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Outskirts of Falluja- Iraqi forces thrust into the city of Fallujah from three directions  under US air support on Monday and captured a police station inside the city limits, launching a direct assault to retake one of the main strongholds of Islamic State militants. A Reuters TV crew about 1.5 km from the city's edge said explosions and gunfire were ripping through Naimiya, a district of Fallujah on its southern outskirts. An elite military unit, the Rapid Response Team, seized the district's police station at midday, state television reported. The battle for Fallujah is shaping up to be one of the biggest ever fought against Islamic State, in the city where US forces waged the heaviest battles of their 2003-2011 occupation against the Sunni Muslim militant group's precursors. Fallujah is Islamic State's closest bastion to Baghdad, and believed to be the base from which the group has plotted an escalating campaign of suicide bombings against Shia civilians and government targets inside the capital. As government forces pressed their onslaught, suicide bombers driving a car and a motorcycle and another bomb planted in a car killed more than 20 people and injured more than 50 in three districts of Baghdad, police and medical sources said. Separately, Kurdish security forces announced advances against Islamic State in northern Iraq, capturing villages from militants outside Mosul, the biggest city under militant control. The Iraqi army launched its operation to recover Fallujah a week ago, first by tightening a six-month-old siege around the city 50 km west of Baghdad. Fallujah, in the heartland of Sunni Muslim tribes who resent the Shia-led government in Baghdad, was the first Iraqi city to fall to Islamic State in January 2014. A Shia militia coalition known as Popular Mobilization, or Hashid Shaabi, was seeking to consolidate the siege by dislodging militants from Saqlawiya, a village just to the north of...
May 31 2016 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Geneva- When Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner came up with the idea to build the world’s longest rail tunnel under the Alps in 1947, he predicted the project could be finished by the start of the 21st century. He would turn out to be off by 16 years. Gruner’s sketch and technical paper called “Journey through the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) in the year 2000” planted the seeds for a venture that will be launched this week and aims to transform travel through the heart of Europe. Constructing the 57-kilometre rail tunnel took just over 12 billion Swiss francs and some 2,400 workers, according to Swiss government statistics. The bumpy road from Gruner’s initial idea to the official start of construction in 1999 included bureaucratic delays and concern over the project’s financial viability. Switzerland’s federal government set up a committee in 1963 to look into the building of an alpine base tunnel but opinions were split over various proposals, before an official body eventually ruled in 1983 that the project was “not urgent.” Momentum in favour of the GBT built again ahead of a 1992 referendum, which supported the project, but public outcry about the expense put work on hold. Eventually, a November 1998 referendum closed the deal, when 64% Swiss voters approved the final plans along with funding schemes, including a new road tax. “It’s a big engineering achievement,” said Martin Knights of the London-headquartered Institution of Civil Engineers. The tunnel runs from Erstfeld in the central Swiss canton of Uri, to Bodio in southern Ticino canton, and will shave the train journey from Zurich to Milan in northern Italy down to two hours and 40 minutes, roughly an hour less than it currently takes. Full service starts in December....
May 30 2016 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
ISE-SHIMA - Group of Seven (G7) leaders agreed on Thursday on the need to send a strong message on maritime claims in the western Pacific, where an increasingly assertive China is locked in territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations. The agreement prompted a sharp rejoinder from China, which is not in the G7 club but whose rise as a power has put it at the heart of some discussions at the advanced nations’ summit in Ise-Shima, central Japan. “Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe led discussion on the current situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Other G7 leaders said it is necessary for G7 to issue a clear signal,” Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters after a session on foreign policy affairs. At a news conference late on Wednesday, Abe said Japan welcomed China’s peaceful rise while repeating Tokyo’s opposition to acts that try to change the status quo by force and urging respect of the rule of law — principles expected to be mentioned in a statement after the summit. The United States is also increasingly concerned about China’s action in the region. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted in Beijing that the South China Sea issue had “nothing to do” with the G7 or any of its members. “China is resolutely opposed to individual countries hyping up the South China Sea for personal gain,” she said. US President Barack Obama called on China on Wednesday to resolve maritime disputes peacefully and he reiterated that the United States was simply concerned about freedom of navigation and overflight in the region. Obama on Thursday pointed to the risks from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, saying the isolated state was “hell bent” on getting atomic weapons. But he said there had been improved responses from countries in the region like China that could reduce the risk of North Korea selling weapons or nuclear material. “It’s something that we’ve put at the centre of discussions and negotiations with China,” Obama told reporters. The G7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States....
May 27 2016 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Washington- The US is “watching very closely” India’s growing ties with Iran after it recently pledged $500 million for developing the Chabahar port and will see if its legal parameters and requirements are being met, the Obama administration has told lawmakers. As of now, there is no military or counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries that could be a cause for concern for the US, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Congressional hearing. She said the US is “watching very closely” India’s relationship with Iran. “We also track very closely what their economic engagement is and make sure they understand what we believe are legal parameters and requirements,” Biswal said. “With respect to the announcement in the Chabahar port, we have been very clear with the Indians on what we believe are the continuing restrictions on the activities with respect to Iran and what we have done,” she said. She was responding to a question on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Iran visit from Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Modi’s visit, that saw the signing of a bilateral pact to develop the Chabahar port for which India will invest $500 million, came months after the lifting of international sanctions on Iran following Tehran’s historic nuclear deal with the western powers over its contentious atomic programme. “Obviously nothing appears to be in violations of our agreements. But how do we see India as partner in fighting extremism and financing terrorism?” said Cardin as he expressed concerns that India’s economic relationship with Iran would further boost Tehran’s alleged activities to support various terrorist groups. She said India’s burgeoning ties with Iran were driven by ever-growing energy needs and using the Persian Gulf nation as a gateway into Afghanistan and Central Asia. Biswal in her answer said: “They (Indians) have been very responsive and receptive to our briefings, to what we believe the line is. And we have to examine the details of the Chabahar announcement to see where it falls in that place. “But with respect to India’s relationship with Iran, which I do believe is primarily focused on economics and energy issues, we do recognise that from the Indian perspective that Iran represents for India a gateway into Afghanistan and Central Asia.” “For India to be able to contribute to the economic development of Afghanistan, it needs access that it does not readily have across its land boundary. And India is seeking to deepen its energy relationship with the Central Asian countries and looking for routes that would facilitate that. “That said we have been very clear with the Indians what our security concerns have been and we would continue to engage them on those issues,” said the US...
May 26 2016 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Manila¸ Presumptive Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said today he will reimpose the death penalty, offer Cabinet posts to communist rebels, and move to amend the constitution to give more power to the provinces, in some of his first policy pronouncements since winning last week's election based on an unofficial count. In his first formal news conference since the May 9 vote, Duterte also said he will launch a major military offensive to destroy Abu Sayyaf extremists on southern Jolo Island, even if their human rights are trampled in the process. The announcements, a sharp departure from current government policy, reflect his brash campaign pledge to end crime and corruption in the impoverished nation in three to six months. Police officials have said the plan is undoable, and that crime remains prevalent in Davao city, where Duterte has served as mayor for more than 22 years. The military have been fighting a decades-long Marxist insurgency in the countryside. Duterte said he would likely offer the Cabinet posts of environment and natural resources, agrarian reform, social welfare, and labour to the communist rebels. In a populist move, Duterte said he would sell the presidential yacht and use the money to buy medical equipment for military and police personnel....
May 17 2016 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Washington, -Donald Trump, who courted global controversy with remarks on ‘temporarily’banning Muslims from entering the US, today appeared to be slightly softening his hardline stance saying the proposal was ‘just a suggestion’ until the issue is worked out.“We have a serious problem, it's a temporary ban, it hasn't been called for yet, nobody's done it, this is just a suggestion until we find out what's going on,” Republican presumptive presidential nominee Trump told Fox Radio. Trump said he would grant exemption to the Pakistani-origin mayor to come to the US under his presidency though he was critical of London Mayor Sadiq Khan. "Well I assume he denies there is Islamic terrorism. There is Islamic radical terrorism all over the world right now. It's a disaster what's going on. I assume he is denying that. I assume he is like our President that's denying its taking place," the real estate tycoon said to a question on an interview by Khan to CNN. “My message to Donald Trump and his team is that your views of Islam are ignorant. It is possible to be a Muslim and live in the West. It is possible to be a Muslim and love America,” Khan had told CNN. In December, Trump had called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on,” which had triggered global outrage. Meanwhile, Trump refrained from giving any hint on who his vice presidential nominee would...
May 13 2016 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Pyongyang- North Korea said it will strengthen self-defensive nuclear weapons capability in a decision adopted at a congress of its ruling Workers’ Party congress, its KCNA news agency reported on Monday, in defiance of UN resolutions. Isolated North Korea has come under tightening international pressure over its nuclear weapons programme, including tougher UN sanctions adopted in March backed by lone major ally China, following its most recent nuclear test in January. The decision formalises a position previously held by North Korea, which declared itself “a responsible nuclear weapons state” and disavowed the use of nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty is first infringed by others with nuclear arms. “We will consistently take hold on the strategic line of simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force and boost self-defensive nuclear force both in quality and quantity as long as the imperialists persist in their nuclear threat and arbitrary practices,” KCNA said of the congress decision. The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. North Korea regularly threatens the South and its major ally, the United States, which it accuses of planning a nuclear attack. The congress is the first to be held in 36 years amid anticipation by the South Korean government and experts that leader Kim Jong Un will use it to further consolidate power. Kim became leader in 2011 after his father’s sudden death. Since the latest round of UN resolutions, North Korea has continued to engage in nuclear and missile development, and claimed that it had succeeded in miniaturising a nuclear warhead and launching a submarine-based ballistic...
May 09 2016 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...
Pyongyang- North Korea detained a BBC journalist and ordered his expulsion over his reporting, the broadcaster said on Monday, as a large group of foreign reporters cover a rare congress of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party. Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was detained on Friday as he was about to leave the country, along with a BBC producer and cameraman, the network said. The three were on their way to the airport in Pyongyang on Monday afternoon, it said. China’s Xinhua news agency cited a North Korean official as saying the correspondent was detained for improper “reportage”. Another BBC correspondent in Pyongyang, John Sudworth, said in a broadcast report that there was “disagreement, a concern over the content of Rupert’s reporting”, including questioning the authenticity of a hospital. “When he reached the airport on Friday, he was separated from the rest of his team, prevented from boarding that flight, taken to a hotel and interrogated by the security bureau here in Pyongyang before being made to sign a statement and then released, eventually allowed to rejoin us here in this hotel,” Sudworth said in the report. North Korea granted visas to 128 journalists from 12 countries. Their movements are closely managed and as of Monday morning they had yet to get access to the proceedings of the party congress, which began on Friday. Wingfield-Hayes had been in town ahead of the congress to cover the visit of a group of Nobel laureates.North Korea said it will strengthen self-defensive nuclear weapons capability in a decision adopted at the congress, its KCNA news agency reported on Monday, in defiance of UN resolutions....
May 09 2016 | Posted in : | No Comment | read more...