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The Magog Invasion

 

 Introduction:

 

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


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]
 
 
 

Behold a Red Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 


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

Behold a White Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 

 

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

 

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

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Top Asian News 11:56 a.m. GMT

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎9 minutes agoGo to full article
ISE, Japan (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is urging fellow leaders of the Group of Seven advanced economies to avert another global crisis by acting to rescue the faltering global recovery. Abe and his counterparts got down to business Thursday after strolling through the grounds of Ise (Ee-say) Shrine, a tranquil, densely forested landmark that is considered the holiest site in Japan's indigenous Shinto religion, and then joining a group of children in a tree planting ceremony. After the first few sessions of summit meetings, U.S. President Barack Obama backed Abe's call. "We've all got a lot of work to do and we agreed to continue to focus on making sure that each country, based on its particular needs and capacities, is taking steps to accelerate growth," Obama said.
 

New Israeli defence minister's tough talk to be put to the test

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎19 minutes agoGo to full article
Israeli hardline MP and head of Yisrael Beiteinu party Avigdor Lieberman talks to the press during a meeting in Jerusalem on May 23, 2016Israel's newly named Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has pledged harsh actions against Palestinians, but there are doubts over whether the hardliner will be able to translate his provocative political rhetoric into concrete action. Lieberman will be in charge not only of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, but also of the military bodies that rule Palestinian life in much of the territory. "At the end of the day, we're bound to international law," a defence ministry official said.
 
 

WHO: Nearly 960 killed in attacks on hospitals in 2 years

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
FILE - In this Tuesday, June 30, 2015 file photo, People stand amid wreckage of a vehicle at the site of a car bomb attack near a military hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. The World Health Organization says nearly 1,000 people have been killed worldwide in attacks on medical facilities in conflicts over the past two years in violation of humanitarian norms. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 960 people have been killed worldwide in attacks on medical facilities in conflicts over the past two years, the World Health Organization said in a report Thursday that highlighted an alarming disrespect for the protection of health care in war by both governments and armed groups.
 
 

Israeli air force targets Gaza sites after rocket attack

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎5 hours agoGo to full article
Graffiti in Gaza City commemorating the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" in Arabic, a reference to the establishment in 1948 of the state of Israel in the then British-mandate PalestineThe Israeli air force carried out strikes on Hamas sites in Gaza early Thursday in response to a rocket attack targeting the Jewish state, the army and Palestinian officials said. In response, the Israeli air force "targeted two Hamas sites in the southern Gaza Strip," the military said in a statement. A statement from Ajnad Beit al-Maqdis, a small Salafist jihadi group, claimed the rocket attack, which came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sealed a deal to bring hardline nationalist Avigdor Lieberman into his coalition as defence minister.
 
 

Australian lawmaker links trade dispute with asylum seekers

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's deputy prime minister is being criticized for suggesting that a temporary ban on cattle exports to Indonesia five years ago hindered ties with Jakarta that contributed to an influx of asylum seekers arriving on Australian shores by boats from Indonesia.
 

New Zealand budget flags concerns over Brexit

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
Treasury papers released in New Zealand's budget said Brexit was a factor that could derail the strong economic performance Wellington expects over the next few yearsNew Zealand said Thursday its budget was in the black and predicted ongoing surpluses, but warned a British exit from the European Union could pose economic risks if it hit key exports like lamb and dairy. The former British colony was badly affected in the early 1970s when London joined the European market, slashing its access for crucial agricultural exports like dairy -- the country's biggest export earner -- in a single stroke. Treasury papers released in Thursday's New Zealand budget said the so-called Brexit was a factor that could derail the strong economic performance Wellington expects over the next few years.
 
 

Hot topics at the G7 summit in Japan

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
World leaders kick off two days of G7 talks in Japan with the creaky global economy, terrorism and refugeesIse-Shima (Japan) (AFP) - Leaders of the Group of Seven industrial democracies meet in Japan Thursday for two days of talks. Here are the hot topics up for discussion at Ise-Shima, a resort 300 kilometres (200 miles) southwest of Tokyo, and what to expect from the talks. The slowing of China's once-dependable growth means G7 leaders now have to look elsewhere for a boost.
 
 

UN alarmed by Hamas move to hold executions in Gaza

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎14 hours agoGo to full article
Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that public executions are prohibited under international human rights law and that any such killings in the Gaza Strip would be carried out without the approval of Palestinian President Mahmud AbbasThe UN envoy for the Middle East expressed alarmed on Wednesday after Hamas authorities in the Gaza strip moved to hold public executions, and urged them to change course. Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that public executions are prohibited under international human rights law and that any such killings in the Gaza Strip would be carried out without the approval of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, which is required under Palestinian law. "I urge Hamas not to carry out these executions and call on President Abbas to establish a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty," Mladenov told the council by video-conference.
 
 

Greek police evacuate 1,000 more migrants from squalid camp

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎7:54:30 PMGo to full article
Women queue for food at a gas station near the Greek-Macedonian border on May 25, 2016 in Polykastro as Greek police evacuate the sprawling Idomeni migrant campGreek police on Wednesday moved another 1,000 migrants out of Idomeni, the squalid tent city where thousands fleeing war and poverty have lived for months, on the second day of an operation likely to last a week. The migrants, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, were bussed from the camp on the Macedonian border to newly opened centres near Greece's second city Thessaloniki, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south, bringing the total moved out to 3,000 since Tuesday.
 
 

Egypt deports French journalist in latest crackdown on press

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎7:28:32 PMGo to full article
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt deported a French journalist without explanation, the reporter said Wednesday, the latest move in an ongoing crackdown by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's government on freedom of expression and the media.
 

EU arms exports to Egypt fuel killings, torture: Amnesty

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎5:03:34 PMGo to full article
Egyptian security forces cordon off a street in Cairo's Doqqi neighbourhoodAmnesty International has accused nearly half of the European Union's members of fuelling killings and torture among other abuses in Egypt through arms exports, in a report issued on Wednesday. International organisations have accused Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of running an ultra-authoritarian and repressive regime since he deposed his democratically elected Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013. In its report, Amnesty said "12 out of 28 EU member states have remained among Egypt's main suppliers of arms and policing equipment".
 
 

Clearout of Greek refugee camp should reopen economic artery

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎2:59:33 PMGo to full article
People walk through fields after they were sent out during a police operation to evacuate a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of IdomeniBy Lefteris Papadimas and Angeliki Koutantou IDOMENI, Greece (Reuters) - Greece has sent in police and bulldozers to clear out Europe's biggest refugee camp because of the deteriorating humanitarian conditions there, but the operation should also unblock a vital artery for the ailing economy. The Idomeni camp, recently home to as many as 8,000 migrants and refugees, had spread out across a railway track on the Macedonian border, choking off Greece's main rail route to the rest of Europe. It has also complicated the privatization of the country's rail freight business, a condition of its international bailout.
 
 

EU arms exports to Egypt fuel killings, torture: Amnesty

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎3:24:45 AMGo to full article
Amnesty said 12 out of 28 EU countries had remained among the main suppliers of arms and policing equipment to EgyptAmnesty International has accused nearly half of the European Union's members of fuelling killings and torture among other abuses in Egypt through arms exports, in a report issued on Wednesday. International organisations have accused Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of running an ultra-authoritarian and repressive regime since he deposed his democratically elected Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013. In its report, Amnesty said "12 out of 28 EU member states have remained among Egypt's main suppliers of arms and policing equipment".
 
 

2,000 migrants moved from Greek border camp

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎12:18:07 AMGo to full article
Greek authorities predict it will take 10 days to clear all the 8,400 refugees and migrants from a makeshift camp on the Greek-Macedonian border near Idomeni, on May 24, 2016Greek police on Tuesday transferred some two thousand migrants out of the overcrowded camp of Idomeni, launching a major operation to clear up the squalid tent city where thousands fleeing war and poverty have lived for months. The operation began at dawn, and by evening officials said they had put 2,031 people on buses to newly opened camps near Greece's second city Thessaloniki, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) to the south. A hundred of them refused to enter the new centre and headed off by foot to downtown Thessaloniki, a police source said.
 
 

Strike on Taliban chief shows dimming US hopes for Afghan peace

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎9:15:33 PMGo to full article
A Pakistani demonstrator holds a burning US flag during a protest in Multan on May 24, 2016, against a US drone strike in Pakistan's southwestern province BalochistanThe US killing of Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour marks a significant shift for President Barack Obama, highlighting a new willingness to target the group's leaders in Pakistan and risk retaliatory attacks against struggling Afghan security forces. The move also shows that Obama has -- at least for now -- abandoned hopes of bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table for peace talks. US drones killed Mansour on Saturday in a remote area in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, the first known American assault on a top Afghan Taliban leader on Pakistani soil.
 
 

Syrian base used by Russia damaged in IS attack: report

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎5:32:18 PMGo to full article
Russia launched its Syria bombing campaign on September 30Satellite imagery appears to show extensive damage to an air base in Syria used by Russian forces following an attack by fighters from the Islamic State group, US intelligence company Stratfor said Tuesday. The claim was immediately denied by Russia's defence ministry which said that the damage had been there for months and was due to fighting between Syrian government forces and "militants from terror groups". Stratfor released satellite images dated from May 14 and May 17, implying that the damage to the T-4 base, also known as Tiyas, was caused in that time.
 
 

The Latest: Russia denies losing helicopters at Syrian base

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎4:10:16 PMGo to full article
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, the wreckage of burned vehicles is seen at the site of a bombing, in the coastal towns of Tartus, Syria, Monday, May 23, 2016. A series of rare explosions including suicide bombings rocked coastal government strongholds in Syria Monday, killing several people and wounding dozens more, state media and opposition activists said. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks. (SANA via AP)BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the violence in Syria a day after deadly attacks claimed by the Islamic State group targeted government strongholds (all times local):
 
 

After Austria election, a look at Europe right wing parties

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎2:55:49 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this May 22, 2016 file picture Norbert Hofer presidential candidate for Austria's Freedom Party, FPOE, waves during an election party in Vienna, Austria. The right-wing candidate in Austria's presidential election has acknowledged defeat to a left-leaning rival, in a Facebook post thanking his backers for their support Monday May 23, 2016. . (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, filr)BERLIN (AP) — Right-winger Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party narrowly lost Austria's presidential runoff this week. Though he didn't win, the contest was viewed in Europe as a proxy fight pitting the continent's political center against its growing populist and anti-establishment movements. Here's a look at Europe's major right-wing parties and where they stand:
 
 

US and Russia scramble to save Syria truce

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎1:27:10 PMGo to full article
The latest round of UN-backed Syria peace talks ended in deadlock last month after the opposition walked out of negotiations in Geneva in frustration over the lack of humanitarian accessWashington and Moscow scrambled to salvage Syria's shaky ceasefire on Tuesday as the country reeled from jihadist bombings that killed more than 160 people in President Bashar al-Assad's coastal heartland. A regime offensive outside the capital has severely strained an already fragile nationwide ceasefire between the regime and non-jihadist rebels intended to pave the way for peace talks to end the five-year conflict. The latest attempts to salvage the truce come after at least 161 people were killed in car bombings and suicide attacks on Monday in the northwestern cities of Jableh and Tartus that were claimed by the Islamic State group.
 
 

Israel resumes cement shipments for private Gaza reconstruction after 45-day break

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎1:18:11 PMGo to full article
Mladenov, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, speaks to the media after a meeting with Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani in NajafBy Nidal al-Mughrabi GAZA (Reuters) - Israel on Monday resumed deliveries to the Gaza Strip of cement for home reconstruction by private individuals, ending a 45-day-old ban it imposed after it accused the Palestinian enclave's Hamas rulers of seizing some of the stock. Hamas has denied Israeli charges that it siphons off cement imports to help build and fortify attack tunnels. Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, welcomed the resumption of the shipments, saying in a statement that "all sides need to ensure that cement deliveries reach their intended beneficiaries and are used solely for civilian purposes." The Israeli ban had not affected cement deliveries for housing projects overseen by international aid groups and foreign governments.
 
 

In Iran, dividends of nuclear deal are slow to appear

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎11:30:19 AMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference in IslamabadBy Samia Nakhoul and Richard Mably TEHRAN (Reuters) - Hopes that Iran would quickly reintegrate with world markets after its nuclear deal, bringing investment and opportunities to a young population, are turning to frustration. An opaque business environment in Iran and political uncertainty in the United States are to blame. Tehran’s hotels are buzzing with businessmen keen for a slice of a big new emerging market, more industrially developed than most oil and gas-rich nations but isolated since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that turned Iran into a pariah state for most of the West and many of its Middle Eastern neighbors.
 
 

Singapore kicks out Swiss bank linked to Malaysia's 1MDB

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎9:52:54 AMGo to full article
Singapore's central bank has ordered the closure of the local branch of Swiss bank BSI, which has been linked to a scandal at Malaysia's troubled state fund 1MDBSingapore's central bank on Tuesday said it was kicking out Switzerland's BSI Bank, which has been linked to a global money-laundering scandal that has embroiled neighbouring Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak. In the toughest legal action so far in the crisis rocking Malaysian state fund 1MDB, Switzerland also disclosed it had launched criminal proceedings against the parent firm BSI SA for "deficiencies" in its internal organisation. “BSI Bank is the worst case of control lapses and gross misconduct that we have seen in the Singapore financial sector," Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), said in a statement.
 
 

Oil riches help keep alive bedouin poetry

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎6:46:11 AMGo to full article
With his Nabati poem, Rajih al-Hamidani was crowned 2016 champion of "Million's Poet", staged in Abu Dhabi for a 7th yearThe Middle East's poetry equivalent of "Pop Idol" is helping to keep alive an age-old tradition using bedouin dialect, which is barely understood outside the Arabian Gulf. Apart from the glory, a Kuwaiti student took home five million dirhams ($1.36 million), the top prize in a television show followed by millions of poetry lovers across the region. With his Nabati poem, Rajih al-Hamidani was crowned 2016 champion of "Million's Poet", staged in oil-rich Abu Dhabi for a seventh year.
 
 

IS blasts in Syria regime heartland kill more than 148

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎4:36:19 AMGo to full article
A car in flames at the scene of bombings in the Syrian city of Tartus, northwest of Damascus, on May 23, 2016More than 148 people were killed in bombings claimed by the Islamic State group in northwestern Syria, the deadliest attacks to date in the regime's coastal heartland. Seven near-simultaneous explosions targeted bus stations, hospitals and other civilian sites in the seaside cities of Jableh and Tartus, which until now had been relatively insulated from Syria's five-year war. The attacks on strongholds of President Bashar al-Assad's regime came as IS faces mounting pressure in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, where a major offensive to retake the jihadist-held city of Fallujah is underway.
 
 

The Latest: UN says 50,000 civilians in Fallujah at risk

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎9:03:29 PMGo to full article
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrians gather in front of a burning car at the scene where suicide bombers blew themselves up, in the coastal town of Tartus, Syria, Monday, May 23, 2016. Syrian TV said suicide bombers blew themselves followed by a car bomb in a parking lot packed during morning rush hour. (SANA via AP)DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Latest on a violent day in the Middle East, with deadly bombings in Syria and Yemen and the start of an Iraqi government offensive to retake the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State group (all times local):
 
 

Gaza cement deliveries resume after Israel lifts ban

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎7:58:42 PMGo to full article
A Palestinian removes bags of cement from a truck which entered the southern Gaza Strip from Israel in 2015Private cement deliveries to the Gaza Strip resumed on Monday after Israel lifted a six-week ban it imposed over the alleged diversion of materials by an official in the Palestinian territory. Israel imposed the ban in early April in the territory run by Islamist movement Hamas which is still rebuilding after a devastating 2014 war. The ban affected private providers, meaning Qatar, a major donor to Gazan reconstruction, and the United Nations were still able to bring in cement to Gaza, under an Israeli blockade that has been in place for nearly a decade.
 
 

Greece to intensify evacuation of squalid migrant border camp

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎7:50:16 PMGo to full article
Children play on railroad tracks in the refugees camp at the Greek-FYR of Macedonia border near the village of Idomeni on May 23, 2016Greece said Monday it will step up efforts to clear the squalid camp of Idomeni where over 8,400 migrants remain on the border with Macedonia after braving a winter in vain hope of being allowed through to Europe. "The transfer of refugees trapped at Idomeni to hospitality areas probably begins tomorrow (Tuesday)," Yiorgos Kyritsis, the government's migration spokesman, told state news agency ANA. Most of the migrants are to be moved to camps at former industrial facilities near Greece's second city Thessaloniki over 10 days, he added, as Greek media reported that around a dozen squads of riot police were heading to Idomeni.
 
 

Pope and top imam embrace in historic Vatican meeting

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎5:09:32 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis (right) talks with Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb during a private audience at the Vatican, on May 23, 2016Pope Francis embraced the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque at the Vatican on Monday in a historic encounter both sides hope will lead to greater understanding and dialogue between the two faiths. The first Vatican meeting between the leader of the world's Catholics and the highest authority in Sunni Islam marks the culmination of a significant improvement in relations between the two faiths since Francis took office in 2013. "Our meeting is the message," Francis said in a brief comment at the start of his meeting with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, shortly after he had hugged and kissed his guest, Vatican officials told a small pool of reporters covering the event.
 
 

Could UAE solar push lead a trend for the Gulf?

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎4:06:21 PMGo to full article
Men stand in front of solar panels at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in DubaiBy Saket S. DUBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As the Gulf states take steps to expand their use of clean energy, a bold plan by the United Arab Emirates to boost its use of renewable electricity from less than 1 percent to 24 percent in the next five years could be a game-changer for the region, experts say. Much of the world is moving away from oil for its electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which says that globally the fossil fuel has dropped from a 25 percent share to 3.6 percent over the last four decades. The IEA predicts that by 2019, the region – which holds one-third of the world's proven crude oil reserves – will still be generating nearly one-third of its electricity from oil, with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia leading the way.
 
 

Pope meets top Egyptian cleric, ending five-year freeze in relations

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎3:35:55 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis talks with Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Egyptian Imam of al-Azhar Mosque at the VaticanPope Francis met on Monday the grand imam of Egypt's highest Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, looking to heal Vatican relations with the influential center of Sunni Muslim learning after dialogue was frozen five years ago. The 1,000-year-old mosque and university center cut contacts with the Vatican in 2011 over what it said were repeated insults toward Islam from Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict. The decision came just days after Benedict denounced what he called "a strategy of violence that has Christians as a target" following a bomb attack outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that killed 23 people.
 
 

Al-Azhar's Grand Imam seeks to balance tradition and modernity

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎3:35:18 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis (right) talks with Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb during a private audience at the Vatican, on May 23, 2016Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, who had a historic meeting with Pope Francis on Monday, has been on a mission to update Islamic thought while championing classical scholarship against jihadist ideologues. The 70-year old Tayeb was appointed by ousted president Hosni Mubarak in 2010, and as a senior member of the strongman's National Democratic Party, was widely viewed as possibly another compliant cleric of the state.
 
 

Official: Iran to try to 'speed up' held Lebanese man's case

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎1:29:45 PMGo to full article
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran "will try to speed up" the case involving a detained U.S. permanent resident who advocates Internet freedom, an official said Monday, making the first government acknowledgement of the man's detention.
 

Greece 'eyes evacuation of Idomeni border camp Tuesday'

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎10:09:04 AMGo to full article
A man adjusts his tent at a makeshift migrant camp near the village of Idomeni, at the Greek-Macedonian border, on May 4, 2016Greece is planning a police operation early Tuesday to evacuate the squalid migrant camp of Idomeni on its border with Macedonia, a report said Monday. Citing police sources, Greek TV station Mega said police reinforcements had been dispatched from Athens to help relocate 8,500 people from the camp where thousands of migrants and refugees have been stranded since the Balkans states closed their borders in mid February. Speaking to AFP, a police source confirmed an operation was in the works but declined to confirm it would be on Tuesday.
 
 

Hospitals a deadly target in Middle East conflicts

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎10:03:30 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Tuesday, May 3, 2016 file photo, released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian citizens and firefighters gather at the scene where one of rockets hit the Dubeet hospital in the central neighborhood of Muhafaza in Aleppo, Syria. As one of the few pediatricians remaining in the Syrian city Aleppo, Dr. Mohammed Wassim Maaz was the last ray of hope for tens of thousands of children and their parents trapped in the horror and misery of the five-year civil war. (SANA via AP, File)BEIRUT (AP) — As one of the few pediatricians remaining in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Dr. Mohammed Wassim Maaz offered hope to tens of thousands of children and their parents trapped in the horror and misery of the five-year civil war. But last month, an airstrike widely believed to have been carried out by the Syrian government destroyed the al Quds hospital where he worked, killing Maaz and dozens of colleagues, patients and other civilians.
 
 

For Allah, China and Marx: theological mix for young imams

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎7:24:50 AMGo to full article
Chinese Hui Muslim students during an exercise session on the campus of the Ningxia Islamic Institute in Yinchuan, China's Ningxia provinceEvery morning on his way to class at one of China's largest Islamic institutes, Wang Yue is reminded that the state comes before Allah. The contrast is even more striking than the hierarchy: in China patriotism is synonymous with supporting the ruling Communist Party, which is officially atheist. "Part of being a good person, and a good Muslim, is loving your own country," said Wang, who is in the last of his four years of studies at the institute in the northern region of Ningxia.
 
 

Austria sends more police to patrol Brenner border area

 
‎Sunday, ‎May ‎22, ‎2016, ‏‎9:51:56 PMGo to full article
A car passes a street sign reading 'Austria' in the Italian village of Brenner on the Italian - Austrian boarderAustria is sending 80 more police and support staff to boost patrols around the Alpine Brenner pass and catch rising numbers of unregistered migrants coming in from Italy, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said on Sunday. "It appears that here and there migrants are getting through at the Brenner, sometimes none, other times five, seven or 10.
 
 

The Latest: Pakistan informed of drone hit on Taliban leader

 
‎Sunday, ‎May ‎22, ‎2016, ‏‎7:16:56 PMGo to full article
This photo taken by a freelance photographer Abdul Salam Khan using his smart phone on Sunday, May 22, 2016, purports to show the destroyed vehicle in which Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was traveling in the Ahmad Wal area in Baluchistan province of Pakistan, near Afghanistan's border. A senior commander of the Afghan Taliban confirmed on Sunday that the extremist group's leader, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike. (AP Photo/Abdul Salam Khan)KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Latest on the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour in a drone strike (all times local):
 
 

Mansour's brief reign as chief marked by turmoil

 
‎Sunday, ‎May ‎22, ‎2016, ‏‎5:16:59 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015 file photo, shows Taliban leader Mullah Mansour. The U.S. conducted an airstrike Saturday, May 21, 2016, against the Taliban leader the Pentagon said, and a U.S. official said Mansour was believed to have been killed. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the attack occurred in a remote region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He said the U.S. was studying the results of the attack. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)ISLAMABAD (AP) — Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour's brief rule, which ended with his death in a drone strike, was marked by mistrust and strife.
 
 

Islamic State group leader urges attacks in Europe and US

 
‎Sunday, ‎May ‎22, ‎2016, ‏‎3:32:44 PMGo to full article
CAIRO (AP) — An Islamic State group spokesman has urged sympathizers in Europe and the U.S. to launch attacks on civilians there if they are unable to travel to the group's self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
 

Merkel to discuss Turkish parliament immunity vote with Erdogan

 
‎Sunday, ‎May ‎22, ‎2016, ‏‎12:44:07 PMGo to full article
Turkish President Erdogan meets with German Chancellor Merkel in AnkaraGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would raise the Turkish parliament's vote to strip its members of immunity when she meets President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, voicing disquiet at a measure likely meant to sideline the pro-Kurdish opposition. Merkel is facing accusations at home that she has become too accommodating of Erdogan as she tries to secure a European Union deal with Ankara to stem the flow of refugees from Turkey into Europe, the bulk of whom have gone to Germany. "Naturally some developments in Turkey are causing us grave concerns," Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday, one day before she meets Erdogan on the sidelines of a U.N.-sponsored humanitarian summit in Istanbul.

 

 

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Pakistan: 'all indicators' confirm US killed Taliban leader

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎12 minutes agoGo to full article
ISLAMABAD (AP) — The foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan's prime minister said Thursday that "all indicators" confirmed that the former Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike in the country's southwestern Baluchistan province, where he was travelling under a false name with fake Pakistani identity documents.
 

Iran's Khamenei calls for vigilance against West's 'soft war': state TV

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎13 minutes agoGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves as he arrives to address workers in TehranBy Parisa Hafezi ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for vigilance against what he called a "soft war" mounted by the West and aimed at weakening the clerical establishment, state television reported on Thursday. Hardline allies of Khamenei, worried about losing their grip on power, have accused pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani of betraying the anti-Western values of the revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah. "Our officials and all parts of the establishment should be vigilant about the West's continued soft war against Iran...the enemies want to weaken the system from inside," Khamenei said.
 
 

Obama: World leaders rightfully 'rattled' by Trump

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎32 minutes agoGo to full article
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the Shima Kanko Hotel in Shima, Japan, Thursday, May 26, 2016, after completion the third working session of the G-7 Summit. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)SHIMA, Japan (AP) — President Barack Obama said Thursday that foreign leaders are "rattled" by Donald Trump and have good reason to feel that way, as he accused the presumptive Republican presidential nominee of ignorance about world affairs.
 
 

New Philippine president to face early test over food security

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Different rice varieties are pictured at a food stall in the mountain resort of BaguioBy Enrico Dela Cruz MANILA (Reuters) - While Philippine elections this month were dominated by talk about crushing crime, the next president faces another critical early test: ensuring there is enough rice for the country's more than 100 million people. The Philippine crop is suffering mounting drought damage, just as the country's big Asian rice suppliers also suffer from an El Nino weather pattern. There are now concerns that potentially vital imports may be delayed as the incoming administration of Rodrigo Duterte, who campaigned on making food available and affordable, looks to overhaul policies and review existing state purchase plans.
 
 

Brent crude surpasses $50 a barrel for first time this year

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
At around 0220 GMT, Brent North Sea crude for July delivery was up 27 cents at $50.01 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate was trading 21 cents higher at $49.77Brent crude passed $50 a barrel for the first time in 2016 on Thursday after data showed a fall in US crude inventories, adding to expectations of a tightening global market. At around 0330 GMT, Brent North Sea crude for July delivery was up 33 cents at $50.07 a barrel while US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was trading 29 cents higher at $49.85. The gains came as markets digested news that US commercial crude oil inventories fell by 4.2 million barrels in the week to May 20, according to US Department of Energy data.
 
 

Feds say Turkish celebrity who faces prison is a flight risk

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎11 hours agoGo to full article
NEW YORK (AP) — A Turkish celebrity who lived the high life as he enabled Iran to overcome U.S. sanctions and deceive the United States and the international banking system for years is a flight risk and shouldn't get bail, prosecutors said Wednesday.
 

Azerbaijan frees journalist whose case raised outcry in West

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎13 hours agoGo to full article
By Nailia Bagirova and Margarita Antidze BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijan on Wednesday released investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova from jail, where she was serving a seven-and-a-half year sentence, in an apparent move to deflect Western criticism of the ex-Soviet republic's human rights record. Ismayilova, who worked for U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe and was known for exposing corruption among Azerbaijan's ruling elite, was sentenced last September on charges which included embezzlement, illegal business activities and tax evasion. The Supreme Court on Wednesday amended her imprisonment to 3 1/2 years of suspended sentence and released her from prison.
 

Shandong into Asian Champions League last 8 after 2-2 draw

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎11:03:42 PMGo to full article
Shandong Luneng FC's Jucilei raises his arms as the final whistle blows in their round 16 match against Sydney FC in the Asian Champions League soccer in Sydney, Wednesday, May 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)SYDNEY (AP) — A long-range strike in the 90th minute from substitute Hao Junmin gave Shandong Luneng a 2-2 draw with Sydney FC, putting the Chinese side into the Asian Champions League quarterfinals on away goals.
 
 

Netanyahu signs coalition deal, names far-right Lieberman defense chief

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎10:57:34 PMGo to full article
Avigdor Lieberman, head of far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, sits next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they sign a coalition deal to broaden the government's parliamentary majority, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in JerusalemBy Jeffrey Heller JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his choice for defense minister, ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman, signed a coalition agreement on Wednesday and issued assurances that the most right wing government in Israel's history would act responsibly. Once Lieberman is sworn in, Netanyahu will have a government of 66 legislators, widening his current one-seat majority in the 120-member parliament, a goal the Israeli leader has said he has sought since winning a fourth term last year. Lieberman's return to office - he was previously foreign minister - has raised questions at home and abroad given his past criticism of Israel's Arab minority, U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Palestinians and regional powers Egypt and Turkey.
 
 

Seoul back from the brink, Jaish, Al Ain advance to AFC Champions League quarters

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎9:53:17 PMGo to full article
Shandong Luneng players celebrate qualification for the AFC Champions League quarter-finals after victory against Sydney FC on May 25, 2016FC Seoul came back from the brink to win a dramatic penalty shoot-out on Wednesday as Hao Junmin's last-minute thunderbolt also put Shandong Luneng into the AFC Champions League quarter-finals. In a breathless night of action, Go Yo-Han struck in the dying seconds of extra time against Urawa Red Diamonds -- the fourth goal of the extra periods -- to force the shoot-out, which Seoul won 7-6. Urawa's Yoshiaki Komai was the fall guy when his stuttering run-up and shot was easily saved by Yu Sang-Hun, before Seoul's Kim Dong-Woo stroked home the decisive spot-kick.
 
 

Little-known extremist cleric chosen to lead Afghan Taliban

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎8:28:37 PMGo to full article
In this undated and unknown location photo, the new leader of Taliban fighters, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada poses for a portrait. The Afghan Taliban confirmed on Wednesday that their leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike last week and that they have appointed a successor - a scholar known for extremist views who is unlikely to back a peace process with Kabul. (Afghan Islamic Press via AP)KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A little-known extremist cleric was chosen Wednesday to be the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, just days after a U.S. drone strike killed his predecessor.
 
 

Saudi says talks with Iran on hajj 'positive'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎8:05:35 PMGo to full article
Muslim pilgrims circle Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on September 20, 2015Saudi Arabia said talks on Wednesday with visiting Iranian delegates on arrangements for hajj pilgrims from the Islamic republic have been "positive". Earlier this month, Tehran said "arrangements have not been put together" for Iranians to make this year's pilgrimage to Mecca at the end of the summer, accusing its regional rival of "sabotage". The two sides discussed "arrangements, as well as organisation and services" for pilgrims, he told reporters after a session of talks with the delegation from Tehran.
 
 

'Living in Germany': a testing time for Merkel's migrants

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎7:04:30 PMGo to full article
Migrants attend a lesson at the "institute for intercultural communication" in BerlinBy Michelle Martin BERLIN (Reuters) - In an east Berlin classroom, a group of migrants is taking a "Living in Germany" practice test. For many of Germany's new arrivals, numbering more than 1 million last year, a new law will mean that attendance at such classes will determine whether they get full access to the state benefits they hope will launch them on new lives in the country. Germany took in far more migrants than any other EU country.
 
 

Israel's new defense chief jokes about curbing his fiery nature

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎5:31:26 PMGo to full article
Avigdor Lieberman, head of far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, sits next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they sign a coalition deal to broaden the government's parliamentary majority, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in JerusalemYoussef Al-Mahmoud, a spokesman for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, said that by bringing in Lieberman, the Israeli government "is mixing extremism with craziness". The former foreign minister also angered the Israeli top brass, whom he will oversee, by joining protests last month against the court-martial of a soldier who shot dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant.
 
 

Instagram account for Iranian general briefly inaccessible

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎4:34:00 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Instagram account associated with a powerful general who leads an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard briefly was inaccessible on the application.
 

Top Asian News 3:38 a.m. GMT

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎5:38:21 AMGo to full article
TOKYO (AP) — Leaders of the Group of Seven rich nations will undoubtedly voice unity over fighting terrorism, pandemics and tax evasion at their summit in Japan this week. Finding a consensus on how to breathe life into their sluggish economies is proving more elusive. Aging workforces, sagging productivity and lingering damage from the 2008 financial crisis are complicating efforts to spur growth while the effects of the slowdown in China and the other big developing economies ripple across the globe. At a pre-summit meeting in northern Japan's Sendai, finance ministers and central bank governors of the G7 failed to concur on a coordinated approach to fighting what Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph E.
 

In final drive, Obama seeks better relations with US foes

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎2:54:54 AMGo to full article
President Barack Obama is given flowers as he greeted by Nguyen Thi Quyet Tam, Chairwoman of People's Council HCMC, second from left, as he arrives on Air Force One at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. Ho Chi Minh City is the second stop on Obama's three-day visit to America's former wartime enemy. In his final stretch as president, Barack Obama is driving the United States toward friendlier relations with its most longstanding adversaries, working to consign bitter enmities with Vietnam, Iran, Cuba and Myanmar to the history books. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)WASHINGTON (AP) — In his final stretch as president, Barack Obama is driving the United States toward friendlier relations with longstanding adversaries, working to consign bitter enmities with Vietnam, Iran, Cuba and Myanmar to the history books.
 
 

Pakistan can't confirm Taliban leader is dead, criticizes U.S. drone strike

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎12:50:54 AMGo to full article
Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan attends a news conference in IslamabadBy Asad Hashim and Syed Raza Hassan ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's interior minister said on Tuesday he could not confirm that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour had been killed in a U.S. drone strike, and described Washington's justification for the attack as "against international law". U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that Mansour had been killed in the drone strike, and the Pentagon said separately that Mansour was plotting attacks that posed "specific, imminent threats" to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
 
 

How significant is India's $500 million deal with Iran?

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎11:02:22 PMGo to full article
India pledged Monday to contribute up to $500 million to the development of a port at Chabahar in southern Iran, part of a three-nation agreement that also includes Afghanistan. The deal represents a victory for India, which has long sought access to the markets of Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, but has been unable to overcome its thorny relationship with neighboring Pakistan to easily realize that dream.
 

Jeonbuk, Shanghai SIPG into Asian Champions League quarters

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎11:02:15 PMGo to full article
JEONJU, South Korea (AP) — Leonardo scored twice as 2006 winner Jeonbuk Motors secured the first spot in the Asian Champions League quarterfinals with a 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory, and Wu Lei's stoppage-time winner against FC Tokyo helped Shanghai SIPG sneak into the last eight on the away goals rule.
 

US drone strike: Will it enable or impede Afghan diplomacy?

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎8:51:17 PMGo to full article
The Taliban were in the midst of one of the bloodiest spring offensives in years, which they kicked off last month with a complex attack in Kabul that left 64 dead. In sharp response, the Afghan government had executed six Taliban prisoners, signaling its rage that the insurgents – and their Pakistani backers, who were especially close to Mr. Mansour – had refused to come to the negotiating table despite overtures for more than a year. Recommended: How much do you know about Pakistan?
 

Kurdish rebel attack kills 5 soldiers in eastern Turkey

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎8:10:10 PMGo to full article
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish minister says Kurdish rebels have detonated a bomb in eastern Turkey, killing at least five soldiers inside a military vehicle.
 

New Turkish cabinet reflects Erdogan's growing power

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎6:47:57 PMGo to full article
Turkey's new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim reads his government's programme at the Turkish parliament in AnkaraBy Gulsen Solaker and Ece Toksabay ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's new prime minister vowed on Tuesday to work immediately on forging the stronger presidency wanted by the incumbent, Tayyip Erdogan, and announced a cabinet that signaled policy continuity but left little doubt as to who was in charge. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told parliament he would seize a "historic opportunity" to change a constitution born of a 1980 army coup. Erdogan won Turkey's first presidential election in 2014 having stepped down from the prime minister's post with the intention of imbuing a largely ceremonial presidency with strong powers akin to those of the U.S. and French heads of state.
 
 

Turkey still aims for EU membership - new government program

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎6:07:17 PMGo to full article
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey is still aiming for full membership of the European Union but is frustrated by progress so far, and will support U.N. efforts towards a resolution in Cyprus, according to a new government program announced on Tuesday. The program, read out by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in parliament after he earlier named his new cabinet, also said the government would work on boosting ties with Iran, and on mending relations with Russia through dialogue. (Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Ece Toksabay)
 

AP Interview: Qatar energy minister wants 'fair' oil price

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎5:02:42 PMGo to full article
Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada, Qatar's minister of energy and industry, speaks to The Associated Press at his office in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. The oil market is slowly recovering from its steep drop over the past two years but crude is still not trading at a "fair price" to encourage necessary investment, Qatar's energy and industry minister said Tuesday, ahead of next week's meeting of OPEC producers. (AP Photo/Adam Schreck)DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The oil market is slowly recovering from its steep drop over the past two years but crude is still not trading at a "fair price" to encourage necessary investment, Qatar's energy and industry minister said Tuesday, ahead of next week's meeting of OPEC producers.
 
 

Senior Taliban figure says death of leader could unify group

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎4:42:08 PMGo to full article
A Pakistani police officer and paramedics stand beside two dead bodies reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Ahmad Wal area in Baluchistan province, Pakistan, at a hopsital in Quetta, Pakistan, Sunday, May 22, 2016. A senior commander of the Afghan Taliban confirmed on Sunday that the extremist group's leader, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour, had been killed in the strike. (AP Photo/Arshad Butt)KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The death of the leader of the Afghan Taliban in a U.S. drone strike last week could make the insurgent movement stronger by bringing back dissident commanders and unifying the movement's ranks, a senior Afghan Taliban figure said on Tuesday.
 
 

Tony Blair says defeating IS requires 'proper ground war'

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎3:02:10 PMGo to full article
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair takes part in a discussion on Britain in the World, in London, Tuesday May 24, 2016, where he acknowledged the invading nations had underestimated the "forces of destabilization" that would emerge in Iraq after the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein. Blair said Tuesday that the Islamic State group forces will be defeated only with a ground war involving Western troops. (Stefan Rousseau / PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVESLONDON (AP) — The Islamic State group will be defeated only with a ground war involving Western troops, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday.
 
 

Hard-line cleric voted leader of Iran's Assembly of Experts

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎2:24:11 PMGo to full article
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, hard-line Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati speaks during inaugural meeting of the Assembly of Experts in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. Jannati was chosen on Tuesday as speaker of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that is mainly tasked with selecting the country's supreme leader. The official IRNA news agency said 89-year-old Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati won 51 votes in the 88-seat Assembly and would serve as speaker for the next two years. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A hard-line Iranian cleric who has been in the country's power structure since its 1979 Islamic Revolution was chosen on Tuesday to lead the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that picks the country's next supreme leader.
 
 

Britain investigating reports its cluster bombs used in Yemen

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎2:21:07 PMGo to full article
Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond arrives at 10 Downing Street in LondonBritain is investigating reports that cluster munitions made in the country during the 1970s have been used by a Saudi-led coalition during the ongoing conflict in Yemen, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament on Tuesday. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies began a military campaign in Yemen in March last year with the aim of preventing Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen's ex-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, taking control of the country. Amnesty International said on Monday it had documented Saudi use of cluster bombs in Yemen that had been manufactured in Britain.
 
 

Britain investigating reports its cluster bombs used in Yemen

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎2:21:07 PMGo to full article
Britain is investigating reports that cluster munitions made in the country during the 1970s have been used by a Saudi-led coalition during the ongoing conflict in Yemen, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament on Tuesday. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies began a military campaign in Yemen in March last year with the aim of preventing Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen's ex-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, taking control of the country. Amnesty International said on Monday it had documented Saudi use of cluster bombs in Yemen that had been manufactured in Britain.
 

Yemen university bomb kills gardener, injures two students

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎11:39:30 AMGo to full article
A bomb at Sanaa University killed a gardener and wounded at least two students on Tuesday, police and medical sources said, in a relatively rare attack on the Houthi-ruled Yemeni capital. A police official at the scene said the explosion appeared to have targeted an exhibition organized by the Houthi's Ansarullah group, which controls most of northern Yemen. Islamist militants have exploited Yemen's 14-month civil war which has pitted the Iran-allied Houthis against supporters of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is backed by a Saudi Arab coalition, to strike at both sides at will.
 

In Iran, dividends of nuclear deal are slow to appear

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎11:30:19 AMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference in IslamabadBy Samia Nakhoul and Richard Mably TEHRAN (Reuters) - Hopes that Iran would quickly reintegrate with world markets after its nuclear deal, bringing investment and opportunities to a young population, are turning to frustration. An opaque business environment in Iran and political uncertainty in the United States are to blame. Tehran’s hotels are buzzing with businessmen keen for a slice of a big new emerging market, more industrially developed than most oil and gas-rich nations but isolated since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that turned Iran into a pariah state for most of the West and many of its Middle Eastern neighbors.
 
 

Hardliner elected as head of Iran's top clerical body

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎9:51:51 AMGo to full article
Jannati speaks during Tehran's Friday prayersA powerful anti-Western cleric was chosen on Tuesday as the head of Iran's new Assembly of Experts, in a sign that hardliners are still in firm control of the body in charge of choosing the next supreme leader. Ahmad Jannati, 90, is a an outspoken critic of President Hassan Rouhani and his attempts to end Iran's global isolation by normalizing ties with the West. The 88-member assembly, consisting mostly of elderly clerics, is expected to choose the successor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is 77 and rumored to be in frail health.
 
 

Top Asian News 3:58 a.m. GMT

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎5:58:56 AMGo to full article
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Seoul says an unspecified number of North Koreans working at a Pyongyang-run restaurant overseas have escaped their workplace and will come to South Korea. The announcement by Seoul's Unification Ministry Tuesday came after South Korean media reported two to three employees at a North Korean-run restaurant in China fled and went to an unidentified Southeast Asian country earlier this month. A brief ministry statement confirmed that some North Korean restaurant workers fled. The unification and foreign ministries refused to provide further details about the North Koreans and their escapes, citing concerns about their safety. It's unclear when they will arrive in Seoul.
 

Hardliner elected head of key Iran oversight body

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎2:36:27 AMGo to full article
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati also chairs the Guardians Council -- the body which vets all candidates for public office in Iran and has a veto over all legislationIran's Assembly of Experts chose another hardline cleric as its chief on Tuesday, keeping the powerful religious body in ultraconservative hands despite gains by reformists and moderates in February elections. The assembly oversees the work of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and would choose the 76-year-old's successor if he dies during its eight-year term. Its 88 members elected Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, 89, as chairman, defeating two conservatives.
 
 

U.S. says late Taliban leader was planning attacks on Americans

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎2:22:50 AMGo to full article
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Taliban militants' new leader, is seen in this undated handout photographBy Jibran Ahmad and Jonathan Landay PESHAWAR, Pakistan/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama approved the drone strike that killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour because the Taliban leader was overseeing plans for new attacks on American targets in Kabul, the Afghan capital, U.S. officials said on Monday. While the Taliban have yet to confirm the death of their leader Saturday in a remote area in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, senior members of the insurgency's leadership council met to begin choosing Mansour's successor. Two senior members of the movement also said Pakistani authorities had delivered Mansour's badly burned remains for burial in the western city of Quetta.
 
 

Gulf countries, Canada to cooperate in anti-IS fight

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎11:09:39 PMGo to full article
Smoke billows in the background as Iraqi pro-government forces advance towards the city of Fallujah on May 23, 2016Gulf Arab foreign ministers agreed with their Canadian counterpart Monday to strengthen "cooperation" in the fight against the Islamic State group and other jihadist organisations, they said in a statement. "The campaign against Daesh (an Arabic acronym for IS) and other terrorist organisations is not religious or linked to a religion or sect but rather a war on terror," they added in a statement.
 
 

Afghan Taliban meet on succession as Obama confirms leader's death

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎11:04:22 PMGo to full article
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Taliban militants' new leader, is seen in this undated handout photographBy Jibran Ahmad and Matt Spetalnick PESHAWAR, Pakistan/HANOI (Reuters) - Senior members of the Afghan Taliban met to choose a successor to their former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour on Monday after U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed his death in a drone strike inside Pakistani territory at the weekend. The Taliban themselves have made no official statement, but two senior members of the movement said Pakistani authorities had delivered Mansour's badly burned remains for burial in the western city of Quetta. On a three-day visit to Vietnam, Obama called the death "an important milestone", saying Mansour had rejected peace talks and had "continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces".
 
 

Iran and India sign port deal, other economic agreements

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎9:30:56 PMGo to full article
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, walks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during an official welcoming ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 23, 2016. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — India said Monday it will invest up to $500 million in a deal to develop a strategic port in Iran and both countries planned a number of projects they say are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
 
 

Islamic State suicide bombing kills 40 army recruits in Yemen's Aden

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎9:23:30 PMGo to full article
People check the site of a suicide bombing in the southern port city of Aden, YemenBy Mohammed Mukhashaf ADEN (Reuters) - A suicide car bombing claimed by Islamic State killed at least 40 Yemeni army recruits and wounded 60 in the southern city of Aden on Monday, medics said, in one of the deadliest attacks yet on government interests. The attack occurred as the recruits lined up to enlist outside the home of a senior general near a military camp in Aden's Khor Maksar district, officials said. The port city serves as the temporary capital of Yemen's Saudi-backed administration while it seeks to seize back Sanaa from the Iran-allied armed Houthi group that took it in 2014, plunging Yemen into civil war.
 
 

At least 41 killed in IS-claimed bombings on Yemeni forces

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎9:22:04 PMGo to full article
Onlookers gather at the site of a twin bombing that targeted Yemeni forces in the southern city of Aden on May 23, 2016Twin bombings claimed by the Islamic State group hit Yemeni forces in Aden on Monday, killing at least 41 people in the latest of a spate of attacks in the southern city. The attacks in Aden -- which is serving as the temporary government headquarters after rebels forced authorities from the capital -- follow a major military operation against jihadists in parts of southern and southeastern Yemen. Backed by a Saudi-led coalition, forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi are battling both Sunni extremists and Iran-backed Shiite rebels.
 
 

India and Iran agree port deal, reviving trade ties

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎7:51:42 PMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (centre) speaks at a joint press briefing with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Tehran on May 23, 2016India agreed Monday to finance the development of an Iranian port as a trading hub, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to revive economic ties with Tehran after the lifting of sanctions. The Indian leader met Iranian officials including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani during a visit that he said would mark "a new chapter in our strategic partnership". Modi and Rouhani oversaw the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the provision of a line of credit from India's EXIM Bank to develop Iran's southern port of Chabahar, on the Gulf of Oman.
 
 

Iraqi forces clash with Islamic State near Falluja, bombard city center

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎7:10:46 PMGo to full article
Vehicles of the Iraqi security forces are seen on the outskirts of FallujaBy Ahmed Rasheed and Stephen Kalin BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi government forces fought Islamic State militants near Falluja on Monday and bombarded central districts at the outset of an offensive to retake the longtime jihadist stronghold on the western approaches to the capital Baghdad. Some of the first direct clashes occurred in the area of al-Hayakil on Falluja's southern outskirts, a resident said. Iraqi troops also approached the northern suburb of Garma, the top municipal official there said, to clear out militants before turning their attention toward the city center.
 
 

Banned, British-made cluster bomb used in Yemen, civilians return to 'minefields': Amnesty

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎6:33:53 PMGo to full article
By Magdalena Mis LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A banned, British-made cluster bomb was used by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, Amnesty International said on Monday, warning that civilians returning home in northern Yemen risked injury and death from "minefields" of deadly cluster bombs. Cluster bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area which sometimes fail to explode and are difficult to locate and remove, killing and maiming civilians long after conflicts end. The BL-755 bomb, manufactured in Britain in the 1970s, was located by Amnesty in Hayran in northern Yemen near the Saudi border.
 

Cults of personalities proliferate in Central Asia

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎5:33:14 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Thursday June 17, 2004 file photo, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon, left, and Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev listen to Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a press conference after the Uzbekistan security summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Rakhmon’s title looks almost certainly to have been copied from Kazakhstan, where President Nursultan Nazarbayev was elevated to Leader of the Nation in 2010. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) — Central Asia's autocratic leaders don't want to be liked. They want to be adored.
 
 

US General in Afghanistan: Mansour was an obstacle to peace

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎5:09:31 PMGo to full article
This photo taken by a freelance photographer Abdul Salam Khan using his smart phone on Sunday, May 22, 2016, purports to show the destroyed vehicle in which Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was traveling in the Ahmad Wal area in Baluchistan province of Pakistan, near Afghanistan's border. A senior commander of the Afghan Taliban confirmed on Sunday that the extremist group's leader, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike. (AP Photo/Abdul Salam Khan)KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (AP) — The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Monday that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour was an obstacle to peace and his death will have a disruptive effect on the insurgency.
 
 

Official: Iran to try to 'speed up' held Lebanese man's case

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎1:29:45 PMGo to full article
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran "will try to speed up" the case involving a detained U.S. permanent resident who advocates Internet freedom, an official said Monday, making the first government acknowledgement of the man's detention.
 

Iran denies killed Taliban leader was in the country

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎11:43:18 AMGo to full article
The drone attack was the first known American assault on a top Afghan Taliban leader on Pakistani soilIran on Monday denied reports that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour entered Pakistan from the Islamic republic before being killed in a US drone strike, state media reported. Pakistani security officials told AFP on Sunday that the man killed on Saturday in the southwestern province of Balochistan, believed at the time to be Mansour, had just returned from Iran when his vehicle was attacked. US President Barack Obama on Monday confirmed that Mansour had been killed in a US air strike, hailing his death as an "important milestone" in efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.
 
 

Forces fighting for Iraq's Fallujah

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎10:27:52 AMGo to full article
Iraqi pro-government forces advance towards the city of Fallujah on May 23, 2016Baghdad (AFP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced the start of a long-awaited operation to retake Fallujah, one of two cities in the country still held by the Islamic State group.
 
 

Wild US election fascinates, worries Iran after nuclear deal

 
‎Monday, ‎May ‎23, ‎2016, ‏‎10:17:31 AMGo to full article
In this picture taken on Tuesday, May 10, 2016, a book seller arranges US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's book "Hard Choices" translated to Persian during Tehran's International Book Fair in Iran. After decades of officially-imposed detachment from the "Great Satan," Iranians are this time transfixed by the wild U.S. presidential campaign, mindful that the next White House occupant could have direct impact on their lives. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — After decades of officially-imposed detachment from the "Great Satan," Iranians are this time transfixed by the wild U.S. presidential campaign, mindful that the next White House occupant could have direct impact on their lives.

 

 

 

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Cartel or talking shop? OPEC awaits Saudi ruling

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎12 minutes agoGo to full article
Khalid al-Falih, the new Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Ministry, is sworn in by Saudi King Salman in RiyadhBy Rania El Gamal and Alex Lawler DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) - For those seeking guidance on Saudi Arabia's thinking regarding the future of OPEC, the last few weeks' agenda of the new Saudi energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, might offer a few clues. Unlike his predecessor Ali al-Naimi, Falih may not have much time for OPEC. For oil-price hawks such as Iran, Algeria and Venezuela, fears are growing that the 56-year-old OPEC is losing its role as an output-setting cartel and turning into a talking shop.
 
 

Twin offensives on IS edge forward in Syria, Iraq

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎22 minutes agoGo to full article
Iraqi pro-government fighters hold position in al-Shahabi village, east of Fallujah, on May 24, 2016US-backed Syrian fighters and Iraqi forces on Thursday pursued twin assaults against the Islamic State group, but experts warned the battles will be drawn out. In Syria, an alliance backed by the US is fighting to dislodge IS north of the jihadist group's bastion in Raqa city. The Syrian Democratic Forces are a seven-month-old alliance dominated by Kurdish fighters but also including Christian, Muslim and Turkmen fighters.
 
 

Brent oil breaks above $50 for first time in seven months

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎54 minutes agoGo to full article
Crude oil drips from a valve at an oil well operated by Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA, in the oil rich Orinoco belt, near Morichal at the state of MonagasBy Karolin Schaps and Ron Bousso LONDON (Reuters) - Brent oil futures climbed above $50 a barrel on Thursday for the first time in nearly seven months as a global supply glut that plagued the market for nearly two years showed signs of easing. Oil prices have rallied in recent weeks after a string of outages, due mainly to wildfires in Canada and unrest in Nigeria and Libya, knocked out nearly 4 million barrels per day of production. Above $50 a barrel, oil was seen by many market players as breaching a psychological barrier that could lead producers, particularly among U.S. shale companies, to revive operations scrapped in recent years.
 
 

Syria the world most dangerous place for health workers: WHO

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
A hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Syria's northern province of Idlib, was destroyed by a suspected Russian air strike in February 2016For the first time, the UN health agency provided comprehensive statistics on attacks on health care facilities and other violence directed at health workers in conflict areas, covering 19 countries over the past two years. "One of the most concerning findings is that two thirds (of the attacks) have been deliberate," Rick Brennan, the WHO's chief of emergency risk management, told reporters.
 
 

Iraqi PM asks protesters to stay home to aid Fallujah push

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's prime minister appealed on Thursday to Iraqis to postpone weekly Friday protests so that security forces can focus on a key military operation aimed at retaking the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State group.
 

Dire conditions for civilians trapped in Iraq's Fallujah: UN

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
An Iraqi fighter is seen through a damaged wall as he takes part in an operation to retake al-Shahabi village from the Islamic State (IS) group, on May 24, 2016Only 800 people have been able to flee Fallujah since Iraqi forces launched a major offensive to retake the city, the United Nations said in a statement released Thursday. Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said that those who managed to leave the city occupied by the Islamic State group reported dire living conditions inside. "We are receiving distressing reports of civilians trapped inside Fallujah who are desperate to escape to safety, but can't," the statement quoted her as saying.
 
 

China hits back as G7 opens in Japan

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
US President Barack Obama (L) with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) as they arrive at Ise-Jingu Shrine on May 26, 2016, on the first day of the G7 leaders summitWorld leaders on Thursday kicked off talks dominated by the global economy and worries over China's growing clout -- and were told by Beijing to keep their noses out of its business. Presidents and prime ministers from the Group of Seven rich nations are huddling in Japan for two days of discussions focused on how to stoke demand and encourage growth. Beijing swiftly launched a stinging broadside against the G7 -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US -- which it said should not pursue "selfish interests".
 
 

Kenya police arrest two for planning Islamic State-linked attack

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Kenyan police said on Wednesday they had arrested two people linked to Islamic State who were planning to launch an attack, seizing bomb-making materials. Kenya has faced a series of attacks in the past few years in which hundreds have died, launched by the al Qaeda-aligned Somali Islamist group al Shabaab. This month, however, police said they had arrested an Islamist militant who was plotting attacks and who they said was linked to Islamic State.
 

Man arrested over Australia 'terror' plot

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎5 hours agoGo to full article
Several others are already facing charges over the same alleged plot, uncovered in late 2014, with reports saying the Garden Island naval base, pictured, and government buildings were among locations mentionedA Sydney-based man was arrested on Thursday on charges of planning a terrorist attack in Australia, which reportedly involved targeting a naval base close to the capital's famous opera house, police said. The 24-year-old, named in local media as Farhad Said, was charged with "conspiracy to conduct an act in preparation for a terrorist act" after being seized by counter-terrorism police outside his home in the suburb of Bankstown. Several other men are already facing charges over the same alleged plot, which was uncovered in late 2014, with reports last year saying the Garden Island naval base close to the Sydney Opera House and other government buildings were among locations mentioned.
 
 

Disney ditches its iconic dollar

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎5 hours agoGo to full article
Disney ditches its iconic dollarThe iconic home of Mickey Mouse said on Wednesday it would no longer print and sell its beloved currency, the Disney dollar, sparking a buying frenzy among collectors. The distinctive bills, each featuring iconic characters and signed by treasurer Scrooge McDuck, have been a legitimate form of money within the Disney universe since they were put into circulation in the 1980s. Mickey was featured on the dollar bill while Goofy was on the $5 and Minnie Mouse was on the $10.
 
 

Hot topics at the G7 summit in Japan

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
World leaders kick off two days of G7 talks in Japan with the creaky global economy, terrorism and refugeesIse-Shima (Japan) (AFP) - Leaders of the Group of Seven industrial democracies meet in Japan Thursday for two days of talks. Here are the hot topics up for discussion at Ise-Shima, a resort 300 kilometres (200 miles) southwest of Tokyo, and what to expect from the talks. The slowing of China's once-dependable growth means G7 leaders now have to look elsewhere for a boost.
 
 

World needs to act together on refugees: Tusk

 
‎Today, ‎May ‎26, ‎2016, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
European Council President Donald Tusk (R) arrives at Ise-Jingu Shrine in the city of Ise on the first day of the G7 leaders summitThe world needs to act together on the refugee crisis gripping Europe, and not leave the continent to battle the problem alone, European Council President Donald Tusk said Thursday. Speaking on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Japan, Tusk said European nations needed help in dealing with the tide of people fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa. "We are aware that it is because of geography that the most responsibility is, and will continue to be, placed on Europe," Tusk told reporters at Ise-Shima, 300 kilometres (200 miles) southwest of Tokyo.
 
 

Documents show different medal count for 'American Sniper'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎11:52:24 PMGo to full article
HOUSTON (AP) — Documents show the number of medals slain Navy Seal and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle received for his military service is different from what he indicated in his best-selling memoir about his four tours of duty in Iraq.
 

GOP senators attack top Democrat for defense bill delay

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎10:19:07 PMGo to full article
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joined by, from left, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., leave a closed-door GOP policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. The Senate is taking up the massive 2017 defense budget this week and McCain wants to increase military spending despite federal budget caps. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican senator angrily denounced the Senate's top Democrat Wednesday for delaying debate on defense policy legislation, calling Minority Leader Harry Reid's leadership "cancerous" and accusing him of holding up the $602 billion bill to preserve his "sad, sorry legacy."
 
 

AJC Global Forum, Celebrating 110 Years of Jewish Advocacy, Convenes June 5-7 in Washington

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎9:57:00 PMGo to full article
NEW YORK, May 25, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, and Mexican Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu will headline the World Leaders Plenary at the AJC Global Forum 2016. The AJC Global Forum is the advocacy organization's signature annual event, currently bringing together more than 2,600 participants from across the United States and 70 countries around the world. This year's Global Forum marks 110 years since AJC's founding, and the attendance is the highest in the agency's history.
 

United We Stand to Terminate ISIS

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎9:57:00 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON, May 25, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Global Alliance for Terminating ISIS / Al-Qaeda is sponsoring a meeting to establish a common ground for unity among nations and governments around the world to terminate these evil terrorist organizations.  The meeting will take place on the 2nd of June from 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. The event will be held at the Press Club 529 14th St. NW in the Murrow Room, Washington D.C.   Our guest speakers include:  Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban: Syrian politician and currently political and media adviser to the President of Syria. ...
 

Belgian police arrest four, find 'traces' of terror attack plot

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎9:14:38 PMGo to full article
Belgian police officers stand guard near Maelbeek - Maalbeek subway station in Brussels on March 23, 2016, a day after triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capitalPolice found "traces" of a plot to launch a new attack in Belgium when they arrested four people suspected of recruiting jihadists for Syria and Libya, prosecutors said Wednesday. The four were charged with "participating in the activities of a terrorist group" following their arrests in the northern port of Antwerp and other Flemish-speaking cities, the federal prosecutor's office said. "The four were more involved in the part of recruiting," Eric Van der Sypt, a spokesman for Belgium's federal prosecutors, told AFP.
 
 

Why soldiers and a wounded warrier just climbed Everest

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎9:00:56 PMGo to full article
While domestic services for returning veterans are facing struggles, former and active Army personnel were on top of the world this week to support veterans' mental health. US Expeditions and Explorations (USX) is a nonprofit empowering active duty service members and veterans to further research and exploration. USX’s latest initiative sent current and former soldiers on one of the world’s most treacherous expeditions to raise awareness for mental health issues in the military.
 

Leaked IS documents to be used in French jihadist trial

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎8:51:57 PMGo to full article
A video grab obtained in London from footage released by Sky News on March 10, 2016 shows leaked documents allegedly containing the personal details of some 22,000 Islamic State jihadistsFrench prosecutors will use leaked Islamic State documents to help identify seven suspected jihadists going on trial next week, including the brother of a Paris attacker, sources close to the investigation said Wednesday. The seven men from Strasbourg in eastern France, aged between 24 and 26, are accused of travelling to join the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria in late 2013 and returning several months later. Among the men, who were arrested in May 2014, is Karim Mohamed-Aggad, brother of Foued Mohamed-Aggad who was part of the three-man group that attacked the Bataclan concert hall on the night of the Paris attacks in November.
 
 

Syria's Raqa: IS bastion along the Euphrates

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎8:35:10 PMGo to full article
Syrian army soldiers take positions on the outskirts of Syria's Raqa region on February 19, 2016Here are key points regarding Raqa, the northern city that serves as the Islamic State group's de facto capital in Syria. IS now faces a major assault by Kurdish-Arab forces in the surrounding province of Raqa, part of a two-pronged offensive that includes an operation by Iraqi forces to retake the jihadist-held city of Fallujah. This city on the banks of the Euphrates River was under IS control for just five months before the group declared its self-styled Islamic "caliphate" in June 2014.
 
 

Turkish official: Kurdish rebel car bombing kills 3

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎8:24:38 PMGo to full article
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish official says a car bombing by Kurdish rebels against a gendarmerie station near the Syrian border has killed three people.
 

Why Are the Feds Investigating a Senior GOP Senator?

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎7:52:00 PMGo to full article
Why Are the Feds Investigating a Senior GOP Senator?The FBI and the Securities Exchange Commission are putting the personal finances of one of the Senate’s leading Republican voices on foreign policy under the microscope. Politico reports that the feds are looking into whether Sen. Bob Corker (TN) broke any rules when he failed to report millions in income and assets, including stock transactions, in his annual financial disclosures. The Wall Street Journal reported on the omissions last fall, and Corker, who entered the Senate in 2007 after serving as the mayor of Chattanooga, revised years’ worth of disclosure reports.
 
 

Ukraine's Savchenko gets hero's welcome after prisoner swap with Russia

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎7:42:42 PMGo to full article
Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, freed from jail in Russia as part of a prisoner exchange, arrives at Kiev's Boryspil airport on May 25, 2016Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko returned home to a hero's welcome Wednesday after nearly two years in a Russian jail following a prisoner swap with Moscow that drew a line under a major diplomatic spat. The 35-year-old army helicopter pilot flew home as part of a carefully choreographed exchange with Moscow, with two alleged Russian soldiers leaving Ukraine earlier in the day. "I'm ready to once again give my life for Ukraine on the battlefield," a defiant Savchenko declared after she touched down on home soil, barefoot and wearing a white T-shirt bearing the Ukrainian trident, a national symbol.
 
 

Top Shi'ite cleric urges restraint in assault on Iraq's Falluja

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎7:34:28 PMGo to full article
Iraqi security forces clash with Islamic State militants near FallujaBy Maher Chmaytelli BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric urged government and allied Shi'ite militia forces fighting to retake Falluja from Islamic State militants to spare trapped civilians amid reports of a budding humanitarian crisis in the city. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's appeal reflected concerns that a large civilian death toll in the battle for the mainly Sunni Muslim city could kindle increased sectarian strife in Iraq. The Baghdad government has been led by Shi'ites since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein, a member of the Sunni minority.
 
 

Why Oil and Gas Prices Won’t Go Much Higher

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎7:21:00 PMGo to full article
Why Oil and Gas Prices Won’t Go Much HigherStocks can't decide if Federal Reserve interest rate hikes are a positive or a negative. Right now, all that seems to matter in this muddled market is the ongoing strength in energy prices that has pushed wholesale gasoline prices up more than 83 percent from their February low, easing fears of energy-sector bond defaults, bank losses and oil-sector equity price declines. The problem is that the rise in energy prices has been predicated on temporary supply-side constraints such as the wildfire near Canada's oil sands infrastructure, political unrest in Libya and rebel attacks in Nigeria.
 
 

'Living in Germany': a testing time for Merkel's migrants

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎7:04:30 PMGo to full article
Migrants attend a lesson at the "institute for intercultural communication" in BerlinBy Michelle Martin BERLIN (Reuters) - In an east Berlin classroom, a group of migrants is taking a "Living in Germany" practice test. For many of Germany's new arrivals, numbering more than 1 million last year, a new law will mean that attendance at such classes will determine whether they get full access to the state benefits they hope will launch them on new lives in the country. Germany took in far more migrants than any other EU country.
 
 

Savchenko: Ukraine's 'symbol of defiance' to Russia

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:20:00 PMGo to full article
Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was handed a 22-year jail sentence by a Russian court in March 2016Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, freed by Russia in a prisoner exchange on Wednesday, has been condemned by Moscow as a murderer but was rapturously received as a national hero back home. The 35-year-old army helicopter navigator was sentenced to 22 years in March over the killing of two Russian journalists in the separatist conflict in east Ukraine. After President Vladimir Putin pardoned her, citing the wishes of the journalists' relatives, she was secretly flown in to Kiev on a government plane.
 
 

Official: Greek efforts to handle refugee crisis significant

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:07:50 PMGo to full article
Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland shake hands during their meeting at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Jagland told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday, that Greece has faced major problems in dealing with the refugee crisis but that the country has made significant efforts to handle the issues, although concerns remain about the detention of some asylum-seekers while their applications are being processed. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece has faced major problems in dealing with the refugee crisis but has made a significant effort to handle the issues, a leading European human rights official said Wednesday.
 
 

Ukrainian pilot returns home as unrivalled national hero

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:03:18 PMGo to full article
Ukrainian jailed pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, center, speaks to the media as she and her sister Vera, left of her, walk together upon her arrival at Boryspil airport outside Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Russia has released jailed pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, as part of a swap for two Russian servicemen imprisoned in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)MOSCOW (AP) — When war broke out in eastern Ukraine, pilot Nadezhda Savchenko left her hometown to join the fight against Russia-backed separatists. Nearly two years after she was captured, then tried and convicted in Russia, she returned home to a rapturous welcome in Kiev.
 
 

Trump advisers push him to target OPEC, regulations in big energy speech

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎4:50:11 PMGo to full article
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in AlbuquerqueBy Valerie Volcovici WILLISTON, North Dakota (Reuters) - Two energy advisers to Donald Trump want him to call out members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries for driving down world oil prices when he delivers a major energy policy speech this week. The advisers, who said they had been asked by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign to contribute ideas for the speech, told Reuters they had also suggested he mention cuts to regulations and a streamlining of the federal tax code to make U.S. energy companies more competitive. The advisers, U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and another who asked not to be identified, said they had urged Trump to criticize the OPEC cartel for contributing to a crash in world oil prices by producing full throttle, a factor that has helped push many U.S. oil companies into bankruptcy.
 
 

In Iraq battle, IS prevents Fallujah residents from fleeing

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎3:40:39 PMGo to full article
A man inspects the damage at his home after a bombing in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. Clashes between Iraqi government forces and the Islamic State group outside the city of Fallujah briefly subsided on Tuesday, the second day of a large-scale military operation to drive militants out of their key stronghold west of Baghdad. (AP Photo)BAGHDAD (AP) — The Islamic State group is preventing people from fleeing Fallujah amid a military operation to recapture the city west of Baghdad, a local Iraqi official and aid groups said on Wednesday.
 
 

U.S. leads 17 strikes against Islamic State: statement

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎3:17:37 PMGo to full article
The United States and its allies staged 17 strikes against Islamic State on Tuesday in their latest daily attacks against the militant group in Iraq and Syria, according to the coalition leading the operations. The Falluja strikes hit an Islamic State tactical unit, vehicle and front end loader, the coalition task force said in a statement on Wednesday. Elsewhere in Iraq, the Combined Joint Task Force said the U.S.-led strikes included three near Mosul, another area where U.S. and Iraqi officials are seeking to put in place conditions to retake that city.
 

U.S.-backed Syrian militias not preparing assault on Islamic State capital: spokesman

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎2:40:40 PMGo to full article
File photo of a resident of Tabqa city waving an Islamist flag in celebration after Islamic State militants took over Tabqa air base, in nearby Raqqa cityU.S.-backed Syrian militias are not preparing an assault on Islamic State's de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa at present, a militia spokesman said, indicating the limited scope of a new offensive in nearby areas where fighting raged on Wednesday. Movements by the fighters in the U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, and leaflets dropped on Raqqa urging its citizens to leave had given rise to speculation that they were about to attack the city. Driving Islamic State from Raqqa city would be a major achievement in the U.S.-led campaign against the group that controls wide areas of Syria and Iraq.
 
 

Newseum to Host Annual Journalists Memorial Rededication June 6

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎2:00:00 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON, May 25, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Monday, June 6, at 10 a.m., the Newseum will rededicate its Journalists Memorial, which recognizes men and women who died or were killed while reporting the news. The names of 20 journalists will be added to the memorial to represent all those who died in pursuit of the news in 2015.Gérard Araud, ambassador of France to the United States, will deliver keynote remarks during the ceremony. The largest single attack on journalists in 2015 took place at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. ...
 

Swedish court upholds Assange arrest warrant

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎12:07:03 PMGo to full article
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central LondonA Swedish lower court upheld on Wednesday the arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, saying the stay at Ecuador's London embassy did not equal detention. Assange, 44, is wanted by Swedish authorities for questioning over allegations, which he denies, that he committed rape in 2010. A computer hacker who enraged U.S. authorities by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, he has been holed up in the embassy since June 2012 to avoid the rape investigation in Sweden.
 
 

The Pentagon ‘Slush Fund’ That Could Threaten National Security

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎11:45:00 AMGo to full article
The Pentagon ‘Slush Fund’ That Could Threaten National SecurityThe Pentagon’s ongoing use of an emergency war fund is undermining U.S. national security, according to a new think-tank study. In an analysis released Tuesday, the Washington-based Stimson Center argues that the Pentagon should phase out the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, which was originally set up to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Budget experts have long derided OCO as a slush fund of sorts and accused Capitol Hill lawmakers on both sides of the aisle of using the account to pay for things not related to the wars, such as financing pay and benefits and buying equipment for the military branches, including the National Guard.
 
 

Iraq forces push towards Fallujah from south

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎11:08:00 AMGo to full article
Iraqi pro-government forces gather on the outskirts of Fallujah, on May 24, 2016Iraqi forces pushed towards Islamic State group bastion Fallujah on Wednesday from areas to the south as part of operations to retake the city from jihadists, a commander said. Forces from Iraq's 8th Division backed by tribal fighters set out from the Amriyat al-Fallujah area south of the city and the Al-Salam intersection to its southwest, said Staff Major General Ismail al-Mahalawi, the head of the Anbar Operations Command. US-led coalition and Iraqi forces are providing air support, Mahalawi said.
 
 

Military spouses struggle to find jobs

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎9:21:06 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Military spouses struggle to find jobs and are more likely to work for less pay or in positions below their education level, spurring unemployment and other costs of as much as $1 billion a year, according to a study.
 

Oil prices push closer to $50, U.S. crude hits highest in 7 months

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎8:56:38 AMGo to full article
Crude oil drips from a valve at an oil well operated by Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA, in the oil rich Orinoco belt, near Morichal at the state of MonagasOil futures pushed closer to $50 a barrel on Wednesday, with U.S. crude hitting its highest in over seven months after industry data suggested a larger-than-expected drawdown in U.S. crude inventories last week. Oil markets were also supported by an overnight surge in U.S. equities and strong home sales that could point to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates as early as June. U.S. crude futures had climbed 71 cents to $49.33 a barrel by 0652 GMT, after ending the previous session up 54 cents.
 
 

Islamic State 'falsely claiming' attacks in Bangladesh

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎8:22:24 AMGo to full article
By Krishna N. Das and Ruma Paul DHAKA (Reuters) - Islamic State is trying to ride a wave of religious radicalization by falsely claiming a spate of killings in Bangladesh, a government minister said, adding there was enough evidence implicating domestic militant groups. Analysts say that as Islamic State loses territory in Iraq and Syria and its finances get drained, it may be trying to build affiliates in countries such as Libya, Egypt and Bangladesh for jihadists to launch attacks locally and cheaply. "But what we've agreed with our partnering countries is that we'll not argue over it - that sends a wrong message." His comments came just days after a EU delegation said there was an unprecedented threat to human rights and freedom of expression in Bangladesh and urged Dhaka to tackle the challenge to protect its international reputation.
 

Today in History

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:01:26 AMGo to full article
Today is Wednesday, May 25, the 146th day of 2016. There are 220 days left in the year.
 

U.N. urges Falluja combatants to let civilians escape fighting

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎5:24:55 AMGo to full article
Iraqi federal police advance with Shi'ite fighters towards Falluja, IraqThe United Nations on Tuesday pleaded with combatants in Iraq's embattled Falluja to protect civilians escaping the fighting as Iraqi forces shelled Islamic State targets in an attempt to retake the militant stronghold just west of the capital. Earlier the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said a number of women and children had died while trying to leave the city. "We're calling on all parties to the conflict to take all measures to protect civilians caught in the middle," Farhan Haq told reporters.
 
 

In final drive, Obama seeks better relations with US foes

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎2:54:54 AMGo to full article
President Barack Obama is given flowers as he greeted by Nguyen Thi Quyet Tam, Chairwoman of People's Council HCMC, second from left, as he arrives on Air Force One at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. Ho Chi Minh City is the second stop on Obama's three-day visit to America's former wartime enemy. In his final stretch as president, Barack Obama is driving the United States toward friendlier relations with its most longstanding adversaries, working to consign bitter enmities with Vietnam, Iran, Cuba and Myanmar to the history books. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)WASHINGTON (AP) — In his final stretch as president, Barack Obama is driving the United States toward friendlier relations with longstanding adversaries, working to consign bitter enmities with Vietnam, Iran, Cuba and Myanmar to the history books.
 
 

Man gets 38-year prison term for killing Iraqi man in Dallas

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎2:47:50 AMGo to full article
FILE- This undated file photo provided by the Dallas Police Department shows Nykerion Nealon, who has been convicted of killing of an Iraqi man taking photos of his first snowfall in Texas. Al-Jumaili was outside his Dallas apartment complex taking pictures of snow with his wife and brother on the night of March 4, 2015, when he was shot. (Dallas Police Department via AP, File)DALLAS (AP) — An 18-year-old has been sentenced to 38 years in prison for fatally shooting an Iraqi man taking photos of his first snowfall in Texas.
 
 

Iraq forces keep up shelling of Falluja, U.N. concern mounts for civilians

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎12:21:04 AMGo to full article
Iraqi federal police advance towards FallujaBy Ahmed Rasheed and Stephen Kalin BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi forces shelled Islamic State targets in Falluja on Tuesday, the second day of an assault to retake the militant stronghold just west of Baghdad, as international concern mounted for the security of civilians. The United Nations refugees agency UNHCR said women and children died while trying to leave the city. About 100,000 civilians are estimated to be in Falluja which, in January 2014, became the first Iraqi city to be captured by Islamic State, six months before the group declared its caliphate.
 
 

U.S. arrests New York man for providing support to Islamic State

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎12:15:18 AMGo to full article
A former plumbing assistant from New York City was arrested on Tuesday and charged with providing material support to Islamic State by trying to help an undercover law enforcement official travel to Syria to fight with the militant group. Sajmir Alimehmeti, a 22-year-old from the Bronx borough, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, which said he had expressed support for Islamic State since 2014. The U.S. citizen was arrested at his Bronx residence on Tuesday morning, where authorities found an Islamic State flag, a martial arts weapon and combat-survival knives, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Quigley said in court.
 

Lake Chad Basin is world's most neglected humanitarian crisis: U.N. aid chief

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎12:06:43 AMGo to full article
The Wider Image: Fighting Boko Haram in CameroonBy Alex Whiting ISTANBUL (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - West Africa's Lake Chad region is the world's most neglected humanitarian crisis, where poverty and desertification have been compounded by violence caused by Boko Haram, the U.N. aid chief said on Tuesday at the World Humanitarian Summit. The gap between the suffering and the humanitarian response may be bigger than in Syria, Iraq or Yemen, a senior Red Cross official said. Violence has forced more than 2.4 million people to flee their homes in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, according to the United Nations.
 
 

Buses and Bulldozers: Refugees are removed from Greek camp

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:00 PMGo to full article
A bus moves a migrant family to a government-built camps during a police operation at a makeshift refugee camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the northern Greek village of Idomeni, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. Greek authorities began an operation at dawn Tuesday to gradually evacuate the country's largest informal refugee camp of Idomeni on the Macedonian border, blocking access to the area and sending in more than 400 riot police. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)IDOMENI, Greece (AP) — It grew to the size of a small town, becoming a symbol of Europe's closed border policy for migrants and refugees. On Tuesday, Greek authorities began to dismantle it.
 
 

Erdogan says Turkey parliament will block EU migrant deal if no visa-free travel

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎10:52:45 PMGo to full article
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures during a press conference on May 24, 2016, in Istanbul during the World Humanitarian SummitPresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the European Union that the Turkish parliament would block laws related to the landmark deal to stem the flow of migrants to Europe if Ankara was not granted its key demand of visa-free travel. The stark and unexpected warning from Erdogan came amid spiralling tensions between the Turkish strongman and the bloc over a string of issues ranging from existing accords and human rights as he seeks to further consolidate his powers. "If that (the visa exemption) is not what will happen... no decision and no law in the framework of the readmission agreement will come out of the parliament of the Turkish Republic," Erdogan said at the close of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.
 
 

U.S.-backed Syrian alliance launches new attack near Islamic State capital

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎24, ‎2016, ‏‎10:06:40 PMGo to full article
Islamic State billboards are seen along a street in RaqqaBy Suleiman Al-Khalidi AMMAN (Reuters) - A U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian militias launched a new offensive against Islamic State fighters near their de facto capital of Raqqa city on Tuesday, a monitoring group and an official said. The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance is the main Syrian partner for the U.S.-led alliance battling the Islamic State group that controls large areas of northern and eastern Syria. Aided by U.S.-led air strikes, the YPG has driven Islamic State from wide areas of northern Syria over the last year or more, though its advances have recently slowed.

 

 

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

 

 
 

Why Russia's Reviving Its Nuke Trains

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) May 17, 2016 - Russian "Barguzin" strategic missile trains may become an asymmetric response to NATO's complex European Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system deployed in Romania and Poland, military experts believe.

Russian designers have begun to create new elements of "Barguzin" - Russia's combat railway missile complex (BZhRK) aimed at transporting and launching strategic nuclear missiles.

Citing a military source with the knowledge of the matter, Russian Regnum news agency wrote that the project's exact completion date would be announced in early 2018. Back in 2014, Strategic Missile Forces Commander Col. Gen. Sergei Karakayev told journalists that the sketches of Russia's future railway-based missile complex had been finalized.

It was reported that the Russian Army may receive five Barguzin railroad ICBM systems by 2020. In late February 2016 the head of the Strategic Missile Forces' military education department, Viktor Nesterov, informed Echo Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) Radio that a new generation of ICBM-launching trains would enter the Army service in 2020.

Russian military experts regard the system as a powerful counterbalance against NATO's European Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system deployed by the United States in Eastern Europe.

On Thursday, the Pentagon military officials inaugurated their missile defense base in Deveselu, Romania. The Deveselu base is one of the first major European elements of the US global missile shield. The cornerstone of the military site is an Aegis Ashore missile defense system equipped with an AN/SPY-1 radar and vertical launchers for 24 Standard SM-3 Block IB missiles.

A similar ground-based Aegis system is currently under construction in Poland. The Polish base is due to become operational in 2018.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed Thursday that the deployment of the elements of the US global missile shield in Europe undoubtedly poses a direct threat to the Russian Federation's security.

"From the very beginning we have said that, according to experts - and we are certain of this, undoubtedly - the deployment of missile defense systems indeed poses a threat to the security of the Russian Federation," Peskov told reporters.

The Pentagon and NATO war planners have been "encircling" Russia since the end of the Cold War seeking to nullify the country's nuclear deterrence capability. However, with Barguzin nuclear trains the threat would be seriously mitigated.

The crux of the matter is that the Russian BZhRK looks similar to any other ordinary cargo train and cannot be detected by an adversary. The elusive nuke complex also moves constantly across the system of the country's railroads. It is worth mentioning that the Russian railways are ranked second longest globally. In general, the combat railway missile complex can pass up to 1,000 kilometers daily.

The first BZhRKs entered the Soviet Army service in 1987 but were completely decommissioned in 2007 in accordance with the START II (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) treaty between the US and Russia.

However, the modernized BzhRK Barguzin system does not violate the provisions of the New START treaty signed by Moscow and Washington on April 8, 2010, in Prague.

Each Barguzin train will be armed with six ICBMs RS-24 Yars which could be brought into firing position within minutes. Furthermore, Barguzins will be also equipped with advanced electronic warfare systems and a sophisticated stealth technology.

Russian military expert Leonid Nersisyan notes in his article for Regnum, that Washington's unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in the early 2000s prompted serious concerns in Moscow and forced Russian military planners to seek new ways to counter potential threats.

The other destabilizing factor is the Pentagon's Prompt Global Strike (PGS) concept, Nersisyan underscores. The US is developing a system that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike at targets throughout the world within one hour using hypersonic weapons.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly signaled that Washington's efforts at implementing the European BMD and creating Prompt Global Strike (PGS) weapon systems is dealing a blow to the ongoing talks on nuclear disarmament between the countries.

However, Nersisyan stresses that the Russian BZhRKs will nullify the challenge posed by the US Prompt Global Strike (PGS) concept.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

US, S. Korea, Japan to hold joint drill against N. Korea

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 16, 2016 - South Korea, Japan and the United States will hold their first anti-missile drills together next month to guard against threats from nuclear-armed North Korea, a Seoul official said Monday.

The drill will be held in the waters near Hawaii on June 28, said an official at the Seoul's defense ministry, ahead of the US-led Rim of the Pacific naval exercises.

"The training will involve detecting and tracing an imaginary missile from North Korea, but will not include missile interception," said the official.

The US will launch an airplane as a mock-up missile, which all three countries will monitor from ships equipped with an Aegis anti-missile system, Yonhap news agency reported.

The upcoming exercise was proposed at a trilateral military meeting held after the North's long-range rocket launch in February, the official added.

The rocket launch -- held a month after Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test and seen as a disguised ballistic missile test -- drew widespread condemnation and prompted the UN Security Council to slap its toughest sanctions ever on North Korea.

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

Pyongyang responded by launching a series of short-range missiles off its east coast and trying -- although unsuccessfully -- to test-fire a powerful, new medium-range missile in April.

The North has recently claimed a series of major technical breakthroughs in developing what it sees as the ultimate goal of its nuclear drive: an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

 

 

Iran says European banks still wary of US sanctions threat

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) May 15, 2016 - Big European banks remain reluctant to work in Iran four months after the lifting of international sanctions under a landmark nuclear deal with world powers, an Iranian official said Sunday.

"Major European banks have not yet started their interactions with Iranian banks, but some medium- and small-sized financial institutions have established relations, including opening letters of credit," deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi told state broadcaster IRIB.

He accused "extremist lobbies" in the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of stirring up animosity towards Iran to prevent it from reaping the benefits of the landmark nuclear deal signed last July.

When the agreement came into effect in January, Washington lifted sanctions directly related to Tehran's nuclear programme but it maintained others imposed over its ballistic missile programme and its alleged support of "terror" groups.

Several European banks have received massive fines in the United States in the past after being found guilty of violating US sanctions against Iran and all remain wary of incurring similar punishment.

 

 

Hiroshima hopes Obama visit will revitalise anti-nuclear push

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) May 11, 2016 - Barack Obama's trip to Hiroshima this month is a chance for him to see how the city suffered after its atomic bombing, and to renew his push for global nuclear disarmament, local officials said Wednesday.

On May 27, Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, the White House said Tuesday, stressing there would be no apology for the city's devastation in the final days of World War II.

Obama, who will be in Japan for a Group of Seven summit, will make the pilgrimage to Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"I hope that here in Hiroshima he will conceive concrete steps towards a nuclear-free world," said city mayor Kazumi Matsui.

About 140,000 people died after US forces dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

Tens of thousands were killed by the fireball that the powerful blast generated, with many more succumbing to injuries or illnesses caused by radiation in the weeks, months and years afterwards.

Vast swathes of the city, including many of its military and industrial installations, were flattened.

The southern city of Nagasaki was hit by a second bomb days later, killing 74,000 people, in one of the final acts of World War II.

Hidehiko Yuzaki, the governor of Hiroshima prefecture, told reporters he hoped Obama would see "the reality of how the atomic bomb hurt people here, and would come away with a deep understanding of the scale of the damage."

Although many survivors of the attack may hope for an apology, Yuzaki said the key issue was simply that humanity "should never ever suffer such an experience again."

Hiroshima is now a thriving, modern city, little different from many others in Japan, although the bombed-out remains of a domed building stands tribute to those who died in the world's first ever atomic attack.

Last month US Secretary of State John Kerry laid a wreath near the building, and visited the "gut-wrenching" memorial museum that shows the human cost of the bombing.

Japan has long urged world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see the horrors of the atomic bombings and join efforts to eradicate nuclear arms.

Former president Jimmy Carter visited Hiroshima after leaving office, while Richard Nixon went to the city a few years before assuming the presidency.

 

 

No 'imminent' signs of N. Korea nuclear test: US think tank

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 11, 2016 - Recent satellite images show no imminent signs of a fifth North Korean nuclear test, following the conclusion of a party congress that many thought Pyongyang would mark with an atomic detonation, a US think tank said Wednesday.

The pictures, dated May 8, show low-level activity at the underground test site at Punggye-ri in the country's northeast, and vehicles previously observed at the site's command centre were "no longer present", according to an analysis by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

Earlier satellite images had shown closely parked vehicles at the command centre -- usually only seen during final test preparations.

North Korea wrapped up its first ruling party congress in 36 years on Monday.

South Korean officials and North Korea watchers elsewhere had warned of a high possibility that Pyongyang might -- as a show of strength -- carry out a test in the run-up to the conclave, or even during the event itself.

"That gathering is now ended and there are no apparent signs that a detonation will occur in the near future," said the analysis.

But the low-level activity across the complex suggests it "remains capable of supporting additional tests once a decision to move forward is made in Pyongyang", it said.

North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests. The most recent was on January 6, with Pyongyang claiming it marked the country's first successful test of a powerful hydrogen bomb.

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

At the ruling party congress, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un praised the "magnificent and exhilarating sound" of the January test, and delegates adopted Kim's report calling for an improved and expanded nuclear arsenal.

 

 

'Executed' N. Korean general named to senior party posts

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 10, 2016 - North Korea's former military chief of staff who was reported executed earlier this year is apparently alive and well after being named Tuesday in a number of senior ruling party posts.

Intelligence reports in South Korea had suggested Ri Yong-Gil, former chief of the Korean People's Army (KPA) General Staff, was executed in February on accusations of corruption and forming a political faction.

Although the reports were never confirmed by Pyongyang, North Korea named a new chief of staff, Ri Myong-Su, in the same month.

The change came at a time of highly elevated tensions on the divided Korean peninsula following the North's nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch.

But on Tuesday, Ri Yong-Gil's name appeared on a list of the newly-elected members of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee, as an alternate member of the politburo and a member of the party's central military commission.

Reports -- some confirmed, some not -- of purges, executions and disappearances have been common since Kim Jong-Un took power following the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in December 2011.

A large number of senior officials, especially military cadres, were removed or demoted as the young leader sought to solidify his control over the powerful army.

In the most high-profile case, Kim had his influential uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, executed in December 2013 for charges including treason and corruption.

China's Xi congratulates N. Korea's Kim
Seoul (AFP) May 10, 2016 - Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to North Korea's Kim Jong-Un, congratulating him on his election as ruling party chairman at a congress at which Beijing -- Pyongyang's closest ally -- was notably absent.

In his message, Xi described ties with North Korea as a "precious asset" that was personally "cultivated by the leaders of the elder generation" the North's official KCNA news agency said Tuesday.

North Korea wrapped up its first ruling party congress in 36 years on Monday, appointing Kim party chairman and formally endorsing his legacy "byungjin" doctrine of parallel economic and nuclear development.

The fact that there was no Chinese representation at the once-in-a-generation gathering was viewed as a sign of fraying ties between the two traditional allies.

A large Chinese delegation had attended the last Workers' Party congress in 1980, headed by Li Xiannian, later China's official head of state.

Beijing has been a key diplomatic protector of North Korea, providing an economic lifeline that has allowed it to ride out waves of international sanctions.

But the relationship between the two nations, once said to be as close as lips and teeth, has become increasingly strained as China's patience with the North's refusal to rein in its nuclear weapons ambitions has worn increasingly thin.

China approved the latest raft of UN sanctions -- the toughest to date -- that were imposed after the North's January nuclear test, and there are signs that it is implementing the measures.

But China is wary of pushing the North too far, fearing a regime collapse that could create a refugee crisis on its border and swing the regional balance of power towards the United States.

"The Chinese party and government attach great importance to the Sino-DPRK relations," Xi said in his message. "We will make efforts together with the DPRK side to bring happiness to the two countries and their peoples."

DPRK is the official abbreviation for North Korea.

 

 

China's Xi congratulates N. Korea's Kim

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 10, 2016 - Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to North Korea's Kim Jong-Un, congratulating him on his election as ruling party chairman at a congress at which Beijing -- Pyongyang's closest ally -- was notably absent.

In his message, Xi described ties with North Korea as a "precious asset" that was personally "cultivated by the leaders of the elder generation" the North's official KCNA news agency said Tuesday.

North Korea wrapped up its first ruling party congress in 36 years on Monday, appointing Kim party chairman and formally endorsing his legacy "byungjin" doctrine of parallel economic and nuclear development.

The fact that there was no Chinese representation at the once-in-a-generation gathering was viewed as a sign of fraying ties between the two traditional allies.

A large Chinese delegation had attended the last Workers' Party congress in 1980, headed by Li Xiannian, later China's official head of state.

Beijing has been a key diplomatic protector of North Korea, providing an economic lifeline that has allowed it to ride out waves of international sanctions.

But the relationship between the two nations, once said to be as close as lips and teeth, has become increasingly strained as China's patience with the North's refusal to rein in its nuclear weapons ambitions has worn increasingly thin.

China approved the latest raft of UN sanctions -- the toughest to date -- that were imposed after the North's January nuclear test, and there are signs that it is implementing the measures.

But China is wary of pushing the North too far, fearing a regime collapse that could create a refugee crisis on its border and swing the regional balance of power towards the United States.

"The Chinese party and government attach great importance to the Sino-DPRK relations," Xi said in his message. "We will make efforts together with the DPRK side to bring happiness to the two countries and their peoples."

DPRK is the official abbreviation for North Korea.

 

 

Former US Marine sues Iran over 'torture' while held captive

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 10, 2016 - A former US Marine who was accused by Iran of spying and held for 4.5 years is suing Tehran over the "prolonged and continuous physical abuse" he endured while detained.

According to a lawsuit filed in Washington on Monday, Amir Hekmati, a US-Iranian dual national from Michigan, was subjected to a slew of physical and psychological abuse while jailed in the notorious Evin Prison.

Hekmati was freed in a prisoner swap in January in which he and three other Iranian-American dual nationals, plus another American, were traded after Washington granted clemency to seven Iranians and withdrew arrest warrants for 14 others.

During his lengthy ordeal, Hekmati was "whipped at the bottom of his feet, struck by an electrical Taser to his kidney area, forced to stay in stress positions for hours at a time, and hit with batons," the lawsuit states.

The former Marine had been visiting relatives in Tehran in August 2011 when he was nabbed by Iranian officials.

He ultimately was forced to confess to being a CIA spy and sentenced to death, though the sentence was later reduced to 10 years in prison.

Aside from physical abuse, prison guards threw water on Hekmati's cell floor to prevent him sleeping, kept the light on and forced him to take lithium and other "addictive pills," only to stop these to trigger withdrawals, the lawsuit states.

"Iran's treatment of Amir Hekmati was utterly contemptible," his attorney, Scott Gilbert, said in a statement.

"Amir was arrested on phony charges, thrown into brutal solitary confinement in one of the world's most inhumane prisons, and then subjected to prolonged physical and psychological abuse."

Hekmati, who is unemployed and "suffering the financial effects of being robbed of four and a half years of income," is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Hekmati served in the US Marines from 2001 to 2005 as an infantry rifleman and translator.

His legal team argues that Iran's behavior was outside the scope of immunity provided by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA,) so Iran can be sued in the United States.

 

 

Iran touts newly tested long-range missile

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) May 9, 2016 - Iran launched a new long-range missile late last month, a general announced on Monday, trumpeting the accuracy of the latest such weapon to be test-fired in defiance of the West.

"A missile with a 2,000-kilometre range was tested two weeks ago," said General Ali Abdolahi, adding that it has a negligible margin of error of just eight metres (yards).

"We can guide this ballistic missile. It leaves the Earth's atmosphere, re-enters it and hits the target without error," the armed forces deputy chief-of-staff said, quoted by the website of state broadcaster IRINN.

However, several hours later, Defence Minister General Hossein Dehghan denied that such a test had taken place.

"We have not tested a missile with such a range as media reports said," he said, quoted by the official IRNA news agency.

In early March, Iran carried out several short-, medium- and long-range (300 to 2,000 kilometres) precision missile tests across its territory, mostly from underground bases.

The series of tests has come in for criticism from the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

They say the tests violate United Nations resolutions, and have called on the Security Council to address them.

Opponents of the programme say the weapons are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, an argument categorically denied by Tehran's political and military authorities.

Tehran's ballistic missile tests in late 2015 brought new sanctions by the US against Iran on January 17.

The punitive measures were announced a day after international sanctions were lifted following the entry into force of a July 2015 nuclear agreement.

Iran's parliament, whose mandate expires at the end of May, passed new legislation this month that boosts the country's ballistic capability.

President Hassan Rouhani and senior Iranian military officials have also said in recent months that ballistic missiles must be enhanced in order to boost Iran's deterrent power.

 

 

Russia's New ICBM Sarmat can penetrate defense shield, wipe out Texas

 
‎Yesterday, ‎May ‎17, ‎2016, ‏‎9:55:45 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) May 10, 2016 - The best current missile defenses system may prove powerless against Sarmat, Russia's new intercontinental ballistic missile, which will be ready for field trials this summer, according to the Russian news network Zvezda. Russia's latest intercontinental ballistic missile, Sarmat, may render all current missile defense systems obsolescent, the Russian news network Zvezda reported.

The RS-28 Sarmat is the state-of-the-art heavy liquid-propelled intercontinental ballistic missile which is currently being developed for the Russian army.

It is designed to replace the old Soviet R-36M missiles Voevoda, codenamed 'Satan' by NATO, as the heavy silo-based component of Russia's nuclear deterrence. The RS-28 has been in development since 2009 and is scheduled to start replacing the old ICBMs in 2018.

"In this sense, the Sarmat missile will not only become the R-36M's successor, but also to some extent it will determine in which direction nuclear deterrence in the world will develop," Zvezda said.

The broadcaster added that the RS-28 is capable of wiping out parts of the earth the size of Texas or France, and that its higher speed performance will enable it to speed past every missile defense system in existence.

Although there is very little information on the technical characteristics of the new missile, some sources said that the Sarmat is a two-stage missile with an estimated operational range of 10,000km and a mass of at least 100 tons, including a payload weighing from 4 tons up to 10 tons.

The missile will be equipped with a MIRVed combination of a dozen heavy warheads, each individually steerable during reentry. MIRV is an acronym for a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle.

Sarmat warheads will have an array of advanced antimissile countermeasures meant to penetrate the US ABM shield. Speculation is rife that they would have a conventional hypersonic version like the US's Advanced Hypersonic Weapon or the Chinese WU-14 and could be used as a precision intercontinental weapon in a non-nuclear conflict.

The Russian Defense Ministry plans to put the Sarmat into service in late 2018 and complete replacing the Voevoda with the RS-28 by 2020.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

Iran equipped with Russian missile system: defence minister

 
‎Wednesday, ‎May ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎12:39:02 PMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) May 10, 2016 - Iran's army is now equipped with a Russian air defence system after a long and controversial delivery process, Defence Minister General Hossein Dehghan was quoted as saying Tuesday.

"I inform our people that... we are in possession of the strategic S-300 system" and that it "serves our air force's counterattack command," Dehghan said, according to ISNA news agency.

Parts of the system, including missile tubes and radar equipment, were displayed on April 17 during a military parade in southern Tehran.

The United States and Israel have criticised Russia for the sale of the S-300 system to the Islamic republic.

Tehran says it is needed to strengthen its air defence against possible attacks, including on its nuclear facilities.

Iran and Russia originally signed a contract for its delivery in 2007, but in 2010 Moscow suspended the sale after the UN Security Council issued a resolution against Iran's nuclear programme.

In 2015, shortly before the conclusion of an international agreement on Tehran's nuclear programme, Moscow re-authorised the delivery.

The two countries are also in talks for delivery to Iran of Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jets, a deal also criticised by Washington.

Dehghan also announced that Iran will start manufacturing this year an air defence system, Bavar 373, "capable of destroying cruise missiles, drones, combat aircraft and ballistic missiles."

"This long-range system is able to destroy several targets at once," he added.

 

 

Obama to make historic visit to Hiroshima

 
‎Wednesday, ‎May ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎12:39:02 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 10, 2016 - Barack Obama will this month become the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, but the White House is scotching talk of an apology for the devastating 1945 nuclear bombing of the city.

Obama, accompanied by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will make the deeply symbolic visit on May 27, after attending a G7 summit in south-central Japan, his spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

The White House described the trip as an effort to highlight the US "commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

On August 6, 1945, the US dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing around 140,000 people, including those who survived the explosion itself but died soon after from severe radiation exposure.

Three days later, the US military dropped a plutonium bomb on the port city of Nagasaki, killing some 74,000 people.

The announcement comes after months of speculation in the US and Japan that the president, a Nobel peace laureate, would pay a visit to the city.

The bombings remain controversial in the United States and around the world.

Opinion is sharply divided on whether president Harry Truman's decision ended the brutality of World War II and avoided a bloody US invasion of Japan, or whether dropping nuclear weapons on a civilian area constitutes a war crime.

A Pew poll last year showed 56 percent of Americans think the bombing was justified, while 14 percent of Japanese do. In both countries, approval of Truman's order has waned dramatically over the years.

The White House has expressed understanding at the dilemma Truman faced.

"I think what the president would say is that it's hard to put yourself in that position from the outside," Earnest said.

"I think what the president does appreciate is that President Truman made this decision for the right reasons. President Truman was focused on the national security interests of the United States... on bringing an end to a terrible war. And President Truman made this decision fully mindful of the likely human toll."

"I think it's hard to look back and second-guess it too much."

- No apology -

In Hiroshima, Obama will visit the once ruined city's Peace Memorial Park "where he will share his reflections on the significance of the site and the events that occurred there," said senior Obama foreign policy advisor Ben Rhodes.

Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-ranking US political figure to visit Hiroshima.

Kerry said he was "deeply moved" by the experience and called a museum at the site a "gut-wrenching display that tugs at all your sensibilities as a human being."

"Everyone should visit Hiroshima, and everyone means everyone," he added, fueling speculation that Obama would follow.

Abe welcomed the White House announcement, saying: "We want to make this visit an opportunity for both Japan and the US to mourn all the victims."

"It is significant for him to send a message of his determination for a nuclear-free world. For a US president, it was a big decision," he said.

Japan has long urged world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see the horrors of the atomic bombings and join efforts to eradicate nuclear arms.

A UN spokesman said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "very much welcomes" Obama's decision and expressed hope that the visit will highlight the need to abolish nuclear weapons once and for all.

But some have been concerned that Obama's visit would be seen as an apology for events of seven decades ago.

The move is likely to rile Obama's opponents and some in the military, whose predecessors carried out presidential orders to drop the bombs.

The visit will come at a particularly sensitive time. This December marks the 75th anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, in Obama's home state of Hawaii.

But the White House was eager to stress that Obama's visit is not an apology.

"He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future," said Rhodes.

The visit is likely to have regional reverberations, at a time when North Korea, a short distance away, is aggressively pursuing its nuclear and ballistic missiles development program.

At a four-day Communist Party confab that ended on Monday, Pyongyang's enigmatic leaders vowed to continue building weapons systems that have already prompted deep international sanctions and isolation.

Japan's neighbors in China and South Korea will also be watching the visit closely, always eager to make sure that their once hyper-aggressive foe is not allowed to play the role of a World War II victim.

Before his visit to Japan, Obama will head to Vietnam for talks on advancing cooperation on trade, security and human rights, the White House said.

 

 

N. Korea's nuclear attitude 'has not changed': China media

 
‎Wednesday, ‎May ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎12:39:02 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) May 9, 2016 - Chinese state-run media on Monday played down North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's pledge not to use nuclear weapons unless his country's sovereignty is threatened, saying that his pursuit of atomic arms remained dangerous.

Beijing is Pyongyang's main diplomatic protector and source of trade and aid, but relations between them have become increasingly strained by the North's nuclear ambitions, and Kim has yet to visit his neighbour.

The North's first ruling party congress in nearly 40 years formally endorsed Kim's policy of expanding the country's nuclear arsenal, after he said it would not use the weapons unless attacked, and would work for global denuclearisation.

But the international community and the United Nations have long demanded an end to the North's nuclear and missile programmes.

Kim's declaration "was made from the perspective that North Korea is now a nuclear state", China's Global Times newspaper, which is close to the ruling Communist party, said in an editorial.

As such, it said, its "attitude has not changed, and neither has its biggest contradiction with the outside world been resolved".

"Major countries will not change their stance to recognise North Korea as a nuclear state," it added. "As long as Pyongyang resists giving up its nuclear weapons, normalising relations with the outside world will be highly unlikely."

China's foreign ministry said that Beijing's position on the nuclear question "remains unchanged" following the weekend's events.

"We maintain that all resolutions of the UN Security Council related to the issue should be applied by all the parties," spokesman Lu Kang told reporters at a regular briefing.

There were no Chinese representatives at the Workers' Party gathering, the Global Times reported last week, although a large delegation attended the previous congress in 1980 headed by Li Xiannian, later China's official head of state.

Beijing has been reluctant to take measures against the North, fearing that a crisis could send floods of refugees into its territory. It also views as anathema the prospect of US troops on its border in a reunified Korea.

The North's nuclear programme had been a factor in the US and South Korea "constantly upgrading their military preparation for strikes against Pyongyang", the newspaper said.

"The crazy logic of contemporary international politics has become a game of who will blink first," it added.

 

 

N. Korea crowns Kim party chief as rare congress closes

 
‎Wednesday, ‎May ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎12:39:02 PMGo to full article
Pyongyang (AFP) May 9, 2016 - North Korea on Monday wrapped up its first ruling party congress for 36 years -- an event seen as a formal coronation for leader Kim Jong-Un, who was appointed to the post of party chairman.

Thousands of delegates clapped and cheered enthusiastically as the country's official head of state, Kim Yong-Nam, announced the new title which cements Kim's status as the isolated state's supreme ruler.

For the first time since they arrived last week, foreign journalists were allowed a rare glimpse inside the delegate hall, which was festooned in red and gold banners carrying the party's logo.

Serious-looking men, and the occasional woman, dressed in sombre suits and servicemen weighed down by chests-full of medals filled row after row of red seats in the cavernous hall.

The congress, which opened on Friday, has given 33-year-old Kim a podium to secure his status as rightful inheritor of the one-party state founded by his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, who also held the title of party chairman.

"Kim's new position makes it very clear that the whole party meeting is only aimed at solidifying his legitimacy as the new leader," said Koh Young-Hwan, a former North Korean diplomat who defected to the South in 1991.

Koh, who is now vice head of the South's state-run Institute for National Security Strategy, said the rarity of the party congress conferred real authority on the new role.

"All past leaders of the party were named at a party congress... so this was a perfect coronation," he told AFP in Seoul.

- BBC reporter expelled -

Around 130 foreign reporters were invited to cover the congress, although their movement was tightly controlled, and their only access to the event came on the last day.

The authorities announced Monday that they were expelling a BBC journalist, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, for "speaking very ill of the system and the leadership" in his reports.

He had initially been detained on Friday and questioned for eight hours.

"We are never going to allow him back into the country for any reporting," said an official with the North's National Peace Committee.

As well as raising Kim to the post of party chairman, the congress formally endorsed his legacy "byungjin" doctrine of twin economic and nuclear development.

Delegates on Sunday unanimously adopted Kim's working report on the party, which stressed the need to strengthen the North's nuclear arsenal "both in quality and quantity".

North Korea has carried out two of its four nuclear tests under Kim's leadership, most recently in January when it claimed to have tried out a powerful hydrogen bomb -- a claim experts have disputed.

There has been growing concern that Pyongyang may be on the verge of conducting a fifth test, with satellite imagery showing activity at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

The congress also enshrined a policy of not using nuclear weapons unless the country is attacked by another nuclear power, and of working towards reunification of the divided Korean peninsula.

- War warning -

"But if the South Korean authorities opt for a war... we will turn out in the just war to mercilessly wipe out the anti-reunification forces," said the report adopted by the North Korean delegates.

Kim was not even born when the last party congress was held in 1980 to crown his father, Kim Jong-Il, as the heir apparent to founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

When his own turn came, following the death of Kim Jong-Il in December 2011, the new young leader quickly set about shoring up his power base.

One of his earliest moves was to adjust his father's "songun", or military first policy, to the "byungjin" policy of economic-nuclear development.

The nuclear half of that strategy had dominated the run-up to the party congress, starting with a fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch a month later.

Some observers had predicted the congress might switch the focus to the economic side of the equation, and Kim did unveil a five-year economic plan -- the first of its kind for decades.

But it was short on detail beyond general ambitions to boost production across all economic sectors, with a particular focus on energy output.

burs-hg-gh/cah

 

 

Israeli nuclear whistle-blower charged over release terms

 
‎Wednesday, ‎May ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎12:39:02 PMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) May 8, 2016 - Israeli prosecutors charged nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu Sunday with violating the terms of his release, more than a decade after he completed an 18-year jail term, the justice ministry said.

Upon his release in 2004, Vanunu was slapped with a series of restraining orders, some of which he has violated in recent years, the indictment read.

According to the charge sheet, Vanunu in 2013 met with two US nationals in Jerusalem without having permission to do so.

In 2014 he moved to a different flat in his apartment building and failed to inform police.

And in 2015, he granted an interview to Channel 2 television, in which he relayed to the interviewer "classified information that was by cut out by censors", read the indictment served at Jerusalem magistrates' court.

The former nuclear technician was jailed in 1986 for disclosing the inner workings of Israel's Dimona nuclear plant to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper.

He spent more than 10 years of his sentence in solitary confinement.

In the 2015 interview, Vanunu said he longer has any secrets to spill and just wants to join his new bride in Norway, theology professor Kristin Joachimsen whom he married at a Lutheran church in Jerusalem in May that year.

He has been barred from emigrating on the grounds that he still poses a threat to national security.

Vanunu, 61, converted to Christianity shortly before being snatched by Mossad agents in Rome and smuggled to Israel.

In 2010 he was jailed for 11 weeks after breaking the terms of his release by meeting a foreigner, a prison official said.

Israel is the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, refusing to confirm or deny that it has such weapons.

It has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to allow international surveillance of the Dimona plant in the Negev desert of southern Israel.

 

 

International agreement safeguarding nuclear facilities enters into force

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎10, ‎2016, ‏‎1:06:46 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) May 10, 2016 - The 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) makes it legally binding for the states to establish, implement and maintain an appropriate physical protection of nuclear material and facilities under their jurisdiction.

New rules strengthening the security of nuclear materials around the globe entered into force on Sunday after 11 years of negotiations and approvals.

The 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) makes it legally binding for the states to establish, implement and maintain an appropriate physical protection of nuclear material and facilities under their jurisdiction.

It also provides for the prosecution of smuggling of nuclear materials, which, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will strengthen protection against terrorists.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has described the amendment as "the single most important step which the world can take to strengthen nuclear security."

Its entry into force demonstrates "the determination of the international community to strengthen nuclear security globally," the IAEA said on its website, citing Amano.

The document has been ratified by 103 out of the 152 countries participating in the CPPNM. The two-thirds threshold, required for the amendment to enter into force, was reached on April 8, after Nicaragua ratified the deal.

The CPPNM was adopted in 1979 and entered into force in 1987.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

N. Korea leader says will only use nuclear weapons if attacked

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎10, ‎2016, ‏‎1:06:46 AMGo to full article
Pyongyang (AFP) May 8, 2016 - Leader Kim Jong-Un told a rare ruling party congress that North Korea would only use nuclear weapons if attacked by a nuclear power, and said he wanted improved relations with previously "hostile" nations.

Speaking on Saturday to thousands of delegates gathered for the first Workers' Party congress in more than 35 years, Kim also promised that the North would pursue a policy of non-proliferation and push for global denuclearisation.

His remarks, published by state media on Sunday, came amid growing concerns that the North might be on the verge of conducting a fifth nuclear test.

Kim had opened the congress with a defiant defence of the North's nuclear weapons programme, praising the "magnificent... and thrilling" test of what Pyongyang claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb on January 6.

But his report to the conclave on Saturday stressed that North Korea's status was that of a "responsible" nuclear weapons state.

"Our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes," he said.

The Korean-language version of his address made it clear that the scenario involved an actual nuclear attack on the North.

- Non-proliferation pledge -

He also vowed that Pyongyang would "faithfully fulfil" its non-proliferation obligations and push for global denuclearisation, the North's official KCNA news agency said.

North Korea withdrew from the global Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003 -- the first signatory country to do so.

Pyongyang's nuclear weapons use policy has always appeared quite fluid.

At the time of the first nuclear test in 2006, North Korea stated it would "never use nuclear weapons first", but has since made repeated threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States.

In recent years, North Korea has put a focus on the development of tactical nuclear weapons, with numerous -- and increasingly successful -- tests of a submarine-launched ballistic missile system.

In his address, Kim also waved what might be taken as a potential olive branch, stating that North Korea would seek to improve and normalise relations with friendly countries, "(even) though they had been hostile in the past."

There has been speculation that, in the wake of the party congress, Pyongyang might renew its push for talks with Washington.

US and North Korean officials have held a number of informal discussions in neutral venues in recent years, but they are understood to have stalled over the basis for beginning any substantive dialogue.

- Peace treaty -

Pyongyang wants a permanent peace treaty to be the focus of any dialogue with Washington, while the United States, backed by South Korea, insists the North must first take tangible steps towards denuclearisation.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice that has never been formalised by a peace treaty, meaning that the two Koreas technically remain at war.

The party congress has offered no sign whatsoever that Pyongyang would consider offering up its nuclear arsenal for negotiation, with Kim underlining the importance of a credible nuclear deterrent to the country's national security.

Two of the North's four nuclear tests have been conducted since Kim came to power following the death of his father, late leader Kim Jong-Il, in late 2011.

Speculation that the North might be readying a fifth test, in defiance of toughened UN sanctions, was fuelled Saturday by recent satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the northeast of the country.

Analysts at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said the presence of vehicles at the complex's test command centre signalled the possibility of a test "in the near future".

The party congress is widely seen as Kim's formal "coronation" and recognition of his status as the legitimate inheritor of the Kim family's dynastic rule which spans almost seven decades.

 

 

US asks for Seoul's bottom line on peace talks with North: report

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎10, ‎2016, ‏‎1:06:46 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 7, 2016 - Top US intelligence official James Clapper asked South Korean officials during a recent visit for Seoul's bottom line in any future negotiation between the US and North Korea on a permanent peace treaty, a report said Saturday.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice that has never been formalised by a peace treaty, meaning that the two Koreas technically remain at war.

Pyongyang wants a treaty to be the focus of any dialogue with Washington, while the United States, backed by Seoul, insists the first priority is the issue of North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

During a low key, two-day visit to the South last week, Clapper discussed possible responses to any fresh dialogue push by North Korea following its ongoing ruling party congress, South Korea's JoongAng Daily reported.

"There was an inquiry into how much South Korea is willing to concede in case the United States begins discussions with North Korea on a possible peace treaty," the newspaper quoted an unidentified senior foreign affairs and security official as saying.

US and North Korean officials have held a number of informal discussions in neutral venues in recent years, but they are understood to have stalled over the basis for any official dialogue.

"The reason that Clapper referred to peace treaty talks is to cope with the North making a fresh proposal for a peace treaty following the congress," another official told the newspaper.

Any peace treaty would have to be agreed between the two sides involved in the Korean conflict -- North Korea and China on one hand and the US-led United Nations on the other.

Seoul and Washington insist North Korea must take tangible steps towards denuclearisation before a peace treaty can be put on the table.

"There is no change to this stance," a South Korean foreign ministry official said when asked to comment on the news report.

During his visit, Clapper reportedly held closed-door talks with South defence, military and presidential officials.

Nobel laureates call for easing N Korea sanctions
Beijing (AFP) May 7, 2016 - Sanctions that have pinched North Korea's health care system should be eased, a group of Nobel laureates said Saturday, after a rare visit to the nuclear armed state that coincided with its ruling party congress.

Embargoes on the flow of goods into the isolated country have squeezed the quality of medical care and research, they said, following visits to hospitals and labs in Pyongyang.

"You cannot turn penicillin into a nuclear bomb," Aaron Ciechanover, who won the top prize for chemistry, told a media conference in Beijing a day after returning from the visit.

"You don't pressurise via making people sicker," he said: "That's not the right way to go."

The three prize winners from Norway, Britain and Israel spent a week in the country on a humanitarian trip organisers said would be an exercise in "silent diplomacy".

Their visit came as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un opened the country's first ruling party congress since 1980 by hailing its "magnificent... and thrilling" nuclear weapons programme.

World powers have tightened sanctions on the isolated state this year after Pyongyang carried out several ballistic missile launches and its fourth nuclear bomb test -- and analysts predict another could be in the works.

While the sanctions do not target medical aide, tough South Korean restrictions have stopped some medicines from reaching its northern neighbour, according to a recent report in the Washington Post.

"Many of the things the doctors would like, the professors would like, they just can't have them because of the embargo," said Richard Roberts, who won the prize for medicine.

The trio of Nobel prize winners, which also includes economics laureate Finn Kydland, visited a children's hospital, science facilities and a farm, among other sights.

The laureates described clean, modern facilities -- a stark contrast to other accounts of the country as brutally impoverished -- and two said they had invited young researchers to work in their labs.

The few opportunities for foreigners to visit the country are tightly stage-managed, with the government carefully controlling most interactions with the North Korean people.

Planning for the trip began more than two years ago after the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation (IPF) received an unsolicited email from the Korean National Peace Committee.

South Korea's government asked the group to postpone the trip when it emerged that it would coincide with the congress, citing fears it could be "misused", IPF chairman Uwe Morawetz said, but scheduling restrictions made it impossible.

 

 

N. Korea stages once-in-a-generation party congress

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎10, ‎2016, ‏‎1:06:46 AMGo to full article
Pyongyang (AFP) May 6, 2016 - North Korea on Friday staged its most important political show for a generation, aimed at cementing the absolute rule of leader Kim Jong-Un and underlining the sanctions-hit country's "prestige" as a nuclear power.

The first ruling party congress for nearly 40 years drew thousands of selected delegates from across the country to Pyongyang for what, in theory at least, was a gathering of North Korea's top decision-making body.

The 33-year-old Kim, who was not even born when the last Workers' Party Congress was held in 1980, was to deliver a keynote address which will be scrutinised for any sign of a substantive policy shift, especially on the economic front.

Analysts will also be watching for personnel changes as Kim looks to bring in a younger generation of leaders hand-picked for their loyalty.

State media previewed the event by hailing the North's most recent nuclear test in January as evidence of its "greatness and prestige as a nuclear power state."

And the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea slammed the international community's opposition to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

"Regardless of whether someone recognises it or not, our status as a nuclear state that is armed with H-bombs cannot change," the committee said in a statement.

The 1980 congress was staged to crown Kim's father Kim Jong-Il as heir apparent to his own father, the North's founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

The 2016 version was being held inside the imposing April 25 Palace, whose stone facade was adorned with huge portraits of the two late leaders, along with giant red and gold ruling party banners.

- Closed doors -

The more than 100 invited foreign journalists were not allowed inside and were restricted to watching from a spot 200 metres (yards) away in the light drizzle falling on the capital.

State television provided no live coverage of the congress itself, devoting its morning programming to archive material, films and patriotic concerts.

While the agenda -- and even the duration -- of the congress remains unknown, its main objective is to confirm Kim Jong-Un's status as legitimate inheritor of the Kim family's dynastic rule which spans almost seven decades.

It may also enshrine as formal party doctrine Kim's "byungjin" policy of pursuing nuclear weapons in tandem with economic development.

The North Korean capital was immaculately primped and primed for the congress, with national and Workers' Party flags lining its broad rainswept streets, along with banners carrying slogans such as "Great comrades Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il will always be with us".

Preparation involved mobilising the entire country in a 70-day campaign that New York-based Human Rights Watch denounced as a mass exercise in forced labour.

The foreign media was accompanied by official minders, and passers-by who agreed to be interviewed stuck closely to the official line.

- 'Self-defence' -

Office worker Kim Hyang, 26, said the North's nuclear arsenal was the unavoidable product of US aggression.

"We must have nuclear weapons because the US and its followers want to stifle us," Kim said.

"They threaten the North with nuclear weapons, so if we are to defend our sovereignty, peace and security, we must have nuclear weapons," she added.

Since Kim took power after the death of his father in December 2011, North Korea has carried out two nuclear tests and two successful space rocket launches that.

Even as the international community responded with tougher sanctions, Kim pressed ahead with a single-minded drive for a credible nuclear deterrent with additional missile and technical tests.

He also demonstrated a ruthless streak, purging the party, government and powerful military of those seen as disloyal, and ordering the execution of his powerful uncle, and one-time political mentor, Jang Song-Thaek.

There has been widespread speculation about the North preparing another nuclear test to coincide with the congress, as a defiant gesture of strength and intent.

Analysing the most recent satellite pictures of the test site at Punggye-ri, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University on Thursday said there was no clear evidence one way or the other of whether an underground test was imminent.

 

 

N. Korea completes work at missile sub shipyard: US think tank

 
‎Tuesday, ‎May ‎10, ‎2016, ‏‎1:06:46 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 4, 2016 - Recent satellite images suggest North Korea has completed the external refurbishment of a shipyard dedicated to building and launching a new class of ballistic missile submarines a US think tank said Wednesday.

While it is unlikely that any such vessel would become operational before 2020, the North's efforts to develop a working submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is clearly "making progress", according to the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

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

Last month, one of the North's experimental GORAE-class submarines carried out an SLBM test in the East Sea (Sea of Japan), launching a missile that travelled around 19 miles (30 kilometres).

South Korea deemed the test a failure as the missile appeared to have exploded, but analysts at the US Korea Institute said it was a success.

"It was probably intended to be limited, focusing upon the submarine's launch systems, missile ignition sequence and initial guidance operations rather than a full operational test," it said, predicting further similar launches this year before a "full-range" flight test.

Satellite pictures dated April 28, five days after the test, showed post-launch maintenance activity being carried out on the submarine at the North's Sinpo South Shipyard.

They also indicated that external work on the yard's submarine construction halls had been completed, and a ramp where new vessels are launched was nearly finished, the institute said.

"When complete, the North will be able to build and launch submarines much larger than the GORAE-class -- including a new class of ballistic missile submarines," it added.

South Korea is particularly concerned by the North's SLBM development, and its defence minister, Han Min-Koo warned Tuesday that Seoul had been slow to respond.

"I don't think there's much time left for us to come up with means to cope with the threat from North Korea's SLBM," Han told a parliamentary committee.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Nuclear test fears --

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Longer range -

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

The missile has never been successfully flight-tested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Israel nuclear reactor defects spark secrecy dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Officially the Dimona centre focuses on research and energy provision.

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

He was later jailed for 18 years for the revelations.

- 'Waiting for disaster' -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- 'Political matter' -

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

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

"It is more a political matter."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

UN Council considers response to N.Korea missile test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

N. Korea sets party congress date amid nuclear test fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Fifth nuclear test? -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Blaming the US -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Iran's Khamenei says US lifted sanctions only on paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it has not heralded a thaw on other issues.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Cold War -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Grave 'miscalculation' -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The missile has never been successfully flight-tested.

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

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

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

 

 

UN says N. Korea missile test 'extremely troubling'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Quick deployment -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Clear and present threat -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 
 

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