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Iran rules out halt to missile tests as tension with US rises

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-07-29 12:36
ID: 
1501322616995051200

TEHRAN: A defiant Iran vowed on Saturday to press ahead with its missile program and condemned new US sanctions, as tensions rise after the West hardened its tone against the Islamic republic.
In the latest incident on the ground, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the US Navy had approached their patrol vessels in the Gulf and fired flares.
“At 4 p.m. (1130 GMT) on Friday, the supercarrier USS Nimitz and its accompanying warship, while being monitored by the Guards’ frigates, flew a helicopter near the Resalat oil and gas platform and approached the force’s ships,” the paramilitary force said.
“The Americans in a provocative and unprofessional move, sent a warning message to the frigates and fired flares,” it said. The Guards “ignored the unconventional move by the US ships and continued their mission.”
Three days earlier, a US Navy patrol ship fired warning shots at a Guards boat in the Gulf as it closed in on the American vessel, according to US officials.
The Guards denied approaching the US ship in Tuesday’s incident and said it was the American vessel that had been at fault.
There have been a string of close encounters between US ships and Iranian vessels in the Gulf in recent months.
On the political battlefield, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state broadcaster IRIB that Tehran condemned new US sanctions against its missile program, which President Donald Trump is set to sign into law, and vowed to press on.
“We will continue with full power our missile program,” he said. “We consider the action by the US as hostile, reprehensible and unacceptable, and it’s ultimately an effort to weaken the nuclear deal.”
Ghasemi was referring to a 2015 agreement between Iran and US-led world powers that lifted some sanctions on Tehran in return for curbs on the country’s nuclear program.
“The military and missile fields… are our domestic policies and others have no right to intervene or comment on them,” the spokesman said.
The sanctions bill, which also targets Russia and North Korea, was passed by the US Senate on Thursday, two days after being approved by the House of Representatives.
Separately on Friday, Washington imposed new sanctions targeting Iran’s missile program, one day after Tehran tested a satellite-launch rocket.
Iranian state television broadcast footage of the takeoff from the Imam Khomeini space center in Semnan province in the east of the country.
The launch vehicle was capable of propelling a satellite weighing 550 pounds (250 kilogrammes) into orbit at an altitude of 300 miles (500 kilometers), it said.

Western governments suspect Iran of trying to develop the technology for longer-range missiles with conventional or nuclear payloads, a charge denied by Tehran, which insists its space program has purely peaceful aims.
In a joint statement, Britain, France, Germany and the US condemned Tehran’s “provocative” and “destabilising” action, saying the test was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that endorsed the nuclear deal.
“We call on Iran not to conduct any further ballistic missile launches and related activities,” they said.
Resolution 2231 called on Iran not to test ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and an arms embargo has remained in place.
The United States has had no diplomatic ties with the Iran since 1980, and Trump has halted the direct contacts initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama.
Tensions have mounted between Washington and Tehran since Trump took office six months ago vowing to be the best friend of Israel.
At UN headquarters in New York on Friday, US envoy Nikki Haley expressed mistrust of Iran.
“Iran’s widespread support for terrorists tells us we can’t trust them. Iran’s breaking its obligation on missile testing tells us we can’t trust them. Yesterday’s launch proves that yet again,” she said.
Despite his electoral promise to tear apart what he once called “the worst deal ever,” Trump has so far respected the nuclear agreement.
The joint US-European statement said that Iran’s latest test features technology related to “ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
Iran insists it has “proven its compliance with the nuclear deal” as repeatedly confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“Iran does not recognize any limits to its scientific and technological progress and will not wait for the approval or permission of any country regarding the activities of its scientists and experts,” the foreign ministry spokesman said.

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Iran rules out halt to missile tests as tension with US rises

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-07-29 12:36
ID: 
1501322616995051200

TEHRAN: A defiant Iran vowed on Saturday to press ahead with its missile program and condemned new US sanctions, as tensions rise after the West hardened its tone against the Islamic republic.
In the latest incident on the ground, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the US Navy had approached their patrol vessels in the Gulf and fired flares.
“At 4 p.m. (1130 GMT) on Friday, the supercarrier USS Nimitz and its accompanying warship, while being monitored by the Guards’ frigates, flew a helicopter near the Resalat oil and gas platform and approached the force’s ships,” the paramilitary force said.
“The Americans in a provocative and unprofessional move, sent a warning message to the frigates and fired flares,” it said. The Guards “ignored the unconventional move by the US ships and continued their mission.”
Three days earlier, a US Navy patrol ship fired warning shots at a Guards boat in the Gulf as it closed in on the American vessel, according to US officials.
The Guards denied approaching the US ship in Tuesday’s incident and said it was the American vessel that had been at fault.
There have been a string of close encounters between US ships and Iranian vessels in the Gulf in recent months.
On the political battlefield, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state broadcaster IRIB that Tehran condemned new US sanctions against its missile program, which President Donald Trump is set to sign into law, and vowed to press on.
“We will continue with full power our missile program,” he said. “We consider the action by the US as hostile, reprehensible and unacceptable, and it’s ultimately an effort to weaken the nuclear deal.”
Ghasemi was referring to a 2015 agreement between Iran and US-led world powers that lifted some sanctions on Tehran in return for curbs on the country’s nuclear program.
“The military and missile fields… are our domestic policies and others have no right to intervene or comment on them,” the spokesman said.
The sanctions bill, which also targets Russia and North Korea, was passed by the US Senate on Thursday, two days after being approved by the House of Representatives.
Separately on Friday, Washington imposed new sanctions targeting Iran’s missile program, one day after Tehran tested a satellite-launch rocket.
Iranian state television broadcast footage of the takeoff from the Imam Khomeini space center in Semnan province in the east of the country.
The launch vehicle was capable of propelling a satellite weighing 550 pounds (250 kilogrammes) into orbit at an altitude of 300 miles (500 kilometers), it said.

Western governments suspect Iran of trying to develop the technology for longer-range missiles with conventional or nuclear payloads, a charge denied by Tehran, which insists its space program has purely peaceful aims.
In a joint statement, Britain, France, Germany and the US condemned Tehran’s “provocative” and “destabilising” action, saying the test was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that endorsed the nuclear deal.
“We call on Iran not to conduct any further ballistic missile launches and related activities,” they said.
Resolution 2231 called on Iran not to test ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and an arms embargo has remained in place.
The United States has had no diplomatic ties with the Iran since 1980, and Trump has halted the direct contacts initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama.
Tensions have mounted between Washington and Tehran since Trump took office six months ago vowing to be the best friend of Israel.
At UN headquarters in New York on Friday, US envoy Nikki Haley expressed mistrust of Iran.
“Iran’s widespread support for terrorists tells us we can’t trust them. Iran’s breaking its obligation on missile testing tells us we can’t trust them. Yesterday’s launch proves that yet again,” she said.
Despite his electoral promise to tear apart what he once called “the worst deal ever,” Trump has so far respected the nuclear agreement.
The joint US-European statement said that Iran’s latest test features technology related to “ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
Iran insists it has “proven its compliance with the nuclear deal” as repeatedly confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“Iran does not recognize any limits to its scientific and technological progress and will not wait for the approval or permission of any country regarding the activities of its scientists and experts,” the foreign ministry spokesman said.

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Kidnapped oil workers speak on Boko Haram video

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-07-29 12:41
ID: 
1501322090745018500

NIGERIA: Boko Haram Islamists have published a video showing three kidnapped members of an oil exploration team, after an ambush in northeast Nigeria earlier this week that killed at least 50.
In the four-minute video, the trio identify themselves as being from the University of Maiduguri and call on the government to meet the jihadists’ demands in exchange for their safe return.
The men were part of a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) team on a mission to find commercial quantities of oil in the Lake Chad basin when they came under attack on Tuesday.
“I want to call on the acting president professor Yemi Osinbajo to come to our rescue to meet the demand,” one of the men says in the video, which he said was shot on Friday.
He attributed the attack to the Daesh-supported Boko Haram faction headed by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, which has promised to hit military and government targets.
“They have promised us that if their demands are met they will release us immediately to go back to the work we were caught doing,” the man added.
There was no indication of where the video was shot but the convoy came under attack near Magumeri, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) by road northwest of Maiduguri.
Most of the victims were soldiers and civilian militia members providing security.
Five members of staff from the university — two lecturers, two technologists and a driver — were also killed, vice-chancellor Ibrahim Njodi said on Friday.
University of Maiduguri spokesman Danjuma Gambo confirmed the identities of the three kidnapped men in the video.
“They are our staff but one more is yet to be accounted for,” he told AFP.

Experts said the attack — Boko Haram’s bloodiest this year — underscored the persistent threat posed by the jihadists, despite government claims the group is a spent force.
“It’s a confirmation of the boldness and reassurance that Boko Haram has managed to gain over the last six weeks,” Yan St-Pierre, from the Modern Security Consulting Group in Berlin, told AFP.
“They have been attacking more and more military outposts and more military convoys. For them to go after NNPC personnel just shows they don’t fear any military reprisal.
“Basically they have managed to gain enough resources, enough material, to plan ambushes targeted toward high value targets.”
The Al-Barnawi faction differs from fighters loyal to Boko Haram’s long-time leader Abubakar Shekau in that it disagrees with the indiscriminate targeting of civilians in suicide and bomb attacks.
Nigeria is searching for oil in the northeast to try to reduce its reliance on supplies from the Niger delta, where militant attacks have slashed production and deepened the country’s worst recession in decades.
The military gave the NNPC the green light to continue exploration in November 2016, according to Nigeria’s junior oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu.
The University of Maiduguri’s vice-chancellor told reporters on Friday the university had been hesitant to send staff with the NNPC team but had been assured about security.
Kidnapping has been a feature of the eight-year Boko Haram insurgency, which has killed at least 20,000 people, displaced more than 2.6 million others and left millions of others on the brink of famine.
Thousands of women and girls have been seized, while men and boys have been made to fight in the Islamist ranks.

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No Picture

Kidnapped oil workers speak on Boko Haram video

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-07-29 12:41
ID: 
1501322090745018500

NIGERIA: Boko Haram Islamists have published a video showing three kidnapped members of an oil exploration team, after an ambush in northeast Nigeria earlier this week that killed at least 50.
In the four-minute video, the trio identify themselves as being from the University of Maiduguri and call on the government to meet the jihadists’ demands in exchange for their safe return.
The men were part of a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) team on a mission to find commercial quantities of oil in the Lake Chad basin when they came under attack on Tuesday.
“I want to call on the acting president professor Yemi Osinbajo to come to our rescue to meet the demand,” one of the men says in the video, which he said was shot on Friday.
He attributed the attack to the Daesh-supported Boko Haram faction headed by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, which has promised to hit military and government targets.
“They have promised us that if their demands are met they will release us immediately to go back to the work we were caught doing,” the man added.
There was no indication of where the video was shot but the convoy came under attack near Magumeri, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) by road northwest of Maiduguri.
Most of the victims were soldiers and civilian militia members providing security.
Five members of staff from the university — two lecturers, two technologists and a driver — were also killed, vice-chancellor Ibrahim Njodi said on Friday.
University of Maiduguri spokesman Danjuma Gambo confirmed the identities of the three kidnapped men in the video.
“They are our staff but one more is yet to be accounted for,” he told AFP.

Experts said the attack — Boko Haram’s bloodiest this year — underscored the persistent threat posed by the jihadists, despite government claims the group is a spent force.
“It’s a confirmation of the boldness and reassurance that Boko Haram has managed to gain over the last six weeks,” Yan St-Pierre, from the Modern Security Consulting Group in Berlin, told AFP.
“They have been attacking more and more military outposts and more military convoys. For them to go after NNPC personnel just shows they don’t fear any military reprisal.
“Basically they have managed to gain enough resources, enough material, to plan ambushes targeted toward high value targets.”
The Al-Barnawi faction differs from fighters loyal to Boko Haram’s long-time leader Abubakar Shekau in that it disagrees with the indiscriminate targeting of civilians in suicide and bomb attacks.
Nigeria is searching for oil in the northeast to try to reduce its reliance on supplies from the Niger delta, where militant attacks have slashed production and deepened the country’s worst recession in decades.
The military gave the NNPC the green light to continue exploration in November 2016, according to Nigeria’s junior oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu.
The University of Maiduguri’s vice-chancellor told reporters on Friday the university had been hesitant to send staff with the NNPC team but had been assured about security.
Kidnapping has been a feature of the eight-year Boko Haram insurgency, which has killed at least 20,000 people, displaced more than 2.6 million others and left millions of others on the brink of famine.
Thousands of women and girls have been seized, while men and boys have been made to fight in the Islamist ranks.

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No Picture

Pakistan ruling party meets to consider PM successor

Author: 
AP
Sat, 2017-07-29 03:00
ID: 
1501322090785018600

ISLAMABAD: The ruling party of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will choose his successor Saturday, a day after Pakistan’s Supreme Court removed the premier from office after finding that he and his family concealed their assets, officials said.
The move comes amid a serious political crisis that has gripped Pakistan, with constitutional experts and lawmakers wondering who is running the government after Sharif’s disqualification.
“Unfortunately, we are without a prime minister. We are without a government,” Raja Zafarul Haq, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, told The Associated Press. The party was meeting Saturday to discuss a potential successor.
Haq said although the court in Friday’s ruling asked the figurehead President Mamnoon Hussain to “ensure continuation of the democratic process,” the reality was that the country was facing a political crisis.
Haq said there was no provision in the constitution about appointment of an acting prime minister. He said Sharif might have stayed in power until the appointment of a new prime minister if judges had not sacked him effective immediately.
In that situation, Hussain could ask Sharif to remain in office until his successor is elected. Sharif resigned Friday, saying he had reservations about the court ruling on petitions filed by his political opponents.
Haq said Sharif was the victim of a “trivial allegation of concealing his assets.”
Sharif has been banned by the court from taking part in politics for not being “truthful and honest.” It angered his party leaders who note that their party enjoys a majority and will stay in power until general elections are held in June 2018.
The 67-year-old Sharif, who has served three separate stints as prime minister, has a history of rocky relations with Pakistan’s powerful military.
He was first dismissed from power by the army’s hand-picked president in 1993 about midway through his five-term term. In 1999, military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf overthrew Sharif in a bloodless coup and exiled him to Saudi Arabia.
Sharif’s supporters suggested the military applauded the court decision because it viewed him as an upstart who sought to challenge its authority.
The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70-year history and has been unwilling to see its influence challenged. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz in a tweet said her father would “return with greater force,” and she asked her party to “stay strong.”

Main category: 

No Picture

Pakistan ruling party meets to consider PM successor

Author: 
AP
Sat, 2017-07-29 03:00
ID: 
1501322090785018600

ISLAMABAD: The ruling party of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will choose his successor Saturday, a day after Pakistan’s Supreme Court removed the premier from office after finding that he and his family concealed their assets, officials said.
The move comes amid a serious political crisis that has gripped Pakistan, with constitutional experts and lawmakers wondering who is running the government after Sharif’s disqualification.
“Unfortunately, we are without a prime minister. We are without a government,” Raja Zafarul Haq, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, told The Associated Press. The party was meeting Saturday to discuss a potential successor.
Haq said although the court in Friday’s ruling asked the figurehead President Mamnoon Hussain to “ensure continuation of the democratic process,” the reality was that the country was facing a political crisis.
Haq said there was no provision in the constitution about appointment of an acting prime minister. He said Sharif might have stayed in power until the appointment of a new prime minister if judges had not sacked him effective immediately.
In that situation, Hussain could ask Sharif to remain in office until his successor is elected. Sharif resigned Friday, saying he had reservations about the court ruling on petitions filed by his political opponents.
Haq said Sharif was the victim of a “trivial allegation of concealing his assets.”
Sharif has been banned by the court from taking part in politics for not being “truthful and honest.” It angered his party leaders who note that their party enjoys a majority and will stay in power until general elections are held in June 2018.
The 67-year-old Sharif, who has served three separate stints as prime minister, has a history of rocky relations with Pakistan’s powerful military.
He was first dismissed from power by the army’s hand-picked president in 1993 about midway through his five-term term. In 1999, military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf overthrew Sharif in a bloodless coup and exiled him to Saudi Arabia.
Sharif’s supporters suggested the military applauded the court decision because it viewed him as an upstart who sought to challenge its authority.
The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70-year history and has been unwilling to see its influence challenged. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz in a tweet said her father would “return with greater force,” and she asked her party to “stay strong.”

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No Picture

After France and Portugal, Spain battles forest fire

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-07-29 12:42
ID: 
1501322090725018400

MADRID: After France and Portugal, Spain was battling a blaze Saturday that has ravaged bone dry pine forests and is still not under control despite the mobilization of 20 water-dropping planes and helicopters.
Some 300 people were evacuated from villages and camp sites as the fire in Yeste in southeastern Spain burnt more than 1,000 hectares (nearly 4 square miles) in two days, Ana Cuevas, a spokeswoman for the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha, told AFP.
She added that the blaze had still not come under control after firefighters worked all night to try and stop its advance.
The fire, which started on Thursday morning, comes as parts of southern Europe experience a scorching summer, leaving forests and bushland highly vulnerable to blazes.
Neighbouring France battled huge fires near beaches popular with tourists on the Cote d’Azur, forcing the evacuation of 10,000 people.
These came under control on Thursday although authorities remain on high alert.
In Portugal, meanwhile, fires have raged across large areas of tinder-dry forest, cutting off roads in the center of the country and forcing thousands to flee just a month after blazes that left more than 60 people dead.

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No Picture

After France and Portugal, Spain battles forest fire

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-07-29 12:42
ID: 
1501322090725018400

MADRID: After France and Portugal, Spain was battling a blaze Saturday that has ravaged bone dry pine forests and is still not under control despite the mobilization of 20 water-dropping planes and helicopters.
Some 300 people were evacuated from villages and camp sites as the fire in Yeste in southeastern Spain burnt more than 1,000 hectares (nearly 4 square miles) in two days, Ana Cuevas, a spokeswoman for the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha, told AFP.
She added that the blaze had still not come under control after firefighters worked all night to try and stop its advance.
The fire, which started on Thursday morning, comes as parts of southern Europe experience a scorching summer, leaving forests and bushland highly vulnerable to blazes.
Neighbouring France battled huge fires near beaches popular with tourists on the Cote d’Azur, forcing the evacuation of 10,000 people.
These came under control on Thursday although authorities remain on high alert.
In Portugal, meanwhile, fires have raged across large areas of tinder-dry forest, cutting off roads in the center of the country and forcing thousands to flee just a month after blazes that left more than 60 people dead.

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Australian counter-terrorism police conduct raids across Sydney suburbs

Author: 
Reuters
Sat, 2017-07-29 12:07
ID: 
1501319365924934900

SYDNEY: Australian counter-terrorism police were conducting raids late on Saturday across several Sydney suburbs aimed at disrupting plans for “terrorist attacks.”
“These operations are designed to disrupt and prevent plans to undertake terrorist attacks in Australia,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in an e-mailed statement.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) said the raids by the Joint Counter Terrorism Team in four suburbs in different parts of the city “relate to an ongoing investigation.”
Both Turnbull’s office and the AFP declined to provide further information as the raids were still in progress.
“The public should be reassured that our security and intelligence agencies are working tirelessly to keep us safe,” Turnbull said.
Australia, a staunch ally of the United States, has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, or their supporters, since 2014.
Authorities say they have thwarted a number of potential attacks since then, but there have been several “lone wolf” assaults, including a cafe siege in Sydney that left two hostages and the gunman dead.
About 100 people have left Australia for Syria to fight alongside organizations such as Islamic State, Australia’s Immigration Minister said last month.
Australian newspaper publisher News Ltd. reported up to 40 riot squad officers were seen swooping on a house in the inner city suburb of Surry Hills.

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No Picture

Australian counter-terrorism police conduct raids across Sydney suburbs

Author: 
Reuters
Sat, 2017-07-29 12:07
ID: 
1501319365924934900

SYDNEY: Australian counter-terrorism police were conducting raids late on Saturday across several Sydney suburbs aimed at disrupting plans for “terrorist attacks.”
“These operations are designed to disrupt and prevent plans to undertake terrorist attacks in Australia,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in an e-mailed statement.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) said the raids by the Joint Counter Terrorism Team in four suburbs in different parts of the city “relate to an ongoing investigation.”
Both Turnbull’s office and the AFP declined to provide further information as the raids were still in progress.
“The public should be reassured that our security and intelligence agencies are working tirelessly to keep us safe,” Turnbull said.
Australia, a staunch ally of the United States, has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, or their supporters, since 2014.
Authorities say they have thwarted a number of potential attacks since then, but there have been several “lone wolf” assaults, including a cafe siege in Sydney that left two hostages and the gunman dead.
About 100 people have left Australia for Syria to fight alongside organizations such as Islamic State, Australia’s Immigration Minister said last month.
Australian newspaper publisher News Ltd. reported up to 40 riot squad officers were seen swooping on a house in the inner city suburb of Surry Hills.

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