France Adopting Biased Stance on Regional Crises: Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TASNIM NEWS AGENCY OF IRAN)

 

France Adopting Biased Stance on Regional Crises: Iran

News ID: 1576462 Service: Politics

بهرام قاسمی

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi slammed French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for his recent anti-Tehran remarks and said the western European country has a “one-sided and biased” stance on crises facing the Middle East region.

Qassemi made the remarks on Thursday in response to comments made by Le Drian, who earlier in the day expressed concern about what he called Iran’s “hegemonic” intentions in the Middle East.

At a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir during a trip to Saudi Arabia, Le Drian said, “I’m thinking specifically about Iran’s ballistic program.”

In reply, Qassemi said, “Unfortunately, it seems that France has a one-sided and biased view of the crises and humanitarian catastrophes in the Middle East.”

This view only exacerbates regional conflicts, “whether intentionally or unintentionally,” he added.

The Iranian spokesman also stressed the need for stability and security in the region and advised leaders of France and other nations to take a “realistic and responsible” stance on the conflicts.

Qassemi also pointed to arms sales by “trans-regional countries” to Middle Eastern governments, including those used in Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military aggression against Yemen and said the western support has only led to “more instability and insecurity” in the region.

Yemen’s defenseless people have been under massive attacks by the coalition for more than two years but Riyadh has reached none of its objectives in Yemen so far.

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out deadly airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.

Over 14,000 Yemenis, including thousands of women and children, have lost their lives in the deadly military campaign.

Fact-checking President Trump’s speech on the Iran deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Fact Checker

Fact-checking President Trump’s speech on the Iran deal

 October 14 at 3:00 AM
 Play Video 3:00
Trump’s Iran deal announcement, in 3 minutes
President Trump announced Oct. 13 that his administration would take new steps going forward to confront Iran. (The Washington Post)

In his speech on the Iran nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), President Trump made a number of factual assertions. The deal was negotiated by Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China), Germany and the European Union.

Here’s a guide to some of his rhetoric, in the order in which he made these statements.

“The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden’s son.”

The president recounted a long list of aggressive acts by the Iranian government toward the United States since the shah was overthrown in 1979, many of which would be familiar to Americans. This claim — that Iran harbored al-Qaeda terror suspects — might be less well-known, but it was recently documented in a 2017 book, “The Exile,” by investigative reporters Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy.

The book noted that the steady flow of senior al-Qaeda figures into Iran after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was controversial among various factions. The government actually made some arrests and sent some al-Qaeda figures back to countries of origin. But the Revolutionary Guard was more supportive. Trump, in using the phrase “regime,” glosses over the debate within the country.

“The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist networks.”

Trump suggests the assistance to al-Qaeda continues to the present day. This is in line with the latest State Department Country Reports on terrorism, released in July, which said: “Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.” This phrasing marked a shift from previous reports, which indicated the support was in the past.

“The previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.”

There is little evidence that the Iranian government was on the verge of “total collapse,” though it was certainly struggling because of international sanctions. The Obama administration had been able to win broad international support for crippling sanctions precisely because it convinced Russia and China, two major Iranian partners, that the pressure was designed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and force the government into negotiations. If the government had started to teeter because of the sanctions, especially if it was perceived as part of an American campaign of regime change, that support probably would have been withdrawn.

JCPOA “also gave the regime an immediate financial boost and over $100 billion its government could use to fund terrorism. The regime also received a massive cash settlement of $1.7 billion from the United States, a large portion of which was physically loaded onto an airplane and flown into Iran.”

Trump often suggests the United States gave a $100 billion to Iran, but these were Iranian assets that had been frozen. The Treasury Department has estimated that once Iran fulfills other obligations, it would have about $55 billion left. (Much of the funds were tied up in illiquid projects in China.) For its part, the Central Bank of Iran said the number was actually $32 billion, not $55 billion. Iran has also complained that it cannot actually move the money back to Iran because foreign banks won’t touch it for fear of U.S. sanctions and their U.S. exposure.

As for the $1.7 billion in cash, this was related to the settlement of a decades-old claim between the two countries. An initial payment of $400 million was handed over on Jan. 17, 2016, the same day Iran’s government agreed to release four American detainees, including The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. The timing — which U.S. officials insisted was a coincidence — suggested the cash could be viewed as a ransom payment.

But the initial cash payment was Iran’s money. In the 1970s, the then-pro-Western Iranian government under the shah paid $400 million for U.S. military equipment. But the equipment was never delivered because the two countries broke off relations after the seizure of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran.

Two other payments totaling $1.3 billion — a negotiated agreement on the interest owed on the $400 million — came some weeks later.

“The deal allows Iran to continue developing certain elements of its nuclear program and, importantly, in just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout.”

JCPOA has been in place for two years. Certain provisions of the nuclear aspects of the deal do not last indefinitely, but virtually all phase out between years 10 and 25. It’s doubtful Iran would have agreed to an indefinite ban on nuclear activities, given that it has a right to have a nonnuclear program under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Critics of the agreement argue that Iran’s past behavior suggests it will cheat in any case and thus has forfeited its rights.

Trump does not mention that under the agreement, Iran is permanently prohibited from acquiring nuclear weapons, and will be subject to certain restrictions and additional monitoring indefinitely. (Readers may also be interested in a previous fact check we did on whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons; we found the claim dubious.)

It’s unclear why Trump refers to a “few years” before a potential nuclear breakout. Nonnuclear provisions having to do with arms-related transfers to and from Iran will expire in three years, or possibly sooner. In six years, U.N. Security Council restrictions end on any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

“Those who argue that somehow the JCPOA deals only with nuclear matters and should be judged separate from the restrictions in [U.N.] Resolution 2231 fail to explain that a nuclear weapon is a warhead and a delivery system,” noted David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, in testimony before Congress. “Today, the delivery vehicle of choice is a ballistic missile.”

“The Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement. For example, on two separate occasions, they have exceeded the limit of 130 metric tons of heavy water. Until recently, the Iranian regime has also failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges.”

Trump is right that Iran twice exceeded the deal’s limit on heavy water. But supporters of the deal say it shows JCPOA is working. Iran tried to take advantage of fuzzy language in the agreement but was immediately caught by international inspectors; the other partners objected and forced Iran to come back into compliance.

As for the centrifuges, the deal limits both the number and type of centrifuges Iran is permitted to use. Again Iran tried to take advantage of ambiguous limits — “roughly 10” advanced centrifuges — by operating slightly more than that number.

The dispute for the moment also appears to have been resolved, though Albright in his testimony noted that “Iran has also built and operated more advanced centrifuges than it is allowed, and it has misused quality assurance limitations to conduct banned mechanical testing of advanced centrifuges.”

“There are also many people who believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea. I am going to instruct our intelligence agencies to do a thorough analysis and report back their findings beyond what they have already reviewed.”

This was a puzzling statement. The phrasing suggests there is not enough evidence to claim that Iran has dealings with North Korea, but the intelligence agencies will keep looking. But it raises the question about why the president made the assertion in the first place.

“It is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time.”

The other partners to the agreement dispute that Trump has the authority to end the deal. In an unusual joint statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron noted: “JCPOA was unanimously endorsed by the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 2231. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA through its long-term verification and monitoring program.”

Similarly, Federica Mogherini, the E.U. foreign policy chief, said no one country could terminate the deal. “This deal is not a bilateral agreement,” she said. “The international community, and the European Union with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is, and will, continue to be in place.”

However, a president can stop waiving nuclear sanctions at any point, causing nuclear sanctions to come back into force. Moreover, U.S. law requires Trump to waive nuclear sanctions regularly, so he could simply not do anything and nuclear sanctions come back. In effect, that would terminate the deal, whether the other partners like it or not.

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French Development Agency’s Commitments to Tunisia to Reach 1.2 Billion Euros  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

French Development Agency’s Commitments to Tunisia to Reach 1.2 Billion Euros

Thursday, 5 October, 2017 – 07:15
Tunis – Al Munji Al Saidani

The French Development Agency (AFD) has renewed its EUR 1.2 billion commitment to finance projects over the next five years.

In a statement to TAP on the sidelines of a press conference held on Monday to celebrate the agency’s 25th anniversary, AFD Director Gilles Chausse recalled that the French authorities announced at the Tunisia 2020 conference, which was held in November 2016, the commitment of EUR 1.2 billion, which will finance investment projects part of the five-year development plan (2016/2020).

He said the AFD will focus on traditional intervention sectors, including vocational training, transport and agriculture and is expected to open on other sectors such as health, ICTs, social protection and governance in which a number of operations are already underway such as the governance of public enterprises.

Tunisian authorities are waiting for several countries, which had participated in the Tunisia 2020 international conference by making financial promises, to meet their pledges.

At the time Prime Min­ister Youssef Chahed said the investment conference enabled Tu­nisia to mobilize 34 billion dinars ($15 billion).

In this regard, Tunisian economic expert Saad Boumakhle said that the initiative of several international financial bodies to fund investment projects in Tunisia would have positive effects on the country’s economy, which is badly in need for such funds to provide job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of unemployed Tunisians.

The expert said a Tunisian-French program supports Tunisian exports to French markets, providing financial returns in hard currency if the doors for export were wide open to Tunisian institutions.

In 2016, AFD granted Tunisia donations of EUR 4.2 million following the signature of two funding agreements.

Deadly Stabbings In Marseille, France, Treated As Terror Attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Deadly stabbings in Marseille, France, treated as terror attack

 Story highlights
  • Knife-wielding man killed two women in attacks, according to local media
  • Saint-Charles is same train station where 4 Americans were attacked with acid

(CNN)A knife-wielding man killed at least two women Sunday at the Saint-Charles train station in Marseille, France, before police killed the suspect, according to CNN affiliate BFM, which cited the city prosecutor’s office as its source.

The incident is being treated as a terror attack and has been handed over to a special prosecutor in Paris, the prosecutor’s office told CNN.
Military police killed the suspect. Authorities are investigating whether he had links to terror organizations.
French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb tweeted that he was on his way to the scene.
The Saint-Charles station is the same one where four Americans studying abroad fell victim to acid attacks last month. The Boston College students, three of whom were studying in Paris and one in Copenhagen, were treated for burns and released.
The attacker was a 41-year-old mentally unstable woman, police said. She was arrested and hospitalized, according to CNN affiliate BFM.
There was no reason to believe the acid attacks were terror-related, police said.

Four young American women were attacked with acid Sunday in Marseille France

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

PARIS – Four young American women were attacked with acid Sunday in the French city of Marseille by a woman who has been arrested, the Marseille prosecutor’s office said.

Two of the tourists were injured in the face in the attack in the city’s main Saint Charles train station and one of them has a possible eye injury, a spokeswoman for the Marseille prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press in a phone call.

She said all four of the women, who are in their 20s, have been hospitalized, two of them for shock.

The spokeswoman said the 41-year-old female suspect did not make any extremist threats or declarations during the attack. She said there were no obvious indications that the woman’s actions were terror-related, but added that officials could not be 100 percent sure about ruling out terror links at such an early stage of the investigation.

The spokeswoman spoke on condition of anonymity, per the custom of the French judicial system.

She did not release any further details about the suspects or the victims, including where in the United States the tourists were from.

The Marseille fire department was alerted just after 11 a.m. and dispatched four vehicles and 14 firefighters to the train station, a department spokeswoman said.

Two of the Americans were “slightly injured” with acid but did not require emergency medical treatment from medics at the scene, the spokeswoman said. She requested anonymity in keeping with fire department protocol.

A spokesman for the United States embassy in Paris said the U.S. consulate in Marseille was in contact with French authorities about the attack investigation and the condition of the American women.

U.S. authorities in France are not immediately commenting further on what happened to protect the privacy of the American tourists, embassy spokesman Alex Daniels said.

Marseille is a port city in southern France that is closer to Barcelona than Paris.

In previous incidents in Marseille, a driver deliberately rammed into two bus stops last month, killing a woman, but officials said it wasn’t terror-related.

In April, French police say they thwarted an imminent “terror attack” and arrested two suspected radicals in Marseille just days before the first round of France’s presidential election. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters the two suspects “were getting ready to carry out an imminent, violent action” on French territory.

In January 2016, a 15-year-old Turkish Kurd was arrested after attacking a Jewish teacher on a Marseille street. He told police he acted in the name of the Islamic State group.

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China’s Huge Role During WW 1 And How It Helped Shape The Country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SMITHSONIAN.COM WEBSITE)

 

While the Pacific theater was a major and well-known battleground of World War II, it may come as a surprise that Asian nations played a role in World War I. Both Japan and China actually declared war on Germany in hopes of gaining regional dominance. While China never sent troops into battle, its involvement in World War I was influential—and had impacts that stretched far beyond the war, going on to shape the country’s future indelibly.

Under the rule of the Qing Dynasty, China was the most powerful nation in the East for nearly three centuries. But losing the First Sino-Japanese War to Japan in 1895 put an end to that. And the downhill slide didn’t end with losing the war; a subsequent series of treaties divvied up chunks of China between Russia and Japan, a continuation of the creation of European concessions like Hong Kong or the French settlement in Shanghai.

Germany also used military force to insert itself into east Asian affairs. Capitalizing on the murder of two German missionaries, the country attacked and invaded the city of Qingdao in 1897, establishing what amounted to a German colony in Shandong province. The prospect of expelling Germany from the region and taking control themselves was enough to entice Japan to join the fight against Germany, making the Great War a global one in 1914.

Meanwhile in Chinaa wobbly republican state led by military general Yuan Shikai replaced the imperial system of governance in 1912. But local warlords and clashes with the nationalist party, Kuomintang (led by Sun Yat-sen), continued to threaten his position. “The Chinese people suffered political chaos, economic weakness, and social misery,” writes historian Xu Guoqi in Strangers On the Western Front. “But this was also a period of excitement, hope, high expectations, optimism and new dreams”—because China believed it could use the war as a way to reshape the geopolitical balance of power and attain equality with European nations.

There was only one problem: At first, none of the Allies wanted China to join the fight. Although China declared itself neutral at the start of the war in August 1914, President Shikai had secretly offered British minister John Jordan 50,000 troops to retake Qingdao. Jordan refused the offer, but Japan would soon use its own armed forces to oust the Germans from the city, and remained there throughout the war. By February 1916, with men dying in huge numbers in Europe, Jordan came around to the idea of Chinese aid and told British officials that China could “join with the Entente provided that Japan and the other Allies accepted her as a partner.

Japan, however, refused to allow Chinese soldiers to fight, hoping to remain the powerhouse in the East.

If China couldn’t fight directly, Shikai’s advisors decided, the next-best option was a secret show of support toward the Allies: they would send voluntary non-combatant workers, largely from Shandong, to embattled Allied countries.

Starting in late 1916, China began shipping out thousands of men to Britain, France and Russia. Those laborers would repair tanks, assemble shells, transport supplies and munitions, and help to literally reshape the war’s battle sites.  Since China was officially neutral, commercial businesses were formed to provide the labor, writes Keith Jeffery in 1916: A Global History.

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/g4-l2E8MqJfk4udAt96-2jqVtO4=/1024×596/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/a6/8d/a68d5a3c-d4ee-4d97-b071-509a8294796f/chinese_workers_at_a_wwi_tank_servicing_facility_14594587252.jpgChinese laborers filled a number of positions in World War I, including at tank facilities like this one.
Chinese laborers filled a number of positions in World War I, including at tank facilities like this one. (Wikimedia Commons/Chatham House, London)

“A lot of those trenches weren’t dug by the [Allied] soldiers, they were dug by Chinese laborers,” says Bruce Elleman, professor of maritime history at the U.S. Naval War College and author of Wilson and China: A Revised History of the Shandong Question. Sending workers—mostly illiterate peasants—was one way for China to prove it deserved a seat at the table whenever the war ended and terms were agreed upon. But even after a year of supplying labor, their contribution remained largely unrecognized diplomatically.

It was more than just prestige that spurred China to enter the conflict: The volatile nation dreamed of regaining complete control of the Shandong province. Located on the eastern shore of China along the Yellow Sea, the region has a rich history as the birthplace of Confucius; diplomat Wellington Koo to call it the “cradle of Chinese civilization.”

In 1915, the year after Japan took Qingdao from Germany, Japan imposed a new treaty on China: The Twenty-One Demands. The highly unpopular treaty required China to cede control of even more territory, including in Shandong and Manchuria. If China participated in World War I, its leaders reasoned, maybe the country could win back this mainland territory.

The United States’ entrance to WWI shifted the political dynamic of the Allies, with U.S. officials supporting China’s cause with an eye toward the war’s end. As Elleman says, “[The U.S. was] hoping at the post-war conference to be able to resolve these diplomatic issues [between China and Japan and Germany],” since President Wilson wanted to take a leadership role in the negotiations and form the League of Nations.

China’s position became more fraught when Germany announced its strategy of unrestricted submarine warfare. More than 500 Chinese laborers aboard the French ship Athos were killed in February 1917 when a U-boat struck the ship. Finally, encouraged by the U.S. and believing it was the only sure way to be considered in the eventual peace agreements, China declared war on Germany on August 14, 1917—though little changed in the support they provided, since they had already been sending laborers.

By the end of the war, Chinese workers would rank as the largest and longest-serving non-European contingent in World War I. France recruited 37,000 Chinese workers, while the United Kingdom took in 94,500. The men sent abroad would earn an estimated total of $2.2 billion, reports the South China Morning Post. Along the way, so many of these workers died or sustained injuries that China established a Bureau of Overseas Chinese Workers and convinced the U.K. to provide compensation for the wounded men.

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/6rQpaGJoLClo18jDGvEkgB4Yb1Y=/1024×596/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/0a/8c/0a8ca4e6-f5fc-4f9b-a97a-64815908e1b7/chinese_workers_wwi_munitions_factory_14591966191.jpgIn other cases, Chinese workers staffed munitions factory during World War I.
In other cases, Chinese workers staffed munitions factory during World War I. (Wikimedia Commons/Chatham House, London)

“China had prepared to attend the post-war peace conference as early as 1915,” says Xu. When the war at last ended in November 1918, China planned its delegation for the Paris Peace Conference, hoping to finally achieve full control of its mainland territory.

But China was given only two seats at the Paris Peace Conference to Japan’s five, since the latter had contributed combat troops. Matters only devolved from there. Some of the European delegates were unfamiliar with the Twenty-One Demands, writes Julian Theseira in Global Histories, and the Western powers ultimately awarded Shandong to Japan; the Western diplomats believed they should honor the treaty Japan pressured China to sign after taking Shandong. China saw the move as a rejection of its demand to be recognized as an equal player in global politics, and as an affront to its sovereignty.

“China was deeply angry at the Versailles Treaty and was the only country at the postwar peace conference to refuse to put a signature on it,” Xu said. A student-led protest in Beijing called the May Fourth Movement was organized in response to outrage over the peace talks. It called for political and social changes and, as Xu writes, was a sign of China’s turn towards socialism in 1921 with the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party.

Elleman goes even further in stating the importance of the Shandong issue. “They talk about these forks in the road, and this is one. If this whole Shandong controversy had not happened, China might never have become Communist,” Elleman says. He argues that leaving the Shandong question unresolved, at least in China’s eyes, meant they mistrusted European governments going forward and felt more attracted to socialism. “It’s one of the most important pieces in modern Chinese history.”

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Nice France: Airport Worker Punches Passenger Holding Baby In The Face

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Airport worker punches EasyJet passenger holding a baby

The passenger was punched by a member of ground staff at Nice airport on Saturday.

(CNN) Europe’s budget airline EasyJet flew into a storm Sunday after it emerged a member of the ground staff at Nice airport in France had punched once of its passengers in the face while he was holding a baby.

The victim was due to travel on EasyJet flight 2122 from Nice to Luton airport outside London on Saturday. The flight was delayed for a grueling 11 hours. EasyJet says the airport employee does not work for the airline.
“It was awful the whole thing. I just can’t believe people can behave like that,” said fellow passenger Arabella Arkwright, 49, who photographed the altercation.
She told CNN it was her husband who restrained the attacker while they waited for police to arrive. The man was taken away, infant in arms, but was later let back on the flight in time for its eventual takeoff. Arkwright said he had a mark from the punch on his face.
“We had a serious problem with someone of staff from our subcontractor Samsic,” Jean-François Guitard, a director at Nice airport told CNN.
He said the passenger had complained about the EasyJet delay to a Samsic employee. Unable to answer the passenger’s questions, the employee suddenly lashed out with a punch.
Guitard said that the airport had been in contact with Samsic, which told them the employee had been suspended. “Clearly it is a misconduct situation. We apologize strongly about this situation regarding this passenger. There is no reason for a staff member to fight a passenger,” Guitard said.
“EasyJet is very concerned to see this picture and can confirm the person in the photo is not an EasyJet member of staff and they do not work for EasyJet’s ground handling agents in Nice,” the airline said in a statement.
“We are urgently taking this up with Nice Airport and their special assistance provider Samsic who we understand the person photographed works for.”
The airline said it was sorry for the flight delay, which it said was due to a technical problem. Another aircraft had to be flown over from London.
“Passengers were provided with updates and refreshment vouchers during this time and the flight landed in London Luton last night,” the airline said.

Algeria, France urge political solution in Libya to halt terrorism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Algeria, France urge political solution in Libya to halt terrorism

By Hamid Ould Ahmed | ALGIERS

The foreign ministers of Algeria and France on Tuesday urged Libya’s rival armed factions to seek a political solution in the North African country to help stem the spread of militant groups there and potential spillover across its borders.

Algeria has joined with North African neighbor Tunisia to seek support for an inclusive dialogue in Libya, where competing governments and armed supporters have struggled for control since a 2011 civil war ousted veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

France aims to play a bigger role in bringing Libya’s factions together to end the turmoil that has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold and migrant smugglers to flourish in the absence of a strong central government.

“The main objective remains the fight against terrorism in this area of turbulence, where the presence of terrorists is reinforced because of the chaotic situation in Libya,” Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel said after talks with France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian, according to state news agency APS.

Le Drian, on a two-day visit to Algiers, described his talks with Messahel as “thorough”.

French officials fear Islamic State militants – who were driven from the coastal city of Sirte last year – and other jihadists are trying to exploit the power vacuum in Libya to regroup after losing substantial ground in Syria and Iraq.

A U.N.-backed Libyan government of national accord has sat in Tripoli for more than a year, but it has struggled to reach agreement with eastern factions, including with powerful commander Khalifa Haftar.

Libya’s neighbors and regional powers have often differed on how to help. Egypt is closer to Haftar and his anti-Islamist militant campaign while Algeria has pushed for an inclusive approach including using the influence of Tunisia’s moderate Islamist.

Last week Le Drian last week held talks with Egypt on how to stabilize Libya and on Monday began a two-day visit to Algiers, where he said he had “thorough” talks with his Algerian counterpart Abdelkader Messahel.

Last year Islamic State was driven out of the Libyan coastal city of Sirte.

“It is this determination which leads us to wish for a political solution in Libya,” APS quoted Le Drian as saying.

Algeria and France have agreed to “combine their efforts to reach an inclusive political solution that allows the integrity of Libyan territory and a peace process”, Le Drian added.

Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt last week expressed support for dialogue in Libya and rejected foreign interference or any military options, days after Egyptian jets carried out strikes against militant camps inside Libya.

The talks between Le Drian and Messahel also included the situation in the Sahel, two years after Algeria helped mediate a peace deal in Mali between the government and Tuareg rebels, in part to help stop Islamist militants gaining ground.

(Editing by Patrick Markey and Gareth Jones)

France: Macron’s likely huge majority a worry for democracy, rivals say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Macron’s likely huge majority a worry for democracy, rivals say

There will be no room for debate in parliament and democracy will be stifled if French President Emmanuel Macron wins the landslide parliamentary majority pollsters are predicting, his rivals said after Sunday’s first round of voting.

“It is neither healthy nor desirable for a president who gathered only 24 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidentials and who was elected in the second round only by the rejection of the extreme right should benefit from a monopoly of national representation,” said Socialist party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis as results flowed in.

Cambadelis later confirmed he had been eliminated from the competition for his Paris seat, one that was previously a safe one for the Socialists.

It will be contested in next Sunday’s second round by Mounir Mahjoubi, the youngest minister in Macron’s new government, and hard-left candidate Sarah Legrain.

Francois Baroin, who ran the campaign of conservative party The Republicans, echoed these sentiments, saying political power should not be concentrated in the hands of one party and urging supporters to turn out on June 18 for the decisive second round.

Like other senior politicians from established parties not connected with Macron’s meteoric rise to power, Baroin also bemoaned the low turnout, which at around 49 percent was the lowest first round showing since the Fifth Republic was born in 1958.

“Today fewer than half of French people expressed a preference,” he said. “This record level of abstention… bears witness to the continuing fractures in French society… They are neither forgotten nor wiped away.”

Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Front (FN) who spoke after she qualified for the June 18 second round of voting, called the huge abstention rate worrying and, like Baroin, called on supporters to turn out in a week’s time.

“There needs to be in parliament lawmakers who will really oppose the disastrous policies Emmanuel Macron is preparing,” Le Pen said, urging voters to mobilise to ensure the FN wins seats.

She won a fifth of the vote in the first round of the presidential election in April, coming second behind Macron by just a few percentage points of the vote, yet pollsters expect she will have just a handful of seats in parliament in contrast to 400 or more for Macron.

Responding to the criticism, a senior party official of Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party said there would be no riding roughshod over alternative views.

“We shall be very respectful of the opposition… There has to be respect for minorities in a debate. This will not be a dominant majority but a responsible majority, said Jean-Paul Delevoye, who was in charge of selecting LREM candidates.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, a far-left candidate who also scored well in the presidentials, said Macron had won a “circumstantial majority.”

He had campaigned on a platform of protecting workers rights in contrast to Macron’s plan for business-friendly reforms.

“The huge abstention rate shows that there is no majority in this country in favour of destroying the labour code, nor for reducing liberties, nor for ecological irresponsibility, nor to pander to the rich – all things that figure in the president’s programme.

(This version of the story has been corrected to show Legrain is far-left candidate)

(Reporting by France bureau; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Michel Rose)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FRANCE 24 TV)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

 

 
© Mandel Ngan, AFP | US president Donald Trump flies home after G7 summit in Italy

Text by EMILIE BOYER KING

Latest update : 2017-05-28

President Donald Trump flew back to the United States on Saturday without a much-awaited commitment to fighting climate change, at odds with many of his allies on big policy issues and to a brewing crisis in the White House.

Now back home, Trump is unlikely to get much rest after his gruelling nine-day diplomatic marathon, with Russian controversies and claims that his son-in-law Jared Kushner wanted to set up secret communications with Moscow swirling overhead.

Trump’s first trip abroad as president took him to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Vatican, and Belgium and Italy. He met with heads of state, the pope and attended gatherings of NATO leaders and members of the G-7 industrialised nations.

The royal treatment in Saudi Arabia

Trump is not a conventional president and neither was his first foray into international politics.

From the start, he set a new direction. In many ways, the first leg of his journey in the Middle-east was the easiest for the US leader who made ‘America First’ a cornerstone of his presidency and is still learning the ropes on international diplomacy.

Instead of following presidential tradition by heading to a neighbouring democracy like Canada or Mexico, Trump kicked off his maiden voyage in Saudi Arabia, the repressive desert kingdom, where he sought to win Arab states’ support for fighting extremism.

He was given the royal treatment, and looked delighted as he took part in traditional dances and enjoyed lavish meals. Raising the human rights record of his host, one of the world’s most oppressive governments, was not on his agenda.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said.

Instead, the US closed a $110 billion arms sale to show its renewed commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf region and unveiled numerous business agreements, but without going into details.

Trump then travelled to Israel and the West Bank to more rapturous welcome. He looked solemn as he lay a wreath at a holocaust memorial and as he prayed at the sacred western wall in Jerusalem. But while he called for peace in the region he was vague as to what form it should take. Trump stayed clear of calling for ‘a two-state solution’, an option backed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump chastised the members

Things started to heat up when Trump left the warm climes of the Middle East for Europe, for the NATO summit in Brussels and the most confrontational part of his trip.

On his way, Trump made a short stop in Rome for an audience with Pope Francis. The two men have in the past clashed on issues such as migration, climate change and the Mexico-US wall. After the meeting, the Vatican said, laconically, that there had been an “exchange of views” on international issues.

Trump was more enthusiastic: “Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” he tweeted on May 24th after meeting the pontiff.

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

The NATO summit in Belgium the next day pitted Trump against the 27 other members of the military alliance. The US president unnerved them by not affirming his commitment to the alliance’s key Article 5 on mutual defense — which states the principle that an attack on any one member is an attack on all. A US administration spokesperson downplayed their fears however and saying the US would adhere to it.

Trump chastised the members for not spending enough on defence and repeated the charge that some members owed “massive amounts of money” from past years, even though allied contributions are voluntary.

A “disaster”

Trump’s appearance in Brussels was particularly frustrating for Germany. In a meeting with senior European Union officials, he said the country was “very bad on trade” despite months of painstaking relationship building between Germany and the US in the run up to the summit.

It is little surprise European officials described the summit as a “disaster”.

Side meetings with other leaders in the Belgium capital provided with some light relief however. A series of “manly” and prolonged handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron, followed by an apparent snub by Macron in favour of European Union leaders, delighted the twittersphere.

À Bruxelles, unis avec nos alliés de @NATO.

Leaving the EU headquarters and his crestfallen NATO allies behind, Trump ended his diplomatic tour in Italy for the G7 summit with the leaders of the world’s wealthiest industrial nations. This stop was set to be just as acrimonious: four preparatory meetings had failed to clear up differences with the Trump administration on trade, how to deal with Russia and climate change.

Little surprise, but some disappointment

So there was perhaps little surprise, but some disappointment, when after three days of contentious private debate and intense lobbying by other leaders, Trump refused to commit to the hard-fought Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The six other G7 nations reaffirmed their commitment to it in a joint statement issued Saturday.

Trump promised to make a decision in the week ahead on whether the United States will be the first of 195 signatories to pull out.

The leaders reached agreement on some issues however. On trade, Trump bowed to pressure from allies to retain a pledge to fight protectionism. And on Russia, Trump did not insist on removing the threat of additional sanctions for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, as the allies had feared.

‘Someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work’

But despite disagreements over many policy issues, leaders also warmed to the US president.

“I saw someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work,’ said France’s Macron. “I think Donald Trump understood the importance of multilateral discussion and that, along with the pragmatism he demonstrated during his campaign, Trump will now take into account the interests of his friends and partners.”

The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the G7 summit’s host agreed. “I found him very willing to engage, very curious, with an ability and desire to ask questions and to learn from all his partners,” he said.

At the summit’s close on Saturday, Trump appeared to rate his trip as a success.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” he said.

Home, where a whole new set of challenges begin.

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