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Head of Indian state bids to wrest party from father

Author: 
AFP
Mon, 2017-01-02
ID: 
1483304728891886300

NEW DELHI: The chief minister of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh tried Sunday to seize control of its ruling party from his father in another twist to a family feud that has made headlines for weeks.
The bid by 43-year-old Akhilesh Yadav to take over the Samajwadi Party comes at the end of a turbulent 48 hours.
On Friday he was expelled from the party but taken back into the fold the following day by his father and mentor Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Mulayam, a 77-year-old wrestler-turned-politician, previously served three terms as the state’s chief minister.
Akhilesh, along with one of his uncles Ram Gopal Yadav, has been locked in a dispute with Mulayam and another uncle Shivpal Yadav.
The two factions are vying for control of the party before crucial state polls expected around February.
At a special party meeting in the state capital Lucknow, Ram Gopal announced Akhilesh’s appointment as the party’s new national president.
But Mulayam in a statement to the media declared the meeting “unconstitutional” and warned everyone against attending it.
Observers in New Delhi expect more competing announcements from different party factions over the next few days as the family feud plays out in full public view.
Uttar Pradesh, with a population of more than 200 million, is seen as a critical political player. It sends the biggest single bloc of lawmakers to the 545-seat Parliament.
In 2012 Akhilesh became the youngest-ever chief minister thanks to his soaring popularity with younger voters, who elected him on promises of more jobs and a greater share in India’s economic growth.

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Nigerian ex-militants say lost confidence in Buhari

Author: 
Reuters
Mon, 2017-01-02
ID: 
1483304728881886100

YENAGOA: A group of former Nigerian militants said on Sunday it had lost confidence in the president’s efforts to end attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta, a major goal in efforts to reach a lasting peace settlement.
In its first public criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said he was “jeopardizing the fragile peace in the region” with public comments about the unrest while reneging on past agreements.
MEND had backed Buhari in his 2015 presidential election campaign and urged militants behind the most recent spate of attacks to pursue peace talks with the government.
The attacks in the OPEC member’s energy hub, coupled with low oil prices, have helped to push Africa’s biggest economy into recession — the first in 25 years. Crude oil sales account for two-thirds of government revenue.
Those behind the attacks, which began in early 2016, say they want a greater share of Nigeria’s energy wealth to go to the southern region. The frequency of attacks has reduced since Buhari held talks with community leaders but there are sporadic attacks, most recently in late November.
MEND, which was one of largest militant groups until it signed up for a government amnesty in 2009, said in a statement e-mailed on Sunday that it had passed “a vote of no confidence” in Buhari’s government.
It said he should tell government agencies to “immediately commence dialogue with the Niger Delta region” but did not say what it would do if the approach to the peace process was not altered.
MEND’s members are influential in the Niger Delta but it is unclear whether this extends to those responsible for the most recent attacks because the militant scene is splintered into small groups which each have their own list of demands.
The presidency declined to comment on MEND’s statement. Buhari said in his New Year’s message on Saturday that he will seek a peace settlement in the oil-producing region.
The attacks cut Nigeria’s oil production, which stood at 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) at the start of 2016, by more than a third in the summer although the oil minister said repairs to oil facilities lifted output to nearly 1.8 million bpd in December.

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Minister sees threat of Daesh chemical attack in UK

Author: 
REUTERS
Mon, 2017-01-02
ID: 
1483304088711838800

LONDON: Daesh militants have aspirations to launch mass-casualty chemical attacks on targets in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, the British security minister said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday.
Ben Wallace also said British authorities feared that as the militant group was driven out of strongholds in the Middle East such as the Iraqi city of Mosul, Britons fighting for the group would return home and pose a growing domestic threat.
“The ambition of IS or Daesh is definitely mass-casualty attacks,” Wallace told the Sunday Times newspaper.
“They have no moral objection to using chemical weapons against populations and if they could, they would in this country. The casualty figures that could be involved would be everybody’s worst fear.”
The report said no specific chemical plot had been identified but security services had been carrying out exercises to prepare for the possibility.
Daesh used sulfur mustard gas in an attack on the Syrian town of Marea in August 2015, according to global watchdog the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Wallace pointed to the dismantlement of a Daesh cell in Morocco in February as evidence of the group’s ambition to carry out chemical attacks elsewhere.
“Moroccan authorities dismantled a cell involving chemical weapons. They recovered toxic chemical and biological substances and a large stock of fertilizer. The substances found could have been used to produce home-made explosives and could have been transformed into a deadly toxin,” he said.
About 800 Britons are thought to have traveled to Syria, many to join Daesh, since the outbreak of the civil war in that country. Around 100 have been killed.
“The big concern is if Mosul collapses and all the other bases of ISIS (Daesh) collapse. We know there are a significant number of fighting for IS in Syria. They will probably want to come home,” said Wallace.
In a separate report, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper quoted the head of Britain’s regulator of charities as saying that reports of links between charities and extremism had trebled over the past three years to reach a record high.
The Charity Commission made 630 referrals to police in 2015/16 over “allegations made … about abuse of charities for terrorist or extremist purposes, including concerns about charities operating in Syria and other higher risk areas,” the report said.

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Britain’s May calls for unity in 2017 after divisive Brexit vote

Sun, 2017-01-01
ID: 
1483283583510522500

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged in a New Year message on Sunday to seek a Brexit deal that would work for all Britons, not just those who voted to leave the European Union in a referendum she said had laid bare the nation’s divisions.
Britons voted by 52 to 48 percent last June to leave the EU and the tone of the public debate about what Brexit should look like has remained acrimonious.
May said in her televised message that, despite the divisions, Britons shared a desire to live in a stronger, fairer and more secure country.
“These ambitions unite us, so that we are no longer the 52 percent who voted Leave and the 48 percent who voted Remain, but one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future,” said May.
“So when I sit around the negotiating table in Europe this year, it will be with that in mind — the knowledge that I am there to get the right deal, not just for those who voted to leave but for every single person in this country.”
May has pledged to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal step that will launch negotiations on the terms of Britain’s exit, by the end of March.
The Brexit process will take years and May has given few details about what deal she will be seeking from the remaining 27 EU members.
May became prime minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party in July after her predecessor David Cameron resigned following the referendum. Both he and May had backed the ‘Remain’ side.
“PRECIOUS UNION“
In her New Year message, May also referred to the “precious union” between the United Kingdom’s four constituent parts, which is under strain since England and Wales voted to leave the EU while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will do everything she can to ensure the will of the Scottish people is respected and she has raised the possibility of a future referendum on independence from the UK.
In her own New Year message, Sturgeon said: “We are determined that Scotland’s vote to remain in the European Union will be respected and that people in Scotland retain as many of the benefits of EU membership as possible, including the freedom to work, travel and study in other member states”.

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More than 20 killed, dozens injured after fire on Indonesian tourist boat

Sun, 2017-01-01
ID: 
1483261847186698900

JAKARTA: Twenty three people were killed and dozens injured on Sunday after a fire ripped through a boat carrying nearly 250 people to islands north of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the city’s search and rescue agency said.
The Zahro Express caught fire shortly after leaving Muara Angke port in North Jakarta. The cause of the fire was thought to be a short circuit on a power generator, said police. 
“Thick smoke suddenly emerged, blanketing the cabin,” said survivor Ardi who was being treated in a Jakarta hospital.
“All passengers panicked and ran up to the deck to throw floats into the water. In a split second, the fire becomes bigger coming from where fuel is stored,” said Ardi, who was on the boat with his son.
The boat was towed back to port where a Reuters witness saw victims in body bags being removed from the badly charred ship.
According to the head of Jakarta’s search and rescue agency, Hendra Sudirman, 248 people were on board, more than double the previous estimate of 100, and out of more than 200 people rescued, 32 were being treated at hospitals in Jakarta.
Sea accidents are frequent in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago, with vessels often overloaded and having too few life jackets on boat.

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Trump expresses doubts about security of all computers

Sun, 2017-01-01
ID: 
1483260649766663300

FLORIDA: President-elect Donald Trump says that “no computer is safe” when it comes to keeping information private, expressing new skepticism about the security of online communications his administration is likely to use for everything from day-to-day planning to international relations.
Trump rarely uses e-mail or computers, despite his frequent tweeting. 
“You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way. Because I’ll tell you what: No computer is safe,” Trump told reporters during his annual New Year’s Eve bash. “I don’t care what they say.”
Trump has repeatedly cast aside allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia tried to influence the presidential election through hacking. President Barack Obama earlier this week ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies, closed two Russian compounds and expelled 35 diplomats the US said were really spies. The Russian government has denied the allegations.
Trump, who has said that he plans to meet with intelligence officials next to week to learn more about the allegations, said he wants US officials “to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge.” He pointed to intelligence failures over the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the US invasion, and declared himself an expert in the area.
“I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove, so it could be somebody else,” he said.
He added, cryptically, that he also knows “things that other people don’t know. And so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
Trump made the comments during his annual New Year’s Eve bash at his Mar-a-Lago club. Hundreds of guests gathered in the club’s grand ballroom, including action star Sylvester Stallone and romance novel model Fabio. Reporters were invited to watch as guests arrived.
Earlier in the day, Trump ditched his press pool, traveling to play golf at one of his clubs without a pool of journalists on hand to ensure the public has knowledge of his whereabouts.
A member of Trump’s golf club in Jupiter, Florida, posted a photo on Twitter of Trump on the greens Saturday morning and said about 25 US Secret Service agents accompanied the president-elect. Reporters had not been advised of the visit to the club.
Transition aide Stephanie Grisham confirmed that Trump had made a “last-minute trip” to Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, which is about a half-hour drive from Mar-a-Lago, where Trump has been spending the holidays. He returned to the estate at midafternoon.
Grisham said that she and other aides weren’t aware of the trip and “appreciate everyone’s understanding.”
“We are in the home stretch of this transition period and don’t anticipate any additional situations like this between now and inauguration,” she said in a statement.
Before he went golfing Saturday, Trump tweeted an unusual New Year’s message to friends and foes: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!“
With the arrival of 2017, another New Year’s message moved on Trump’s Twitter account at about midnight.
This one was decidedly more upbeat, addressed to all Americans, and including an abbreviation for his campaign slogan: Make America Great Again.
“To all Americans- HappyNewYear & many blessings to you all! Looking forward to a wonderful & prosperous 2017 as we work together to #MAGA.”

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Kim says N. Korea in ‘final stages of test launching ICBM’

Sun, 2017-01-01
ID: 
1483257250776584000

SEOUL: North Korea is in the “final stages” of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, leader Kim Jong-Un said Sunday, adding the country had significantly bolstered its nuclear deterrent in 2016.
“We are in the final stages of test-launching the intercontinental ballistic missile,” Kim said in a 30-minute televised New Year’s speech, pointing to a string of nuclear and missile tests last year.
Pyongyang had “soared as a nuclear power,” he said, adding it was now a “military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy.”
The country carried out two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches last year along in pursuit of its oft-stated goal — developing a weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.
“We have seen marvellous feats for bolstering our military power, including the fact that our preparations for test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile are in the final stages,” Kim added.
Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realizing its full nuclear ambitions, especially as it has never successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). 
But all agree it has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over as leader from his father Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011.
A senior US defense official said last month that the North has developed the capability to pair a nuclear warhead with a missile and launch it, but has not mastered bringing the weapon back from space and onto a target.
There are growing concerns of fresh provocations by Pyongyang following last month’s impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, which has left the country with a caretaker leader — Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn.
On relations with South Korea, Kim said the North was willing to “hold hands with anyone who wishes to improve North-South ties.” But he denounced Seoul for pushing inter-Korean relations to their “worst state.”
“We must launch all-out efforts to pulverise actions by anti-unification forces like Park Geun-Hye,” he said.
Kim called for an end to the South’s annual joint military exercises with the United States — a perennial thorn in North-South ties.
“Unless they stop the war of annual exercises, the DPRK (North Korea) will keep increasing military capabilities for self-defense and preemptive striking capacity with a main emphasis on nuclear force,” Kim said.
Kim, wearing black-rimmed glasses and a dark Western suit and tie, delivered his speech from behind a lectern in a wood-panelled room in the ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee Office Building in Pyongyang.
No audience was shown although the address was regularly interrupted by what appeared to be canned applause.
Although Kim did not make a specific reference to the incoming Donald Trump administration, he called on Washington to make a “resolute decision to withdraw its anachronistic hostile North Korea policy.”
Washington has repeatedly vowed that it would never accept the North as a nuclear state. Trump has never clearly stated his policy on the isolated state.
“North Korea is indirectly pressuring the Trump administration with its possible ICBM launch,” said Kim Yong-Hyun, professor of North Korea studies at Seoul-based Dongguk University.
“It is stressing that if the US upholds its policy of pressuring the North, it will conduct an ICBM test in the first half of this year,” he said.
Thae Yong-Ho, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to Britain who defected to the South in August, has said Kim was planning a “prime time” nuclear weapons push in 2017 to take advantage of leadership transitions in Washington and Seoul.

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New UN chief urges New Year’s resolution: ‘Put Peace First’

Sun, 2017-01-01
ID: 
1483255217236532300

UNITED NATIONS: Antonio Guterres took the reins of the United Nations on New Year’s Day, promising to be a “bridge-builder” but facing an antagonistic incoming US administration led by Donald Trump who thinks the world body’s 193 member states do nothing except talk and have a good time.
The former Portuguese prime minister and UN refugee chief told reporters after being sworn-in as secretary-general on Dec. 12 that he will engage all governments — “and, of course, also with the next government of the United States” — and show his willingness to cooperate on “the enormous challenges that we’ll be facing together.”
But Trump has shown little interest in multilateralism, which Guterres says is “the cornerstone” of the United Nations, and a great attachment to the Republicans’ “America First” agenda.
So as Guterres begins his five-year term facing conflicts from Syria and Yemen to South Sudan and Libya and global crises from terrorism to climate change, US support for the United Nations remains a question mark.
And it matters because the US is a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council and pays 22 percent of the UN’s regular budget and 25 percent of its peacekeeping budget.
Immediately after the United States allowed the Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Dec. 23 in a stunning rupture with past practice, Trump warned in a tweet: “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th,” the day he takes office.
Trump followed up three days later with another tweet questioning its effectiveness. “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!“
John Bolton, a conservative Republican and former US ambassador to the United Nations, said in an interview with The Associated Press that Guterres would be well advised “especially given the incoming Trump administration” to follow the model of his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon, and do what member governments want.
If he tries to follow what Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, did as secretary-general and try to be the world’s top diplomat and what some called “a secular pope,” Bolton said, “I think especially in the Trump administration, he would run into big trouble very quickly.”
Guterres has made clear that his top priority will be preventing crises and promoting peace.
In the first minute after taking over as UN chief on Sunday, Guterres issued an “Appeal for Peace.” He urged all people in the world to make a shared New Year’s resolution: “Let us resolve to put peace first.”
“Let us make 2017 a year in which we all — citizens, governments, leaders — strive to overcome our differences,” the new secretary-general said.
He has said there is enormous difficulty in solving conflicts, a lack of “capacity” in the international community to prevent conflicts, and the need to develop “the diplomacy for peace,” which he plans to focus on.
Guterres has said he will also strive to deal with the inequalities that globalization and technological progress have helped deepen, creating joblessness and despair especially among youth.
“Today’s paradox is that despite greater connectivity, societies are becoming more fragmented. More and more people live within their own bubbles, unable to appreciate their links with the whole human family,” he said after his swearing-in.
Guterres said the values enshrined in the UN Charter that should define the world that today’s children inherit — peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity — are threatened, “most often by fear.”
“Our duty to the peoples we serve is to work together to move from fear of each other, to trust in each other, trust in the values that bind us, and trust in the institutions that serve and protect us,” he said. “My contribution to the United Nations will be aimed at inspiring that trust.”
Guterres won the UN’s top job after receiving high marks from almost every diplomat for his performance in the first-ever question-and-answer sessions in the General Assembly for the 13 candidates vying to replace Ban, whose second five-year term ends at midnight on Dec. 31.
In an interview during his campaign with three journalists, Guterres said the role of secretary-general should be “an honest broker, a consensus builder” who engages as much as possible, in many circumstances discreetly.
“It’s not just to have a personal agenda, because it would be regrettable or ineffective, or to appear in the limelight. No. On the contrary, it’s to act with humility to try to create the conditions for member states that are the crucial actors in any process to be able to come together and to overcome their differences,” he said.
Whether the Trump administration will join Guterres and UN efforts to tackle what he sees as “a multiplication of new conflicts” and the myriad problems on the global agenda remains to be seen.
Trump’s choice as US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley who is the governor of South Carolina, has a reputation as a conciliator, which could be very useful especially in dealing with the Security Council and the four other permanent veto-wielding members — Russia, China, Britain and France, all of whom have their own national agendas. 
But she will be taking instructions from the president.
Richard Grenell, who served as US spokesman at the UN during President George W. Bush’s administration and has been working with Trump’s transition team, downplayed the prospect that Trump will withdraw from or even disregard the United Nations.
He said in an AP interview earlier this month that Trump is talking about reforming the UN and other international organizations so “they live up to their ideals.”
Guterres also wants to reform the United Nations to make it “nimble, efficient and effective.” He said “it must focus more on delivery and less on process, more on people and less on bureaucracy,” and ensure that the more than 85,000 UN staff working in 180 countries are being used effectively.

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Trump sends New Year wishes to all, even his ‘many enemies’

Author: 
Associated Press
Sat, 2016-12-31
ID: 
1483216643922282600

PALM BEACH, Florida: President-elect Donald Trump has an unusual New Year’s message for his Twitter followers.
He is wishing a “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly.”
Trump adds, “they just don’t know what to do,” ending his message with the word, “Love!“
The president-elect will be spending his New Year’s Eve at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.
He’ll be throwing a private party that is expected to draw hundreds of guests, including action star Sylvester Stallone.

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Trump sends New Year wishes to all, even his ‘many enemies’

Author: 
Associated Press
Sat, 2016-12-31
ID: 
1483216643922282600

PALM BEACH, Florida: President-elect Donald Trump has an unusual New Year’s message for his Twitter followers.
He is wishing a “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly.”
Trump adds, “they just don’t know what to do,” ending his message with the word, “Love!“
The president-elect will be spending his New Year’s Eve at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.
He’ll be throwing a private party that is expected to draw hundreds of guests, including action star Sylvester Stallone.

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