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Showing posts from June, 2015

Economist Paul Krugman applauds decision to hold referendum on bailout deal

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Athens - Paul Krugman, the American liberal economist, has been consistently critical of the austerity program demanded by the Troika as a condition of releasing the final funds of the Greek bailout that expires on June 30. + Add Image 1 of 3  Krugman in his New York Times blog notes that until now every Greek government has given in to the demands of the Troika no matter what they had said during the election. Krugman refuses to use the term "institutions" to refer to the European Commission, European Central Bank(ECB) and the International Monetary Fund(IMF) or Troika. After the Greek government refused to meet with the Troika after being elected, they were rebranded as "institutions" presenting the radical Syriza government with at least a linguistic victory. Krugman's refusal to go along with this game is refreshing. The continuous caving in to Troika demands has damaged the credibility of centre-left parties and no doubt is a factor in the success of Syriza,…

UN envoy to Yemen trying to broker a peace deal with Houthi rebels

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Aden - Ismail Ahmed, the UN envoy to Yemen, will travel to Kuwait on June 27 and then travel to Ryadh Saudi Arabia for a week's stay. Finally, he will move on to Sanaa, Yemen for another week to try and reach a preliminary peace deal to end the conflict. + Add Image For three months, the Saudis have led an extensive bombing campaign and blockade designed to restore president-in-exile Mansour Hadi to power. Although at one time Hadi resigned he later rescinded his resignation when he fled to Aden. He tried to set up a government there but was driven out and fled to Ryadh, Saudi Arabia. He has the support of the Saudis, and the Gulf Cooperation Council(GCC),as well as the U.S. Over the three months of bombing and land campaign by loyalists, more than 2,8000 people have been killed and huge numbers displaced. The campaign has created a humanitarian disaster. More than 80 percent of Yemenis or more than 21 million people are estimated by the UN to need humanitarian assistance. The Saudi…

Rival Libyan governments meet to discuss unity government UN draft plan

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Talks to form a unity government in Libya resumed in Skhirat Morocco resumed on Friday June 26. The UN special envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon, provided the two rival governments with the 4th draft of a unity government plan prior to the meeting. + Add Image The meeting is taking place nearly three weeks after Leon had provided the two sides with the draft. The Tripoli government was positive from the beginning but suggested an amendment that would give some recognition to the Supreme Court decision back in November that ruled the elections for the rival House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk were unconstitutional and the Tobruk-based parliament should be dissolved. The internationally-recognized government in Tobruk has always rejected the ruling and the international community has paid no attention either. The UN said it was studying the matter after the decision. It has said nothing about it since. The Tripoli amendment will not be acceptable to the HoR representatives. I expect t…

Ukraine may default on debt payment in July

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Ukraine has found it necessary to obtain a further bailout from the IMF even though it had agreed to a $17 billion aid package last year, of which it has so far received $4.6 billion. It needed more in early 2015. + Add Image In February of this year, in spite of the fact that the Ukrainian economy was in a tailspin and the IMF may never get its money back, a new bailout program was extended:The International Monetary Fund has agreed to give Ukraine a new bailout deal worth 15.5 billion euro ($17.5 billion) that could climb to around $40 billion over four years with help from other lenders like Europe and the U.S.. ..Facing bankruptcy, Ukraine last month asked the IMF to replace its program with a new one to restore confidence in its finances and help it meet its debt obligations. As of March 5, the Ukrainian economy was getting worse: Its central bank raised benchmark interest rates from 19.5% to 30% effective Wednesday. Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia, has lost nearly 70% of its…

Houthi rebels in talks with opponents in Oman

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Ismail Ahmed, the UN special envoy for Yemen has warned that Yemen is on the verge of famine with 31 million now in need of assistance versus 7 million just two years ago.
The continued struggle between forces of the Houthi rebels, together with forces loyal to former president Saleh, and groups loyal to the government in exile of President Mansour Hadi has exacerbated the situation. Hadi and his government have all fled to Saudi Arabia. There are also places in Yemen where Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula(AQAP), allied with local Sunni groups, is also fighting the Shia Houthis. Ahmed blamed all the parties in the conflict for the drastic humanitarian situation for failing to agree to a ceasefire. On Wednesday, ground fighting together with Saudi-led airstrikes killed almost 100 people.
The Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September last year after UN-sponsored talks between the Hadi government and opposition members failed to create a government approved by the Houthis. Hadi resi…

US paying Syrian rebel recruits up to $400 per month

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The US is now paying the rebels it is training to fight Islamic State militants in Syria. Training of the first 90 fighters began in May. + Add Image Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokesperson said that the trainees would receive $250 to $400 per month. Training of the first group of about 90 fighters began last month. They will be paid stipends of $250 to $400 per month. The amount paid will depend on the skills, leadership, and performance displayed. Training is expected to take several months before they are sent to Syria. Smith did not say how many were being trained at present. She also said that there would be no announcement when the rebels enter Syria. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, said in May that the recruits would receive some compensation but did not give any amounts. Colonel Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesperson, said that up to 200 Syrian fighters were undergoing training and that a further 1,500 had been screened for training. Smith said that the Pen…

Tripoli and Tobruk Libyan governments both object to EU plans to combat trafficking of migrants

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The head of the internationally-recognized Libyan government's air force warned European countries that any ships entering the Tobruk government's territorial waters without permission will be targeted by air strikes. + Add Image The warning by Saqr Al-Jaroushi came as European Foreign Ministers agreed yesterday that they will launch a naval operation to combat people bringing thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe usually Italy or Malta. The European Union has yet to gain consent for operations within Libyan coastal waters from the internationally recognized government. Much of the coast is in areas in the west of Libya controlled by the Tripoli or GNC government. The EU does not have their permission either. Al-Jaroushi said: "Any vessel found in Libyan waters without previous cooperation or permission will be targeted by the air force." The Tripoli or National Salvation Government(SG), as it calls itself, also expressed concern about the plan. Gi…

Taliban mounting strong attacks in Afghanistan but Islamic State recruiting

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The Afghan Taliban are able to mount serious attacks in Afghanistan. Most recently they carried out deadly attacks on the Afghan parliament and in the northern city of Kunduz. + Add Image As the appended video shows, the attack on parliament shattered windows and filled the parliamentary chamber with smoke disrupting the confirmation of the new defense minister Masoom Stanikzai. The parliament is supposed to be the most secure building in the country. The Taliban want to show both the Kabul government and their competitors the Islamic State just how powerful they are. They also have captured areas in the northern province of Kunduz and attacked Kunduz city. The Taliban has warned the Islamic State to stay out of Afghanistan. . The Kunduz Police Chief Gen. Nasrati said Char Darah was just one of many districts lost in the last few days. Although reinforcements had arrived Kabul was unable to stop the violence he said. General Wahid Taqat, a former member of Afghan intelligence said that…

Tripoli government planes bomb Islamic State in Sirte

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The Tripoli-based Libyan government has carried out air strikes on the city of Sirte, which is under Islamic State control. The strikes targeted a building where IS fighters had gathered, according to Tripoli officials. + Add Image Witnesses to the attack said the bombing was accurate and wounded militants had been taken to the hospital. Officials were not able to give specific details on casualties.The Islamic State has recently expanded its control in Sirte, taking the last suburb held by Tripoli forces and also taking control of the airport. The Tripoli forces need to retake territory on the ground, but so far there is no sign of that happening. The Islamic State appears to have lost all or almost all of its first stronghold city, Derna, recently. Forces of the Shura Council of Derna Jihadists, were attacking Islamic State fighters in the last area in the east of the city where IS fighters still held positions. The fighting has lasted more than a week and there have been many Islami…

Islamic State being driven out from last area of their former stronghold Derna

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The Libyan news agency Lana reports dozens of Islamic State(IS) fighters were killed in battle with Shura Council of Derna Jihadists as they seek to drive IS from an eastern area of the city. + Add Image Earlier reports claimed the Islamic State had been driven out of the city and fled to nearby mountainous areas. However, an eastern area of Derna known as Fataeh was still apparently under control of the Islamic State and is only now being cleared of IS militants. Lana, a news agency associated with the Tripoli government, claims this is the last area of Derna under IS control. The battle for Derna has been going on for more than a week now. Derna was the first city in Libya to come under IS control and the group has been a significant presence in the city since late last year. However, there were other militias as well in the city. Some Islamic State fighters are local, having been converted to IS from other radical groups such as the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia. This is the group…

Julian Assange has spent 3 years in Ecuadorean embassy in London

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As of June 19, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks has spent three years now in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He sought asylum in the embassy to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face questioning on sexual assault accusations. + Add Image Assange fears that once he is in Sweden he will be transferred to the U.S. to face charges for Wikileaks revelations. Wikileaks shares documents, often classified, that it obtains from whistle blowers, including a large number of U.S. diplomatic cables that contained information embarrassing to the U.S. and many of its allies. The appended video of a helicopter attack in Iraq that killed two Reuters' journalist is one of its many releases. Most recently the site has released numerous Saudi cables that the kingdom warns are fake and should not be distributed. While Wikileaks did not directly reveal its source, it makes reference to a recent report that the Saudis had suffered a breach of its computer networks by a group called Yemeni Cyb…

Third flotilla setting out to challenge Israeli blockade of Gaza

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- At least 3 boats are preparing to set sail for Gaza in an attempt to penetrate the Israeli blockade of the territory. Activist Kalle Ohlsson said although there would be aid on board, the main objective was to open Gaza to trade and free movement. + Add Image Members of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition now in Palermo, Sicily, told Al Jazeera that final preparations were already under way and the boats hoped to reach Gaza by the end of this month. One ship, the Sweden-flagged Marianne, was moving between Sicilian ports. It has limited space but it is carrying some aid including medical equipment and solar panels. Details of the other boats and when they will set sail are being kept secret to avoid sabotage. Ohlsson said: "We're very concerned about safety. We have a strict non-violence policy. We're hoping Israel won't use violence against us." The three ships will all be flying Swedish flags. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is based in Sweden and Norway. The Swedi…

No cease-fire in Yemen for Ramadan

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The Yemen peace talks in Geneva have broken down with foreign minister Riad Yassin of the government in exile telling Al Jazeera his delegation will leave negotiations and return to Saudi Arabia on Saturday. + Add Image Yassin blamed the Houthi rebel representatives for the collapse claiming that they would not meet with their delegation. That could be but the talks were to start with separate meetings of the UN with each group. The Houthis want to talk to Saudi Arabia since they consider the Saudis plus the Gulf Cooperation Council the real power behind the government in exile headed by President Mansour Hadi. The basic problem from the start is that the Hadi delegation just wants to discuss implementing UN resolutions, and particularly one that demands the Houthis withdraw from the territories they have taken and lay down their arms. Yassin's remarks confirm this stance in that he complains that the Houthis have not complied with UN demands: "Until this time we have not achi…

Hezbollah claims to have killed 2 IS commanders near Lebanon Syria border

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Al-Manar TV operated by Hezbollah reports that two Islamic State commanders together with at least seven other militants were killed on the outskirts of the northeastern Lebanese border town of Arsal in two separate attacks. + Add Image The attacks took place on Friday June 19. One commander, Abu Aisha al-Libi along with six other militants were killed when Hezbollah forces targeted a militant meeting. The aim of the meeting was to plan an offensive on the outskirts of the city of Baalbek, the TV station claimed. The same Hezbollah group destroyed two convoys of IS fighters in the same area. This second attack was said to have killed another IS commander, Abu Akrama al-Zouhouri, as well as another IS fighter. Last week Hezbollah lost eight fighters in repelling an attack on the Lebanon border. The Islamic State is said to have lost around 50 militants in that battle. Hezbollah is a Shi'a Islamist militant group with its own militia and political party in Lebanon. It is supported by…