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Sunday, November 29, 2015

London protesters oppose UK airstrikes on IS in Syria

November 28, 2015

LONDON (AP) — Hundreds of demonstrators in London are urging British lawmakers not to back airstrikes on the Islamic State group in Syria.

Protesters chanting "Don't bomb Syria" gathered outside Prime Minister David Cameron's 10 Downing St. office. Protests were also being held Saturday in other British cities. Britain's Royal Air Force is already part of a U.S.-led campaign against the militants in Iraq, and on Thursday Cameron argued that the strikes should be expanded to Syria. He said, "we have to hit these terrorists in their heartlands."

The government is trying to build support among lawmakers for military action before calling a vote in Parliament, which could come next week. The main opposition Labor Party is deeply divided. Leader Jeremy Corbyn says he will oppose airstrikes, but many Labor legislators back them.

Carson visiting Syrian refugees in Jordan

November 28, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is in the Middle East this weekend to meet with Syrian refugees.

The retired neurosurgeon has been facing questions about his command of foreign policy. Carson planned to tour one of Jordan's major refugee camps Friday and Saturday, campaign manager Barry Bennett said. Bennett declined to release more details about the two-day mission because of security concerns.

Like other Republicans, Carson has sometimes taken a harsh tone when discussing the issue. Last week, he likened blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees to handling a rabid dog. "We have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly," he said. "Who are the people who want to come in here and hurt us and want to destroy us?"

Debate over Syrians fleeing their war-torn country has erupted following a series of terrorist attacks in Paris that raised security concerns across the West. Carson and his GOP rivals have criticized President Barack Obama's plan to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees this budget year, expressing concern that terrorists may sneak into the country among them. Many Republicans have linked the Paris attackers to Syrian refugees, although European authorities have yet to confirm such connections.

Carson has repeatedly struggled to discuss international affairs as they become a greater focus in the 2016 presidential contest. Those close to him concede his foreign policy fluency isn't yet where it needs to be. They hope missions like this will help change that.

"I'd say he's 75 percent of the way there," Armstrong Williams, Carson's longtime business manager and closest confidant, said last week of the candidate's grasp of foreign policy. "The world is a complex place, and he wants to get it right."

Carson is scheduled to return to the United States late Saturday, Bennett said.

Canadian PM Trudeau: Syrian refugees not security risk

November 25, 2015

LONDON (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has slowed down plans to settle 25,000 Syrian refugees within weeks in order to allay citizens' security concerns after the Paris attacks.

Trudeau had wanted to resettle 25,000 refugees in Canada by Dec. 31. On Tuesday, his Liberal government said Canada would resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year and another 15,000 by the end of February. Health and security screening will take place overseas, rather than once the newcomers arrive in Canada.

In London on Wednesday, Trudeau said last week's deadly gun-and-bomb attacks in Paris, claimed by the Islamic State group, had changed "the perception that Canadians had." He said people who were previously supportive of the refugee plan "had a few more questions. And we realized that the most important thing is to be able to reassure Canadians that absolutely everything is being done to keep Canadians safe."

He said he did not want the refugees to be "a cause for anxiety or division." Trudeau, on his first visit to Britain since being elected last month, met Wednesday with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and held talks with his British counterpart, David Cameron, at 10 Downing St.

Trudeau told an audience at the Canadian embassy, Canada House, that his country drew strength from its diversity, and refugees brought economic benefits. "We're not just welcoming 25,000 refugees," he said. "We're welcoming 25,000 new Canadians."

Outgoing Argentine president says she's not going away

November 25, 2015

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — When Argentines chose a new president in recent elections, many voters seemed more concerned about what would happen with the old one.

Such is the hold of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez on the public imagination in this South American country, where the telegenic, combative and polarizing leader steps down Dec. 10 after dominating the political landscape during eight years in office. Fernandez, who was constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive term, leaves with high approval ratings despite myriad economic problems and the cloud of several alleged corruptions scandals.

Perhaps most significantly, she'll be leaving after a major political defeat: Her chosen successor, Daniel Scioli, lost Sunday's presidential election to Mauricio Macri, who campaigned on free-market ideas as well as promises to roll back many of Fernandez's left-leaning policies and distance the country from Venezuela.

"It's unlikely that Fernandez goes quietly into the night," said Jason Marczak, deputy director of the Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. "But her concrete plans postelection? Your guess is as good as mine."

Fernandez, 62, has said little about her future, other than repeatedly promising not to go away. It's hard to imagine anything less from Argentina's most important female political figure since Eva Peron, the country's iconic first lady from the 1940s. Even before assuming the presidency, Fernandez was a central figure as first lady in the administration of her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, and as a senator.

"Know this," Fernandez told thousands of supporters late last month. "I won't be president Dec. 10, but I will always be there for the people when I'm needed." But the lack of clarity over her future has not stopped speculation. Some theorize she is positioning herself for a presidential run in 2019 while others say her political era has run its course.

In the short-term, Fernandez will try to keep control of the Peronist Party, which maintains a majority in the Senate, the largest bloc in the lower house and governorships of 15 out of 24 provinces. She'll have some powerful allies, including son Maximo Kirchner, who leads large political youth movement called La Campora, and outgoing Economy Minister Axel Kicillof. Both have been elected to Congress.

But Fernandez will also face fierce competition. A principal adversary will be Sergio Massa, a former Fernandez Cabinet chief who broke with the president to form his own political movement. Massa got 21 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential voting last month, appealing to dissident Peronists frustrated by Fernandez's administration.

"Peronism is entering a process of rupture and change," said Roberto Bacman, director of the Center for Public Opinion Studies, a South American research firm. "The fight is to see who will be its leader over the next four years."

One common theory, flatly rejected by her supporters, is that Fernandez wanted Scioli to lose, and thus didn't campaign hard on his behalf. The logic is that she could be a more powerful force as opposition leader than as a former president who had to play nice with the new party standard-bearer.

In the days after Scioli's worse-than-expected showing in the first round of the election, speculation of a rupture between him and Fernandez was so intense that Scioli felt compelled to come out and dispel what he said were unfounded rumors.

In Fernandez's first comments after the first found, she spoke for two hours, touting her record, reminiscing about her late husband and promising to defend the power couple's accomplishments. She never mentioned Scioli.

Raul Aragon, director of consulting firm Raul Aragon and Associates, says Fernandez's chances of returning to power have been hurt by the success of Maria Eugenia Vidal. The 42-year-old from Macri's PRO party won the vast Buenos Aires province, traditionally a bastion of Peronist support, edging out a candidate hand-picked by Fernandez.

"Vidal is going to keep Cristina from returning to power," said Aragon. "She is young, charismatic and occupies some of the same political space as Fernandez." Several alleged corruption scandals could also hurt Fernandez. One ongoing probe involves Hotesur, a firm owned by the president to manage her family's hotels.

Late last year and again in July, Hotesur's headquarters were raided amid an investigation into whether the firm had failed to pay taxes on Fernandez's hotels. Administration officials have always claimed the investigation is politically motivated.

It's also unclear whether Macri will make investigating the outgoing administration a priority. He said during his victory speech Sunday that his presidency will not be about "settling scores." "People are tired of the confrontations, the fights and all the accusations," said Analia Del Franco, director of consulting firm Analogias. "In that way, Cristina's style has run its course."

Mars to lose its largest moon, Phobos, but gain a ring

Berkeley CA (SPX)
Nov 25, 2015

Mars' largest moon, Phobos, is slowly falling toward the planet, but rather than smash into the surface, it likely will be shredded and the pieces strewn about the planet in a ring like the rings encircling Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.

Though inevitable, the demise of Phobos is not imminent. It will probably happen in 20 to 40 million years, leaving a ring that will persist for anywhere from one million to 100 million years, according to two young earth scientists at the University of California, Berkeley.

In a paper appearing online this week in Nature Geoscience, UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Benjamin Black and graduate student Tushar Mittal estimate the cohesiveness of Phobos and conclude that it is insufficient to resist the tidal forces that will pull it apart when it gets closer to Mars.

Just as earth's moon pulls on our planet in different directions, raising tides in the oceans, for example, so too Mars tugs differently on different parts of Phobos. As Phobos gets closer to the planet, the tugs are enough to actually pull the moon apart, the scientists say. This is because Phobos is highly fractured, with lots of pores and rubble. Dismembering it is analogous to pulling apart a granola bar, Black said, scattering crumbs and chunks everywhere.

The resulting rubble from Phobos - rocks of various sizes and a lot of dust - would continue to orbit Mars and quickly distribute themselves around the planet in a ring.

While the largest chunks would eventually spiral into the planet and collide at a grazing angle to produce egg-shaped craters, the majority of the debris would circle the planet for millions of years until these pieces, too, drop onto the planet in 'moon' showers, like meteor showers. Only Mars' other moon, Deimos, would remain.

Different moons, different fates

Black and Mittal, both in UC Berkeley's Department of Earth and Planetary Science, were drawn to the question of what might happen to Phobos because its fate is expected to be so different from that of most other moons in our solar system.

"While our moon is moving away from earth at a few centimeters per year, Phobos is moving toward Mars at a few centimeters per year, so it is almost inevitable that it will either crash into Mars or break apart," Black said.

"One of our motivations for studying Phobos was as a test case to develop ideas of what processes a moon might undergo as it moves inward toward a planet."

Only one other moon in the solar system, Neptune's largest moon, Triton, is known to be moving closer to its planet.

Studying such moons is relevant to conditions in our early solar system, Mittal said, when it's likely there were many more moons around the planets that have since disintegrated into rings - the suspected origins of the rings of the outer planets.

Some studies estimate that during planet formation, 20-30 percent of planets acquire moons moving inward and destined for destruction, though they would have long since disappeared. Some of Mars' several thousand elliptical craters may even have been formed by remnants of such moonlets crashing to the surface at a grazing angle.

When tidal stresses overcome rock strength

To estimate the strength of Phobos, Black and Mittal looked data from similarly fractured rocks on Earth and from meteorites that struck Earth and have a density and composition similar to Phobos.

They also constrained the strength of Phobos based on results from simulations of the 10-kilometer diameter Stickney impact crater, which formed in the past when a rock rammed into Phobos without quite smashing the moon apart. That crater spans about one-sixth the circumference of Phobos and looks as if someone took a scoop out of the moon.

Once they determined when and how they expected tidal forces to tear Phobos apart, Mittal modeled the evolution of the ring, adapting techniques developed to understand Saturn's rings.

"If the moon broke apart at 1.2 Mars radii, about 680 kilometers above the surface, it would form a really narrow ring comparable in density to that of one of Saturn's most massive rings," Mittal said.

"Over time it would spread out and get wider, reaching the top of the Martian atmosphere in a few million years, when it would start losing material because stuff would keep raining down on Mars."

If the moon breaks up farther from Mars, the ring could persist for 100 million years before raining down on Mars, they found.

Mittal said it's not clear whether the dust and debris rings would be visible from earth, since dust does not reflect much sunlight, whereas ice in the rings of the outer planets makes them easily visible. But Mars' ring may reflect enough light to make Mars slightly brighter as seen from Earth, he said, and through a telescope the shadows of the rings might also be visible on the surface.

"Standing on the surface of Mars a few tens of millions of years from now, it would be pretty spectacular to watch," Black said.

Source: Mars Daily.
Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Mars_to_lose_its_largest_moon_Phobos_but_gain_a_ring_999.html.

Putin orders sanctions against Turkey after downing of jet

November 29, 2015

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday called for sanctions against Turkey, following the downing this week by Turkey of a Russian warplane.

The decree published on the Kremlin's website Saturday came hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had voiced regret over the incident, saying his country was "truly saddened" by the event and wished it hadn't occurred.

It includes a ban on some goods and forbids extensions of labor contracts for Turks working in Russia as of Jan. 1. It doesn't specify what goods are to be banned or give other details, but it also calls for ending chartered flights from Russia to Turkey and for Russian tourism companies to stop selling vacation packages that would include a stay in Turkey.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev earlier in the week had ordered his cabinet to develop a list of goods to be sanctioned. Putin's decree also calls for ending visa-free travel between Russia and Turkey and orders the tightening of control over Turkish air carriers in Russia "for security reasons." The decree was issued "to protect Russian citizens from crimes," a Kremlin statement said.

Erdogan's expression of regret Saturday was the first since Tuesday's incident in which Turkish F-16 jets shot down the Russian jet on grounds that it had violated Turkey's airspace despite repeated warnings to change course. It was the first time in half a century that a NATO member shot down a Russian plane and drew a harsh response from Moscow.

"We are truly saddened by this incident," Erdogan said. "We wish it hadn't happened as such, but unfortunately such a thing has happened. I hope that something like this doesn't occur again." Addressing supporters in the western city of Balikesir, Erdogan said neither country should allow the incident to escalate and take a destructive form that would lead to "saddening consequences."

He renewed a call for a meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a climate conference in Paris next week, saying it would be an opportunity to overcome tensions. Erdogan's friendly overture however, came after he again vigorously defended Turkey's action and criticized Russia for its operations in Syria.

"If we allow our sovereign rights to be violated ... then the territory would no longer be our territory," Erdogan said. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also said he hoped a meeting between Erdogan and Putin would take place in Paris.

"In such situations it is important to keep the channels of communication open," he said. Putin has denounced the Turkish action as a "treacherous stab in the back," and has insisted that the plane was downed over Syrian territory in violation of international law. He has also refused to take telephone calls from Erdogan. Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Friday that the Kremlin had received Erdogan's request for a meeting, but wouldn't say whether such a meeting is possible.

Asked why Putin hasn't picked up the phone to respond to Erdogan's two phone calls, he said that "we have seen that the Turkish side hasn't been ready to offer an elementary apology over the plane incident."

After the incident, Russia deployed long-range S-400 air defense missile systems to a Russian air base in Syria just 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the border with Turkey to help protect Russian warplanes, and the Russian military warned it would shoot down any aerial target that would pose a potential threat to its planes.

On Saturday Turkey issued a travel warning urging its nationals to delay non-urgent and unnecessary travel to Russia, saying Turkish travelers were facing "problems" in the country. It said Turks should delay travel plans until "the situation becomes clear."

Heintz reported from Moscow.

Russia suspends visa-free travel with Turkey

November 27, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia announced Friday that it will suspend visa-free travel with Turkey amid the escalating spat over the downing of a Russian warplane by a Turkish fighter jet at the Syrian border.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that Moscow will halt the existing visa-free regime starting Jan. 1, saying that Turkey has become a conduit for terrorists and has been reluctant to share information with Moscow about Russian citizens accused of involvement in terrorist activities.

Turkey's downing of the Russian military jet Tuesday, the first time in half a century that a NATO member shot down a Russian plane, has drawn a harsh response from Moscow. Russia has since restricted tourist travel, left Turkish trucks stranded at the border, confiscated large quantities of Turkish food imports and started preparing a raft of broader economic sanctions.

President Vladimir Putin has also ordered the deployment of the long-range S-400 air defense missile systems to a Russian air base in Syria just 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the border with Turkey to help protect Russian warplanes, and the Russian military warned it would shoot down any aerial target that would pose a potential threat to its planes. The military also moved the missile cruiser Moskva closer to the shore to help cover Russian bombers om combat missions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to apologize for the plane's downing, which Ankara said came after it flew for 17 seconds into Turkish airspace. At the same timed, Erdogan said he has tried in vain to speak by phone to Putin to discuss the situation and expressed hope they could meet at the sidelines of a climate summit in Paris next Monday.

Putin's foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said Friday that the Kremlin had received Erdogan's request for a meeting, but wouldn't say whether such a meeting is possible. Asked why Putin hasn't picked up the phone to respond to Erdogan's two phone calls, he said that "we have seen that the Turkish side hasn't been ready to offer an elementary apology over the plane incident."

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus voiced hope that Moscow would keep military and diplomatic channels open and added that Ankara was mulling possible measures in response to Russian economic sanctions. He said that Turkey doesn't think Russia would risk losing it as a partner.

Speaking to reporters after Friday's Cabinet meeting, Kurtulmus said that Turkey would not have shot down the plane if it had known it was Russian and said this is what Turkish officials have told senior Russian officials. He added that if the pilots had responded to the Turkish warnings and informed them that they were Russians, the shooting wouldn't have occurred either.

In Moscow, Russian air force chief, Col.-Gen. Viktor Bondarev, reaffirmed Friday that Turkey hadn't issued any warnings on a previously agreed radio frequency before downing the plane. He insisted that the Russian Su-24 bomber hadn't veered into Turkey's airspace, and also claimed that the Turkish F-16 fighter jet flew into Syria's airspace for 40 seconds to down the Russian plane.

The tug-of-war between the two countries has been driven by a clash of their leaders' personal ambitions. Putin and Erdogan have been frequently compared to each other. Both are populist leaders who frequently crack down on critics and often revert to anti-Western rhetoric. They had enjoyed close relations until recently, despite differences over Syria, and regularly exchanged visits. In September, Erdogan traveled to Moscow where he and Putin attended the opening of a new mosque, and they also met separately on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit hosted by Turkey.

The summit in Antalya marked their deepening rift over Syria, when Putin showed fellow G-20 leaders aerial pictures of what he said were convoys of oil trucks carrying crude from fields controlled by the Islamic State group into Turkey.

Putin's move came as Russia, the United State and France all have focused their air strikes on the IS oil infrastructure, seeking to undermine the group's financial base following the terror attacks in Paris and the downing of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt.

Erdogan angrily dismissed the Russian accusations, but Putin retorted Thursday that it was hard to believe that the Turkish leadership didn't know about the illegal oil trade. "We have no doubt whatsoever that this oil goes to Turkey, we are seeing it from the air," Putin said. "If Turkey's political leadership doesn't know anything about it, they should know now."

Lavrov said Friday that Russia strongly backs France's proposal to shut down the Turkish-Syrian border as a way to fight Islamic State fighters in Syria.

Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.

Putin sends air-defense missiles to Syria to deter Turkey

November 26, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — In a move raising the potential threat of a Russia-NATO conflict, Russia said Wednesday it will deploy long-range air defense missiles to its base in Syria and destroy any target that may threaten its warplanes following the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkey.

The incident was the first time in half a century that a NATO member shot down a Russian plane. If Russia responds by downing a Turkish plane, NATO member Turkey could proclaim itself under attack and ask the alliance for military assistance.

Most observers believe that a direct military confrontation is unlikely, but that the shooting down of the plane will further fuel the Syrian conflict and complicate international peace efforts. The situation is also alarming because the Russian and Turkish presidents both pose as strong leaders and would be reluctant to back down and seek a compromise.

The S-400 missiles, which Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered sent to the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia, just 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from the border with Turkey, are capable of striking targets within a 400-kilometer (250-mile) range with deadly precision. The military also moved the navy missile cruiser Moskva closer to the shore to help protect Russian warplanes with its long-range Fort air defense system.

"It will be ready to destroy any aerial target posing a potential danger to our aircraft," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with military officials. He also announced the severance of all military ties with Turkey and said that from now on, Russian bombers will always be escorted by fighters on combat missions over Syria.

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund in Ankara, said it is possible Russia could down a Turkish plane. "Turkish planes violate the Syrian border daily, either for reconnaissance flights or for anti-IS operations," he said. "In the same way that Turkey argues it has rules of engagement, Russia could also declare its own rules of engagement, saying it has the right to protect the skies of its ally."

The Russian plane's downing marked a dramatic turnaround in relations between Russia and Turkey, who have proclaimed themselves to be "strategic partners" in the past and developed booming economic ties despite differences over Syria.

Putin described the Turkish action as a "crime" and a "stab in the back," and called Turkey an "accomplice of terrorists." In a sign of the escalating tensions, protesters in Moscow hurled eggs and stones at the Turkish Embassy, breaking windows in the compound. Police cleared the area and made some arrests shortly after the protest began.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has often been compared to Putin for his authoritarian ways, said Wednesday that his country doesn't wish to escalate tensions with Russia. Speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey favors "peace, dialogue and diplomacy." He defended his country's move to shoot down the plane saying: "No one should expect Turkey to stay silent to border violations or the violation of its rights."

Putin has dismissed Turkey's claim that the Russian warplane intruded its airspace, voicing particular annoyance about Ankara turning to NATO instead of speaking to Russia, "as if it were us who shot down a Turkish plane."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in turn said that the downing of the plane "highlights the need to strengthen mechanisms to avoid such incidents in the future." "We should not sleepwalk into unintended escalation," he wrote in an op-ed that is to be published Thursday and was made available to The Associated Press.

Iran meanwhile lashed out at Turkey, with the official IRNA news agency quoting Presidednt Hassan Rouhani as saying Ankara is responsible for the heightened tensions in the region. One of the Russian pilots was killed by militants in Syria after bailing out, while his crewmate was rescued by Syrian army commandos and delivered in good condition to the Russian base early Wednesday. A Russian marine was also killed by the militants during the rescue mission.

Speaking in televised comments from the Russian base in Syria, the surviving navigator of the downed plane, Capt. Konstantin Murakhtin, denied that his jet veered into Turkey's airspace "even for a single second." He also rejected Turkey's claim that it had issued repeated warnings to the Russian crew before shooting down the plane.

Putin said the Foreign Ministry's warning for Russians not to visit Turkey was needed "because we can't exclude some other incidents following what happened yesterday and our citizens in Turkey could be in significant danger."

Leading Russian tourist agencies have already suspended the sales of tour packages to Turkey, a significant blow to the country, which saw nearly 4.5 million Russian visitors last year, second only to German tourists.

Osman Ayik, the head of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation, told Taraf newpaper Wednesday that a decline in Russian tourists visiting Turkey would be a "disaster" for the tourism sector. If Russia-Turkey tensions escalate further, both countries potentially could inflict significant pain on each other in many areas.

Russia was the biggest source of Turkish imports last year, worth $25 billion, which mostly accounted for Russian gas supplies. Most Turkish exports to Russia are textiles and food, and Turkish construction companies have won a sizable niche of the Russian market.

Unluhisarcikli said that along with economic moves, Russia may also increase its support to Syrian Kurdish groups, which have been fighting against IS but not against the Syrian regime. So far, Russia has refrained from doing so as not to anger Turkey, but now it could go ahead with plans to open an office in the Syrian Kurdish regions and supply arms to the fighters, Unluhisarcikli said.

Analysts said Turkey doesn't have the option of closing the Turkish Straits to Russia, which has used the route that connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean to supply its forces in Syria. According to the Montreux Convention, which sets out international rules for using the straits, Turkey can only make the move if the two countries are formally at war.

Even if Russia downs a Turkish plane, Ankara can't close the straits unless it formally declares war on Moscow, according to Giray Sadik of Ankara's Yildirim Beyazit University. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sought to ease tensions Wednesday, calling Russia Turkey's "friend and neighbor" and insisting relations cannot be "sacrificed to accidents of communication." He told his party's lawmakers that Turkey didn't know the plane was brought down Tuesday was Russian until Moscow announced it.

Turkey has informed the United Nations that two Russian planes disregarded warnings and violated Turkish airspace "to a depth of 1.36 miles and 1.15 miles in length for 17 seconds." Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shrugged off the Turkish argument that its rules of engagement required it to shoot down the plane, pointing at the 2012 downing of a Turkish warplane by Syria in its airspace. He said Ankara argued in that case that a brief incursion wasn't reason to shoot down its jet. He also pointed at routine violations of Greece's airspace by Turkish combat planes.

He said the Turkish action was a "planned provocation" and rejected his Turkish counterpart's proposal to meet at the sidelines of some international forum in the coming days to try to ease tensions. Before Tuesday's incident, Russia and the West appeared to be inching toward joining efforts to fight the Islamic State group following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris and the Oct. 31 bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai desert. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The downing of the warplane came as French President Francois Hollande was visiting Washington prior to a trip to Moscow set for Thursday in a bid to narrow the rift between the West and Russia and agree on a joint action against the IS.

"On NATO's side, I think there is a strong desire not to jeopardize the diplomatic mission of President Hollande," said Bruno Lete, a senior analyst at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels. Lavrov said that Russia remains committed to efforts to try to negotiate a Syria peace deal, but emphasized the need to take action against the Islamic State group's sponsors. He accused Turkey of helping IS by buying oil from the group, and said that "terrorists" used Turkish territory to prepare terror attacks against other countries, which he didn't name.

Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels, Zeina Karam in Beirut, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

India test fires Advanced Air Defense missile

by Ryan Maass
Washington (UPI)
Nov 23, 2015

India test-fired its indigenously developed supersonic interceptor missile from a test range off the Odisha coast on Monday.

The test, part of the Indian Ballistic Missile Defense Program, was performed by the Defense Research Development Organization to evaluate the various parameters of the missile in its flight mode. Defense officials hailed the test as a success.

"At around 12.52 hours, the interceptor hit the target missile successfully at an altitude of about 15 kilometers," DRDO spokesman Ravi Kumar Gupta told ANI News.

The Advanced Air Defense missile is designed to intercept hostile ballistic missiles. The hostile ballistic missile used in the demonstration off the Odisha coast was a modified surface-to-surface Prithvi, launched from a mobile launcher. The Advanced Air Defense missile intercepted and destroyed the hostile ballistic missile within four minutes, following signals from tracking radars.

The interceptor missile is 7.5 meters long, and propelled using a missile-equipped navigation system in combination with a computer and electro-mechanical activator, the Indian Express reports.

The interceptor's "kill effect" is currently being analyzed by DRDO scientists by examining multiple tracking sources.

Source: Space War.
Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/India_test_fires_Advanced_Air_Defense_missile_999.html.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Under Iraqi town, IS militants built network of tunnels

November 25, 2015

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Under the Iraqi town of Sinjar, Islamic State group militants built a network of tunnels, complete with sleeping quarters, wired with electricity and fortified with sandbags. There, they had boxes of U.S.-made ammunition, medicines and copies of the Quran stashed on shelves.

The Associated Press obtained extensive video footage of the tunnels, which were uncovered by Kurdish forces that took the city in northwestern Iraq earlier this month after more than a year of IS rule.

"We found between 30 and 40 tunnels inside Sinjar," said Shamo Eado, a commander from Sinjar from the Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga. "It was like a network inside the city." "Daesh dug these trenches in order to hide from airstrikes and have free movement underground as well as to store weapons and explosives," Eado said using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. "This was their military arsenal."

The video, shot by a freelancer touring the town with Kurdish fighters, showed two tunnels running several hundred meters (yards), each starting and ending from houses, through holes knocked in walls or floors.

The narrow tunnels, carved in the rock apparently with jackhammers or other handheld equipment, are just tall enough for a man to stand in. Rows of sandbags line sections of the walls, electrical wires power fans and lights and metal braces reinforce the ceilings. One section of the tunnel resembled a bunker. Dusty copies of the Quran sit above piles of blankets and pillows. Prescription drugs — painkillers and antibiotics — lie scattered along the floor.

In another section of the tunnel, the footage shows stocks of ammunition, including American-made cartridges and bomb-making tools. IS has been digging tunnels for protection and movement throughout the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, even before the U.S.-led coalition launched its campaign of airstrikes against the group more than a year ago. "This has been part of ISIS' strategy from the very beginning," said Lina Khatib a senior research associate at the Arab Reform initiative, a Paris-based think-tank. "ISIS has been well prepared for this kind of intervention."

The Islamic State group took control of Sinjar in August 2014, killing and capturing thousands of the town's mostly Yazidi residents. Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq with roots that date back to ancient Mesopotamia, are considered heretics by the hard-line Islamic State group. Hundreds of women are thought to still be in IS captivity, those who have escaped say many Yazidi women are forced to convert to Islam and marry IS fighters.

After pushing IS out of Sinjar, peshmerga officials and local residents have uncovered two mass graves in the area. One, not far from the city center is estimated to hold 78 elderly women's bodies. The second grave uncovered about 9 miles (15 kilometers) west of Sinjar contained between 50 and 60 bodies of men, women and children.

Eado, the peshmerga commander, said that as Kurdish forces clear Sinjar of explosives, he expects to find more tunnels and evidence of atrocities. "It's just a matter of time," he said.

Associated Press writers Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq, and Susannah George in Baghdad, Iraq, contributed to this report.

Study: Defectors call Islamic State brutal, corrupt

September 21, 2015

BRUSSELS (AP) — A survey of defectors from the Islamic State group has found that many quit the organization because they decided it was too brutal or corrupt, or because it made war too frequently against other Sunni Muslims.

The survey, issued Monday by a London-based think tank, relied on the public statements of 58 people known to have left IS since last year. Peter Neumann, the report's author, said its findings shatter the image of unity and determination that IS seeks to portray.

The survey found common narratives among defectors, including disappointment that life under IS is so harsh, that the group is corrupt and un-Islamic, and that it commits atrocities against other Sunni Muslims.

Neumann said the defectors' statements, if given wide circulation, could deter future recruits from joining Islamic State.

Turkey shoots down Russian jet it says violated its airspace

November 25, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) — Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday that it said ignored repeated warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria, killing at least one of the two pilots in a long-feared escalation in tensions between Russia and NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced what he called a "stab in the back" and warned of "significant consequences."

The shoot down — the first time in half a century that a NATO member has downed a Russian plane — prompted an emergency meeting of the alliance. The incident highlighted the chaotic complexity of Syria's civil war, where multiple groups with clashing alliances are fighting on the ground and the sky is crowded with aircraft bombing various targets.

"As we have repeatedly made clear we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after the meeting of the alliance's decision-making North Atlantic Council, called at Turkey's request.

The pilots of the downed Su-24 ejected, but one was killed by Syrian rebel fire from the ground as he parachuted to Earth, said the Russian general staff, insisting the Russian jet had been in Syrian airspace at the time. One of two helicopters sent to the crash site to search for survivors was also hit by rebel fire, killing one serviceman and forcing the chopper to make an emergency landing, the military said.

Stoltenberg urged "calm and de-escalation" and renewed contacts between Moscow and Ankara. Russia has long been at odds with NATO, which it accuses of encroaching on Russia's borders, as well as with Turkey's determination to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, a longtime Moscow ally.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said Turkey "has a right to defend its territory and its airspace." At a news conference with French President Francois Hollande, he said the incident underscored the "ongoing problem" with Russia's military operations in Syria, where the Russians have been targeting groups near the Turkish border. Calling Russia an "outlier" in the global fight against the Islamic State group, Obama said that if Moscow were to concentrate its airstrikes on IS targets, mistakes "would be less likely to occur."

On Sept. 30, Russia began a campaign of massive airstrikes in Syria, which it says are aimed at destroying fighters of the Islamic State group but which Western critics contend are bolstering Assad's forces.

Before Tuesday's incident, Russia and the West appeared to be moving toward an understanding of their common strategic goal of eradicating IS, which gained momentum after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, as well as the Oct. 31 bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai desert. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Turkey said its fighter pilots acted after two Russian Su-24 bombers ignored numerous warnings that they were nearing and then entering Turkish airspace. In a letter to the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Turkey said the Russian warplanes violated its airspace "to a depth of 1.36 miles and 1.15 miles ... for 17 seconds" just after 9:24 a.m.

It said one of the planes then left Turkish airspace and the other one was fired at by Turkish F-16s "in accordance with the rules of engagement" and crashed on the Syrian side of the border. Russia insisted the plane stayed over Syria, where it was supporting ground action by Syrian troops against rebels. Rebel forces fired at the two parachuting pilots as they descended, and one died, said Jahed Ahmad, a spokesman for the 10th Coast Division rebel group. The fate of the second pilot was not immediately known.

A visibly angry Putin denounced what he called a "stab in the back by the terrorists' accomplices" and warned of "significant consequences" for Russian-Turkish relations. Hours later Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cancelled a planned visit to Turkey on Wednesday.

Russia "will never tolerate such atrocities as happened today and we hope that the international community will find the strength to join forces and fight this evil," Putin said. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted his country had the right to take "all kinds of measures" against border violations, and called on the international community to work toward "extinguishing the fire that is burning in Syria."

But despite the harsh words, some analysts believe that Russia and Turkey have reasons not to let the incident escalate, because of economic and energy ties and their common opposition to IS. "Relations have been very strained between Russia and Turkey of late, so Moscow will be trying its utmost to contain the damage this might cause," said Natasha Kuhrt, a lecturer in international peace and security at King's College London.

A Turkish military statement said the Russian plane entered Turkish airspace over the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province. Turkish officials released what they said was the radar image of the path the Russian plane took, showing it flying across a stretch of Turkish territory in the country's southernmost tip.

Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad, said the U.S. heard communication between Turkish and Russian pilots and could confirm that Turkish pilots issued 10 verbal warnings before the plane was shot down.

A U.S. defense official in Washington said the Russian plane flew across a 2-mile section of Turkish airspace before it was shot down, meaning it was in Turkish skies for only a matter of seconds. The official, who was not authorized to discuss details of the incident, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Turkey has voiced concern over Russia's bombing of ethnic Turkmen areas in Syria and complained that the Russian operations have complicated the possibility of creating a safe zone in northern Syria to protect civilians, as well as moderate rebels fighting Assad.

Syrian Turkmen are Syrian citizens of Turkish ethnicity who have lived in Syria since Ottoman times and have coexisted with Syrian Arabs for hundreds of years. They were among the first to take up arms against Syrian government forces, as Turkey lent its support to rebels seeking to topple Assad.

In late 2012, they united under the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, a coalition of Turkmen parties which represents Syrian Turkmens in the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition opposition group. The military wing of the assembly is called the Syrian Turkmen Brigades and aims to protect Turkmen areas from government forces and the Islamic State group.

Turkey has vowed to support the Syrian Turkmen and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday criticized Russian actions in the Turkmen regions, saying there were no Islamic State group fighters in the area.

Turkey has complained repeatedly that Russian planes supporting Assad are straying across the border. On Friday, Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador demanding that Russia stop operations in the Turkmen region.

Last month, Turkish jets shot down an unidentified drone that it said had violated Turkey's airspace. The country changed its rules of engagement a few years ago after Syria shot down a Turkish plane. According to the new rules, Turkey said it would consider all "elements" approaching from Syria an enemy threat and would act accordingly.

Following earlier accusations of Russian intrusion into Turkish airspace, the U.S. European Command on Nov. 6 deployed six U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters from their base in Britain to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to help the NATO-member country secure its skies.

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Robert Burns in Washington, Bassem Mroue in Beirut, John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Turkey's Erdogan asks PM Davutoglu to form new government

November 17, 2015

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday reappointed Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to form a new government after his party's stunning victory in the Nov. 1 election.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, founded by Erdogan, secured a dramatic gain that few had predicted in the parliamentary election, regaining a majority that it lost in the previous election in June.

The Nov. 1 election was a re-run called by Erdogan after Davutoglu failed to form a coalition partnership with any of the three opposition parties in parliament. The new election was held amid renewed violence in Turkey, and Erdogan and Davutoglu argued that only a single-party majority could restore stability. The renewed fighting between Turkey's security forces and Kurdish rebels has left hundreds of people dead and shattered an already-fragile peace process.

Turkey also suffered two massive suicide bombings at pro-Kurdish gatherings that killed some 130 people, apparently carried out by an Islamic State group cell. Davutoglu was expected to present a Cabinet list for Erdogan's approval either on Thursday or Friday.

Earlier Tuesday, newly elected lawmakers were sworn into office during a ceremony at parliament's first session since the election. The oath taken by prominent Kurdish legislator Leyla Zana however, was declared invalid, after she failed to keep to the wording and swore allegiance "before the great nation of Turkey" instead of the "Turkish nation" — avoiding a term many Kurds object to.

Zana also began her oath by turning toward Erdogan and expressing — in Kurdish — her wish "for an honorable and lasting peace" between Turks and Kurds. It was not clear if she would retake the oath. Officials said she would not be able to participate in parliament until she is formally sworn-in.

Zana had caused a storm during a similar oath-taking ceremony in 1991, when she spoke Kurdish in parliament, defying a ban on using the language in official settings. She later spent 10 years in prison for alleged links to the Kurdish rebels.

Zana's pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, or HDP, favors the resumption of peace efforts to end the Kurdish conflict.

Tunisia declares state of emergency after bus blast kills 12

November 25, 2015

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's president declared a 30-day state of emergency across the country and imposed an overnight curfew for the capital Tuesday after an explosion struck a bus carrying members of the presidential guard, killing at least 12 people and wounding 20 others.

The government described it as a terrorist attack. The blast on a tree-lined avenue in the heart of Tunis is a new blow to a country that is seen as a model for the region but has struggled against Islamic extremist violence. Radical gunmen staged two attacks earlier this year that killed 60 people, devastated the tourism industry and rattled this young democracy.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack against the presidential guard, an elite security force that protects only the president. President Beji Caid Essebsi, who wasn't in the bus at the time, declared the state of emergency and curfew on the Tunis region. He convened an emergency meeting of his security council for Wednesday morning.

Speaking on national television, he said Tunisia is at "war against terrorism" and urged international cooperation against extremists who have killed hundreds around Europe and the Mideast in recent weeks, from Paris to Beirut to a Russian plane shot down over Egypt.

"I want to reassure the Tunisian people that we will vanquish terrorism," he said. Police fanned out throughout central Tunis after Tuesday's explosion, and ambulances rushed to the scene, evacuating wounded and dead. Top government ministers visited the scene of the attack after it was cordoned off by police.

Interior Ministry spokesman Walid Louguini told The Associated Press that at least 12 were killed and 20 wounded in the attack. Witness Bassem Trifi, a human rights lawyer, said the explosion hit the driver's side of the bus, describing a "catastrophic" scene.

"I saw at least five corpses on the ground," he told the AP. "This was not an ordinary explosion." The attack came days after authorities visibly increased the security level in the capital and deployed security forces in unusually high numbers.

Earlier this month, Tunisian authorities announced the dismantling of a cell that it said had planned attacks at police stations and hotels in the seaside city of Sousse, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of Tunis. Sousse was one of the targets of attacks earlier this year.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner, speaking in Washington, said the U.S. government was still seeking details on what happened in Tunis, but added, "We strongly condemn the attack." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Tunis earlier this month, pledged expanded economic and security support for Tunisia, whose popular uprising unleashed the democracy movements across the region in 2011 that became known as the Arab Spring.

Kerry said the U.S. and Tunisia would soon begin negotiations on a major loan guarantee and were discussing expanded military cooperation, including intelligence sharing and the possible use of drones to collect information about potential threats. A U.S. military team was expected in Tunisia around late November to begin those talks.

Tunisia is the only Arab Spring country to have solidified a new democracy, but it is facing serious economic and security challenges. Tunisia's tourism industry has been hit especially hard this year. Shootings at a luxury beach hotel in Sousse last June killed 38 people, mostly tourists, while in March, an attack by Islamist extremists at Tunisia's famed Bardo museum near the capital killed 22 people.

The attack came two weeks before a group of Tunisians heads to Oslo to receive this year's Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to the country's National Dialogue Quartet for negotiations that rescued the country's fledgling democracy from a constitutional crisis.

Tunisia's influential Islamist party also denounced the explosion, and urged Tunisians to unite behind the security forces as they hunt for the perpetrators. "Tunisia is targeted because it is a democracy and represents a model of moderate Islam," it said.

The U.N. Security Council "stressed that no terrorist attack can reverse the path of Tunisia towards democracy and its efforts towards economic recovery and development." Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations "will continue to stand with the people of Tunisia as they confront the scourge of terrorism and continue to consolidate and strengthen their democracy."

Charlton reported from Paris. Matthew Lee in Washington also contributed.

Netanyahu still faces arrest in Spain

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A Spanish judge is standing firm on his decision to reopen a legal case against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others linked to the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid if any of them ever step foot in Spain. Anadolu Agency has gained access to a decree from Judge Jose de la Mata, which, despite a request from the district attorney’s office to cancel the order, maintains the position that could lead to the arrest of Netanyahu or other Israeli officials if they enter Spanish territory.

De la Mata has ordered the addition of seven names to the police database and for police or national security to notify him if any of the people named are in, or are trying to enter, Spain. Once notified, the judge could reopen the case into the Freedom Flotilla which would allow the Spanish National High Court to notify, charge and even arrest the accused.

Six civilian ships in the Freedom Flotilla were raided in international waters by Israeli forces on 31 May, 2010, as the vessels tried to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish activists were killed and 30 other people were wounded, including one who died nearly four years after being critically injured. Three Spanish citizens were also on board at the time.

The names in De La Mata’s order are of those who made up the so-called “Forum of Seven”, a committee of Israeli ministers who made key decisions about security issues when the flotilla was attacked. They include Netanyahu, ex-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, ex-defense minister Ehud Barak, ex-deputy prime ministers Moshe Ya'alon (who is current defense minister) and Eli Yishai, former state minister Benny Begin and former Israeli naval commander Eliezer Marom.

“It is confirmed that the requirements exist to activate Spanish jurisdiction in this crime, for example the presence of the accused in Spanish territory,” the document, issued on 17 November, says. The appeal by the district attorney’s office was filed on 13 November.

The Israeli government is, predictably, outraged by the decision, said the Jerusalem Post. "We consider it to be a provocation,” explained Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon on 14 November. “We are working with the Spanish authorities to get it cancelled. We hope it will be over soon."

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22405-netanyahu-still-faces-arrest-in-spain.

Pro-independence protest in Catalonia draws around 3,000

November 22, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Around 3,000 protesters have gathered in Barcelona to support an organization that seeks the creation of a Catalan state independent from Spain and urge regional lawmakers to reach an agreement to form a transitional government.

The Catalan National Assembly, with about 30,000 fee-paying members, called Sunday's rally to lobby 10 lawmakers from the far-left CUP group and 62 parliamentarians from the "Together for Yes" alliance to set aside differences and break a logjam that is paralyzing progress toward an independent Catalonia.

"We ask all 72 lawmakers from Together for Yes and CUP to be responsible, courageous and firm, and to show a willingness for dialogue to reach the best possible agreement for the formation of a strong and united government," said CNA president Jordi Sanchez.

The parliament of Catalonia has until Jan. 10 to elect a leader and form a government or it must call a new election. Sanchez asked the lawmakers to try and reach a deal by Nov. 27. With 72 seats, pro-secessionists would hold the majority in the 135-seat regional parliament, although they only secured 48 percent of the popular vote in September elections.

Former South Korean President Kim Young-sam dies at age 87

November 22, 2015

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Former President Kim Young-sam, who formally ended decades of military rule in South Korea and accepted a massive international bailout during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, died Sunday. He was 87.

The chief of Seoul National University Hospital, Oh Byung-Hee, told a televised briefing that Kim died there early Sunday. He said Kim is believed to have suffered from a severe blood infection and acute heart failure before he died.

Kim was taken to the hospital on Thursday due to a high fever, Oh said. In recent years, Kim had been treated at the hospital for stroke, angina and pneumonia, Oh added. Kim was an important figure in South Korea's pro-democracy movement and opposed the country's military dictators for decades. As president, Kim laid the foundation for a peaceful power transfer in a country that had been marked by military coups.

During his presidency from 1993-1998, he had his two predecessors indicted on mutiny and treason charges stemming from a coup. Still, Kim pardoned the two convicted military strongmen — Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo — at the end of his term.

Kim also launched a popular anti-corruption campaign and vowed not to receive any political slush funds, though this was later tarnished when his son was arrested on charges of bribery and tax evasion.

He led South Korea in 1994 when the Clinton administration was considering attacking Nyongbyon — home to North Korea's nuclear complex — north of communist North Korea's capital, Pyongyang. Kim lobbied against the idea, fearing a possible war.

A U.S. aircraft carrier and a cruiser had been deployed near South Korea's east coast in preparation for a possible airstrike, and the United States planned to evacuate Americans, including its soldiers and their families, Kim said in a memoir.

A U.S. airstrike "will immediately prompt North Korea to open fire against major South Korean cities from the border," Kim said in his memoir, describing his dawn telephone conversation with President Bill Clinton in June 1994.

The crisis eased when former President Jimmy Carter met with the North's leader and founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un, in Pyongyang, which led to an accord aimed at freezing North Korea's plutonium-based nuclear programs.

That deal collapsed in 2002 when the United States accused North Korea of running a secret uranium-based program, sparking another nuclear crisis. After years of denials, North Korea announced in 2009 that it was enriching uranium, a process that gave it a second way to make nuclear bombs.

During the '94 crisis, Carter tried to arrange a summit between Kim and the North's founder — in what would have been the first such meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas since the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.

But the summit didn't take place because the North's Kim suddenly died of heart attack in July 1994. It took six years before the leaders of the two Koreas — South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Il — held a summit in Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il was the father of Kim Jong Un.

North Korea continued to cause security jitters for rival South Korea during Kim's presidency. In 1996, a North Korean submarine ran aground off South Korea's eastern shores. The North later expressed its "deep regret" for the intrusion that left 24 North Korean agents and 13 South Koreans dead. It was an unprecedented apology from the North — though it said the sub drifted into southern waters while on a routine training exercise.

Kim was credited with disbanding a key military faction and bringing transparency to the South's murky financial system. But he was also accused of mismanaging the economy during the Asian financial crisis that toppled some of the country's debt-ridden conglomerates and forced the government to accept a $58 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Kim was born into a rich fishing family on Dec. 20, 1927, in Geoge Island off the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula when the country was still under Japanese colonial rule. During the Korean War, he anchored a defense ministry propaganda radio program.

In 1954, Kim was elected as the youngest member of the National Assembly. At that time, he was a member of the ruling party of the late Syngman Rhee, South Korea's first president. But a few months later, he broke with the ruling party in protest over a constitutional revision and joined the opposition party, drawing anger from military rulers.

In 1979, Kim was expelled from the assembly for his anti-government activities, shortly before then President Park Chung-hee — who seized power in a military coup in 1961 — was assassinated by his intelligence chief.

During that chaotic period, Maj. Gen. Chun Doo-hwan and his military cronies rolled tanks and troops into Seoul to seize power in another coup that ended an interim government. In the early 1980s, Kim was placed under house arrest twice and staged a 23-day hunger strike to protest political oppression.

Kim spent more than three decades in opposition as an advocate for democracy, though he later joined hands with military leader Roh Tae-woo and others to create a new ruling party. In 1992, Kim became the head of the ruling party and was elected president, five years after his first unsuccessful presidential bid.

Kim is survived by his wife and two sons and three daughters.

Former Associated Press writer Kim Kwang-tae and Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.

EU flags disappear from Polish government press briefings

November 24, 2015

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's new prime minister has broken with the practice of pro-European predecessors and has removed the EU flag from her weekly news conference.

Beata Szydlo appeared Tuesday to brief reporters after the first working meeting with her Cabinet since the conservative Law and Justice party took power last week, and stood in front of Polish flags only.

Asked about the change, Szydlo said that in these difficult times she is grateful that Poland belongs to NATO and the EU, but that government press briefings devoted to national matters will from now on take place "against the background of the most beautiful white-and-red flags."

The blue EU flag still hangs at the entrance to her chancellery and in Parliament.

New Polish ruling team slammed for choice of special judges

November 20, 2015

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's new conservative ruling party faced strong criticism Friday for rushing through legislation that allows it to stack the nation's top court with its supporters.

The legislation, passed late Thursday, comes at the end of a politically eventful week in which the ruling Law and Justice party and President Andrzej Duda took decisive steps to strengthen their own power and weaken political rivals from the liberal Civic Platform party who had dominated Poland's government for the past eight years.

"As of today, Poland is no longer a law-abiding democracy," said Andrzej Zoll, a former head of the Constitutional Tribunal who protested the actions regarding the court. After Duda swore in the government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo on Monday, he pardoned a government minister who had been convicted of abuse of power, Mariusz Kaminski, before a court could rule on an appeal.

Then, Duda's office issued a report saying furniture and art went missing from presidential buildings under the previous president. The report also listed last-minute steep wage raises and other bonuses for the previous political team and cases of what it called "unjustified spending."

Jacek Michalowski, a close aide to the previous president, said some of the furniture was moved among various government buildings while items in poor condition were destroyed, which, he said, is noted in appropriate documents.

Meanwhile, Szydlo's government ordered the arrest of a former lawmaker who backed the previous government, Jan Bury, over corruption allegations. Szydlo also moved quickly to accept the resignations of four intelligence services chiefs appointed by the previous government. Changes at the top of the secret services are common with a change of power, but Szydlo's critics said the changes were too hasty, given the security challenges after the Paris attacks last week.

The biggest controversy surrounds legislation affecting the 15-member Constitutional Tribunal, which rules on the constitutionality of laws. The parliament, dominated by Law and Justice, approved an amendment that voids the appointment of five judges made by the previous government and allows for other judges to be proposed and appointed instead.

Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski claimed the previous government turned the tribunal into a "party-run institution." "We want to change that in the name of the interests of the majority of Poles," he said.

But the head of a small centrist opposition party, Ryszard Petru, says the new law is unconstitutional and he will appeal the legislation to the same tribunal. Yet Petru also said the previous government provoked the situation by appointing two of the new judges two months before their terms expire in December. The appointments were made two weeks before the October election that the ruling Civic Platform team lost.

Still, the European Council's Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, tweeted this week that "the amendments altering the composition of the Constitutional Court currently rushed through Polish Parliament undermine rule of law and should be withdrawn."

Migrants barred from crossing into Macedonia hold protest

November 22, 2015

IDOMENI, Greece (AP) — Migrants barred from crossing the Greece-Macedonia border held a fourth day of protests Sunday, as Macedonia's president criticized the European Union over the refugee crisis for a lack of financial support and data sharing.

The influx of migrants into Macedonia has heightened tensions in the country, President Gjorgje Ivanov said. "The risk of possible conflict between refugees and migrants, the migrants and police and army, and between migrants and local people is rated as high," Ivanov told reporters Sunday after meeting with visiting European Council president Donald Tusk in Macedonia's capital, Skopje.

Several European countries, including EU members Slovenia and Croatia and non-members Serbia and Macedonia, have declared they will only allow "war-zone refugees" from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to transit through their countries on their way to central and northern Europe.

This policy has left many others stranded in the Greek border town for four days, demanding to be let in and chanting slogans such as "Freedom!" and "We are not terrorists." On Sunday, an Iranian man threatened to cut his wrists with a razor if not allowed into Macedonia. Police intervened to disarm him, but, in the scuffle, he cut his face.

The number of migrants being barred from entering Macedonia has fallen significantly Sunday, from more than 2,000 to around 1,300 in the early evening. Many of them took buses and taxis to Athens and Thessaloniki. Greek police believe they may be trying to find other routes, including with the help of smugglers.

Ivanov also said that Macedonia has the capacity to shelter about 2,000 people in its temporary transit centers. "Any increase in these numbers will increase permanent and direct threats and risks for the national security of Macedonia," he added.

A total of 6,000 refugees crossed into Macedonia from early Saturday through early Sunday, police say. About 500,000 refugees have transited through Macedonia in 2015.

Konstantin Testorides reported from Skopje, Macedonia. Demetris Nellas contributed to this report from Athens, Greece.

Merkel: 10 years in office and no signs of stopping

November 21, 2015

BERLIN (AP) — Angela Merkel marks her 10th anniversary at the helm of Germany on Sunday, becoming only the third post-World War II chancellor to hit that milestone. Over Merkel's decade in charge, she has presided over Germany's strong re-emergence on the world scene — showing leadership in the European financial crisis, pioneering the use of renewable energies and embracing a role as a key negotiator in the Ukraine conflict and a moral authority in Europe's migrant crisis.

At home, the European Union's most populous country has seen plenty of change, but Merkel has won over voters with an aura of reassuring stability that has earned her the nickname "Mutti" or "mom." Even amid turbulence over her welcoming attitude toward refugees, there's little sign of an alternative to Merkel.


Under Merkel, Germany has found a new assertiveness — at least in economic diplomacy — since the Eurozone debt crisis erupted in Greece. Berlin has been key to designing the response, a combination of aid in exchange for budget cuts and economic reforms, and has shown determination in applying it, despite widespread criticism abroad for what many view as a damaging focus on austerity. Since Merkel's third-term government took office in 2013, Germany also has shown signs of playing a more active diplomatic role — in particular, anchoring the diplomacy-and-sanctions strategy over Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Germany remains reluctant to expand its military role abroad, though it remains one of the biggest contributors to NATO's mission in Afghanistan and has armed Kurdish fighters in Iraq — a contrast to Germany's previous reluctance to send weapons into conflicts.


When Merkel took office in 2005, Germany's unemployment was 11 percent, with more than 4.5 million people out of work. It had peaked a few months earlier at more than 12 percent. Under Merkel, the economy reaped the benefits of the package of welfare-state trims and economic reforms that were initiated by center-left predecessor Gerhard Schroeder. Merkel hasn't had to inflict similarly painful reforms of her own on Germans, with the exception of an early move to gradually raise the retirement age from 65 to 67.

Merkel's government was able to keep the economy largely on track through the 2008-2009 economic crisis, with unemployment kept in check thanks to a government-backed short-term work program. Strong tax income generated by the healthy economy allowed Merkel to balance the budget, getting by without new borrowing for the first time since 1969 — one of her proudest achievements. Unemployment stands at 6 percent on Merkel's 10th anniversary, with about 2.6 million registered jobless.


Merkel has been relentlessly pragmatic, nudging her conservative Christian Democratic Union toward the center. Electoral math has twice forced her into coalitions with the party's traditional rivals, the Social Democrats — in her first four-year term and again since 2013. That has allowed her to dominate the center ground of German politics. She has irked some supporters with a willingness to sacrifice conservative sacred cows — scrapping military conscription and, most dramatically, abruptly accelerating the shutdown of Germany's nuclear power plants following meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima plant in 2011. That move hurt her ratings in the short term but, in the long run, has removed divisive issues from German politics.

It remains to be seen how Merkel's move to open the door to Syrian refugees flowing into Europe will play out; conservative critics have decried a perceived loss of control and order, and complain that Germany's capacity to welcome newcomers is exhausted. Still, under her leadership, the country has quietly undergone a shift in its attitude toward immigration. Where the mainstream position was once that foreigners should eventually go home, there's now widespread acceptance that Germany is a country that welcomes immigrants.


Traditionally a supporter of nuclear power, Merkel made an about-turn after the Fukushima disaster and announced all of the country's reactors would be shut off by 2022 as part of the "Energiewende" — roughly, "energy turnaround." She embarked upon one of the world's most ambitious plans for renewable energy, pledging that sources including wind and sun would make up 40-45 percent of Germany's energy mix by 2025, and 55-60 percent by 2035. The decision was popular in Germany, but readying Europe's largest economy to switch power sources has proven complicated. Germany's coast and flat northern plains offer plentiful wind energy, but planning the ugly power lines to get that electricity to the southern industrial heartland is hitting resistance. In Merkel's decade, Germany's energy mix has gone from 10 percent renewables to 25.8 percent through 2014. In June when Germany hosted the G-7 summit in Bavaria, Merkel was able to use her own record to help leverage a commitment from the other countries, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and the U.S., to move away from using fossil fuels by the end of this century.


Few people would have expected Merkel to become such a long-lasting leader after she barely won Germany's 2005 election. She had turned off voters with talk of far-reaching reforms and nearly blew a huge poll lead to finish only just ahead of then-Chancellor Schroeder's Social Democrats. Merkel then emerged atop a coalition of the rival parties. As chancellor, she dropped talk of deep reform and spoke instead of taking "many small steps" to revive the economy — an approach that has continued to serve her well in various policy areas.

Merkel is the first woman and first person to grow up in communist East Germany to serve as chancellor — reaching the peak of German politics via an improbable route. She entered politics in her mid-30s after an early career as a physicist behind the Iron Curtain. As communism crumbled, she joined a short-lived new political group, Democratic Awakening. She was a spokeswoman for East Germany's first and only democratically elected leader before being thrust into Chancellor Helmut Kohl's first post-reunification Cabinet as minister for families and women. Merkel also served as environment minister in the 1990s, helping to negotiate the Kyoto accord to curb greenhouse gas emissions. She was elected CDU leader in 2000, benefiting from a corruption scandal that erupted after Kohl acknowledged accepting illegal party donations.


Merkel hasn't said whether she will seek a fourth four-year term in 2017, though so far it's been widely assumed in Germany that she will. By the time of her last victory in 2013, she faced no serious rivals in her own party. The center-left Social Democrats, Germany's other main party, have struggled for years to get support of much more than 25 percent — more than 10 points short of Merkel's conservatives. Merkel has shown no sign of grooming a successor, and no obvious long-term replacement is in the wings despite misgivings in the conservative ranks over the migrant influx.

Asked a week ago about her future, she refused once again to say whether she will seek a fourth term — something she would have to do to pass Helmut Kohl (16 years) as longest-serving chancellor. Political scientist Herfried Muenkler, a professor at Berlin's Humboldt university, says nobody would have predicted 10 years ago that Merkel would be in power for so long. But at this point there are no serious challengers: "I don't see anyone in the current situation who would stand against her," he said.

And true to form, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday he didn't know of any special plans she'd made to mark her 10th anniversary — and she was making no public appearances.

Frank Jordans and David Rising contributed to this story.

Well planned Mali attack took advantage of security lapses

November 22, 2015

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The heavily armed Islamic extremists who shot up a luxury hotel in Mali's capital, killing 19 people, timed their assault for the moment when guards would be the most lax, allowing them to easily blast their way past a five-man security team before turning their weapons on terrified guests, a security guard and witnesses said Saturday.

The timing suggested a well-planned operation that analysts say could be an attempt by al-Qaida to assert its relevance amid high-profile attacks by the rival Islamic State group. The attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako began at around 7 a.m. Friday morning when two gunmen, approaching on foot, reached the entrance where five guards who had worked the night shift were waiting to be replaced by a new team, said Cheick Dabo, one of the guards.

The guards had just finished the morning prayer and had put their weapons — a shotgun and two pistols — away in their vehicle when the militants struck. "We didn't see the jihadists until they started firing on us. We weren't concentrating and we didn't expect it," he said.

Four of the guards were shot, one fatally, while Dabo himself managed to hide under a car. Government critics have attacked the level of security at the hotel and in the country but Interior Minister Salif Traore said Saturday that there was little to be done in the face of such determined attackers.

"They were ready to die, so the level of security is hardly important," he told reporters. "The Radisson hotel had a level of security that was considered good." Once inside, at least one of the assailants headed for the kitchen and restaurant, sparking pandemonium, said Mohammed Coulibaly, a cook at the hotel.

"I was busy cooking when a waitress started screaming at the door, 'They are attacking us, they are attacking us!'" Coulibaly said. "I asked everyone to go into the hallway, so everyone headed in that direction. Suddenly we heard the footsteps of the jihadists behind us and there was total panic and people were running in every direction."

Coulibaly said he then hid in a bathroom with one of the guests, but one of the assailants saw him through a window and started firing, prompting him to run to the kitchen where he was nearly overwhelmed by smoke.

"I realized that if I didn't leave the kitchen the smoke would kill me. So I waited until I didn't hear any noise and I ran from the kitchen and escaped the hotel through a window," he said. By that point, the assailants were heading upstairs where they took dozens of hostages, launching a standoff with Malian security forces that lasted more than seven hours and claimed 19 lives in addition to their own. All but one of the victims were hotel guests.

Speaking to reporters briefly after visiting the hotel on Saturday, Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said the attack underscored the global threat posed by Islamic extremists, especially coming just one week after teams of attackers from the Islamic State group in Paris killed 130 people while targeting a stadium, a concert hall and cafes and restaurants.

"These people have attacked Paris and other places. Nowhere is excluded," Keita said. Army Maj. Modibo Nama Traore said earlier Saturday that security forces were hunting "more than three" suspects who may have been involved in the assault. The government on Friday declared a 10-day nationwide state of emergency and three days of national mourning beginning Monday.

The Radisson attack was claimed by Al-Mourabitoun (The Sentinels), an extremist group formed by notorious Algerian militant Moktar Belmoktar, in a statement Friday that said it was carried out in cooperation with al-Qaida's "Sahara Emirate."

Belmoktar, an Algerian militant and former al-Qaida commander who has long been based in the Sahara, shot to prominence after his group carried out a January 2013 attack on an Algerian gas plant that resulted in the death of 39 foreign workers.

Jean-Herve Jezequel, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said Al-Mourabitoun may be allying with al-Qaida in the face of the losses the extremists have suffered at the hands of French forces that intervened in Mali in 2013 after much of the north fell to radical Islamists.

"Belmoktar may want to revive the alliance with al-Qaida maybe to reassert their position because they have lost a lot," he said. "They have lost a lot of leaders in the last three years because of the French military intervention."

The attack may also be a way for al-Qaida and its allies to assert itself in the face of the highly publicized string of attacks carried out by its chief rival in jihad, the Islamic State group. While IS does not have a major presence in this region, its successes elsewhere in the world have resulted in local radical groups pledging allegiance to it.

"Al-Qaida and its international affiliates have been surpassed by IS and needed to show that they are still there," said Djallil Lounnes, an expert on radical groups in the Sahara based in Morocco. "The attack on the hotel was perfect — only foreign delegations in a highly secure area — so the message would be that we, al-Qaida, can strike high-quality targets, not just random civilians."

Among the dead in the Radisson attack were a 41-year-old American development worker, six Russian plane crew from a cargo company, and three senior executives from the powerful state-owned China Railway Construction Corp., officials said.

Corey-Boulet reported from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Associated Press writer Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia contributed to this report.

Mayor trusts Rio Olympic security, but says 'have to worry'

November 21, 2015

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Mayor Eduardo Paes expressed confidence Saturday in security for next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but was also cautious in the wake of the attacks in Paris just over a week ago.

"We have to worry," Paes said, speaking at the field hockey venue for the games. "The attacks to Paris were not to Paris, but to the civilized world. ... This can happen anywhere and we are going to take good care of the security of the Olympic Games, and things are going to go well."

Brazilian government officials have said that 85,000 soldiers, police and security agents will be deployed for the Rio games, which is reported to be twice as many as the 2012 London Olympics. Jose Mariano Beltrame, the top security official for Rio de Janeiro state, said earlier in the week that security plans have not changed because of the Paris attacks.

Brazil has little experience with attacks like those in Paris. The major problem in Rio is street crime, robberies and assaults — part of the endemic violence in a city rife with guns. Much of the violence takes place in sprawling hillside slums where police are outnumbered by armed gangs. Some of these areas border Rio's famous beach areas in the south of the city, which will host several Olympic events.

Brazil is larger than the continental United States and has thousands of miles (kilometers) of porous borders, some slicing through the Amazon jungle region.

Japan rocket launches its first commercial satellite

Tokyo (AFP)
Nov 24, 2015

A Japanese rocket lifted off Tuesday and successfully put the national space program's first commercial satellite into orbit, officials said, as Tokyo tries to enter a business dominated by European and Russian companies.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries oversaw the launch from Tanegashima Space Center in southwest Japan.

The launch of the H-IIA rocket was originally scheduled at 3:23 pm (0623 GMT), but was delayed by roughly 30 minutes because a small ship unexpectedly came near the space station.

The rocket successfully launched at 3:50 pm, carrying the TELSTAR 12V communications and broadcasting satellite for Canadian satellite operator Telesat.

About four and a half hours later, it released the payload as planned, said an official of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

"The release was successful and the satellite is on course to the scheduled orbit," the official told AFP.

The satellite later successfully entered an oval orbit, Kyodo News reported.

Japan wants to become a major player in the satellite launching business. It has tried to improve the H-IIA rocket to cut the cost of each launch to make its program competitive...

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Japan_rocket_launches_its_first_commercial_satellite_999.html.

Russia delivers first S-300 missile defense system to Iran

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Russia has delivered the first of five S-300 anti-missile defense systems to Tehran, Iran’s ambassador to Moscow revealed on Monday. “Iran and Russia signed a new contract and the delivery of the S-300 systems has started,” said Mehdi Sanaei.

According to the Iranian Tasnim news agency, Sanaei pointed out that former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, cancelled the missile defense deal in 2010, “under pressure from the West”. That position has “improved” today, he added.

Moscow and Tehran signed the initial S-300 contract in 2007 for the delivery of five S-300 systems worth $800 million. In 2010 the contract was put on hold by Medvedev due to UN sanctions on Iran. In return, Iran started a $4 billion lawsuit at an international court in Geneva against Russia’s arms export agency. The current Russian President, Vladimir Putin, signed a decree lifting the ban in April this year.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/22447-russia-delivers-first-s-300-missile-defence-system-to-iran.

SE Asia creates Economic Community, but challenges remain

November 22, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Thirteen years after the idea was mooted, Southeast Asian leaders on Sunday formally created a unified economic community in a region more populous and diverse than the European Union or North America, and with hopes of competing with China and India.

The 10 leaders in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a declaration during their summit establishing the ASEAN Economic Community, as part of a larger ASEAN Community that aims for political, security, cultural and social integration.

Summit host Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia hailed the ASEAN Community as a "landmark achievement," and urged members to accelerate integration. "The region is primed to expand exponentially," he said.

The community, known by its acronym AEC, is already a reality and many of its fundamentals have been applied in the region such as removal of tariff barriers and visa restrictions among others. It has also led to greater political and cultural cooperation.

AEC will bolster income and employment, and provide the region with stronger economic muscle in facing the other giants, said Michael G. Plummer, a professor of international economics at the Europe Center of Johns Hopkins University, based in Bologna, Italy.

"ASEAN integration will help balance the economic power of China and India. Individually, ASEAN countries are, perhaps, too small to be important players in the economic and security game, but as an integrated group of more than half a billion people, they would be in the major league," Plummer said.

But there is a long way to go before the AEC becomes fully functional after becoming a legal entity on Dec. 31. The region's diversity can be a hindrance sometimes. ASEAN has 630 million people, speaking different languages, following various faiths and governed by various systems, including rambunctious democracies, a military dictatorship, quasi-civilian, authoritarian, monarchy and communism.

"The AEC is arguably the most ambitious economic integration program in the developing world. But implementation of the AEC is increasingly uphill. Much remains to be done and the region faces many challenges in finishing. The AEC is a process," Plummer said.

It falls short in more politically sensitive areas such as opening up agriculture, steel, auto production and other protected sectors. ASEAN citizens will be allowed to work in other countries in the region, but will be limited to jobs in eight sectors, including engineering, accountancy and tourism. This accounts for only 1.5 percent of the total jobs in the region, and host countries still can put up constitutional regulatory hurdles restricting the inflow of talent.

Intra-regional trade has remained at around 24 percent of ASEAN's total global trade for the last decade, far lower than 60 percent in the European Union. ASEAN members also struggle to resolve diplomatic flare-ups among each other such as border disputes between Cambodia and Vietnam, or Indonesia's inability to fight annual forest fires that spew noxious haze for months over Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Plummer said progress has been slow in in services liberalization. Cross-border flow of investment is also restricted by large exclusion lists and caps on foreign ownership. Government procurement and curbing monopolies by state-owned enterprises are highly sensitive and untouched, he said.

Although the four poorer economies — Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam — have until 2018 to bring down tariffs, economic integration could further reinforce income equalities in the region, he said.

AEC "is not the finished article. Neither is it officially claimed to be. There is much work to be done," said Mohamad Munir Abdul Majid, chairman of a council that advises ASEAN on business matters. "There is a disparity between what is officially recorded as having been achieved ... and what the private sector reports as their experience."

There are also other hurdles, such as corruption, uneven infrastructure and unequal costs of transportation and shipping. A wide economic gulf divides Southeast Asia's rich and middle income economies — Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines — and its four less developed members, Communist Vietnam and Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

The AEC was envisaged in 2002 — and a blueprint created in 2007 — to face competition from China and India for market share and investments. While China's economic growth is expected to slow to an average of 6 percent annually over the next five years, India's expansion is likely to pick up to 7.3 percent in the same period, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

The AEC is one of the three pillars of the ASEAN Community, which was created by the signing of the declaration Sunday. The other two pillars are political-security and socio-cultural. After the ASEAN summit, the 10 leaders huddled with heads of state from four other Asian countries as well as President Barack Obama, Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key for a two-hour East Asia Summit.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dozens detained in G20 protests in Turkey

November 15, 2015

ANTALYA, Turkey (AP) — Police in the Turkish Mediterranean city of Antalya detained dozens of people Sunday during a series of protests denouncing a G-20 summit that is underway in a nearby seaside resort, although the demonstrations were mostly peaceful.

Security is tight during two-day meeting that was expected to be dominated by discussions about how the G-20 nations will respond to the deadly Paris attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group. Demonstrators were being kept miles away from the venue at a secluded seaside resort some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Antalya city.

A group of some 500 youths belonging to a Turkish nationalist association gathered in the city, holding up card-board effigies of U.S. President Barack Obama and denouncing U.S. interventions in the Middle East. Police allowed the group to march briefly only after they agreed to leave the effigies behind.

Hundreds of members of Turkish left-wing groups and trade unions later held another protest denouncing the organization which gathers the world's wealthiest economies. They marched in central Antalya carrying a banner that read in Turkish and in English: "Killer, colonialist, imperialist war organization G-20 get out!" Police detained dozens of demonstrators after one of the demonstrators threw fireworks at police while the crowd was dispersing.

Earlier, police detained four protesters who wanted to walk to the venue of the G-20 summit to deliver a letter to participants. Police also detained a group of about 20 protesters who refused to undergo a security check, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Separately, members of Turkey's ethnic Uighur community also gathered in the city to protest China's treatment of the Muslim minority. Chinese President Xi Jinping is among the summit participants. Turkey has turned a sports center in Antalya into a temporary detention center in case of large-scale protests.

Turkey ends missile deal talks with China

November 15, 2015

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's state-run news agency says Turkey has ended negotiations with China on building a missile defense system.

The Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed officials, said Sunday that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu decided to abandon the missile tender over the possibility that Turkey may construct its own "national" defense system.

The deal with China had been a source of tension with NATO partners, who said they would not integrate Chinese-made hardware with a European-wide system. The indications that the deal is being abandoned come as leaders from the 20 leading world economies— including China and NATO allies— are meeting in Turkey in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris.

Western leaders are discussing how to respond to the attack that French President Francois Hollande called an act of war.

Turkey opens military areas in Cyprus to search for missing

November 05, 2015

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Turkey has granted access to 30 suspected grave sites in military-controlled areas in northern Cyprus, a move that will significantly speed up exhumation work, an official with a committee searching for missing persons on the war-divided island nation said Thursday.

Paul-Henri Arni, the U.N.-appointed member of the Committee on Missing Persons, said such access will accelerate the work to an estimated three years. He said it's important to move ahead quickly because many witnesses with information on such graves are elderly.

"It's a race against time," Arni told The Associated Press. "The only credible sources of information we have are these witnesses and they're dying fast." Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Some 1,500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots had disappeared from the mid-1960s during fighting between the two communities, as well as the invasion.

In the last decade, the remains of 1,020 people have been exhumed. Turkey still maintains some 35,000 troops in the island's north, where Turkish Cypriots declared independence that's recognized only by Ankara.

It's not the first time that Turkey has allowed crews to dig in military-controlled areas that dot the island's north and where access is strictly prohibited, but Arni said work has proceeded too slowly. He said his group has information of possible burials regarding all 30 sites, but declined to give an estimate on how many people might be buried there.

Turkey's decision comes as U.N.-brokered talks aimed at reunifying Cyprus have been significantly ramped up. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Turkish Cypriot leader's confirmation that Turkey has granted access to the sites, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The U.N. chief "is encouraged by the steps being taken to build trust and confidence between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities as the two sides have begun intensified talks this month," Dujarric said.

The Cypriot government welcomed Turkey's move, adding that it now expects Ankara to do more to help uncover the fate of the missing, including granting access to its military archives as well as allowing crews into areas where exhumed remains have been reburied.