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Showing posts from January, 2019

European powers unveil new trade channel with Iran

The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany hailed a new mechanism to ease trade with Iran despite U.S. sanctions as a sign of their commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
“It is a political act,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters after a meeting of EU counterparts in Bucharest. 
“It is a gesture to protect European companies.”
Britain’s Jeremy Hunt said the three countries were working closely with Tehran to finalize arrangement to allow for humanitarian, pharmaceutical, agricultural and consumer trade.
“Registration is a big step, but there is still more work to be done,” Hunt said.

In a quiet French village, a cleric plotted Iran's revolution

Forty years ago this month, the man who would go on to lead the Islamic revolution in Iran lived in a simple house in a village outside Paris, spending his days cross-legged under an apple tree in the garden, contemplating insurrection.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had fled Iran in the mid-1960s, fearing a crackdown on his teachings by the Shah.
After a brief time in Turkey he moved to Iraq, but was later expelled from the holy city of Najaf by Saddam Hussein in 1978.
He would end up in sleepy Neauphle-le-Chateau, west of Paris, where from October that year until his return to Tehran in February 1979, he quietly fomented unrest, nurturing the Islamist revolution that persists to this day.
Artist Jean-Claude Cintas, 61, lived down the road from the ayatollah at the time and distinctly remembers the bearded Shia cleric in his robes and black turban occasionally walking through the streets with extra protection from French police.
“For the folks of Neauphle-le-Chateau, for us, we were telling …

Facebook removes more accounts tied to Iran

Facebook Inc said on Thursday it removed pages, groups and accounts tied to Iran for using and coordinating fake accounts.
These accounts targeted people across the world, although more heavily in the Middle East and South Asia, the company said.

U.N. Khashoggi investigator seeks more information in Turkey

The U.N. investigator leading the inquiry into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi said in Turkey on Thursday she had not yet received all the information she is seeking, but still hopes to conduct a successful probe.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist living in the United States, was killed on Oct. 2 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to collect documents for his planned wedding.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe Saudi Arabia’s de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered an operation to kill Khashoggi, whose body was dismembered.
Riyadh denies the prince had any involvement.
Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on executions who is on a week-long mission to Turkey, has held talks in Ankara and Istanbul with government ministers, intelligence officials and Istanbul’s chief prosecutor.
“We have had good meetings here, we are still a bit disappointed that we were not able to get all the information we requested related to the investigation,” she t…

Brazil dam burst death toll rises to 110; search goes on for 238

The death toll from a dam burst in the Brazilian town of Brumadinho rose to 110 people, with 238 still unaccounted for, according to rescuers working at the site on Thursday.
They said that 71 bodies had been identified so far, recovered after mud flowed from the ruptured tailings dam, which belongs to iron ore miner Vale SA.

U.S. warns Venezuela's Maduro about intimidation, 'looting'

The U.S. government on Thursday warned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of consequences for what it called “egregious” acts of intimidation, and said Russia and other countries should cease “last-minute looting” of oil and gold.
Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president, said on Thursday that agents from a feared special police unit had visited his home.
“Such acts of intimidation are seen as very serious, very egregious by the United States,” a senior U.S. administration official told reporters on a conference call. 
“There will be consequences for those engaged in such acts, they will be held accountable and they will be missing this unique opportunity to move on.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official urged Venezuelan military officials to accept Guaido’s offer of amnesty if they backed his claim. So far, the Venezuelan military has remained loyal to Maduro.
The United States and most other Western nations have backed Guaido’s push for a transition and new…

China punishes 3,000 people in organized crime crackdown: state media

China has punished 3,021 people in a crackdown on organized crime and the local “protective umbrellas” that allow it to operate, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday, citing a government anti-crime task force.
China ordered 10 regions to take action against organized crime following a three-month inspection campaign last year. 
These included northern heavy industrial provinces such as Shanxi and Liaoning, as well as the major manufacturing powerhouse of Guangdong near Hong Kong.
The 10 regions busted 1,129 mafia-style groups and seized 4.94 billion yuan ($737.8 million) in assets during a subsequent “rectification” campaign that ended in December, Xinhua said.
The campaign focused on strengthening grass-roots governance and law enforcement to smash what China calls “protective umbrellas”, in which governments or police bureaus turn a blind eye or connive in crime.
Xinhua said Henan province in central China took action against criminal gangs running illegal taxi and trucking servic…

Venezuela plans to fly central bank gold reserves to UAE - source

Venezuela will sell 15 tonnes of gold from central bank vaults to the United Arab Emirates in coming days in return for euros in cash, a senior official with knowledge of the plan said, as the crisis-stricken country seeks to stay solvent.
The sale this year of gold reserves that back the bolivar currency began with a shipment on Jan. 26 of 3 tonnes, the official said, and follows the export last year of $900 million of mostly unrefined gold to Turkey.
In total, the plan is to sell 29 tonnes of gold held in Caracas to the United Arab Emirates by February in order to provide liquidity for imports of basic goods, the source said, requesting anonymity in order to speak freely.
Socialist President Nicolas Maduro is under intense pressure to step down, with Venezuela in deep economic crisis and the government facing widespread international condemnation for elections last year seen as fraudulent.
The United States, which is backing an attempt by the opposition to oust Maduro and call new elect…

Latest group of Central American migrants proceed with northern trek

Thousands of U.S.-bound Central American migrants resumed their northern journey on Thursday, Mexico City officials said, part of a growing group of would-be asylum seekers who say they are fleeing violence and poverty back home.
Around 2,400 migrants left a city shelter to begin the journey from the Mexican capital early Thursday morning, the latest caravan to embark upon the risky path to the U.S.-Mexican border despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s determination to prevent them from entering.
Since last October, thousands of mostly Central American migrants have sought to cross into the United States, many traveling in caravans in order to minimize the risks of kidnapping and attacks by members of criminal gangs while in Mexican territory.
The likelihood of having to wait weeks or even months at the border, where migrants face high rates of violent crime, has not dented the group’s enthusiasm.
“I know it’s violent at the border, but I have to take that risk. I don’t have any more money…

Amid cries of 'traitor,' Canada's Trudeau set for ugly election

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who swept to power on a wave of optimism in 2015, is set for an ugly reelection campaign this October, judging by exchanges with voters in public town halls this month where he was grilled on topics ranging from immigration to housing affordability.
Opinion polls show his center-left Liberals are barely ahead of their rivals, and party insiders privately admit they might lose their majority in the House of Commons, which would crimp the government’s ability to govern.
“The next election is going to be a referendum on Justin Trudeau...and whether or not people think he has performed,” said Ipsos Public Affairs pollster Darrell Bricker.
In contrast to more gentle exchanges in previous years, angry citizens slammed Trudeau for bungling the construction of pipelines, breaking promises to respect the right of indigenous groups, ignoring a pledge to balance the budget and allowing too many migrants into Canada.
Liberal insiders say as a result of the feed…

Watching Venezuela? US spy plane spotted above Colombia as Washington fuels anti-Maduro coup

A US spy plane has been spotted flying secret missions in Colombia, fueling suspicions that it might be eavesdropping on the neighboring Venezuela, which has been targeted for regime change and attempted coup by Washington.
A US Army EO-5C reconnaissance aircraft has been spotted by flight-tracking groups on Thursday. 
The plane, designated as N177RA, appears to be busy flying missions over Colombia.
The EO-5C spy plane is based on a Canadian DHC-7, a four-engine turboprop aircraft, suitable to carry some 50 passengers or a load of cargo. 
Aircraft of such type appear to usually lack any large military markings and overall look more like a regional airliner rather than a spy plane that one would expect to be packed with large and distinctive sensors.
This plane is said to be loaded with various spy equipment and it can detect and intercept transmissions on the entire radio spectrum, as well as take high-resolution imagery, both infrared and visible-light.
Back in 2014, the secretive plane w…

Trump backs big ‘protests against ex-dictator Maduro’ as he talks with Venezuela opposition’s Guaido

Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-declared ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido chatted by phone with US President Donald Trump, with Trump giving the thumbs up to “large protests” against “former dictator Maduro.”
The phone call occurred Wednesday as anti-government demonstrators in Venezuela were about to take to the streets for the second time in a week. 
Trump “noted the importance” of the protests against “former dictator Maduro,” and vowed “strong support for Venezuela’s fight to regain its democracy,” according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Nicolas Maduro remains Venezuela’s elected leader, despite a number of countries declaring their support for Guaidó’s claim as the acting head.
Trump, meanwhile, congratulated Guaidó on his “historic assumption of the presidency.” 
Neither President Maduro or predecessor Hugo Chavez ever received a phone call from a US president after election.
Guaidó said that Trump offered his “full support for our democratic work, commitment to …

Israeli expulsion of observers from Hebron a ‘wicked’ decision – former UN rapporteur

A former UN envoy on Palestinian affairs has condemned a decision by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to expel international observers from the West Bank city of Hebron, a hotspot of Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
John Dugard, an international law professor who previously served as special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council concerning Palestinian affairs, described the decision to expel the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) as “wicked.”
“The situation in Hebron is very volatile,” he told RT, adding that TIPH “have kept the peace there quite successfully” even as tensions continued to rise between Palestinians and Jewish Israeli settlers.
The observers have “always played an important role in keeping the peace in Hebron and one cannot imagine Hebron without the presence of TIPH. 
This will be seen as a green light to the settlers to undermine and to violate the rights of the Palestinian people in Hebron,” he said.
The-64-member mission has been present in Hebron since 199…

Maduro to Americans: You are bigger than Trump, don’t let him start ‘Vietnam’ war against Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on the people in the US to deter the Trump administration from putting boots on the ground in Venezuela, warning that any intervention would backfire leading to new Vietnam-like disaster.
In his first direct message to the American people, the Venezuelan leader urged them to stop the US government from entangling the nation in a pointless and inherently doomed military adventure.
“If the government of the United States intends to intervene us, they will have a much worse Vietnam than you could imagine.”
The 4-minute video, in Spanish with English subtitles, was posted on Maduro’s official Facebook page on Wednesday, shortly after he accused US President Donald Trump of ordering the Colombian government and mafia to assassinate him, and rejected a European ultimatum to call snap presidential elections within 8 days.
Maduro accused the US media of waging a “brutal campaign of false images” to support the Trump administration’s interference in Venez…