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The Magog Invasion

 

 Introduction:

 

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


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]

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Syria Feed image  Go Direct - a  Deliberate mess

 
 

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Putin Rules

USA  Caught & Shirley's

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

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:33:03 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Iran says nuclear expert talks 'useful'

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:31:50 PMGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C, R) attends EU-Iran talks at the UN headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on March 19, 2014Nuclear talks between technical experts from Iran and world powers preparing for a third round of talks next week on a lasting deal were "useful", Iran's lead negotiator said Saturday. "The technical positions help us to understand better our respective positions," Hamid Baeedinejad told the IRNA news agency after three days of discussions in Vienna. The meeting came ahead of talks between political directors from Iran and the six powers -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- in Vienna from Tuesday, the third such round this year. These negotiations are aimed at turning an interim deal from November that expires on July 20 into a lasting accord that ends once and for all the decade-old standoff over Iran's nuclear programme.
 
 

Hungary opposition seeks to prove polls wrong

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:26:48 PMGo to full article
Attila Mesterhazy, chairman of of the Hungarian Socialist Party and candidate for the upcoming elections, during a campaign event in Budapest, Hungary, on April 5, 2014The chief candidate of Hungary's rickety centre-left opposition alliance predicted Saturday on the eve of elections that he would defy the opinion polls and defeat Prime Minister Viktor Orban. "I don’t care about the polls, people are afraid of expressing their views," Attila Mesterhazy, head of the Socialist party and the alliance's joint candidate for premier, told AFP. "I believe I will be prime minister in a few days," Mesterhazy said at a rally of around 200 people in a communist-era housing estate in the capital Budapest. Mesterhazy said that just stopping Orban getting a super-majority "is not a victory.
 
 

Ukraine troops dig in at border in staredown with Russia

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:13:19 PMGo to full article
A Ukrainian soldier guards a road not far from Prokhody, a village in the Kharkiv region, some 4km from the Russian border, on April 5, 2014Prokhody (Ukraine) (AFP) - Braced against the driving snow, fresh-faced Ukrainian conscripts stare out toward the border with Russia, waiting to repel an invasion from invisible-but-feared troops amassed on the other side. The soldiers trudge around in cloying black mud in the eastern Ukrainian countryside, where army tents have sprung up on a chicken farm only a few kilometres from the boundary with Russia. But with a reported 40,000 Russian troops gathered along the border just weeks after annexing Crimea, these soldiers are not willing to give up their part of the country without a fight. "We are carrying out military exercises on our own soil and we don't feel any fear.
 
 

Top Asian News at 5:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:03:03 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Russia cannot afford 'collapsing state' in its backyard

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:44:23 PMGo to full article
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier speaks to the press in Athens, Greece, on April 4, 2014Europe issued fresh calls Saturday for dialogue with Russia over Ukraine, warning Moscow it faces having a failed state in its backyard just as it tightens the economic noose on Kiev. Russia needs to understand it is not in its interest "to have a collapsing state in its neighbourhood", German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at the close of two-day talks with his 27 European Union counterparts. But as a Ukraine-Russia gas price row intensifies, Steinmeier stressed that Europe needed to keep lines of communication open with Moscow to enlist Russian help for the new authorities in economically distressed Kiev. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt warned of "thunder" from Moscow if the 28-nation bloc went ahead as promised with the signing of trade and political deals with Georgia and Moldova in June.
 
 

Ukraine threatens to take Russia to court over gas

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:50 PMGo to full article
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (front) delivers a speech to parliament in Kiev on March 27, 2013Ukraine on Saturday rejected Russia's latest gas price hike and threatened to take its energy-rich neighbour to arbitration court over a dispute that could imperil deliveries to western Europe. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Russia's two rate increases in three days were a form of "economic aggression" aimed at punishing Ukraine's new leaders for overthrowing a Moscow-backed regime last month. Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom this week raised the price of Ukrainian gas by 81 percent -- to $485.50 (354.30 euros) from $268.50 for 1,000 cubic metres -- requiring the ex-Soviet state to pay the highest rate of any of its European clients. The decision threatens to further fan a furious diplomatic row over Ukraine's future between Moscow and the West that has left Kremlin insiders facing sanctions and more diplomatic isolation than at any stage since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
 
 

Ukraine arrests alleged eastern coup plotters

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:33:52 PMGo to full article
Pro-Russian demonstrators hold posters reading "EU - no!" and "The Customs Union - yes!" during an anti-government rally in front of the Ukrainian regional office of the Security Service in Luhansk, Ukraine, Saturday, April 5, 2014. Ukraine's security service says it has detained a 15-strong armed gang planning to seize power in an eastern province on the border with Russia.The Security Service of Ukraine said Saturday that it seized 300 machine guns, an antitank grenade launcher, a large number of grenades, five handguns and petrol bombs. (AP Photo/Igor Golovniov)KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's security service said Saturday it has detained a 15-strong armed gang planning to seize power in an eastern province on the border with Russia.
 
 

Top Asian News at 4:30 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:33:19 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Ukraine eyes arbitration if Russia doesn't cut gas price

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:19:57 PMGo to full article
By Pavel Polityuk and Thomas Grove KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine warned on Saturday it would take Russia to an arbitration court if talks with Moscow failed to roll back hikes in the price of natural gas that Kiev called an act of economic aggression. Russia nearly doubled the price Ukraine pays for its gas this week, forcing Kiev, whose economy is in chaos, to enter into emergency talks with European neighbors to boost cheaper imports from the West. Ukraine accuses Russia of using the price hikes as a tool of economic pressure after popular protests in Kiev ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich in February, souring relations between the two former Soviet republics. Russia seized Ukraine's Crimea region and formally annexed it last month widening the dispute into the biggest stand-off between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.
 

'Cuban Twitter' a new hurdle for bloggers, exiles

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:19:03 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2013, file photo, Yoani Sanchez, a dissident blogger from Havana, Cuba, talks about the difficulties of practicing her brand of news gathering during a session at the 69th Annual General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association in Denver. The revelation that a U.S. government-funded program set up a cellphone-based social network in Cuba is likely to pose new challenges for independent bloggers and exile groups that work to increase access to technology. Sanchez, the island’s most prominent dissident, began her activism with a blog and now has nearly 600,000 followers on Twitter. She is also on the verge of launching a digital news project. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)MIAMI (AP) — The revelation that a U.S. government-funded program set up a cellphone-based social network in Cuba is likely to pose new challenges for independent bloggers and exile groups that work to increase access to technology.
 
 

Top Asian News at 4:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:03:03 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Top Asian News at 3:30 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:33:02 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Top Asian News at 3:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:03:05 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Ukraine detains 15 suspected of planning unrest in Russian-dominated east

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:55:04 PMGo to full article
Ukraine's state security service said on Saturday it had detained 15 people suspected of planning to overthrow the authorities in a mostly Russian-speaking eastern region and had confiscated hundreds of rifles, grenades and petrol bombs. The service said those arrested were planning to stir up unrest in the region of Luhansk which, like most of Ukraine's eastern regions, has been tense since the ouster of pro-Russia former president Viktor Yanukovich in February. "The group of attackers planned to carry out an armed seizure of power on April 10 in the Luhansk region through the intimidation of the peaceful population and the use of weapons and explosives," the service, which has intelligence and policing functions, said in a statement. Eastern Ukraine's population is largely made up of Russian-speakers who are culturally close to Russia.
 

EU weighs new approach towards Russia in wake of Ukraine crisis

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:54:35 PMGo to full article
By Justyna Pawlak ATHENS (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers tried to map out a new strategy towards Russia at talks in Athens on Saturday, pledging to keep a tough stance over its tensions with Ukraine, while steering clear of provoking Moscow into further conflict. Since Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, the European Union has imposed sanctions against the closest allies of President Vladimir Putin, and Group of Seven governments have suspended top-level contacts with Russia. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said it was not in the European Union's interest to fuel confrontation with Russia, already at its highest since the Cold War.
 

Hagel: US strongly committed to protecting Japan

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:44:42 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, talks to Commander of U.S. Force Japan Lt. Gen. Salvatore "Sam" Angelella during a helicopter ride Saturday, April 5, 2014 from Yokota Air Force Base in Fussa, to Tokyo in Japan. Hagel is on an Asian trip, the fourth since he took office, to Japan, China and Mongolia. (AP Photo/Alex Pool, Pool)YOKOTA AIR FORCE BASE, Japan (AP) — Against the backdrop of Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimean region, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday he will convey to Japanese leaders that the U.S. is strongly committed to protecting their country's security.
 
 

Merkel says EU united on Russia sanctions

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:25:29 PMGo to full article
German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her keynote speech during the German ruling Christian Democratic Union party's convention ahead of the European Parliament elections in Berlin, Saturday, April 5, 2014. European Parliament elections are scheduled for May 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the Europe Union won't waver if the time comes to hit Russia with tougher sanctions over Ukraine.
 
 

Raiffeisen Bank subsidiary to close Crimea branches

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:10:12 PMGo to full article
By Alissa de Carbonnel and Lidia Kelly SIMFEROPOL, Crimea/MOSCOW (Reuters) - A subsidiary of Raiffeisen Bank International will close all its branches in Crimea by mid-month, the bank said on Saturday, following Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula. Ukraine and the West do not recognize Russian of Crimea and companies that have been active in the region do not know how the change could affect their business. Raiffeisen Bank Aval, in which Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International holds 96.41 percent of shares, will close the last remaining six of 32 branches the bank had in Crimea by April 15, a spokeswoman told Reuters. The impact of Russia's annexation of Crimea on companies with assets in the peninsula is yet to be fully estimated, but many banks have closed and many worried businesses have switched to cash-only operations.
 

Ukraine PM says will stick to austerity despite Moscow pressure

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:10:12 PMGo to full article
Ukrainian PM Yatseniuk speaks during interview with Reuters in KievBy Natalia Zinets, Richard Balmforth and Paul Ingrassia KIEV (Reuters) - The Kiev government will stick to unpopular austerity measures "as the price of independence" as Russia steps up pressure on Ukraine to destabilise it, including by raising the price of gas, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told Reuters. Yatseniuk, 39, who stepped in as interim prime minister last month after Viktor Yanukovich and his ministers fled the "Euromaidan" protests, conceded that it would be very difficult "under the current Russian presence" to undo what he described as Russia's "international crime" in seizing Crimea. But he said Ukraine would never recognise the Russian takeover in exchange for re-establishing good relations. We will never recognise the annexation of Crimea ... The time will come when Ukraine will take over control of Crimea," he said, speaking in English, seated in his cavernous, Soviet-built government headquarters beneath the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.
 
 

Poland's PM says NATO to boost military presence within weeks

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:17:10 PMGo to full article
Poland's PM Tusk arrives at a European Union leaders summit in BrusselsNATO will strengthen its presence in Poland within weeks, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Saturday, a move that could help allay fears in eastern European states for their security after Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region. Tusk spoke three days after foreign ministers from the U.S.-led alliance ordered military commanders to devise plans for reinforcing NATO defenses among its eastern European members, including Poland, a neighbor of Ukraine. Russia's annexation of Crimea after the fall of Ukraine's pro-Russian president to mass protests has caused the deepest crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War, when most east European countries were under Soviet domination from Moscow.
 
 

EU working with Russia, Ukraine to defuse crisis

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:38:00 PMGo to full article
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, chat with Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and security policy Catherine Ashton, as they prepare for a photo during an Informal meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs at Zappeion Hall in Athens, on Friday, April 4, 2014. European Union foreign ministers meeting in Athens on Friday urged Russia to take concrete steps to pull troops back from its border with Ukraine but said they wanted to keep communication with Moscow open.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The European Union will continue to work with Russia and Ukraine to reduce tensions between the two countries but will keep sanctions as an option, the EU foreign policy chief said Saturday.
 
 

Kerry in danger of losing big bet on Middle East peace

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:55:48 PMGo to full article
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in the Jordanian capital Amman, on March 26, 2014 for talks with Palestinian President Mahmud AbbasJohn Kerry's high-stakes gamble that he could finally achieve the dream of generations and bring peace to the Middle East seems to be collapsing as easily as a house of cards. Despite a dozen visits to Israel and the West Bank since he became US secretary of state 14 months ago and many more late-night meetings with his recalcitrant partners in capitals around the world, it appears after all that he may have been trumped. Yet at the start of Kerry's latest overseas trip there was little to suggest he would return to the US 13 days later with his peace effort in trouble and a blunt admission that he and the White House needed to "evaluate" the next steps. Indeed, Kerry had not visited Israel in three months in a tacit recognition that each trip raised expectations and usually triggered some kind of provocative move from one of the parties.
 
 

Ukraine says will not siphon off European gas if Russia cuts supplies

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:54:56 AMGo to full article
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukraine Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said on Saturday Kiev would not take natural gas from pipelines that deliver supplies to European consumers if Russia turns off gas to Ukraine. Russia has accused Ukraine of stealing gas from pipelines that transit its territory during previous price rows, a charge Kiev denies. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by David Holmes)
 

Ukraine says to go to arbitration if Russia gas talks fail to cut price

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:53:33 AMGo to full article
KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said on Saturday Kiev was still in negotiations with Moscow over reducing the price it pays for gas but will turn to an arbitration court if those talks fail to cut the cost of Russian gas. Moscow raised its gas tariff for Kiev twice this week, almost doubling it in three days in moves Kiev said were political. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by David Holmes)
 

Russia faces July deadline to fix $2.2 billion trucking row

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:16:29 AMGo to full article
By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia is inflicting $2.2 billion of annual costs on crossborder trade by enforcing illegal customs charges and inspections on trucks, the Secretary General of the International Road Transport Union said on Friday. The IRU is a U.N.-backed organization that runs the "TIR" system of customs guarantees, intended to make road haulage cheaper and quicker. Its members - national associations of trucking firms - gave IRU's board a mandate on Friday to withdraw TIR coverage from Russia if Moscow does not fix the problem by July 1. IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto told Reuters that he remained hopeful of a solution, saying it was inconceivable that Russia would drop out of a system that has guaranteed speedy border crossings for trucks across Europe since 1954.
 

UK holds Chinese over US 'Iran' exports ban 'breach'

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:24:09 AMGo to full article
Britain is holding a Chinese national who is wanted in the United States on suspicion of conspiring to evade a goods export ban, London police said SaturdayBritain is holding a Chinese national who is wanted in the United States on suspicion of conspiring to evade a goods export ban, London police said Saturday. Cheng Sihai, 34, was arrested in February at London Heathrow Airport. The BBC said he faces allegations of conspiracy to export devices to Iran that could be used in uranium enrichment. London's Metropolitan Police force said Cheng had already appeared at a court in the capital and was awaiting his next appearance.
 
 

Hagel, in Tokyo, moves to reassure Japan on security ties

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:35:15 AMGo to full article
U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel speaks to U.S. and Japan military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of TokyoBy Phil Stewart TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel moved on Saturday to reassure Japan of America's commitment to its security, as Russia's annexation of Crimea raises eyebrows in a region facing its own territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China. The United States and its allies have made clear they have no military plans to defend Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, instead moving to isolate Russia diplomatically and impose limited sanctions. Hagel defended the U.S. strategy to punish Russia and told reporters ahead of two days of talks with Japanese leaders that it was natural that "allies are going to look at each other to be assured", given the crisis in Ukraine.
 
 

EU foreign ministers meeting in Athens

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:00:20 AMGo to full article
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, chat with Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and security policy Catherine Ashton, as they prepare for a photo during an Informal meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs at Zappeion Hall in Athens, on Friday, April 4, 2014. European Union foreign ministers meeting in Athens on Friday urged Russia to take concrete steps to pull troops back from its border with Ukraine but said they wanted to keep communication with Moscow open.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)ATHENS, Greece (AP) — European Union foreign ministers have gathered in Athens for the second day of an informal meeting where attention has focused on the crisis in Ukraine and the civil war in Syria.
 
 

US, Cuba boxers renew old rivalry in Havana

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:12:10 AMGo to full article
Cuban and U.S. boxers greet each other before the start of competition in Havana, Cuba, Friday, April. 4, 2014. Boxers from the U.S. and Cuba went glove-to-glove on Cuban soil for the first time in 27 years Friday in a semipro World Series of Boxing clash. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)HAVANA (AP) — Boxers from the U.S. and Cuba have gone glove-to-glove on Cuban soil for the first time in 27 years in a semipro World Series of Boxing clash that in many ways resembled a big-time Las Vegas bout.
 
 

Chinese man, Iranian indicted in US over Iran exports

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:13:08 AMGo to full article
Britain is holding a Chinese national who is wanted in the United States on suspicion of conspiring to evade a goods export ban, London police said SaturdayA Chinese man, an Iranian and two Iranian firms were charged in the United States with conspiring to export devices to Iran that can serve to enrich uranium, an indictment says. Sihai Cheng, 34, was arrested on February 7 at London's Heathrow Airport. London's Metropolitan Police force said Cheng had already appeared at a court in the capital and was awaiting his next appearance. US prosecutors say Shanghai-based Cheng conspired with Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili of Tehran and the Iranian companies Nicaro Eng.
 
 

Top Asian News at 3:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:03:03 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 2:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:33:03 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Ukraine in emergency talks with EU neighbors on gas imports

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:14:58 AMGo to full article
By Pavel Polityuk and Henning Gloystein KIEV/LONDON (Reuters) - Ukraine is in emergency talks with European Union neighbors on the possibility of importing natural gas from the West, following a leap in the price it pays for Russian supplies, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Friday. The urgency of securing affordable supplies has grown since Moscow - which annexed Crimea from Ukraine last month - raised its discounted gas tariff for Kiev twice this week, almost doubling it in three days. Yatseniuk told reporters that one possibility was "reverse flows", in which EU countries would send gas back down pipelines normally used in the transit of Russian supplies through Ukraine to the West.
 

Top Asian News at 2:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:03:34 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 1:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:33:00 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

U.S. will not stand in way of Scottish independence: Salmond

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:14 AMGo to full article
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond attends the opening day of salmon fishing season on the river Tay at Dunkeld in ScotlandBy Alistair Bell NEW YORK (Reuters) - The leader of Scotland's separatist movement predicted on Friday that the United States would not try to stand in the way of the breakup of Britain, Washington's staunchest ally for decades, if Scots vote for independence at a referendum this year. Instead, the Obama administration could use the reasonably orderly debate in Britain about Scotland's future as an example to other countries facing constitutional crises, said Alex Salmond, the separatist leader who heads the Scottish National Party and who is Scotland's first minister.
 
 

Top Asian News at 1:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:03:00 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 12:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:32:59 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 12:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:03:04 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

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

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:33:17 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 11:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:02:59 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 10:30 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:35:07 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 10:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:02:59 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists inside a security forces base in eastern Afghanistan, killing prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon. Niedringhaus, 48, who had covered conflict zones from the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and was part of a team of AP photographers who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, died instantly of her wounds.
 

Pollard talks latest twist in long legal US saga

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:54:34 PMGo to full article
FILE - This May 15, 1998 file photo shows Jonathan Pollard speaking during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C. An AP source says: the US is talking with Israel about early release of Pollard for concessions. (AP Photo/Karl DeBlaker, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — The arrest of Jonathan Pollard nearly 30 years ago set off an emotional legal saga that has confronted American presidents and Israeli prime ministers, wound through the courts and divided those who say the convicted spy has paid his debt to society and those who contend the damage he caused was incalculable.
 
 

EU must be ready with Russia sanctions over Ukraine: Britain

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:42:30 PMGo to full article
By Justyna Pawlak ATHENS (Reuters) - Britain urged its European Union partners on Friday to press ahead with preparing tough economic sanctions against Russia, saying large numbers of Russian forces remained on Ukraine's eastern border and there had been only a "token" withdrawal. "We haven't seen real de-escalation by Russia and therefore Europe must not relax in preparing a third tier of sanctions and making sure we continue to have a strong and united response," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Athens. He was referring to trade and economic measures the EU has threatened to take against Russia after its annexation of Crimea if it moves into southern and eastern Ukraine.
 

Iran oil exports will be in line with sanctions target: U.S.

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:34:24 PMGo to full article
By Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States on Friday dismissed suggestions that Iran was exporting much more oil than it is allowed to sell under a preliminary nuclear deal with world powers and predicted that aggregate Iranian oil sales would meet targets set for Tehran. The remarks from a senior U.S. official came ahead of a new round of senior-level negotiations between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia in Vienna on April 8-9. It will be the third round of talks this year in the Austrian capital on a long-term deal with Iran. Iran's oil exports have stayed above levels allowed under Western sanctions for a fifth month, the latest sign that the limited sanctions relief agreed upon in November is helping Tehran sell more crude, according to sources who track tanker movements.
 

Top Asian News at 9:30 p.m. GMT

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:32:55 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists inside a security forces base in eastern Afghanistan, killing prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon. Niedringhaus, 48, who had covered conflict zones from the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and was part of a team of AP photographers who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, died instantly of her wounds.
 

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

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:03:30 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists inside a security forces base in eastern Afghanistan, killing prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon. Niedringhaus, 48, who had covered conflict zones from the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and was part of a team of AP photographers who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, died instantly of her wounds.
 

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

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:32:55 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists inside a security forces base in eastern Afghanistan, killing prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon. Niedringhaus, 48, who had covered conflict zones from the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and was part of a team of AP photographers who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, died instantly of her wounds.

 

 
Military Space News, Nuclear Weapons, Missile Defence

 

 

 

US hopes Crimea reaction to deter China

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:38:14 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 03, 2014
A senior US official voiced confidence Thursday that the global response to Russia's annexation of Crimea would have a "chilling effect" that deters China from contemplating similar action. Since Russia seized Crimea last month, US lawmakers and Asian diplomats have asked about the message sent to an increasingly confident China - especially with regard to Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijin
 

Ukrainian industry ready to supply military with armored vehicles

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:38:14 PMGo to full article
Kiev, Ukraine (UPI) Apr 3, 2013
Ukraine's state-owned enterprise, Ukroboronprom, says it's ready to supply 74 armored personnel carriers to the military "in the nearest future." The APCs would equip 10 military units of the National Guard of Ukraine. In total 100 vehicles are to be supplied, Ukroboronprom's temporary Acting Director Yuriy Tereshenko said. Ukraine, once part of the now-defunct Soviet Union, is i

 

Fleet Complete!

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Marietta GA (SPX) Apr 04, 2014
A U.S. Air Force crew ferried the 18th C-5M Super Galaxy to Dover Air Force Base, Del., yesterday from the Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] facilities here. Aircraft 87-0040 was flown by Lieutenant General Brooks L. Bash, Vice Commander, Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., to Delaware, making Dover the first base with a complete C-5M Super Galaxy fleet. The C-5M is the onl
 

Global Hawk Expands Satellite Communications Capability

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Beale AFB CA (SPX) Apr 04, 2014
The U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has completed a series of ground and air demonstrations at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., expanding the adaptability of the Global Hawk system to use an additional Satellite Communications (SATCOM) link to improve the transfer of mission data. At the request of the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, Northrop Grumman worked w
 

Air Force contracts for financial system IT support

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Greenbelt, Md. (UPI) Apr 3, 2013
Key financial systems used by the U.S. Air Force Material Command are to receive sustainment support services from Array Information Technology Inc. The Maryland-headquartered company said the systems are the Keystone Decision Support System and the Command Management System. KDSS provides the service's Material Command with a working capital funds financial data warehouse that e
 

Russian forces to quit Ukrainian border after exercises: Lavrov

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) April 03, 2014
Russian troops deployed close to the Ukrainian border will return to base after completing their exercises, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday. "After finishing training in the Rostov region (bordering Ukraine), one of the battalions that took part has already returned to base in the Samara region." "As they finish the tasks given to the participants in exercises, the other uni
 

Deadline risk over Syria weapons delay: official

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) April 03, 2014
Syria can still meet a June deadline for getting rid of its chemical weapons, but to do so must resume stalled weapons transfers now, an international coordinator told the UN Security Council Thursday. Syria has suspended the transfers for what it says are security reasons, but on Sunday said it planned to resume them in the "coming days." Sigrid Kaag, coordinator for the international o
 

Al-Qaeda claims deadly attack on Yemen army HQ: SITE

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Aden (AFP) April 03, 2014
Al-Qaeda has claimed an attack on a Yemeni army headquarters in a tightly secured district of Aden in which 20 people died, most of them militants, a monitoring group said Thursday. The building targeted in Wednesday's attack is located in the heavily patrolled coastal district of Tawahi that hosts intelligence and political police headquarters, a naval base and a presidential residence.
 

Two guerrillas, one sergeant killed in Paraguay clash

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Asuncion (AFP) April 03, 2014
Two members of a guerrilla group and an armed forces sergeant have been killed in a confrontation in central Paraguay, the interior ministry said Thursday. The clash late Wednesday occurred in a cotton silo that was taken over by 15 members of the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) who had kidnapped the Brazilian owner's 16-year-old son. The skirmish occurred in the department of Concepcion,
 

Israel stops Palestinian prisoner release amid talks crisis

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) April 03, 2014
Israel has called off the planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, placing already embattled peace talks in further jeopardy after both sides took steps Washington called "unhelpful". Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians has told them that the planned release cannot go ahead, a source close to the embattled talks told AFP on Thursday. A frustrated US Secretary of State Joh
 

My fellow citizens

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Apr 02, 2014
President Barack Obama gained great notoriety with brilliant speeches in Berlin during his first run for office and in Cairo after his 2008 election. Since then, like the absence of real strategic thinking by his administration regarding foreign policy, this great rhetoric has been missing in action. With Russia's takeover of Crimea and the prospects for a new cold or at least cool war non-tri
 

US to meet allies on N.Korea

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 03, 2014
The United States said Thursday it will meet next week with allies South Korea and Japan to plan strategy on North Korea amid high tensions after the regime's live-fire drills. The US pointman on North Korea, Glyn Davies, will meet Monday in Washington with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea, Junichi Ihara and Hwang Joon-Kook. The talks will look at ways to seek "verifiable denu
 

Iraq forces kill dozens of militants near Baghdad

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Baghdad (AFP) April 03, 2014
Iraqi soldiers killed more than 40 militants in clashes near Baghdad on Thursday as anti-government fighters edged close to the capital just weeks before national parliamentary elections. The firefight was the latest in a surge in bloodshed over the past year, amid fears insurgents could seek to destabilise the April 30 polls by upping the pace of attacks with violence already at its worst s
 

Navy set to commission fourth Littoral Combat Ship

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Apr 3, 2013
The U.S. Navy's fourth Littoral Combat Ship, the future USS Coronado, is being commissioned on Saturday in California, the Navy announced. The ship, built by Austal USA Shipbuilding in Mobile, Ala., is the fourth Navy LCS and the second of the Independence, trimaran-hull, variant. "When she sets sail for distant shores, Coronado, and ships like her, will have a vital role maintai
 

Rockwell Collins to manufacture F-35 components in Australia

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Melbourne (UPI) Apr 3, 2013
Rockwell Collins is expanding the manufacture of optical assemblies for use on F-35 Lightning II aircraft to include production work in Australia. The company said adding Australian production to its manufacturing efforts comes from a new long-term agreement with Northrop Grumman, which makes the aircraft's Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System. "With the support and invest
 

USAF Satellite Launched Today Will Improve Weather Prediction

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Vandenberg AFB CA (SPX) Apr 04, 2014
A Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellite built by Lockheed Martin was successfully launched today at 7:46 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. atop an Atlas V rocket. Lockheed Martin confirmed signal acquisition shortly after launch. DMSP-19 is the fourth Block 5D-3 version to be launched, and Lockheed Martin has produced more than 40 satellites throughout the pro
 

US criticises Israel, Palestinians for jeopardising talks

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:01:31 AMGo to full article
Ramallah, Palestinian Territories (AFP) April 03, 2014
Israel and the Palestinians both drew criticism from the White House on Wednesday for tit-for-tat moves that have brought US-sponsored peace talks close to collapse. More than 15 months of shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry were in jeopardy after Israel made a new bid to expand settlements in annexed Arab east Jerusalem and the Palestinians took fresh steps towards seeking re
 

China eyes 'global monitoring network' of surveillance satellites

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Apr 03, 2014
To compensate the frustration over the endless search for missing the Malaysian airliner, Chinese scientists have doubled efforts to promote their project of a huge satellites network, which will enable Beijing to monitor the whole world. As the mission to find the passenger jet MH370 which disappeared off the radars on March 8 with 239 people on board, 153 of them Chinese, is yet to yield
 

World's most powerful VHF radar to be overhauled in Russia

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Apr 03, 2014
The Daryal early warning radar, based near the town of Pechora in the Komi Republic, will undergo in-depth modernization without being taken off duty before 2016, Aerospace Defense Forces spokesman Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said. "Given the Daryal early warning radar's large modernization potential, all of its key systems will be upgraded without taking the radr off duty, which will make it m
 

DARPA Launches Biological Technologies Office

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 03, 2014
Technology, like biology, constantly evolves. It is DARPA's mission to stay ahead of the shifting technology curve by making critical, early investments in areas that cut across fields of research and enable revolutionary new capabilities for U.S. national security. Now DARPA is poised to give unprecedented prominence to a field of research that can no longer be considered peripheral to te
 

20 dead as 'Qaeda' attacks Yemen army headquarters

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Aden (AFP) April 02, 2014
Al-Qaeda attacked a Yemeni army headquarters in a heavily patrolled district of Aden on Wednesday, sparking a gun battle that killed 20 people, most of them militants, officials said. The building targeted is located in the supposedly tightly secured coastal district of Tawahi that hosts intelligence and political police headquarters, a naval base and a presidential residence. "We have r
 

UN receives Palestinians' requests to join treaties

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) April 02, 2014
The UN's special envoy on Mideast peace, Robert Serry, has received requests from Palestinian officials to join 13 international conventions and treaties, the UN confirmed Wednesday. The treaties include the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, the convention on the rights of the child, the convention against torture, and the one against corruption. Once these applications have bee
 

NATO has 'grave concern' over Russia troop buildup

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) April 02, 2014
NATO warned on Wednesday that Russia's military presence on the flashpoint border with Ukraine was of "grave concern" and that Moscow's forces could reach military objectives in just days. Russian troops are poised to attack within 12 hours and could invade vast portions of Ukrainian territory in three to five days, General Philip Breedlove, NATO's top commander, told two American newspapers
 

Philippines orders Korean jet fighters

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Apr 01, 2014
The Philippine Air Force bolstering its fleet of jet fighters amid continuing tensions with China over disputed territory has been confirmed. According to Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd., it has been granted a contract to export 12 FA-50 multi-purpose aircraft to the country under a government-to-government way agreement. The deal, which includes a provision for training, is wort
 

Fear for Philippine troops facing China 'enemy'

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Puerto Princessa, Philippines (AFP) April 02, 2014
Nine hungry marines guarding the Philippines' loneliest outpost aboard a rusted World War II vessel had just one option after Chinese vessels blocked fresh supplies from reaching them - go fishing. The troops were 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the nearest major Philippine island, holding on to a tiny reef in the South China Sea as part of a decades-long territorial row that in recent mont
 

French-Russian tank project on hold due to Ukraine crisis

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) April 02, 2014
Renault Trucks Defense said Wednesday its project to develop an armoured infantry fighting vehicle together with a Russian manufacturer is on hold due to the Ukraine crisis. "The project is on hold because of the political situation, but that is not saying it has been halted," RTD marketing director Marc Chassilian told journalists in Paris. The project to develop the wheeled combat vehi
 

The Fourth Geneva Convention

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) April 02, 2014
The Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, to which the Palestinians are seeking to accede, defines humanitarian protections for civilians that occupying powers must enforce in conflicts. On Tuesday, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas signed a request to join several UN agencies and ratify international treaties. The first was to what is commonly known as the F
 

Under someone else's gun

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Apr 01, 2014
It has been a long time since an American Secretary of State negotiated under someone else's gun. Usually the finger on the trigger has belonged to the United States. Welcome to the new world. Saturday night President Barack Obama had a phone call with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Sunday Secretary of State John Kerry turned his aircraft around at a refueling stop in Ireland and headed for
 

N. Korea leader warns of 'very grave' situation

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 02, 2014
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has warned of a "very grave" situation on the Korean peninsula, where a surge in military tensions has seen the two Koreas trade artillery fire and Pyongyang threaten a new nuclear test. In a meeting with top military leaders on Tuesday, Kim blamed Washington and Seoul for the current frictions, saying they had trampled on peace overtures from Pyongyang. "
 

Navy gives Accenture Federal Services IDIQ contract

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:25 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Apr 01, 2014
Information technology support is to be provided by Accenture Federal Services to support the U.S. Navy's Naval Supply System Command. Under the $53.7 million award by the Department of the Navy, the company will aid the command's Business Systems Center in maintaining and improving Navy information systems. Work will include providing information technology sustainment and opera
 

Eighteen countries ratify UN treaty on arms trade

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:58:28 PMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) April 02, 2014
A total of 18 countries filed documents Wednesday ratifying a UN treaty to regulate the $80-billion-a-year conventional arms trade. One year after the Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by the General Assembly, 31 countries have ratified it. The treaty will take effect once 50 UN member states ratify it. So far, 118 countries have signed it. "It is fair to say that at the current pace of
 

China launches experimental satellite

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Jiuquan, China (XNA) Apr 01, 2014
China successfully launched an experimental satellite into preset orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in its northwestern gobi desert on Monday morning. The Shijian-11-06 was boosted by a Long March-2C carrier rocket at 10:58 Beijing Time. The satellite, which was developed by China Spacesat Co. Ltd under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, will be used to conduc
 

The Space Debris Radar Developed By Indra Passes ESA Tests

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Madrid, Spain (SPX) Apr 01, 2014
The demonstrator radar developed by Indra for detecting objects in space has successfully passed the validation tests performed within the European Space Agency's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) preparation programme. The first phase of this programme aims to establish the basis for building the future European system that will monitor the waste from other missions that is floating freel
 

4 SOPS assumes control of third AEHF satellite

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Schriever AFB CO (SPX) Apr 01, 2014
The 4th Space Operations Squadron accepted satellite control authority of the third Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite here March 21. The MILSATCOM Program Office, a division of the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, has held SCA of the spacecraft, known as AEHF-3, since its launch Sept. 18. Robert Tarleton, director of MILSATCOM systems directorate, started the tran
 

Coast Guard contracts for seventh Legend-class cutter

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 31, 2014
Ingalls Shipbuilding is to construct a seventh Legend-class National Security Cutter for the U.S. Coast Guard under a new $497 million contract. Huntington Ingalls Industries, of which the company is a part, announced that work on the new cutter will begin next year. It will be delivered in 2018. "We have a hot production line with this class of ships, and we continue to get bett
 

Israel, Palestinian moves threaten to derail US efforts

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) April 01, 2014
Israel and the Palestinians announced moves Tuesday that could scuttle peace talks, prompting US Secretary of State John Kerry to call off a second visit in as many days aimed at saving them. Earlier in the day, Kerry had wrapped up a lightning visit to Israel, planning to return to the region on Wednesday in hopes of convincing the Palestinians to extend the faltering talks beyond their Apr
 

US increases troops at Afghan transit base in Romania

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Bucharest (AFP) April 01, 2014
Romania has approved an increase in American troops at its military airbase on the Black Sea as Washington continues to shift its main transit base for Afghanistan away from Kyrgyzstan, a report said Tuesday. Romanian President Traian Basescu sent a letter to parliament approving the US request for 600 more troops at the Mihail Kogalniceanu airport in the southeast of the country, the Agerpr
 

US says China to gain from pressing N.Korea

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 01, 2014
China should press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons if Beijing wants to change US troop plans in the region, a US official said Tuesday. Danny Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, acknowledged that a growing China has been unhappy with efforts by the United States to strengthen defense cooperation with allies Japan and South Korea. "The most direct way for Ch
 

Israel reissues tenders for E. Jerusalem settler homes: NGO

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) April 01, 2014
Israel reissued Tuesday a call for tenders for settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem in a move said likely to hike tensions as Washington struggles to salvage crisis-hit peace talks, an NGO said. Peace Now's Hagit Ofran, confirming the tenders were for 708 homes in Gilo, a settlement neighbourhood of Arab east Jerusalem, saying "the ministry of housing is trying to forcefully undermine th
 

US weighs options to reassure E. Europe allies over Ukraine

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Aboard A Us Military Aircraft, United States (AFP) April 01, 2014
The US military may send a warship to the Black Sea and take other steps to reassure anxious allies in Eastern Europe after Russia's intervention in Ukraine, a defense official said Tuesday. "Some of the proposals that are being considered would be potentially putting another US warship in the Black Sea," a senior defense official told reporters travelling with Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel.
 

NATO sees no Russian troop pullout from Ukraine border

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) April 01, 2014
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday said he could not confirm the withdrawal of Russian troops from near the Ukrainian border as announced by the Kremlin. "Unfortunately I cannot confirm that Russia is withdrawing its troops; this is not what we have seen," Rasmussen told journalists ahead of a NATO foreign ministers meeting on the crisis in Ukraine. Ukraine and the U
 

Jailed Israeli spy could be key to peace talks

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) April 01, 2014
Jonathan Pollard, the US-born Israeli who is serving life for spying on America, has been raised as a possible key to breaking a logjam in the crisis-hit peace talks. A source close to the talks said on Tuesday that there was a proposal which could see Pollard freed before the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins mid-April. "The emerging deal... contains the following elements: the r
 

White House: Obama has not decided to free Pollard

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 01, 2014
President Barack Obama has so far made no decision to free US-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to boost hopes of extending peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the White House said Tuesday. The Israelis have repeatedly asked Obama and previous US presidents to release Pollard, who is serving his sentence in North Carolina for passing US secrets on Arab and Pakistani weapons to Isr
 

China says ties 'damaged' by Philippines UN ruling call

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) April 01, 2014
China warned Tuesday that the Philippines has "seriously damaged" bilateral ties by asking the United Nations to rule in their favour in a maritime dispute. Manila at the weekend asked a UN tribunal to declare Beijing's claims over most of the strategically significant South China Sea illegal, submitting nearly 4,000 pages of evidence to back its case. It argues that the Chinese stance c
 

Nepal accused of succumbing to China pressure on Tibetans

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Kathmandu (AFP) April 01, 2014
Tibetans in Nepal face heightened risks of being detained, beaten and even forcibly returned to China, as Kathmandu bows to growing diplomatic pressure from Beijing, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday. The allegations, detailed in a new report based on the testimony of Tibetan refugees, monks, activists and senior Nepalese officials, highlight the intensified restrictions slapped on Tibetans in
 

Taiwan pro-China activists rally against parliament seizure

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:43:13 AMGo to full article
Taipei (AFP) April 01, 2014
Hundreds of Taiwanese protesters who support a controversial trade pact with China clashed with police Tuesday when they tried to push their way towards parliament, which has been occupied by students for two weeks. The demonstrators, many wearing red headbands reading: "Want service trade pact, want jobs," shoved and shouted as they tried to push through a police cordon to confront the 200
 

Once a Soviet hub, Armenia looks to revive its tech sector

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:21:22 PMGo to full article
Yerevan (AFP) April 01, 2014
Once seen as a silicon valley of the Soviet Union, the tiny Caucasus nation of Armenia is hoping the launch of its first tablet computer and smartphone could kickstart a comeback for the country's tech sector. Designed - and soon set to be constructed - in Armenia, the ArmPhone and ArmTab devices are seen as a key steppingstone as the landlocked state seeks to overcome crippling trade bloc
 

Election posters fill Baghdad as campaign starts

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:21:22 PMGo to full article
Baghdad, Iraq (AFP) April 01, 2014
Campaigning for Iraq's April 30 general election opened Tuesday, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki bidding for a third term as his government grapples with the country's worst bloodshed in years. Iraqis face a long list of daily struggles, ranging from lengthy power cuts and poor running water and sewerage to rampant corruption and high levels of unemployment, to say nothing of a seemingly
 

Sub joins MH370 hunt ahead of Malaysian PM visit to Perth

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:21:22 PMGo to full article
Perth, Australia (AFP) April 01, 2014
The protracted search for missing Flight MH370 was boosted Wednesday by the arrival of a British submarine in the Indian Ocean ahead of a visit to Australia by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak The personal jet of Oscar-winning New Zealand movie director Peter Jackson is also now reportedly being used in the multinational hunt for the plane that vanished on March 8 with 239 people on boa
 

CyberPoint international joins Lockheed's Cyber Security Alliance

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:21:22 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 31, 2014
CyberPoint International has joined Lockheed Martin's Cyber Security Alliance to collaboratively combat persistent cyber threats to government and commercial organizations. "We know that one company or solution alone can't solve the global cyber security challenges we face and it will take collaboration, cooperation and the collective strengths of a diverse array of leading technology c
 

Canada's MDA continues service, maintenance of submarine simulators

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:21:22 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 31, 2014
The Royal Canadian Navy has contracted MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. for support and maintenance of submarine trainers. The award, worth nearly $14.8 million, is specifically for in-service training and maintenance of the Victoria-class submarine training simulators. The contract length is four years with options for an additional two years. "MDA is pleased to have bee
 

Japan lifts own blanket arms export ban

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:21:22 PMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) April 01, 2014
Japan on Tuesday lifted a self-imposed ban on weapons exports, introducing new rules covering the arms trade in a move supporters say will boost Tokyo's global role, but which unnerved China. The cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a new plan that replaces the 1967 blanket ban, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. Under the policy, arms sales are banned to con

 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

 

North, South Korea trade live fire over sea border

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:04:45 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) March 31, 2014 - The two Koreas traded hundreds of rounds of live artillery fire across their disputed maritime border Monday, forcing South Korean islanders to take shelter a day after the North drove up tensions by threatening a new nuclear test.

The exchange, triggered by a three-hour North Korean live-fire exercise that dropped shells into South Korean waters, was limited to untargeted shelling into the sea, military officials said.

South Korea's defence ministry said the North fired some 500 shells during the drill, around 100 of them landing on the south side of the sea boundary.

The ministry said the South had responded to Pyongyang's "premeditated provocation" by firing 300 shells from K-9 self-propelled howitzer batteries based on its front-line islands.

"If the North takes issue with our legitimate returning of fire and uses it to make yet another provocation towards our sea and islands, we will make a resolute retaliation," ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said.

The United States denounced North Korea's artillery fire, with the White House and the Pentagon accusing Pyongyang of "dangerous" behavior.

"The provocation that the North Koreans have once again engaged in is dangerous and it needs to stop," Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel told reporters in Washington.

Hagel said the North's actions would be "a subject that I will discuss with my counterpart in China" during a tour of Asia over the next two weeks.

Analysts said the incident, coming a day after Pyongyang threatened to conduct a "new" type of nuclear test, was largely a sign of the North's growing frustration with US resistance to resuming multi-party talks on its nuclear programme.

"I don't see that this ran any real risk of escalating into a serious clash," said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

"It's really North Korea showing it intends to keep the pressure on to resume a dialogue," Yang said.

Pyongyang sees the nuclear negotiations as an opportunity to win material concessions and aid from the international community.

The South Korean stock market shrugged off the incident, with the main Kospi index closing up 0.23 percent at 1,985.61.

- Unusual advance warning -

The North had ensured maximum publicity for its live-fire drill by taking the unusual step of notifying the South beforehand, and issuing a provocative no-sail, no-fly advisory.

The exercise began at 12:15pm (0315 GMT) and South Korea, which had threatened to respond if any shells crossed the border, retaliated shortly afterwards, the defence ministry said.

As a precaution, border island residents were evacuated to shelters, as South Korean fighter jets flew overhead. The evacuation order was lifted an hour after the North ended its drill.

In November 2010, North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong island just south of the sea boundary, killing four people and triggering concerns of a full-scale conflict.

China, the North's key ally, expressed concern and urged the two Koreas to exercise restraint.

"Currently there are raised tensions on the Korean peninsula, and we are concerned about this. We hope relevant parties exercise restraint," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

Pyongyang has carried out a series of rocket and short-range missile launches in recent weeks, in a pointed protest at ongoing annual South Korea-US military exercises.

Monday's incident coincided with a massive, amphibious landing drill by nearly 15,000 South Korean and US troops.

Last week, the North upped the ante by test-firing two mid-range ballistic missiles capable of striking Japan.

The UN Security Council condemned the launches, and Pyongyang responded with its threat of a new type of nuclear test -- a possible reference to testing a uranium-based device or a miniaturised warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, the most recent -- and most powerful -- in February last year.

Most experts believe it is still some way from mastering the technology required to build a miniaturised warhead -- a development that would be seen as a game-changer in assessing the North's nuclear arms capabilities.

- 'Severe cost' for nuclear test -

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se warned Monday that the North would pay a "severe cost" if it went ahead with another test in defiance of UN sanctions.

North-South tensions have been rising for weeks, undermining hopes raised after the North in February hosted the first reunion for more than three years of families separated by the war.

As well as the annual South Korean-US military drills, the North has been angered by efforts to bring Pyongyang before the UN Security Council over a UN report detailing Pyongyang's record of systematic human rights abuse.

In a new bid to coordinate policy, the State Department announced that Robert King, the US special envoy for human rights in North Korea, would visit South Korea and Japan starting Wednesday.

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Japan, N. Korea talks end on positive note: official

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:04:45 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) March 31, 2014 - Government-level talks between Japan and North Korea ended Monday in Beijing on a positive note, with Pyongyang apparently prepared to discuss the Japanese citizens kidnapped by its spies decades ago.

At their first formal meeting in 16 months, diplomats from the two countries spoke on a range of issues over two days, including North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, officials said.

"We had serious and frank discussions on wide-ranging pending issues of mutual interest," Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau, told reporters.

"We agreed to continue government-to-government consultations with the next round to be arranged through our embassies in Beijing," he said.

The meeting came as Pyongyang's troops traded hundreds of rounds of live artillery fire across their disputed maritime border Monday.

South Korea's defence ministry said the North fired some 500 shells during the drill, around 100 of them landing on the south side of the sea boundary.

While relations with South Korea continue to be testy, Pyongyang's approach to its dealings with Japan appears to have softened in recent months, especially on the emotive issue of abductions.

North Korea outraged Japan when it admitted more than a decade ago that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies in Japanese language and customs.

Five of the abductees were allowed to return to Japan, but Pyongyang has insisted, without producing solid evidence, that the eight others are dead.

Ihara said he had presented "our basic ideas" on the abduction issue. "The North Korean side responded in a manner not to refuse discussions."

The Japanese side also protested against the communist state's launch of ballistic missiles and its threat to conduct more nuclear tests, he said.

Pyongyang for its part renewed its demand that Tokyo compensate Koreans for their suffering during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula, according to Japanese sources quoted by the Jiji and Kyodo news agencies.

The Beijing meeting took place after diplomats held informal talks on the sidelines of a humanitarian conference in the Chinese city of Shenyang between Red Cross officials from the two countries earlier this month.

It was held at the North Korean embassy on Sunday and at the Japanese embassy on Monday.

The meeting comes amid recent mixed signals from Pyongyang over its willingness to re-engage in diplomacy with the outside world.

Talks were suspended in late 2012 when Tokyo reiterated its demand that Pyongyang come clean on the abduction issue.

They officially called off the talks in December 2012 when Pyongyang launched a long-range missile, drawing international condemnation. Formal ties with Japan could bring huge economic benefits to the impoverished state.

 

 

N. Korea vows not to rule out a new nuclear test

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:04:45 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) March 30, 2014 - North Korea vowed not to rule out a "new form" of nuclear test Sunday after the UN Security Council condemned its latest ballistic missile launch amid simmering tensions over Seoul's joint military drills with Washington.

Pyongyang has carried out a series of rocket and short-range missile launches in recent weeks which have prompted stern reactions from South Korea and the United States.

On Wednesday it upped the ante by test-firing two mid-range ballistic missiles capable of striking Japan, sparking condemnation from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

"(We) would not rule out a new form of a nuclear test for bolstering up (our) nuclear deterrence," Pyongyang's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the North's state-run KCNA news agency.

The UNSC said the North's missile launch Wednesday was a violation of UN resolutions barring Pyongyang from any nuclear or ballistic activity, agreeing to consult on an "appropriate response".

Pyongyang slammed the UNSC criticism as "absolutely intolerable", defending the launch as a "self-defensive" act in protest against the ongoing Seoul-Washington drills being held in South Korea.

The North has habitually lashed out at the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises between the two allies -- held this year from February to April -- labelling them as practice for war.

"The UN Security Council, shutting its eyes to the US madcap nuclear exercises, 'denounced' (our) self-defensive rocket launching drills to cope with them as a 'violation of resolutions'... It is absolutely intolerable," said the ministry.

Pyongyang also warned the US to "stop acting rashly", saying it was ready to take "next-stage steps which the enemy can hardly imagine".

"If a catastrophic development which no one wants occurs on the peninsula, the US will be wholly responsible for it," the ministry said.

South Korea expressed "serious concern" on the latest threat and warned of potential consequences if Pyongyang pushes ahead with an atomic test.

"The North should bear in mind that, if it pushes ahead with a nuclear test despite grave warnings of neighbours and the international community, it will pay the price without fail," Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Wednesday's tests -- believed to be the first mid-range missile launch since 2009 -- coincided with a summit attended by the South, the US and Japan aimed at uniting the three nations against Pyongyang's nuclear threat.

The impoverished but nuclear-armed state has staged three atomic tests in 2006, 2009 and last year.

Pyongyang's powerful National Defense Commission, chaired by the North's leader Kim Jong-Un, threatened on March 15 to demonstrate its nuclear deterrence.

But the country has shown no signs of launching an imminent atomic test, Seoul's military said last week.

The North's third atomic test in February 2013 -- its most powerful to date -- drew widespread international condemnation as well as new UN sanctions.

The North responded angrily, putting its "strategic" rocket units on a war footing and threatening to strike targets on the US mainland, Hawaii and Guam, as well as in South Korea.

- 'Angry protest' -

But most experts believe the North is still years away from developing a genuine inter-continental ballistic missile that could strike the continental United States.

The latest threat is aimed at warning the US and the international community against yet more sanctions, said Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul's Dongguk University.

"I see this as more of an angry protest rather than a genuine, serious threat to hold another nuclear test soon," Kim said.

The "new form" of nuclear test could perhaps lay the stage for a test based on new uranium-enrichment technology, he said.

The North in 2010 unveiled to a visiting US scholar an apparently operational uranium-enrichment plant, which could give Pyongyang a second way to make nuclear bombs on top of its existing plutonium stockpile.

Uranium enrichment carries a far smaller footprint than plutonium. It can be carried out using centrifuge cascades in relatively small buildings that give off no heat and are less visible from satellites.

The North is believed to be capable of producing nuclear weapons from enriched uranium, Seoul's defence chief said last November.

The six-nation disarmament talks aimed at curbing the North's nuclear ambition have been on a standstill since the last meeting in December 2008.

Pyongyang wants to resume the aid-for-denuclearisation talks -- involving the two Koreas, China, the US, Russia and Japan.

But Seoul and Washington have refused to do so until the North shows "sincerity" for disarmament.

 

 

Iran 'destabilising actions' source of concern: US

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:04:45 AMGo to full article
Riyadh (AFP) March 28, 2014 - Iran and its "destabilising actions" in the Middle East remain a source of concern for Washington despite progress in negotiations over Tehran's nuclear programme, a top US official said Friday.

Deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes made the comments to reporters accompanying Barack Obama on his visit to Saudi Arabia, during which the US president will be seeking to assure Saudi officials that Washington has not changed its policy on Iran.

"We will be making clear that even as we are pursuing the nuclear agreement with the Iranians, our concern about other Iranian behaviour in the region -- its support for (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad, its support for (Lebanon's) Hezbollah, its destabilising actions in Yemen and the Gulf -- that those concerns remain constant," said Rhodes.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, long wary of Shiite Iran's regional ambitions, views a November deal between world powers and Iran over its nuclear programme as a risky venture that could embolden Tehran.

The interim agreement curbs Iran's controversial nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief, and is aimed at buying time to negotiate a comprehensive accord.

Analyst Khaled al-Dakhil spoke of "major differences" with Washington, adding that Obama will focus on easing "Saudi fears on Iran and on regional security".

Saudi Arabia, the largest power in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, fears that a possible US withdrawal from the Middle East and a diplomatic overture towards Iran would further feed Tehran's regional ambitions.

Rhodes said that the ongoing talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 world powers were solely focused on Tehran's nuclear programme.

"The nuclear talks have the ability of resolving a threat to regional stability; at the same time, we're going to keep the pressure on all those other issues," he said.

The six powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany -- want Iran to reduce permanently, or at least long-term, the scope of its nuclear activities to make it extremely difficult for it ever to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran has always denied any such ambition.

Washington severed diplomatic relations with Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

But the icy ties have thawed marginally since President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, defeated a pool of conservatives in last June's presidential election in Iran after vowing to engage constructively with the West.

 

 

Chinese war 'martyrs' home from S. Korea after six decades

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:04:45 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) March 28, 2014 - The remains of more than 400 Chinese soldiers killed fighting in the Korean War over 60 years ago returned home on Friday for a final burial.

A Chinese plane transporting the coffins of the 437 soldiers touched down in the northeastern city of Shenyang, the official Xinhua news agency said in a short dispatch.

State-run CCTV showed footage of the arrival ceremony with the small coffins laid out on the tarmac, each draped in a red Chinese flag. Aged veterans in uniform, some wearing campaign medals, were in attendance, with one man shown wiping away tears.

"Our martyrs finally returned to their homeland," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing.

"We hereby pay the highest tribute to them."

Earlier, the coffins were carried by Chinese soldiers onto the aircraft at South Korea's Incheon airport for the flight to Shenyang, where China has a state cemetery for its war dead.

The return symbolises the turnaround in ties between Beijing and Seoul, once ideological enemies that only established diplomatic relations in 1992 as Cold War enmities gave way to booming trade and cooperation.

China fought alongside the North in the 1950-53 conflict, with its dramatic and crucial intervention coming after US-led forces pushed the Communist army back almost as far as the Chinese border.

The Chinese move enabled Communist forces to drive Western troops back south, and ultimately the armistice line was drawn across the peninsula near the pre-war 38th parallel border.

Casualty figures remain disputed but Western estimates commonly cite a figure of 400,000 Chinese deaths, while Chinese sources mention a toll of about 180,000.

Their sacrifice forged ties of blood between Beijing and Pyongyang which endure to this day.

Ma Huaicheng, an 81-year-old veteran of the conflict who lives in China's Henan province, welcomed the return.

"This is a very good thing and is a very big comfort for our dead comrades-in-arms and their friends and relatives," he told AFP.

"They sacrificed their lives in foreign lands and it's worthwhile for us, the living, to commemorate. And it can teach later generations to treasure peace and oppose war," said Ma, who stayed on in North Korea until 1958 to aid in its reconstruction.

- Tomb-sweeping festival -

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye had offered to return the bodies as a goodwill gesture during a visit to Beijing in June last year.

"This is a new milestone in bilateral relations and is expected to serve as a good example of promoting peace in Northeast Asia," South Korean defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said.

Hong, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said: "We believe that this cooperation will enhance the friendliness between the two peoples of our two countries."

The transfer comes in time for the annual Chinese Qingming, or tomb-sweeping, festival when many people visit and clean the graves of their ancestors. This year it falls on April 5.

The soldiers' bodies were initially buried in different locations scattered around South Korea.

In 1996, Seoul designated a special cemetery plot in Paju, just south of the heavily-fortified border with the North, where all the remains of Chinese and North Korean soldiers still on South Korean soil could be buried together.

While some graves are named, most are identified only by nationality.

Work on exhuming the Chinese bodies at Paju for repatriation began in December.

China and South Korea have agreed to set up a mechanism for further repatriations before Qingming every year, Xinhua said in an earlier report from Incheon.

More than 700 North Korean soldiers are also interred at Paju, but Pyongyang has ignored Seoul's offer to return them despite sporadic talks on the issue.

The site also holds the bodies of more than two dozen North Korean commandos killed in a daring but unsuccessful 1968 attack on the presidential palace in Seoul.

A North Korean agent responsible for the 1987 bombing of a South Korean airliner that killed 115 people, who committed suicide after he was captured, is also there.

 

 

US Air Force fires nine in nuclear missile cheating scandal

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:04:45 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) March 27, 2014 - The US Air Force said Thursday it sacked nine nuclear missile officers and will discipline dozens of others over an exam cheating scandal that has sparked concerns about lax ethics.

The officers, including chiefs of four squadrons, were all working at Malmstrom Air Force base in Montana, which has been rocked by cheating allegations that implicated up to 100 airmen.

"Nine officers in leadership positions at Malmstrom were recommended for removal," Air Force Secretary Deborah James told a news conference.

An internal investigation had found that the commanders had not engaged in any test cheating but had "failed to provide adequate oversight of their crew force," James said.

A tenth officer had submitted his resignation over the case, she said.

A top general overseeing nuclear forces said the cheating stemmed in part from a stifling atmosphere created by commanders who over-emphasized perfect test scores for the missile launch officers.

"Although the required test score is 90 percent, crew members felt pressure to score 100 percent on each and every test," Lieutenant General Stephen Wilson said at the same news conference.

"They felt compelled to cheat to get a perfect score," he said.

The "zero-defect" approach was unrealistic and unnecessary, as the rules for managing the ballistic missiles had redundancies and other automatic safeguards, Wilson said.

"Leaders lost sight of the fact that execution in the field is more important than what happens in the class room," he said.

The cheating was first uncovered in January during an unrelated investigation into illegal drugs. The outcome of that drug probe is still pending.

Out of 100 officers potentially linked to the cheating, nine have since been cleared in an investigation, James said.

Another nine cases were being examined separately by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Of those, eight could involve criminal charges related to mishandling classified information -- possibly the exam materials.

About 30 to 40 officers will be retrained and allowed to return to duty to the missile force, while the remainder will face disciplinary action that could include being discharged from the military, officials said.

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has expressed deep disappointment over the cheating and voiced a wider concern over unethical conduct across the armed forces, after a spate of embarrassing scandals.

Hagel this week appointed a senior naval officer, Rear Admiral Margaret Klein, to serve as a special adviser looking at ethics and "character" issues.

 

 

China to have nuclear missiles on subs soon: US admiral

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:04:45 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) March 25, 2014 - China for the first time will likely have subs equipped with long-range nuclear missiles later this year, part of an increasingly potent submarine fleet, a top US officer said Tuesday,

The head of US Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said the latest class of Chinese subs would be armed with a new ballistic missile with an estimated range of 4,000 nautical miles (7,500 kilometers).

"This will give China its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent, probably before the end of 2014," Locklear told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Locklear was referring to the production of China's JIN-class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine and the new JL-2 missile on board the vessel.

"China's advance in submarine capabilities is significant. They possess a large and increasingly capable submarine force," the admiral said.

In October, Chinese state media for the first time showed images of the country's nuclear-powered submarines, touting it as a "credible second-strike nuclear capability."

Locklear said China's submarine modernization effort was impressive.

"I think they'll have in the next decade or so a fairly well modernized force of probably 60 to 70 submarines which is a lot of submarines for a regional power," he said.

China now has five nuclear attack submarines, four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, and 53 diesel attack submarines, according to Jess Karotkin of the Office of Naval Intelligence.

China's production of submarines has moved at a quick annual pace. Between 1995 and 2012, Beijing produced 2.9 submarines a year, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Locklear, repeating the Pentagon's view of China's military profile, said Beijing is investing in new weapons and naval power in part "to deny US access to the Western Pacific during a time of crisis or conflict and to provide the means by which China can bolster its broad maritime claims in the region."

He added that Chinese military operations were "expanding in size, complexity, duration and geographic location."

 

 

UN Security Council condemns NKorea missile launch

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:04:45 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) March 28, 2014 - The UN Security Council on Thursday condemned North Korea's latest ballistic missile tests and agreed to quickly consult on an appropriate response, its rotating president said.

"Security Council members condemn this launch as a violation of Security Council resolutions," Luxembourg's ambassador Sylvie Lucas told reporters after a closed-door debate of less than an hour.

The condemnation did not amount to a formal statement from the 15-member council. Instead Lucas said members had requested that she read out the remarks as agreed by all participants.

"Members of the Security Council agree to consult on an appropriate response," she said.

In response to questions, she said panelists agreed this response "should be given quickly."

The UN discussions, which included a report from the deputy secretary general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, had been requested by the United States.

Pyongyang has carried out a series of rocket and short-range missile launches in recent weeks, sparking condemnation from Seoul and Washington.

On Wednesday, it upped the ante by test-firing two mid-range ballistic missiles capable of striking Japan.

The move came in response to President Barack Obama's hosting of a Japan-South Korea summit in The Hague.

The tests go against UN resolutions barring Pyongyang from any nuclear or ballistic activity.

Diplomats said the United States urged the council to condemn the missile tests, calling for a swift and firm response.

Close allies Britain and France also demanded that the council react and send a clear warning to North Korea.

But China, a traditional ally of North Korea, was more prudent, arguing that reaction should be proportionate to Pyongyang's actions.

For Beijing, the priority should be to resume talks between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, which broke down in late 2008.

The negotiations had sought to put a stop to North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for economic assistance.

South Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, Oh Joon, said North Korea needed to be given a warning in clear terms.

"From South Korea's perspective we want North Korea to stop their provocations immediately and to stop slandering and to come back to the dialogue with us," he told reporters.

Earlier on Thursday, a South Korean naval ship fired warning shots and seized a North Korean fishing boat intruding across the disputed Yellow Sea border, officials said.

Nearly 15,000 South Korean and US troops have kicked off a 12-day amphibious landing drill, the largest for two decades.

The joint exercise taking place off the country's southeast coast will last until April 7 and involve around 10,000 US troops.

North Korea views such exercises as provocative rehearsals for invasion and there is a risk they could further fuel already simmering military tensions.

 

 

Israel's Peres to meet UN nuclear watchdog chief

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:04:45 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) March 27, 2014 - Israeli President Shimon Peres flies to Vienna on Sunday for talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency head, the pan-European security watchdog OSCE and Austrian leaders, his office said.

Peres and Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, will discuss its "role as the professional body leading the effort to put the brakes on Iran's nuclear programme," his office said in a statement Thursday.

The meeting in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, comes after the latest round of negotiations between Iran and world powers earlier this month aimed at curtailing Tehran's nuclear activities.

Western powers and Israel suspect Iran is covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian programme, charges adamantly denied by Tehran.

Israel has expressed deep scepticism over an interim deal struck by Tehran and world powers in November and said a final agreement must include a complete dismantling of all Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

Peres's office said he will also meet in Vienna with the head of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Lamberto Zanier, and with Austria's President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Werner Faymann.

 

 

S. Korea fires warning shots, seizes N. Korea fishing boat

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:37 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) March 27, 2014 - A South Korean naval ship fired warning shots Thursday and seized a North Korean fishing boat intruding across the disputed Yellow Sea border, military officials said.

The vessel sailed a nautical mile south of the sea boundary at 5:26 pm (0826 GMT), prompting a South Korean patrol ship to take action, the South's defence ministry said.

"Our side fired warning shots as the North Korean vessel ignored repeated warnings to retreat," a ministry spokesman told AFP.

The vessel with three people aboard was captured about two hours later as it failed to sail back into northern waters probably due to foggy weather and strong currents, he said.

The vessel's crew will be investigated to see whether the incursion was accidental, he said.

The spokesman said a tough response from South Korea was inevitable given the high tensions along the disputed sea boundary.

The South Korean naval ship radioed a message to a North Korea military vessel staying near the sea boundary that the seizure was aimed at ensuring the safety of the crew, he said.

The maritime border, which Pyongyang does not officially recognise, was the scene of brief but bloody naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009.

North Korean incursions over the maritime border are not unusual.

A North Korean patrol boat violated the sea boundary on February 25 at the start of South Korea-US military drills, and retreated after warnings from the South Korean navy.

Thursday's incursion came after nearly 15,000 South Korean and US troops kicked off a 12-day amphibious landing drill, the largest for two decades.

The joint military exercise is taking place off the country's southeast coast. It will last until April 7 and involve around 10,000 US troops.

North Korea views such exercises as provocative rehearsals for invasion and there is a risk they could further fuel already simmering military tensions.

Pyongyang has carried out a series of rocket and short-range missile launches in recent weeks, sparking condemnation from Seoul and Washington.

On Wednesday, it upped the ante by test-firing two mid-range ballistic missiles capable of striking Japan.

United Nations resolutions prohibit North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests and the UN Security Council was set to hold closed-door consultations Thursday to discuss a possible condemnation of the latest missile launches.

 

 

US scholar urges nuclear deal with Pakistan

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:37 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) March 26, 2014 - Western powers should negotiate a nuclear deal with Pakistan similar to its accord with India as a way to reduce dangers from Islamabad, a prominent expert said Wednesday.

Mark Fitzpatrick, a longtime US diplomat who is now a scholar at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, voiced alarm about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal -- the world's fastest growing -- which he said would likely expand until at least 2020.

Fitzpatrick said no solution was ideal, but he called for Western nations to offer Pakistan a deal along the lines of a 2005 accord with India, which allowed normal access to commercial nuclear markets despite its refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"The time has come to offer Pakistan a nuclear cooperation deal akin to India's," Fitzpatrick said as he launched a new book, "Overcoming Pakistan's Nuclear Dangers," in Washington.

"Providing a formula for nuclear normalization is the most powerful tool that Western countries can wield in positively shaping Pakistan's nuclear posture," Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said that Pakistan faced a "heavier burden of proof" than India to demonstrate it is a responsible power, after the father of Islamabad's bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, spread the technology widely, and due to the presence of Islamic extremist groups.

Among conditions for a nuclear deal, Pakistan should stop blocking a new international agreement banning the production of fissile material and join the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, he said.

In the book, Fitzpatrick said the risk of a much-discussed scenario in which Islamic extremists seize nuclear weapons was exaggerated, and that the larger danger was that Pakistan-linked militants would launch a new attack inside India and trigger a devastating nuclear war.

Fitzpatrick, while voicing concern over an arms race, said Pakistan was constrained by its lack of uranium ore. Quoting anonymous sources, Fitzpatrick said Pakistan's production may end in 2020, by which time it would have some 200 nuclear weapons, about double the current estimate.

Fitzpatrick also doubted reports that Pakistan would share nuclear weapons with Saudi Arabia in response to the kingdom's concerns on Iran, saying Islamabad would not want to open potential conflict with another neighbor.

Many experts believe Saudi Arabia funded Pakistan's nuclear program. The South Asian nation went nuclear in 1998 days after a test by arch-rival India.

 

 

S. Korea, US launch massive landing drill amid tensions

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:37 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) March 27, 2014 - Nearly 15,000 South Korean and US troops kicked off a 12-day amphibious landing drill Thursday, the largest for two decades, a day after North Korea launched two mid-range ballistic missiles.

Code-named Ssang Yong ("Twin Dragons"), the exercise on the South's southeastern coast will last until April 7 and involve around 10,000 US troops.

"The scale of this year's Ssang Yong is greater than any others in the past," a US military spokesman told AFP.

The US forces will include 7,500 marines belonging to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, based in Okinawa, Japan.

Yonhap news agency said 3,500 Marines and 1,000 Navy sailors would take part from South Korea.

It will be the largest joint marine drill of its kind since the annual Team Spirit exercises held between 1976 and 1993.

North Korea views such exercises as provocative rehearsals for invasion and there is a risk they could further fuel already simmering military tensions.

Pyongyang has carried out a series of rocket and short-range missile launches in recent weeks, sparking condemnation from Seoul and Washington.

On Wednesday, it upped the ante by test-firing two mid-range ballistic missiles capable of striking Japan.

United Nations resolutions prohibit North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests and the UN Security Council was set to hold closed-door consultations Thursday to discuss a possible condemnation of the latest missile launches.

There are nearly 30,000 US troops permanently stationed in South Korea and the two countries stage annual military drills that are routinely condemned by Pyongyang.

Earlier this month, the North's powerful National Defence Commission threatened to "demonstrate" its nuclear deterrent in the face of what it called US hostility.

Seoul's defence ministry warned Wednesday that North Korea could be building up towards a major provocation, but added there were "no signs" of Pyongyang preparing an imminent nuclear test.

North Korea has staged three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

 

 

UN talks to discuss NKorea missile tests

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:37 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) March 27, 2014 - The UN Security Council will hold consultations Thursday over North Korea's recent ballistic missile tests, the council presidency said Thursday.

The closed door meeting has been requested by the United States, diplomats said.

Word of the talks came from the mission from Luxembourg, which now holds the presidency of the 15-member council.

The ambassadors from the 15 members will hear a report from the deputy secretary general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman.

North Korea test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles Wednesday in response to President Barack Obama's hosting of a landmark Japan-South Korea summit in The Hague.

Washington condemned the tests as "troubling and provocative."

South Korea's defence ministry said two North Korean missiles flew 650 kilometres (400 miles) into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), upping the ante after a series of shorter-range launches in recent weeks.

The tests go against UN resolutions barring Pyongyang from any nuclear or ballistic activity.

 

 

N. Korea lashes out at 'blabbering' S. Korean president

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:37 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) March 27, 2014 - North Korea issued a scathing personal attack Thursday on South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, accusing her of breaking a moratorium on cross-border insults and behaving like a "blabbering" peasant woman.

The attack referenced a speech Park made Monday at a nuclear summit in The Hague in which she voiced concern that Pyongyang's nuclear material could end up in terrorist hands, and warned of a possible Chernobyl-style disaster at the North's main Yongbyong atomic complex.

A spokesman for the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said Park's remarks "violently trampled" on an agreement reached at rare, high-level talks last month for the two Koreas to stop "slandering" one another.

If Park genuinely wants to see improvements in inter-Korean relations, "she first has to stop rambling recklessly and learn how to speak with discretion", the spokesman said in a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

"Even if someone else wrote the dumb speech for her to read from, she should at least know what and what not to say... in order not to embarrass herself.

"She should realise she is no longer a peasant woman blabbering to herself in the corner of her room but the occupant of the (presidential) Blue House," he said.

North Korea has made similarly vitriolic attacks on Park in the past, but this was the first since last month's agreement.

North Korea had pushed hard for the "no slander" clause, which observers said was always going to prove problematic.

North Korea insists it should extend to the media and private groups and individuals, while South Korea argues that it cannot restrict freedom of speech.

Seoul denounced the CPRK statement as "rude" and unhelpful.

"We find the comments that can't even be repeated ... deeply regrettable and lacking the most basic etiquette," a government statement said.

The row came at a time of simmering military tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The North on Wednesday test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles, as US President Barack Obama hosted a landmark Japan-South Korea summit aimed at uniting the three nations against Pyongyang's nuclear threat.

United Nations resolutions prohibit North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests and the UN Security Council was set to hold closed-door consultations Thursday to discuss a possible condemnation of the latest launches.

"The North should immediately stop the acts of provocation that pour cold water on efforts...to create peace on the Korean peninsula and the region," the South Korean government statement said.

 

 

Obama hosts landmark Japan, S. Korea summit

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:37 AMGo to full article
The Hague (AFP) March 25, 2014 - US President Barack Obama pledged "unwavering commitment" to Tokyo and Seoul's security concerns in the face of nuclear-armed North Korea on Tuesday as Pyongyang reportedly test-fired two ballistic missiles.

"The US commitment to the security of both Japan and the Republic of Korea is unwavering... and a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable," Obama said at a landmark Japan-South Korea summit he hosted in The Hague.

A scant few hours later, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that North Korea test-fired two medium-range missiles into the sea early Wednesday.

Pyongyang has carried out a series of short-range missile tests in recent days in apparent protest at joint drills between Seoul and Washington.

North Korea threatened to take nuclear "measures" if Washington does not end what the communist state calls "provocations".

The talks between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye came as Obama sought to help repair strained ties between two of the United States' closest Asian partners.

"Over the last five years, close cooperation between the three countries succeeded in changing the game with North Korea," Obama said.

"Our trilateral cooperation has sent a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response," he added.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul are at their lowest ebb in years, mired in emotive issues linked to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule and a territorial dispute, as well as Japan's use of South Korean "comfort women" as sex slaves in wartime brothels.

"Japan and South Korea have common challenges, and we will continue to have communication at various levels," Abe told AFP after the talks.

"Today was the first step to building the future oriented relations between Japan and South Korea," he said.

The three-way meeting at the US ambassador's residence in The Hague -- designed to discuss North Korean threats -- is considered a diplomatic breakthrough.

South Korean leader Park reiterated her view that the nuclear issue posed a major threat to peace and stability and that it was vital for the international community to have a united response.

Although not a one-on-one encounter, the talks are a significant step forward as Park had repeatedly ruled out a summit with Abe until Tokyo demonstrates sincere repentance for "past wrongdoings".

Recent surveys in South Korea have shown that the Japanese leader is even more unpopular with South Koreans than North Korean supremo Kim Jong-Un.

But prospects for a meeting between Park and Abe rose earlier this month after the Japanese leader promised to honour Tokyo's two previous apologies over its colonial past, issued in 1993 and 1995.

- 'How serious are they?' -

Japanese politicians express exasperation at the repeated requests for contrition, pointing to numerous apologies as well as a 1965 agreement that normalised relations and included a large payment to Seoul.

The situation was exacerbated by Abe's visit to a controversial war shrine in December that drew strong protests from South Korea and China, which also suffered during Japan's past colonial aggression.

"The Japanese government must offer clear signals and put measures in place to restore mutual trust," Park told German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Park said recent comments by the Japanese government that it would uphold the apology statement were "reassuring" but added: "The real question is: 'how serious are they?'"

The rift has been viewed with growing alarm in Washington. South Korea and Japan are the two major US military allies in Asia, and key to Washington's strategic "pivot" to the region.

"It was very meaningful that the three countries agreed to collaborate on security in east Asia, centering on the North Korea issue, given that these three countries share values and security interests, because both countries are allies of the US," Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Masaru Sato told AFP.

In a conversation after the three-way summit, Obama and Abe agreed to accelerate negotiations for both countries to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, Sato said.

 

 

Russia, US set aside Ukraine crisis for Iran nuclear talks

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:18 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) March 18, 2014 - Russia, the United States and other world powers put their sharp differences over Ukraine to one side on Tuesday as they held their latest nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna.

The gathering is the second in a series of meetings aiming to transform by July a November interim deal into a lasting accord that resolves for good the decade-old standoff and removes the threat of war.

So far, despite disagreements over the Syria conflict and other issues, the six powers have shown a united front over Iran, but events in Ukraine in recent weeks have precipitated the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War.

Following Sunday's secession referendum in Crimea -- slammed as a sham by the White House and the European Union -- Brussels and Washington on Monday issued sanctions against a handful of Russian officials.

On Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty claiming Crimea as Russian territory and said the Black Sea peninsula has always been "in the hearts" of his compatriots.

Despite the tensions, a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the powers' chief negotiator and EU foreign policy chief, said he had seen "no negative effect" on the Iran talks, with the six "still united".

He said later that the negotiations, set to continue Wednesday, were "substantive and useful". Late Tuesday the US and Iranian delegations also held a bilateral meeting.

But Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US State Department official now at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the unfolding crisis made him "even more pessimistic".

"The Russians will... be less likely to make sacrifices for the sake of unity over the Iran issues," Fitzpatrick told AFP. The Iranians, he said, "now have more reason to wait out the six powers".

Even before the Ukraine crisis erupted, Putin was reported to be discussing a major deal with Tehran whereby Moscow would get Iranian oil in exchange for money, goods and help in building new nuclear reactors.

This would undermine Washington's efforts to cut off Iran's main source of revenue -- a strategy which the US credits with forcing Tehran to the negotiating table.

Mark Hibbs from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said this "huge barter deal" is a "carrot Moscow can dangle constructively to wrestle more concessions from Iran."

"Or it can move forward unilaterally and damage the negotiation," Hibbs told AFP. "Up to Putin to choose."

- A lasting deal -

Even without the spat over Ukraine, agreeing a lasting deal will be tough for Iran and the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, known as the P5+1.

Under November's agreement, Iran froze key parts of its nuclear programme in return for minor sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions for six months.

Although it could be extended, the deal is currently due to expire on July 20.

The six powers now want Iran to reduce permanently -- or at least for a long time -- the scope of its nuclear activities in order to make it extremely difficult for Tehran to develop nuclear weapons.

This would likely include Iran slashing the number of centrifuges enriching uranium -- which can be used for peaceful purposes but also in a bomb, if highly purified -- and allowing tougher UN inspections.

But even though in return Iran would see sanctions lifted, it remains far from certain whether ultra-conservative elements in Tehran around supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would accept such limitations.

Any deal that leaves some of Iran's nuclear infrastructure intact would also be a hard sell to sceptical US lawmakers and to Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power.

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an opinion piece to appear in Wednesday's Financial Times that both sides need to "show courage -- far more than has been displayed so far".

He wrote that Iran's "counterparts will have to make tough choices. They will have to back up rhetoric with action."

 

 

Israel's Yaalon in U-turn on Iran strike: report

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:18 PMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) March 18, 2014 - Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has hardened his stance on Iran following developments in nuclear talks with the West and would now back a unilateral Israeli strike, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Yaalon also accused Washington of "demonstrating weakness" in the Ukraine crisis in comments published by Haaretz newspaper.

Known for his hawkish views on the Middle East peace talks, Yaalon has long been regarded as a moderate on Iran, urging restraint as talk raged over a possible strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities to prevent it from acquiring military knowhow.

But the minister's attitude has changed as world powers have responded to Iran's "smile offensive" in the ongoing nuclear talks, the paper said as a fresh round of negotiations resumed in Vienna.

"We had thought the ones who should lead the (military) campaign against Iran is the United States... But at some stage, the United States entered into negotiations with them, and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better," he said.

He charged that while the world powers know Iran "cheats," Westerners "prefer to put off confrontation, if possible to next year, or the next president".

"Therefore on this matter we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves," he said, in remarks aligning him with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has repeatedly refused to rule out a unilateral Israeli strike.

Israel and much of the West believe Iran's nuclear programme is a cover for developing a military capability, a charge denied by Tehran.

But there has been a noticeable softening towards the Islamic Republic since the election of reputed moderate President Hassan Rouhani, a move that has angered Israel.

Yaalon also accused Washington of "demonstrating weakness" in the confrontation with Moscow over Ukraine, the biggest stand off between the two powers since the Cold War.

If the US continued to demonstrate weakness overseas, its own security would be harmed, he said.

"If you sit and wait at home, terrorism will come again," Haaretz quoted him as saying.

"If your image is feebleness, it doesn't pay in the world... I hope the United States comes to its senses. If it doesn't, it will challenge the world order and the United States is the one that will suffer."

 

 

Xi, Obama to meet at nuclear summit: China

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:18 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) March 17, 2014 - Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama will hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in the Netherlands next week, China's foreign ministry said Monday.

The NSS, first held in 2010 in Washington and again in Seoul in 2012, is to take place in The Hague next Monday and Tuesday. A theme of this year's meeting is preventing nuclear terrorism, according to the NSS website.

Chinese vice foreign minister Li Baodong told reporters that Beijing and Washington had agreed to hold the bilateral meeting, their first this year, but did not give specifics on timing or subjects.

"It is highly significant and also very important for the future development of China-US relations," he said.

The two leaders will "exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common interest", Li added.

"China is ready to work with the United States to ensure positive outcomes of the security summit and the bilateral meeting. and inject new impetus to China-US relations."

 

 

North Korea fires 25 rockets into sea

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:18 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) March 16, 2014 - North Korea test-fired 25 rockets into the sea on Sunday, South Korea's defence ministry said, the latest in a series of launches that have provoked criticism from Seoul and Washington.

The rockets were fired off the North's east coast and flew about 70 kilometres (42 miles) over the Sea of Japan (East Sea), a ministry spokesman said.

The ministry said 10 rockets were fired at 6:20 pm (0920 GMT), and eight more at 8:03 pm. Another seven followed, the last at 9:30 pm.

The United States said it was closely monitoring the situation.

"We are aware of reports that North Korea fired a number of rockets into the sea," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

"We once again call on North Korea to refrain from provocative actions that aggravate tensions."

The spokesman for South Korea's defence ministry said Seoul's military "has maintained a close watch for possible North Korean provocations".

Yonhap news agency reported that 25 short-range missiles were fired.

South Korean troops have increased vigilance following a series of rocket or missile launches since late February.

The activity coincides with annual South Korea-US military exercises that started in February and will run until mid-April.

Pyongyang routinely condemns such war games as rehearsals for an invasion, while Seoul and Washington say they are purely defensive.

"We urge North Korea to stop provocative activities that will heighten military tension across the border," the spokesman said.

The North has defended its missile and rocket tests as justifiable self-defence drills.

South Korea has called the launches a "reckless provocation" while Washington urged Pyongyang to halt the tests immediately, saying they risked inflaming regional tensions.

Sunday's rocket launch came two days after the North's National Defence Commission threatened to demonstrate its nuclear deterrence.

Analysts said the comments could indicate the regime is preparing to carry out a fourth atomic test.

"Additional measures will be taken to demonstrate its might one after another as long as the US nuclear threat and blackmail persist as now," the commission said in a statement.

"The US had better roll back its worn-out hostile policy towards (North Korea) as soon as possible and shape a new realistic policy before it is too late."

North Korea and its main ally China want a resumption of six-party talks on the North's nuclear weapons programme. But the United States and South Korea both insist that Pyongyang first demonstrates some tangible commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons.

The North carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and in February last year.

Analysts in Seoul said the North is now mulling three options -- a fourth nuclear test, the firing of a long-range rocket or the disclosure of progress in its programme to enrich uranium.

Despite tensions over the drills and the North's missile tests, cross-border ties are currently enjoying an upswing.

The two Koreas recently held the first reunion for more than three years of families divided by the Korean War -- an event that raised hopes of greater cooperation.

 

 

S. Korea urges North to stop 'provocative' rocket tests

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:18 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) March 17, 2014 - South Korea urged North Korea Monday to stop what it called "provocative" and potentially dangerous rocket and missile tests, a day after Pyongyang test-fired 25 projectiles into the sea.

The North Sunday fired the volley of rockets into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the latest in a series of launches in recent weeks that have sparked criticism from Seoul and Washington.

The show of force is apparently intended to express anger at the South's continuing joint military exercises with its ally the United States.

"The North should stop actions that cause military tension and unnerve its neighbours," Seoul's defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told reporters.

"Provocative action made without any prior notifications... can pose significant danger to sea vessels and aircraft passing by the area," he added.

The South's military was closely watching the North's troop movements, Kim said, citing the possibility of more rocket launches.

The rockets fired on Sunday were ageing versions of Russian-developed Frog rockets, he said, noting that the North fired more than normally expected.

The US State Department called on Pyongyang to refrain from "provocative actions that aggravate tensions".

Beijing expressed concern earlier this month after the North test-fired a rocket into the flight path of a Chinese airliner.

China's special envoy Wu Dawei arrived in Pyongyang Monday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a brief report which did not specify the trip's purpose.

The annual South Korean-US military drills started in late February and will run until mid-April.

The North has habitually slammed the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises -- along with other military drills south of the border -- as rehearsals for an invasion.

Seoul and Washington say they are purely defensive.

Last week the North's powerful National Defence Commission threatened to demonstrate its nuclear deterrent in the face of what it called US hostility.

But Seoul's defence ministry said there was no sign of an imminent nuclear test by the North, which staged three atomic tests in 2006, 2009 and last year.

As the North continues to flex its military muscle, its leader Kim Jong-Un guided an air force and air defence exercise, KCNA said Monday.

The servicemen vowed to bring down "robber-like US imperialists" when ordered by Kim as he praised their combat-readiness in the spirit of becoming "human bombs", it said.

Separately, Kim led a meeting of the ruling party's Central Military Commission to discuss combat-readiness and "important matters arising in increasing defence capability", the news agency said.

The meeting also discussed the military's "organisational issue", it said, suggesting possible personnel changes aimed at strengthening the young ruler's grip on the armed forces.

Former members of the commission included Jang Song-Thaek, Kim's once-powerful uncle who was executed last December for charges including treason.

Hyon Yong-Chol, who failed to secure a seat in this month's parliamentary election, was also a member of the commission. But he is believed to have been replaced -- or to be about to be replaced -- after being dismissed as military chief last year.

 

 

News About Wars On Planet Earth

 

 

 

Kerry meets Netanyahu, Abbas over peace talks crisis

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) March 31, 2014 - US Secretary of State John Kerry was holding late-night talks with the leadership in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday on his latest mission to salvage the crisis-hit peace process.

He flew in from Paris for what was expected to be little more than a 15-hour visit to push both sides to resolve a lingering dispute over Palestinian prisoners which is threatening to derail the negotiations ahead of an April 29 deadline.

US peace efforts are teetering on the brink of collapse after Israel refused to free a group of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners under an agreement which brought the sides back to the negotiating table in July 2013.

Furious Palestinian officials have warned that unless Israel changes its stance on the prisoner releases, it could signal the end of the talks.

Kerry, who landed in Tel Aviv shortly after 1600 GMT, went straight to Jerusalem and began talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompanied by his envoy Martin Indyk and US ambassador Dan Shapiro, an AFP correspondent said.

Israel's chief negotiator Tzipi Livni was also present.

He was later expected in Ramallah for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas who has spent the evening locked in a key leadership meeting in Ramallah to discuss the standoff.

Washington has been fighting an uphill battle to coax the two sides into accepting a framework proposal which would extend the negotiations beyond April 29 to the end of the year.

But shortly before Kerry landed, a Palestinian official told AFP Ramallah had rejected a fresh Israeli offer to extend talks, describing it as "blackmail".

The question of extending the talks has become intricately tied up with the fate of the 26 prisoners.

Just a day ahead of the expected releases, Israel said it would not free detainees convicted of deadly attacks unless the Palestinians would commit to extending the negotiations.

But the Palestinians say they will not even discuss any extension of the negotiating period unless Israel frees the prisoners.

The impasse has triggered "intense" US efforts to resolve the dispute, with Kerry speaking with both sides earlier on Monday.

- Israel's 'blackmail policy' -

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry's team had been working with both parties to "agree on a path forward".

"After consulting with his team, Secretary Kerry decided it would be productive to return to the region," she told reporters in Paris shortly before departing for Tel Aviv.

The US decision to fly Kerry in came after a late-night meeting between the negotiating teams in Jerusalem at which Israel had made a fresh proposal for extending the negotiations which was rejected by the Palestinian leadership.

"Israel made a proposal which was refused by the Palestinians," a Palestinian official told AFP.

"Israel is practising a policy of blackmail and linking its agreement to releasing the fourth batch of prisoners with the Palestinians accepting to extend the negotiations," he said.

In exchange for Palestinian agreement to continue the talks, Israel had offered to free the fourth batch of detainees and to release another 420 others.

But that number would involve only common law criminals and not sick detainees, women or children. And it would not include political heavyweights.

And although the Israelis were offering a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank, it would not be extended to annexed east Jerusalem, nor would it cover construction where tenders had already been published.

"The Israeli proposal aims to continue the negotiations indefinitely, without any results, in parallel with continued settlement building," he charged, saying such policies posed a "real danger" to the peace process.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said the fate of the peace process would be sealed within the coming days, saying any deal to extend talks beyond April would have to be put to the cabinet.

It was Kerry's first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories since early January, although he has held face-to-face meetings with both Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in Europe and the United States.

He also met Abbas last week in Amman.

 

 

Fate of Israel spy Pollard linked to peace talks: sources

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) March 31, 2014 - Israel and the United States are discussing a possible deal which could secure the release of US-born Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as a way of salvaging the crisis-hit peace talks.

According to two separate sources close to the talks, Pollard's release is being discussed in the context of efforts to secure an extension of the peace talks with the Palestinians, although no decision has yet been made.

Pollard was arrested in Washington in 1985 and condemned to life imprisonment for spying on the United States on behalf of Israel.

His release is a major rallying point for the Israeli right but is also broadly supported across the political spectrum.

One of the sources said there was a proposal which could see Pollard freed before the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins in mid-April.

In exchange, Israel would agree to release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners, which it recently blocked, and both parties would agree to a US proposal to extend the negotiations beyond an April 29 deadline.

Israel would also agree to free another group of Palestinian prisoners, but it would not include anyone convicted of anti-Israeli attacks.

Earlier on Monday, a Palestinian official said the Ramallah leadership had refused an Israeli proposal offering the release of 420 prisoners, mostly petty criminals, in exchange for an extension.

US peace efforts are teetering on the brink of collapse after Israel refused to free a group of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners under an agreement which brought the sides back to the negotiating table in July 2013.

Furious Palestinian officials have warned that unless Israel changes its stance on the prisoner releases, it could signal the end of the talks.

"There is a possibility that Pollard's release will be part of a deal to extend peace talks but nothing final yet," an Israeli official was quoted as telling the diplomatic correspondent of Haaretz newspaper.

Separately, a US official told Haaretz that Netanyahu would have to make "big" concessions if he wanted to secure the release of the 59-year-old former naval analyst who is serving life for espionage.

Freeing Pollard could soften intense domestic opposition in Israel to a release of more Palestinian prisoners, among them 14 Arab Israelis, convicted of anti-Israeli attacks.

 

 

Muslim rebels joyous, but wary, at peace prospects

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Sultan Kudarat, Philippines (AFP) March 28, 2014 - Joyous shouts of "Allahu akbar" echoed across the headquarters of the Philippines' biggest Muslim rebel group as a pact to end four decades of bloodshed was signed, but there were also fears war clouds had yet to pass.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended its rebellion on Thursday when its leaders signed a deal in Manila with the government that would create a new, autonomous Muslim homeland in the southern Philippines.

Various armed Muslim groups have been fighting since the 1970s for an independent Islamic state or autonomous rule in the south, which they regard as their ancestral home, and the conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

MILF leader Murad Ebrahim said at the signing ceremony the accord was the "crowning glory" of his organisation's struggle, and his troops at their main camp 900 kilometres (550 miles) to the south voiced similar jubilation.

Hundreds of rebels, wearing camouflage uniforms and pointing assault rifles to the sky, shouted "Allahu akbar", or "God is greater", as they watched the historic moment on a television screen in a grassy field.

Senior MILF commander Usop Pasigan, 65, said he took up arms at the age of 17 and had lost three brothers in the fighting. Now he just wants to be a farmer and for his son to be able to live a normal life.

"I hope my boy will be able to finish college and not be an MILF fighter, like me," Pasigan told AFP as he stood alongside many other elderly soldiers in their military fatigues.

For Jamira Mapagkasunggot, 56, a member of the MILF women's auxiliary battalion, peace would mean being able to live without the constant fear of death.

"Most of the women have lost a father, a son or a nephew," she told AFP at Camp Darapanan, where rebels and their families live inside a sprawling compound of coconut groves and corn fields.

- Fears of more conflict -

But while Mapagkasunggot was optimistic about the process, she also acknowledged the many potential pitfalls that lay ahead.

"We fear some groups might not be supportive of these peace talks," she said, referring to a wide range of smaller armed groups that roam the impoverished and often lawless southern Philippines that are opposed to the peace process.

Among them is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which split from the MILF in 2008 because it wanted to continue pursuing independence.

The BIFF has just a few hundred militants, according to the military, but it has launched deadly attacks in the past to disrupt the peace process and has been able to withstand repeated government assaults against it.

"The war is not yet over. We are still here," BIFF spokesman Abu Missry Mama told AFP by telephone from his secret base elsewhere in the south.

Another armed group not covered by the peace accord is the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, which specialises in kidnapping for ransom, while the area is plagued by private armies of corrupt politicians who may resist the new government.

The MILF, which has about 10,000 fighters, has committed to working with the government to neutralise the threat of rogue groups such as the BIFF, meaning future battles against former comrades are possible.

- Accord faces hurdles -

Meanwhile, there are doubts President Benigno Aquino's administration will be able to fulfil its commitments in the accord.

Among the hurdles is securing approval from Congress for a "Basic Law" that would create the autonomous region.

Without the law, the autonomous region cannot exist, but there are no guarantees that Aquino can secure majority support in Congress for the highly sensitive issue.

As insurance, the MILF has said it will not reveal to the government the names of its fighters, or hand over its giant arsenal of weapons, until the law is passed and the autonomous region created.

The MILF leadership is also aware that other peace efforts have failed, leading to more conflict.

In 1996, another major rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), signed a peace deal with the government in return for the creation of a Muslim autonomous area.

But critics, including the MILF, said the autonomous area did not give Muslims enough powers.

Under the new peace deal, the new autonomous region would replace the old one, angering factions of the MNLF and opening another potential front for conflict.

MNLF founder Nur Misuari's followers attacked the southern port city of Zamboanga in September last year in an effort to derail the peace talks.

The military responded with an unrelenting assault in which more than 100 MNLF fighters were killed.

In a speech at the signing ceremony, Aquino cited the September clashes as he warned he was prepared to unleash his troops on any armed group opposed to the peace process.

"Those who want to test the resolve of the state will be met with a firm response based on righteousness and justice, as we demonstrated in Zamboanga," Aquino said.

strs-jvg-mm-kma/mtp

 

 

Lebanon army vows to fight 'terror' after troops killed

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) March 30, 2014 - Lebanon's army vowed to battle "terrorism" hours after a suicide bomber killed three soldiers at a checkpoint in the east near the border with war-torn Syria.

"The army knows that it is now more than ever targeted by terrorists who want to prevent the establishment of the authority of the state and its attempts to eliminate discord," the military said in a statement issued late on Saturday.

It came as a new security plan came into effect on Sunday aimed at quelling spillover violence from the conflict in Syria.

Lebanon's north and east have seen clashes between those who support the rebellion against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and those who back Damascus.

The army command "will continue to fight and pursue terrorists, and is determined to implement the security plan... whatever the sacrifices", the statement said.

Late on Saturday the three soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle at a checkpoint at Aqabet al-Jurd in the Arsal region.

Arsal, near the border with Syria, is a Sunni town where residents support the rebels fighting Assad's forces. The town also hosts tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Saturday's attack was claimed on Twitter by a shadowy group calling itself Liwa Ahrar al-Sunna -- Arabic for the Brigades of the free Sunni Muslims -- which also vowed more attacks.

"The next few days will see several jihadist and blessed attacks like this one. This is only the beginning," the group said, adding that the army would be among its targets.

It said Saturday's attack was to avenge the death of Sami al-Atrash, wanted in connection with car bombings targeting Lebanon's Shiite militant group Hezbollah which has been fighting alongside Assad's forces.

Atrash was killed on Thursday in a shootout with the army in Arsal.

Hezbollah's participation in the Syria conflict has raised sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

The Arsal bombing was the second such suicide attack targeting Lebanon's military since an attack on February 22 killed two soldiers and a civilian, again in the east of the country.

Extremist groups accuse the army of discriminating against Sunnis who back the Syria uprising and of turning a blind eye to Hezbollah sending fighters across the border.

Hezbollah bastions inside Lebanon have been the target of several bloody attacks since last summer, claimed by extremist Sunnis who say the attacks are a response to the group's involvement in Syria.

 

 

Israel says fate of talks to be clear in 'days': report

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) March 30, 2014 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday it would be clear within "days" whether the crisis-hit peace talks would be extended beyond an April 29 deadline, local media reported.

His remarks, which were reported by several Israeli news websites, come as US officials work around the clock to prevent a collapse of the negotiations over a dispute about Palestinian prisoners.

"It could be a matter of just days," Netanyahu reportedly told ministers from his rightwing Likud party who met just before the weekly cabinet meeting.

"Either the matter will be resolved or it will blow up. And in any case, there won't be any deal without Israel knowing clearly what it will get in exchange," he said.

"And if there is a deal, it will be put to the cabinet for approval."

With the talks teetering on the brink of collapse, Washington has been fighting an uphill battle to coax the two sides into accepting a framework proposal which would extend the negotiations beyond April to the end of the year.

But the matter has become tied up with the fate of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners whom Israel was to have freed this weekend under terms of an agreement which brought about a resumption of talks.

Israel on Friday informed the Palestinians via a US mediator that it would not release the fourth and final batch of prisoners, with the US State Department confirming it was working "intensively" to resolve the dispute.

The Palestinians say they will not even consider extending the talks without the prisoners being freed, but Israel has refused to release them without a Palestinian commitment to continue the talks, prompting a fresh crisis of confidence between the parties.

- 'Ball in Israel's court' -

"The ball is now in Israel's court," Palestinian prisoners minister Issa Qaraqaa told Voice of Palestine radio on Sunday.

The Palestinian leadership was expecting an answer from the Israeli government within 24 hours, he said.

"I believe president (Mahmud) Abbas has given them until tomorrow (Monday) to respond -- if they don't, then the Palestinians will be taking some very important decisions about the course of the negotiations," he warned.

Aside from the release of the 26 veteran detainees, Abbas reportedly wants an Israeli commitment to free even more prisoners as one of his conditions for agreeing to extend the talks.

Late on Saturday, an official in Ramallah told AFP that Netanyahu had expressed willingness to free another 400 detainees and reduce its military presence in the West Bank in exchange for Palestinian agreement to extend the talks.

Israeli officials refused to comment.

Under a deal that relaunched peace talks last July, Israel agreed to release 104 prisoners held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestinians freezing all efforts to seek further international recognition.

So far, Israel has freed 78 of them in three batches, and the last group -- which includes 14 Arab Israelis jailed for nationalist attacks -- was to have been released on March 29.

"Israel is now trying to make us pay the price for this fourth group and to exercise as much blackmail as possible," former chief negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh told the same radio station, vowing that the Palestinians would not "kowtow to such extortion".

"However, things are still up in the air and we will see what the next few days bring," he said, confirming the Palestinians were indeed seeking the release of further prisoners beyond the 104.

Palestinians hope prisoner release delay will be brief
Ramallah, Palestinian Territories (AFP) March 29, 2014 - A senior Palestinian official said Israel's release of the last batch of Arab prisoners would not go ahead on Saturday as envisaged but he hoped there would be only a short delay.

Under a deal that relaunched peace talks last July, Israel agreed to release 104 Arabs held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestinians not pressing their statehood claims at the United Nations.

So far, Israel has freed 78 prisoners in three batches but ministers had warned they would block the final release, which had been anticipated for Saturday, if the Palestinians refused to extend the talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

"Today the prisoners will not be released... maybe in the coming days," Issa Qaraqae, the minister of prisoner affairs, told AFP.

"There are efforts to solve the crisis and I believe that in 24 hours everything will be clearer."

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that "no deal has been arrived at" for the release but added "we continue to work intensively with both sides".

Her comments came as US special envoy Martin Indyk met chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho in Jerusalem, Palestinian officials said.

A Palestinian official speaking to AFP claimed that Israel was offering to free an additional 400 prisoners and reduce its presence in parts of the West Bank if the peace talks were extended.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has not spelled out his terms for prolonging talks, saying only that he is not even prepared to discuss the issue until the prisoners are freed.

Meanwhile around 200 Palestinians demonstrated outside Ofer prison, an Israeli facility near the West Bank city of Ramallah where many Palestinians are held, demanding the prisoners' release.

The Palestinians want them to include Arab Israeli citizens, a demand hotly opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition partners and hardliners within his own Likud party.

- 'Palestinians creating difficulties ' -

The Israeli government has made no comment on the case but the cabinet is due to hold its weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that Israel was willing to free the prisoners but the Palestinians were placing obstacles in the way.

"Israel is interested in continuing the peace talks with the Palestinians and is prepared to carry out the fourth stage of the release of convicted terrorists," he said.

"But the Palestinians are creating difficulties with this when they say that the moment after the release of the prisoners they will stop the talks."

He did not elaborate.

Palestinian official Jibril Rajub told AFP on Friday that Israel informed the Palestinians that the last batch of prisoners would not be freed on Saturday.

Rajub warned that a delay would prompt the Palestinians to push an international diplomatic offensive against Israel.

"Not releasing the prisoners will mark the beginning of the efforts in the international community to challenge the legality of the occupation," he said.

A poll published Saturday by the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion said 87 percent of those surveyed believed the Palestinian leadership should renew its UN efforts if the prisoners are not freed.

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians consider the prisoner release to be "the most crucial issue that must be treated in order to continue with the peace process".

The talks have been teetering on the brink of collapse, with Washington fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework for continued negotiations until the end of the year.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Abbas in Amman on Wednesday in a bid to salvage the talks.

Israeli media say Netanyahu could give a green light to the release if the US frees Jonathan Pollard, who was arrested in Washington in 1985 and condemned to life imprisonment for spying on the United States for Israel.

On Wednesday, Psaki said "there are currently no plans to release Jonathan Pollard".

 

 

Egypt jihadists threaten Sinai security wall attacks

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Cairo (AFP) March 27, 2014 - An Al-Qaeda-inspired group based in the Egyptian Sinai threatened Thursday to attack contractors and workers involved in the construction of a security wall at a town in the restive peninsula.

The Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) group has claimed most of the deadliest attacks in Egypt since the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, saying they were in revenge for a crackdown on his supporters that left hundreds dead.

In a statement published on jihadist forums, the group accused authorities of building a wall around the town of Al-Arish, in north Sinai, to "isolate it from other villages and towns of the province", threatening to carry out attacks against those involved in the project.

"We warn contractors, investors, owners of companies, workers, those who are supervising the construction of this wall, owners of trucks transporting building materials: we won't neglect targeting you and we will spare no effort... to prevent you," the group said.

Security officials denied the construction of a barrier around Al-Arish, but said authorities started weeks ago to build a wall south of the town to secure the airport and nearby agricultural fields used by militants as hideouts.

The army has poured troops into the mountainous and underdeveloped Sinai peninsula, which borders the Palestinian Gaza Strip and Israel, to combat the growing militancy.

Most of the attacks have been carried out in the northern Sinai and have targeted soldiers and policemen, but militants have lately expanded their reach to the Nile Delta.

In recent months, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for a car bombing at a police headquarters in Cairo, the shooting down of a military helicopter and the suicide bombing of a tourist bus in the Sinai.

More than 1,400 people have been killed in the security forces' crackdown on Morsi's supporters, according to Amnesty International. Thousands have been jailed.

 

 

Philippines, Muslim rebels seal historic peace deal

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) March 27, 2014 - The biggest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines signed an historic pact Thursday to end one of Asia's longest and deadliest conflicts, promising to give up their arms for an autonomous homeland.

Following four decades of fighting that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the peace deal with President Benigno Aquino's government at a high-profile ceremony in Manila.

"The comprehensive agreement on Bangsamoro is the crowning glory of our struggle," MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said at the signing ceremony, using a local term that refers to a Muslim homeland.

"With this agreement the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro and the commitment of the government of the Philippines to recognise those aspirations are now sealed."

The pact makes the MILF and the government partners in a plan to create a southern autonomous region for the Philippines' Muslim minority with locally elected leaders by mid-2016.

"What is being presented before us now is a path that can lead to a permanent change in Muslim Mindanao," Aquino said at the ceremony, attended by more than 1,000 people.

The Bangsamoro region would cover about 10 percent of territory in the mainly Catholic Philippines. The planned region has a majority of Muslims, but there are clusters of Catholic-dominated communities.

Muslim rebels have been battling since the 1970s for independence or autonomy in the southern islands of the Philippines, which they regard as their ancestral homeland dating back to when Arabic traders arrived there in the 13th Century.

The conflict has condemned millions of people across large parts of the resource-rich Mindanao region to brutal poverty, plagued by Muslim and Christian warlords as well as outbreaks of fighting that has led to mass displacements.

The conflict also created fertile conditions for Islamic extremism, with the Al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf group and other hardline militants making remote regions of Mindanao their strongholds.

The MILF, which the military estimates has 10,000 fighters, is easily the biggest Muslim rebel group in Mindanao, and the political settlement was greeted with relief and optimism in the south.

"I am really happy. In the face of all the hardship of our parents, we the next generation hope and pray that Christians and Muslims will have peace," Mona Rakman, 42, a mother of four who lives close to the MILF headquarters, told AFP.

The autonomous region would have its own police force, a regional parliament and power to levy taxes, while revenues from the region's vast deposits of natural resources would be split with the national government.

It would have a secular government, rather than being an Islamic state. The national government would retain control over defence, foreign policy, currency and citizenship.

There are about 10 million Muslims in the Philippines, roughly 10 percent of the population, according to government statistics. Most live in the south of the country.

- Fragile peace -

However there are no guarantees the peace deal will be implemented by the middle of 2016, a crucial deadline as that is when Aquino is required by the constitution to end his six-year term.

Aquino needs to convince Congress to pass a "basic law" to create the Bangsamoro autonomous region, ideally by the end of this year to allow time for other steps such as a local plebiscite.

But even though Aquino enjoys record-high popularity ratings, there are concerns politicians could reject or water down the proposed law.

Powerful Christian politicians in Mindanao are regarded as potential deal breakers, while others elsewhere may see political advantage in opposing the deal to appeal to some Catholics ahead of the 2016 national elections.

The deal is also likely to be challenged in the Supreme Court, which in 2008 struck down a planned peace deal the MILF had negotiated with Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Arroyo.

Islamic militants opposed to the peace deal are another threat, and could continue to create enduring violence in Mindanao.

Among the potential spoilers is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), an MILF splinter group of a few hundred militants that has carried out deadly attacks in the south in recent years.

"We will continue to fight against the government of the Republic of the Philippines because we are for independence and nothing else," BIFF spokesman Abu Missry Mama told AFP by phone from his southern hideout.

The MILF leadership has committed to working with the government to neutralise the threat of the BIFF.

However the MILF will not give up its arms or the identities of its fighters until the basic law has been passed, highlighting the fragility of Thursday's peace deal.

In his speech, Aquino warned militant and political foes alike that he was prepared to crush any challenge to the peace deal.

"I will not let peace be snatched from my people again," Aquino said to applause.

"Those who want to test the resolve of the state will be met with a firm response based on righteousness and justice."

 

 

Kerry holds 'constructive' talks with Abbas on peace plan

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Amman (AFP) March 27, 2014 - US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas held "constructive" talks on the Middle East peace process, a US official said Thursday, as crunch decisions loom in the coming days.

After earlier talks with King Abdullah II in Amman, Kerry and his team met for more than four hours over dinner in the Jordanian capital with the Palestinian leader, a senior State Department official said.

Describing it as "a constructive conversation," the official added that "the secretary plans to remain engaged with both President Abbas and Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu over the coming days".

Israel is due to release a fourth and final tranche of prisoners over the weekend, a move which will prove key in deciding whether the talks, resumed in July after a three-year gap, unravel or not.

Under the deal relaunching the peace negotiations, Israel said it would release 104 Arabs held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestinians not pressing their statehood claims via the UN.

Israel has so far freed 78 prisoners but there are growing Netanyahu's cabinet may block the final releases, particularly of Israeli Arab militants.

In Jerusalem, about 50 relatives of the victims of attacks demonstrated Wednesday near Netanyahu's residence against widening the prisoner releases.

"Justice and values come before politics. We can't reach peace by ignoring the blood of the victims," said Meir Indor, a spokesperson for the families.

Palestinian minister of prisoners affairs Issa Qaraqe told Voice of Palestine radio that "Israel is trying to worm its way out of releasing the prisoners. They will be held responsible for any repercussions of this."

He insisted Israel free all the prisoners.

- League rejects 'Jewish state' -

The Palestinians also won key backing Wednesday from the Arab League for their refusal to bow to Netanyahu's demand to recognise Israel as "the nation state of the Jewish people."

"We express our total rejection of the call to consider Israel as a Jewish state," an Arab League declaration said at the end of a two-day summit in Kuwait.

But the Israeli side hit back that Abbas's stand on the issue "could torpedo the peace process."

The Palestinian leader had "boasted that he refuses to even discuss recognising the Jewish state, once again parading rejectionism as virtue," a senior Israeli official said.

Kerry, who coaxed the two sides back to the negotiations last July after a three-year freeze, is aiming to reach a framework to guide the talks going forward as an April 29 deadline for a deal looms.

But Abbas told him he would not discuss the framework accord until after the prisoner releases have taken place, a Palestinian source said.

Israel also wants the Palestinians to agree to extend the talks beyond April 29, warning a failure to do so would scupper the final prisoner release.

"We don't need a new series of accords so that Israel can bury them under an avalanche of conditions, reservations or interpretations before going back on their commitments," Abbas told the Arab League.

The prisoner issue is not the only issue jeopardising the peace talks.

Israeli army radio said Wednesday the US had offered to release Jonathan Pollard, who was arrested in 1985 and condemned to life imprisonment for spying on the United States for Israel, in return for Palestinian prisoners being freed.

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki shot down the report, saying: "There are currently no plans to release Jonathan Pollard."

Kerry was flying back to Rome early Thursday to join up again with Obama for a meeting with Pope Francis.

The two Americans will then visit Saudi Arabia on Friday, when the peace process is likely to be one of the issues topping the agenda in talks with Saudi King Abdullah.

 

 

Palestinians to lobby UN if prisoners not freed on time

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Ramallah, Palestinian Territories (AFP) March 25, 2014 - Palestinian leaders threatened Tuesday to renew their diplomatic push at the United Nations if Israel fails to free Arab prisoners as scheduled this weekend.

When US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace resumed in July, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas agreed that, during their nine-month duration, he would shelve efforts to use the UN's November 2012 recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer to press for membership in international bodies where it could fight Israeli occupation.

In exchange for that diplomatic ceasefire, Israel was to release 104 Arabs imprisoned since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords between the sides.

It has so far freed 78 with the final batch due for release on March 29.

"We shall turn to the UN's international organisations if Israel does not release the fourth and final group of prisoners," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee.

"The release of the prisoners is in return for the freeze on seeking membership in international organisations," he told official Voice of Palestine radio.

Israel wants the so-far inconclusive peace talks extended beyond their April 29 deadline, and ministers have warned that should the Palestinians refuse, the remaining prisoners will not be freed.

"If Israel were to refuse to free the fourth batch it would have serious consequences, including initiatives at the United Nations," former Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayeh, said in a statement.

Israel particularly objects to the Palestinians' demand for Arab Israelis or Palestinian residents of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem convicted of militant acts to be included in the release, even though both groups were included in a 2011 swap of 1,027 Arab prisoners for captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

A senior Palestinian official told AFP that, in recent talks with US special envoy Martin Indyk, Abbas warned that if the April 29 talks deadline was not met "Israel would be in violation of agreements and (the Palestinians) would have the right to turn to the UN and to take any measures it deems appropriate."

US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Abbas in Amman Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Tuesday

Kerry's trip aims "to continue to narrow the gaps between the parties", she said adding that the US diplomatic chief would also be in touch with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "over the phone or by video conference."

The prisoner issue is not the only bone of contention jeopardising the peace talks.

Repeated Israeli announcements of new settlement construction -- condemned by the international community -- and the killing of nine Palestinians by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of the year have enraged the Palestinians.

And Netanyahu's demand that they recognise Israel as "the nation-state of the Jewish people" has been rejected by Abbas.

Moreover, the climate of relations between Israel and its US ally has been chilled by remarks last week from Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon saying Washington's foreign policy showed weakness in global hotspots.

 

 

Turkey vows 'any measures' against Syria threats

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:05:21 AMGo to full article
Konya, Turkey (AFP) March 26, 2014 - Turkey is ready to take any measures against threats to its national security from war-torn Syria, its foreign minister warned Wednesday.

"The Turkish republic is a powerful state and never hesitates to take any measures to protect its national security if need be," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told AFP in an exclusive interview.

When asked by AFP, he did not rule out the possibility of cross-border operations into the neighbouring country.

"Any group in Syria, or the regime, should not test Turkey's determination," said the minister, speaking in his central home province of Konya.

Turkey, which backs the three-year-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and hosts many refugees, on Sunday shot down a Syrian fighter jet that it said had breached its airspace.

It has also warned it will protect a historic shrine that is under Turkish jurisdiction but located inside Syria's northern Aleppo province against threats from Islamist militants.

A Turkish flag flies over the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Ottoman Empire founder Osman, and a small garrison with a symbolic number of troops is permanently stationed there.

The site, located 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the border, has been threatened by the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Davutoglu accused ISIL of clashing with Free Syrian Army rebels while refraining from attacking regime forces.

"Turkey is ready to take any legitimate step under international law if its national security, including the area where the tomb of Suleyman Shah is situated, is threatened," he said.

- 'Bloody civil conflict' -

Once warm relations between Syria and Turkey have collapsed since the conflict erupted in 2011, with Ankara squarely backing the rebels and hosting more than 750,000 refugees, mostly in camps along the border.

"The Syrian regime first of all must put an end to this hostile stance and barbarian methods," said Davutoglu.

"Which regime can have the right to drop barrel bombs, Scud missiles and chemical weapons against its own people?" he asked.

Tensions have flared since Sunday's jet downing, which Syria labelled "flagrant aggression".

On Monday, Turkey's military reported a dozen incidents involving its aircraft and Syrian anti-aircraft defences.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a vocal critic of Assad, praised Turkey's military for shooting down the Syrian warplane.

It was the most serious incident since Turkish jets last September shot down a Syrian helicopter that Ankara said was two kilometres inside its airspace.

Turkey toughened its rules of engagement after the downing of one of its own fighter jets by the Syrian air force in June 2012, declaring any military approach of the border from Syria would be considered a threat.

"Turkey's rules of engagement are not a secret," said Davutoglu. "They were not declared only to remain on paper... we have tried to prevent tension and conflict, but the Syrian side dared to test our deterrence."

Local media have meanwhile reported that Turkey has deployed elite units on the border.

The minister said the military was able to "immediately respond in case of any violation", with the air force constantly patrolling and ground troops prepared to protect borders.

"There can be nothing more natural than this," he said. "Literally, one of the bloodiest civil conflicts of the last century is taking place in Syria."

 

 

Australian 'Great Escape' survivor still has vivid memories

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:24:14 AMGo to full article
Perth, Australia (AFP) March 27, 2014 - Australian Paul Royle, one of only two men alive from World War II's daring "Great Escape", says he still has vivid memories of the audacious prison breakout on its 70th anniversary.

Royle, 100, was one of 76 men who tunnelled out of German prison camp Stalag Luft III on a bitterly cold night in March 1944, an event immortalised in the 1960s film "The Great Escape" starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough.

They dug three tunnels -- codenamed Tom, Dick and Harry -- although only Harry was used.

Only three made it to safety from a camp the Nazis said was escape-proof. The rest were captured by the Gestapo and 50 of them executed on Hitler's orders.

Perth man Royle was spared and the former RAF Flight Lieutenant told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) he still has vivid memories of emerging from the tunnel to a snowy landscape.

"It was very pleasant and all we saw was great heaps of snow and pine trees. There was snow everywhere, it was cold," he said, maintaining that he was not scared during the dash to freedom.

"You had other thoughts in your mind you see, you wanted to get out," he said.

After making it through the tunnel, Royle waited for his companion and the pair walked through the night before finding a place to sleep for the day in the bushes.

Their freedom was short-lived with the two men recaptured in a small village nearby and taken to a local jail.

Royle was returned to the original camp, ABC said, where he met Australian fighter pilot and writer Paul Brickhill, whose book "The Great Escape" told the story of the mass breakout.

Six hundred people were involved in preparing the tunnels over several months with Royle tasked with disposing of the soil, pouring it into his longjohns, then releasing it in the prison yard when guards were not watching.

"You'd have to be very careful because the soil from the tunnel was a different colour from the soil on the surface mostly, and you would (need to) get a suitable place to put it where there was similar soil," he said.

In the film screenwriters focused on the roles of American POWs, with McQueen making a bid for freedom on a motorbike once through the tunnel, but the real escape was by British and other allied personnel, none being American.

"The movie I disliked intensely because there were no motorbikes... and the Americans weren't there," Royle said, while playing down the significance of the escape.

"Oh I don't think so," he said when asked if what he did was extraordinary.

"Most people have extraordinary lives if they think of it.

"While we all hoped for the future we were lucky to get the future. We eventually defeated the Germans and that was that."

On Tuesday, 50 British airmen began a long trek in Poland to the site of Stalag Luft III to mark 70 years since "The Great Escape".

They are headed to a military cemetery in Poznan, western Poland, where many of the British servicemen who perished in the escape were laid to rest.

The only other living survivor is 94-year-old British man Dick Churchill.

 

 

Syria condemns Turkey 'aggression' after jet downed

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:24:14 AMGo to full article
Damascus (AFP) March 23, 2014 - Syria accused Ankara of "flagrant aggression" Sunday after Turkey shot down a warplane near the border, raising tensions as Syrian loyalists and rebels battled for control of a frontier crossing.

Turkey, which backs the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, warned Damascus against testing its determination and pledged a tough response if Syrian warplanes violate its airspace again.

It was the most serious incident since Turkish warplanes last September downed a Syrian helicopter that Ankara said was two kilometres (more than a mile) inside its airspace.

A Syrian military source said Turkey shot down the warplane "in a flagrant act of aggression that is evidence of (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan's support for terrorist groups".

The aircraft "was chasing terrorist groups inside Syrian territory at Kasab", said the source, referring to the disputed border crossing. The pilot was able to eject.

Since Friday, Syrian troops and rebels have been fighting for control of Kasab border post in the northwestern province of Latakia, a regime stronghold.

The battle erupted after three jihadist groups, including Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front, announced the launch of an offensive Tuesday in Latakia dubbed "Anfal", or "spoils of war".

Erdogan and Turkish President Abdullah Gul praised Turkey's military while the foreign ministry warned Damascus "not to test the determination of the Turkish armed forces".

Ankara has notified the United Nations and NATO, it said.

Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz warned Turkey had the "strength" and "capacity" to protect its borders.

Erdogan also warned Syria saying: "Our response will be heavy if you violate our airspace."

The Turkish military said two Syrian MIG-23s approaching its airspace were warned "four times" to turn away and it scrambled fighter jets when one refused to do so and violated Turkey's airspace.

A statement said a Turkish F-16 fired a missile at the plane, which crashed inside Syria.

Turkey toughened its rules of engagement after the downing of one of its warplanes by the Syrian forces in June 2012 and considers any military approach of its border from Syria a threat.

- 'Cease aggression' -

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the plane was bombing rebels attacking Kasab when it was hit.

It said the rebels overran the crossing but were still battling loyalist forces in the area, while activists posted a video on YouTube showing jihadists from Ansar al-Sham flying a black flag over Kasab.

A Syrian military source denied the fall of Kasab, as a security source said the rebels had infiltrated from Turkey.

State news agency SANA said Hilal al-Assad, a relative of the president and commander of a pro-regime militia, had been killed in the fighting with seven of his men.

The battle for Kasab erupted Friday and at least 80 fighters on both sides have been killed.

The downing of the Syrian jet on Sunday prompted an angry response from the foreign ministry in Damascus, which accused Turkey of "interference" in Kasab and siding with the rebels.

Turkey's "unjustified military aggression against Syrian sovereignty in the Kasab border region over the past two days proves its implication in the events in Syria", it said in a statement.

Turkey "must cease its aggression and support for terrorism", it said, but added Damascus "wants good bilateral relations" with Ankara.

According to the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground for its reports, fighting in Latakia spread Saturday to a string of regime-held villages.

"Significant military reinforcements have been sent to the government forces," it said.

Latakia province, ancestral home of the Assad family, is considered a government stronghold, and many of its residents belong to the same Alawite minority as the president.

Swathes of the province have remained relatively insulated from Syria's conflict, which has reportedly killed more than 146,000 people.

Turkey, which supports the rebellion against Assad's government and hosts more than 750,000 refugees, worries jihadists fighting in Syria could threaten its own security.

On Friday, Ankara warned it would retaliate "in kind" if jihadists in the northern province of Aleppo attacked the historic Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which is inside Syria but under Turkish jurisdiction.

And on Sunday, a gunman was killed and 13 were wounded in a firefight between pro- and anti-Damascus factions in Beirut.

burs/hkb/tl

 

 

Tensions running high on Turkey-Syria border

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:24:14 AMGo to full article
Ankara (AFP) March 25, 2014 - Tensions are running high on the Turkey-Syria border following the shooting down of a Syrian warplane by Turkish forces at the weekend, the Turkish army said Tuesday.

The military reported a dozen incidents involving its aircraft and Syrian anti-aircraft defences on Monday alone.

"During one mission... five F-16 jets were followed by anti-air missiles... deployed by Syria, which were locked on our aircraft for 10 minutes, 53 seconds," it said in a statement.

Local media also reported that Turkey has deployed specialist elite units on the border.

Damascus accused Ankara of "flagrant aggression" after the plane was shot down and crashed on Syrian territory on Sunday as Syrian loyalists and rebels battled for control of a frontier crossing.

Ankara said the jet had flown into its territory, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning of a "strong response" if Syria violated its airspace again.

Last year, Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian helicopter which Ankara said had flown two kilometres (over one mile) into Turkish airspace.

Turkey changed its rules of engagement after one of its combat planes was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft in June 2012.

Resolutely hostile to the Damascus regime, Turkey is currently providing refuge to more than 750,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict in their country.

 

 

Arab Israeli prisoners row endangers peace initiative

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:24:14 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) March 23, 2014 - The Palestinians' demand for Arab Israelis to figure among 26 prisoners due for release under US-brokered peace efforts has sparked an outcry in Israel's coalition government that could wreck the initiative.

"My party and I shall oppose at any price the release of Arab Israeli terrorists," Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, told public radio on Sunday.

"So far no (cabinet) decision has been taken," said Aharonovitch, one of five ministers on a committee charged with approving each stage of the release of 104 long-term prisoners, 78 of whom have already been freed with the final batch due for release on March 29.

Deputy defence minister Danny Danon, a hawkish member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, has already pledged to resign if Arab Israelis are included in the deal.

The hardline religious nationalist Jewish Home party has also threatened to quit Netanyahu's coalition if imprisoned Arab Israelis or Palestinian residents of Jerusalem walk free.

Israel's Arab community has its roots in the 160,000 Palestinians who stayed on their land after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

Today they and their descendants number around 1.6 million out of a total Israeli population of eight million.

Those jailed for militant attacks are considered by Israel not only as "terrorists" but also as traitors.

In addition, Palestinians in annexed east Jerusalem have the status of Israeli residents, holding Israeli-issued ID documents and entitled to free movement around Israel, unlike Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is adamant that prisoners from both communities be eligible for the next release.

- Israeli spy -

With the US-brokered resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in July, Israel agreed to release 104 prisoners with their identies to be vetted by the ministerial committee.

Candidates for the final tranche have not yet been named by Israeli authorities.

Commentators warn that the issue may sound the death knell for the already-sluggish talks which were scheduled to reach a conclusion on April 29, but show no signs of meeting the deadline.

Israel wants the timeframe extended and ministers have warned that should the Palestinians refuse, the remaining prisoners will not be freed.

Abbas warned Saturday of consequences if the release does not go through.

"We are awaiting the release of the fourth batch of prisoners, as agreed upon with the Israelis through the United States," he told members of the central committee of his Fatah movement.

"We are saying, if they are not released, this is a violation of the agreement and allows us to act however we see fit within the norms of international agreements."

Public radio said the United States was seeking a "creative solution" to save the talks.

US special envoy Martin Indyk met separately Saturday with Israeli Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.

On Sunday he met Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah but there was no report of progress.

Citing Western diplomatic sources, the radio said Washington could free jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as an incentive for Israel in an effort to save the talks.

A former US Navy analyst, he was arrested in 1985 for giving Israel thousands of secret documents about US espionage in the Arab world.

He was sentenced to life in a US prison and received Israeli nationality 10 years later.

Successive Israeli administrations have sought his release, which could provide an incentive for Netanyahu and help him placate his right-wing coalition partners.

But the radio report also said there was no indication the US administration would free the spy.

The atmosphere between strategic allies Israel and the united States has been strained by remarks last week from Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon saying that Washington's foreign policy showed weakness in global hotspots.

"We are disappointed with the lack of an apology for Defence Minister Yaalon's comments," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday.

 

 

Syria rebels seize key area on Turkey border: NGO

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:24:14 AMGo to full article
Damascus (AFP) March 24, 2014 - Syrian rebels seized the Kasab village and border crossing with Turkey Monday, an NGO said, as the regime launched fresh air strikes in a bid to halt the opposition advance.

The air raids come a day after a Syrian warplane was shot down by Ankara's jets in an incident slammed as "flagrant aggression" by Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels and their jihadist ally Al-Nusra Front were now in full control of Kasab, the only border crossing with Turkey in sensitive Latakia province, President Bashar al-Assad's heartland.

The crossing was the last functioning border post with Turkey to slip from regime control.

"The rebel fighters are in control of Kasab's main square. There is fighting on the edges of Kasab, but the rebels are in control of the village" and border crossing, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, four days into a rebel offensive.

According to a security source in Damascus, however, the village has not fallen.

"The situation is unclear, the fighting continues, and neither side is in control of the village," the source said.

The battle for Kasab, launched by rebels and Al-Nusra Front on Friday, killed at least 130 regime and opposition fighters on Saturday and Sunday alone, said the Observatory.

The rebel advance came despite Syria's air force carrying out strikes and dropping barrel bombs Monday on their positions in the Kasab area and in nearby Jabal Turkman, said the Observatory.

The army also used tanks to shell the Kasab frontier post, said the Observatory.

- 'Flagrant act of aggression' -

Turkey on Sunday downed a Syrian warplane in what the Assad regime described as a "flagrant act of aggression".

In a statement, the Turkish military said the plane breached its airspace by around one kilometre and flew over Turkey for another 1.5 kilometres.

It was the most serious incident involving Ankara and Damascus since Turkish warplanes last September downed a Syrian helicopter it said was two kilometres (a mile) inside its airspace.

Turkey, which backs the uprising against Assad and hosts more than 750,000 Syrian refugees, warned Damascus against testing its determination and pledged a tough response if Syrian warplanes violate its airspace again.

This is not the first time fighting has broken out in Latakia province, but rebel advances have generally been short-lived.

Speaking to AFP by phone from Latakia, an activist said the Turkish army's downing of the plane had boosted the rebels' offensive.

"It means that, unlike previous battles, the rebels' backs are covered this time," said Omar al-Jeblawi.

"The regime is very angry," he added. "They are using all their force -- army and paramilitary -- to try to stop the rebels, who in turn are trying to advance towards the sea."

Syrian state news agency SANA meanwhile said Hilal al-Assad, a relative of the president and commander of a pro-regime militia, had been killed in the fighting, along with seven of his men.

Most of Kasab's majority Armenian residents have fled the village due to the fighting and air attacks, Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Kasab is the last remaining Armenian village in the Middle East, according to Syria expert Fabrice Balanche.

"It miraculously escaped the 1915 massacre," Balanche told AFP.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, was falling apart.

After three years of civil war, Syria's government now controls only nine of the 19 official land border crossings with its neighbours Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.

Only one crossing into Turkey remains in government hands, but it is closed on the Turkish side.

More than 146,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and nearly half the population displaced.

 

 

Obama, Abbas talks 'difficult': Palestinian negotiator

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:59 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) March 18, 2014 - US President Barack Obama and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas held "long" and "difficult" talks on the Middle East peace process and no document was presented by the US side, the chief Palestinian negotiator said Tuesday.

Abbas was welcomed to the White House on Monday by Obama, who said both the Palestinians and the Israelis needed "to take some tough political decisions and risks if we're able to move it forward."

The two men met as an April deadline looms for reaching a full peace treaty set when the talks resumed in late July.

"The meeting was difficult and the meeting was long," Erakat told the Wilson Center think tank.

"Contrary to what people expected -- that we will come out of this meeting with an official American proposal document -- this has not happened."

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who persuaded the two sides to come back to the talks after a three-year hiatus, is drawing up an agreed framework due to set out the guidelines for negotiations going forward.

But US officials confirmed late Monday that no document had yet been presented to the Palestinians.

"To submit an official document we need more discussion," Erakat said.

"I am not saying that those discussions are meaningless... We are talking very seriously, very in depth."

But in line with an agreement wrested by Kerry from both sides to keep details of the negotiations secret, Erakat refused to discuss the content of the White House talks.

"No one benefits more from America's success, Kerry's success than Palestinians and no one loses more if they fail more than us. That is the truth," he said.

Both sides have expressed serious concerns over the apparent compromises being demanded to end their decades-long conflict.

Kerry has pledged the framework will address all of the core issues separating the two sides, including the fate of Palestinian refugees kicked out of Israel when it was created in 1948. It also will address the fate of Jerusalem, sought by both as capital of their future state.

Palestinians have been particularly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's insistence that they must recognize his country as "the Jewish state."

"Israel's name is the State of Israel. That's how they call themselves," Erakat said, adding that the Palestinians had already recognized its right to exist.

Palestinians fear that recognizing Israel as "the Jewish state" will torpedo their efforts to win the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Obama urges Abbas to 'take risks' for peace
Washington (AFP) March 18, 2014 - US President Barack Obama told Mahmud Abbas on Monday that the Palestinian leader and Israel's politicians must be prepared to make tough decisions and take "risks" for peace.

Abbas arrived at the White House two weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning that time was running short for a final deal and saying Israel could show it was serious by honoring a scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners this month.

Obama, personally supporting Secretary of State John Kerry's exhaustive Middle East peace drive at a critical moment, is pressing both sides to accept a framework to carry negotiations past an end-of-April deadline.

"As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when he was here just a few weeks ago, I believe that now is the time... to embrace this opportunity," Obama said.

"It is very hard, very challenging. We are going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we're able to move it forward."

Obama said that everyone understood the shape of an "elusive" peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, saying it would be based on 1967 lines with mutual land swaps.

Abbas sat beside Obama in the same Oval Office chair recently used by Netanyahu, when the Israeli leader complained Israel had done its part over decades of peace talks and the Palestinians hadn't done theirs.

The white-haired Palestinian leader told Obama: "We don't have any time to waste.

"Time is not on our side, especially given the very difficult situation that the Middle East is experiencing and the entire region is facing."

Abbas did not use a photo opportunity before the talks to directly address the Israeli government's demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a "Jewish" state in public.

But he did say through a translator that the Palestinians had recognized Israel's legitimacy in 1988 and in "1993 we recognized the state of Israel."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP that "Abbas confirmed his position to President Obama refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish State."

Abbas noted in the photo-op the agreement that the Palestinians have with Israel on the release of a fourth batch of prisoners by March 29.

"This will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of these efforts to achieve peace," Abbas said.

- 'No formal proposals' -

Israeli ministers said last week that they would have difficulty approving the prisoner release if agreement was not reached to extend the peace talks.

Israel committed to the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in four tranches when talks were launched in July. It has so far released 78 of those in three batches.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP that Obama had not yet presented Abbas with a framework agreement.

But the US president did offer ideas to the Palestinian side, adding that discussions would continue in the coming weeks.

Ahead of the White House talks, thousands of Palestinians rallied in West Bank cities to show support for Abbas.

"We're here today to stand up to pressures upon us and make sure president Abbas adheres to his convictions," said Nasser Eddin al-Shaer, a former Palestinian education minister and member of Fatah's Islamist rivals Hamas, at a 5,000-strong rally in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Despite multiple trips to the region by Kerry, the two sides appear to have made little progress since the talks resumed in July after a three-year freeze.

Kerry and Abbas also met Monday.

"There were no formal proposals or positions on the table, but Secretary Kerry and his negotiating team will continue this process with both parties in the days ahead," a senior State Department official said.

The most nettlesome issues in the peace process include the contours of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and mutual recognition.

The Palestinians want borders based on the lines that preceded the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, including now-annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

They have also insisted there should be no Israeli troops in their future state.

But Israel wants to retain existing settlements it has built inside occupied Palestinian territory over the past decades. It also wants to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan.

 

 

Bomb in Golan wounds Israeli soldiers: army

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:59 PMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) March 18, 2014 - A bomb along the Syria-Israel frontier in the occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday wounded several Israeli soldiers, the army said.

The army said in a statement that "an explosive device was detonated against IDF (Israeli military) soldiers patrolling the Israeli-Syrian border," adding that several soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Security sources confirmed the bombing, saying the explosion damaged an army jeep as it drove near the ceasefire line with Syria, outside the Israeli Druze town of Majdal Shams, without giving further details.

It was one of several incidents this month on Israel's northern borders with Syria and Lebanon.

Israel said Friday it shelled a position belonging to the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah inside Lebanon, in response to a blast targeting its troops along the border.

And the army said on March 5 it had opened fire on and hit two Hezbollah members as they tried to plant a bomb near the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line.

Hezbollah, which supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has threatened to retaliate after an air raid in February, in what was first reported Israeli strike on the group inside Lebanon since a devastating 2006 summer war between the arch-foes.

There was no immediate indication that Hezbollah was involved in Tuesday's blast.

 

 

Obama tells Abbas risks for peace are needed

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:59 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) March 17, 2014 - US President Barack Obama on Monday told Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas that both he and Israeli leaders must make tough political decisions and take "risks" for peace.

Meeting Obama at the White House, Abbas said Israel's release of a fourth tranche of Palestinian prisoners by March 29 would show how serious Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was about extending peace talks.

"As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when he was here just a few weeks ago, I believe that now is the time .... to embrace this opportunity," Obama said as he sat side-by-side with Abbas in the Oval Office.

"It is very hard, very challenging. We are going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we able to move forward," Obama said.

The US leader wants Abbas to agree to a US framework to extend peace talks past an end-of April deadline. Little tangible progress has been made in the past seven months.

He said that everyone already understood the shape of an "elusive" peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, saying it would be based on 1967 lines with mutual land swaps.

Abbas did not directly address the Israeli government's demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a "Jewish" state.

He noted through a translator that the Palestinians had recognized Israel's legitimacy in 1988 and in "1993 we recognized the state of Israel."

Abbas also noted the agreement that the Palestinians have with Israel on the release of a fourth batch of prisoners by March 29.

"This will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of these efforts to achieve peace," Abbas said.

"We don't have any time to waste. Time is not on our side, especially given the very difficult situation that the Middle East is experiencing and the entire region is facing," he said.

Israeli ministers said last week that they would have difficulty approving the prisoner release if agreement was not reached to extend the peace talks.

Israel committed to the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in four tranches when talks were launched in July.

It has so far released 78 of those in three batches.

Ahead of the White House talks, thousands of Palestinians rallied in West Bank cities to show support for Abbas.

"We're here today to stand up to pressures upon us and make sure president Abbas adheres to his convictions," said Nasser Eddin al-Shaer, a former Palestinian education minister and member of Fatah's Islamist rivals Hamas, at a 5,000-strong rally in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Obama told Netanyahu when they met at the White House on March 3 that the peace framework cannot be simply a deal agreed by Israel and the United States and then presented to the Palestinians as a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

But officials also privately say that the Palestinians will be required to make concessions on issues like the return of refugees and borders if they are to secure a state at long last.

However, despite intensive diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry, the two sides appear to have made little progress since the talks resumed in July after a three year freeze.

Abbas met Kerry on Sunday for what a senior State Department official said were "frank and productive" discussions.

"We are at a pivotal time in the negotiations and while these issues have decades of history behind them, neither party should let tough political decisions at this stage stand in the way of a lasting peace," the official said.

The most nettlesome issues in the peace process include the contours of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and mutual recognition.

The Palestinians want borders based on the lines that preceded the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, including now-annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

They have also insisted there should be no Israeli troops in their future state.

But Israel wants to retain existing settlements it has built inside occupied Palestinian territory over the past decades. It also wants to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan.

 

 

Thousands take to West Bank streets to support Abbas

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:59 PMGo to full article
Ramallah, Palestinian Territories (AFP) March 17, 2014 - Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of West Bank cities Monday in support of president Mahmud Abbas's visit to Washington for talks with Barack Obama about the peace process with Israel.

Demonstrators waved the Palestinian national flag as well as that of Abbas's Fatah party, chanting "we are with you, president!" as Abbas was to weigh up an anticipated US request to extend the faltering negotiations with Israel.

"We're here today to stand up to pressures upon us and make sure president Abbas adheres to his convictions," said Nasser Eddin al-Shaer -- former Palestinian education minister and member of Fatah's Islamist rivals Hamas -- who joined a 5,000-strong rally in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Some 1,500 people turned out in the West Bank administrative centre of Ramallah, and more than 1,000 in the southern flashpoint city of Hebron.

Abbas was to meet President Obama in Washington on Monday, having travelled to the US nearly a fortnight after Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did the same, and as an April 29 deadline for the nine-month negotiations loomed.

Palestinian and Israeli leaders have been unable to move the talks forward since US Secretary of State John Kerry kick-started them at the end of July after intense efforts to bring the sides back to the table following a three-year freeze.

Bitter recriminations have taken precedent, with the two sides refusing to budge on key issues such as the borders of a future Palestinian state, security arrangements in the West Bank, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the final status of Jerusalem, claimed by both sides as a capital.

- 'Waiting for peace' -

Israeli President Shimon Peres sought to clear the air on Monday, issuing a statement of support for Abbas.

"President Abbas is a man of principle; he is against terror, against violence. He is a good partner and I'm glad that our government is negotiating with him," Peres's office quoted him as saying in a statement.

"We are all waiting for peace; it is the wish of the Israeli and Palestinian people."

The US is to propose a framework on which to base final status talks and has been calling for an extension of negotiations pending agreement by both sides on that framework.

Israel has recently kicked up a new obstacle to ending the decades-long conflict, demanding Palestinian recognition of it as a Jewish state.

Palestinian leaders have categorically rejected the calls.

In the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, public demonstrations were banned, but Fatah supporters nonetheless gathered at the Al-Aqsa University, a bastion of the West Bank-based movement.

"We informed Fatah members of the ban on celebrations they'd demanded to support Abu Mazen (Abbas), in order to maintain public order, and fearing that inter-Fatah differences could air themselves in public," said Islam Shahwan, a spokesman for the Hamas government.

Abbas has had a spat with an exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, both accusing each other of complicity in the death of late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.

Witnesses said there were confrontations between Fatah members at the 2,000-strong rally at Al-Aqsa University.

 

 

Bomb at military academy in Libya's Benghazi kills 7

 
‎19 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎09:06:59 PMGo to full article
Benghazi, Libya (AFP) March 17, 2014 - A car bomb Monday targeting a military academy in Libya's restive eastern city of Benghazi killed at least seven soldiers and wounded 12, military and hospital sources said.

Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has seen near-daily attacks on security and other targets in recent months as the weak Tripoli government struggles to rein in former rebel brigades turned militias.

The medical centre in Benghazi said "seven bodies have arrived at the hospital in addition to an undetermined number of human remains," updating a previous toll.

A hospital spokesman said 12 people were wounded in the bombing, including six in serious condition.

A military source said the car parked in front of the academy blew up as soldiers emerged from an awards ceremony for army promotions.

The explosion left a one-metre (three-foot) deep crater and damaged around 20 cars parked nearby.

Car parts and scraps of military uniforms could be seen several metres (yards) away.

As with previous attacks, it was not clear who carried out the bombing and there was no claim of responsibility.

The government condemned the "criminal" and "terrorist" act and declared three days of mourning.

"The government has not and will not spare any effort to pursue those behind this crime and bring them to justice," it said in a statement.

In a separate incident Monday, a man was killed elsewhere in Benghazi by a bomb that had been attached to his car, a security source told AFP, adding that the deceased has not yet been identified.

On December 22, a suicide car bomb targeting a security post 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Benghazi left 13 dead.

Militants have also attacked foreign missions in Benghazi, including a September 2012 assault on the US consulate in the Mediterranean city that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

On March 2, gunmen shot dead a French engineer in Benghazi.

Eastern Libya has become a bastion of Islamist extremists, with authorities avoiding a full-blown confrontation with heavily armed former rebels pending the formation of a regular army and police force.

The government has struggled to consolidate control in the vast and mostly desert country, which is effectively ruled by a patchwork of local militias and awash in heavy weapons looted from Kadhafi's arsenals.

 

 

 

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Kerry outdoes himself in new diplomatic frenzy

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:00:16 PMGo to full article
In this April 1, 2014, photo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says goodbye as he leaves Tel Aviv, Israel, continuing on to NATO meetings in Brussels after meeting in Israel with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the Middle East peace process talks. The current trip was to have been a five-day trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia, but with crisis on multiple fronts and Kerry’s decision on how to proceed turned a routine trip abroad into a frenetic tour of high-stakes diplomacy marked by abrupt changes in plan that have come to define his 14-month tenure as secretary of state. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) — More than a week into what was supposed to be only a five-day trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sat in a Paris hotel suite contemplating his next moves on multiple crisis fronts.
 
 

US reviews Mideast peace push as tit-for-tat moves multiply

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:45:16 PMGo to full article
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference in Rabat on April 4, 2014Washington said Friday it was reviewing its push for a Middle East peace agreement as a spiral of tit-for-tat moves by Israel and the Palestinians took hard-won talks close to collapse. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has invested more than a year of intensive shuttle diplomacy in the talks process, said there were "limits" to the time Washington could devote to it. "This is not open-ended," Kerry said during a visit to Morocco, adding that it was "reality check" time and he would evaluate with President Barack Obama what Washington does next. But Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas rejected Kerry's appeals to withdraw the applications he signed on Tuesday to adhere to 15 international treaties, a Palestinian official told AFP.
 
 

Kerry: US reconsiders role in Mideast peace talks

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:35:21 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a news conference with Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar after a U.S.-Morocco Strategic Dialogue at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rabat, Morocco Friday April 4, 2014. In response to a question about the Middle East Peace talks process Kerry said, "Both sides have taken steps that are not helpful…it is reality check time. None of this time has been wasted." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) — The Obama administration will reevaluate its role in foundering Middle East peace talks following actions by both Israel and the Palestinians that have brought the negotiations to virtual collapse, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.
 
 

Abducted Iranian border guards freed in Pakistan: lawmaker

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:08:28 PMGo to full article
Four Iranian border guards have been freed in Pakistan two months after being seized by al Qaeda-linked militants on the countries' lawless frontier, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported on Friday. Fars quoted Iranian lawmaker Esmail Kosari announcing the news. Iran had said the guards were taken into Pakistan and it threatened to send troops over the border to retrieve them. The kidnapping was claimed by Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), a Sunni Muslim rebel group operating in predominantly Shi'ite Muslim Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan province, which borders Pakistan.
 

Spike in Iran executions seen politically motivated

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:05:39 PMGo to full article
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks during an event to mark Nawroz, the Persian New Year, in KabulBy Babak Dehghanpisheh BEIRUT (Reuters) - Within the small community of minority Arabs where he lived in southwest Iran, Hashem Shaabani was known as a teacher, an advocate for civil rights and a poet. Shaabani, 32, was arrested in February 2011 and accused of belonging to an armed separatist group. "It also made me think that we have a long road ahead before we can reach democracy and freedom." Since president Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate in Iran, took office last August, there has been a surge in executions: at least 537 people have been executed in the past eight months, nearly 200 of them since the beginning of this year, according to figures compiled by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. That compares with a total for 2013 of 624, according to data gathered by the United Nations.
 
 

Attack in Afghanistan kills one Western journalist, wounds another

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:19:51 PMGo to full article
Two female, Western journalists were shot in eastern Afghanistan in a disturbing trend of violence against media workers as the country prepares to elect a new president tomorrow. One of the journalists, Anja Niedringhaus, a German photographer with the Associated Press, died in the attack; Kathy Gannon, a Canadian reporter for the AP, is seriously injured, Baryalai Rawan, a spokesman for the governor in Khost Province, told Bloomberg News. The incident occurred in the eastern town of Khost, near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, as the two traveled with a convoy of election workers delivering ballots.
 

Kerry: Mideast peace talks not open-ended

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:20:45 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a news conference with Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar after a U.S.-Morocco Strategic Dialogue at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rabat, Morocco Friday April 4, 2014. In response to a question about the Middle East Peace talks process Kerry said, "Both sides have taken steps that are not helpful…it is reality check time. None of this time has been wasted." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)RABAT, Morocco (AP) — The Obama administration will reevaluate its role in foundering Middle East peace talks following negative steps by both Israel and the Palestinians that have brought the negotiations to virtual collapse, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.
 
 

Militant group frees abducted Iran border guards

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:05:09 AMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A semi-official Iranian news agency is reporting that an al-Qaida-affiliated militant group operating in a lawless frontier area along the Pakistan-Iran border has released Iranian border guards abducted two months ago.
 

US optimism ebbs over Myanmar reforms

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:00:11 AMGo to full article
In this April 2, 2014, photo, a Myanmar Muslim family, who identify themselves as long-persecuted "Rohingya" Muslims, look out from their tents at Da Paing camp for Muslim refugees in north of Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar. Two years after the United States announced the normalization of diplomatic relations with Myanmar, optimism in Washington over the nation’s embrace of democracy is waning and concern over the plight of minority Muslims is growing. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years after the United States announced the normalization of diplomatic relations with Myanmar, optimism in Washington over the nation's embrace of democracy is waning and concern over the plight of minority Muslims is growing.
 
 

US secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:30:14 AMGo to full article
In this March 11, 2014 photo, a woman uses her cellphone as she sits on the Malecon in Havana, Cuba. The U.S. Agency for International Development masterminded the creation of a "Cuban Twitter," a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks, The Associated Press has learned. The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)WASHINGTON (AP) — In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba's communist government.
 
 

Sunni rebels free captured Iranian soldiers

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:25:11 AMGo to full article
An Iranian soldier stands guard on December 2, 2003 on the border with PakistanIranian soldiers captured by Jaish-ul Adl rebels near the Pakistani border in February have been freed, the Sunni extremist group and an Iranian official announced Friday. According to a media report, however, only four of the five abducted men were handed over to Iranian officials in Pakistan alive. "The soldiers were handed over some hours ago by the small terrorist group Jaish-ul Adl to Iranian representatives in Pakistan," said the Fars news agency, quoting an unidentified security official. For its part, Jaish-ul Adl, which operates in southeastern Iran, announced the releases on its Twitter account.
 
 

Anti-Assad allies rebuff Syrian presidential election plan

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:44:52 AMGo to full article
Forces loyal to Syrian President Assad are seen in Latakia mountains after taking control of it from rebel fightersInternational powers who support the Syrian opposition have firmly rebuffed any idea of a presidential election organized by the Syrian government in the midst of a civil war, describing the plans as a "parody of democracy" that would kill peace talks. The Friends of Syria, an alliance of mainly Western and Gulf Arab countries, issued a statement on Thursday in light of recent developments in Syria, where there appears to be no end in sight after more than three years of conflict sparked by protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule. Emboldened by failed peace talks in Geneva, and with the support of his allies Iran and Russia, Assad is looking increasingly likely to stand for a third term in July. "Elections organized by the Assad regime would be a parody of democracy, would reveal the regime's rejection of the basis of the Geneva talks, and would deepen the division of Syria," said the 11-strong group, which includes the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
 
 

US voices concern about Iran envoy

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:36:01 PMGo to full article
An Iranian man walks past the building of the former US embassy in Tehran on September 25, 2013The United States said Thursday it has voiced concern to Iran on its potential selection of a UN ambassador with alleged links to the 1979 seizure of the US embassy. Iran has not announced a nominee to be its ambassador in the United Nations. But a US senator critical of US outreach to Iran said that the Islamic republic has sought a visa for Hamid Aboutalebi, who joined a student group behind the hostage-taking. "The US has raised it with the Iranian government, our concerns about this," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
 
 

Senators urge US to deny visa to Iran ambassador

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:20:08 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Twenty-nine Republican senators have written to President Barack Obama urging him to deny a visa to a former hostage-taker who is Iran's choice for ambassador to the United Nations.
 

West, Middle East powers warn against Syria election

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:20:04 PMGo to full article
Syrians stand next to a heavily damaged building following a reported air strike by government forces on April 3, 2014 in the northern city of AleppoEleven Western and Middle Eastern powers on Thursday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against holding elections, saying that the vote would have no credibility amid the country's brutal civil war. In a joint statement, the 11 core members of so-called Friends of Syria urged Assad instead to embrace a plan outlined in Geneva talks that includes a transitional government as a way out of the three-year war. "Elections organized by the Assad regime would be a parody of democracy, would reveal the regime's rejection of the basis of the Geneva talks and would deepen the division of Syria," said the statement, as issued by the US State Department. The 11 nations include Western powers the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy as well as key regional opponents of Assad: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
 
 

Bahrain police, protesters clash after Shi'ite funeral: witnesses

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:50:35 PMGo to full article
Anti-government demonstrators throwing petrol bombs clashed with police who fired tear gas and birdshot in Bahrain on Thursday following a funeral procession in a Shi'ite Muslim village south of the capital Manama, witnesses said. Thursday's violence in the village of al-Eker outside the capital Manama came ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix, an annual event that draws international attention to Bahrain. Witnesses said that more than 100 young men, some throwing petrol bombs, skirmished with the police after the funeral of Hussein Sharaf, a Bahraini who died on Tuesday in a fire at his home.
 

Iran, six powers start expert-level nuclear talks in Vienna

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:17:45 PMGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Ashton leave a news conference in ViennaIran and six world powers began an expert-level meeting about Tehran's nuclear program on Thursday, part of efforts to reach an agreement by late July on how to resolve a decade-old dispute that has stirred fears of a Middle East war. The meeting in Vienna of nuclear and other experts from Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain was to prepare for a new round of higher-level negotiations next week, also in the Austrian capital. A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - whose office is coordinating contacts with Iran on behalf of the big powers - confirmed that the meeting had started but gave no details. The aim is to hammer out a long-term deal by July 20 that would define the permissible scope of Iran's nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions that are severely battering its oil-dependent economy.
 
 

Moscow calls on Ukraine to pay down its gas debt

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:41:17 PMGo to full article
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, left, meets with Gazprom's Chief Executive Alexei Miller in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Russian gas giant Gazprom on Thursday urged Ukraine to pay its debt, and announced a 70 percent rise in the charge for future supplies. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Government Press Service)MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is tightening its economic screws on Ukraine, ordering Thursday a further increase in the price of gas it sells to the country and asking that past bills — which are growing by the day — be paid.
 
 

Bahrain tightens Grand Prix security as protests planned

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:29:05 PMGo to full article
A Bahraini woman walks along a wall sprayed with graffiti in the village of Diraz, west of the capital Manama, on March 31, 2014Bahrain tightened security Thursday, as the three-day Formula One Grand Prix was about to get under way, with the country's Shiite opposition planning protests to seize world attention for pro-reform demands. Clashes frequently erupt on the outskirts of Manama between security forces and protesters from the Shiite majority demanding that the Khalifas surrender their grip on all key cabinet posts in favour of an elected government. This year's Grand Prix begins Friday and runs through Sunday. On Thursday, police deployed along a main road linking Manama to the Sakhir F1 circuit in the south, as more checkpoints were set up on roads leading to Shiite villages, witnesses said.
 
 

In Iran, age mellows some former captors of U.S. hostages

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:04:30 AMGo to full article
Iranian women walk past a mural outside the former U.S. embassy in TehranBy Parisa Hafezi ANKARA (Reuters) - Three decades after hardline students occupied the U.S. embassy and took diplomats hostage for 444 days, many of the now middle-aged revolutionaries are among the most vocal critics of Iran's conservative establishment, officials and analysts said. The role of the students is back in the spotlight following the appointment of a new U.N. ambassador who may have participated on the fringes of the siege, the event that led Washington to sever ties with Tehran shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution. The U.S. State Department, which has yet to approve a visa for Hamid Abutalebi, said it had raised "serious concerns" with Iran about his nomination for the post. But Iran hopes the case can be resolved, while Abutalebi has played down his role in the hostage crisis, suggesting he was just a translator.
 
 

Iranians avoid bad luck with outdoor festival

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:29:18 AMGo to full article
Iranians spend time outdoors observing the ancient festival of Sizdeh Bedar, an annual public picnic day on the 13th day of the Iranian new year, west of Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Sizdeh Bedar, which comes from the Farsi words for “thirteen” and “day out,” is a legacy from Iran’s pre-Islamic past that hard-liners in the Islamic Republic never managed to erase from calendars. State media and calendar makers choose to call the festival “Nature Day” instead of Sizdeh Bedar, given the bad-luck associations with the number 13. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranians flocked to parks rich with the smell of grilled kebabs on Wednesday to toss around Frisbees, bat badminton birdies and battle one another in chess and backgammon — all to avoid being caught inside on the unlucky 13th day of the Persian New Year.
 
 

US troubled by Iran's choice of its UN ambassador

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:50:14 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. objected Wednesday to Iran's anticipated selection of a former hostage-taker at the American Embassy in Tehran as its newest ambassador to the United Nations. But the Obama administration stopped short of saying it would refuse him a visa to enter the United States.
 

Iran, Russia working to seal $20 billion oil-for-goods deal: sources

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:04:13 PMGo to full article
By Jonathan Saul and Parisa Hafezi LONDON/ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran and Russia have made progress toward an oil-for-goods deal that sources said could be worth up to $20 billion and enable Tehran to boost vital energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions, people familiar with the negotiations told Reuters. In January, Reuters reported that Moscow and Tehran were discussing a barter deal that would see Moscow buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods. The United States has said such a deal would raise "serious concerns" and be inconsistent with the nuclear talks between world powers and Iran. A Russian source said Moscow had "prepared all documents from its side", adding that completion of a deal was awaiting agreement on what oil price to lock in.
 

Iraq attacks kill 15 as UN warns of 'divisive' polls

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:47:26 PMGo to full article
Election posters are hung along a street in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, on April 1, 2014Attacks against security forces killed 15 people Wednesday as the UN's envoy to Iraq warned that the country's election campaign would be "highly divisive" amid a year-long surge in bloodshed. The attacks came on the second day of campaigning for April 30 parliamentary polls, Iraq's first since March 2010. UN special envoy Nickolay Mladenov, in an interview with AFP, underscored fears the polls could worsen a long-standing political deadlock in which Iraq's fractious national unity government has passed little in the way of significant legislation. On Wednesday morning, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to an army recruitment centre in northern Iraq, killing six would-be soldiers and wounding 14 others, a general and a doctor said.
 
 

Kerry arrives in Algiers at start of North Africa tour

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:44:23 PMGo to full article
Supporters of Algerian President Abdelazziz Bouteflika (portraits) gather during a political meeting in the city of Tlemcen, some 600 km west of Algiers on March 26, 2014, ahead of next month's presidential electionUS Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Algiers on Wednesday evening at the start of a North African tour expected to be dominated by the threat posed by Al-Qaeda. Kerry was greeted at the airport by Algeria's Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, an AFP journalist reported. "The question of the Sahel will be a central issue in the discussions," Ramtane's spokesman Abdelaziz Cherif Benali told state radio earlier. Jihadist violence has plagued the vast Sahel-Sahara region since the 2011 overthrow of Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, prompting a French-led military intervention in Algeria's southern neighbour Mali in January last year.
 
 

Iran says does not seek indefinite power for Assad

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:25:32 PMGo to full article
Iran's Deputy Minister for Arab and Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian attends a news conference in MoscowBy Michelle Moghtader ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Iran, Syria's main regional ally, does not see President Bashar al-Assad staying in power indefinitely but neither does it want "extremist forces" to replace him, a senior Iranian diplomat said on Wednesday. Amir Abdollahian, deputy foreign minister for Arab and African Affairs, added in an interview Iran hoped to have talks in a month or so with Saudi Arabia, Tehran's regional rival, to address their differences about the Middle East. Asked about Iranian activities in several Arab countries, he told Reuters that stability, peace and development "in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and any other country in the region will help the interests and security of the Islamic Republic of Iran".
 
 

Turkey's top court rules Twitter ban violates rights

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:35 PMGo to full article
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan banned the use of Twitter in the country last monthTurkey's top court ruled Wednesday the government violated people's rights by banning Twitter, ordering authorities to unblock the site used to spread corruption allegations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The government blocked Twitter on March 20 after the social media site was used to spread audio recordings that allegedly implicated Erdogan and his inner circle in a corruption scandal. Shutting down the site ahead of crucial March 30 local elections sparked condemnation at home and abroad and earned Turkey a strong rebuke from rights groups and its Western allies. But the ban has been widely circumvented by Twitter users, who have kept tweeting via text message or by adjusting their Internet settings.
 
 

Austrian president poised for rare Western visit to Iran

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:32:33 PMGo to full article
By Michael Shields VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian President Heinz Fischer has 'in principle' accepted an invitation to visit Iran, his office said on Wednesday, in what would be the first trip for many years by a Western head of state. Under President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who was elected last year, Iran has started to improve relations with the West by engaging with world powers over its disputed nuclear program. It remains under sanctions, however, and a visit by Fischer, perhaps accompanied by business leaders, would be fraught with political significance as the United States presses Western countries to limit commerce with Tehran. Fischer stood side by side with visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres this week as Peres urged Western countries to keep up the pressure on Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.
 

UN envoy warns of 'divisive' Iraq election campaign

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:51:17 AMGo to full article
Iraqi employees of a printing house carry a panel with the image of electoral candidate Kazem Mohammed Naashur, in the capital Baghdad, on April 1, 2014Campaigning for Iraq's April 30 elections will be "highly divisive" as parties appeal to their sectarian bases at a time of worsening violence, the UN's envoy to Baghdad has warned. Nickolay Mladenov also pushed for Iraqi leaders to urgently pass a much-delayed annual budget within two weeks, noting that further postponing the spending bill would badly impact on drawing much-needed business and investment to the country. His remarks came as campaigning officially began on Tuesday for the parliamentary polls, Iraq's first since March 2010, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki eyeing a third term with bloodshed at its highest level since the country emerged from a brutal sectarian war in 2008. "Campaigning will be highly divisive," Mladenov told AFP from his office in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone complex, which is also home to parliament and the American and British embassies.
 
 

UN envoy warns of 'divisive' Iraq election campaign

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:33:14 AMGo to full article
Iraqi employees of a printing house carry a panel with the image of electoral candidate Kazem Mohammed Naashur, in the capital Baghdad, on April 1, 2014Campaigning for Iraq's April 30 elections will be "highly divisive" as parties appeal to their sectarian bases at a time of worsening violence, the UN's envoy to Baghdad has warned. Nickolay Mladenov also pushed for Iraqi leaders to urgently pass a much-delayed annual budget within two weeks, noting that further postponing the spending bill would badly impact on drawing much-needed business and investment to the country. His remarks came as campaigning officially began on Tuesday for the parliamentary polls, Iraq's first since March 2010, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki eyeing a third term with bloodshed at its highest level since the country emerged from a brutal sectarian war in 2008. "Campaigning will be highly divisive," Mladenov told AFP from his office in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone complex, which is also home to parliament and the American and British embassies.
 
 

Senator: Iran taps hostage-taker for ambassador

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:31:21 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Iran has chosen a former hostage-taker involved in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran to serve as its ambassador at the United Nations, Sen. Ted Cruz said Tuesday in vowing to bar him from entering the United States.
 

Election posters fill Baghdad as campaign starts

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:22:29 PMGo to full article
Iraqis walks past a large banner showing election candidate Nada al-Sudani running on the electoral list of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (top right) placed along a street in the capital Baghdad, on April 1, 2014Baghdad (Iraq) (AFP) - Campaigning for Iraq's April 30 general election opened Tuesday, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki bidding for a third term as his government grapples with the country's worst bloodshed in years. Separate sets of figures released on Tuesday by the UN mission to Iraq and the government differed markedly as to the scale of the bloodshed, but both pegged the violence at near its highest level in more than five years.
 
 

Bahrain opposition calls F1 Grand Prix protests

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:18:36 PMGo to full article
Bahraini boys stand reading a wall sprayed with graffiti against holding the upcoming Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain in the village of Diraz, west of the capital Manama, on March 31, 2014Bahrain's influential Shiite opposition bloc Al-Wefaq and a more radical group have called separate rallies for Friday to protest the weekend staging of the Formula One Grand Prix in Manama. Demonstrations have been held during the three-day Grand Prix event every year since 2011 by opponents of the ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty in an attempt to highlight pro-reform demands. They are mainly staged in Shiite villages surrounding Manama and away from the Sakhir F1 circuit in the capital's south. The Bahrain Grand Prix practice sessions begin on Friday ahead of Sunday's race.
 
 

West stumbles as autocratic force trumps economics

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:15:51 PMGo to full article
A quarter-century after the fall of the Soviet Union, authoritarian rulers such as Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are showing they can and will defy international norms, suppress dissent and use military force. American policymakers are struggling with how to respond. "It's a big philosophical question about how to deal with a strong state with anti-Western and autocratic proclivities," said Michael McFaul, the most recent American ambassador to Moscow. "I would say on that score we are kind of confused as a country." Citing the sweeping unpopularity of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American officials have embraced economic sanctions as their primary means of pressuring foreign governments.
 

Iran denies interference in Yemeni affairs

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:09:06 PMGo to full article
Iran on Tuesday denied accusations by the Yemeni president of meddling in his country's domestic affairs, urging Sanaa to instead take "serious action" to secure the release of an Iranian diplomat kidnapped last year. Quoted in a newspaper on Monday, Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi urged Iran to stop supporting separatists in the south and religious groups in the north of Yemen as the country tries to stabilise following political upheaval that began in 2011. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, denied Tehran was meddling in Yemen affairs when asked about Hadi's comments, the state news agency IRNA reported.
 

Apocalyptic prophecies drive both sides to Syrian battle for end of time

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:39:01 PMGo to full article
Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by Al-Wafaa campaign at Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of DamascusBy Mariam Karouny BEIRUT (Reuters) - Conflict in Syria kills hundreds of thousands of people and spreads unrest across the Middle East. If the scenario sounds familiar to an anxious world watching Syria's devastating civil war, it resonates even more with Sunni and Shi'ite fighters on the frontlines - who believe it was all foretold in 7th Century prophecies. Among those many thousands of sayings, or hadith, are accounts which refer to the confrontation of two huge Islamic armies in Syria, a great battle near Damascus, and intervention from the north and west of the country. The power of those prophecies for many fighters on the ground means that the three-year-old conflict is more deeply rooted - and far tougher to resolve - than a simple power struggle between President Bashar al-Assad and his rebel foes.
 
 

North Korean 'drone' recovered in South after exchange of artillery fire

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:35:54 PMGo to full article
Following an exchange of live fire early Monday with North Korea along its disputed maritime border with South Korea, Seoul says it found an unmanned drone that crashed into an island near the border. If confirmed to be a North Korean drone, the discovery could exacerbate already stressed relations on the peninsula. In recent days, North Korea has taken steps to raise military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. On Monday the North fired 500 shells into the Yellow Sea, with about 100 crossing into the disputed maritime border with South Korea.
 

New NATO head's tough task: dealing with a resurgent Russia

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:20:29 PMGo to full article
More recently, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Philip Breedlove, warned about the large number of Russian forces assembled on Ukraine’s eastern border. And today, NATO foreign ministers are meeting to plan further support for the group's eastern European members, who are worried about the possibility of further Russian expansionism. Indeed, the immediacy of Europe's crisis – and by extension, NATO's crisis – with Russia seems to be precisely why NATO's governing council decided to appoint Mr. Stoltenberg to replace Anders Fogh Rasmussen as secretary general this October. Stoltenberg has warmed up to Russia during his near 10 years as prime minister of Norway, working with Moscow to resolve competing maritime and natural resource claims.
 

Iranian rights lawyer summoned by Intelligence Ministry: husband

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:14:30 PMGo to full article
Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been summoned by Iran's Intelligence Ministry for questioning, her husband's Facebook page said, days after a video of her voicing support for what she called prisoners of conscience was posted online. Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh's husband, said his wife had ignored the summons, made in a telephone call on Sunday, because she considered it "illegal". Sotoudeh was freed from several years in prison in September shortly before President Hassan Rouhani's visited the United Nations, in what was seen at the time as a sign that his election would usher in a new era of political freedom. In March, however, the United Nations said his administration had only taken small steps to improve human rights.
 

Japan relaxes arms export regime to fortify defense

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:17:31 AMGo to full article
Bayonets attached to rifles used by Japanese Self-Defense Forces are seen in front of Japan's rising sun flag, which is used by the forces, during annual troop review ceremony at Asaka BaseBy Kiyoshi Takenaka and Nobuhiro Kubo TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan eased its weapons export restrictions on Tuesday in the first major overhaul of arms transfer policy in nearly half a century, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to fortify ties with allies and bolster the domestic defense industry. In a move which alarmed China, where bitter memories of Japan's past militarism run deep, the government decided to allow arms exports and participation in joint weapons development and production when they serve international peace and Japan's security. That is a shift from a decades-old policy of banning all weapons exports in principle, although quite a few exceptions to the rule have been made over the years, such as the transfer of arms technology to the United States, Japan's closest ally. "If you live in a closed market like the Japanese defense industry does, you clearly lag behind in technological development." But even under the new regime, Japan is to focus mainly on non-lethal defense gear such as patrol ships and mine detectors and says it has no plan to export such weapons as tanks and fighter jets.
 
 

Election posters adorn Baghdad as campaigning under way

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:03:12 AMGo to full article
An Iraqi employee of a printing house puts together campaign posters showing former Baghdad governor Salah Abdul Razzaq and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (R) on March 31, 2014 in the Iraqi capitalCampaigning for Iraq's April 30 general election opened on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki bidding for a third term as his government grapples with the country's worst bloodshed in years. Posters have gone up across Baghdad and around the country as candidates vie for one of 328 parliamentary seats. No single party is expected to win an absolute majority and previous elections have seen lengthy periods of government formation. Though not officially confirmed, the vote appears unlikely to take place throughout the western desert province of Anbar, which has been wracked by violence since the beginning of the year, with militants holding control of an entire town on Baghdad's doorstep.
 
 

Japan relaxes arms export regime to fortify defense

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:39:03 AMGo to full article
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe points to a reporter during a news conference at his official residence in TokyoBy Kiyoshi Takenaka TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan eased its weapons export restrictions on Tuesday in the first major overhaul of arms transfer policy in nearly half a century, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to fortify ties with allies and bolster the domestic defense industry. In a move likely to anger China, where bitter memories of Japan's past militarism run deep, the government decided to allow arms exports and participation in joint weapons development and production when they serve international peace and Japan's security. That is a shift from a decades-old policy of banning all weapons exports in principle, although quite a few exceptions to the rule have been made over the years, such as the transfer of arms technology to the United States, Japan's closest ally. "If you live in a closed market like the Japanese defense industry does, you clearly lag behind in technological development." But even under the new regime, Japan is to focus mainly on non-lethal defense gear such as patrol ships and mine detectors and says it has no plan to export such weapons as tanks and fighter jets.
 
 

Former U.S. hostages angry about new Iran U.N. envoy appointee

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:39 AMGo to full article
By Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Former U.S. embassy workers held hostage in Iran from 1979 to 1981 are outraged that Tehran has selected a new U.N. envoy who may have played a role in the 444-day crisis and want him barred from U.S. territory, lawyers for the ex-hostages said on Monday. The fact that Hamid Abutalebi, a veteran diplomat who has held key European postings in the past, has been selected by President Hassan Rouhani as Iran's new ambassador to the United Nations has been well known among U.N. delegations for months.
 

Spiritual leader of Iran Jews dies aged 100: media

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎10:48:27 PMGo to full article
Iranian Jewish men read from the Torah during morning prayers at Youssef Abad synagogue in Tehran on September 30, 2013Yousef Hamadani Cohen, the spiritual leader of Iran's tiny Jewish community, died at the weekend at the age of 100, media reported on Monday. English-language Press TV said Cohen had been ill for several years, and that he was buried on Sunday in Tehran. Fars news agency said Cohen had been the chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Iran since 1994. Mashallah Golestani Nejad took over the position following his death, said Press TV.
 
 

Erdogan victory puts icy Turkey-EU relations in deep freeze

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎05:24:08 PMGo to full article
By Luke Baker BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Sunday's resounding victory by the ruling AK Party in Turkey's local elections, undiminished by what some call an authoritarian turn by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, is likely to put already cool relations between Ankara and Brussels in the chiller. After months of revelations of high-level corruption and the furore caused by the government's blocking of Twitter and YouTube, Turkey finds itself at sharp odds with the European Union, which it has been negotiating to join since 1999. But the EU is very unlikely to nudge Ankara's accession hopes along until Erdogan shows he is prepared to protect civil liberties, justice and the rule of law - and govern like a mainstream European prime minister. "Following the overall worrying developments which have taken place over the past three months, Turkey ... now urgently needs to re-engage fully in reforms in line with European standards," a Commission spokeswoman said.
 

Iran former chief rabbi Yousef Hamadani Cohen dies

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎04:38:00 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006 file photo, Iran's Jewish community chief rabbi, Yousef Hamedani Cohen, center, arrives at a conference of Iranian parties to show support for Palestinians and Lebanon, in Tehran, Iran. Cohen, Iran's former chief rabbi and one of the cornerstones of its tiny Jewish community, has died. He was 98. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Yousef Hamadani Cohen, Iran's former chief rabbi and one of the cornerstones of its tiny Jewish community, has died. He was 98.
 
 

Oil tanker attacked in key Gulf waterway

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎04:03:39 PMGo to full article
An oil tanker cruises towards the Strait of Hormuz off the shores of Khasab in Oman on January 15, 2012Assailants on a speedboat near Oman opened fire on an oil tanker in a rare attack in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a seafaring body said. In Sunday's attack, "six persons in a skiff armed with machinegun approached a tanker underway and fired twice towards the accommodation and bridge," said the International Maritime Bureau. Separately, the NATO Shipping Centre said six assailants on a skiff armed with machineguns attacked a "merchant vessel" in the Strait of Hormuz, adding the vessel was now safe. Heavily armed pirates using high-powered speedboats have operated in the nearby Gulf of Aden for years, preying on ships and at times holding them for weeks before releasing them for large ransoms paid by governments or shipowners.
 
 

Iran director screens film to save man on death row

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:17 PMGo to full article
An Iranian judiciary staff member ties ropes prior to a hanging in Tehran on September 29, 2002An Iranian film director is to hold a private screening of his latest movie on Saturday to raise funds to save the life of a 26-year-old on death row. Mostafa Kiaei, director of "Special Line", said he had learnt by accident of the young man's case and wanted to help raise the "blood money" to be paid to the family of a murder victim.
 
 

Iran's Supreme Leader pardons 920 prisoners: IRNA

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:57:28 PMGo to full article
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks live on television after casting his ballot in the Iranian presidential election in TehranIranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei agreed on Monday to pardon or reduce the sentences of 920 people, the official IRNA news agency reported, in a customary gesture to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Republic. It was the second large-scale pardon this year after Iran's paramount clerical leader pardoned or eased the sentences of 878 people in honor of the Prophet Mohammad's birthday in January. IRNA did not say whether those pardoned on Monday included any of the nearly 900 people the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights says are currently in jail for political offences. Since his landslide election victory last summer, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, has promised to increase political freedoms and some 80 political prisoners were freed in September.
 
 

North, South Koreas exchange live fire across disputed maritime border

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:39:09 PMGo to full article
North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire in disputed waters Monday morning in an apparent new round of saber-rattling by Pyongyang during annual US-South Korean military exercises. Of these, some 100 fell south of the Northern Limit Line, the maritime border claimed by the South but not recognized by the North. In response, South Korea scrambled fighters and fired 300 shells of its own into waters claimed by Pyongyang in retaliation, Reuters reports. The Northern Limit Line has long been a flashpoint for the two Koreas, most significantly in November 2010, when North Korea shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians and injuring several others. 

 

 

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Explosions, clashes kill 18 soldiers in Iraq

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:44:39 PMGo to full article
BAGHDAD (AP) — An explosion at a booby-trapped house, ensuing clashes with militants and a roadside bombing killed 18 soldiers Saturday in Iraq, authorities said.
 

Relief in Afghanistan after largely peaceful landmark poll

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:18:40 PMGo to full article
Policeman stands guard outside a polling station in Kabul as Afghans wanting to vote queue outside before it openedBy Mirwais Harooni and Jessica Donati KABUL/KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghanistan's presidential election closed on Saturday amid relief that attacks by Taliban fighters were fewer than feared for a vote that will bring the first-ever democratic transfer of power in a country plagued by conflict for decades. It will take six weeks for results to come in from across Afghanistan's rugged terrain and a final result to be declared in the race to succeed President Hamid Karzai. This could be the beginning of a potentially dangerous period for Afghanistan at a time when the war-ravaged country desperately needs a leader to stem rising violence as foreign troops prepare to leave. "On behalf of the people, I thank the security forces, election commission and people who exercised democracy and ... turned another page in the glorious history of Afghanistan." One of the eight candidates will have to score over 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off with his nearest rival.
 
 

Explosion, clashes kill 15 soldiers in Iraq

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:06:38 PMGo to full article
BAGHDAD (AP) — Officials in Iraq say an explosion at a booby-trapped house and ensuing clashes with militants have killed 15 soldiers west of Baghdad.
 

Spc. Ivan Lopez, before Fort Hood attack: 'My spiritual peace has gone away.'

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:18:38 PMGo to full article
Struggling with personal issues after his mother died and describing Army bureaucracy with vulgarities, an increasingly distraught Spc. Ivan Lopez made a decision that proved fatal: He bought a gun, and decided to use it. Lopez, a 34-year-old father and Army truck driver, killed three people and injured 16 before killing himself when confronted by a base policewoman.
 

Al-Qaida calls for Syria arbitration over killing

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:42:16 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this in this 1998 file photo made available Friday, March 19, 2004, Ayman al-Zawahri speaks to the press in Khost, Afghanistan. In a recorded message posted on militant websites late Friday, April 4, 2014, the leader of al-Qaida endorsed a previous call for Islamic arbitration by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front over the death of Abu Khaled al-Suri, who it and its allies say was killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, File)CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida's leader called on fighters to determine who killed his chief representative in Syria, a man many militant groups believe died at the hands of a rival militia, in a move that highlighted a conflict between rebels that has killed hundreds.
 
 

Top Asian News at 2:30 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:33:12 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Top Asian News at 2:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:03:01 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Top Asian News at 1:30 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:33:05 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan polling stations have closed after nearly 10 hours of voting that saw a massive turnout, including in some of the most dangerous areas of the country. Electoral workers wearing blue vests with the logo of the Independent Election Commission pulled the paper ballots out of boxes and carefully showed them in footage shown live on national television Saturday.
 

Top Asian News at 1:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:03:09 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Top Asian News at 12:30 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:33:00 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Al Qaeda chief mourns slain Syria fighter, says infighting must end

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:13:17 PMGo to full article
By Alexander Dziadosz BEIRUT (Reuters) - Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has called for Islamist fighters in Syria to end the infighting that killed a one-time companion of Osama bin Laden earlier this year, according to an audio tape posted online. In the message, Zawahiri mourned the death of Abu Khaled al-Soury, who was killed by an al Qaeda splinter group in a suicide attack in February, and lamented the "strife of the blind that has befallen the blessed land of the Levant." Soury was one of the highest-profile victims of rebel infighting that surged at the start of the year, pitting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against rival rebels including other hardline Islamists.
 

Top Asian News at 12:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:03:01 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

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

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:33:00 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
 

Top Asian News at 11:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:03:17 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women covered in burqas lined up at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 10:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:33:00 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women covered in burqas lined up at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 10:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:02:59 PMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women covered in burqas lined up at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 9:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:32:59 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women covered in burqas lined up at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

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

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:03:00 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women covered in burqas lined up at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

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

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:33:05 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women covered in burqas lined up at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Army may never learn motive of Fort Hood rampage

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:21:26 AMGo to full article
This undated photo provided by Glidden Lopez shows Army Spc. Ivan Lopez. Authorities said Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 others in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, before killing himself. Investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Glidden Lopez)FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — Despite evidence that suggests Spc. Ivan Lopez had an argument before going on a shooting rampage, investigators said they may never determine what compelled the Fort Hood soldier to kill three soldiers and wound 16 others before taking his own life.
 
 

Top Asian News at 8:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:03:00 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women covered in burqas lined up at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 7:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:33:37 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women covered in burqas lined up at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 7:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:02:57 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women covered in burqas lined up at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 6:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:33:00 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan voters lined up for blocks at polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women clad in the all-encompassing burqas arrived at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 6:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:59 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan voters lined up for blocks at polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women clad in the all-encompassing burqas arrived at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

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

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:33:20 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan voters lined up for blocks at polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women clad in the all-encompassing burqas arrived at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 5:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:58 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan voters lined up for blocks at polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women clad in the all-encompassing burqas arrived at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 4:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:33:01 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan voters lined up for blocks at polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women clad in the all-encompassing burqas arrived at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 4:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:04:14 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan voters lined up for blocks at polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women clad in the all-encompassing burqas arrived at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

10 Things to Know: This Week's Takeaways 1110

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:02:37 AMGo to full article
Roses left for shooting victims are seen at the feet of Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, and other military during a news conference near Fort Hood's main gate, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in Fort Hood, Texas. A soldier opened fire Wednesday on fellow service members at the Fort Hood military base, killing three people and wounding 16 before committing suicide. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Looking back at the stories to remember from the past week:
 
 

Top Asian News at 3:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:33:01 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan voters lined up for blocks at polling stations nationwide on Saturday, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. Amid tight security, men in traditional tunics and loose trousers, and women clad in the all-encompassing burqas arrived at polling centers more than an hour before they opened in Kabul and elsewhere.
 

Top Asian News at 3:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:03:03 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 2:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:33:03 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 2:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:03:34 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 1:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:33:00 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

U.S. will not stand in way of Scottish independence: Salmond

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:14 AMGo to full article
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond attends the opening day of salmon fishing season on the river Tay at Dunkeld in ScotlandBy Alistair Bell NEW YORK (Reuters) - The leader of Scotland's separatist movement predicted on Friday that the United States would not try to stand in the way of the breakup of Britain, Washington's staunchest ally for decades, if Scots vote for independence at a referendum this year. Instead, the Obama administration could use the reasonably orderly debate in Britain about Scotland's future as an example to other countries facing constitutional crises, said Alex Salmond, the separatist leader who heads the Scottish National Party and who is Scotland's first minister.
 
 

Top Asian News at 1:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:03:00 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 12:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:32:59 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Top Asian News at 12:00 a.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:03:04 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Soldiers killed at Fort Hood had years of service

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:59:46 AMGo to full article
Bob Butler, left, and Bob Gordon, right, work or a memorial at Central Christian Church for the victims of a Fort Hood shooting, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in Killeen, Texas. A soldier, Spc. Ivan Lopez, opened fire Wednesday on fellow service members at the Fort Hood military base, killing three people and wounding 16 before committing suicide. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander at the Fort Hood Army post in Texas, on Friday released the names of the three soldiers killed by Spc. Ivan Lopez, who then used the same .45-caliber pistol to kill himself. Milley said the shooting rampage on Wednesday at Fort Hood followed a verbal altercation.
 
 

Fort Hood gunman had argument with other soldiers

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:51:27 AMGo to full article
This undated image provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows Army Spc. Ivan Lopez. Authorities said Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 others in a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, before killing himself. Investigators believe his unstable mental health contributed to the rampage. (AP Photo/Texas Department of Public Safety)FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The Fort Hood soldier who gunned down three other military men before killing himself had an argument with colleagues in his unit before opening fire, and investigators believe his mental condition was not the "direct precipitating factor" in the shooting, authorities said Friday.
 
 

Fort Hood Shooting Victims Include Iraq, Afghanistan Combat Veterans

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:48:56 AMGo to full article
Fort Hood Shooting Victims Include Iraq, Afghanistan Combat VeteransPolice Name Victims Shot by Army Solider Ivan Lopez
 
 

Daughter of Iraqi-American man cross-examined at California murder trial

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:41:03 AMGo to full article
By Marty Graham SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - An Iraqi-American man charged with murdering his wife in their California home in what was first investigated as a hate crime heard testimony from his daughter on Friday that showed deep conflict within the family. Kassim Alhimidi, 49, who prosecutors accuse of beating his wife to death, possibly with a tire iron, glared at his daughter during cross-examination on the fourth day of the trial and then began weeping. Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five, died of her injuries several days after her daughter found her bloodied body on the kitchen floor of their home in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, California, in March 2012. The testimony of his 19-year-old daughter Fatima Alhimidi painted a picture of a family in turmoil in the months before the killing, as arguments erupted over whether she would wed a cousin in Iraq in an arranged marriage and over her relationship with a boyfriend.
 

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

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:33:17 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Fort Hood reveals identities of 3 soldiers killed

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:32:31 AMGo to full article
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The three soldiers killed in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood by another military man had served in the military for years and been deployed to Iraq as well as other places.
 

North Korea tells world 'wait and see' on new nuclear test

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:22:08 AMGo to full article
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addresses commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA)By Michelle Nichols UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - North Korea said on Friday that the world would have to "wait and see" when asked for details of "a new form" of nuclear test it threatened to carry out after the United Nations Security Council condemned Pyongyang's recent ballistic missile launch. North Korea fired two medium-range Rodong ballistic missiles into the sea on March 26. Its first firing in four years of mid-range missiles that can hit Japan followed a series of short-range rocket launches over the past two months. North Korea (DPRK) reacted on Sunday with a threat to conduct what it called "a new form of nuclear test.
 
 

Fort Hood gunman's motivation 'may never be known'

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:18:54 AMGo to full article
The main gate to Fort Hood military base in Texas is pictured on November 7, 2009Investigators said Friday they may never know exactly what drove a troubled US soldier to shoot dead three people and wound 16 earlier this week at Fort Hood. Army specialist Ivan Lopez, 34, went on the rampage on Wednesday at the sprawling Texas military base before turning the .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol on himself. On Thursday his base commander said Lopez may have argued with one or more colleagues before the shooting, and Lieutenant General Mark Milley also said that Lopez's troubled mental state was likely "the fundamental underlying causal factor." Chris Gray, spokesman for the CID, the Army's criminal investigation service, said Friday: "At this time, we have not established a concrete motive but we will do everything in our power to do so.
 
 

U.S. finalizing plan to boost support for Syrian rebels: sources

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:16:30 AMGo to full article
By Mark Hosenball and Missy Ryan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government is finalizing a plan to increase training and small-arms shipments for Syrian rebels, two U.S. security sources said on Friday, as Syrian government troops gain momentum following the collapse of U.S.-backed peace talks. The United States would increase assistance and send the shipments to moderate rebel factions mostly based in Jordan, along Syria's southern border, the officials familiar with the plan told Reuters. But the United States fears supplies of advanced weapons to pro-Western rebels could be diverted to Islamic militant groups, who could use them to attack allied, Israeli or civilian aircraft, the U.S. officials said, explaining why the surface-to-air missiles won't be included in the assistance. President Barack Obama has resisted becoming entangled in Syria's complex, two-year civil war, but has faced criticism for failing to take a tougher stand given the immensity of the humanitarian crisis.
 

Top Asian News at 11:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:02:59 AMGo to full article
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists, killing Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon — the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan. The shooting was part of a surge in violence targeting foreigners in the run-up to Saturday's presidential elections, a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's troubled recent history that promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power.
 

Acclaimed photographer Anja Niedringhaus dies

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:00:50 AMGo to full article
In this image taken Friday Sept. 11, 2011 AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus attends an exhibition of her work in Berlin. Niedringhaus, 48, was killed and an AP reporter was wounded on Friday, April 4, 2014 when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan. Niedringhaus an internationally acclaimed German photographer, was killed instantly, according to an AP Television freelancer who witnessed the shooting. Kathy Gannon, the reporter, was wounded twice and is receiving medical attention. (Photo/Markus Schreiber)Anja Niedringhaus faced down some of the world's greatest dangers and had one of the world's loudest and most infectious laughs. She photographed dying and death, and embraced humanity and life. She gave herself to the subjects of her lens, and gave her talents to the world, with images of wars' unwitting victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and beyond.

 

 

 

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Deadly clash in Syrian refugee camp

 
‎06 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:03:36 PMGo to full article
At least one person is reported killed and dozens hurt in a riot at Jordan's Zaatari camp, home to some 106,000 refugees from Syria's war.
 

Israel warns over Palestinian steps

 
‎06 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:12:40 PMGo to full article
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says his country will retaliate if the Palestinians take further unilateral steps in pursuit of statehood.
 

Rosberg beats Hamilton to Bahrain pole

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:07:48 PMGo to full article
Nico Rosberg wins a battle with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton for pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
 

Tribal clashes kill 23 in Egypt

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:09:39 PMGo to full article
At least 23 people are killed in tribal clashes between Arab and Nubian families in Aswan in southern Egypt.
 

VIDEO: Why it's tough being a groupie in Kuwait

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:56:36 AMGo to full article
Why it's tough being a woman and a fan in Kuwait
 

US lets Boeing sell parts to Iran

 
‎05 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:16:11 AMGo to full article
The US Treasury grants plane manufacturer Boeing a licence to export some commercial parts to Iran, in its first public dealings since 1979.
 

Chinese man 'broke Iran sanctions'

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:36:26 PMGo to full article
A Chinese national faces US criminal charges that he conspired to export devices to Iran that could be used in uranium enrichment.

 

Lebanon profile

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:11:01 PMGo to full article
Provides an overview of Lebanon, including key events and facts about a country which has often been at the centre of Middle Eastern conflicts
 

US urges Mid-East 'reality check'

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:31:25 PMGo to full article
US Secretary of State John Kerry says it is time for a "reality check" in the Israel-Palestinian peace process amid a deep crisis in the talks.
 

Kidnapped Iranians freed in Pakistan

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:47:56 PMGo to full article
Four Iranian soldiers seized by a Sunni militant group and taken to Pakistan are freed after a request from Iranian clerics, but a fifth is reportedly killed.
 

VIDEO: Jimmy Carter's historic Camp David accords dramatised

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:59:49 PMGo to full article
The untold side of the Camp David summit goes on stage
 

AUDIO: Muslim mums tackle radicalisation

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:07:14 PMGo to full article
Muslim mothers are being taught how to use the internet to check if their children are being radicalised online.
 

Anti-Syrian hostility in Lebanon spawns social media backlash

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:51:00 AMGo to full article
Anti-Syrian hostility spawns Lebanon social media backlash
 

Will Iran price hikes fuel discontent?

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:19:55 AMGo to full article
Iranians unhappy as subsidy cuts bring rise in cost of living
 

VIDEO: Mohammed al-Hawajri: An artist in Gaza

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:11:08 AMGo to full article
How a Palestinian artist overcomes the blockade of Gaza
 

Israel cancels prisoner release

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:57:34 PMGo to full article
Israel cancels the release of a group of Palestinian prisoners because of the Palestinian leadership's pursuit of further recognition at the UN.
 

US outrage at Iran 'hostages' envoy

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:07:03 PMGo to full article
The Obama administration says Iran's nomination of a former hostage-taker as its ambassador to the United Nations is "extremely troubling".
 

The row over rape in Lebanon

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:43:42 PMGo to full article
Lebanon domestic violence law disappoints campaigners
 

Indonesian maid spared Saudi death

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:32:23 PMGo to full article
A campaign in Indonesia, with help from the government, has raised enough money to prevent an Indonesian maid being executed in Saudi Arabia.
 

'Million Syria refugees' in Lebanon

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:04:57 AMGo to full article
The number of refugees who have fled Syria and registered in Lebanon has surpassed the "devastating milestone" of one million, the UN says.
 

VIDEO: Why Kim Kardashian is tweeting about Syria

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:59:47 AMGo to full article
Why US reality TV star is tweeting about the conflict in Syria