Category Archives: General

Erdogan points to the possibility of Iraq and other countries to participate in the Astana talks on Syria

BAGHDAD Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted at the possibility of Iraq and other countries to participate in the “Astana” talks on the settlement in Syria.

“In the future, many steps can be taken to strengthen the Astana talks,” Erdogan said in an interview with journalists on board the Turkish Presidential plane returning from Russia.

“Five new countries may participate in the talks – Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Germany and China,” he said, stressing that “the decisions that will be reached will become stronger at the international level.”

Erdogan said: “In the near future, there is a possibility of holding a Presidential Summit brings together leaders of Russia, Turkey, France and Germany to discuss the Syrian situation, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin, welcomed the meeting.”

He continued that the convening of such a summit, it is necessary to make progress in the formation of a constitutional committee on Syria.”

Earlier, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry announced that the next round of “Astana” talks on Syria is scheduled for April 25 and 26 in the capital, Noor al-Sultan.

Source: National Iraqi News Agency

UAE participates in ‘World Summit on the Information Society Forum’ in Geneva

ABU DHABI, A delegation from the UAE, headed by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, TRA, is participating in the “World Summit on the Information Society Forum,” which is being hosted by the Swiss city of Geneva from 8th to 12th April.

The UAE delegation includes the Khalifa Empowerment Programme, Aqdar, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, the Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination, ZHO, the Smart Dubai Office, the Ajman Digital Government, the UAE Space Agency, and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.

The UAE is participating in the forum as a strategic partner and gold sponsor and will conduct two training workshops. The first of the workshops is titled, “The Government’s Efforts in Providing a Customer Experience which Exceeds Expectations,” while the second will focus on the “People of Determination Care Programme” presented by the ZHO. The country will also present five leading projects during the final stage of the summit.

On the sidelines of the forum, the Ministry of Interior will highlight the UAE’s experience in raising awareness about the safe use of the Internet to children in Geneva.

Source: Emirates News Agency

U.S. Designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guards As ‘Terrorist Organization’

U.S. President Donald Trump has designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), the first time the United States has labelled another nation’s military as a terrorist group.

Washington will continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on Iran “for its support of terrorist activity,” Trump said in a statement.

Tehran responded in kind, announcing a couple of hours later that its top security council has designated the United States a “state sponsor of terrorism” and U.S. forces in the region “terrorist groups.”

The United States has already blacklisted tens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organization as a whole.

“This designation will be the first time that the United States has ever named a part of another government as an FTO [foreign terrorist organization],” Trump said.

“It underscores the fact that Iran’s actions are fundamentally different from those of other governments.”

“It makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC,” Trump said. “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the designation will take effect in one week. Pompeo, speaking to the media in Washington, warned all banks and businesses to end dealings with the IRGC.

The move blocks any assets that IRGC entities may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars Americans from any transactions with it.

When it takes effect, it will allow Washington to deny entry to people found to have provided the IRGC with “material support” or prosecute them for sanctions violations.

State news agency IRNA reported shortly afterwards that Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has labelled the United States a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

The council blasted Washington’s move as an “illegal and foolish act,” and said that in response, it “declares that it considers the regime of the U.S. a state sponsor of terrorism and the Central Command of America, known as CENTCOM, and all forces related to it terrorist groups,” the statement posted by IRNA said.

CENTCOM’s area of command covers multiple war zones and hot spots including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the Persian Gulf.

The decision came after Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged President Hassan Rohani to place CENTCOM on Tehran’s list of “terrorist” groups.

Strong Political, Economic Influence

Zarif also sent a protest letter over the U.S. designation to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which looks after the U.S. interests in Iran.

Critics had warned that such a step could open U.S. military and intelligence officials to similar actions by unfriendly countries.

But U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the move proves America’s determination to step up the pressure on Tehran to make it stop using terrorism as a “tool of statecraft.”

The Guards were formed after the 1979 Islamic revolution with a mission to protect the regime, as opposed to more traditional military units that defend borders.

Over the decades, the IRGC has amassed strong political and economic influence inside Iran, while its elite Quds Force, named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem, supports Iranian allies, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Hizballah movement.

The U.S. move was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked Trump, saying the designation “serves the interests of our countries and of countries in the region.”

Netanyahu wrote on Twitter following the announcement, “Thank you, President @realDonaldTrump for your decision to designate the Islamic revolutionary guards as a terrorist organization. Once again you are keeping the world safe from Iran aggression and terrorism.”

Israel has long seen Iran as its greatest foe, citing its leaders’ hostile rhetoric, suspect nuclear program, development of long-range missiles, and support for anti-Israeli militant groups such as Hizballah.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of RadioFree Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

Hessa Buhumaid meets with Swedish Ambassador

DUBAI, Hessa Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, has discussed with Henrik Landerholm, Ambassador of Sweden to the UAE, areas of cooperation and the exchange of expertise in empowering people of determination.

During a meeting, which took place at the ministry’s headquarters in Dubai, Buhumaid highlighted the UAE’s experience in supporting and empowering such people, especially since childhood, in light of the policies and directives of the wise leadership.

Both sides also discussed a range of social issues, especially the ministry’s support for productive families and people of determination, as well as the importance of coordinating with the Swedish Embassy in organising joint artistic and cultural exhibitions for people of determination.

Buhumaid also explained what the UAE provides to these people, under the framework of laws and legislation that support and motivates them, while noting its efforts to achieve new national classifications for this segment of the community.

Landerholm praised the UAE’s efforts to support people of determination.

Source: Emirates News Agency

Fresh Tensions Beset Migrant Camp in Northern Greece

DIAVATA, GREECE New tensions erupted on Saturday outside a migrant camp in northern Greece between migrants and Greek police who prevented them from advancing towards the border with North Macedonia.

Hundreds of migrants from camps elsewhere in the country gathered outside the Diavata camp near Thessaloniki after anonymous social media posts over recent days claimed that human rights groups stood ready to assist migrants in crossing into North Macedonia and on to other EU states.

After two coaches left the area on Saturday morning, taking some of the protesting migrants to other camps in northern Greece, a group of the 800 remaining migrants threw stones at policemen, who responded with tear gas, an AFP photographer on the spot said.

On Friday, the migrants � among them families with small children � had tried to break the police cordon and security forces used tear gas and stun grenades.

Also on Friday, around 200 migrants occupied the Larissis central train station in Athens, shouting “Saloniki” (Thessaloniki) and “Germany”.

They had bought tickets to Thessaloniki, intending to also travel to the Diavata camp but authorities stopped the train.

“People exhorted by fake news were misled because of their hope. They want to pass the border so they believed in the fake news”, Greece’s migration minister Dimitris Vitsas said on Saturday.

“For some reason, smugglers are claiming that the borders will open. The borders are not going to open,” Vitsas told state agency ANA on Friday.

North Macedonia’s interior minister said Skopje had bolstered border security.

“We don’t expect any trouble. But we reinforced the security on the border because it is our obligation,” Oliver Spasovski told AFP on Friday.

More than 70,000 refugees and migrants are believed to be living in Greece as a result of mass influx since 2015, fueled mainly by the Syrian civil war.

Most have submitted requests for asylum, clogging an already overburdened application system and further exacerbating approval delays that can stretch into years.

In 2016, a sprawling tent city formed at the border town of Idomeni, a bottleneck where 8,000 people mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were stranded after other EU countries began shutting their borders.

The improvised camp was eventually cleared by Greek authorities and the migrants and refugees were relocated to organized facilities around the country.

Source: Voice of America

Former South Carolina Senator Hollings Dies at 97

COLUMBIA, S.C. Ernest F. Fritz” Hollings, the silver-haired Democrat who helped shepherd South Carolina through desegregation as governor and went on to serve six terms in the U.S. Senate, has died. He was 97.

Family spokesman Andy Brack, who also served at times for Hollings as spokesman during his Senate career, said Hollings died at his home on the Isle of Palms early Saturday.

Hollings, whose long and colorful political career included an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, retired from the Senate in 2005, one of the last of the larger-than-life Democrats who dominated politics in the South.

He had served 38 years and two months, making him the eighth longest-serving senator in U.S. history.

Nevertheless, Hollings remained the junior senator from South Carolina for most of his term. The senior senator was Strom Thurmond, first elected in 1954. He retired in January 2003 at age 100 as the longest-serving senator in history.

In his final Senate speech, made in 2004, Hollings lamented that lawmakers came to spend much of their time raising money for the next election, calling money the main culprit, the cancer on the body politic.”

‘Real, real trouble’

We don’t have time for each other, we don’t have time for constituents except for the givers. … We’re in real, real trouble,” he said.

Hollings was a sharp-tongued orator whose rhetorical flourishes in the deep accent of his home state enlivened many a Washington debate, but his influence in Washington never reached the levels he hoped.

He sometimes blamed that failure on his background, rising to power as he did in the South in the 1950s as the region bubbled with anger over segregation.

However, South Carolina largely avoided the racial violence that afflicted some other Deep South states during the turbulent 1960s.

Hollings campaigned against desegregation when running for governor in 1958. He built a national reputation as a moderate when, in his farewell address as governor, he pleaded with the legislature to peacefully accept integration of public schools and the admission of the first black student to Clemson University.

This General Assembly must make clear South Carolina’s choice, a government of laws rather than a government of men,” he told lawmakers. Shortly afterward, Clemson was peacefully integrated.

In his 2008 autobiography, Making Government Work, Hollings wrote that in the 1950s no issue dominated South Carolina more than race” and that he worked for a balanced approach.

I was ‘Mister-in-Between.’ The governor had to appear to be in charge; yet the realities were not on his side,” he wrote. I returned to my basic precept … the safety of the people is the supreme law. I was determined to keep the peace and avoid bloodshed.”

In the Senate, Hollings gained a reputation as a skilled insider with keen intellectual powers. He chaired the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and held seats on the Appropriations and Budget committees.

Troublesome remarks

But his sharp tongue sometimes got him in trouble. He once called Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, the senator from the B’nai B’rith,” and in 1983 he used a derogatory term for unlawful immigrants in referring to the presidential campaign supporters of former Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif.

Hollings began his quest for the presidency in April 1983 but dropped out the following March after dismal showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Early in his Senate career, he built a record as a hawk and lobbied hard for military dollars for South Carolina, one of the poorest states in the nation.

Hollings originally supported American involvement in Vietnam, but his views changed over the years as it became clear there would be no American victory.

Hollings, who made three trips to the war zone, said he learned a lesson there.

It’s a mistake to try to build and destroy a nation at the same time,” he wrote in his autobiography, warning that America is now repeating the same wrongheaded strategy in Iraq.”

Despite his changed views, Hollings remained a strong supporter of national defense, which he saw as the main business of government.

In 1969 he drew national attention when he exposed hunger in his own state by touring several cities, helping lay the groundwork for the Women, Infants and Children feeding program.

A year later, his views drew wider currency with the publication of his first book, The Case Against Hunger.

In 1982, Hollings proposed an across-the-board federal spending freeze to cut the deficit, a proposal that was a cornerstone of his failed presidential bid.

He helped create the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and write the National Coastal Zone Management Act. Hollings also attached his name to the Gramm-Rudman bill aimed at balancing the federal budget.

Hollings angered many of his constituents in 1991 when he opposed the congressional resolution authorizing President George Bush to use force against Iraq.

In his later years, port security was one of his main concerns.

As he prepared to leave office, he told The Associated Press: People ask you your legacy or your most embarrassing moment. I never, ever lived that way. … I’m not trying to get remembered.”

After the Senate

He kept busy after leaving the Senate, helping the Medical University of South Carolina raise money for the cancer center that bears his name and lecturing at the Charleston School of Law.

Hollings’ one political defeat came in 1962 when he lost in a primary to Sen. Olin Johnston. After Johnston died, Hollings won a special election in 1966 and went to the Senate at age 44, winning the first of his six full terms two years later.

Ernest Frederick Hollings was born in Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 1, 1922. His father was a paper products dealer but the family business went broke during the Depression.

Hollings graduated from The Citadel, the state’s military college in Charleston, in 1942. He immediately entered the Army and was decorated for his service during World War II. Back home, he earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1947.

The next year, he was elected to the state House at age 26. He was elected lieutenant governor six years later and governor in 1958 at age 36.

As governor, he actively lured business, helped balance the budget for the first time since Reconstruction and improved public education.

Hollings had four children with his first wife, the late Patricia Salley Hollings. He is survived by three of his four children. His second wife, Peatsy,” died in 2012.

A funeral home handling arrangements said that after a three-hour visitation April 14 in Charleston, the senator’s body will lie in repose April 15 at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, with a funeral to follow the next day at the Citadel in Charleston.

Source: Voice of America