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The Magog Invasion

 

 Introduction:

 

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


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]
 
 
 

Behold a Red Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 


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

Behold a White Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 

 

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

 

This briefing pack contains 2 horse of teaching

DVD

1 Disc

2 MP3

1PDF NOTES FILE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from the Middle East

 
‎22 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:58:22 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Friday, June 19, 2015 file photo, Egyptian children play as their family awaits the afternoon prayer on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan inside the Al-Azhar mosque, in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)Across the Middle East last week, Muslims marked the start of Ramadan, a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts.
 
 

Poland appoints commander of armed forces in case of war

 
‎22 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:04:02 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James, left, and Poland’s Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak pose for photos before talks concerning security cooperation at the Defense Ministry in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, June 22, 2015. Poland is concerned about Russia’s role in the armed conflict across its border, in eastern Ukraine, and is seeking security assurances from its NATO and U.S. allies. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)WARSAW, Poland (AP) — In an unprecedented move, Poland's president has appointed army Lt. Gen. Marek Tomaszycki as commander of the nation's armed forces in case of war.
 
 

EU launches operation against migrant smugglers

 
‎22 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎12:51:10 PMGo to full article
By Adrian Croft LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to launch a naval operation against gangs smuggling migrants to Europe from Libya, although the mission will be limited to intelligence-gathering for now due to lack of U.N. authority. The operation is part of a stepped-up European response to a surge of migrants from Africa and the Middle East making the dangerous crossing from Libya to Europe. It is part of our effort to save lives," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters in Luxembourg where the foreign ministers were meeting.
 

Malaysia steps up health screening for MERS at entry points

 
‎22 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:08:07 AMGo to full article
A monitor connected to a body temperature scanner shows flight passengers arriving at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International AirportMalaysia has stepped up health screenings at all entry points into the country, after the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was reported in neighboring Thailand last week. The Southeast Asian nation, which shares a 650 km (400 mile) land border with Thailand, has already begun monitoring body temperatures at the airports, Deputy Health Minister Hilmi Yahaya said in a statement to state news agency Bernama. "Now, we are going further to include all entry points," he said.
 
 

Detained Al-Jazeera journalist to remain in German custody

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:18:59 PMGo to full article
This undated handout frame grab from video provided courtesy of Al-Jazeera, shows Ahmed Mansour, 52, a prominent journalist with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera broadcaster's Arabic service. Mansour was detained at Berlin's Tegel airport on Saturday, June 20, 2015, on an Egyptian arrest warrant his lawyers said. Mansour, who holds dual Egyptian-British nationality, was trying to board a flight to Doha. Al-Jazeera said he had been sentenced in absentia in Egypt to 15 years in prison over allegedly torturing an unnamed lawyer in Tahrir Square in 2011, a charge both he and the channel rejected. Arabic above Al Jazzeera logo reads "live." (Courtesy of Al-Jazeera, via AP)BERLIN (AP) — A prominent Al-Jazeera journalist will remain in German custody for a second night, prosecutors said Sunday, adding they have not yet decided whether to extradite him to Egypt or set him free.
 
 

Italy's Renzi says no tension with France over migrant crisis

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:57:38 PMGo to full article
Italian PM Renzi smiles as he arrives with French President Hollande to visit the French pavilion at the Expo 2015 global fair in MilanItaly's prime minister and France's president put on a show of unity on Sunday, dismissing suggestions of tensions between their countries over handling the waves of migrants landing on southern Europe's shores. Ministers in Paris and Rome have exchanged barbs after France began turning back migrants at the French-Italian border earlier this month, invoking EU rules requiring refuge seekers to do so in the first European country where they set foot. Italy has long argued that it and Greece cannot cope alone with the influx just because they are the closest landing points for refugees and economic migrants from Africa and the Middle East streaming toward the European Union in rickety boats.
 
 

Egypt names new ambassador to Israel

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:20:49 PMGo to full article
An Israeli police car in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv on September 11, 2011Egypt on Sunday appointed a new ambassador to Israel to fill a post that had been vacant since ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi recalled the previous envoy in 2012. State news agency MENA said that Hazem Khairat, a former ambassador to Chile, was appointed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Khairat's appointment was immediately "deeply" welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
 
 

Israel's Netanyahu takes aim at French peace initiative

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:38:21 PMGo to full article
Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu attends cabinet in JerusalemBy Jeffrey Heller and John Irish JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised a French-led peace initiative on Sunday, accusing foreign powers of trying to dictate terms to Israel for a deal with the Palestinians. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, on a two-day visit to the Middle East, said the aim was not for foreign powers to intevene directly in negotiations, and warned of the dangers of continued stalemate. Fabius wants to see the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which collapsed in 2014, relaunched through an international support group comprising Arab states, the European Union and U.N. Security Council members.
 
 

France says Iran deal 'still not clear' as deadline nears

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:31:14 PMGo to full article
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks during a joint news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri (not pictured) at the presidential palace in Cairo, EgyptBy John Irish JERUSALEM (Reuters) - France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday it was unclear whether an international deal could be reached on Iran's nuclear program by a June 30 deadline. Fabius has said he would meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday to assess where Iran stands ahead of the final round of talks on its nuclear program, which begin later in the week. "We need to be extremely firm, at the stage where we are now, things are still not clear," Fabius said in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
 
 

Demonstrators dig migrant 'graves' in Berlin

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:22:16 PMGo to full article
An activist lays flowers and lights candles on symbolic graves in front of the Reichtsag building on June 21, 2015 in BerlinAround 5,000 people joined a Berlin demonstration on Sunday by a controversial protest group which dug mock graves in front of parliament to highlight Europe's deadly migration crisis, police said. The political art group calling itself "Centre for Political Beauty" had planned to march to Chancellor Angela Merkel's offices with what it said were the corpses of dead migrants and bury them outside. After the Berlin authorities barred them from carrying out the plan, they knocked down security barriers in front of the nearby Reichstag parliament building.
 
 

Lawyers slam police in missing British sisters case

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:19:54 PMGo to full article
LONDON (AP) — Lawyers representing the family of three British sisters who disappeared in the Middle East with their nine children have slammed the police, arguing the authorities were complicit in the grooming and radicalization of the women.
 

Baghdadi: The enigmatic IS jihadist chief

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:54:31 AMGo to full article
An al-Furqan Media image allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, at a mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul in July 2014Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi rose from obscurity to lead the world's most infamous and feared jihadist group, but shuns the spotlight for an aura of mystery that adds to his appeal. The Islamic State group released a slew of photos and videos documenting its offensive that overran a third of Iraq last June, and the many atrocities it carried out. IS declared a cross-border Islamic "caliphate" a year ago this month, after which a man identified as Baghdadi appeared in a mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, ordering Muslims around the world to obey him.
 
 

South Korea reports three new MERS cases, Thailand says none

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:38:05 AMGo to full article
A woman wearing a mask to prevent contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) walks at an underground shopping district in SeoulSEOUL/BANGKOK (Reuters) - South Korea reported three new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome on Sunday, bringing the total to 169 in the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia, but Thailand said it had no new infections. South Korea's Health Ministry late on Saturday reported the 25th fatality, a patient who had suffered a heart ailment and diabetes. Thailand, which discovered its first case last week, says 175 people were exposed to its single patient, with no new infections reported so far.
 
 

South Korea reports three new MERS cases

 
‎21 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:36:23 AMGo to full article
South Korea reports three new cases of MERS as authorities remain vigilant about the spread of the virus whose pace appear to have slowedSouth Korea reported three new cases of MERS Sunday as health authorities remained vigilant about the spread of the virus, which appeared to have slowed in recent days. The two medical staff include a doctor who treated a MERS patient at Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul, seen as the epicentre of the outbreak, where more than 80 were infected. Another was a medical worker who took X-rays of a MERS patient in another hospital in Seoul.
 
 

Inaction on peace risks setting Israeli-Palestinian conflict 'ablaze': France

 
‎20 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:32:55 PMGo to full article
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius attends a joint news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt,By John Irish CAIRO (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday that the stalemate in the peace process risked setting the conflict "ablaze" and urged both sides to return to the negotiating table quickly. "We have to do the maximum so that the two sides restart negotiations," Fabius told reporters after meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. "We think that by doing nothing there will be the twin risk of stalemate and setting (the conflict) ablaze." Fabius was on a two-day trip to the Middle East to promote a French-led initiative that would see the peace process relaunched through an international support group comprising Arab states, the European Union and U.N. Security Council members.
 
 

French FM calls for renewed Mideast peace talks

 
‎20 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:32:53 PMGo to full article
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (C) chairs a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (unseen) and other Arab ministers in Cairo, on June 20, 2015, to discuss the Middle East peace processFrench Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Saturday urged the resumption of Middle East peace talks, while warning that continued Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank damaged chances of a final deal. "What's important is that negotiations restart," Fabius told reporters during a visit to Cairo, where he held what he said were intensive talks with Egyptian officials on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. "We need Israel's security to be totally assured, that is essential, but at the same time we need the rights of the Palestinians to be recognised because without justice there can be no peace," Fabius said.
 
 

WikiLeaks reveals Saudi intrigue and unpaid limo bills

 
‎20 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:55:32 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this May 7, 2015 file photo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's King Salman at the Royal Court, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. WikiLeaks is in the process of publishing more than 500,000 Saudi diplomatic documents to the Internet, the transparency website said Friday, June 19, 2015. If genuine, the documents would offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the notoriously opaque kingdom. (Andrew Harnik/Pool Photo via AP, File)ISTANBUL (AP) — At the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, diplomats talked about airing the grievances of disenchanted local youth using Facebook and Twitter. At the embassy in Khartoum, they reported anxiously on Iran's military aid to Sudan.
 
 

Thailand says 175 exposed to MERS patient; South Korea reports no new case

 
‎20 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:04:45 PMGo to full article
People wear masks to prevent contracting MERS at the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi provinceA total of 175 people were exposed to Thailand's only case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the patient's condition has improved, the health ministry said on Saturday. In a statement, the ministry said it had been in touch with all 175 and had instructed them to stay away from public spaces and for medical personnel to monitor their health. In South Korea, the health ministry said that no new cases of the disease had been recorded in the country for the first time in 16 days.
 
 

A year on, no quick fix to halt IS 'caliphate'

 
‎20 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:43:34 AMGo to full article
Islamic State members turn people away from the Turkish Akcakale crossing gate in Sanliurfa province, Syria on June 13, 2015A year after its establishment, the Islamic State group's self-declared "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq remains well-funded and heavily armed, and experts say it could be around for years to come. The would-be state headed by IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi -- called Caliph Ibrahim by his followers -- has suffered setbacks in the months since it was proclaimed. A US-led coalition is carrying out strikes against the group throughout its territory and this week it lost the key Syrian border town of Tal Abyad to Kurdish forces.
 
 

Money talks as Qatar joins British racing turf's big hitters

 
‎20 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:28:33 AMGo to full article
A general view of the grandstand with the the name of offical partner QIPCO attached at Royal Ascot, in Berkshire on June 19, 2015A subtle difference greeted visitors at Royal Ascot this year -- increased on-site branding for Qatari private investment vehicle QIPCO as part of its record £50 million ($79.4m) contribution to British horse racing. QIPCO (Qatar Investment & Projects Development Holding Company) is linked to a branch of the Qatari ruling family comprising six Al Thani brothers, who are cousins of Sheikh Tamim, the Emir of Qatar. "Horse racing has a fantastic profile" in Qatar, said Harry Herbert, racing manager for the Emir of Qatar's brother Sheikh Joaan, who recently backed Lockinge Stakes day at Newbury.
 
 

Sarkozy criticised in France, Italy over migrant remarks

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:35:06 PMGo to full article
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, seen in L'Isle-Adam, outside Paris, came under fire over comments he made comparing the influx of migrants into Europe to water gushing from a burst pipeFormer French president Nicolas Sarkozy came under fire in France and Italy on Friday over comments he made comparing the influx of migrants into Europe to water gushing from a burst pipe. Current President Francois Hollande called for gravity and restraint in public debate. The comments in question were made by Sarkozy, now head of the opposition Republicans, during a public meeting in a Paris suburb.
 
 

Peugeot to invest $632 million in Morocco car factory

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:46 PMGo to full article
RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco and French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen on Friday signed an accord to build a new factory aimed at producing up to 200,000 cars annually for the African and Middle East market.
 

Druze in Israeli-held Golan fear for Syrian brethren

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:56:31 PMGo to full article
A member of the Druze community uses binoculars to watch the fighting in Syria, from the Israeli side of the border fence between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, near Majdal ShamsBy Maayan Lubell MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights (Reuters) - Gathered at a hilltop in the Israeli-held Golan Heights, a group of Druze sheikhs look through binoculars at the Syrian village of Hader, surrounded by rebels. The Druze in the area say that the Nusra Front, Syria's al Qaeda branch, have gained control of the hilltops around the village leaving open only a southern gateway facing the Israeli-held territory and security fence.
 
 

Palestinian shoots Israeli dead near West Bank settlement

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:51:22 PMGo to full article
Israeli forensic police inspect a car belonging to Israeli victims of a gun attack by a Palestinian man near the Dolev settlement, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on June 19, 2015A Palestinian opened fire on two Israeli men near a West Bank settlement on Friday, killing one and wounding the other, authorities said, in what appeared to be a lone-wolf attack. Local media named the dead man as Danny Gonen, a 25-year-old from the central Israeli city of Lod. The army said the two men were in a car at the time of the shooting, which took place northwest of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
 
 

'The Dead Are Coming': Berlin activists bury refugee killed at sea

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:29:47 PMGo to full article
Berlin Imam Abdallah Hajjir (L) directs pallbearers carrying the coffin of an unidentified Syrian refugee who died while making his way to Germany, during a funeral in a Berlin cemetery on June 19, 2015With a warning that "the dead are coming", German activists staged a Berlin funeral Friday for a Syrian refugee who died on the Mediterranean, highlighting the tragedy of the thousands killed while trying to reach Europe. The ceremony was organised by the protest art group "Center for Political Beauty" which called the dead man's transport from Italy and burial part of a programme of "performance art of an unprecedented magnitude". The controversial group has plastered Berlin with posters proclaiming that "The Dead Are Coming" while announcing a series of such burials and reburials of refugees who drowned or died in other ways, and which it says are being organised with the relatives' consent.
 
 

France's Fabius heads to Mideast to sell peace initiative

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:32:14 PMGo to full article
French FM Fabius speaks at a news conference regarding an agreement to limit global warming in air transport during the 51st Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near ParisForeign Minister Laurent Fabius will explore the prospects for talks with key Arab League ministers, including Saudi Arabia, in Cairo on Saturday and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday. "Everything points to inertia, but we believe that this inertia is deadly," said a senior French diplomat.
 
 

France, central European states oppose quotas in EU migrant debate

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:52 PMGo to full article
French President Hollande poses for a family photo with Prime Ministers Orban Fico Sobotka and Kopacz of Visegrad Group in BratislavaBy Jan Lopatka and Tatiana Jancarikova BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said on Friday he thought commitments by individual EU member states offered a better way of resettling African and Middle Eastern migrants rather than the imposition of national quotas by Brussels. Debate has grown over how to deal with a growing influx of migrants into the 28-member European Union and a number of countries have stressed any acceptance system should be based on a voluntary approach. Hollande spoke after joining a meeting of prime ministers of the Visegrad group of countries within the EU -- Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, which jointly oppose quotas.
 
 

Israeli killed, another wounded in West Bank shooting

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:05:00 PMGo to full article
Israeli solider gestures as Israeli troops search the area where a shooting attack took place, near the Jewish settlement of Dolev near the West Bank city of RamallahAn Israeli civilian was killed and another wounded in the occupied West Bank on Friday in an attack apparently carried out by a Palestinian gunman, a hospital spokeswoman and security forces said. Police and the military said the attack took place near the Jewish settlement of Dolev in the central West Bank and that the two men, both 25, were treated at the scene before being taken to a hospital near Tel Aviv. A police spokesman said Israeli security forces were scouring the area for the gunman.
 
 

Cyprus to try Lebanese-Canadian on bomb charges

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:40:48 PMGo to full article
Cypriot police cordon off a house in Larnaca after finding more than 400 boxes of ammonium nitrate on May 27, 2015A Lebanese-Canadian will stand trial in Cyprus on terror charges after 8.2 tonnes of fertiliser that can be used for bomb making was allegedly found in his home, police said Friday. Authorities believe the man, whose name is being withheld in conformity with the law, has links with the military wing of the powerful Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. Foreign Minister Ioanis Kasoulides said during a visit to Israel this week that the authorities believe they have thwarted a possible attack on Israeli targets on the island.
 
 

S. Korea says MERS outbreak shows signs of subsiding

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:37:08 PMGo to full article
South Korea reported no additional deaths and no new cases from its MERS outbreak, raising hopes the country is winning the battle to contain the deadly virusSouth Korea said Friday that the MERS outbreak that has killed 24 people appears to have begun subsiding, as it reported one new case -- the lowest rate of new infections in two weeks. This brought to 166 the total number of confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the country since the first was confirmed on May 20 in what is the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia. The number of people in quarantine had fallen 12 percent from Thursday to 5,930, a day after Thailand reported Southeast Asia's first case of the deadly virus since the disease was confirmed in South Korea.
 
 

EU to launch operation against Libya's migrant smugglers

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:55:11 PMGo to full article
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union will move ahead beginning next week on a plan to disrupt the business model of human traffickers in the Mediterranean Sea, diplomats said Friday.
 

Omani MERS patient's relatives tested for virus in Thailand

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:14:15 AMGo to full article
A man holds his child while walking past an information banner on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) at the entrance of Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi province, Thailand on June 19, 2015Thai authorities on Friday said two relatives of an Omani man found to have MERS were being tested for the deadly virus in the kingdom. Thailand, a booming medical tourism hub popular with Middle Eastern patients, on Thursday confirmed the Omani, 75, had MERS, days after he arrived at a Bangkok hospital for treatment for a heart condition. On Friday the Omani patient was "getting a bit better", said Thailand's Public Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin at a press conference on the outskirts of Bangkok.
 
 

Thai airline shares, hoteliers fall on first MERS case, aviation safety downgrade

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:10:09 AMGo to full article
By Viparat Jantraprap BANGKOK (Reuters) - Shares of Thai aviation firms and hoteliers fell on Friday after Thailand confirmed its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), further dampening tourism sentiment already hit by an international aviation agency's safety rating downgrade. Airports of Thailand Pcl dropped 4.2 percent, national carrier Thai Airways International Pcl eased 2.3 percent and hotelier Central Plaza Hotel Pcl plunged 6.6 percent, all extending losses for a second day. ...
 

MERS outbreak shows old habits die hard in South Korea

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:15:11 AMGo to full article
South Korea is currently battling with an outbreak of the MERS, which has killed 24 people while 166 cases have been confirmed -- the largest outbreak of the disease outside Saudi ArabiaSouth Korea's growing MERS outbreak has laid bare the country's poor handling of disasters despite President Park Geun-Hye's pledge to overhaul public safety measures following last year's ferry disaster, experts say. "Bureaucratic inefficiency, disregard for a crisis manual and the lack of training and education to deal with a crisis all remain the same," he told AFP.
 
 

WHO chief reassures South Korea as its MERS deaths reach 24

 
‎19 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:30:48 AMGo to full article
Members of South Korean Red Cross unload relief items from a truck for people who are suspected of infection and isolated at their home after having close contact with MERS patients, at Red Cross Emergency Relief Operation Center in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, June 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization has praised beleaguered South Korean officials and exhausted health workers, saying their efforts to contain a deadly MERS virus outbreak have put the country on good footing and lowered the public risk.
 
 

Macedonia backs law to cope with flood of migrants

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:42:46 PMGo to full article
Migrants try to board a train at a station in Demir Kapija, south-eastern Macedonia, on June 18, 2015, on their way to the Serbian borderMacedonian lawmakers on Thursday amended the country's asylum law in a bid to better cope with the thousands of migrants who have been pouring in the Balkan country, heading towards the EU. The changes are designed to facilitate the transit of migrants, allowing them to register with the authorities and then within 72 hours either seek asylum or leave Macedonia, which is not an EU member. "Border police have been returning on daily basis 2,000 to 3,000 migrants who are trying to enter Macedonia from Greece," Interior Minister Mitko Cavko told the deputies.
 
 

Danish PM seeks second term in closely fought race

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:12:43 PMGo to full article
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt leaves a polling booth in Copenhagen on June 18, 2015Danes voted Thursday in an election that was too close to call, after an intense three-week campaign focused on immigration and the economy. The campaign has been dominated by the economy and the future of the country's cherished cradle-to-grave welfare state, as well as immigration and the rising cost of hosting asylum seekers. Thorning-Schmidt, in power since 2011, and right-wing opposition leader Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who governed from 2009 to 2011, have both claimed credit for a resurgent economy and tried to woo voters with pledges to curb immigration.
 
 

Record 60 million forced to flee war, violence: UN

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:54:53 PMGo to full article
Syrians fleeing the war pass through broken down border fences to enter Turkish territory illegally, near the Turkish Akcakale border crossing in the southeastern Sanliurfa province, on June 14, 2015The number of people forced to flee war, violence and persecution has soared to a record 60 million, half of them children, the United Nations said Thursday, warning that the situation was raging out of control. The situation is "getting out of control simply because the world seems to be at war," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told reporters ahead of the launch of the annual report. The number of displaced stood at 59.5 million worldwide at the end of 2014, "as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence, or human rights violations", the report said.
 
 

Thailand confirms first MERS case as virus spreads in Asia

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:32:02 PMGo to full article
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is considered a deadlier version of the SARS virus which killed hundreds of people in 2003, forcing Asian nations to check the temperature of passengers as they arrive at airports to combat the virusThailand on Thursday said a 75-year-old man from Oman was confirmed to have MERS in Southeast Asia's first case of the virus since an outbreak in South Korea that has killed 23 people. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has spread at an alarmingly rapid pace in South Korea since the first case was diagnosed on May 20, infecting 165 in what is the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia. Thailand, a booming medical tourism hub popular with Middle Eastern patients, announced its first positive MERS case Thursday after around 20 people earlier tested negative for the virus.
 
 

A year on, Islamic State 'caliphate' infamous for brutality

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:14:00 PMGo to full article
A Jihadist media Welayat Raqa image from June 2014, allegedly shows Islamic State group militants parading through the northern rebel-held Syrian city of RaqaIn the year since it declared its "caliphate," the Islamic State group has become the world's most infamous jihadist organisation, attracting international franchises and spreading fear with acts of extreme violence. IS proclaimed its self-described caliphate on June 29, 2014, urging Muslims worldwide to pledge allegiance to its Iraqi leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, renamed Caliph Ibrahim. Vowing to make "the West and the East... submit", IS has expanded its territory throughout northern and western Iraq and eastern and northern Syria.
 
 

Serbia 'shocked' by Hungary's plans to build border fence

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:59:24 PMGo to full article
In this photo taken Monday, June 1, 2015, migrants cross railroad tracks in Belgrade, Serbia. Serbia's prime minister Aleksandar Vucic says he is “shocked” by Hungary's plans to build a fence along the border with Serbia to stop a flow of migrants reaching the country. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Balkan countries and the European Union on Thursday criticized Hungary's plans to build a fence along the border with Serbia to stop the flow of migrants reaching the country.
 
 

Thailand reports first confirmed case of deadly MERS virus

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:41:49 PMGo to full article
Public Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin talks to reporters during press conference in Bangkok, Thailand Thursday, June 18, 2015. Thailand says it has confirmed its first known case of the deadly MERS virus, a man who arrived from a Middle Eastern country for treatment of a heart condition. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand confirmed on Thursday its first known case of the deadly MERS virus, a 75-year-old man who recently arrived from Oman for treatment of a heart condition.
 
 

Thailand confirms first MERS case: health ministry

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:38:08 PMGo to full article
Crew members of Thai Airways prepare to disinfect the cabin of an aircraft of the national carrier at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International AirportBANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand confirmed its first case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus on Thursday, according to the country's health ministry. The virus was detected in a businessman from Oman, the country's health minister told reporters. "From two lab tests we can confirm that the MERS virus was found," said Public Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin. (Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre)
 
 

Is it worth making enemies of Russia, Qatar over football?

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:43:03 AMGo to full article
PARIS (AP) — The opportunity to score points by bashing FIFA, Russia and Qatar was too good for the parliamentarians to pass up. One by one, they lined up to take shots. It was the political equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel: easy.
 

Q&A: What is Ramadan and why do Muslims fast all day?

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:42:29 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010 file photo, a young Palestinian Muslim girl walks in an alley of Jerusalem's old city holding a traditional Ramadan lantern while celebrating with other children the announcing of the holy month of Ramadan. Millions of Muslims around the world will mark the start of Ramadan on Thursday, June 18, 2015 a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Millions of Muslims around the world will mark the start of Ramadan on Thursday, a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. Here's a look at some questions and answers about Islam's holiest month:
 
 

MERS sparks mask rush in Asia, but are they effective?

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:37:03 AMGo to full article
A woman is seen wearing a face mask in Tokyo, on June 15, 2015As South Korea scrambles to control an outbreak of the killer MERS virus, its fearful citizens have donned surgical masks en masse -- but the jury is out on whether they actually protect against the invisible enemy lurking in the air. Across Asia, masks have long lost their stigma to become an everyday sight in the street or on the subway, despite some experts believing they do little more than provide psychological reassurance against diseases such as MERS, which has already left 23 people dead in South Korea. The virus, which arrived in the country with a businessman who had been travelling in the Middle East, has sparked a rush of orders at small Japanese mask-maker Clever, similar to that in the 2002-2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in China.
 
 

WHO chief voices optimism over S. Korea MERS outbreak

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:45:47 AMGo to full article
WHO chief Margaret Chan expressed guarded optimism Thursday over South Korea's ability to contain a MERS outbreak, saying it was now "on a very good footing" after an initially slow response to the virus which has killed 23 peopleWHO chief Margaret Chan expressed guarded optimism Thursday over South Korea's ability to contain a MERS outbreak, saying it was now "on a very good footing" after an initially slow response to the virus which has killed 23 people. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has spread at an alarmingly rapid pace in Asia's fourth-largest economy since the first case was diagnosed on May 20, infecting 165 in what is the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia. Following a strongly worded warning Wednesday by the World Health Organization in Geneva -- which described the spread of the disease as a "wake-up call" -- Chan offered a more positive assessment.
 
 

Hungary to build border barrier as EU migrant crisis rages

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:19:53 AMGo to full article
A Serbian border police officer inspects a path through a wheat field near the Hungarian border, cloe to the northern Serbian city of Subotica on June 16, 2015Hungary said Wednesday it was building a four-metre (13-foot) high fence on its border with Serbia to keep out migrants, as the EU struggles to deal with a massive influx of people trying to reach Europe. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said he was "surprised and shocked" by the plan. Serbia can't be responsible for the situation created by the migrants, we are just a transit country.
 
 

Islamic State-claimed Yemen bombings kill at least 4 people

 
‎17 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:19:49 PMGo to full article
Shiite rebels known as Houthis stand next to a wreckage of a vehicle at the site of a car bomb attack in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Two suicide bombers and another blast targeted the headquarters of Yemen's Shiite rebels in the capital, killing several people and wounding some 60 others, officials said. (AP Photo/Osamh Abdulrhman)SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A series of Islamic State-claimed bombings in Yemen's rebel-controlled capital killed at least four people and wounded 60 Wednesday night amid the country's raging war.
 
 

Libya govt 'torturing' detainees: HRW

 
‎17 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:07:52 PMGo to full article
Human Rights Watch said it had obtained access to jails at Bayda and second city Benghazi, currently in the hands of forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognised administrationLibya's internationally recognised government was accused by a rights group on Wednesday of the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners it holds in the east of the country. The "government and its allied forces are responsible for widespread arbitrary detentions and for torture and other ill treatment", a statement from Human Rights Watch alleged. The New York-based watchdog said it had obtained access to jails at Bayda and second city Benghazi, currently in the hands of forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognised administration.
 
 

MERS a 'wake-up call' says WHO as S. Korea reports 20th death

 
‎17 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:02:55 PMGo to full article
South Korean workers spray disinfect the immigration office of Gimpo airport in Seoul, as the country tries to contain the outbreak of the MERS virus which has killed 20 people since it was first detected on May 20The MERS outbreak in South Korea is a "wake-up call", the World Health Organization warned Wednesday, saying that a lack of knowledge and substandard controls in hospitals had contributed to the spread of the disease. The WHO urged all countries to be more vigilant as South Korea reported its 20th death from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus, and criticism grew of its efforts to contain the crisis. "The outbreak really should serve as a wake-up call for countries," WHO assistant director general Keiji Fukuda said after an emergency committee meeting.
 
 

Suspected mastermind of 1982 Paris attack on Jews 'held in Jordan'

 
‎17 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:54:42 PMGo to full article
Firemen and rescuers work in the rue des Rosiers after the French-Jewish delicatessen restaurant Jo Goldenberg was attacked in Paris by gunmen, on August 9, 1982The suspected mastermind of an attack on a Paris Jewish restaurant in 1982 that left six people dead and 22 injured, has been arrested in Jordan, a source close to the case said Wednesday. Zuhair Mohamad Hassan Khalid al-Abassi, alias "Amjad Atta", was one of three men for whom France issued an international arrest warrant earlier this year. Overall, between three and five men are thought to have taken part in the attack, which was blamed on the Abu Nidal Organisation, a Palestinian militant group.
 
 

U.S. urges 'greater commitment' to war effort from Baghdad

 
‎17 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:53:05 PMGo to full article
U.S. Defense Secretary Carter arrives to testify before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in WashingtonBy Phil Stewart and David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States called for a "greater commitment" from Iraq's government on Wednesday in the fight against Islamic State as it lamented Baghdad's failure to deliver enough soldiers for training and underscored the need to empower Sunni tribesmen. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a congressional hearing that the U.S. military had hoped to train 24,000 Iraqi security forces by this fall but had only received enough recruits to train about 9,000 so far.
 
 

A third of world's aquifers are being sucked dry: NASA data

 
‎17 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:33:24 PMGo to full article
By Chris Arsenault ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Human water use is sucking dry around a third of the world's largest underground water basins at an alarming rate, with potentially risky consequences for farmers and other consumers, researchers said. Eight of the planet's 37 biggest aquifers are classified as "overstressed" because they have almost no new water flowing in to offset usage, according to two studies from the University of California based on NASA satellite data. Another five aquifers are classified as "highly stressed", meaning some water is flowing back into them but they are still in trouble, said the studies published in the journal Water Resources Research this week.
 

Hungary to fence off border with Serbia to stop migrants

 
‎17 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:26:47 PMGo to full article
Migrants from Syria walk in Macedonia near the Greek borderBy Marton Dunai BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary announced plans on Wednesday to build a four-meter-high fence along its border with Serbia to stem the flow of illegal migrants, a move that triggered a swift rebuke from the United Nations Refugee Agency. Hungary, a landlocked central European country of 10 million people, is in the EU's visa-free Schengen zone and thus an attractive destination for tens of thousands of migrants entering Europe through the Balkans from the Middle East and Africa. "The EU's countries seek a solution (for the problem of immigration) ... but Hungary cannot afford to wait any longer," Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a news conference.
 
 

EU to use Tekever drones to help in Mediterranean migrant crisis

 
‎17 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:13 PMGo to full article
The Portuguese navy plans to use drones to help survey the Mediterranean as the European Union steps up efforts to track and rescue thousands of migrants risking often deadly sea crossings from Africa. The AR3 Net Ray drones, built by Portuguese IT, defense and aerospace group Tekever, will be based on a frigate and will take part in missions for EU border protection agency Frontex, Tekever Chief Operations Officer Ricardo Mendes said. "(The idea is) to have eyes on targets sooner, to keep eyes on targets longer, before the vessel is able to reach the point of interest," Mendes said at the Paris air show.
 
 
 

 

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AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from the Middle East

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:31:07 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Thursday, June 25, 2015 file photo, an Afghan girl waits to receive food donation during the holy month of Ramadan in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, File)In the Middle East this week, the holy month of Ramadan — when devout Muslims abstain from all food and drink from dawn to dusk — brought scenes of hardship and charity, and also images of carnage.
 
 

Nuke talks to miss target; Iran foreign minister heads home

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:26:49 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, arrives at the Palais Coburg where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)VIENNA (AP) — A senior U.S. official acknowledged Sunday that Iran nuclear talks will go past their June 30 target date, as Iran's foreign minister prepared to head home for consultations before returning to push for a breakthrough.
 
 

Family pleads for American's release on margins of Iran talks

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:02:23 PMGo to full article
This handout photo obtained on June 28, 2015 shows Sarah Hekmati (L), her husband Ramy Kurdi (C) and US television personality Montel Williams outside the venue of the Iran talks in ViennaSarah Hekmati's young son had it all figured out. At this point the family of Amir Hekmati feels it may need superhuman intervention to free the former US Marine, who has been imprisoned in Iran since 2011. "We've been struggling for four years now, and we're just exhausted," Sarah Hekmati told AFP on Sunday, describing how her brother's incarceration has taken its toll on the family with her father now terminally ill, and her young children unable to grasp why their uncle is being held by Iran.
 
 

Iran FM flies home for talks as deadline nears

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:01:03 PMGo to full article
German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) and Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) attend a meeting at the Palais Coburg Hotel, the venue of the nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria on June 28, 2015Iran's foreign minister flew home late Sunday for consultations after an intense day of talks with major powers, as a looming deadline for a historic nuclear deal looked set to slip by a few days. An Iranian official said there was "no desire or discussion yet" on a longer extension, comments echoed by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who said "postponement is not an option". "We've tasked negotiating teams to continue work immediately tonight on the texts" for an accord, she added before leaving Vienna.
 
 

Jailed American in Iran must be freed, say family at Vienna nuclear talks

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:47:36 PMGo to full article
Relatives of a U.S. citizen jailed by Iran on spying charges in 2011 attended a nuclear summit in Vienna to call for his release. Amir Hekmati, a 31-year-old Iranian-American, was arrested by Iranian authorities and convicted of espionage, a charge his relatives and the United States deny. "We want to ... put pressure on these talks and to make sure that Amir has to be a priority," the prisoner's sister, Sarah Hekmati, told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting in Vienna.
 

Activist blockade runners nearing Gaza coast: TV

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:37:47 PMGo to full article
Pro-Palestinian activists set sail on June 26, 2015 from the port of Elounda in a bid to break Israel's blockade of GazaActivists sailing towards Gaza to challenge Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory are nearing their destination but expect to be intercepted, an Israeli television journalist with them reported late Sunday. "We have been at sea for three days and we are at a distance of no more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the Gaza Strip," Channel Two's Ohad Hemo said in a broadcast from the deck of the Swedish-flagged Marianne of Gothenburg. The vessel is part of the so-called Freedom Flotilla III -- a convoy of four ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists including Arab Israeli lawmaker Basel Ghattas, Tunisia's former president Moncef Marzouki and at least one European lawmaker.
 
 

All sides showing 'political will' for Iran deal: EU

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:57:28 PMGo to full article
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini addresses the media in front of the Palais Coburg Hotel, in Vienna, Austria on June 28, 2015Vienna (AFP) - EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Saturday all sides had shown the political will needed to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, praising the "good results" despite a day of tough talks.
 
 

Western officials suggest Iran tries to wiggle out of nuclear pledges

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:19 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a hotel in ViennaBy Louis Charbonneau and Arshad Mohammed VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran is backtracking from an interim nuclear agreement with world powers three months ago, Western officials suggested on Sunday, as U.S. and Iranian officials said talks on a final accord would likely run past a June 30 deadline. Securing an historic agreement would end a more than 12-year nuclear standoff between Iran and the West and open the door to suspending sanctions that have crippled Tehran's economy. It could also help ease the diplomatic isolation for an Iran that has become increasingly assertive across the region.
 
 

Britain says no Iran deal 'better than a bad deal'

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:49:05 PMGo to full article
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond addresses the media at the Palais Coburg Hotel, the venue of the nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria on June 28, 2015No nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is better than a "bad deal", Britain's foreign minister said Sunday as he arrived for talks just days before a deadline for an accord. "We still have very big challenges if we are going to be able to get this deal done," Philip Hammond told reporters in Vienna. Hammond was due to join US Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and their French, German and EU counterparts aiming to finalise a historic accord by Tuesday.
 
 

Outside Iran talks, a different cast competes for attention

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:27:21 PMGo to full article
FILE - In a Friday, June 26, 2015 file photo, American television personality Montel Williams speaks to media outside the Iranian Embassy in London. Williams went to the embassy to request a meeting with the Iranian Chief of Mission. Williams is campaigning for the release of Amir Hekmati, an American who is being held in Iran’s Evin Prison. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)VIENNA (AP) — Ah, Vienna. City of music. Crown jewel of the Holy Roman Empire. Birthplace of psychoanalysis. Home of the Lipizzaner stallions. And this week, host of the Iran nuclear negotiations.
 
 

Close aide of Syria's Assad dies of cancer

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:09:19 PMGo to full article
BEIRUT (AP) — A close aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nassif Kheir Bek, has died.
 

Factbox - Unsolved mystery: Possible military aspects of Iran's atomic past

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:04:01 PMGo to full article
By Shadia Nasralla VIENNA (Reuters) - As nuclear talks with Iran approach a Tuesday deadline, some Western diplomats say questions about the country's atomic past ought to be resolved before sanctions can be lifted. Although Iran has not broken any terms of a 2013 interim deal, the U.N.'s nuclear agency has repeatedly asked Iran to cooperate faster with its investigation into possible military dimensions of the country's atomic program. Below are the key unanswered questions raised by the IAEA, which mostly refer to activities that took place before 2003.     BACKGROUND     Iran acquired some enrichment knowledge from Pakistani nuclear engineer Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic weapons program, who confessed to providing assistance to Libya, Iran and North Korea.     Some intelligence also came from a laptop smuggled out of Iran.     Iran says all of the alleged evidence is forged and dismisses any charges that it was attempting to develop nuclear weapons.
 

Iran nuclear deal possible, with political will: EU's Mogherini

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:00:32 PMGo to full article
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Sunday that a last-minute deal between Iran and world powers on Tehran's nuclear program was still possible. "If all negotiating parties have strong political will in these last moments, we can make it," she said in a tweet from the negotiations in Vienna. (Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Jason Neely)
 

Iran's Zarif to return to Tehran for consultations on nuclear talks

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:00:32 PMGo to full article
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will return on Sunday to Tehran for one day to consult with the country's leadership over the ongoing nuclear talks with major powers ahead of a June 30 deadline, Iran's Tasnim news agency reported. "Zarif will return to Tehran tonight and will come back to Vienna tomorrow," Tasnim said, citing an unnamed Iranian official.
 

Britain's Hammond says major differences remain in Iran talks

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:00:32 PMGo to full article
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Sunday there were still major differences on a proposed nuclear deal between major powers and Iran and there would need to be concessions to reach an agreement. "There a number of different areas where we still have major differences of interpretation in detailing what was agreed in (the) Lausanne (framework agreement)," Hammond told reporters on arrival in Vienna.
 

Factbox: A guide to nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:00:12 PMGo to full article
By Louis Charbonneau VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran and six world powers - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - are in what may be the final phase of negotiations aimed at securing a deal on sanctions relief in exchange for limits on Iranian nuclear activities. BACKGROUND The nuclear standoff between Iran and the West goes back to at least 2002, when a group of exiles revealed undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) later confirmed that they were a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy-water production plant at Arak.
 

Rouhani aims to bring transparency to Iran's legal system

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎12:51:55 PMGo to full article
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani arrives for a bilateral meeting with Indonesia's President Joko Widodo on the sideline of the Asian African Conference in JakartaBy Sam Wilkin DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's judicial system must become more transparent and political crimes should be clearly defined, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, in some of his strongest comments on domestic reform since taking office. The president, elected in 2013 with a promise to enact social reforms and create a more open political environment, has so far seen his efforts thwarted by powerful conservative factions, particularly in the judiciary. Speaking at a televised judicial conference in Tehran, Rouhani called for more transparency in the prosecution of so-called political and security crimes that have seen large numbers of Iranian activists and journalists put behind bars.
 
 

Police arrest Kuwaiti national, others for mosque bombing

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:50:51 AMGo to full article
Thousands of Sunnis and Shiites from across the country take part in a mass funeral procession for 27 people killed in a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Imam Sadiq Mosque a day earlier, at Kuwait's Grand Mosque in Kuwait city, Kuwait, Saturday, June 27, 2015. Police in Kuwait said they are interrogating a number of suspects with possible links to the suicide bombing, which was claimed by an affiliate of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo)KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Police have arrested a number of people, among them a Kuwaiti citizen, suspected of being behind a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque that killed 27 people, Kuwait's Interior Ministry said early Sunday.
 
 

Iran judiciary chief undercuts president over concerts

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:59:54 AMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani listens during his press conference in Tehran on June 13, 2015A cultural row in Iran over concerts being cancelled was reignited Sunday when the country's judiciary chief appeared to criticise President Hassan Rouhani's liberal remarks on the subject. Music and other public performances are a sensitive matter in the Islamic republic given concerns among religious conservatives about creeping "Westernisation". Rouhani, addressing the subject on June 13, said that if a concert is officially approved and people buy tickets their plans should not be disrupted.
 
 

Iran, US warn of 'hard work' at tough nuclear talks

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:17:56 PMGo to full article
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) talks to reporters next to US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman as they meet with the Iranian delegation at a hotel in Vienna on June 27, 2015Iran and the US showed little sign Saturday of an early breakthrough in last-ditch nuclear talks with both sides warning of "hard work" ahead and France stressing key issues remain unresolved. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met twice during the day for what is set to be the final push to seal an accord curtailing Tehran's nuclear programme after almost two years of negotiations.
 
 

Alamo, French champagne vineyards vie for World Heritage status

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:48:05 PMGo to full article
France is trying to list the "slopes, houses and cellars" of its own Champagne region, home to its renowned bubbly, on the UNESCO World Heritage listThe legendary Alamo battleground and the vineyards that produce France's beloved champagne are among the sites likely to get World Heritage status at a UNESCO meeting starting Sunday. At least 36 natural and cultural sites, including a disputed bid from Japan, are vying to get the United Nations cultural body's prestigious distinction and add their names to the more than 1,000-strong list. The 39th committee session of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) will take place in the western German city of Bonn from June 28-July 8.
 
 

Diplomats: Iran considers shipping, selling enriched uranium

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:16:07 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks to reporters alongside U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman as they meet with the Iranian delegation at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, June 27, 2015. After nearly a decade of international diplomacy, negotiators are trying to reach a final agreement by Tuesday that would curb Iran's nuclear activities for a decade and put tens of billions of dollars back into the Iranian economy through the easing of financial sanctions. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)VIENNA (AP) — Nuclear negotiators for Iran, obligated to dispose tons of enriched uranium under an approaching deal, are focusing on a U.S.-backed plan for Iran to send the material to another country for sale as reactor fuel, diplomats told The Associated Press on Saturday.
 
 

Once unheard of, US-Iran talks become the new normal

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:52:37 PMGo to full article
From left, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, second from right, at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, June 27, 2015. After nearly a decade of international diplomacy, negotiators are trying to reach a final agreement by Tuesday that would curb Iran's nuclear activities for a decade and put tens of billions of dollars back into the Iranian economy through the easing of financial sanctions. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)VIENNA (AP) — The top American and Iranian diplomats faced each other across a square table in a 19th century Viennese palace, the room austerely decorated and the atmosphere calm as they started the final push for a generation-defining nuclear agreement on Saturday.
 
 

Disputes linger as Iran, powers push for nuclear deal: France

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:20:21 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New YorkBy John Irish and Arshad Mohammed VIENNA (Reuters) - An accord to curb Iran's nuclear program remains elusive due to disagreements on fundamental issues, France's foreign minister said on Saturday in Vienna, just days before the June 30 deadline for a deal. Laurent Fabius spoke to reporters upon arrival in the Austrian capital after top U.S. and Iranian diplomats said hard work was still needed for what could be their final negotiations to bridge significant differences. "What we want is a robust deal that recognizes Iran's right to civil nuclear power, but guarantees that Iran gives up definitively the nuclear weapon," Fabius said.
 
 

France's Fabius says three conditions still not met for Iran deal

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:01:11 PMGo to full article
French Foreign Minister Fabius talks to journalists in ViennaVIENNA (Reuters) - France's foreign minister said on Saturday there were three conditions that Iran still needed to accept to ensure a "solid" agreement with major powers over its nuclear program. "What we want is a robust deal that recognizes Iran's right to civil nuclear power, but guarantees that Iran gives up definitively the nuclear weapon," Laurent Fabius said on arrival in Vienna. ...
 
 

Iran burns 100 tonnes for anti-drugs meeting

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎12:23:23 PMGo to full article
An Iranian member of the anti-drug police stands guard as fifty tonnes of drugs recovered from traffickers are destroyed during a ceremony to coincide with an international anti-drug day summit in Mashhad on June 27, 2015Iran burned 100 tonnes of drugs recovered from traffickers in a ceremony on Saturday to coincide with an international anti-drug day meeting in Tehran, local news agencies reported. Iran, with an annual consumption of 500 tonnes of narcotics, suffers severe drug-related problems, mostly due to heroin and methamphetamine use. More than 1.3 million of Iran's 78 million population are addicted and each day eight people die and 70 new users become hooked, according to the Mehr news agency.
 
 

Iran says nuclear deal within reach if other side is reasonable: IRNA

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:34:50 AMGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at the New York University (NYU) Center on International Cooperation in New YorkIran will reach a nuclear deal with world powers so long as the other side does not make excessive demands, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying on Saturday as he arrived in Vienna for the final stage of the talks. "If the other side ... takes positive steps and does not make excessive demands, we will certainly reach a deal that benefits everyone," Zarif was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
 
 

Kerry seeks to seal historic Iran nuclear accord

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:21:49 AMGo to full article
The gruelling diplomatic marathon towards an historic deal putting an Iranian nuclear bomb out of reach entered the final furlong Tuesday with one week left for Iran and six major powers to finalise the accordUS Secretary of State John Kerry was set on Saturday to try and seal a historic deal with Iran that would curb its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from painful sanctions. In return for downsizing its activities and allowing closer UN inspections, Iran, which denies wanting nuclear weapons, would see the progressive lifting of UN and Western sanctions that have choked its economy.
 
 

Kerry, Zarif to discuss Iran nuclear deal as deadline approaches: U.S. official

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:03:55 AMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New YorkBy Arshad Mohammed and Parisa Hafezi VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.S. and Iranian foreign ministers will meet on Saturday, a senior U.S. official said, as major differences persist over an agreement under which Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will sit down in the Austrian capital ahead of Tuesday's self-imposed deadline, which many officials expect to slip. Significant gaps remain, notably over the sequencing of economic sanctions relief for Iran and the nature of monitoring mechanisms to ensure Tehran does not cheat on any agreement.
 
 

Kuwait arrests suspects as IS bombing hits Shiite mosque

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:42:32 PMGo to full article
Kuwait police on patrolAn Islamic State suicide bomber struck a Shiite mosque in the Kuwaiti capital during Friday prayers, killing 27 people as the Gulf state declared an "all-out confrontation" with terrorism. Health Minister Ali al-Obaidi told Kuwait Television the number of dead had risen to 27 in addition to 227 wounded in the first ever suicide attack on Shiite mosques in the oil-rich emirate. The toll in the attack, carried out in the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, is one of the largest in Kuwait's history.
 
 

Senior Iranian official: progress slow at nuclear talks

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:07:18 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007 file photo, an Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. State TV says the Guardian Council, Iran's constitutional watchdog, ratified a bill Wednesday, June 24, 2015, banning access to military sites and scientists as Tehran and world powers approach a deadline for reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal. The bill would allow for international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)VIENNA (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Vienna Friday to launch a top-level push to meet next week's deadline for talks on Iran's nuclear program, which aim to curb Teheran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanction relief.
 
 

IS affiliate hits Shiite mosque in Kuwait, killing 27 people

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:07:14 PMGo to full article
Security forces, officials and civilians gather after a deadly blast claimed by the Islamic State group that struck worshippers attending Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City, Friday, June 26, 2015. Friday's explosion struck the Imam Sadiq Mosque in the neighborhood of al-Sawabir, a residential and shopping district of the capital. (AP Photo)KUWAIT CITY (AP) — A suicide bomber purportedly from an Islamic State affiliate unleashed the first terrorist attack in Kuwait in more than two decades on Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding scores more in a bombing that targeted Shiite worshippers after midday prayers.
 
 

Big hurdles to Iran nuclear deal as deadline looms

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:34:31 PMGo to full article
Negotiators of Iran and six world powers face each other at a table in the historic basement of Palais Coburg hotel in ViennaBy John Irish and Louis Charbonneau VIENNA (Reuters) - As a June 30 deadline for a final nuclear deal approaches, major differences remain between Iran and world powers on several key issues including sanctions relief and U.N. access to Iranian sites, a senior Western diplomat said on Friday. "The most difficult subjects need to be resolved in the coming days," the diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity in the Austrian capital, where talks between the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran have entered their final phase. "The questions of access and transparency, PMD (possible military dimensions (to Iran's nuclear activity) and sanctions remain extremely problematic.
 
 

Delivery man beheads boss in suspected Islamist attack on French gas site

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:23:38 PMGo to full article
French special Police forces escort a woman from a residential building during a raid in Saint-PriestBy Catherine Lagrange and Michel Rose SAINT-QUENTIN FALLAVIER, France (Reuters) - A delivery man with known Islamist connections beheaded his boss and left the body, daubed with Arabic writing, at the site of a U.S.-owned gas factory in southeast France before trying to blow up the complex. "The head was discovered hanging on the factory's wire fence, framed by two flags that included references to the shahada, or (Muslim) profession of faith," Paris public prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference. France is still coming to terms with attacks by Islamist gunmen who killed 17 people in January at a satirical weekly newspaper and a Jewish food store.
 
 

Saudi-led jets bomb Yemen as Hadi government rejects new talks

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:30:18 PMGo to full article
People look at the rubble of houses destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's capital SanaaBy Mohammed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) - Air strikes by Saudi-led forces hit military bases across Yemen on Friday, residents told Reuters, and the country's foreign minister was quoted as saying there was no need to convene another peace summit after the first round of talks failed. Talks in Geneva last week ended without a resolution to the conflict, which has claimed more than 2,800 lives, as the Iran-allied Houthi movement and Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi refused to back down. Ten people were killed in air raids in Jawf, a northern province bordering Saudi Arabia, residents said.
 
 

Cuba-born boxer leads Azerbaijan's foreign legion

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:33:00 PMGo to full article
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Collazo Sotomayor is no typical Azerbaijani.
 

The Iran deal: A look at what it does and problems remaining

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:20:40 PMGo to full article
Secretary of State John Kerry plays with his crutches as he talks to reporters before leaving from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, June 26, 2015, en route to Vienna, Austria. Kerry flies to Vienna on Friday to join negotiators from six powers and Iran seeking an agreement under which Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions that have crippled its economy. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)VIENNA (AP) — World powers and Iran are back in nuclear talks, and this round may be the deciding one.
 
 

Kerry leaves for Iran talks as deadline for deal nears

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:39:22 PMGo to full article
John Kerry, still on crutches after breaking his leg, is headed to Vienna looking to seal a legacy-making nuclear deal with IranUS Secretary of State John Kerry, still on crutches after breaking his leg, headed to Vienna Friday looking to seal a legacy-making nuclear deal with Iran. Kerry left for the last leg of marathon talks aimed at hammering out an unprecedented accord with Iran to curb its nuclear program, and put a bomb out of its reach. Iran and six global powers leading the negotiations -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US -- have given themselves until Wednesday to reach a final comprehensive accord.
 
 

Kerry off to Vienna for Iran nuclear talks as deadline looms

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:01:07 PMGo to full article
Secretary of State John Kerry asks an aide to bring him his crutches after speaking to the news media at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, June 25, 2015, as the State Department released it's annual human rights report. The Obama administration has once again identified Iran and Cuba as serial human rights abusers even as it accelerates attempts to improve relations with both countries. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)WASHINGTON (AP) — With next week's deadline for an Iran nuclear deal fast approaching, Secretary of State John Kerry headed back to the talks in Vienna on Friday, this time leaning on crutches.
 
 

Friend or foe? US lines up with Shiite militias and former Sunni rebels in Iraq

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:09:48 PMGo to full article
On Monday, Bloomberg carried a story citing two unnamed Obama "administration officials" that asserts that US troops are sharing a base in Iraq's Anbar province with two Shiite militias. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters this week that a US condition for sending 450 soldiers to Taqaddum Air Base in Anbar – midway between Islamic State-controlled Fallujah and Ramadi – was the removal of most of the Shiite militias and any Iranian officers or soldiers stationed there. Recommended: Sunni and Shiite Islam: Do you know the difference?
 

With nuke talks in final stretch, foreign ministers join in

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:40:55 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007 file photo, an Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. State TV says the Guardian Council, Iran's constitutional watchdog, ratified a bill Wednesday, June 24, 2015, banning access to military sites and scientists as Tehran and world powers approach a deadline for reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal. The bill would allow for international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)VIENNA (AP) — The foreign ministers of Iran, the United States and France are leading the way to talks on Iran's nuclear program as they try to overcome disputes ahead of a June 30 target date for a deal.
 
 

Anthropologist reveals FGM practised in western, southern Iran

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:38:58 AMGo to full article
By Emma Batha LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When anthropologist Kameel Ahmady began investigating female genital mutilation in his native Iran he had no idea his own mother and sister had been cut – a reflection of just how shrouded in secrecy the practice is. Ahmady, who was born in Iranian Kurdistan but moved to Britain in his 20s, took global campaigners by surprise this month when he published a study suggesting tens of thousands of Iranian women have undergone FGM. Until now Iran has not been widely recognized as a country affected by FGM - an ancient ritual which is internationally condemned as a serious rights violation.
 

White House: Putin calls Obama, discuss Ukraine, IS, Iran

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:29:52 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama spoke by telephone Thursday and discussed continued tensions in eastern Ukraine and the fight against the Islamic State in the Middle East. The last time the men spoke was in February, the White House said.
 

Obama, Putin discuss Iran, Islamic State, Ukraine in phone call

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎12:31:55 AMGo to full article
U.S. President Obama and Russia's President Putin attend a family photo shoot for the APEC leaders' meeting in BeijingRussian President Vladimir Putin phoned U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday, their first call since February, to discuss Iran nuclear talks, "the increasingly dangerous situation in Syria" and the need to counter Islamic State militants, the White House said in a statement. "The leaders discussed the increasingly dangerous situation in Syria, and underscored the importance of continued P5+1 unity in ongoing negotiations to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," the White House said.
 
 

Amid new engagements, US calls Cuba, Iran rights abusers

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 PMGo to full article
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the news media after the State Department released it's annual human rights reports, Thursday, June 25, 2015, at the State Department in Washington. The Obama administration has once again identified Iran and Cuba as serial human rights abusers even as it accelerates attempts to improve relations with both countries. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Thursday tagged Iran and Cuba as serial human rights abusers even as it accelerates attempts to improve relations with both countries.
 
 

US says Iran nuclear deal deadline may 'slip'

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:11:55 PMGo to full article
US Secretary of State John Kerry says if "outstanding issues" with Iran over its nucelear programme are not addressed there will be no dealHigh-stakes talks to nail down a historic deal with Iran to curtail its nuclear programme may "slip" past a June 30 deadline, a top US official admitted Thursday ahead of crunch weekend negotiations in Vienna. "We may not make June 30, but we will be close," the senior official told reporters as top US diplomat John Kerry prepared to head Friday for what could be the last talks between Iran and global powers on the deal. "The intent of everybody here -- the P5+1, the European Union, Iran -- is to stay until we get this done, or find out we can't.
 
 

US blasts Iran for no improvement in human rights

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:00:42 PMGo to full article
Iranian police watch a campaign rally along Valiasr Street in the Iranian capital Tehran, on June 9, 2013Iran repressed freedoms and rights for its people last year, the United States said Thursday, adding that there has been no "meaningful improvement" since President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013. "Iran continued to severely restrict civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, speech, religion, and press, and to execute citizens at the second highest rate in the world," the US said in its annual human rights report. Assistant Secretary for human rights Tom Malinowski said the United States has "not seen any meaningful improvement in the situation in Iran" since Rouhani took office in 2013.
 
 

Saudi downplays leaks as chequebook diplomacy revealed

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:57:26 PMGo to full article
Saudi King Salman during the arrival of President Barack Obama at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on January 27, 2015Thousands of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal how Saudi Arabia apparently uses its deep pockets to buy international support, but the kingdom insists it is doing nothing out of the ordinary. The whistleblowing website has released about 70,000 documents it said were obtained from the Saudi foreign ministry, of more than half a million it says it received. A Saudi official told AFP the leaks contained "no surprises", and many dealt with personal matters instead of high-level diplomacy.
 
 

US slams 'brutality' of Islamic militants in rights report

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:44:14 PMGo to full article
Iraqis mourn during the funeral of twenty Iraqi fighters of the Asaib al Haq group who died in the city of Baiji in the Salahaddin province while fighting the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group' militants on June 8, 2015 in Iraq's holy city of NajafThe United States denounced the "brutality" of Islamic militants Thursday and highlighted a litany of abuses in Iran and Cuba as it unveiled an annual assessment of human rights around the world. "No development has been more disturbing than the rise of groups such as Daesh," Secretary of State John Kerry said, referring to the self-proclaimed Islamic State group, as he launched the 2014 report at the State Department.
 
 

U.S. rights report slams Cuba and Iran, despite greater links

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:38:40 PMGo to full article
U.S. rights report slams Cuba and Iran, despite greater contactBy Lesley Wroughton and David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States released its annual human rights report on Thursday, with strong words for countries such as Iran, Cuba, Myanmar and Vietnam, even as it seeks to improve relations with them. It said the most significant human rights problems in Iran were severe restrictions on freedom of expression, religion and on the media, while people were also arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed.
 
 

Drone strikes kills 9 'Qaeda militants' in Yemen

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:32:13 PMGo to full article
AQAP have exploited months of fighting between loyalists of Yemen's exiled government and Iran-backed Huthi rebels to consolidate their grip on Hadramawt and its capital Mukalla, pictured hereA drone strike killed five suspected Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen's south on Thursday, bringing to nine the number of alleged jihadists killed by unmanned aircraft in two days, officials said. The latest strike by a drone hit a vehicle in Rafadh, a town in the southern Shabwa province, killing all five suspected militants, a local official and tribesmen there told AFP. The official, who did not want to be named, said a local Al-Qaeda chief was among those killed Wednesday.
 
 

UN pushes Saudi coalition to allow ships into Yemen

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:27:00 PMGo to full article
Yemeni children wait to fill jerrycans with water from a public tap amid an acute shortage of water to houses in Sanaa, on April 26, 2015Commercial cargo ships carrying food, fuel and other vital supplies must be allowed to reach ports in Yemen which is threatened by famine, the UN Security Council said Thursday. The Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen has imposed maritime controls that UN diplomats have described as a blockade preventing imports from reaching Yemen. "It's vital that we get commercial ships back in," UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien told reporters.
 
 

Kerry cautiously hopeful before Iran nuclear talks

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:41:50 PMGo to full article
By Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday he was hopeful about nuclear negotiations with Iran but that he did not wish to convey optimism ahead of a June 30 deadline for a deal. Yes, I am hopeful, but I am not conferring optimism," Kerry told reporters in response to a question after presenting an annual U.S. report on human rights. Kerry flies to Vienna on Friday to join negotiators from six powers and Iran seeking an agreement under which Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.
 

Netanyahu: air force key in meeting future Iran threat

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:41:15 PMGo to full article
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting on June 21, 2015 at his office in JerusalemDays before the deadline for an Iranian nuclear deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told young pilots Thursday that they would be at the forefront of safeguarding the Jewish state. "Foremost among the threats endangering our security is the Iranian effort to arm itself with a nuclear weapon," a statement from Netanyahu's office quoted him as telling newly-graduated pilots receiving their wings. "Whatever may be, Israel will always defend itself and in that, the part of the air force is a major one," he said.
 
 

White House, foes turn up heat ahead of Iran deadline

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:30:25 PMGo to full article
United Against Nuclear Iran -- led by former president George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, Mark Wallace -- announced it will plough vast resources into influencing the debate on the US deal with TehranDown-to-the-wire talks in Vienna this week will decide whether the United States can reach a landmark nuclear deal with Iran, but a fierce lobbying battle in Washington may decide if it survives. For the last two years, those for and against an agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program have traded newspaper opinion pieces, rolled out dueling advocacy campaigns and lobbied "influencers" on the think tank circuit. United Against Nuclear Iran -- led by former president George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, Mark Wallace -- announced Tuesday it will plough vast resources into influencing the debate.
 
 

Emerging Israel gas deal ignites fierce debate

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:19:50 PMGo to full article
FILE - This Thursday, Oct. 7, 2015 file photo shows a general view of the Eshkol power station, the first in Israel to produce electricity from natural gas, in the coastal city of Ashdod, southern Israel. When natural gas was discovered a few years ago off the shores of resource-poor Israel, it was heralded as nothing short of a miracle, but an emerging deal with developers has been plagued by criticism, with opponents accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of caving to a monopoly.(AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)JERUSALEM (AP) — When natural gas was discovered a few years ago off the shores of resource-poor Israel, it was heralded as nothing short of a miracle, but an emerging deal with developers has been plagued by criticism, with opponents accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of caving to a monopoly.
 
 

Former Obama aides' letter on Iran consistent with negotiation framework: White House

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:17:01 PMGo to full article
A letter published on Wednesday by a group of prominent former aides to President Barack Obama on Iran that urges a robust nuclear deal is "broadly consistent" with the U.S. administration's negotiation framework announced in April, the White House said on Thursday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the letter put no additional pressure on negotiators attempting to conclude a deal that would curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.
 

U.S. lawmakers lay down 'red lines' on Iran nuclear deal

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:07:50 PMGo to full article
File photo of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Corker talking to reporters about Iran nuclear negotiations, on Capitol Hill in WashingtonBy Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As talks on an Iran nuclear deal enter the final stretch, U.S. lawmakers are sharpening warnings against a "weak" agreement and laying down red lines that, if crossed, could prompt Congress to trip up a carefully crafted international pact. Several influential lawmakers said they do not want to see any sanctions lifted before Tehran begins complying with a deal, and want a tough verification regime, in which inspectors could visit Iranian facilities anytime and anywhere.
 
 

Israel's Netanyahu says better Iran deal still possible

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:04:56 PMGo to full article
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister says world powers can still insist on a better deal with Iran over its nuclear program as the negotiators' self-imposed deadline rapidly approaches.
 

WikiLeaks exposes Saudi liquor runs, Clinton's passport

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:23:55 PMGo to full article
FILE - This Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, file photo, Saudi Arabian city view with the 'Kingdom Tower', background, and 'Al-Faislia Tower' in Riyadh. WikiLeaks’ publication of more than 60,000 Saudi documents has set pens racing across the Middle East with disclosures about the secretive Arab monarchy’s foreign affairs. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)CAIRO (AP) — WikiLeaks' publication of more than 60,000 Saudi documents has set pens racing across the Middle East with disclosures about the secretive Arab monarchy's foreign affairs. But lost amid the torrent of revelations are offbeat memos showing the underbelly of Riyadh's diplomacy, including candid accounts of booze runs and pork smuggling.

 

 

 

Iraq News Headlines - Yahoo! News    Feed image

 
 

Cameron - IS militants are plotting 'terrible' UK attacks

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:11:33 AMGo to full article
A wall painted with the black flag commonly used by Islamic State militants, near former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's palace in TikritPrime Minister David Cameron warned on Monday that Islamic State militants based in Syria and Iraq were planning specific attacks against Britain and posed an existential threat to the West. Cameron was speaking after an Islamist gunman killed up to 30 British tourists in an attack last Friday that British politicians have described as the single worst assault on their nationals since the bombing of the London underground in 2005. "It is an existential threat because what is happening here is the perversion of a great religion and the creation of this poisonous death cult is seducing too many young minds," Cameron told BBC radio.
 
 

Top Asian News at 9:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:03:03 AMGo to full article
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Investigators in Taiwan were focusing Monday on the possibility that a cigarette butt or spark caused the blaze that burned more than 500 people at a weekend water park party when colored powder sprayed from the stage caught fire. More than 400 people remained hospitalized, 200 in serious condition, city officials said. Taiwan's Central News Agency reported one death: a 20-year-old with burns to 90 percent of her body who was taken off life support with her family's consent.
 

Tunisia struggles to find balanced response to terror

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:55:52 AMGo to full article
A Tunisian police officer guards the beach in front of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, Sunday, June 28, 2015. Tunisia's top security official says 1,000 extra police are being deployed at tourist sites and beaches in the North African nation. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia has reason to fear a terror attack. The only democracy that emerged from the turmoil of the 2011 Arab Spring has seen more of its young men join the Islamic State group than any other nation, and many have returned, battle-hardened, to spread radical ideologies back home. It's also a country full of vulnerable targets, with an economy that depends on welcoming European tourists to its warm Mediterranean shore.
 
 

AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from the Middle East

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:31:07 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Thursday, June 25, 2015 file photo, an Afghan girl waits to receive food donation during the holy month of Ramadan in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, File)In the Middle East this week, the holy month of Ramadan — when devout Muslims abstain from all food and drink from dawn to dusk — brought scenes of hardship and charity, and also images of carnage.
 
 

Sputtering start to US military's training of Syrian rebels

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:36:14 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2012, file photo, Syrian rebels attend a training session in Maaret Ikhwan near Idlib, Syria. Fewer than 100 Syrian rebels are currently being trained by the U.S. military to fight the Islamic State group, a tiny total for a sputtering program with a stated goal of producing 5,400 fighters a year. The training effort is moving so slowly that critics question whether it can produce enough capable fighters quickly enough to make a difference. Military officials said this past week that they still hope for 3,000 by year’s end. Privately, they acknowledge the trend is moving in the wrong direction. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer than 100 Syrian rebels are currently being trained by the U.S. military to fight the Islamic State group, a tiny total for a sputtering program with a stated goal of producing 5,400 fighters a year.
 
 

Tunisia beach attacker; from rap fan to killer

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:16:39 AMGo to full article
People hold hands as they pray in a circle around bouquets of flowers laid in tribute on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman, in Sousse, TunisiaBy Patrick Markey and Tarek Amara GAAFOUR, Tunisia (Reuters) - On Wednesday, Saif Rezgui sat down with friends in his Tunisian hometown to chat about his favourite football team, girls and his breakdance skills over coffee and cigarettes. On Thursday, he met up with his uncle in Gaafour, catching up on family matters, on a break from his master’s studies in the nearby historic town of Kairouan. A day later, Resgui walked calmly though the Imperial Marhaba beach hotel on Tunisia’s Mediterrenean coast opening fire with a Kalashnikov, and in more than five minutes slaughtered 39 foreign tourists in the name of Islamic State.
 
 

Australia police will not help IS fighter's kids: grandmother

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:59:43 AMGo to full article
Kurdish People's Protection Units fighters cheer as they parade on June 24, 2015 in the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli after returning from battling Islamic State group jihadists in Tal AbyadThe Australian mother-in-law of a notorious Islamic State group fighter said Monday she was "devastated" that police had refused to help bring her five grandchildren home from Syria. Karen Nettleton's daughter Tara is married to Khaled Sharrouf, who gained global infamy last year when he posted pictures of himself and his seven-year-old son on Twitter holding up the severed heads of soldiers. News emerged last week that Sharrouf may have died in the same drone attack believed to have killed fellow Australian jihadist Mohamed Elomar, raising concerns about what would happen to his children who were taken to Syria last year.
 
 

Today in History

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:00:34 AMGo to full article
Today is Monday, June 29, the 180th day of 2015. There are 185 days left in the year.
 

Kuwait says mosque bomber was young Saudi man, detains driver

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:42 AMGo to full article
Mourners hold flags as the bodies of victims of Friday's bombing are buried in Al Jafariya cemetery in SuleibikhatBy Ahmed Hagagy KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait identified the suicide bomber behind its worst militant attack as a young Saudi Arabian man and said on Sunday it had detained the driver of the vehicle that took him to a Shi'ite Muslim mosque where he killed 27 people. The disclosure of the bomber's nationality is likely to focus the attention of authorities probing Friday's suicide attack on ties between Islamists in Kuwait and those in Saudi Arabia, a center of ultra-conservative Islamic thought. Kuwait's interior ministry named the bomber as Fahd Suliman Abdul-Muhsen al-Qabaa and said he flew into Kuwait's airport at dawn on Friday, only hours before he detonated an explosives-laden vest at Kuwait City's Imam al-Sadeq mosque.
 
 

Tunisia to boost security, arm tourist police after attack

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:27:05 AMGo to full article
Tourists leave Tunisia at the Enfidha International airport after a shooting in the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometres south of the Tunisian capital, on June 27, 2015Tunisia said it would arm tourism police and deploy hundreds of reinforcements as authorities moved to boost security after a jihadist gunned down 38 people at a seaside resort in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group. Police on horseback and quad bikes patrolled the beach at Port El Kantaoui north of Sousse, where the worst jihadist attack in Tunisia's history took place on Friday. On Monday, interior ministers from Britain -- the country hardest hit -- France and Germany will visit the seaside Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel south of Tunis, where the killings took place.
 
 

Feds defend request for special housing during Burning Man

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:29:55 AMGo to full article
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Federal Bureau of Land Management officials are defending their request for special housing accommodations during the annual Burning Man counterculture festival in Nevada, disputing comments by Sen. Harry Reid and others that the plans are unnecessary and extravagant.
 

Dalai Lama urges happiness and peace at Glastonbury

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:44:55 AMGo to full article
The Dalai Lama addresses an audience near the Stone Circle as he visits the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset on June 28, 2015The Dalai Lama made his first appearance at Glastonbury, spending an hour in the rain addressing festival-goers on how the world could be a happier place. The elderly Buddhist monk hailed the "full joy" of the revellers present, and got into the spirit himself by wearing a Glastonbury t-shirt on his head against the rain.
 
 

British PM calls for dealing with Islamic State threat at 'source': The Telegraph

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:28:42 AMGo to full article
Flowers are laid at the beachside of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse(Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Friday's attack at a Tunisian hotel demonstrated the "level of evil" Britain is dealing with and drew parallels with previous attacks at magazine offices in Paris and in schools in Pakistan. Writing in The Telegraph on Sunday, Cameron said "we will not be cowed. Unshakeable resolve." A gunman disguised as a tourist opened fire at a Tunisian hotel on Friday with a rifle he had hidden in an umbrella, killing 39 people including Britons, Germans and Belgians as they lounged at the beach in an attack claimed by Islamic State.
 
 

French beheading selfie 'sent to Syria'

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:18:40 AMGo to full article
French police escort Yassin Salhi (C), a man suspected of decapitating his boss in an attack on a gas factory, as they leave his flat in Saint-Priest on June 28, 2015The gruesome "selfie" taken by a man who has confessed to beheading his boss during an attack on a gas factory in France was sent to Syria, sources close to the investigation said Sunday. The news emerged as Yassin Salhi, 35, was being transferred from France's second city of Lyon to Paris for questioning by specialised anti-terrorist police.
 
 

Cameron calls for dealing with Islamic State threat at 'source' - the Telegraph

 
‎29 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:18:02 AMGo to full article
Flowers are laid at the beachside of the Imperial Marhaba resort, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse(Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron said that Friday's attack at a Tunisian hotel demonstrated the "level of evil" Britain is dealing with and drew parallels with previous attacks at magazine offices in Paris and in schools in Pakistan. Writing in the Telegraph on Sunday, Cameron said "we will not be cowed. Unshakeable resolve." (http://bit.ly/1Hp1j22) A gunman disguised as a tourist opened fire at a Tunisian hotel on Friday with a rifle he had hidden in an umbrella, killing 39 people including Britons, Germans and Belgians as they lounged at the beach in an attack claimed by Islamic State.
 
 

Top Asian News at 8:30 p.m. GMT

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:33:00 PMGo to full article
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — More than 400 people, many of them seriously burned, remained in hospitals Sunday after a fire spread into a crowd of spectators at a music party at a Taiwan water park, authorities said. The fire late Saturday was sparked by an accidental explosion of a colored theatrical powder thrown from the stage in front of about 1,000 people, the local fire agency and media said. The powder for the one-time event called "Color Play Asia" ignited along the ground, mainly burning people's lower bodies, said Wang Wei-sheng, a liaison with the New Taipei City fire department command center.
 

Cautious Merkel on verge of biggest risk with 'Grexit'

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:11:04 PMGo to full article
File photo of German Chancellor Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Tsipras leaving after addressing news conference in BerlinBy Noah Barkin BERLIN (Reuters) - "If you break it, you own it," former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President George W. Bush before his invasion of Iraq. Whether it will ever be fair to blame Angela Merkel for "breaking" Greece is debatable. Unlike her finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, who sent abundant signals in recent months that he could accept a euro zone that does not include Greece, Merkel has been determined to avoid such an outcome, according to her closest advisers.
 
 

Jailed American in Iran must be freed, say family at Vienna nuclear talks

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:47:36 PMGo to full article
Relatives of a U.S. citizen jailed by Iran on spying charges in 2011 attended a nuclear summit in Vienna to call for his release. Amir Hekmati, a 31-year-old Iranian-American, was arrested by Iranian authorities and convicted of espionage, a charge his relatives and the United States deny. "We want to ... put pressure on these talks and to make sure that Amir has to be a priority," the prisoner's sister, Sarah Hekmati, told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting in Vienna.
 

Gunmen kill senior Iraqi oil official in Iraq's Kirkuk

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:23:26 PMGo to full article
Gunmen shot dead a senior oil official working for Iraq's state-run North Oil Company (NOC) on Sunday, police and company officials said. NOC's chief of operations, Saad al-Karbalaie, was killed in the northern oil city of Kirkuk. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on Karbalaie, who was supervising production and export facilities in Kirkuk.
 

American Al Qaeda to ISIS: No Paradise for You

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:55:20 PMGo to full article
American Al Qaeda to ISIS: No Paradise for YouThe atrocities committed by the terror group ISIS are so horrific that a high-profile al Qaeda member, an American citizen, purportedly addressed the group directly in a new al Qaeda publication and lectured them that if they keep it up, Allah will not grant them paradise in the afterlife. “My dear brothers: While no one can deny the considerable strength and prowess of the Islamic State group [ISIS] in military terms, at the same time, the crimes it has committed against Muslims cannot simply be overlooked or forgotten with time, because in Islam there is no statute of limitations,” the late Adam Gadahn said, according to an al Qaeda magazine published recently online.
 
 

Close aide of Syria's Assad dies of cancer

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:09:19 PMGo to full article
BEIRUT (AP) — A close aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nassif Kheir Bek, has died.
 

Dalai Lama finds joy in Glastonbury 'people's' festival

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:27:10 PMGo to full article
Patti Smith shares a light moment with the Dalai Lama as she performs on the Pyramid stage at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury FestivalThe Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists, visited Europe's biggest green-field music festival on Sunday, saying he had witnessed a sense of joy among revellers young and old. Beijing routinely denounces any country that hosts the Dalai Lama, calling him a dangerous separatist. Last week, a Foreign Ministry spokesman addressed his plan to visit Glastonbury by saying that "China resolutely opposes any country, organisation, body or individual giving any kind of platform to the 14th Dalai Lama to engage in anti-China splittist activities".
 
 

U.S., allies conduct air strikes in Syria, Iraq against Islamic State: U.S. military

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:31:34 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies staged 17 air strikes against Islamic State positions in Syria and 10 strikes against the militant group in Iraq on Saturday, the U.S. military said. In Syria, nine of the air strikes hit Islamic State positions near Kobani, five struck near Aleppo and three hit near Tal Abyad, the U.S. military said in a statement on Sunday. In Iraq, the air strikes hit Islamic State targets near Mosul, Tal Afar, Sinjar, Fallujah, Bayji, Makhmur and Habbaniyah. (Reporting by Eric Beech; editing by Jason Neely)
 

Kuwait Shiite mosque bomber was Saudi national

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:27:30 PMGo to full article
Mourners carry the body of one of the victims of the Al-Imam Al-Sadeq mosque bombing, during a mass funeral at Jaafari cemetery in Kuwait City on June 27, 2015Kuwait on Sunday identified the suicide bomber behind an attack on a Shiite mosque as a Saudi national, after a series of arrests in connection with the blast that left 26 dead. Friday's attack also wounded 227 worshippers in the first bombing of a mosque in the tiny Gulf state and Kuwait's security services have vowed to catch and punish those responsible. In a statement, Kuwait's interior ministry gave the real name of the attacker as Fahd Suleiman Abdulmohsen al-Qaba'a, born in 1992.
 
 

Sudan says students with Western passes believed on way to Syria

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:12:59 PMGo to full article
By Khalid Abdelaziz KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Twelve Sudanese medical students, most carrying Western passports, are believed to have travelled to Turkey with the intention of crossing into Syria to join Islamist militant groups, the university's dean of students said on Sunday. If confirmed by authorities, the group would be the second of its kind from Khartoum's University of Medical Sciences and Technology (UMST), founded by a Sudanese Islamist lawmaker, to head to Syria this year. "Twelve students, nine male and three female, in the faculty of medicine left for Turkey last Friday, most of them on Turkish Airlines, without the knowledge of their families," Ahmed Babaker, UMST's dean of students, told Reuters.
 

IS executes over 3,000 in Syria in year-long 'caliphate': monitor

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:09:25 PMGo to full article
The mother of Arab-Israeli Mohammed Musallam holds a portrait of her son at their home in the east Jerusalem on March 11, 2015, after the Islamic State (IS) released a video purportedly showing a young boy executing her sonThe Islamic State group has executed more than 3,000 people in Syria, including hundreds of civilians, in the year since it declared its self-described "caliphate," a monitor said on Sunday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group monitoring Syria's conflict, said it had documented 3,027 executions by IS since June 29, 2014. Among those executed are 1,787 civilians, including 74 children, said the Observatory.
 
 

Kuwait names Saudi man as suicide bomber in mosque attack

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:16:16 PMGo to full article
This undated photo released by Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, Sunday, June 28, 2015, shows Fahad Suleiman Abdulmohsen al-Gabbaa. Kuwaiti authorities on Sunday identified al-Gabbaa as a Saudi citizen who flew into the Gulf nation just hours before he blew himself in an attack on one of Kuwait’s oldest Shiite mosques during midday Friday prayers, that killed over two dozen people and wounded over 200. (AP Photo/KUNA)KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Kuwaiti authorities on Sunday identified the suicide bomber behind an attack on a Shiite mosque that killed 27 people as a Saudi citizen who flew into the Gulf nation just hours before blowing himself up.
 
 

Afghan official: IS group present in at least 3 provinces

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:06:35 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says the Islamic State group now has a presence in three provinces but that the government is determined to drive it out.
 

Albanian police arrest brothers suspected of killing officer

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:48:15 AMGo to full article
By Benet Koleka TIRANA (Reuters) - Albanian police have arrested two brothers suspected of leading the group of youths that shot dead an elite police officer in a raid on a village known until last year for producing cannabis worth hundred of millions of dollars. A search party of about 500 policemen, backed by helicopters, found the two men from the southern village of Lazarat hiding in a communist-era army shelter in woodland 18 kms (11 miles) north of their home. Prosecutors say Arbion Aliko, 20, and Alban Aliko, 18, were in charge of training a dozen young men over a period of six months to attack the police to restore cannabis production in Lazarat after a massive crackdown on the village a year ago.
 

European tour operators evacuate thousands from Tunisia after attack

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:35:07 AMGo to full article
A boy holds a candle and flowers as he attends a protest to condemn the attack by a gunman at the beach of the Imperial Marhabada hotel in SousseBy Tarek Amara SOUSSE, Tunisia (Reuters) - Tour companies were evacuating thousands of foreign holidaymakers from Tunisia on Saturday, a day after a gunman killed 39 people at a beach hotel in an attack claimed by Islamic State. Tunisia's Prime Minister Habib Essid said most of the dead were British, and Britain's foreign office said 15 Britons had been confirmed killed in the attack in the resort town of Sousse, 140 km (90 miles) south of the capital Tunis. It was the second major attack in the North African country this year, following an Islamist militant assault on the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March when gunmen killed a group of foreign visitors as they arrived by bus.
 
 

French attack suspect begins to talk as gruesome 'selfie' emerges

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:06:01 AMGo to full article
French police officers stand guard near a cordon outside the delivery service company in Chassieu on June 26, 2015, where the victim who was decapitated workedFrench authorities were transferring the man suspected of beheading his boss in an alleged jihadist attack to Paris on Sunday, as it emerged he sent a macabre "selfie" of the decapitation. Anti-terror police will grill the suspect, Yassin Salhi, a 35-year-old father-of-three, as they search for clues and a motive for Friday's attack on a gas warehouse near France's second city of Lyon. After several hours of silence, Salhi has begun to open up to investigators about the assault, which came six months after 17 were killed in Islamist attacks in Paris that began with the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
 
 

Australian IS fighter 'still alive' after drone strike: report

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:59:52 AMGo to full article
A Syrian army soldier fires artillery shells towards Islamic State group jihadists in northeastern Palmyra on May 17, 2015Canberra was Sunday attempting to verify whether an Australian Islamic State group fighter, notorious for being photographed with severed heads, had survived a drone attack after a report said he was still alive. Australian media last week reported that two of the country's most wanted IS jihadists, Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar, were believed killed in a drone strike in Syria. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has previously said his government had a "high degree of confidence" that Elomar had been killed in a coalition air strike but could not say the same for Sharrouf.
 
 

Horror on the sand in Tunisian hotel massacre

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎05:13:16 AMGo to full article
By Tarek Amara SOUSSE, Tunisia (Reuters) - Casually dressed in dark shorts, a necklace and T-shirt, he would have looked like any other young Tunisian among the German, British and Irish sunbathers soaking up the Mediterranean heat on one of Tunisia's long, yellow beaches. In just five minutes, armed with the black Kalashnikov he had hidden in his beach umbrella, Saif Rezgui unleashed horror across the Imperial Marhaba resort, leaving 39 victims dead among the deck chairs and pool loungers. It was the worst attack of its kind in Tunisia's modern history.
 

Police arrest Kuwaiti national, others for mosque bombing

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:50:51 AMGo to full article
Thousands of Sunnis and Shiites from across the country take part in a mass funeral procession for 27 people killed in a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Imam Sadiq Mosque a day earlier, at Kuwait's Grand Mosque in Kuwait city, Kuwait, Saturday, June 27, 2015. Police in Kuwait said they are interrogating a number of suspects with possible links to the suicide bombing, which was claimed by an affiliate of the Islamic State group. (AP Photo)KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Police have arrested a number of people, among them a Kuwaiti citizen, suspected of being behind a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque that killed 27 people, Kuwait's Interior Ministry said early Sunday.
 
 

Kuwait's Shi'ites mourn blast victims and lament sectarianism

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:22:47 AMGo to full article
By Angus McDowall KUWAIT (Reuters) - As a body passed, shrouded in Kuwait's flag, dozens of hands were raised from the crowd to support the bier and help carry it toward the Shi'ite Muslim cemetery where most victims of Friday's Islamic State mosque attack were buried on Saturday. Among the thousands of Shi'ite mourners at the Jaafari cemetery in the Sulaibkhat district of Kuwait City, shock and grief were tempered by a grim sense of resignation that a long-feared attack on their community had finally taken place. Relations between Islam's main sects have traditionally been less fraught in Kuwait than in other Gulf Arab states.
 

Britain mourns at least 15 dead in Tunisia attack

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:54:21 AMGo to full article
People lay flowers at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 27, 2015Three members of the same family were among at least 15 Britons killed in the Tunisia attack, reports said Sunday, in Britain's worst loss of life in a terror incident since the 2005 London bombings. Among the dead were reportedly 19-year-old student Joel Richards, his uncle Adrian Evans, 49, and his grandfather. Announcing the 15 dead, Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood said the number "may well rise, as several more have been seriously injured in this horrific attack".
 
 

Inmate to plead guilty in federal prison guard's killing

 
‎28 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎02:30:22 AMGo to full article
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An inmate at a federal prison in central California has agreed to plead guilty to killing a correctional officer seven years ago to avoid a possible death sentence, federal prosecutors said.
 

Activists: IS fighters kill 200 civilians in Syrian town

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:47:12 PMGo to full article
People standing on the Turkish side of the border with Syria, on the outskirts of Suruc, Turkey, watch as smoke rises over Kobani, in Syria, Saturday, June 27, 2015. Fighting raged into the night Friday between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in the Syrian border town of Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, as reports mounted that at least 120 civilians, including women and children, have been killed by the extremist group since it launched a new offensive on the strategic town the previous day. (AP Photo/Yasin Akgul)BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic State fighters who launched a surprise attack on a Syrian border town massacred more than 200 civilians, including women and children, before they were killed or driven out by Kurdish forces, activists said on Saturday.
 
 

At least 15 Britons killed in Tunisia attack: minister

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:46:51 PMGo to full article
Tunisian medics carry a woman on a stretcher in the resort town of Sousse following a terror attack on June 26, 2015Britain said Saturday that at least 15 of its citizens were killed in the attack on a Tunisian beach resort, its worst loss of life in a terror incident since the 2005 London bombings. Announcing the toll, Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood warned the numbers killed in Friday's shooting "may well rise, as several more have been seriously injured in this horrific attack". Prime Minister David Cameron had earlier warned that Britain needed to prepare "for the fact that many of those killed in the attack were British".
 
 

Kuwait buries IS attack victims as security boosted

 
‎27 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:30:00 PMGo to full article
Mourners carry the body of one of the victims of the Al-Imam Al-Sadeq mosque bombing, during a mass funeral at Jaafari cemetery in Kuwait City on June 27, 2015Thousands of Kuwaitis braved scorching summer heat on Saturday to attend the funerals of 18 out of 26 victims of a Shiite mosque bombing claimed by the Islamic State group. The bodies of the remaining eight victims were flown to Iraq's Shiite holy city of Najaf for burial, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah said.
 
 

Islamic State commits major massacre in Syria's Kobani: monitor

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:08:59 PMGo to full article
Syrian Kurds from Kobani wait behind the border fences to cross into Turkey as they are pictured from the Turkish border town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, TurkeyBy Sylvia Westall BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State has committed its second-biggest civilian massacre in Syria with an attack on the town of Kobani and a nearby village, killing at least 146 civilians so far, a conflict monitor said on Friday. Fighting between the Kurdish YPG militia and Islamic State fighters who infiltrated the town at the Turkish border on Thursday continued into a second day, said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A separate Islamic State attack on government-held areas of the northeastern city of Hasaka was reported to have forced 60,000 people to flee their homes, the United Nations said, warning that up to 200,000 people may eventually try to flee.
 
 

Man decapitated in suspected French Islamist attack

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:05:14 PMGo to full article
French police secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015 after a suspected Islamist attackSaint-Quentin-Fallavier (France) (AFP) - A suspected Islamist attacked a gas factory in eastern France on Friday, pinning a decapitated head to the gates and injuring at least two others with explosive devices before being arrested. French President Francois Hollande, in Brussels for a summit of EU leaders, rushed back to France to deal with the crisis. The killing came nearly six months after the Islamist attacks in and around Paris that killed 17 people in January, starting with a shooting at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
 
 

Former Russian PM Yevgeny Primakov dies at 85

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎12:01:31 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2011 file photo, former chief of Russia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry Yevgeny Primakov speaks at a news conference in Moscow, Russia. Former Russian Prime Minister Primakov, whose career included journalism, diplomacy and spycraft, has died at age 85. The Kremlin said Friday, June 26, 2015 that President Vladimir Putin has offered condolences to Primakov’s family. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)MOSCOW (AP) — Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, whose career included desperate but unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to avert wars in Iraq and NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia, has died. He was 85.
 
 

Football: UAE rubber-stamped as Asian Cup hosts

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:34:08 AMGo to full article
Football: UAE rubber-stamped as Asian Cup hostsThe United Arab Emirates were rubber-stamped as hosts for the expanded Asian Cup in 2019 after signing an official agreement with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The UAE previously held the event in 1996 but they will be the first to host 24 teams, up from the 16 who competed in Australia in January. The change was made "in order to give teams from AFC's Member Associations more international exposure and matches, and to help them develop football in their country", an AFC statement said on Friday.
 
 

Islamic State attack in northeast Syria reported to displace 60,000: U.N.

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:53 AMGo to full article
An Islamic State attack on the northeastern Syrian city of Hasaka is reported to have displaced 60,000 people, the United Nations office in Syria said on Friday, warning that up to 200,000 people may eventually try to flee. Islamic State launched an assault on government-held areas of Hasaka on Thursday, capturing at least one district in the southwest of the city, which lies close to the borders with Turkey and Iraq. Hasaka is divided into zones run separately by the government of President Bashar al-Assad and a Kurdish administration.
 

Australian striker Josh Kennedy quits over injuries

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:46:53 AMGo to full article
Towering Australian striker Josh Kennedy (pictured in 2014) has retired from football, citing the physical demands of his 15-year playing careerTowering Australia striker Josh Kennedy has retired from football citing the physical demands of his 15-year playing career, his club Melbourne City said Friday. The 1.94m (six feet four inches) target man scored 17 times in 33 international appearances for Australia, including the goal that took them to the 2014 World Cup with a 1-0 win over Iraq. The 32-year-old Kennedy, previously based in Japan, thanked Melbourne City, which is owned by English giants Manchester City.
 
 

Anthropologist reveals FGM practised in western, southern Iran

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:38:58 AMGo to full article
By Emma Batha LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When anthropologist Kameel Ahmady began investigating female genital mutilation in his native Iran he had no idea his own mother and sister had been cut – a reflection of just how shrouded in secrecy the practice is. Ahmady, who was born in Iranian Kurdistan but moved to Britain in his 20s, took global campaigners by surprise this month when he published a study suggesting tens of thousands of Iranian women have undergone FGM. Until now Iran has not been widely recognized as a country affected by FGM - an ancient ritual which is internationally condemned as a serious rights violation.
 

EU leaders agree to relocate 40,000 migrants

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:47:17 AMGo to full article
Migrants wait to disembark from the Norwegian cargo ship Siem Pilot after they were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, at Palermo harbor, Italy, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Conflict and poverty have driven more than 100,000 migrants to Europe so far this year, and almost 2,000 have died or gone missing on the perilous sea journey. (AP Photo/Alessandro Fucarini)BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders agreed Friday to relocate 40,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to other EU countries over the next two years, in an effort to share the burden of a growing migrant crisis.
 
 

UAE rubber-stamped as 2019 Asian Cup hosts

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:34:16 AMGo to full article
Australia are the current AFC Asian Cup champions after beating South Korea in Sydney, on January 31, 2015The United Arab Emirates were rubber-stamped as hosts for the expanded Asian Cup in 2019 after signing an official agreement with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The UAE previously held the event in 1996 but they will be the first to host 24 teams, up from the 16 who competed in Australia in January. The change was made "in order to give teams from AFC's Member Associations more international exposure and matches, and to help them develop football in their country", an AFC statement said on Friday.
 
 

IS attacks Syria's Kobane in new offensive after setbacks

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:08:01 AMGo to full article
Smoke billows from the Syrian town of Kobane, as seen from the Turkish side of the border in Suruc in Sanliurfa province on June 25, 2015The Islamic State group launched a two-pronged offensive in northern Syria after several setbacks, re-entering the symbolic battleground town of Kobane and seizing parts of the city of Hasakeh. Analysts said the surprise IS assaults were aimed at diverting Kurdish forces after they scored a series of victories and advanced on the jihadists' Syrian stronghold of Raqa. Kobane, on the border with Turkey, became an important symbol in the battle against IS after the group launched a bid to take it last year.
 
 

Erdogan denies IS launched attack on Syria's Kobane from Turkey

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:41:39 AMGo to full article
Turkish soldiers stand guard by the border with Syria, on the way to the Mursitpinar crossing gate in Suruc, Sanliurfa province, on June 25, 2015Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday dismissed as "propaganda" accusations that Islamic State fighters had been allowed to cross from Turkey into Syria to launch a fresh assault on the symbolic battleground town of Kobane. "We condemn the heinous attack by the terrorist IS organisation that targeted innocent civilians in the city of Kobane," Erdogan said in a speech. Dozens of civilians and fighters on both sides were killed when the IS jihadists made a surprise return to Kobane on Thursday, detonating a suicide car bomb near the border and battling Kurdish fighters in the city.
 
 

Iraqi student pilot was flying F-16 that crashed in Arizona

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎12:07:24 AMGo to full article
An Iraqi student pilot was flying an Iraqi military F-16 fighter jet that crashed in Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico border during a night training mission, U.S. military officials and Iraq's government said on Thursday. U.S. officials said the student was the lone occupant of the F-16 Fighting Falcon when it went down on Wednesday night about five miles (eight km) east of the Douglas Municipal Airport, in the city of Douglas on the border with Mexico. The pilot's status remained unknown on Thursday as rescue efforts continued, according to a statement from the Air National Guard in Arizona, which said the plane belonged to the Iraqi Air Force.
 

Italy rebukes EU leaders as 'time wasters' on migrants plan

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:53:55 PMGo to full article
Italy's Prime Minister Renzi arrives to attend a Eurozone emergency summit on Greece in BrusselsBy Robin Emmott and Francesco Guarascio BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi rebuked fellow EU leaders on Thursday for failing to agree a plan to take in 40,000 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece, saying they were not worthy of calling themselves Europeans. EU leaders are divided over a growing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean and have largely left Italy and Greece to handle thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. "If you do not agree with the figure of 40,000 (asylum seekers) you do not deserve to call yourself Europeans," Renzi told an EU summit in Brussels.
 
 

AJC Welcomes Bipartisan "Open Letter" on Iran Nuclear Deal

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎11:24:00 PMGo to full article
NEW YORK, June 25, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC welcomes the statement on the U.S-led talks with Iran by an impressive group of former top Obama and Bush administration officials. "Most importantly, this group of distinguished U.S. experts advises the Administration to proceed with caution and take more time to get the best deal possible to ensure that Iran will not be able to produce a nuclear weapon, ever," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. The open letter, directed at the White House and State Department, presents detailed recommendations on the elements that should be included in an agreement with Iran that addresses comprehensively its nuclear ambitions, as well as its support for terrorism and interference in other countries across the region.
 

Kobane again a source of anguish for Kurds as Islamic State strikes back

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎10:10:00 PMGo to full article
Islamic State forces launched a stinging, surprise attack on the Syrian border town of Kobane Thursday, slaughtering scores of families in their homes, according to the testimony of survivors and kinsmen. The anguished mood here in Suruc among Syrian and Turkish Kurds watching the violence unfold over the border echoes similar circumstances last fall in the early days of a months-long siege by IS. The battle for Kobane became a symbol of Kurdish defiance in the face of IS battlefield gains.
 

Islamic State militants attack 2 cities in northern Syria

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:33:30 PMGo to full article
In this still image taken from video captured on a CCTV camera, made available Thursday, June 25, 2015, an explosion is captured by a camera on the Turkish side of the border, moments after a car bomb detonates in the town of Kobani, Syria. Islamic State militants staged a new attack on the Kurdish town of Kobani, which famously resisted a months-long assault by the Islamic militants. The attack involved a suicide car bombing that wounded scores. (AP Photo)BEIRUT (AP) — After weeks of setbacks, militants from the Islamic State group launched swift counteroffensives Thursday on predominantly Kurdish areas of northern Syria, killing and wounding dozens and setting off car bombs, activists and officials said.
 
 

Iraqi F-16 Fighter Jet Crashes in Arizona During Training Mission

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:30:05 PMGo to full article
Iraqi F-16 Fighter Jet Crashes in Arizona During Training MissionThe F-16 fighter jet that crashed in Arizona overnight was actually owned by the Iraqi Air Force and flown by an Iraqi pilot, a U.S. Air Force official confirmed to ABC News today. Local law enforcement has been on the scene since the crash last night near Douglas, Arizona, but Air Force officials have yet to confirmed the identity of the pilot, who they say is an Iraqi trainee. The crash caused a large grass fire and it’s likely the pilot did not survive, authorities said.
 
 

Photographer Heidi Levine honored by women's media group

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:23:59 PMGo to full article
CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour, left, applauds after she handed over the 2015 Anja Niedringhaus Award to photographer Heidi Levine, right, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, June 25, 2015. The Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award was created to honor the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014). (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)BERLIN (AP) — Freelance photographer Heidi Levine, who has made a career of covering conflicts, was honored Thursday with the inaugural award for courage named for Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, who was killed on assignment in Afghanistan.
 
 

IS sells 42 Yazidi women to fighters in Syria: monitor

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎09:19:40 PMGo to full article
A member of the Yazidi minority searches for clues on February 3, 2015 that might lead her to missing relatives, among the remains of people killed by the Islamic State groupThe Islamic State group on Thursday sold 42 Iraqi women it had abducted from the Yazidi religious minority to its fighters in eastern Syria, a monitor said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the women were being treated as "slaves" by the jihadists and were sold "for between $500 (447 euros) and $2,000 dollars (1,785 euros)". The women were kidnapped last year in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq where IS had launched a wide offensive, the Britain-based monitor said.
 
 

Does Australia's new anti-terrorism legislation go too far?

 
‎25 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎08:48:55 PMGo to full article
Civil rights advocates and Muslim leaders in Australia have widely denounced new legislation that calls for dual nationals who are convicted of terrorism-related offenses to be stripped of their Australian citizenship. The legislation is designed to staunch the flow of Australians going to the Middle East to join groups such as the self-described Islamic State, and to help prevent domestic terror attacks like the hostage crisis in Sydney last December that left three people dead. The Australian Parliament has passed a raft of anti-terrorism laws in the past 12 months that grant law enforcement agencies new sweeping powers.
 
 
 
 

US wants Mosul offensive on IS in April-May

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

 

 


 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

 
 

Russia cites 'threats' as nuclear arsenal boosted

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) June 17, 2015 - President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia must defend itself if threatened, as the US warned against a return to a "Cold War status" after Moscow announced plans to boost its nuclear arsenal.

The declaration from the Kremlin strongman came as Russia reacted with fury to reports the US is planning to bulk up its military deployments in eastern Europe, adding to already high tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Putin said NATO -- which has accused Russia of backing rebels in eastern Ukraine with weapons and its own troops, a claim Moscow denies -- of "coming to our borders".

"If someone puts some of our territories under threat, that means we will have to direct our armed forces and modern strike power at those territories, from where the threat emanates," he said at a meeting with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.

"As soon as some threat comes from an adjoining state, Russia must react appropriately and carry out its defence policy in such a way as to neutralise a threat against it," Putin added.

Relations between Moscow and Western countries have plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War over conflict in Ukraine, and on Tuesday Putin once again raised the spectre of the conflict by announcing plans to boost Russia's nuclear arsenal by the end of the year.

"This year, the size of our nuclear forces will increase by over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles that will be able to overcome any, even the most technologically advanced, missile defence systems," Putin said at the opening of an exhibition of military hardware outside Moscow.

- 'Cold War status' -

The United States slammed the announcement as a retrograde move reminiscent of the Cold War.

"We've had enormous cooperation from the 1990s forward with respect to the destruction of nuclear weapons that were in former territories of the Soviet Union. And nobody wants to see us step backwards," said US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Nobody should hear that kind of announcement from the leader of a powerful country and not be concerned about what the implications are," he said, adding that "nobody wants to -- I think -- go back to a kind of Cold War status."

Russia has an estimated 7,500 nuclear warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, of which around 1,780 are deployed on missiles or at military bases.

The United States, in comparison, has some 7,300 warheads, of which 2,080 are deployed.

In 1991, the US and the then-Soviet Union signed the START treaty to reduce the size of their nuclear arsenals. Kerry in April said the US was ready to hold new negotiations with Russia on additional strategic nuclear cuts below the level agreed in the 2011 New START treaty.

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said Putin's remarks were part of a pattern of aggressive behaviour by Moscow.

"This nuclear sabre-rattling by Russia is unjustified, destabilising and it is dangerous," Stoltenberg said.

But Putin said that observers should not "blow anything out of proportion" with regard to Russia's perception of the threat from NATO, saying it was "more political signals aimed towards Russia or its allies."

- Reports of US deployments -

Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe have been rattled by Russia's actions in Ukraine, where it annexed the Crimea peninsula in 2014 before pro-Moscow separatists began fighting Kiev's forces in the country's east.

NATO has moved to reassure Russia's nervous Eastern European neighbours, launching US-led drills in the Baltic states and Poland earlier this month.

The New York Times reported at the weekend that the Pentagon was poised to station heavy weapons for up to 5,000 American troops in several Eastern European and Baltic countries to deter Russian aggression.

This would be the first time since the end of the Cold War that the US has had heavy military equipment -- including battle tanks -- in newer NATO members that were under Moscow's influence in the Soviet era.

Poland said on Sunday it was in talks with Washington about storing heavy US weaponry on its soil.

US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said F-22 fighter jets could be deployed to Europe as the standoff with Moscow rumbles on, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Russia's foreign ministry has lashed out at the mooted US deployments in the region, warning that the move could "take on a life of its own".

Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov on Tuesday accused NATO of "pushing (Moscow) towards an arms race," state-run agency RIA Novosti reported.

Putin on Tuesday toured a vast arms fair at a site outside the capital that is set to become a "Patriot Park" which will showcase Moscow's military might.

The Russian leader, who enjoys sky-high approval ratings and has pumped vast sums into retooling Russia's armed forces, praised the country's military-industrial complex as a "locomotive for innovation".

burs-st/cah

 

 

US Unlikely to Deploy Missiles to Europe

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Washington (Sputnik) Jun 17, 2015 - The United States is not likely to place nuclear or conventional ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles in response to alleged Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, experts told Sputnik. The United States has accused Russia of conducting test flights of cruise missiles in violation of the Cold War-era INF Treaty. The Treaty prohibits testing, possessing or producing medium-range ground-based cruise and nuclear missiles.

"It appears unlikely that the United States is going to deploy intermediate range missiles in Europe," Bilyana Lilly, the author of the book "Russian Foreign Policy toward Missile Defense: Actors, Motivations, and Influence" said.

"The costs from such a policy are too high, the benefits too low, and the Russian response too unpredictable in the moment for the US to consider it." Russia claims NATO's ballistic missile defense and the US use of certain drones are a violation of the INF treaty.

The United States has refrained from publically releasing evidence of a violation, which Russia denies, but is crafting potential responses, according to statements by senior US officials. One of the options US officials are considering is to deploy missiles to Europe to defend against any advantage Russia might gain from a ground-based system, or a more aggressive "counterforce" of ground-based strategic weapons or cruise missiles.

According to Lily, if such a decision is made it could include the long-range Tomahawk land attack cruise missile. The missiles could be stationed at existing NATO bases in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. The "counterforce" option, Lily said, "is indeed a possibility but, when evaluating its costs, benefits and consequences, it doesn't appear to be a viable one."

Deploying missiles to Europe would increase costs, raise the risk of human error, and risk escalating tensions with Russia, Lily added. "Russia has sufficiently robust nuclear arsenal to guarantee its nuclear deterrent even if the United States and NATO deploy missile defense or ground-based missiles in Europe."

Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert at the Federation of American Scientists, argued that vague statements by several top Western officials about deploying missiles to Europe have been misinterpreted by media coverage. "The rumor mill seems to be escalating faster than the actual East-West conflict, because the news media is trying to outdo itself with the next even more dramatic story."

He explained the trend is driven by counterproductive military posturing by NATO as well as Russia "that is combining to be rapidly decreasing security for all in Europe. It is not my impression from talking to senior US defense officials that the United States is seriously considering developing and redeploying nuclear INF weapons in Europe," Kristensen added.

The INF Treaty was signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1988 and banned nuclear and conventional ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 310-3417 miles.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

Lockheed Martin adding jobs at Cape Canaveral

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (UPI) Jun 16, 2015 - Lockheed Martin's workforce at Cape Canaveral, Fla., is to grow 20 percent by 2017 as the company supports the U.S. Navy's Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile program.

The increase represents 130 new jobs to the current number of more than 500.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced the expansion earlier this week at the Paris Air Show in France.

"Governor Scott, the State of Florida and the Space Coast Economic Development Commission have provided tremendous support for bringing these jobs to Brevard County," said Mathew Joyce, vice president of Fleet Ballistic Missile programs, Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "Ramping up our operations at Cape Canaveral maintains cost effective support of the program and further improves our responsiveness to the missile testing and deployment needs of U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Programs."

Lockheed Martin, the Navy's prime contractor for the Trident II D5 missile, supports the submarine-based program at Cape Canaveral's eastern range facility in missile sustainment and test launch support.

Trident, a nuclear missile, is equipped with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. It is deployed aboard U.S. Navy Ohio-class submarines, as well as Britain's Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines. Since completion of its design in 1989, 155 successful test flights of the missile have been conducted.

 

 

Russia Disposes of 195 Decommissioned Soviet-Era Nuclear Submarines

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Jun 16, 2015 - Russia's Rosatom Corporation is nearing to complete the recycling of Soviet-made decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines and support vessels. Currently, 195 of the 201 decommissioned submarines have been recycled. The demolition of all the decommissioned nuclear submarines and 14 technical support vessels is due to be completed by 2020.

"We have started the recycling of technical support vessels and depot ships. By 2020, we are expected to complete the dismantling and recycling of all 14 support ships decommissioned from the Northern and the Pacific Fleets as well as two Atomflot support ships," Rosatom CEO Sergei Kirienko said during the "70th anniversary of the Russian Atom" forum in Chelyabinsk.

"195 of the 201 submarines have been dismantled and recycled. Six submarines are left. Now we have no vessels standing in queue for dismantling. In 1999, when Rosatom was charged with the disposal there were 120 submarines waiting," Kirienko said.

In 2014, the recycling of the "Volodarsky" depot ship was completed. Now, the dismantling of the "Lepse" depot ship has begun. Within six months, it will have its nuclear fuel removed. Then it will be prepared for wet storage before the disposal.

Kirienko also pointed out that under the "Nuclear radioactive safety 2" program new equipment and technology were developed, including the recycling technology for the uranium-beryllium fuel from project 705 submarines which were equipped with liquid-metal reactors.

The need to recycle nuclear submarines and depot ships emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union. At that time, military spending was significantly reduced. More than 200 submarines built in the 1950-1980s, and a large number of support vessels, were decommissioned from the Russian navy.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

Drought sparks fears of worsening food shortages in N. Korea

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) June 17, 2015 - North Korea's food supply faces a gloomy forecast this year due to a damaging drought which has sparked fears of worsening shortages in the impoverished communist country, experts said Wednesday.

Concern grew after Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Tuesday that North Korea has been hit by its worst drought in a century.

"The worst drought in 100 years continues in (North Korea), causing great damage," it said, adding more than 30 percent of paddy fields across the country were "parching up".

The North's main rice-growing provinces -- South Hwanghae, North Hwanghae, South Pyongan and South Hamgyong -- have been badly damaged by a severe drought, KCNA said.

It is hard to get reliable information on the reclusive state, but South Korean weathermen said this year's rainfall across North Korea has been far lower than the annual average, especially in its traditional rice belt.

"It is true that the northern part of the peninsula has been battered by a severe drought so far this year," Kim Young-Jin, an official at the Korea Meteorological Administration, told AFP.

"The North's traditional rice belt encompassing South and North Hwanghae provinces has been hit hard, receiving less than half the rain of an average year," he said.

Last week the South's unification ministry predicted North Korea's food production this year could fall by as much as 20 percent from last year if the shortage of rainfall lasts until early July.

The prospects for this year are distinctly gloomy, given a prolonged drought and lack of fertiliser, it said.

North Korea has imported a large amount of fertiliser from China each year but fertiliser imports this year have dwindled significantly from a year ago, said Kwon Tae-Jin, a researcher at GS&J Institute, a Seoul-based think tank on agriculture.

"I don't think the North's exaggerating ... The situation looks pretty serious," he said, adding drought has already damaged the spring harvest of wheat, barley and potatoes, which account for 10 percent of total production.

In the past two years, North Korea has managed to avoid a food crisis despite a damaging drought, largely because of no summer flood and a favourable weather ahead of the main harvest season in the fall, Kwon said.

"But I see the likelihood for the same luck to be repeated for three years in a row extremely low," he said.

"The situation is serious" in the North's western region near Pyongyang, which produces nearly 70 percent of its entire crop production, he said.

- Regular food shortages -

North Korea has suffered regular chronic food shortages -- hundreds of thousands are believed to have died during a famine in the mid-to-late 1990s -- with the situation exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement.

International food aid, especially from South Korea and the United States, has been drastically cut amid tensions over the communist state's nuclear and missile programmes.

UN figures show up to 70 percent of the country remains food insecure and 28 percent of children under the age of five are stunted due to malnutrition.

In April the United Nations launched an appeal for $111 million dollars to help 70 percent of North Korea's population now facing a food crisis.

David Kaatrud, the regional director of the World Food Programme, said in Seoul last week that the UN agency was closely monitoring the North's weather conditions in order to send emergency assistance in case of a protracted dry spell.

"The concern is going to grow week by week until we get closer to the traditional July harvest," he told the South's Yonhap news agency.

North Korea has staged a desperate campaign to overcome drought and water shortages, vowing to continue its push to ease chronic food shortages.

Prime Minister Pak Pong-Ju told a parliamentary session in April: "The main thrusts for this year are to organise the economic work with a main emphasis on solving the food problem of the people."

"The situation is not favourable at all, but it is premature to say whether North Korea may face a food crisis," Kim Young-Hoon of the Seoul-based Korea Rural Economic Institute, said.

"Last year there was no serious food shortage in the North despite a damaging spring drought," he said, citing partial agricultural reforms and refurbished irrigation facilities which have improved crop yields.

Kim Jong-Un, who became leader after the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in December 2011, allowed farmers to keep 30 percent of their production quota, plus any excess. Their portion was raised to 60 percent last year.

jhw-lim/iw

April

 

 

Kerry prepares return to Iran talks fray

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) June 16, 2015 - Top US diplomat John Kerry said Tuesday he is preparing to resume tough nuclear talks with Iran only weeks after breaking his leg, as Washington works to nail down a deal putting an atomic bomb out of Tehran's reach.

Appearing by live video feed from his home in Boston where he is recovering after surgery and almost two weeks in hospital, Kerry said he would fly back to Washington later Tuesday to plan key talks with China early next week.

"That will be the prelude to my departing at some point -- we're not exactly sure of the date" for the next talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, possibly in Vienna, he said.

Kerry said he hoped that trip "would be the closeout and should be the closeout of the negotiations with respect to the Iran nuclear program."

The stakes remained "very high," Kerry told reporters, adding the talks were "tough."

"As I have said consistently, we're not going to rush to an agreement for the sake of an agreement, and we're not going to sign an agreement that we don't believe gets the job done."

Iran and the so-called P5+1 group leading the negotiations to stop Tehran developing a nuclear bomb are working towards a June 30 deadline for a final deal.

But one of Iran's top negotiators, Abbas Araghchi, hinted Tuesday the talks may run long as he prepared to head to Vienna for more lower-level meetings.

"The date... was selected for the end of negotiations but we will not sacrifice a good agreement for the sake of the schedule," Araghchi was quoted as saying by Iranian state television.

One of the thorniest issues still being haggled over is the lifting of a web of US, EU and UN sanctions and what to do if Iran violates any deal.

President Barack Obama "has been very clear from the very beginning that we cannot allow a procedure for snap-back to be left in the hands of Russia or China," US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power told US lawmakers earlier Tuesday.

Iran has called for an immediate end to the crippling sanctions. But it is more likely that the deal will include the gradual lifting of certain measures in return for action by Tehran in meeting goals to diminish its nuclear capability.

- Snap-back panel -

Western diplomats say a mechanism is being finalized for how to put the UN sanctions back in place if Tehran violates the deal, which would likely include a panel of the six members of the P5+1 as well as Iran.

But many of the P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US -- don't want the panel to be held hostage to the same veto power as exercised at the UN, where a lone country can thwart an action by vetoing it.

"We will retain the ability to snap back multilateral sanctions in place without Russian or Chinese support," Power said, adding that Obama would not accept a deal that does not provide for proper access in Iran to ensure compliance.

Iran has long insisted its atomic program is only for civilian energy purposes.

But the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, remains dissatisfied with unanswered questions on past possible military dimensions to the program.

"We have absolute knowledge with respect to certain military activities they were engaged in," Kerry said.

"It's critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped and that we can account for that in a legitimate way."

 

 

N. Korea's Kim hails rocket test as 'fresh milestone'

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) June 15, 2015 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has hailed the firing of a new anti-ship rocket as "another fresh milestone" in bolstering the country's naval power following the testing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

Kim watched the test of the "highly intelligent" rockets to be deployed at naval units, Pyongyang's KCNA news agency reported on Monday.

He "noted with great pleasure that it marked another fresh milestone in bolstering up the Juche (self-reliance)-based naval force", it said.

"Ultra-modern strike means of Korean style have been studied and developed one after another recently to completely contain the hostile forces," Kim was quoted as saying.

The South's defence ministry said the North had tested three short-range missiles with a range of nearly 100 kilometres (62 miles) Sunday off its east coast.

"North Korea appears to be developing new missiles that would replace its old Soviet-designed anti-ship missiles," ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told reporters.

The test was the latest since Pyongyang claimed on May 9 it had successfully test-fired an SLBM -- a technology that could eventually offer the nuclear-armed state a survivable second-strike capability.

A fully developed SLBM capability would take the North Korean nuclear threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula.

But some experts have questioned the authenticity of the May test, saying photos of the launch might have been digitally manipulated.

N. Korea soldier defects across land border
Seoul (AFP) June 15, 2015 - A young North Korean soldier walked into South Korea Monday in a rare defection through one of the world's most fortified frontiers, saying he deserted his camp because of habitual beating, military officials said.

The 19-year-old soldier surrendered himself to South Korean border guards around 8:00 am (2300 GMT) after crossing the frontier in Hwacheon, northeast of Seoul, the South's defence ministry said.

"We've confirmed his will to defect after he reached our guard post," a ministry spokesman told AFP.

The North Korean soldier told investigators that he had decided to defect "because of habitual beating at his camp while harbouring complaints about the reality of his homeland", the spokesman added.

The defection sparked a tense stand-off between North and South Korean border guards across the four-kilometre- (2.5-mile-) wide and 248-kilometre-long demilitarised zone (DMZ), but there was no conflict, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The man identified himself as a private, the lowest rank among the North's enlistees, it said.

Hundreds of North Koreans flee their isolated homeland each year but it is rare for defectors to cross the land border, marked by barbed wire and guarded by tens of thousands of troops on both sides.

Despite its name, the DMZ separating the two Koreas, which remain technically at war, is one of the world's most heavily militarised frontiers, bristling with watchtowers and landmines.

Most North Koreans who flee repression and poverty at home cross the porous frontier with China first before travelling through a Southeast Asian nation and eventually arriving in South Korea.

In 2012, a North Korean soldier walked unchecked through rows of electrified fencing and surveillance cameras, prompting Seoul to sack three field commanders for a security lapse.

In August last year, two North Koreans swam across the Yellow Sea border to a South Korean frontline island.

So far about 28,000 North Koreans have resettled in the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, mostly after the great famine in the 1990s.

But the number of escapees has decreased sharply since North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un took power following the death of his father in late 2011.

Under Kim, the isolated state has tightened border security, while China has launched a crackdown on North Korean escapees on its side of the border.

China -- the North's sole major ally -- typically considers them illegal economic migrants and repatriates them despite criticisms from human rights groups.

Many face severe punishment including, rights monitors say, torture and a term in a prison camp once they are sent back to the North.

 

 

Russia says 'very worrying' slowdown in Iran nuclear talks

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) June 13, 2015 - Russia's negotiator has described a "very worrying" slowdown in progress in nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers ahead of a June 30 deadline to finalise a historic accord.

Sergei Ryabkov's remarks on Friday came as US Secretary of State John Kerry said upon his release from hospital after breaking his leg that he would soon head to Vienna in a bid to seal the deal after the outlines of an agreement were reached in April.

"The rate of progress... is progressively slowing down," Ryabkov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti as he arrived for the latest round of talks in Vienna.

"This is very worrying to us because there is very little time before the deadline and we urgently need to enter the final stage."

Another Russian agency, ITAR-TASS, quoted a diplomatic source as saying that the talks -- which were ongoing late Friday -- are "practically stuck. There is a risk that the deadline will be extended again".

In April, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany agreed to the outlines of a deal aimed at ending the decade-old standoff over Iran's nuclear programme.

According to this framework, due to be finalised by June 30, Iran will dramatically scale down its nuclear activities in order to render any dash to making nuclear weapons all but impossible.

In return Iran, which denies wanting nuclear weapons, will see painful sanctions lifted by the six powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

- 'Complicated' talks -

In Washington, State Department spokesman Jeffrey Rathke on Friday admitted the talks were proving "complicated", but nonetheless said the United States believes a deal can still be reached by the end of the month.

"We remain of the view that it's possible... to conclude the talks by June 30th. That remains our focus," Rathke told reporters.

Kerry told reporters in Boston on Friday that he would be "absolutely fully and totally engaged in those talks" and would "press forward at this critical moment".

The 71-year-old broke his right femur on May 31 in a fall on his bicycle in the French Alps during a working visit to Geneva for talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tehran's nuclear programme.

He was flown home and underwent surgery in Boston on June 2.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, seen as something of a hawk in the talks, said Thursday that the issue of tighter UN inspections of Iran's remaining facilities after the mooted deal was not yet sewn up.

"If we want to be sure that the accord is solid we need to be able to inspect the sites... We don't yet have this certainty. This is one of the points we are discussing," Fabius told French media.

"The agreement needs to be verifiable, solid, robust and right now we don't have such a guarantee."

Under the hoped-for deal the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), would keep even closer tabs on Iran.

Iran though is uneasy about this since it would potentially include the IAEA going to sites -- including military ones -- where it suspects undeclared nuclear activity might be taking place.

- Sticking points -

Other sticking points are thought to be the procedure for handling possible deal violations and an IAEA probe into allegations of past Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

The six powers have said they will only lift sanctions once Iran has taken certain steps and want to retain the ability to "snap back" sanctions if the Islamic republic breaks the agreement.

The deal is also highly complex, comprising a main document of around 20 pages plus five "annexes" totalling an additional 40-50 pages, Iran's lead negotiator Abbas Araghchi said last Saturday.

"Each word of this instrument is being discussed and sometimes quarrelled on," he said. "There are differences but work moves forward."

Meanwhile on Thursday it emerged that authorities in Switzerland and Austria -- which have hosted most of the past 18 months of talks -- were investigating possible spying on the negotiations.

The Swiss attorney general's office said it launched a probe on May 6 and conducted a raid six days later, seizing computer equipment, due to "suspicion of illegal intelligence services operating in Switzerland".

Israel, widely assumed to have nuclear weapons itself and which has major misgivings about the mooted deal, denied any involvement.

 

 

Western 'haggling' a risk to nuclear deadline: Rouhani

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) June 13, 2015 - Iran's president warned Saturday that haggling by world powers could jeopardise the June 30 deadline for a nuclear agreement, admitting many differences remain on the details of the potentially historic deal.

Hassan Rouhani, who has placed his credibility on ending more than a decade of international concern that the Islamic republic is developing a nuclear bomb, also acknowledged sanctions would not be lifted immediately under the accord.

He made the remarks in Tehran a day after Russia's senior negotiator spoke of a "very worrying" slowdown in painstaking diplomacy which has lasted 21 months.

With the finishing line in sight, Rouhani, speaking at a press conference marking two years since his unexpected election victory, accused the other side of agreeing terms in one meeting only to try and improve on them during later discussions.

"They start to haggle," he said, without naming any of the six global powers in the talks.

"If the other party respects the agreed framework and does not add other demands, the differences can be resolved but if they choose the path of haggling then it can prolong the negotiations," he added.

Iran and the P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany) agreed the outlines of the nuclear deal on April 2 after intensive talks went past a March 31 deadline.

In Washington on Friday, State Department spokesman Jeffrey Rathke admitted the process was proving "complicated", but the US believes a deal can still be reached by the end of June.

A day earlier French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius -- seen as a hawk in the negotiations -- said tighter UN inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, under an additional protocol, were not yet sewn up.

Iranian officials have insisted there can be no inspections of military sites and Rouhani appeared to muddy the waters further.

"Iran will not allow its secrets to be disclosed or put in the hands of others," he said, noting there can be "some access" but not detailing which sites he was referring to.

"We have secrets in technology. Our secrets will be protected," he added.

With deputy foreign ministers and technical experts currently meeting in Vienna in the run up to the final talks, Russia's senior negotiator spoke Friday of slow progress.

- 'Months' to lift sanctions -

"There is very little time before the deadline and we urgently need to enter the final stage," said Sergei Ryabkov, a deputy foreign minister.

Alluding to those concerns, Rouhani said despite "many differences" under the deal, which aims to guarantee that Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful, he remained "hopeful" of an agreement.

The proposed accord would mothball large parts of Tehran's atomic programme in exchange for a lifting of extensive sanctions that have severely damaged its economy.

But the process of implementing each side's obligations under a complex agreement lasting at least a decade remains unsettled.

Iranian lawmakers and hardliners maintain that sanctions must be lifted when the deal is signed, despite most experts agreeing it will take significant time to do so.

"We are currently discussing it," Rouhani said, when asked about the timing of sanctions being removed, conceding that "weeks or even months will pass" between signing and implementing the deal.

A UN Security Council resolution to cancel previous resolutions on nuclear matters "will be the first major step and a guarantee" he said.

"Then it will take several months to implement all the commitments," he added, referring to sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States.

Those sanctions, implemented in 2012, targeted Iran's oil and financial sectors and plunged the country into a deep economic crisis which led to inflation above 40 percent.

Rouhani said the talks were "so far a great victory for the Iranian nation", insisting that the major powers have recognised Iran's right to possess a uranium enrichment programme.

But he also hit out at those in Iran who sought to downplay the effect of sanctions, saying they had halted foreign investment.

"OK, the country can survive... but if we want to compete in the world we need them removed," he said. "No big country can thrive behind closed doors."

 

 

Russia threatens 'consequences' if US deploys missiles in Europe

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:00:34 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) June 11, 2015 - Russia on Thursday warned the United States of consequences if it moves to deploy land-based missiles in Europe in contravention of a key Cold-War era arms control treaty.

"It is clear that such actions would mean complete destruction by the American side of the regime of the treaty with all its attendant consequences," the Russian foreign ministry said, referring to the 1987 INF treaty on intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

"We urge the United States to ensure the full implementation of the INF, (and) not to threaten the feasibility of this document," the ministry said in a statement.

The two countries have accused each other of violating the treaty signed by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.

US defence officials said last week Washington is considering a range of moves to counter Russia's alleged violation of the treaty, including bolstering missile defences or deploying land-based missiles in Europe.

The INF agreement eliminated nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with intermediate range of 500-5,500 kilometres (300-3,400 miles). The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals.

A US State Department report last week said Russia in 2014 "continued to be in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometres to 5,500 kilometres, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles."

The Russian foreign ministry said that statement was not "consistent with reality", challenging the United States to provide firm evidence.

Moscow for its part took issue with Washington's plans to deploy in Poland and Romania systems capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles.

"Such deployment would directly contravene the INF treaty," the foreign ministry said.

Ties between Russia and the United States sank to their post-Cold War lows after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine last year and supported Russian-speaking rebels fighting Kiev government forces.

 

 

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13 children among 16 killed in Syria regime raid: monitor

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) June 16, 2015 - At least 16 people, among them 13 children, were killed in Syrian government air strikes on a town in southern Daraa province on Tuesday, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes hit a centre for study of the Koran in the town of Eastern Ghariyah.

The Britain-based monitor accused Syria's government of a "massacre," saying a woman was also among those killed in the strikes.

The group said the toll in the strikes, which hit on Tuesday afternoon, was expected to rise further because a number of those injured were in serious condition.

Eastern Ghariyah lies near the eastern edge of Daraa province, not far from the 52nd Brigade base that a rebel alliance seized from the regime a week ago.

The Southern Front alliance seized the base in a surprise attack, before pushing across the provincial border into Sweida and briefly overrunning the Al-Thalaa air base.

Regime forces expelled the rebels from Al-Thalaa on Friday, but fighting has continued in the area.

More than 230,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict, which began with anti-government demonstrations in March 2011 and descended into a civil war after a regime crackdown.

Rights groups have regularly criticised Syria's government for indiscriminate fire on civilian areas.

Rebel forces have also been accused of targeting civilian areas in parts of the country.

Nearly 11,500 children have been killed in the conflict, according to the Observatory.

 

 

Yemen rebels snub government and demand talks with Saudis

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) June 16, 2015 - Iran-backed Yemeni rebels on Tuesday accused Saudi Arabia of trying to sabotage peace talks in Geneva and accused the exiled government of trying to impose its own agenda on the UN.

The rebels arrived a day late in Geneva on Tuesday for the UN-backed talks after being stranded in Djibouti -- a fact they blamed on Riyadh.

Rebel negotiating team member Mohammed Zubairi defiantly told reporters: "We refuse any dialogue with those who have no legitimacy," referring to the internationally recognised exiled government.

He said they instead wanted talks with Saudi Arabia, which has been leading an aerial campaign against the Huthi rebels since March 26, "to stop the aggression".

The United Nations is desperately trying to get the rebels, who control a large swath of terrain including the capital Sanaa, and the exiled government to agree to a badly-needed humanitarian truce.

But any hope of a thaw appeared bleak with exiled president Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi repeating Tuesday that his side was only prepared to discuss with the rebels a Security Council resolution ordering their withdrawal from seized territory.

And Abdulmalek al-Huthi, the leader of the Shiite rebels who bear his name, appeared equally inflexible.

"They tried to impose their own agenda," said Huthi in a televised speech, accusing the Yemeni government of using the United Nations and special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as a "tool."

"Leave to the United Nations some neutrality to continue its mission... Stop your continuous attempts to control its new envoy," said Huthi.

A UN-chartered plane carrying the rebels had left Sanaa on Sunday afternoon but was forced to wait in Djibouti for nearly 24 hours, forcing them to miss Monday's opening of the talks and a meeting with UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

The rebels accused Egypt and Sudan of not allowing their plane to fly through their airspace.

"It was Saudi Arabia which asked its allies" to take the action with the aim of "torpedoing the negotiations", Adel Shujah, another member of the rebel team, told AFP after arriving in Geneva.

He said they were able to travel on to Switzerland after the United States and Oman intervened.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict between Iran-backed Shiite rebels and troops loyal to Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia in February.

Global powers are keen for a speedy resolution, fearing the growing power of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the jihadist network that has taken advantage of the chaos to seize territory.

On Monday, Ban underscored the need for an immediate humanitarian truce in Yemen for at least two weeks to mark the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, in order to furnish critical supplies to millions of people facing acute shortages.

- Breakthrough unlikely -

The UN has described Yemen's humanitarian crisis as "catastrophic", with 80 percent of the population -- 20 million people -- in need of aid.

The UN children's agency said Tuesday that at least 279 children had been killed in conflict in Yemen since the Saudi-led strikes began -- a figure four times higher than for the whole of last year.

The rebels' participation in the talks is conditional on them whittling down their inflated presence, UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.

He said before the rebels joined the talks, the UN wanted to ensure they adhered to "the 7+3 principle, that is seven principals and three advisers" on the negotiating team.

The rebels have come with 22 members.

The Mauritanian special envoy for Yemen Ould Cheikh Ahmed also repeated this condition at a press conference late Tuesday.

"Having two delegations in Geneva is an achievement. It is a difficult path," he said.

Both experts and some participants are pessimistic about the outcome of the talks. The positions of the two warring sides are so divergent that they will not be sitting in the same room and the UN will be holding separate consultations with them.

The rebels are supported by military units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The second day of the talks coincide with reports, confirmed by Al Qaeda in Yemen, that its leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, number two in the global jihadist organisation, was killed in a US drone strike.

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Ban calls for immediate humanitarian truce in Yemen

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) June 15, 2015 - UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday called for an immediate humanitarian truce in Yemen as peace talks began in Geneva and a Saudi-led Arab coalition continued aerial bombardments of the ravaged country.

Global powers are keen for a speedy resolution of the conflict, fearing the growing power of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the jihadist network which has taken advantage of the chaos to seize territory.

"We do not have a moment to lose," Ban said, adding that the fighting was "giving strength to some of the world's most ruthless terrorist groups."

"I hope this week starts the beginning of the end of the fighting," Ban said, stressing this was vital to get crucial humanitarian supplies through.

The UN has described the country's humanitarian crisis as "catastrophic", with 80 percent of the population -- 20 million people -- in need of aid.

"Ramadan begins in two days," Ban said, stressing that the holy Muslim month should be a period for harmony, peace and reconciliation.

"I have emphasised the importance of another humanitarian pause for at least two weeks," the UN chief said, after meeting the government delegation.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict between Iran-backed Shiite rebels and exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognised government.

Ban said the violence had killed more than 2,600 people, half of them civilians.

- 'Yemen a time bomb' -

"Today, Yemen's very existence hangs in the balance," Ban said. "While parties bicker, Yemen burns."

He also called on the warring factions to "reach agreement on local ceasefires, with the withdrawal of armed groups from cities."

But analysts said there was little optimism over the talks, which began on Monday without the presence of the Iran-backed rebel delegation after their plane was delayed in Djibouti.

The UN announced later on Monday that the UN plane carrying the Huthi representatives was finally on its way to Switzerland after the layover in Djibouti.

The UN had worked to get the rebel group to Geneva on time but "there are issues involving international aviation that are beyond the control of the UN", spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Pre-dawn air strikes meanwhile targeted Huthi rebel positions in the main southern port city of Aden and continued throughout Monday, residents said, as fighting raged on between rebel forces and pro-government fighters.

Rebels fired Katyusha rockets at a residential part of Aden's Mansura district, said Ali al-Ahmedi, spokesman of the pro-government Popular Resistance -- a coalition of pro-government fighters, Sunni tribes and southern separatists.

Medics at a nearby hospital said that three members of the same family were killed and four others were wounded in the attack.

AFP could not immediately verify the toll given by Popular Resistance sources of 20 rebels and seven pro-government fighters killed in Aden.

Underscoring the need for immediate action in Yemen, Ban said: "The ticking clock is not a time piece, it is a time bomb."

- Breakthrough unlikely -

The rebels, supported by military units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have seized control of large parts of the country including the capital Sanaa, forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia in February.

Yemen Foreign Minister Riad Yassin said the prospects were for a breakthrough were poor.

"I'm not very optimistic," Yassin told AFP, adding that they (the rebels) "never respect any treaty".

Yassin likened the rebels to the Islamic State group or Nigeria's Boko Haram and accused them of sending far more representatives and advisors to the Geneva talks than had been agreed.

"They want to come here to make chaos," he said.

The government delegation led by the foreign minister reiterated its demands on Sunday night, including that any ceasefire must see the militias withdraw from all territory they have conquered.

Fearing an Iran-friendly regime on its southern border, Riyadh has been leading a campaign of air strikes against the rebels since March 26 but has so far failed to rout them from territory they have seized.

Any chance of success at the first talks between the warring factions since Hadi fled Sanaa was "very unlikely", Yemen expert Laurent Bonnefoy said, adding: "Indeed, each side appears to be inflexible, disinclined toward compromise".

 

 

UNESCO condemns ancient houses' destruction in Sanaa 'strike'

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) June 12, 2015 - UNESCO condemned the destruction Friday of ancient houses described as a "jewel" of Islamic urban landscape in an alleged Saudi-led air strike on the Yemeni capital's old quarter that killed five people.

The incident came just ahead of UN-sponsored talks in Geneva in their first bid to break a deadlock after more than two months of Saudi-led air strikes on Yemeni rebels.

The coalition led by Riyadh denied claims that it had carried out an air strike in Sanaa, suggesting instead that a rebel munitions cache may have exploded.

Residents of the quarter said a pre-dawn strike was the first direct hit there since the launch of the campaign against Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in late March.

The World Health Organization said Friday that 2,584 people had been killed in fighting in Yemen as of June 7, with 11,065 wounded.

A missile hit the Qassimi neighbourhood without exploding, but killed five residents, including a woman and a child, and destroyed three three-storey houses, medics and witnesses said.

"We saw the flashing light of the missile launched from a plane. We expected it to explode, but it did not... We felt the impact of the missile when it hit the ground," said resident Ahmed al-Ameri.

Sanaa's old city has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years and was a major centre for the propagation of Islam, boasting more than 100 mosques, 14 public baths and more than 6,000 houses built before the 11th century.

It was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1986.

- 'Profoundly distressed' -

UNESCO director general Irina Bokova said she was "profoundly distressed by the loss of human lives as well as by the damage inflicted on one of the world's oldest jewels of Islamic urban landscape."

She said she was "shocked by the images of these magnificent many-storeyed tower-houses and serene gardens reduced to rubble.

"The historic value and memories enshrined in these sites have been irreparably damaged or destroyed."

Naji Saleh Thawaba, head of Yemen's General Organisation for the Preservation of the Historic Cities of Yemen also condemned the attack.

"I never imagined that this site could one day become a target; even if there were enemy (positions) in the area, it should never be a target for air strikes," he told AFP.

The upper storeys of the old quarter's houses rising above ground floors constructed of stone are built of rammed earth and burnt brick, with each building decorated with geometric patterns of fired bricks and white gypsum, inspired by traditional Islamic art.

The spokesman for the coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri, said there was no raid on the site.

"For sure we did not conduct any operation inside (the) city," Assiri told AFP. "We know that those sites are very important."

He said rebels may have been hiding weapons or ammunition in the area.

In Sanaa, there were conflicting statements from residents about whether rebels had occupied one of the houses.

The old city has already suffered some damage from air strikes on nearby targets, including the defence ministry, prompting a protest from UNESCO in May.

- Rocket hits Saudi mosque -

Earlier this month, UNESCO also condemned air strikes that hit the ancient Great Dam of Marib, which was first built in the 8th century BC, in the city that was once the capital of the kingdom of Saba.

The UN body said the attack on the dam came a week after the national museum in Dhamar, in central Yemen, was "completely destroyed".

In other developments Friday, Assiri said rocket fire from Yemen killed at least one civilian at a mosque during Friday prayers in a Saudi border community.

Saudi Arabia launched the air war on March 26, as the rebels and their allies among forces loyal to ex-strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh advanced on President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's refuge in the southern city of Aden.

Hadi had fled the capital, which the rebels seized unopposed in September, and was rushed to safety in Saudi Arabia as the Huthis closed in on Aden.

Analysts say the intervention was aimed at preventing the Sunni-dominated kingdom's regional rival, Shiite Iran, from gaining a foothold on its southern border.

The UN said peace talks between the warring factions, originally scheduled for Sunday in Geneva, would now take place the following day, attributing that to "unforeseen circumstances".

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Nobel laureate Satyarthi says up to 500,000 child soldiers worldwide

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) June 12, 2015 - There are up to 500,000 child soldiers around the world, Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi said Friday, terming it the worst form of child abuse.

Satyarthi, who is attending an International Labour Organization summit in Geneva, said global funding for education -- the best means to fight child labour and servitude -- had gone down dramatically over the past four years.

"There are between 400,000 and 500,000 child soldiers across the world but the actual numbers could be far higher because there are hidden militant groups kidnapping children and forcing them to use guns," he told reporters.

Satyarthi, whose decades-long campaign to end child labour in his native India and elsewhere won him the Nobel Peace prize last year, said "making children kill people is the worst thing you can do to a child."

"Look at what's happening in Syria, in Iraq, Nigeria and in Afghanistan," he said.

"When I read that a five-year-old child is given a gun to kill an opponent of a militia group in Iraq... and the child could not handle that gun, he was buried alive... That makes me angry. I think this should make you all angry," he told the summit Thursday.

Satyarthi said that global funding for education had plummeted in recent years "partly due to the financial crisis and partly due to donors' perceptions that education had made huge strides in developing countries when the case is not actually so."

All the world's children could access basic education if global annual funding for the sector was increased by $22 billion (19.6 billion euros), he said, adding that there were 58 million children currently out of school across the world.

"I have been advocating for the last 35 years that eradication of child labour and quality education are the two sides of the same coin. We cannot achieve the one without the other," he said.

"Unfortunately only one percent of the total humanitarian aid goes for education."

"An additional $22 billion annually can bring all children to school and that is just four-and-a-half days of global military expenditure.

"If we all decide that we are not going to fight, or strike... for four-and-a-half days we are going to bring all children to schools," he said.

According to the ILO there are 168 million children in child labour, with 150 million of them aged between five and 14.

Of them five million are thought to be trapped in slavery-like conditions.

Satyarthi said "millions of children in the world are living in danger."

"When we read in the newspaper that girls were being sold for sex slavery... for a price less than a cigarette pack in Syria, I feel ashamed," he said.

 

 

Ban calls for immediate Ramadan truce in Yemen

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) June 15, 2015 - UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday called for an immediate two-week humanitarian pause in Yemen to mark Ramadan as talks got underway in Geneva to try and resolve the bloody conflict.

"I hope this week starts the beginning of the end of the fighting," Ban said.

"Ramadan begins in two days," he said, stressing that the holy Muslim month should be a period for "harmony, peace and reconciliation".

"I have emphasised the importance of another humanitarian pause for two weeks," Ban said.

Ban dismissed fears that the talks would be torpedoed by the non-arrival of an Iran-backed rebel delegation in time for the talks. The team's plane was delayed in Djibouti, according to UN and diplomatic sources.

He said the delay was due to logistical reasons and added: "I am pleased to know that the other parties are on their way" and were expected to arrive later Monday.

Underscoring the need for immediate action in Yemen, he said: "The ticking clock is not a time piece, it is a time bomb."

He also called on all parties to reach agreement on a "comprehensive and lasting" ceasefire.

Yemen rebels yet to arrive in Geneva for UN talks: sources
Geneva (AFP) June 15, 2015 - A team of Iran-backed Yemeni rebels had not yet arrived in Geneva for peace talks, due to start on Monday, because their plane was delayed, UN and diplomatic sources said.

The delegation comprising members of the Ansarullah and their allies, loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, left Sanaa on Sunday afternoon but were forced to have a long halt in Djibouti, the sources said.

Talks between the Huthi rebels and the government of exiled President President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi were supposed to start in Geneva early on Monday in the presence of UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Their positions are so far apart that analysts feel any breakthrough is highly unlikely and the delegations will not even begin talks in the same room.

The UN's peace envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said that Monday would see the start of "preliminary inclusive consultations" on the war that has claimed more than 2,500 lives and sparked a "catastrophic" humanitarian crisis.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict between the rebels and Hadi's internationally recognised government.

The dissidents have seized control of large parts of the country including the capital Sanaa, forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia in February.

Fearing an Iran-friendly regime on its south, Saudi Arabia has led a campaign of air strikes against the rebels since March 26 but has so far failed to force them from territory they have seized.

International powers are keen for a resolution to the conflict, fearing the growing power of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the jihadist network which has taken advantage of the chaos to seize territory.

UN expects Yemen talks to start Monday in Geneva
Geneva (AFP) June 14, 2015 - UN-sponsored talks aimed at ending the conflict in Yemen by bringing representatives of the warring factions to Geneva are expected to begin on Monday, a UN spokesman said.

"We expect the parties to be here for what we call Geneva Consulatations tomorrow," spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters on Sunday.

Fawzi said representatives of both sides in the Yemeni conflict were expected to be in the Swiss city on Sunday night.

The exiled, internationally-recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi said its delegation flew to Geneva on Saturday.

But representatives of the Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's General People's Congress refused to board a UN plane from Sanaa to Geneva on Saturday.

A Huthi official said the rebels' refusal was grounded in the fact the plane was due to stop off in Saudi Arabia -- which is leading a fierce campaign of air strikes against them.

Should the talks kick off in time, Fawzi said there would be "extremely intensive consultations day and night".

"We still hope that the parties will observe a humanitarian pause," he added.

The UN Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have both called for a renewed humanitarian pause in the fighting following May's truce.

The talks brokered by UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed would be aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Huthis and stepping up deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The Security Council this week heard a report from new UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien, who described Yemen's humanitarian crisis as "catastrophic," with 20 million civilians in need of aid -- 80 percent of the population.

 

 

Rebels declare 'unilateral ceasefire' with Myanmar army

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Yangon (AFP) June 11, 2015 - Rebels who have fought Myanmar's army along a rugged border area with China for four months declared a unilateral ceasefire Thursday, after fighting left scores dead, threatened a nationwide peace pact and spilled over the frontier.

Fighting between government troops and ethnic Chinese rebel fighters has raged in the Kokang region of northern Shan state since early February, causing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, many into China.

Myanmar's airforce has also dropped bombs on Chinese territory, killing several civilians and infuriating Beijing which issued a stern rebuke and carried out live-fire military drills near the border as a warning.

"We stopped fighting unilaterally since this morning... but we are still holding (weapons ) for self-defence. If they (Myanmar army) shoots, we have to defend ourselves," Htun Myat Linn, a spokesman for the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the main insurgent group of the Chinese-speaking Kokang told AFP.

"During four months fighting, about 80 to 90 people were killed from our side. More than 200 people were wounded. We will remain in our positions although the fighting has stopped."

Myanmar's army and government were not immediately reachable for comment on whether they would join the ceasefire in Kokang, a mountainous area which remains cloaked in martial law.

"Fighting has gone on for four months... we worry we are harming the country's general election because of the fighting," Htun Myat Linn added of much-anticipated national polls slated for November.

Myanmar's government is desperate to secure a binding ceasefire with myriad ethnic groups, many of whom have been fighting for decades, ahead of elections later this year.

Kokang rebels were quickly joined by a number of other ethnic insurgent groups and the conflict has threatened to undermine that peace bid.

Kokang has strong bonds with China -- local people speak a Chinese dialect and China's yuan is the common currency -- and tens of thousands of people have crossed the border to flee the fighting.

Beijing was a key backer of Myanmar's military junta while it was under Western sanctions, but President Thein Sein has increased ties with other countries including the United States since launching political reforms in 2011.

The news of the Kokang ceasefire declaration came on the same day as Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

 

 

Syria army regains control of southern airbase: monitor

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) June 12, 2015 - Syrian army troops regained full control of an airbase in southern Sweida province on Friday, a day after rebels overran large parts of it, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels from the Southern Front alliance withdrew from the Al-Thalaa base under heavy regime fire.

"Opposition fighters withdrew from areas they seized yesterday after heavy regime aerial bombardment and the arrival of reinforcements from the (pro-regime militia) National Defence Forces and Popular Committees," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said there were casualties on both sides in the fighting, but gave no immediate figure.

Rebels from the Southern Front alliance entered the airport on Thursday, quickly seizing most of the facility.

It was the first such advance by rebels into Sweida, a province which is largely in regime hands and home to the a majority of Syria's Druze minority.

Syrian state television had denied that the airport had fallen to rebels, and the provincial governor insisted life was continuing "as normal" in the region.

The rebel advance into Al-Thalaa came after they had captured on Tuesday the 52nd Brigade base, located in neighbouring Daraa province.

Sweida province has been spared much of the fighting in Syria.

The Druze are followers of a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam, who made up around three percent of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million people.

The community has been somewhat divided during the country's uprising, with some members fighting alongside the government and others expressing sympathy for the opposition.

Mostly, the Druze have taken up arms only in defence of their areas, and have kept out of the fighting more broadly.

Concerns for the minority's fate have grown this week with the Southern Front's advance into Sweida and reports that Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front killed at least 20 Druze civilians in a village in northwestern Idlib province.

The incident in the village of Qalb al-Lawzah was condemned by the Southern Front, who issued a statement Thursday pledging not to fight against the Druze.

The Qalb al-Lawzah killings also drew condemnation from UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura.

"He strongly condemns such attacks on civilians, in particular communities in Syria, which are in an especially vulnerable situation amidst the ongoing violent conflict," his spokeswoman said in a statement.

 

 

Syria rebels seize most of Sweida military airport: spokesman

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) June 11, 2015 - Syrian rebels seized most of a military airport in regime-controlled Sweida province Thursday and shot down a warplane nearby, a spokesman told AFP.

"The Southern Front has liberated Al-Thaala military airport and is carrying out mopping-up operations against remaining forces," the alliance's spokesman, Major Essam al-Rayes, told AFP.

The Syrian Observatory for Human rights also reported the rebel advance into the airport in the Druze-majority southern province.

"They have control of parts of the airport, which is used by the regime for aircraft that bomb Daraa and Damascus provinces," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

But Syrian state television denied the claims, and interviewed the provincial governor, who accused media of spreading lies.

"There is no truth to claims that terrorist groups have occupied Al-Thaala in Sweida province," state television said, citing its reporter in the area.

"We're used to the criminal media and their falsehoods; the information being reported is baseless and life continues as normal in the province," Governor Atef al-Nadaf said.

Rayes also said Southern Front forces had shot down a warplane in the border region between Sweida and neighbouring Daraa province.

The Britain-based Observatory reported the same, and state television acknowledged that "a warplane went down in the southern region and an investigation into the causes is underway."

The Southern Front advance into Al-Thaala airport comes a day after the alliance, which groups moderate and Islamist rebel forces, seized the 52nd Brigade base in Daraa province.

Abdel Rahman said many of the regime forces who fled the 52nd Brigade as it was captured had withdrawn to Al-Thaala, which lies some 10 kilometres (six miles) away.

Sweida province has been spared much of the fighting in Syria, and remains almost entirely under regime control.

Most of its residents are Druze, followers of a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam, who made up around three percent of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million people.

The community has been somewhat divided during the country's uprising, with some members fighting alongside the government while others expressing sympathy for the opposition.

Mostly, the Druze have taken up arms only in defence of their areas, and have kept out of the fighting more broadly.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the Southern Front sought to reassure Sweida's residents.

"We stress that the people of Sweida are our brothers and our people, and we... will not fight them," Rayes said in the statement.

"We are ready to confront hand-in-hand all threats to Sweida province if we are asked to do so."

The statement also condemned "in the strongest terms" the deaths of at least 20 Druze residents reportedly killed by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front in Idlib on Wednesday.

The deaths in Qalb Lawzah sparked condemnation from Druze leaders in Syria and Lebanon.

The Southern Front has sought to distance itself from Al-Nusra and said in March it would not cooperate with the group.

But it has found itself fighting on the same side as the Al-Qaeda affiliate, including in battles against the jihadist Islamic State group.

 

 

Geneva peace talks look to break Yemen deadlock

 
‎18 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:05 AMGo to full article
Dubai (AFP) June 12, 2015 - Yemen's warring factions will meet for UN-sponsored talks in Geneva from Sunday in their first bid to break a deadlock after more than two months of Saudi-led air strikes.

Fourteen Yemeni representatives -- seven from each side of the conflict pitting Iran-backed rebels against the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and its allies -- will take part in the talks in the Swiss city, expected to last two to three days.

Despite a fierce campaign of air strikes that has dealt heavy losses to the rebels, the Saudi-led coalition of mainly Arab nations has failed to alter the balance of power in Yemen or meet its goal of restoring the rule of the exiled Hadi.

And while the Shiite Huthi rebels have managed to hold on to territory they had seized, including the capital Sanaa, they have failed to expand their control across the entire country.

Analysts say that by agreeing to the talks, both sides have shown they are now looking for a way out.

"The war in Yemen, which is a civil war, has reached a deadlock," said Ibrahim Sharqieh, deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center, adding that he believed both sides were ready to "make concessions and achieve a result".

Saudi Arabia launched the air war on March 26, as the rebels and their allies among forces loyal to ex-strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh advanced on Hadi's southern refuge in the city of Aden.

Hadi had fled house arrest in the capital, which the rebels seized unopposed in September, and was rushed to safety in Saudi Arabia as the Huthis closed in on Aden.

Analysts say the Saudi intervention was aimed at preventing the Sunni-dominated kingdom's regional rival, Shiite power Iran, from gaining a foothold on its southern border.

- 'Catastrophic' situation -

The international community has backed Hadi as Yemen's legitimate ruler and a UN resolution has demanded the rebels withdraw from the territory they have seized.

Hadi's government, which will be represented in Geneva by Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin, insists the talks are merely "consultative" and aimed at implementing the UN resolution.

Huthi officials and members of Saleh's party will represent rebel forces at the talks.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who will attend the opening session on Sunday, has urged all sides to head to Geneva without preconditions.

He said the talks were aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Huthis and stepping up humanitarian aid deliveries.

The United Nations has described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as "catastrophic", saying that more than 2,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in fighting and raids since March.

More than half a million people have been forced from their homes and 80 percent of the already impoverished country's population is in need of urgent aid.

A five-day ceasefire last month allowed aid agencies to reach civilians caught in the fighting but UN efforts to prolong the truce failed.

Sharqieh said that Saudi Arabia, which has shied away from talk of sending ground troops, was looking for a way to resolve the impasse.

"Two-and-a-half months after the start of the air campaign, the Saudis' failures to make additional gains and their inability to wage a ground operation means that, for them, the war has approached its end," he said.

The Huthis meanwhile have failed "to obtain the kind of support from Iran that would shift the equation" so are also looking for a way out, he said.

International powers are keen for a resolution to the conflict, fearing the growing power of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has taken advantage of the chaos to seize territory including the southeastern city of Mukalla.

Washington considers AQAP the extremist network's deadliest branch and continues to regularly target its militants with armed drone strikes on Yemeni territory.

"There is a danger that the current war in Yemen could lead to long-term instability," Sharqieh warned.

 

 

Syria rebels overrun key army base in new regime setback

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) June 9, 2015 - An alliance of Syrian rebel forces seized a key army base in the south of the country on Tuesday in a new setback for the regime's embattled troops.

The Southern Front alliance took full control of the 52nd Brigade base in Daraa province after 24 hours of fierce clashes, a spokesman told AFP.

"The 52nd Brigade base was fully liberated from the regime army," Major Essam al-Rayes said, adding at least 2,000 rebel fighters had taken part in the "short and quick" assault.

The base lies near a major highway running from Damascus to Syria's southern border with Jordan and is also near the frontier with neighbouring Sweida province, which is largely regime-controlled.

"This base was one of the main lines of defence for the regime forces. It was a nightmare, because they used it to shell all the areas to the east of the province," Rayes said.

The Southern Front was combing through the site for material left by regime troops, he said, adding the alliance would likely launch additional attacks from there in the near future.

Diaa al-Hariri, spokesman for Faylaq al-Awwal, one of the groups in the alliance, said the base was being used as a launching pad for the army's infantry.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed opposition groups had taken the base after clashes and intense shelling that killed 15 rebel fighters and 20 government forces.

- Latest regime setback -

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said rebel forces also seized two villages, including the Christian town of Al-Rakham, as regime troops withdrew to the nearby village of Al-Dara.

Rebels control a majority of Daraa province and its capital, Abdel Rahman said.

Syria's official news agency SANA did not report the capture of the base.

But earlier, citing a military source, it said the air force had struck the area, killing at least 40 "terrorists," who it accused neighbouring Jordan of backing.

The fall of the base is the latest in a string of defeats for the regime, which has lost territory to both rebel alliances in Syria's northwest and the Islamic State group in the country's centre.

It also follows defeats in Daraa, including in April the Nasib border post, its last crossing with Jordan.

Nonetheless, efforts towards a political solution to the crisis have faltered.

In Cairo, figures from the country's exiled opposition, as well as "tolerated" anti-regime figures from within Syria, agreed on a roadmap that ruled out any future role for President Bashar al-Assad.

The roadmap, distributed to journalists after a two-day meeting, also stressed the need for a negotiated solution under UN auspices starting with a ceasefire, prisoner release and the return of opposition figures from abroad.

- 230,000 dead -

Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests. After a regime crackdown, it spiralled into a civil war that has now killed more than 230,000 people, the Observatory said as it issued a new toll Tuesday.

The Britain-based group said nearly 70,000 civilians have died in the war, nearly 11,500 of them children.

More than 85,500 government forces -- soldiers and militiamen -- have been killed, along with over 41,000 rebels, Syrian jihadists and Kurdish fighters.

The monitor also documented the deaths of 31,247 foreign jihadists, and said another 3,191 people killed in the conflict have yet to be identified.

Many of the civilian deaths have come in government aerial attacks, particularly involving the use of "barrel bombs".

The weapon, criticised by rights groups as indiscriminate, has been used to devastating effect in Aleppo, where the Observatory said four members of one family were killed in such an attack Tuesday.

Syria's conflict has evolved into a complex, multi-front war that has drawn in jihadists including IS, which now rules a self-proclaimed "caliphate" in territory across Syria and Iraq.

The group on Tuesday claimed an attack against a government headquarters in Amriyat al-Fallujah, west of the capital Baghdad.

At least two people were killed in the assault by militants.

The attack came a year to the day since IS launched a sweeping offensive that overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland and seized Iraq's second city Mosul.

A US-led coalition striking the jihadists in both Syria and Iraq said it destroyed IS buildings, tactical units, and fighting positions near Mosul on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said it was drawing up plans to expand the training of Iraqi forces and Sunni tribesmen in a step that could mean deploying more US troops in the country.

burs-dv/al

 

 

Libya rivals 'positive' on peace draft

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Skhirat, Morocco (AFP) June 9, 2015 - Libya's warring factions have reacted positively to a draft peace agreement, the UN envoy said Tuesday, as they head for talks in Berlin with world powers anxious for an end to the conflict.

Libya descended into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with heavily armed former rebels carving out fiefdoms across the country.

The quest for a deal seeks to prevent the oil-rich and strategic North African nation from crumbling into a failed state.

Bernardino Leon, chief of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, presented the draft to delegations from the country's rival sides at talks in Morocco late Monday.

With strong support from world leaders, he is pushing for a final accord before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on June 17.

"We have distributed, as you will have seen, a new proposed agreement. All I can tell you for now is that the reaction is positive," Leon told journalists.

"We are looking at the possibility of a triple consensus -- within Libyan society, among the participants in the dialogue and also the international community."

He said there was "sense of optimism" emerging from the talks, but warned that no agreement would work without the backing of armed groups in Libya.

"The security track is important. We need strong support from the armed formations... We will not succeed if we don't have their support," Leon said.

The Spanish diplomat had spent Tuesday morning shuttling between the negotiating teams to gauge their response.

"Then we will all head to Berlin to meet European leaders and member countries of the UN Security Council," UN mission spokesman Samir Ghattas told AFP, without saying whom they would meet.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has invited them to Berlin to continue talks Wednesday with Leon as well as meet diplomats from the UN Security Council's permanent five members, plus Italy, Spain and the European Union, his ministry said.

G7 leaders have thrown their support behind Leon's efforts to persuade the factions to forge a united administration to replace the rival governments in the capital Tripoli and Tobruk.

In a closing statement after a summit in Germany, the G7 called on Libyan leaders to take "bold political decisions" to end four years of devastating conflict.

It said it would "provide significant support" to help a new government rebuild infrastructure, including restoring public services and strengthening the economy.

Jihadist groups have exploited the lawlessness, which has also prompted a huge influx of migrants trying to make the dangerous crossing to Europe, with shipwrecks leaving hundreds dead and the European Union straining to respond.

- Draft plan -

The draft agreement put forward Monday is the fourth, with three previous rounds of negotiations failing to deliver a deal.

The 69-article plan provides for the formation of a transitional government of national unity for a period of one year, renewable for one more year.

It stipulates that the parliament elected last June, most of whose members back the internationally recognised government in Tobruk, should be the legislative authority for the interim period.

But it also provides for the formation of a high council of state, drawn mostly from members of the rival parliament in Tripoli, which "shall express binding opinion with a qualified majority on draft laws".

The two sides would commit to the integration of their opposing militias into a reformed military under direct government control with former rebel fighters offered the opportunity to join up or be reintegrated into civilian life.

The agreement sets out interim security arrangements for the withdrawal of armed formations from towns and cities and a timetable for disarming.

"The government of national accord, through its different relevant institutions, including the army and police, shall take the necessary steps to combat terrorist threats in Libya," the draft says.

Some members of the internationally recognised parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there is still disagreement on at least two points in the draft. They did not elaborate.

Both administrations have been fighting loyalists of the Islamic State group, which has taken several coastal towns to the alarm of an international community fearful of a jihadist foothold on Europe's doorstep.

IS, which controls swathes of Syria and Iraq, has won the loyalty of several Islamist groups in Libya and claimed responsibility for a series of attacks and atrocities, including the killings of dozens of Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians.

 

 

Yemen rebel ally welcomes Swiss peace talks

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) June 9, 2015 - The party of Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key ally of Shiite Huthi rebels, on Tuesday welcomed UN-brokered peace talks due to open in Switzerland at the weekend.

The General People's Congress said it had not yet received a formal invitation from the United Nations but the UN envoy met with party representatives in the rebel-held capital in late May as part of his efforts to convene the Geneva talks.

Saleh himself is under UN sanctions for his support for the rebels and did not take part in the meetings, party sources said.

The GPC "welcomes holding the Geneva conference for consultations between Yemeni political components without any preconditions from any group, with goodwill and under the patronage of the United Nations," its almotamar.net website said.

Saleh, who ruled for 33 years before being forced from power in 2012 after a bloody year-long uprising, threw the support of his loyalists in the army behind the Huthis in their offensive that forced his successor into exile in March.

He himself proposed Geneva as the venue for the talks as a compromise between rebel-held Sanaa and the Saudi capital Riyadh, where exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has taken refuge.

His loyalists have been repeatedly targeted alongside the rebels in a Saudi-led air war launched in support of Hadi on March 26.

On Tuesday, coalition air strikes hit pro-Saleh troops and rebels across the capital before dawn, witnesses said.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the defence ministry which they jointly control.

Residents also reported air strikes in third city Taez and the eastern oil province of Marib -- both key battlegrounds -- and in the rebel heartland in Yemen's far north.

- Violence grips Aden -

In the south, fierce clashes continued on the northern and western outskirts of Aden, Yemen's second largest city under rebels' attack since late March.

Seven people were killed and at least 67 others, mostly civilians, wounded since Monday, health chief Al-Khader Laswar said, as several Aden neighbourhoods were subjected to rebel shelling with rockets and mortars.

Coalition warplanes struck positions of rebels who have been attempting to storm the Bir Ahmed district, a military source said.

In Daleh, eight southern fighters were killed when coalition warplanes mistakenly hit a military post overrun by the pro-government fighters, according to a source in the Popular Resistance group.

The peace talks are due to open in Geneva on Sunday afternoon.

They had initially been scheduled for May 28 but were postponed after Hadi demanded the rebels first withdraw from seized territory.

They will last two to three days and be held mostly behind closed doors, according to UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who will attend the opening, has urged all sides to join the talks without preconditions in a bid to end a conflict which has killed more than 2,000 people since March.

But the exiled president set new conditions in an interview broadcast on Monday, insisting the sole item for discussion would be implementation of a UN resolution demanding a rebel withdrawal.

"There will be no negotiations," Hadi told Al-Arabiya television.

 

 

SEAL Team 6, a 'global manhunting machine': Times

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) June 7, 2015 - SEAL Team 6, the special operations unit that took down Osama bin Laden, has emerged as "a global manhunting machine" whose secrecy has raised questions about its accountability, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The Times documented the SEALs growth in size and importance since 9/11, carrying out thousands of raids credited with weakening militant networks in places like Afghanistan and Somalia.

They fight alongside CIA paramilitary operatives, operate from spy ships disguised as commercial vessels, and shadow targets as undercover agents in US embassies, according to the Times, in an account based on interviews with dozens of former and current team members.

"Once a small group reserved for specialized but rare missions, the unit best known for killing Osama bin Laden has been transformed by more than a decade of combat into a global manhunting machine," the Times said.

For all its notoriety, however, it also has remained the most secretive and least scrutinized organization in the US military, and its activities have raised concerns about excessive killing and civilian deaths, the Times said.

In a 2012 incident in Afghanistan, an American doctor who was rescued from his Taliban captors, while grateful to be freed, told the Times that one of the kidnappers appeared to have been killed after surviving the raid.

All five captors were killed in the raid, as was the first of the SEALs to enter the compound where doctor Dilip Joseph was being held.

-- Coming to terms --

"It took me weeks to come to terms with the efficiency of the rescue," Joseph said. "It was so surgical."

A daring nighttime raid to rescue kidnapped British aid worker Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan ended in her death by a team member who hurled a grenade at what he thought were kidnappers.

Other rescues were accomplished with stunning success, such as that of US aid worker Jessica Buchanan and Danish colleague Poul Hagen, in Somalia.

The Times said the American operators sky-dived into Somalia, and crept up on their kidnappers under cover of darkness, shooting and killing all nine captors.

"Until they identified themselves, I did not believe a rescue was possible," Buchanan told the Times.

The Times identifies 2006 as a key point in the SEALs evolution, when lieutenant general Stanley McChrystal ordered the special operations forces to take a more expansive role in beating back a resurgent Taliban.

Team 6 was designated to lead the Special Operations force, embarking on nightly raids and intensifying but increasingly routine combat.

For weeks at a time between 2006 and 2008, units were logging 10 to 15 kills a night, sometimes as many as 25, according to the Times.

"These killing fests had become routine," a former Team 6 officer told the newspaper.

Another former top officer acknowledged "bad things went on."

"Do I think there was more killing than should have been done? Sure."

"I think the natural inclination was, if it's a threat, kill it, and later on you realize, 'Oh, maybe I overassessed the threat,' " he said.

 

 

Yemen's Hadi says 'no negotiations' with rebels in Geneva

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) June 8, 2015 - Yemen's exiled president took a hard line Monday ahead of weekend peace talks in Geneva, ruling out negotiations with Iran-backed rebels and denouncing Tehran's "dangerous" meddling in his country.

After overrunning Sanaa in September, the Huthi rebels seized much of Yemen with the help of renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to launch a bombing campaign against them on March 26.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has taken refuge in Riyadh, said the sole item for discussion at Sunday's talks would be the implementation of a UN resolution demanding the rebels withdraw from territory they seized.

"There will be no negotiations," Hadi told Al-Arabiya television.

"It will be just a discussion about how to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216. We will have a consultation."

Asked if his government's delegation would discuss reconciliation with the rebel negotiators, Hadi said: "Not at all."

Prime Minister Khaled Bahah echoed Hadi's remarks, telling a news conference in Riyadh the Geneva meeting would be merely "consultative".

Bahah, who is also vice president, said the exiled government would go with only one goal -- "implementing 2216 and reinstating the state" overran by Huthis.

Once the legitimate government is reinstated, "all political factions return to dialogue to resume the political process... and approve the draft constitution and organise elections," he added.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged all sides to head to Geneva without preconditions.

Ban "reiterates his urgent call on all Yemeni parties to engage in these consultations in good faith and without preconditions in the interest of all Yemeni people," his spokesman said.

He said the talks were aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Huthis and stepping up humanitarian aid deliveries.

- EU implements sanctions -

Ahead of the talks, the European Union said it was implementing UN sanctions against Huthi leader Abdulmalek al-Huthi as well as Saleh's son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The pair "have been targeted with a travel ban and an asset freeze over their actions against Yemen's peace and stability," the EU said, adding the move reflected Resolution 2216.

In the interview, Hadi again hit out at Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, charging its meddling was "more dangerous than Al-Qaeda".

Yemen is home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, classified by the United States as the network's deadliest franchise.

"Al-Qaeda could be eliminated, but here we have a systematically politicised action," said Hadi.

Iran, which has repeatedly denied supporting the Huthis, on Monday sent its foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to Oman for talks on "regional issues," said IRNA state news agency.

The Huthis said they met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who had shown "understanding... that the military option cannot resolve the Yemeni" crisis.

In Saudi Arabia, a cross-border missile strike from Yemen on Monday killed two more Saudi soldiers, the coalition said, days after four died in battle and a Scud missile was fired.

At least 37 people, most of them armed forces members but also civilians, have been killed in Saudi-Yemeni border skirmishes and shelling since the air campaign began.

- Strikes, clashes -

In the capital, coalition warplanes launched new strikes on the rebels, after overnight raids hit military positions held by the fighters north of the city, witnesses said.

In the southern city of Aden, a woman and three of her children were killed when a Katyusha rocket fired by rebels hit their home, a pro-Hadi militia spokesman said.

The rebels have been trying for five days to advance towards Buraiqa, a strategic sector of the city that houses an oil refinery and a port.

Nine people, among them three civilians, were killed and 53 were wounded in 24 hours of fighting across Aden, Yemen's second largest city, medical officials said.

It came a day after 15 civilians were killed when a coalition strike hit a bus carrying people between the southern provinces of Lahj and Taez, medical and local sources said.

Clashes also killed 19 rebels and three pro-Hadi fighters in Taez province, while in Taez city three civilians were killed in mortar rounds fired by rebels and four wounded, officials added.

More than 2,000 people have died in Yemen fighting and raids since March.

 

 

Libya rivals begin peace talks as G7 urges 'bold' decisions

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Skhirat, Morocco (AFP) June 8, 2015 - Libya's warring factions began crunch talks Monday as world leaders called for "bold political decisions" to prevent the oil-rich nation crumbling into a failed state.

Amid warnings that chaos in Libya has allowed the Islamic State group to make inroads on Europe's doorstep, United Nations envoy Bernardino Leon is pushing for an agreement before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on June 17.

"The timing for fighting has passed, the moment for bold political decisions has come," G7 leaders said in a closing statement after a summit in Germany.

"Libyan leaders must now grasp the opportunity to conclude these negotiations and form a Government of National Accord accountable to the Libyan people."

Libya plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with heavily armed former rebels carving out fiefdoms across the country.

Jihadist groups have exploited the lawlessness, which has also prompted a huge influx of migrants trying to make the dangerous crossing to Europe, with shipwrecks leaving hundreds dead and the European Union straining to respond.

Three previous rounds of peace negotiations between Libya's rival parliaments and governments have failed to reach an accord.

The talks in the Moroccan seaside resort town of Skhirat "will discuss a new draft" of a political agreement to end the conflict, the UN mission to Libya said on Friday.

"UNSMIL is of the firm conviction that this round will be decisive," the mission said.

Saying Libya was at a "critical juncture", the mission called on the country's rivals "to shoulder their historic responsibilities" by reaching a peace deal.

Talks got underway in Skhirat just before 2000 GMT, after a short delay, an AFP correspondent said.

Pressure has been mounting for a deal, with Algeria, Egypt and Italy on Sunday calling for a political agreement.

At a meeting of top diplomats hosted by Cairo, the three countries backed Leon's efforts, with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni saying Libya was "at a very important juncture".

- Warnings on jihadists -

He called for the rivals to "quickly find a solution that satisfies everyone," adding that an agreement was crucial not only for peace on the ground but to "control people smuggling and illegal migration" from Libya to Europe.

At negotiations last week in Algiers, Leon warned that Libya was "at the limit". With oil production stalled, institutions are running out of money to pay salaries and cover expenses, he said.

Leon urged the feuding factions to overcome their differences.

"The competing governments (are) not advancing, not flagging very clearly a decision to reach an agreement, while we have seen terrorism, we have seen Daesh (IS) becoming more and more important in the country," he said.

During April talks in Morocco, Leon and other negotiators said the sides were very close to an agreement on a draft proposal to form a national unity government that would serve for a maximum of two years.

After last week's two days of talks in Algeria, Libyan political factions called for the urgent formation a government so it can "swiftly assume its responsibilities to tackle the many difficult challenges facing Libya."

The G7 said it would "provide significant support" to help a new government rebuild infrastructure, including restoring public services and strengthening the economy.

Last week, Libyan factions expressed concern about the "upsurge in terrorist acts" and the "imminent danger" from the takeover by IS of some territory.

The jihadist group, which controls swathes of Syria and Iraq, has won the loyalty of several Islamist groups in Libya and claimed responsibility for a series of attacks and atrocities, including the killings of dozens of Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians.

 

 

49 dead in Syria regime raid in Idlib province: monitor

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) June 8, 2015 - At least 49 civilians, including six children, were killed on Monday in Syrian government air strikes on a town in Idlib province in the country's northwest, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raids hit a square in the town of Al-Janudiyah, in the west of the province, which is now almost completely controlled by opposition forces.

"It's a public square, and a lot of people gather there because there are shops," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

He told AFP that people displaced from other areas of Idlib province had also sought refuge in Al-Janudiyah.

Regime military aircraft fired missiles on the town, he said.

Video uploaded on the YouTube website by activists showed absolute chaos in the aftermath of the strikes, with the air thick with grey smoke and dust and the square scattered with the rubble of buildings and the body parts of victims.

One video showed men picking through rubble next to the twisted metal of a mangled mini-bus as an older woman ran past gripping the hand of a child.

Other footage, apparently filmed later, showed members of the local civil defence force joining the rescue mission, and at least one bulldozer clearing rubble from the square.

Al-Janudiyah has been under opposition control since 2013, but much of Idlib province has only recently fallen to a rebel alliance that includes Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

Known as the Army of Conquest, the alliance has swept through the province since seizing the provincial capital Idlib city on March 28.

Since then, it has taken the key strategic town of Jisr al-Shughur, as well as the largest military base in the province.

The advances have left regime forces with only a handful of positions in the province.

But the army has continued to wage war from the air, using both conventional air strikes and deadly barrel bombs -- containers packed with crude explosives and shrapnel that have been condemned by rights groups for being indiscriminate.

The Islamic State: A year of death and destruction
Baghdad (AFP) June 8, 2015 - The Islamic State jihadist group launched a sweeping offensive a year ago that overran large chunks of Iraqi territory, led to thousands of deaths and displaced millions of people.

These are some key events in the conflict:

2014

JUNE:

9: IS-led offensive begins in Iraq's second city Mosul.

10: Mosul falls and the surrounding province of Nineveh follows as multiple Iraqi security forces divisions collapse. Then-premier Nuri al-Maliki announces the government will arm citizens who volunteer to fight.

11: Tikrit, another major city north of Baghdad, falls.

13: Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, calls on Iraqis to take up arms against IS.

IS claims it executed 1,700 mainly Shiite recruits, releasing photos showing the killings.

29: IS declares a cross-border Islamic "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria, headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

AUGUST:

2: IS launches a renewed northern offensive, driving Iraqi Kurdish forces back and targeting minority groups with mass killings, enslavement and rape.

Thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority are besieged on Mount Sinjar, drawing international concern and calls for intervention.

8: US begins air strikes in Iraq. An international coalition follows suit.

14: Maliki, whose policies helped fuel IS's rise, steps aside, and is replaced by Haider al-Abadi.

19: IS says it has beheaded US journalist James Foley, releasing a video of the killing.

Similar shocking beheadings take the lives of journalists Steven Sotloff, Kenji Goto, aid workers David Haines, Alan Henning and Peter Kassig, and Goto's friend Haruna Yukawa.

22: Shiite militiamen gun down 70 people in an apparent revenge attack at a Sunni mosque in Diyala province.

SEPTEMBER:

23: Anti-IS air campaign expands to Syria.

OCTOBER:

25: Abadi declares first significant government victory, in the Jurf al-Sakhr area near Baghdad.

29: IS executes dozens of Albu Nimr tribesmen. More mass killings follow.

NOVEMBER:

14: Iraqi forces recapture the strategic town of Baiji, but subsequently lose it.

2015 JANUARY:

25: Witnesses and Sunni leaders accuse Shiite militiamen of executing over 70 residents in Diyala province.

26: Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi announces Diyala has been "liberated" from IS.

FEBRUARY: 3: IS video shows Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh being burned alive in a cage after his December capture in Syria.

26: IS releases video of militants destroying priceless ancient artefacts in a Mosul museum.

MARCH:

2: Iraq launches massive operation to retake Tikrit from IS.

5: Iraq says IS has begun "bulldozing" the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. IS later releases a video of militants smashing artefacts before blowing up the site.

31: Abadi announces Tikrit has been retaken, a victory marred by pro-government forces burning and looting dozens of houses and shops.

APRIL: 5: IS releases video of militants destroying artefacts at the ancient city of Hatra, a UNESCO world heritage site.

MAY:

17: IS seizes Anbar capital Ramadi, which along with the capture of Palmyra in Syria a few days later signal its most significant victories in almost a year.

 

 

Israel hits Gaza, closes crossings after rocket attack

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) June 7, 2015 - Israeli warplanes struck Gaza early Sunday for the second time in three days after cross-border rocket fire by an Islamic extremist group which is locked in a power struggle with Hamas.

It was the third time Israel had staged retaliatory air strikes on the war torn Gaza Strip in the past fortnight after three instances of rocket fire, all of which were claimed by Salafist extremists loosely allied with the Islamic State group.

During the raids, the air force hit "terrorist infrastructure" in northern Gaza, the military said. The government also ordered the closure until further notice of the Erez crossing for people and the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods.

Israel said it held Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from the Palestinian enclave, where it is the de facto power, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning that nobody would prevent Israel from defending itself.

"I have not heard anyone in the international community condemn this firing; neither has UN said a word," he told ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

"It will be interesting if this silence continues when we use our full strength to uphold our right to defend ourselves. Let it be clear: The spreading hypocrisy in the world will not tie our hands and prevent us from protecting Israel's citizens."

Palestinian security sources and witnesses said the raids targeted a training site belonging to Hamas' armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in the northern Beit Lahiya area.

The rocket fire on Saturday evening struck open ground near the southern port of Ashkelon, causing no casualties. The same area was targeted by three rockets on Wednesday, which also prompted retaliatory air strikes.

After that attack, the military deployed batteries of its Iron Dome air defence system around Ashkelon as a precaution, Israeli media reported on Friday.

Since the end of a deadly 50-day war between Israel and Gaza militants last summer, there have been at least seven instances of rocket fire on southern Israel.

Four of them have taken place in the past six weeks, fuelling fears of a fresh confrontation in a territory which has lived through three wars in the past six years.

- Internal power struggle -

Since last summer, there have been growing signs of internal unrest in the territory, with Hamas engaged in a power struggle with smaller extremist groups.

There have been a spate of bomb attacks targeting public buildings and officials as well as international organisations. Although few have been claimed, they are believed to be the work of radical Salafists unafraid to challenge Hamas.

The last three attacks on Israel were claimed by a relatively new Salafist group called the Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem.

It first emerged in July 2014, during the war with Israel, when it claimed rocket fire on the Jewish state.

There is very little official information on the size of the group but Palestinian sources believe it has dozens of members and hundreds more supporters.

Some of its leaders formerly belonged to Hamas' Qassam Brigades, while others used to be part of Islamic Jihad's Quds Brigades. They are understood to be in contact with other regional Salafist groups, notably in Syria and Egypt's Sinai.

Salafists are Sunni Muslims who promote a strict lifestyle based on that of early "pious ancestors". In Gaza, they have made no secret of their disdain for Hamas over its observance of a tacit ceasefire with Israel and its failure to implement Islamic law.

- Israel, Hamas as enemy -

Salafist groups have been angered by a Hamas crackdown, and claim around 100 of their members or supporters are currently behind bars.

Last week, Hamas police shot dead a local Salafist leader during an arrest operation in Gaza City. A day later, the Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem claimed at least two rockets fired at Israel.

Salafist sources said indirect talks they had holding with Hamas over a possible prisoner release deal broke down on Saturday.

Several hours later, there was fresh rocket fire on southern Israel.

Claiming the attack, Supporters of the Islamic State said it was a "gift" to the prisoners held by both Israel and Hamas.

"This attack is a gift to our brothers and sisters in Jewish jails and our brothers in Hamas jails," it said, equating both Israel and Hamas as the enemy.

 

 

Yemen rebels fire Scud in new threat to peace talks

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) June 6, 2015 - Yemeni rebels flexed their muscles Saturday by firing a Scud missile at Saudi Arabia just days before they are to sit down with the exiled, Saudi-backed regime for peace talks in Switzerland.

Saudi Arabia said it intercepted the missile fired at its territory by the Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen.

The launch came a day after rebel allies killed four Saudi soldiers in cross-border attacks clouding preparations for UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva on June 14.

"The Royal Saudi Air Defence Forces intercepted it with two Patriot missiles," said the Saudi-led coalition, which has been waging an air war against the rebels since March 26.

Coalition aircraft destroyed the launcher used in the 2:45 am (2345 GMT Friday) attack on the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait, said the statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The missile was fired from south of the Huthi rebel bastion of Saada in Yemen's northern mountains, it added.

A pro-Huthi military spokesman told Yemen's rebel-controlled Saba news agency the target was the Prince Khaled air base in Khamis Mushait.

There has been cross-border artillery and rocket fire into Saudi Arabia but virtually no missile attacks since the air war began.

The coalition has made destroying the missile capabilities of the Huthis and their allies a top priority of its bombing campaign.

But its spokesman Ahmed al-Assiri told Al-Arabiya television the rebels hid in caves some of the 300 missiles they were thought to have had prior to the campaign.

Saudi forces had "thwarted more than 300 rebel attempts to cross the border," he added, calling it an act of "desperation".

The bombing campaign was launched in support of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Manour Hadi, who fled to Riyadh as the Huthis advanced on his southern stronghold of Aden.

The coalition's latest raids targeted rebel military sites and positions in northern, central and southern Yemen, including Sanaa where weapons storage depots were struck on hills overlooking the capital.

On Saturday they carried out strikes in Amran, Hajjah, and Saada as well as Lahj, where the rebel-held air base of Al-Anad was bombed.

- Border attacks -

The Huthis overran Sanaa in September, before going on to seize much of the country.

The interception of the Scud came after forces loyal to Saleh attacked several locations on the Saudi border Friday.

The coalition Saturday reported the second major ground attack of the war against Saudi territory.

"The Saudi armed forces today were able to repel an attack from the Yemeni side targeting several locations in Jazan and Najran," said a coalition statement carried by SPA, referring to two Saudi border districts.

The attack, supported by Huthis, was coordinated by elements of the Republican Guard loyal to Saleh and sparked an hours-long battle in which four Saudis lost their lives, the coalition said, adding that "dozens from the enemy were killed".

In Taez, seven civilians were killed when the Shiite militia fired on a residential area, while clashes in Dhaleh killed 12 rebels, officials said.

Fighting overnight on the northern and western entrances to Aden left dead seven people, including four civilians, and wounded 71, they said.

Tensions have escalated between Riyadh and regional rival Iran because of the months-long fighting in Yemen, while rights groups have expressed concerns about the extent of civilian casualties.

The violence comes only hours after the Huthis confirmed they would attend talks in Geneva aimed at ending weeks of war that has cost more than 2,000 lives.

The United Nations on Saturday confirmed the peace talks would begin in Geneva on June 14.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon reiterated "his urgent call on all Yemeni parties to engage in these consultations in good faith and without pre-conditions in the interest of all Yemeni people," said a statement from his spokesman.

The meeting would be the first significant effort to stop the fighting, which has led to what the United Nations called a catastrophic humanitarian situation.

Yemen's government exiled in Riyadh also said it would attend.

In line with UN Security Council Resolution 2216, Hadi's government had refused to attend unless the rebels pulled back from at least some of the territory they have seized.

Spain defence minister backs international action in Libya
Madrid (AFP) June 6, 2015 - An international military intervention is needed to end unrest in Libya, where the Islamic State group is gaining a foothold, Spanish Defence Minister Pedro Morenes said in an interview published Saturday.

"We went to Afghanistan to stop all of that from coming here, we are in Iraq, Mali or Somalia with the same objective. And now we have it nearby. Something needs to be done," he told the top-selling Spanish daily El Pais when asked if there would be a military intervention in Libya.

"I asked (EU foreign policy chief Federica) Mogherini in Singapore (last weekend) and she said: 'It seems unbelievable that there are still nations that object (to an intervention). Think of Syria. For four years we have watched them massacre each other while the (UN Security Council) is blocked by vetoes. This is the world we live in'."

Morenes reiterated Spain's support for an Italian proposal calling on the US-led coalition that is fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq to expand its operations into Libya.

"There is not a coalition to fight against Daesh in Iraq or in Syria, there is a coalition to fight against Daesh full stop," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

"If the caliphate extends to Libya, the coalition will have to take action," he added.

Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Moamer Kadhafi, with battle-hardened and heavily armed former rebels carving out their own fiefdoms across the country.

The north African country has two rival parliaments and governments, with Tripoli controlled by Libyan Dawn forces who seized the capital last year, forcing the internationally-recognised government to move to Tobruk, in the east of the country.

The chaos has turned Libya into a staging post for migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean to Europe, and there is mounting alarm over gains made by extremists like the Islamic State.

The group released a video in April showing masked fighters beheading dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya. Last month, it released another video showing Libyan fighters pledging support for Islamic State and staging a series of attacks and summary executions in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Western powers including Spain, which this year holds a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, have insisted on a political solution to the unrest in Libya but have not definitively ruled out another intervention.

Morenes suggested however that any action in the country would need to have the approval of the Libyan government.

"Libya is a sovereign state, regardless of who is in charge there," he said when asked if military force could be used in Libya to stop human trafficking.

 

 

45 dead in Saudi-led raids on Yemen capital

 
‎10 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:01 PMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) June 7, 2015 - Twenty civilians were among at least 45 people killed in Saudi-led air strikes on the rebel-held armed forces headquarters in the Yemeni capital on Sunday, a medic said.

The raids on the army headquarters in central Sanaa came a day after the kingdom's air defences shot down a Scud missile fired from the war-torn country.

They also followed the UN confirmation of June 14 as the start date for peace talks between warring Yemen factions in Geneva, which both the country's Shiite Huthi rebels and its exiled government said they will attend.

"At least 20 civilians and 25 soldiers and officers were killed" in four raids that hit the headquarters in the Tahrir residential neighbourhood in central Sanaa, the medic said.

The raids hit residential buildings, including five houses that were completely destroyed, witnesses said.

The rebel-controlled Saba news agency said 44 people were killed and more than 100 wounded "including woman and children".

Later on Sunday, clashes broke out on the Saudi-Yemeni border where the kingdom's army sent more troops and hardware, including tanks, Al-Arabiya satellite television reported, broadcasting footage of convoys heading south.

In the air war, seven Saudi-led raids also targeted the Jumaineh military base, east of the capital Sanaa, according to witnesses.

The base belongs to the elite Republican Guard that has remained loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has allied himself with the Huthis.

Other raids hit an arms depot at Nahdain, south of Sanaa.

Several rebel positions in the north, mainly in the Huthi stronghold Saada province and the provinces of Hajja and Amran, were heavily bombarded overnight by the coalition, witnesses said.

- Raids in south -

In the south, coalition jets targeted rebel positions on the northern and western outskirts of second city Aden in support of southern fighters backing exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Fighters from the southern Popular Resistance were attempting to prevent rebels from advancing towards the neighbourhoods of Al-Masnoura, Dar Saad, Sheikh Othman and Al-Buraiqa, according to a pro-Hadi military commander.

"Several Huthi rebels and allies were killed or wounded," said General Fadhl Baesh.

Riyadh said the Huthis fired a Scud missile at Saudi territory Saturday, a day after their rebel allies killed four Saudi soldiers in cross-border attacks.

Yemen has been engulfed in turmoil since the Iranian-backed Huthis seized the capital in September and advanced on the southern city of Aden, forcing Hadi to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition has carried out air strikes on Yemen since March 26 to push back the Huthis and restore Hadi's authority. More than 2,000 people have died since the air campaign began.

The United Nations has urged Yemeni parties to engage in talks in Geneva without preconditions.

The meeting would be the first significant effort to stop the fighting, which has led to what the UN says is a catastrophic humanitarian situation.

Huthi rebels said they will attend the talks, and Yemen's government exiled in Riyadh also said it would take part.

In line with UN Security Council Resolution 2216, Hadi's government had refused to attend unless the rebels pulled back from at least some of the territory they have seized.

 

 

Coalition strikes on rebel targets rock Yemen capital

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) June 3, 2015 - Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed a rebel-held military compound and camp in Yemen's capital on Wednesday, shaking nearby buildings and sending columns of flame shooting into the air, an AFP correspondent said.

Early dawn airstrikes hit the rebel First Armoured Brigade camp in Sanaa's northern district as well as the nearby 22 May compound.

Witness said both compounds had been used as arms depots by Iran-backed Huthi rebels and their allies, who overran Sanaa late last year.

Dozens of explosions rocked the capital early Wednesday, residents said.

An AFP correspondent in Sanaa said debris from the blasts spread to houses in the surrounding area.

A medical source gave AFP an initial toll of three people killed and 11 wounded in the raids and subsequent explosions. It was not immediately clear how many of the dead were civilians.

Other strikes hit arms depots and rebel positions in Hamdan, also in northern Sanaa, as well as a pro-rebel military police camp and another army camp in the centre of the capital, residents said.

The Riyadh-led coalition, which began its air war on the rebels in late March, also struck positions in Jawf, Saada, and Hajja provinces near the border with Saudi Arabia, as well as in third city Taez, and the southern province of Daleh.

The Shiite Huthi rebels have allied with renegade troops still loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who ruled Yemen for three decades before stepping down in February 2012 after a year-long uprising.

 

 

Netanyahu says committed to Palestinian state

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) May 31, 2015 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he was committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state, calling on the Palestinian leadership to return to negotiations unconditionally.

"I remain committed to the idea that the only way we can achieve a lasting peace is through the concept of two states for two peoples -- a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognises the Jewish nation state of Israel," he said.

Netanyahu spoke after talks with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

He said they had discussed "our common quest to move forward on peace with the Palestinians".

"I think the only way to move that is through direct negotiations. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority has moved away from these negotiations," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu sparked international concern when he ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state while campaigning for the March 17 general election but later backtracked on the comments.

Prospects for a renewal of the peace talks, which fell apart in April 2014, look bleak with the lack of trust between the sides exacerbated by the formation of Netanyahu's new hardline coalition.

"Tell the Palestinians to stop their campaign to delegitimise Israel. Tell them to get back to the negotiating table. Tell them that we should negotiate without preconditions," Netanyahu said to Steinmeier.

In a meeting in Ramallah with the top German diplomat, Palestinian premier Rami Hamdallah reiterated "the Palestinian leadership's commitment to the two-state solution based on 1967 borders," with east Jerusalem its capital.

Steinmeier will on Monday travel to the Gaza Strip, where large swathes of the coastal territory razed during the 2014 war with Israel have yet to be rebuilt.

Also on Sunday, Israeli cabinet secretary Avihai Mandelblit announced that Benny Begin, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, had stepped down as minister.

Begin had been sworn in earlier this month as a minister without portfolio, but on Friday submitted his resignation to keep the number of ministers at 20, after Gilad Erdan, also of the Likud, belatedly joined the cabinet as internal security minister.

 

 

FARC rebel strike blamed as another Colombian town loses power

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
Bogota (AFP) June 3, 2015 - Presumed FARC rebels blew up an electrical pylon Tuesday, plunging a southwestern town into darkness just two days after a similar strike hit the port of Buenaventura, authorities said.

Tuesday's attack in Tumaco, in Narino department, used explosives to topple the tower in a rural area.

The afternoon strike was carried out by the FARC's Daniel Aldana mobile unit, "which has cut off power to the town center and surrounding areas," an army statement said.

Tumaco became the second jurisdiction to lose electricity in less than a week, as the peace process between the Marxist rebels and the government experiences significant strains.

Buenaventura -- a much larger city of 400,000 and the country's biggest port -- has been without electricity since a rebel strike on Sunday.

Authorities there have been slowed down by concerns that mines may have been laid in the area.

The rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government are in peace talks dating back to November 2012, to end a decades-old civil war.

The FARC, however, resumed hits on infrastructure on May 22.

The conflict has killed some 200,000 people and uprooted more than six million since the FARC launched its Marxist-inspired guerrilla insurgency in 1964.

 

 

UN envoy decries Syria regime raids as dozens killed

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) May 31, 2015 - The UN envoy to Syria condemned regime bombing of civilian areas as "totally unacceptable" after more than 140 people were killed in a day of heavy air raids.

Across the border in Iraq, pro-government forces pressed their operation aimed at sealing off jihadists who captured the city of Ramadi two weeks ago.

In Syria, barrel bombs dropped by President Bashar al-Assad's helicopters killed 84 civilians, including children, in the northern province of Aleppo on Saturday, a monitoring group said.

"The news of aerial bombing by Syrian helicopters on a civilian area of the Aleppo neighbourhood of Al-Shaar deserves the most strong international condemnation," UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said in a statement.

"The use of barrel bombs must stop," he said. "All evidence shows that the overwhelming majority of the civilian victims in the Syrian conflict have been caused by the use of such indiscriminate aerial weapons."

He said it was "totally unacceptable that the Syrian airforce attacks its own territory in an indiscriminate way, killing its own citizens."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime air strikes throughout Syria killed at least 141 people on Saturday, including 20 in a rebel-controlled village in northwest Idlib.

It said 22 people were killed in raids on the northeastern jihadist-dominated town of Al-Shadadeh.

Its toll did not include another 43 people -- including fighters from the Islamic State group and their families -- killed in a government raid on the same town.

Air raids also killed civilians in Damascus, Deir Ezzor, and Daraa provinces, the monitor said.

Syria's conflict, which began in March 2011, has left more than 220,000 people dead and forced millions to flee.

Several rounds of peace talks have made no headway and the UN envoy's efforts to broker a ceasefire in the second city of Aleppo were rejected by rebel factions.

- 'Indiscriminate methods' -

Regime barrel bombs -- crude weapons made of containers packed with explosives -- have often struck schools, hospitals, and markets in Syria.

But the toll from the Saturday raids, which also targeted a market in the IS-controlled town of Al-Bab, was among the highest.

"This is further shocking proof of the horrific and indiscriminate methods the Assad regime is using to kill and injure innocent civilians, including children," said British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

The tactic of carrying out air attacks on built-up areas after battleground losses has become common practise for Syria's regime, which ceded swathes of territory in May.

His group has documented reported 17,000 barrel bombings by the Syrian regime since October.

Aerial raids continued on Sunday, with three civilians killed in a second barrel bomb attack on Al-Bab.

Syria's state news agency said eight civilians were killed when "terrorists fired rockets on the Al-Aathamiyeh neighbourhood in Aleppo."

It also reported that 27 civilians were killed and dozens more injured when a bush fire spread to a local clinic in the northeast Hasakeh province.

- Kurds retake IS villages -

Following defeats in Idlib's provincial capital and at a massive military base nearby, government forces also lost the ancient city of Palmyra to IS on May 21.

The jihadists demolished Palmyra's notorious government prison on Saturday, razing what was for decades a symbol of abuses against regime opponents.

IS also seized a major checkpoint at a crossroads south of Palmyra on routes leading to Damascus as well as Homs to the west, the Observatory said.

"The road is now open (for IS) from Palmyra to Anbar province in Iraq, without any obstacles," said an activist who calls himself Mohammed Hassan al-Homsi.

Despite recent losses, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi on Sunday pledged the army would "liberate every foot of Syrian territory" from the jihadists.

Kurdish militia on Sunday wrested control of several villages from IS either side of its bastion province of Raqa, the Observatory said.

"Kurdish units and their allies advanced and took control of at least eight villages... amid air strikes by the international coalition" to the west of province, and four villages in Hasakeh province further east, it said.

In Iraq, government troops and allied paramilitary forces on Saturday retook an area west of Ramadi, captured by IS two weeks ago.

But Human Rights Watch accused Iraqi authorities of blocking thousands of families from escaping violence in the mainly Sunni province of Anbar.

 

 

Iraq to stay out of Iran-Saudi conflicts: PM

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
Baghdad (AFP) May 31, 2015 - Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sought to reassure Saudi Arabia Sunday that Iraq is not a "gateway for Iran" and will not take part in regional conflicts between the two countries.

"Iraq is not a gateway for Iran," Abadi said in an interview with Iraqiya state TV.

"We do not want to enter in to regional conflicts, and if there are regional conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Iran," Baghdad will not be involved, the premier said.

Iran -- which like Iraq is mostly Shiite Muslim -- and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia are involved in political and military battles for influence in countries around the Middle East.

Ties between Baghdad and Riyadh have steadily improved since Abadi took office last year after reaching a low ebb under his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki, who accused Saudi Arabia of backing militants in Iraq while it criticised him as sectarian.

Saudi Arabia has named an ambassador to Iraq and announced in January that it would reopen an embassy in the country for the first time in 25 years.

But Baghdad has much closer and longer-standing ties with neighbouring Iran, which is playing a major role in Iraq's battle to regain swathes of territory from the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

Tehran has provided weapons to Iraq, and Shiite militias that are among Baghdad's most effective forces have close operational and ideological ties to Iran.

Qassem Suleimani, Tehran's top officer responsible for foreign operations, has along with other Iranians advised Iraqi forces on the ground during multiple operations.

Hadi al-Ameri, the commander of the powerful Badr militia, said earlier this year that Suleimani "is here whenever we need him."

A US-led coalition of dozens of countries is also aiding Iraq in its war against IS, carrying out air strikes against the jihadists and providing training and arms to Iraqi forces.

 

 

China to conduct live-fire drills near Myanmar border: Xinhua

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) June 1, 2015 - The Chinese military will hold a live-fire exercise near its border with Myanmar, state media reported Monday, as effects from an ethnic insurgency raging in the southeast Asian country spill over into China.

The official Xinhua news agency, citing unidentified military sources, said the drill would begin on Tuesday in Yunnan province, but provided no other details, such as what kind of weapons would be used.

The report comes as tensions have flared in the border area as Myanmar battles an ethnic insurgency in its northeastern Shan state. The country declared a state of emergency in the Kokang region in February.

Last month local authorities in southwest China said that five people -- a Chinese national and four from Myanmar -- were injured after two explosive devices hit the area.

In March, a Myanmar warplane dropped a bomb in a sugarcane field, killing five Chinese people and injuring eight others.

Beijing was infuriated and responded by sending fighter jets to patrol the border, with Premier Li Keqiang promising to "resolutely" protect citizens.

Kokang has strong bonds with China -- local people speak a Chinese dialect and China's yuan is the common currency -- and tens of thousands of people have crossed the border to flee the fighting.

Beijing was a key backer of Myanmar's military junta while it was under Western sanctions, but President Thein Sein has increased ties with other countries including the United States since launching political reforms in 2011.

 

 

UN envoy opens Yemen talks as coalition pounds rebels

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) May 30, 2015 - The UN envoy for Yemen on Saturday launched a mission to discuss stalled Geneva peace talks as Saudi-led coalition warplanes pounded rebel positions across the war-ravaged country.

In the southern province of Abyan, a car bomb blast killed 12 rebels and wounded eight others, a local official said.

Coalition warplanes launched deadly air strikes against rebel positions in the southern city of Aden, a military official said, without giving figures.

But 48 hours of fighting there and rebel shelling with mortar rounds and Katyusha rockets killed nine people and wounded 132 others, a health official and a spokesman of anti-rebel forces in the port city said.

UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who flew in to Sanaa on Friday, said "all Yemeni parties must return to dialogue," quoted by the rebel-held sabanews.net.

A member of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh's General People's Congress told AFP the Mauritanian diplomat met Saturday with "senior leaders" of the party for talks on the Geneva conference.

But the source said the envoy did not meet with Saleh himself, who lashed out at Saudi Arabia in an interview with a Beirut-based television channel broadcast on Friday.

Saudi Arabia has been leading an air war since March 26 targeting Iran-backed Huthi Shiite rebels in Yemen and allied forces loyal to Saleh.

Clashes have also raged on the ground between the rebels and local militia fighting their advance, especially in southern Yemen.

The Geneva conference had been due to take place on May 28 but has been postponed, in a fresh blow to UN efforts to end a conflict estimated to have killed almost 2,000 people.

Speaking from Sanaa, Saleh said in the interview that he had rejected a Saudi offer of "millions of dollars" to drop his alliance with the Huthis.

Coalition warplanes struck a house of the ousted president in his home town of Sanhan, south of the capital, shortly after the interview was broadcast.

The former strongman no longer resides in his Sanhan home which has also been targeted in previous raids, and he is believed to be staying at a hotel in Sanaa.

Other raids on Friday night hit the rebel-held air force headquarters in Sanaa, arms depots in Sanhan, and Dailami air base, also in the capital, witnesses said.

Saleh was forced to resign in early 2012 after waging a bloody crackdown on a year of protests calling for an end to his three decades of iron-fisted rule.

His forces have been backing the Huthi rebels who seized Sanaa in September before fanning out across the country.

- Talks with Saudi -

In his interview, Saleh renewed calls for talks in Geneva between Yemeni parties as well as Yemen and Saudi Arabia -- which he accused of seeking to sow "sedition" in the war-torn country.

But "sooner or later we will hold talks with Saudi Arabia," said the former president who belongs to the Huthis' Zaidi offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Saleh said talks in Geneva, which he himself had first proposed, should focus on a "power transfer, choosing a new authority" and elections, as well as "condemning the Saudi aggression".

Yemen's government says it will only take part once rebels withdrew from at least part of the territory they have seized, in line with a UN Security Council resolution.

Riyadh, which has given refuge to Yemen's President Abedrabbo Mansour al-Hadi, hosted talks on May 17 that were boycotted by the Huthis but attended by figures from Saleh's party.

Other talks are reportedly being held in Oman where a Huthi delegation travelled on Thursday, two days after a visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

Saleh said in his interview that the United States has also been holding talks in Oman.

Yemen's neighbour has good ties with both Tehran and Riyadh, and Muscat has often played the role of mediator.

It is the only member of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council not to have joined the Saudi-led air war.

Sabanews.net quoted a Huthi spokesman as saying that an "exchange of views and proposals with international and regional parties" were being aired in the sultanate.

 

 

Britain and Russia agree to resume talks on Syria

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
London (AFP) May 26, 2015 - Britain's David Cameron and Russia's Vladimir Putin have agreed to re-start talks on finding a solution to the crisis in Syria, a statement from Cameron said on Monday.

The Russian president phoned Cameron to congratulate him on his re-election as prime minister and the two agreed that Syria talks should resume, a spokeswoman from Cameron's office said.

Past peace negotiations have failed to resolve a crisis in which Islamic State (IS) militants have seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in a 4-year civil war that has killed 220,000.

"Both leaders agreed that it is in the interest of both the UK and Russia to help find a solution to the civil war in Syria and particularly to stop the rise of ISIL," another term for IS, a spokeswoman said.

"They agreed that their national security advisers should meet to restart talks on the Syrian conflict."

The two leaders also spoke about Ukraine, where fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists have killed thousands over the last year.

Cameron said they would "continue to have deep differences" on the war, in which Russia denies supporting the rebels with weapons and troops.

The Conservative leader, re-elected in May, said that the priority was to enforce a February peace deal agreed in Belarussian capital Minsk.

Cameron concluded the phone call by noting British and Russian cooperation on working for a nuclear deal on Iran.

The British leader expressed home that the two countries "could find other issues where the UK and Russia could work together on matters of mutual interest" in the years ahead, the spokeswoman said.

 

 

Colombian government, FARC rebels resume peace talks

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
Havana (AFP) May 25, 2015 - The Colombian government and FARC guerrillas resumed peace talks Monday in Havana amid heightened tensions following air strikes that killed dozens of rebels.

Rebel leader Pablo Catatumbo condemned the government offensive as he arrived for the talks, which opened in November 2012 but have made only halting progress on ending the five-decade-old conflict.

"Without a doubt, the tragic events are a step backward in what we've achieved up to now at the negotiating table," he said.

"They can't expect military pressure or threats to break our will to fight. That's the wrong path and it's obvious that peace will never be reached by escalating the conflict."

The two sides had postponed the talks on Friday "by common agreement" as tensions spiraled in the wake of an air strike that killed some two dozen rebel fighters, according to a source close to the government.

The government delegation made no statements as it arrived for Monday's talks.

Hopes for a breakthrough in the peace process had risen in December when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia announced an indefinite unilateral ceasefire.

President Juan Manuel Santos partially reciprocated in March by suspending air strikes on FARC positions.

But the outlook has deteriorated since the FARC killed 11 soldiers last month in an ambush in the western department of Cauca, a rebel stronghold.

They defended the attack as a "defensive" action taken against an army siege, but a furious Santos ordered the resumption of air strikes.

The military announced it killed 26 rebels Friday in an air strike and ground offensive in Cauca, then 10 more in strikes in the northwestern department of Antioquia over the weekend.

The FARC, with an estimated 8,000 members, suspended their ceasefire in the wake of the first strike, which they say killed 27 of their fighters.

- Government 'took advantage' -

The country's second-largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) voiced its solidarity with its "sister organization" the FARC.

The ELN, which has an estimated 2,500 fighters, has held preliminary talks with both the government and the FARC on joining the peace process, but has so far not opened formal negotiations.

"The daring decision to declare an indefinite unilateral ceasefire is a bold gesture to create a climate favorable to peace," the ELN said in a statement.

"The Santos government, far from understanding that gesture, took advantage of it to make military gains."

Santos, who narrowly won re-election last year promising to bring the peace talks he started to fruition, has defended Friday's air strike as a "legitimate action."

He called for accelerated negotiations, saying the talks have carried on for a full year "without any substantial advance."

The FARC has repeatedly urged Santos to agree to a bilateral ceasefire, but the president has refused to consider a truce without a final peace deal in place.

The talks in the Cuban capital have so far achieved partial deals on several issues, including political participation for rebels and ending the drug trafficking that has fueled the conflict.

But a final deal remains elusive.

The conflict has killed more than 200,000 people since the FARC was launched in 1964 in the wake of a peasant uprising.

It has also uprooted some five million people, drawing in a web of leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers in a half-century of violence.

 

 

Syria regime 'to accept de facto partition' of country

 
‎04 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:04 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) May 24, 2015 - Weakened by years of war, Syria's government appears ready for the country's de facto partition, defending strategically important areas and leaving much of the country to rebels and jihadists, experts and diplomats say.

The strategy was in evidence last week with the army's retreat from the ancient central city of Palmyra after an advance by the Islamic State group.

"It is quite understandable that the Syrian army withdraws to protect large cities where much of the population is located," said Waddah Abded Rabbo, director of Syria's Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime.

"The world must think about whether the establishment of two terrorist states is in its interests or not," he said, in reference to IS's self-proclaimed "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq, and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front's plans for its own "emirate" in northern Syria.

Syria's government labels all those fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad "terrorists," and has pointed to the emergence of IS and Al-Nusra as evidence that opponents of the regime are extremists.

Since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011 with peaceful protests, the government has lost more than three-quarters of the country's territory, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.

But the territory the regime controls accounts for about 50 to 60 percent of the population, according to French geographer and Syria expert Fabrice Balanche.

He said 10-15 percent of Syria's population is now in areas controlled by IS, 20-25 percent in territory controlled by Al-Nusra or rebel groups and another five to 10 percent in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

"The government in Damascus still has an army and the support of a part of the population," Balanche said.

"We're heading towards an informal partition with front lines that could shift further."

- 'Division is inevitable' -

People close to the regime talk about a government retreat to "useful Syria".

"The division of Syria is inevitable. The regime wants to control the coast, the two central cities of Hama and Homs and the capital Damascus," one Syrian political figure close to the regime said.

"The red lines for the authorities are the Damascus-Beirut highway and the Damascus-Homs highway, as well as the coast, with cities like Latakia and Tartus," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The coastal Latakia and Tartus provinces are strongholds of the regime, and home to much of the country's Alawite community, the offshoot of Shiite Islam to which Assad adheres.

In the north, east and south of the country, large swathes of territory are now held by jihadists or rebel groups, and the regime's last major offensive -- in Aleppo province in February -- was a failure.

For now the regime's sole offensive movement is in Qalamun along the Lebanese border, but there its ally, Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement, is taking the lead in the fighting.

"The Syrian army today has become a Praetorian guard that is charged with protecting the regime," said a diplomat who goes to Damascus regularly.

He said the situation had left Syrian officials "worried, of course," but that they remained convinced that key regime allies Russia and Iran would not let the government collapse.

Some observers believe the defensive posture was the suggestion of Iran, which believes it is better to have less territory but be able to keep it secure.

"Iran urged Syrian authorities to face facts and change strategy by protecting only strategic zones," opposition figure Haytham Manna said.

- Dwindling regime forces -

The shift may also be the result of the dwindling forces available to the regime, which has seen its once 300,000-strong army "whittled away" by combat and attrition, according to Aram Nerguizian, a senior fellow at the US Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"On the surface, the regime appears to have accepted that it must secure, hold and defend its core area of control... with its current mix of forces," he said.

Those are approximately 175,000 men from the army, pro-regime Syrian militias and foreign fighters including from Hezbollah and elsewhere.

The Observatory says 68,000 regime forces are among the 220,000 people killed since the conflict began.

But the new strategy does not indicate regime collapse, and could even work in its favour, Nerguizian said.

"Supply lines would have far less overstretch to contend with, and the regime's taxed command-and-control structure would have more margin of maneuver."

Thomas Pierret, a Syria expert at the University of Edinburgh, said that to survive, "the regime will have to lower its expectations and concentrate on the Damascus-Homs-coast axes.

"Militarily, the regime probably still has the means to hold the southeastern half of the country long-term, but further losses could weaken it from within."

 

 

 
Aleppo
حلب
Halab
Aleppo City landmarks
Nickname(s): Ash-Shahbaa
Aleppo is located in Syria
Aleppo
 
Location in Syria
Coordinates: 36°13′N 37°10′E

Baalbek

Baalbek, also known as Baalbeck (Arabic: بعلبك‎ / ALA-LC: Baʻalbak, Lebanese pronunciation: [ˈbʕalbak]) is a town in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis (Greek: Ἡλιούπολις), was one of the largest sanctuaries in the empire. It is Lebanon's greatest Roman treasure, and it can be counted among the wonders of the ancient world, containing some of the largest and best preserved Roman ruins.

Towering high above the Beqaa plain, their monumental proportions proclaimed the power and wealth of Imperial Rome. The gods worshiped there, the triad of Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus, were grafted onto the indigenous deities of Hadad, Atargatis and a young male god of fertility. Local influences are seen in the planning and layout of the temples, which vary from the classic Roman design.

Baalbek is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival. The town is about 85 km (53 mi) northeast of Beirut and about 75 km (47 mi) north of Damascus. It has a population of approximately 72,000, mostly Shia Muslims - the Shi'ite movement of Hezbollah operates a hospital in the town.

 

 

 

Baalbek
بعلبك
Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek
Baalbek is located in Lebanon
Baalbek
 
Location in Lebanon
Coordinates: 34°0′25″N 36°12′14″E

 

 

 

Temple of Venus, Baalbek, 1891

 

 

 

 

 

 

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