great war of justice for national reunification", the Front Command of the North's military said.

"If they continue the military provocation despite our warning, they will have to pay at the cost of their blood."

There have been a series of minor skirmishes, involving exchanges of fire but no casualties, along the inter-Korean land and sea borders in recent months.

The two Koreas are still technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The Korean peninsula is divided by a 2.5 mile-(four kilometre)-wide band known as the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that runs 248 km (155 miles) from east to west.

The DMZ is something of a misnomer as it is one of the world's most heavily militarised frontiers, bristling with watchtowers and landmines.

Separately, North Korea's military decision-making National Defence Commission (NDC) on Saturday repeated its call for a stoppage to annual South Korea-US military exercises and anti-Pyongyang leaflet launches across the border.

An NDC spokesman reaffirmed Pyongyang's stance of ruling out any dialogue with the South unless it stops anti-Pyongyang "confrontational rackets".

 

 

One week to 'finish the job' in Iran nuclear talks

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Nov 16, 2014 - Iran and six world powers begin a final round of talks in Vienna on Tuesday aiming to overcome significant remaining differences and agree a historic nuclear deal by a November 24 deadline.

"There's still a big gap. We may not be able to get there," US President Barack Obama warned last Sunday.

After 12 years of rising tensions, threats of war and failed diplomacy this accord would silence for good fears of Tehran developing nuclear weapons -- an ambition it has always denied.

Success could put Iran and the West on the road to improved relations after 35 years in the deep freeze. Failure could mean renewed Iranian nuclear expansion and even military action.

But US and Iranian negotiators are under severe domestic pressure not to give too much away, not least in Washington after Republicans snatched the Senate majority earlier this month.

It was on November 24 last year, after moderate Hassan Rouhani became president, that Iran and the P5+1 -- UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany -- secured an interim atomic agreement.

They missed however a July 20 deadline to reach a comprehensive accord, agreeing to give themselves four more months, until November 24.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the time that the talks were "the best chance we've ever had to resolve this issue peacefully".

And now, says chief US negotiator Wendy Sherman, it is "time to finish the job".

Failure would be a "dangerous scenario for the entire world," her Iranian opposite number Abbas Araqchi said.

- Unity despite Ukraine -

Despite tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis the six powers have been united over Iran. Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday made a joint call for a deal.

The powers want Iran to scale back its nuclear programme in order to make any rush to build a nuclear bomb virtually impossible. In return Iran wants painful sanctions lifted.

Some areas appear provisionally sewn up, like altering a reactor being built at Arak, a different use for the Fordo facility -- under a mountain to protect it from air attack -- and more inspections.

But the big problem remains enrichment, which renders uranium suitable for power generation and nuclear medicines -- but also, at high purities, for a weapon.

Iran wants to ramp up massively the number of enrichment centrifuges in order, it says, to make reactor fuel. The West wants them slashed, saying Iran has no such need at present.

"There will be no backward steps" in the nuclear programme, Araqchi said last month.

There may however be some wiggle room if Iran neutralises or exports -- perhaps to Russia -- some or all of its uranium stockpiles.

Other thorny issues are the duration of the accord and the pace at which the tangled web of sanctions is undone, an area where Iranian expectations are "excessive", one Western diplomat said Friday.

"They want everything, all at once and this is not realistic," the diplomat involved in the talks said.

- 11th hour breakthrough? -

Observers say the talks were always going to go down to the wire.

"If there is to be a deal, the gaps won't be bridged until the 11th hour. Doing so ahead of time would be seen as not having fought enough," Mark Fitzpatrick at the International Institute for Strategic Studies told AFP.

Not that this means they will succeed, however.

"There is virtually no possibility that a complete deal will be concluded by November 24," Robert Einhorn at the Brookings Institute told AFP. "I think they'll agree to extend the interim arrangements for several more months."

For now though, officials on all sides insist that another extension is not on the cards. Russia's negotiator Sergei Ryabkov has said no one was working on a "plan B".

"A deal is within reach by November 24 and both sides are committed to getting the job done," Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport told AFP.

 

 

Troubled US nuclear force needs reform, funds: Hagel

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Nov 14, 2014 - The US nuclear force is plagued by declining morale, manpower shortages and mismanagement that could jeopardize its safety and effectiveness, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.

The Pentagon chief cited sobering results from two reviews and said the military had neglected the nuclear arsenal as it had been preoccupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.

Reviews ordered by the Pentagon "found evidence of systematic problems that if not addressed could undermine the safety, security and effectiveness of elements of the force in the future," Hagel told reporters.

The findings showed "a consistent lack of investment and support for our nuclear forces over far too many years has left us with too little margin to cope with mounting stresses," he said.

The inquiries urged an end to excessive bureaucracy and "a culture of micromanagement" marked by petty inspections, officials said.

Hagel unveiled an "action plan" that calls for making the nuclear force a higher priority, reorganizing the command, reassuring troops of the importance of the mission and boosting funding and personnel.

The moves came after a series of embarrassing revelations about the state of the nuclear force and land-based missiles in particular, with dozens of airmen caught cheating on a proficiency test for overseeing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

A number of senior nuclear commanders also were disciplined for personal misconduct, with the general in charge of the ICBM force sacked after he went on a drunken bender during a trip to Russia.

- Only one wrench -

Hagel said troops who work with nuclear weapons are worried they have no career prospects in a military that often seems indifferent to their mission.

"The root cause has been a lack of sustained focus, attention and resources resulting in a pervasive sense that a career in the nuclear enterprise offers too few opportunities for growth and advancement," he said.

To boost morale, the US Air Force is giving a raise to ICBM crews and issuing a new medal to recognize excellence in "nuclear deterrence operations," officials said.

Reflecting the troubled state of the force, the reviews pointed to a wrench needed to install a nuclear warhead on the tip of a Minuteman missile. The wrench was in a toolkit shared by all three ICBM bases in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. And when one crew needed the wrench, it was shipped from another base by Federal Express.

The crews were "creative" in solving the problem, "but that's not the way to do it," said Hagel, adding each base now had their own sets of tools.

The Pentagon planned to ask for a ten percent annual increase in funding for the nuclear force over the next five years, which would come to about $1.5 billion a year, Hagel said.

"We will need to make billions of dollars of additional investments in the nuclear enterprise over the next five years," he said.

Most of the recent scandals have been centered on the land-based missiles maintained by Air Force crews, though the Navy also had a cheating scandal among sailors who work on submarines armed with nuclear missiles.

Hagel has granted permission to the Navy to hire more civilians to help maintain its nuclear-armed submarines and the Air Force planned to add about 1,100 troops and civilians to its nuclear command to fill manpower gaps, the Pentagon said.

- 'Taking it for granted' -

Concerns about slipping standards in the nuclear force since the end of the Cold War are not new, and Hagel's predecessor, Robert Gates, ordered a review in 2008 that came to similar conclusions.

Asked why the problems had been allowed to fester, Hagel said the Pentagon had been focused on "two large ground wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan and the country had become complacent about the role of the destructive weapons.

"I think there's been, nationally, a sense of just taking it for granted. So what? There's not going to be a nuclear exchange," he said. "We just have kind of taken our eye off the ball here."

Hagel was due to travel Friday to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, where airmen oversee intercontinental nuclear missiles and bomber aircraft.

Arms control advocates argue morale problems are inevitable because the crews sense their mission has become obsolete with the collapse of the Soviet Union and that it is time to scale back the costly arsenal.

 

 

Holding N. Korea regime to account 'paramount': UN rights envoy

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Nov 14, 2014 - A UN investigator on Friday ruled out any compromise on efforts to have North Korea answer formal charges of crimes against humanity, saying holding the regime to account, including supreme leader Kim Jong-Un, is "paramount".

Marzuki Darusman, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the North, also stressed that Kim's refusal to halt human rights atrocities instigated by previous regimes would make him legally "complicit" in such crimes.

A UN General Assembly is expected to vote next week on a resolution -- drafted by the EU and Japan -- that condemns rights abuses in North Korea and recommends referring its leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

The resolution followed a comprehensive UN inquiry, based on the testimony of North Korean exiles, that detailed a vast network of prison camps and documented cases of torture, rape, murder and enslavement.

Pyongyang has launched a diplomatic campaign to have key provisions of the resolution scrapped, and even offered Darusman a full-fledged visit if clauses on Kim's accountability and referral to the ICC are dropped.

"Let me be very clear," Darusman told reporters in Seoul. "Achieving accountability is paramount.

"At no time, more than now, is it so important to firmly keep the line," he added.

Darusman, who was on the three-member UN Commission of Inquiry, said the "massive" rights violations it documented included those committed before Kim came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in December 2011.

"But the nature of these crimes is ongoing," Darusman said.

"Having been informed of these violations, and no action being taken, renders (Kim Jong-Un) culpable of complicity in crimes against humanity," he said.

Rights abuses by North Korea have been known about for years, but the inquiry's exhaustive report carried the UN stamp of authority and has put Pyongyang under unprecedented pressure, which would only intensify further if the ICC were to take up the case.

It is especially sensitive to the prospect of Kim Jong-Un being personally indicted, even if he would never willingly appear before the court.

- China veto? -

Referral to the ICC requires the approval of the UN Security Council, which China -- North Korea's main ally and diplomatic protector -- would almost certainly veto.

"It would not be a surprise," Darusman acknowledged.

Asked about Beijing's stance at a regular press briefing Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said dialogue was a better way to address rights abuses.

"We are opposed to politicising human rights issues or imposing pressure on other countries on the pretext of human rights," Hong said.

North Korea's recent surprise release of two jailed American citizens was widely seen as part of Pyongyang's campaign to escape the corner it has been forced into by the pending UN resolution.

Such "dramatic" gestures are, Darusman argued, an effort by the North to "create, perhaps, a perception that the draft resolution should not go as far as it does".

Pyongyang does have some allies at the United Nations, including Cuba which has circulated an amendment to the EU-Japan draft resolution that would delete language on referring Pyongyang to the ICC.

Another potential ally is Russia, which along with China wields a veto in the Security Council.

North Korean state media reported Friday that Kim Jong-Un was sending a close aide as a "special envoy" to Russia.

It gave no details regarding the purpose of the trip or whom the envoy might meet, but the timing would suggest it is related to the moves at the United Nations.

Last month, Australian judge Michael Kirby, who chaired the UN Commission of Inquiry, urged the United Nations to reject the "charm offensive" from Pyongyang and seek war crimes prosecutions for the regime.

Kirby described signs of openness as "crumbs thrown to the international community" and said tough action on North Korea should not be "traded away".

 

 

US senators: Iran deal must 'dismantle' nuclear program

 
‎20 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎08:59:27 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Nov 12, 2014 - Two US senators responsible for introducing strict sanctions on Iran renewed their warning Wednesday over nuclear negotiations with the country, saying any final pact must "dismantle" the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

"We believe that a good deal will dismantle, not just stall, Iran's illicit nuclear program and prevent Iran from ever becoming a threshold nuclear weapons state," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Mark Kirk said in a statement.

Should a potential deal fail to achieve such goals, including a robust inspection and verification regime and strict limits on nuclear-related research, "we will work with our colleagues in Congress to act decisively, as we have in the past."

Their remarks follow three days of nuclear talks in Oman between Iran and the P5+1 -- UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- with a November 24 deadline looming to strike a comprehensive agreement.

Menendez and Kirk have worked since 2011 to draft and pass multifaceted economic sanctions against Tehran, and their statement was aimed at pressing international negotiators for a strong deal that would keep Iran's feet to the fire on its nuclear program.

"Gradual sanctions relaxation would only occur if Iran strictly complied with all parts of the agreement," the lawmakers said.

Their most recent bill, which would impose new measures should the negotiations fail, has been blocked since the end of 2013 by President Barack Obama's Democratic allies in the Senate.

His administration had wanted the negotiations to proceed without interference from Congress.

But Republicans, who snatched the Senate majority from Democrats in last week's midterm elections and take control when the next congressional session convenes on January 3, may not show the same deference.

Faced with the prospect of unilateral action by the US Congress, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that "each country must resolve its own problems," although he did not name the United States.

Final nuclear talks between the P5+1 and Iran are set for November 18 in Vienna.

Domestic politics shouldn't influence nuclear talks: Iran
Tehran (AFP) Nov 12, 2014 - Domestic politics should not be allowed to influence nuclear talks between Tehran and world powers, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday, alluding to the US Republican party's recent Senate victory.

"If one of the member countries of the P5+1 has a domestic problem or won or lost an election, it has nothing to do with us and each country must resolve its own problems," Rouhani said in televised remarks.

"It doesn't make sense... for this problem to appear at the level of negotiations."

The statement came after the end Tuesday of three days of nuclear talks in Oman between Iran and the P5+1 -- UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.

There was no reported progress, but Russia's chief negotiator, deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, said he was still "reasonably optimistic".

The two sides have until November 24 to strike a comprehensive agreement aimed at easing Western suspicions over Tehran's nuclear intentions as well as damaging sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Domestic issues were a factor at this week's talks in Oman, given the victory in midterm elections of the US Republican party, whose members have consistently bridled at the White House's negotiations with Iran.

Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are also under fire from Iranian lawmakers sceptical of an interim deal and who have demanded any final agreement be ratified by parliament.

US President Barack Obama said Sunday a "big gap" remained on how the West can have "verifiable, lock-tight assurances" that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon.

Rouhani said the situation was unjust.

"It is not fair that one country that respects all international conventions is facing a power that says 'I have doubts'," Rouhani said Wednesday, in reference to Iran being a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"Why should our country respond to these suspicions?" he asked.

 

 

Russia, US urge Iran nuclear deal 'as soon as possible': Moscow

 
‎18 ‎November ‎2014, ‏‎12:27:27 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Nov 12, 2014 - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry called on Wednesday for an agreement on a nuclear deal with Iran to be reached as soon as possible.

"The need to reach as soon as possible a comprehensive agreement which would allow to fully normalise the situation around the Iranian nuclear programme has been acknowledged," the Russian foreign ministry said following a call between Lavrov and Kerry.

They spoke after Iran and world powers met in Oman on Tuesday amid signs that an elusive deal on Tehran's nuclear programme might not be struck by a November 24 deadline.

Russia's chief negotiator Sergei Ryabkov said after Tuesday's talks that he was still "reasonably optimistic".

The agreement is aimed at easing Western suspicions over Tehran's nuclear intentions as well as damaging sanctions on the Iranian economy.

On Tuesday, Russia signed a contract to build two nuclear reactors at the existing Russian-built Bushehr plant and announced plans for a total of nine.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed t