DDMA Headline Animator

Monday, April 4, 2016

Some Jordanian prisoners to be released in Hamas-Israel deal


AMMONNEWS - Some Jordanian prisoners in Israeli jails are set to be freed under a deal struck this week between Hamas and Israel to swap hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for the Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

According to political activist Maysara Malas, former head of the National Committee for Prisoners in Israel, the number of Jordanian prisoners to be freed is not yet known.

Malas told The Jordan Times yesterday that he received confirmed information that some Jordanians in Israeli prisons will be included in the agreement announced Tuesday between Gaza’s Hamas Islamist movement and the Israeli government, adding that there are currently 24 Jordanians behind bars in Israel.

According to the activist, the prisoners, whom he said were imprisoned for political reasons, are serving various terms, with one inmate having been incarcerated since 2000.

An official at the foreign ministry told The Jordan Times that the ministry has not received official information about the release of Jordanian prisoners.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in Jerusalem that the deal to swap prisoners was “finally summarized and both sides signed”, Reuters reported.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas confirmed that it only remained to conclude technical arrangements for the exchange in the coming days.

The breakthrough pact came after many failed negotiations to free Shalit since he was captured in 2006.

The agreement calls for the release of 1,000 Palestinians in two stages, the first involving 450 to be swapped for Shalit, with the remaining 550 to be freed later.

Source: Ammon News.
Link: http://en.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleNO=14127.

Libya oil corp, central bank rally around unity govt

3 April 2016

Libya's National Oil Corporation and Central Bank, backbones of its wealth, have thrown their support behind a UN-backed unity government in a blow to a rival administration refusing to cede power.

The two institutions, which have struggled to remain neutral since Libya's 2011 armed revolt and subsequent turbulence, said they welcomed the Government of National Accord, in separate statements.

Prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj and members of the GNA arrived Wednesday in Tripoli where a rival government, unrecognized by the international community, has ruled since mid-2014.

The Tripoli administration, established after the powerful Libya Dawn militia alliance overrun the capital that year, has demanded that Sarraj leave or surrender, branding the GNA "illegal".

Founded in 1970, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) is based in Tripoli where Libya's Central Bank -- the depositor of the country's oil wealth -- also has its headquarters.

They have continued to operate independently despite the chaos that engulfed Libya after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

"We have been working with Prime Minister Sarraj and the Presidency Council to put this period of divisions and rivalry behind us," NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla.

"We have been looking to the future, and now we have a clear international legal framework in place," he added in a statement published Saturday on the NOC website.

The Central Bank of Libya also "welcomed" the GNA and wished them "all the success in carrying out the difficult tasks ahead of them".

It urged Libyans to "now more than ever to unite and collaborate by working together to ensure that security and safety prevail in Libya, to stop fighting and bloodshed, to empower the judicial system and to embrace the rule of law".

A Libyan financial expert said the NOC and Central Bank support amounted to "a resounding vote of confidence" in the GNA.

"The two institutions are the basis of Libyan livelihood and without them the GNA would not be able to function," he said, asking not to be named.

- Battered economy -

Oil is Libya's main natural resource, with reserves estimated at 48 billion barrels, the largest in Africa.

The North African nation had an output capacity of about 1.6 million barrels per day before the uprising, accounting for more than 95 percent of exports and 75 percent of the budget.

But production has slumped amid violence as rival forces battled for control of oil terminals.

Control of the oil industry is key for the GNA, which not only needs to unite the country but also shore up an economy weakened by the drop of oil prices on the international market.

Since the revolt, and the emergence of two rival administrations, the central bank struggled to keep the country afloat, urging tough spending cuts and hinting that it dipped into foreign reserves.

On Thursday, Sarraj met the head of the Central Bank to discuss measures to safeguard banks and tackle the country's "cash flow problem", his office said.

"Difficult times lie ahead. The immediate challenge is to end the cash crisis," Mattia Toaldo, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said earlier in the week.

Following Sarraj's arrival in Tripoli, pledges of loyalty began pouring in and supporters rallied in the city although his government still needs the formal approval of the house of representatives (HoR).

"The HoR remains the legitimate body to endorse the GNA. I urge the HoR to hold a comprehensive session to vote on GNA in free will," UN envoy to Libya Martin Kobler said in a tweet Sunday.

On Thursday, the mayors of 10 coastal cities that were under the control of the Tripoli authorities called on Libyans to "support the national unity government".

The following day, guards in charge of securing installations in Libya's so-called eastern "oil crescent" also offered their support and said they would hand over to the unity government three oil terminal.

The UN Security Council has passed Resolution 2278 stating that oil exports from Libya must be placed under the authority of the GNA.

Source: Daily Mail Online.
Link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-3521391/Libyas-National-Oil-Corporation-backs-unity-government.html.

Libya NTC says recognizes Syrian National Council


Libya's ruling National Transitional Council said on Monday that it recognizes the Syrian National Council grouping of opponents of President Bashar al-Assad as the country's government.

"The National Transitional Council has decided after a meeting today to recognize the Syrian National Council as the sole legitimate government in Syria," NTC member Mussa al-Koni told a news conference in Tripoli.

Koni, who represents Libya's Tuareg minority in the NTC, said the council has "also decided to close the Syrian embassy in Libya."

The decision makes Libya the first country to recognize the SNC as Syria's legitimate government, although the former is still only run by an interim council and still battling pockets of loyalists to the ousted Moammar Qaddafi.

Dissidents officially declared the formation of the Syrian National Council in Turkey on October 2, saying they had established a "historic" united front against Assad that brings in groups from across the political spectrum.

"The Syrian National Council reunites the forces of the opposition and the peaceful revolution," Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun told reporters in Istanbul, announcing the new umbrella movement which he called "historic."

He said the SNC aims to "mobilize all categories of people in Syria and give the necessary support for the revolution to progress and realize the aspirations of our people for the overthrow of the regime, its symbols and its head."

Apparently modeled on Libya's NTC, the Syrian council is to elect a president and have a 29-strong general secretariat representing seven of the country's opposition factions.

It comprises six members of the Local Coordination Committees, five Muslim Brotherhood and tribal representatives, four from the so-called Damascus Declaration and four for a liberal grouping led by Ghalioun.

The remaining members of the secretariat are five independents, four Kurds and a Christian.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

Source: NOW Lebanon.
Link: https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/archive/libya_ntc_says_recognizes_syrian_national_council1.

Algeria struggles to cope with refugee influx

Sunday, 03 April 2016

The "Arab Spring" revolutions and the current regional security situation have combined to turn Algeria into a temporary home for some 30,000 refugees from Syria, Libya and Mali.

Bin Olwi Mohy el-Din, a member of the African Association for Care of Refugees Affairs, an NGO, told Anadolu Agency that the association had counted more than 30,000 refugees in Algeria from the three countries, "most of whom fled their countries because of civil war".

Half of the refugees are from Mali.

Algerian authorities have laid out a plan to meet refugees’ needs without forcing them into camps and allowing their children to enter the local school system, according to Mohy el-Din.

For his part, Addas Khalifa, a Syrian national and a member of the Syrian Refugees League in Northern African Countries, told Anadolu Agency that the number of Syrian refugees in Algeria changes "from one month to the next".

He put the number of Syrian refugees in the country at 7,000, citing statistics issued by the Algerian authorities in April of last year.

Khalifa asserted that Syrians had been welcomed in Algeria without a visa until 2015, when Algeria began requiring visas due to developments in the war-torn country.

"The special circumstances in Syria forced the Algerian authorities to do security checks on incoming refugees to ensure that no extremists are among them," Khalifa said.

Syrian refugees currently reside in 22 Algerian cities. The majority of them live in big cities, such as Annaba, Oran and capital Algiers, according to Khalifa.

Ghawati Abdul Basit, a member of a relief committee established to take care of refugees from Mali, said the official number of refugees from Mali is "not accurate".

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Abdul Basit said: "I think the number of refugees who fled Mali, Syria and Libya may exceed 50,000 or 60,000. There are thousands who fled the war in northern Mali between 2012 and 2013 [after the French military intervention] who the authorities could not register officially because they snuck through the borders."

Karwi Khaled, a Libyan businessman and a representative of the Libyan community in Algeria, said that "during the civil war in Libya following the revolution in 2011, at least 5,000 Libyans sought refuge in Algeria, most of whom have relatives in Algeria".

For her part, Saeeda Bin Heblis, head of the Algerian Red Crescent, told reporters on Thursday that her country will not deport refugees until stability is restored in their home countries.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/24811-algeria-struggles-to-cope-with-refugee-influx.

Japan's PM defends new security laws as protesters denounce them

Tokyo (AFP)
March 29, 2016

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that new security laws that took effect Tuesday will strengthen Tokyo's ability to defend itself amid increasing threats as opponents took to the streets to say they risk hurling the country into war.

Legislators in September passed the bills into law, a shift that could see Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time since the end of World War II.

The approval was a milestone in Japan, where a constitution imposed by the United States after Japan's defeat renounces its sovereign right to wage war.

That clause, known as Article 9, is unchanged, but staunch nationalist Abe wants to revise the constitution to throw off what he and many conservatives see as outdated foreign-imposed constraints that hinder Japan from playing a more robust role in regional and global affairs.

"The security environment surrounding our country is becoming more severe," Abe told a nationally televised news conference, citing threats including from nearby North Korea, which this year has carried out fresh nuclear and ballistic rocket launches.

"No country in the world can protect itself alone," he added.

As Abe spoke at his official office, an AFP journalist estimated that about 2,000 people rallied outside parliament nearby in a show of opposition to the laws that opponents fear could fundamentally reshape the proudly pacifist nation.

Fumiko Yamaguchi, who attended the demonstration, said she survived devastating US air raids on Tokyo as a child even as an aunt was killed.

"I don't want Japan to be engaged in any war," she told AFP. "I don't want my children and our grandchildren to go to war."

Abe says that the new laws are part of a normalization of Japan's military policy, which had been restricted to self-defense and aid missions by the constitution.

The changes, which would allow Japanese troops to fight in defense of allies, drew tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets outside parliament or the prime minister's office in the runup to their passage in September.

Abe and his backers say the laws are necessary because of threats from an increasingly belligerent China and unstable North Korea.

Opponents argue they go against both the constitution and the national psyche, and could see Japan dragged into far-flung US wars.

Washington has backed the changes, but regional rivals China and South Korea have expressed concern at any expansion of Japanese military scope.

Abe also said that the alliance with the US remains strong and will not change after the Us presidential election in November.

"No matter who will be the next president, the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy," he said.

"For the sake of the peace and prosperity of Asia, the Pacific and the world, close cooperation with the US won't change."

Source: Space War.
Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Japans_PM_defends_new_security_laws_as_protesters_denounce_them_999.html.

UN court acquits Serb nationalist Seselj; Croatia shocked

March 31, 2016

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — In a rare courtroom victory for a Serb defendant, a U.N. war crimes tribunal on Thursday acquitted ultranationalist politician Vojislav Seselj of atrocities and pronounced him a free man. The decision inflamed simmering tensions in the Balkans, sparking joy in Serbia and horror and deep anger in Bosnia and Croatia.

Prosecutors had charged Seselj, 61, with crimes including persecution, murder and torture and had demanded a 28-year sentence for his support of Serb paramilitaries during the region's bitter, bloody wars in the early 1990s.

But in a majority decision, the three-judge panel said there was insufficient evidence linking the politician himself to the crimes. A dissenting opinion shredded that logic, providing grist for possible future appeals.

"After so many proceedings in which innocent Serbs were given draconian punishments, this time two honest judges showed they valued honor more than political pressure," Seselj declared at a press conference at his Serbian Radical Party headquarters in Belgrade.

Others heatedly disagreed. "This is a defeat of The Hague tribunal," Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said in Vukovar, an eastern Croatian town destroyed by Serbian troops, including Seselj's paramilitaries, during the war for independence in the 1990s. "I am in Vukovar today, and we all know that this man has done evil to this town. He showed no remorse whatsoever."

Most of the people indicted and convicted by the court have been Serbs as the international community blamed them for most of the war's worst atrocities, including the deadly siege of Sarajevo and 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica.

Seselj, who repeatedly branded the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia an anti-Serb court, was not in The Hague for the ruling. He was allowed to return home in late 2014 on compassionate grounds due to ill health.

Once home, the firebrand ultranationalist, who once said he would like to gouge out the eyes of rival Croats with a rusty spoon, rekindled a political career that was put on hold when he surrendered to the tribunal in 2003.

Now he could become a key political powerbroker after Serbia's April 24 general election. With a surge in pro-Russian and right-wing sentiments ahead of the vote, Seselj's Serbian Radical Party has a good chance to return to parliament after missing out two years ago.

Seselj has campaigned on the platform that Serbia must never enter the 28-nation European Union or NATO and should forge closer ties with Moscow. He has burned EU, NATO and Croatian flags during pre-election rallies, and said he would join a coalition government with the incumbent populists, his former allies, only if they give up their goal of EU accession.

The ruling could also further deteriorate relations between the two main Balkan rivals, Serbia and Croatia. Oreskovic, the prime minister described the acquittal as "shameful" and demanded a Serbian government "reaction" as a proof that Belgrade adheres to EU values as it seeks membership in the bloc.

In Bosnia, which also saw mass killings by Serb forces, the acquittal sparked disbelief and anger. "An absolutely shocking decision," said lawyer and publicist Senad Pecanin. "This is the lowest point of The Hague tribunal."

Ismar Jamakovic, 23, a student of political science from Sarajevo, said judges ruled that "advocating the creation of Greater Serbia was a political and not a criminal act. Does this mean I can now advocate the creation of an Islamic State without facing any consequences? You've got to be kidding me."

Jamakovic was referring to one of the most controversial aspects of Thursday's ruling. Prosecutors have long cast wartime plans by Serb leaders including Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic as a criminal plot to create a "Greater Serbia" by forcefully expelling non-Serbs from their homes and thus redrawing the Balkan borders. Reading out a summary of the judgment, Presiding Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti characterized the plan as a political goal, not a criminal act.

The ruling called operations in which non-Serbs were bussed out of territory as a "humanitarian mission." Prosecutors had branded it a forcible displacement of the civilian population. "The reading of the conflict by the trial chamber is very, very different to what we are used to," Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz told reporters, adding that Seselj's trial was beset by allegations of interference with witnesses and evidence.

Brammertz almost certainly will appeal, but said Thursday he first has to study the ruling, which runs to some 100 pages, and its dissenting opinion. Antonetti also distanced Seselj from the crimes of the Serb paramilitaries he helped to establish, saying that although Seselj "may have had a certain amount of moral authority over his party's volunteers, they were not his subordinates" when they went into combat.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Flavia Lattanzi sounded appalled at the findings of the other two judges, saying they had set aside "all the rules of international humanitarian law that existed before the creation of the Tribunal and all the applicable law established since the inception of the Tribunal in order to acquit Vojislav Seselj."

Serbian political analyst Djordje Subotic said the ruling legitimizes the "Greater Serbia" project, which could have grave consequences for future stability in the Balkans. "This means that the idea of redrawing the borders in the Balkans is revived," he said.

Seselj said he now expects to win 20-25 percent of the vote for his far-right radicals in April. "The most important is that we get more than the progressives," he said, referring to the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, his former allies-turned-foes.

Associated Press writers Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

Protesters clash with police at Italian-Austrian border

April 03, 2016

MILAN (AP) — Italian demonstrators clashed with Austrian police on Sunday when they crossed the Brenner Pass border to protest against Austria's plans to enforce controls to limit the passage of migrants.

Some 500 human rights activists marched on the border Sunday, lighting flares and spraying "Welcome" on a sign announcing the passage to Austria. Austrian police said they detained around 50 protests for throwing stones at officers, injuring five, and vandalizing property.

Police used batons and pepper spray to drive back the protesters, according to reports in the Austrian media. An Austrian official was also quoted in the German media as saying that Austria will deploy soldiers to the borders to ensure that an expected influx through Italy won't make it north.

Several European Union countries have responded to the influx of migrants from across the Mediterranean by reintroducing border controls along their previously open frontiers. Many expect that an EU-Turkey deal tightening the Balkans route will send migrants across the sea to Italy and then northwards, once weather permits.

Greece begins refugee deportations under EU plan

April 04, 2016

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Police on the Greek island of Lesbos began placing migrants and refugees on boats bound to Turkey, the first to be deported under a European Union plan to limit the amount of migration to Europe.

Under heavy security, the first 135 migrants were being escorted onto two small ferries as dawn broke Monday by officers from the EU border protection agency, Frontex, to nearby ports on the Turkish coast, under the plan which has been strongly criticized by human rights groups.

About 4,000 migrants and refugees are being detained on Greek islands since the agreement came into effect March 20. On the nearby island of Chios, riot police clashed with local residents hours earlier during a protest against deportations planned there.

"This is the first day of a very difficult time for refugee rights. Despite the serious legal gaps and lack of adequate protection in Turkey, the EU is forging ahead with a dangerous deal," Giorgos Kosmopoulos, head of Amnesty International in Greece, told the Associated Press from Lesbos.

"Turkey is not a safe third country for refugees. The EU and Greek authorities know this and have no excuse." The operation was supervised by a lieutenant general of the Greek police, which gave no immediate details of the nationalities of migrants being deported.

The deportations were due to start with migrants who did not apply for asylum or had their applications declared inadmissible. "Even if this first group is not refugees, what we are seeing here is symbolic kick off of what might be a very dangerous practice of returns to Turkey," Kosmopoulos said.

A total of 50,000 migrants and refugees are stranded in Greece following EU and Balkan border closures, but only those who arrived after March 20 will be detained for deportation.

Greece: 5 hurt in violence at migrant detention camp

April 01, 2016

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Authorities on the Greek island of Chios say five people were injured and treated in hospital following clashes between Syrian and Afghan migrants at an overcrowded detention camp.

The clashes early Friday are the latest in a series of violent incidents at shelters and gathering points across Greece, where more than 50,000 migrants and refugees are stranded following Balkan border closures supported by the European Union.

Greece has been detaining migrants who arrived after March 20 and will begin deporting them back to Turkey next week, under an EU-Turkey agreement on migration. The deportations will start with migrants with asylum claims considered inadmissible — a group likely to include citizens of Afghanistan.

Greek lawmakers get ready to OK refugee deportations

March 31, 2016

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Lawmakers in Greece were ready to support legislation to deport refugees back to Turkey as clashes between migrants persisted Thursday at overcrowded detention camps. A three-hour fight broke out overnight between groups of migrants camping out in Greece's main port of Piraeus, leaving eight people injured and requiring treatment at nearby hospitals.

The clashes, believed to have been between Afghan and Syrian migrants, left the area strewn with rocks and broken glass. New protests were also reported at detention camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios, from where deportations to Turkey are due to start next week.

More than 50,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece after Balkan countries closed their borders to the massive flow of refugees pouring into Europe. Some 11,500 remain camped out at the border with Macedonia, ignoring instructions from the government to move to organized shelters.

Hundreds of those camping out in Piraeus were boarding buses Thursday for newly-created refugee camps elsewhere in Greece. Government officials described the violence as minor. "In situations where there is so much tension and people have been through an ordeal, it is not surprising to have minor incidents, which are usually resolved quickly," Giorgos Kyritsis, a spokesman for a refugee crisis committee, told private Skai television.

In Athens, the government submitted draft legislation required for the landmark migration agreement reached this month by the European Union and Turkey to take full effect. The deal aims to break the smuggling rings that have brought hundreds of thousands of people from Turkey across the Aegean Sea to Greece.

Due to be voted on late Friday, the bill would upgrade Greek asylum services and set conditions for refugees and migrants to be sent back to Turkey from the Greek islands. The returns are to start Monday, but most support staff promised by other EU countries have still not arrived on Greek islands, and the method of how to return the refugees is still being negotiated between the EU, Turkey and Greece.

An official with knowledge of the talks told the AP that deportations were likely to start from the island of Lesbos. The official asked not to be identified pending official announcements. Turkey's prime minister said the deal with the EU will go into effect as scheduled on Monday.

In a TV address on Thursday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the method will not increase the number of refugees now in Turkey, because others will be sent to the EU. He also says "there will be no reason for the loss of life of people who hope and desire to cross the Aegean Sea to Europe."

More than 3,000 people who have arrived in Greece since March 20 have been arrested and are being detained on Greek islands. A detention facility on the island of Chios is already nearly 50 percent over capacity, with protests by detainees occurring daily.

Becatoros reported from Idomeni, northern Greece. Thanassis Stavrakis in Piraeus, Greece contributed.

Despite criticism, EU plans are ready to deport refugees

April 01, 2016

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece is pressing ahead with plans to start deporting migrants and refugees back to Turkey next week, despite mounting concern from the United Nations and human rights organizations that Syrians could be denied proper protection while some are allegedly even being forced back into their war-torn country.

Lawmakers in Athens Friday voted 169-107 to back draft legislation, fast-tracked through parliament, to allow the returns to start as soon as Monday. The operation would see migrants and refugees who arrived on Greek islands after March 20 put on boats and sent back to Turkey.

Several Greek officials with knowledge of the planning told the AP that deportations are likely to start from the island of Lesbos, with migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries whose asylum claims are considered inadmissible.

The transport, the officials said, will be carried out under heavy security escort — with one police minder for every migrant — using buses that will travel from island detention camps and are likely to board straight onto chartered vessels.

The officials asked not to be identified because plans for the forced returns have not been formally announced. The imminent deportations are backed by the European Union following its recent agreement with Turkey, and triggered more violence at detention camps in Greece.

Authorities on the Greek island of Chios said several hundred people pushed their way out of an overcrowded detention camp and staged a peaceful protest in the island's main town, chanting "freedom, freedom" and "Turkey no." The rally followed overnight clashes between Syrian and Afghan detainees that left five people injured.

More protests are planned on the island Saturday. In Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations refugee agency, or UNHCR, urged Greece and Turkey to provide further safeguards for asylum seekers before the returns begin, noting that conditions were worsening by the day for more than 4,000 people being held in detention on Greek islands.

And rights group Amnesty International, which has strongly opposed the EU-Turkey agreement from the start, said in a report Friday that it had evidence of Turkish authorities rounding up Syrians and sending them back across the border to their conflict-torn country.

The group said Turkey has been expelling around 100 men, women and children nearly daily since mid-January. "EU leaders have willfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees," Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said.

Greek officials did not respond to the criticism directly, but insisted the rights of detained asylum seekers were being protected. "I assure you that we will strictly observe human rights procedures, not what people are inventing, but what is required under the circumstances," Migration Affairs Minister Ioannis Mouzalas told parliament.

The clashes on Chios were the latest in a series of violent incidents at shelters and gathering points across Greece, where more than 52,000 migrants and refugees are stranded following EU-supported Balkan border closures.

More than 11,000 of those stranded remain camped out at the Greek-Macedonian border, ignoring calls by the government to move voluntarily to organized shelters. Many say they have heard conditions in other camps are worse, and they fear what they might find if they are forced to move.

Karzan Kmaran, a 28-year-old Iraqi from near the city of Mosul, said he still hoped that the borders would open. "We are waiting for hope. Here, the place is very sad for the people, and we don't know what to do," he said, standing by a queue of people lining up for food and baby milk. "The people, they don't want to stay in Greece, because Greece now is in crisis, the economy is so bad."

Mohammed Ali, a 45-year-old pharmacologist from the embattled town of Deir el-Zour, fled Syria with his 19-year-old son, fearing that the young man would be forcibly recruited by the Syrian army or killed by the Islamic State group. They have been in the camp for a month.

"Look at these people here," he said, sweeping his arm across the camp as its residents began to stir at daybreak. "You know Victor Hugo, the French writer? He wrote a book — "Les Miserables." In the 21st Century, we stand in the land of Hugo."

Ali said he was "a rich man" in Syria. "I had two houses, and a car. But with the war, everything is lost," he said. His houses were damaged in Russian airstrikes. "I had a car, a Mazda. Gone too. Now, I have shoes instead. They are my Formula 1."

Becatoros reported from Idomeni, Greece. Lorne Cook in Brussels, Jamey Keaten in Geneva and Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, Greece, contributed.

Threat of extreme right march stirs fears in tense Molenbeek

April 01, 2016

BRUSSELS (AP) — Home to jihadists connected to the deadly bombings in Paris and Brussels, recruiting ground for Islamic State extremists, and witness to repeated police raids, Molenbeek is bracing for a new onslaught.

With extreme-right groups threatening to take the neighborhood by storm Saturday, community leaders fear its predominantly Muslim young people will fight back. "They don't trust the police and they aren't going to take it," said Fouad Ben Abdelkader, a teacher in the neighborhood. On Thursday he joined a meeting of a couple dozen community leaders and mentors to neighborhood youths who feel adrift in mainstream Belgian society.

The group of community organizers was looking for ways to head off an escalation of violence in the largely Muslim neighborhood, hoping to avoid a situation like occurred last Sunday when hundreds of black-clad hooligans shouting Nazi slogans disrupted a memorial at Brussels' Bourse square for the 32 victims of the March 22 attacks on the airport and subway system.

This time, a relatively unknown Belgian group has pledged to "expel the Islamists" and police warn that extreme-right activists are believed to be converging on Molenbeek from around Europe, even though police banned the scheduled protest and any counter protests in the city as soon as it was announced, largely in reaction to the unrest last week.

At the meeting Thursday, Molenbeek's youth organizers planned for the worst, themselves skeptical of a police force they say is unprepared and unwilling to listen to their concerns. "There are some messages that are clearly calling for violence against Muslims. And there have been repercussions on social networks among young people, families, saying we have to get mobilized to defend our little brothers, our sisters, our mothers. Seeing that last weekend the police didn't do their job and didn't succeed in avoiding clashes, that creates mistrust," said Sarah Turine, a Molenbeek councilwoman who called the meeting in hopes of heading off problems.

Outside the non-descript building where the meeting took place, Molenbeek's weekly market filled Saint John the Baptist square and the neighborhood's central walkway — both central gathering places, which concerned residents are contemplating blocking off for the day. Also under consideration is simply insulating Molenbeek, closing off the streets from the outside and shutting down the neighborhood subway stops, allowing trains to pass through. But it is feared even that will not be enough.

"People who want to mix it up with hooligans will seek them out," said Hisham Nasi, a slender man with a jaunty topknot, only marginally older than the kids he has organized into a youth council. It has been two weeks since the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, Europe's most wanted fugitive and a Molenbeek native who was found — after four months on the run — back home where he started. The neighborhood has been a center for jihadi recruiters for years, and those who met Thursday are among the people who have worked the hardest to reverse the blight. But, they say, there is plenty of blame to go around for ease with which some young people are marginalized.

At times shouting over one another, the group agreed that Friday prayers would be a key moment to enlist the help of families. They planned to set up a single emergency number to warn of impending disturbances. They batted around the idea of sending out text messages, Facebook posts. Anything to try and keep the peace.

"Out of 10 kids, eight will get the message," said Ben Abdelkader. But, he added, "this is a radical generation, radical in their words, radical in their actions." They placed hope — but little faith — in Belgian authorities to block the groups from Molenbeek.

"For several young people, I've told them the police will keep things in hand and they have a hard time believing it," Turine said. "On Sunday there were a lot of mistakes and this time we don't have the margin for error."

Police were not at the meeting, but Turine met with them on Wednesday and secured promises that the situation was under control, and that the extreme-right troublemakers would be blocked. And even if the protest doesn't materialize, they mused, there could be streets full of tense police and young men from the neighborhood spoiling for trouble. All it would take is one confrontation, several said, leaving the conclusion unsaid.

"I prefer to deal with the kid I know I can cope with rather than the cops who can do anything they want," Ben Abdelkader said.

Austria claims much of the credit for EU migrant deal

April 03, 2016

VIENNA (AP) — Just weeks ago, thousands of migrants a day were streaming into northern Europe. Now the influx has been dramatically crimped and Austria is claiming much of the credit. The small country at the heart of Europe traditionally is associated with schnitzel, Mozart and "The Sound of Music." More recently, it has also gained a reputation for a hard-nosed migration stance that has shaped Europe's response to the biggest migrant arrivals since World War II.

Austria's decision to shut down its border — the main transit route into the heart of Europe for most refugees — initially caused consternation among many in Europe. But senior Austrian politicians assert the decision helped forge last month's agreement between the EU and Turkey that commits Ankara to start taking back migrants who pay smugglers to make dangerous sea crossings to the Greek islands.

"I believe that we played a significant role in ... finding a solution for the migration crisis," Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told The Associated Press ahead of the first expected migrant returns from Greece to Turkey on Monday.

The premise behind the deal is that Europe will send back to Turkey anyone from any country who doesn't qualify for asylum or has tried to evade a rigorous asylum application process. For every person sent back, EU countries would take in one person confirmed to have made a legitimate asylum request.

Austria — and other eastern European nations — argue that their decision to close their borders leading from Greece through the Balkans and into prosperous northern Europe enabled the deal with Turkey to happen by creating new facts on the ground.

Those facts include having over 50,000 migrants pile up in Greece, as borders further north closed and boatloads of people still poured across its vast Aegean Sea border daily from Turkey. The Austrian decision meant there would be no more "waving through" of migrants as they sought to get to Austria, Sweden or Germany, which alone accepted more than 1 million refugees last year. As the Balkan route shut down, the sufferings of migrants trapped in makeshift camps in northern Greece, notably around the border village of Idomeni, laid bare the scale of the human misery and increased pressure within the EU to act.

"The right measures were taken on the European level (only) after Austria's outcry," Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann told reporters. Others see a more nuanced picture. Anton Pelinka, a politics professor at Eotvoes Lorant University in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, says it was Hungary that played a big role in the EU's new approach. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was arguably the first to reject German-led attempts to allow the migrants free passage through Europe with his migrant quotas and his razor-wire border fences.

"Hungary was in fact the initiator of what then consequently was put into force in the Balkans," he said. Still, Austria's decision to impose daily caps on those seeking asylum at its southeastern border as of Feb. 19 sent ripples of alarm through countries along the migrant route, from Slovenia to Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia.

Austrian and Balkan route police chiefs on Feb. 18 called for the migrant flow "to be reduced to the greatest possible extent." A day later, Austria imposed caps both on the number of asylum seekers it would accept daily and overall for the whole year. Five days later on Feb. 24, foreign and interior ministers from Austria and its southern neighbors made it formal — tightening border controls and announcing that a complete shutdown of the route was looming.

The move was initially met by harsh criticism. The EU said Austria's clampdown on asylum seekers contravened international law. Greece recalled its ambassador to Vienna and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the border restrictions "are not in line with international law or with common human decency."

But the mood has changed. While declining to comment on Austria's role in the migrant debate, EU migration spokeswoman Tove Ernst echoed the language coming out of Vienna, saying all members "must commit to ending the 'wave-through' approach to those who indicate an interest in applying for asylum elsewhere."

The move to shut the Balkans route was drastic — but it worked. Figures provided Friday to the AP show the number of new refugee arrivals registered by German police dropped from an average of over 2,000 daily at the start of the year to several hundred from the middle of February. Currently, about 100 people are being recorded each day.

Kurz suggested other EU nations had just been waiting for an opening to fall in line. "The fact that our path was the right one revealed itself after only a few weeks," he said, asserting that all 28 EU nations endorsed an end to the unfettered migration shortly after Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia also shut their borders.

"I can stand criticism from here and there, particularly when it comes from those who after a few weeks agree to what we suggested," he said.

Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade contributed.

US orders families of personnel out of southern Turkey

Washington (AFP)
March 29, 2016

The Pentagon and US State Department on Tuesday ordered families of US troops and civilian personnel stationed in southern Turkey to leave the region due to security fears.

The order encompasses the city of Adana, where a US consulate and Incirlik air base are located, as well as Ismir and Mugla provinces.

"This decision allows for the deliberate, safe return of family members from these areas due to continued security concerns in the region," the Pentagon said in a statement.

The State Department also restricted official visits to Turkey "mission-critical" travel only.

The Pentagon in September encouraged the families of troops and diplomats stationed in southern Turkey to leave the country, but there was no mandatory order.

In addition to the ordered evacuations of family members, the United States also re-issued a travel warning to all Americans in Turkey.

"The US Department of State warns US citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey," the State Department said.

"Foreign and US tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations," it added, cautioning Americans to avoid areas close to the Syrian border.

Fears of Islamic State jihadists staging fresh strikes are high following last week's attacks in Brussels.

Incirlik has become a key base for the United States and the coalition it leads against IS fighters in Iraq and Syria.

The strategically located facility provides coalition drones and warplanes fast access to IS targets across northern Syria and into Iraq.

"We understand this is disruptive to our military families, but we must keep them safe and ensure the combat effectiveness of our forces to support our strong ally Turkey in the fight against terrorism," US European Command head General Philip Breedlove said.

Military officials said the order was prompted by "continued security concerns" rather than a specific threat.

In all, 670 dependents of US military personnel -- as well as 287 pets -- were expected to evacuate.

The US consulate in Adana will remain open as usual.

Source: Space War.
Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/US_orders_families_of_personnel_out_of_southern_Turkey_999.html.

Falkland Island lawmakers reject Argentine claim to islands

April 01, 2016

PORT STANLEY, Falkland Islands (AP) — Lawmakers in the far-flung Falkland Islands are rejecting Argentina's claim that a recent decision by a U.N. commission strengthens the South American nation's claim over the archipelago.

Earlier this week, the Argentine government said that the U.N. commission on the limits of the continental shelf had sided with Argentina in a dispute with Great Britain going back decades. The government said the commission had ratified a 2009 Argentine report that fixed the limit of its territory at 200 to 350 miles from its coast.

On Monday, Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, previously chief of staff to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, posted a map on Twitter that showed the islands included in Argentina's continental shelf territory.

Like with everything related to the islands, even what the extension of territory would include is in dispute. The report itself has not been made public. The U.N. "has agreed to continental shelf extension for Argentina in those areas north of the Falklands Islands that are not the subject of competing claims," Mike Summers, one the local legislative assembly members that govern the British Overseas Territory, told The Associated Press during an interview on Thursday.

Summers added the decision "has no effect for the sovereign position of the Falklands." In 1982, Argentina invaded and was then routed by British troops. Saturday marks the 34th anniversary of the war. Friday night, Argentine veterans of the war planned to hold a vigil in Buenos Aires.

Islanders and the British government have long rejected Argentina's claims and refused to negotiate. While the commission's recommendation is non-binding, it adds more weight to Argentina's contention.

More than just bitter politics, sovereignty over the islands could become very important because of oil exploration in the surrounding waters. After Argentina's announcement, share prices of several oil companies briefly dipped.

Argentine lawmakers hailed what the decision could mean for government revenues. On his Facebook page, President Mauricio Macri said the extension will "permit us to defend the resources of our sea, property of each and every Argentine."

Stephen Luxton, mineral resources director for the Falkland Islands government, said the latest chapter in the longstanding dispute would have no impact on drilling. "It is very much business as usual for all of our licensees," he said. "It will have no effect on any resources in the Falkland Islands."

Indian Navy orders submarine rescue systems

Barrow-In-Furness, England (UPI)
Mar 29, 2016

The Indian Navy has given Britain-headquartered James Fisher Defense a $252.3 million contract to provide and support a submarine rescue capability.

The contract includes the design, build and supply of two complete submarine rescue systems, as well as a 25-year annual maintenance contract.

The rescue systems will be fly-away units and include deep search-and-rescue vehicles, launch and recovery systems equipment, transfer-under pressure systems, and logistics and support equipment.

The service support will be managed in-country by a team of experienced JFD engineers, and over the life of the contract the JFD team will train local teams of engineers to maintain the systems.

"It is essential to the safety of submariners across the world that submarine rescue services are not just fit-for-purpose, but world class in capability, upholding the highest standards in safety and quality," said Giovanni Corbetta, managing director of JFD. "The decision to entrust JFD with the supply of two submarine rescue systems is testament to the breadth and depth of our engineering expertise, and the diligence with which our submarine escape and rescue teams deliver these services."

Source: Space War.
Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Indian_Navy_orders_submarine_rescue_systems_999.html.

Prominent political prisoner freed in Myanmar, many remain

April 01, 2016

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A prominent political prisoner was released Friday after he finished his six-month jail sentence, coincidentally on the day that Myanmar's new, democratically-elected government began working.

Patrick Kum Ja Lee's release was on schedule and not ordered freed by the new government. But it serves as a reminder that President Htin Kyaw will soon have to confront the military to free scores of other political prisoners still in jail for speaking out against its rule. Many are supporters of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the force behind the new government.

"I've seen many political activists who are imprisoned by the oppressive laws of the previous government," said Patrick as he walked out of the prison gates, where he was met by his wife, May Sabe Phyu, another human rights activist. "I want the new government to be able to release all the political prisoners."

Patrick, an ethnic Kachin, was arrested in October and sentenced to six months in prison for writing a social media post that was considered offensive to the military commander, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlain.

Amnesty International recently called on the new government to work to immediately release all political prisoners jailed by the military that has been in power since 1962, and by a subsequent pro-military, quasi-civilian government.

The military loosened its grip on power in 2010 and allowed free elections in November 2015, which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy swept, allowing it to form a government on Thursday. Suu Kyi has pledged to release all the remaining 100 or so prisoners but whether that pledge is even practical remains to be seen. The military still controls some key institutions including the Home Affairs Ministry, which runs the Corrections Department. Under the Constitution the president is required to consult the ministry, run by a former general, in order to grant amnesties.

"Aung San Suu Kyi used to say, 'The truth shall make you free,'" said Patrick, "and I hope that really happens to all the political prisoners under her government."

SAfrica may suspend rhino trophy hunts: minister

Johannesburg (AFP)
Oct 12, 2011

South Africa could ban rhino trophy hunting if other efforts to curb poaching fail, the environment minister said Wednesday.

"The minister of water and environmental affairs reserves the right to institute a moratorium if there is a clear abuse or absolute collapse in any of the provincial permitting systems," Minister Edna Molewa said in a statement.

At the moment "all rhino hunts must take place under the supervision of a conservation official or an environmental management inspector," according to the statement.

Rhino poaching has increased drastically in South Africa in the last years, on demand from the Asian black market to use the horns in traditional medicines to treat anything from fevers to cancer.

South Africa lost 333 rhinos to poaching last year and has lost 324 so far this year, up from 13 in 2007.

Black rhinoceros are threatened with extinction, but white rhinos -- which number 17,000 in South Africa -- can be hunted legally at only 50 rands ($6, 5 euros) a permit.

On Tuesday two white rhinos were found shot dead by poachers in the world-famous Kruger National Park.

The possible ban is just one proposal under consideration. At the other extreme, South Africa is also studying the legalization of trade in the horns.

Source: Terra Daily.
Link: http://www.terradaily.com/reports/SAfrica_may_suspend_rhino_trophy_hunts_minister_999.html.