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Posts tagged ‘U.N. Security Council’

US, France Warn Russia of ‘New Measures’ Over Ukraine.


President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande warned Saturday of “new measures” against Russia if it fails to work toward defusing the crisis in Ukraine, the French presidency said.

In a phone call on Saturday, Obama and Hollande insisted on the “need for Russia to withdraw forces sent to Crimea since the end of February and to do everything to allow the deployment of international observers,” it said.
Obama’s conversation with Hollande was one of a half dozen telephone conversations he had with world leaders Saturday about Ukraine, the White House says.

He  also spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and held a conference call with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The new warnings come in the wake of Russia’s insistence that any U.S. sanctions will have a boomerang effect on the United States and that Crimea has the right to self-determination as armed men tried to seize another Ukrainian military base on the peninsula.

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In a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against “hasty and reckless steps” that could harm Russian-American relations, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

“Sanctions…would inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang,” it added.

It was the second tense, high-level exchange between the former Cold War foes in 24 hours over the pro-Russian takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after an hour-long call with U.S. President Barack Obama that their positions on the former Soviet republic were still far apart. Obama announced the first sanctions against Russia on Thursday.

Putin, who later opened the Paralympic Games in Sochi which have been boycotted by a string of Western dignitaries, said Ukraine’s new, pro-Western authorities had acted illegitimately over the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions.

“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” he said.

Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the Ukrainian border guards’ commander, said 30,000 Russian soldiers were now in Crimea, compared to the 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis.

On Friday evening armed men drove a truck into a Ukrainian missile defence post in Sevastopol, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. But no shots were fired and Crimea’s pro-Russian premier said later the standoff was over.

Putin denies the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow’s command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed his assertion.

The most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War – resulting from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after protests in Kiev that led to violence – escalated on Thursday when Crimea’s parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia.

The region’s government set a referendum for March 16 – in just nine days’ time.

JETS, DESTROYER

Turkey scrambled jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew along its Black Sea coast and a U.S. warship passed through Turkey’s Bosphorus straits on its way to the Black Sea, although the U.S. military said it was a routine deployment.

European Union leaders and Obama said the referendum plan was illegitimate and would violate Ukraine’s constitution.

The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said after meeting visiting Crimean lawmakers on Friday that Crimea had a right to self-determination, and ruled out any risk of war between “the two brotherly nations”.

Obama ordered visa bans and asset freezes on Thursday against so far unidentified people deemed responsible for threatening European Union leaders Ukraine’s sovereignty. Earlier in the week, a Kremlin aide said Moscow might refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks, the top four of which have around $24 billion in exposure to Russia.

Japan endorsed the Western position that the actions of Russia constitute “a threat to international peace and security”, after Obama spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

China, often a Russian ally in blocking Western moves in the U.N. Security Council, was more cautious, saying economic sanctions were not the best way to solve the crisis and avoiding comment on the Crimean referendum.

The EU, Russia’s biggest economic partner and energy customer, adopted a three-stage plan to try to force a negotiated solution but stopped short of immediate sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded angrily on Friday, calling the EU decision to freeze talks on visa-free travel and on a broad new pact governing Russia-EU ties “extremely unconstructive”. It pledged to retaliate.

“GUERRILLA WAR?”

Senior Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, freed from prison after Yanukovich’s overthrow, met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin and appealed for immediate EU sanctions against Russia, warning that Crimea might otherwise slide into a guerrilla war.

Brussels and Washington rushed to strengthen the new authorities in economically shattered Ukraine, announcing both political and financial assistance. The regional director of the International Monetary Fund said talks with Kiev on a loan agreement were going well and praised the new government’s openness to economic reform and transparency.

The European Commission has said Ukraine could receive up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in the next couple of years provided it reaches agreement with the IMF, which requires painful economic reforms like ending gas subsidies.

Promises of billions of dollars in Western aid for the Kiev government, and the perception that Russian troops are not likely to go beyond Crimea into other parts of Ukraine, have helped reverse a rout in the local hryvnia currency.

In the past two days it has traded above 9.0 to the dollar for the first time since the Crimea crisis began last week. Local dealers said emergency currency restrictions imposed last week were also supporting the hryvnia.

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said Ukraine had not paid its $440 million gas bill for February, bringing its arrears to $1.89 billion and hinted it could turn off the taps as it did in 2009, when a halt in Russian deliveries to Ukraine reduced supplies to Europe during a cold snap.

In Moscow, a huge crowd gathered near the Kremlin at a government-sanctioned rally and concert billed as being “in support of the Crimean people”. Pop stars took to the stage and demonstrators held signs with slogans such as “Crimea is Russian land”, and “We believe in Putin”.

IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said no one in the civilised world would recognise the result of the “so-called referendum” in Crimea.

He repeated Kiev’s willingness to negotiate with Russia if Moscow pulls its additional troops out of Crimea and said he had requested a telephone call with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov ridiculed calls for Russia to join an international “contact group” with Ukraine proposed by the West, saying they “make us smile”.

Demonstrators encamped in Kiev’s central Independence Square to defend the revolution that ousted Yanukovich said they did not believe Crimea would be allowed to secede.

Alexander Zaporozhets, 40, from central Ukraine’s Kirovograd region, put his faith in international pressure.

“I don’t think the Russians will be allowed to take Crimea from us: you can’t behave like that to an independent state. We have the support of the whole world. But I think we are losing time. While the Russians are preparing, we are just talking.”

Unarmed military observers from the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were blocked from entering Crimea for a second day in a row on Friday, the OSCE said on Twitter.

The United Nations said it had sent its assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, to Kiev to conduct a preliminary humans rights assessment.

Ukrainian television has been replaced with Russian state channels in Crimea and the streets largely belong to people who support Moscow’s rule, some of whom have harassed journalists and occasional pro-Kiev protesters.

Part of the Crimea’s 2 million population opposes Moscow’s rule, including members of the region’s ethnic Russian majority. The last time Crimeans were asked, in 1991, they voted narrowly for independence along with the rest of Ukraine.

“With all these soldiers here, it is like we are living in a zoo,” Tatyana, 41, an ethnic Russian. “Everyone fully understands this is an occupation.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

North Korea’s Kim Warned he Might Face Charges over Atrocities.


North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and mass killings bordering on genocide, U.N. investigators said on Monday.

The investigators told Kim in a letter they were advising the United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to ensure any culprits “including possibly yourself” were held accountable.

North Korea said it “categorically and totally” rejected the investigators’ report, which it called “a product of politicization of human rights on the part of EU and Japan in alliance with the U.S. hostile policy”.

The unprecedented public warning and rebuke to a ruling head of state by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry is likely to complicate efforts to persuade the isolated country to rein in its nuclear weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and the West.

The U.N. investigators said they had also told Kim’s main ally China that it might be “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea, where they faced torture and execution – a charge that Chinese officials had rebutted.

As referral to the ICC is seen as a dim hope, given China’s likely veto of any such move by Western powers in the U.N. Security Council, thoughts are also turning to setting up some form of special tribunal on North Korea, diplomatic and U.N. sources told Reuters.

“We’ve collected all the testimony and can’t just stop and wait 10 years. The idea is to sustain work,” said one.

 

“REMINISCENT OF NAZI ATROCITIES”

Michael Kirby, chairman of the independent Commission of Inquiry, told Reuters the crimes the team had catalogued in a 372-page report were reminiscent of those committed by Nazis during World War Two.

“Some of them are strikingly similar,” he said.

“Testimony was given … in relation to the political prison camps of large numbers of people who were malnourished, who were effectively starved to death and then had to be disposed of in pots burned and then buried … It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them,” he said.

The independent investigators’ report, the size of a telephone directory, listing atrocities including murder, torture, rape, abductions, enslavement, starvation and executions.

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” it said.

The findings came out of a year-long investigation involving public testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.

Defectors included Shin Dong-hyuk, who gave harrowing accounts of his life and escape from a prison camp. As a 13-year-old, he informed a prison guard of a plot by his mother and brother to escape and both were executed, according to a book on his life called “Escape from Camp 14”.

North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the findings shortly before they were made public. “We will continue to strongly respond to the end to any attempt of regime-change and pressure under the pretext of ‘human rights protection’,” it said a statement sent to Reuters.

 

“DELIBERATE STARVATION”

The abuses were mainly perpetrated by officials in structures that ultimately reported to Kim – state security, the Ministry of People’s Security, the army, the judiciary and Workers’ Party of Korea, according to the investigators, led by Kirby, a retired Australian chief justice.

“It is open to inference that the officials are, in some instances, acting under your personal control,” Kirby wrote in the three-page letter to Kim published as part of the report.

The team recommended targeted U.N. sanctions against civil officials and military commanders suspected of the worst crimes. It did not reveal any names, but said that it had compiled a database of suspects from evidence and testimony.

Pyongyang has used food as “a means of control over the population” and “deliberate starvation” to punish political and ordinary prisoners, according to the team of 12 investigators.

Pervasive state surveillance quashed all dissent. Christians were persecuted and women faced blatant discrimination. People were sent to prison camps without hope of release.

The investigators were not able to confirm allegations of “gruesome medical testing of biological and chemical weapons” on disabled people and political prisoners, but said they wanted to investigate further.

North Korea’s extermination of political prisoners over the past five decades might amount to genocide, the report said, although the legal definition of genocide normally refers to the killing of large parts of a national, ethnic or religious group.

North Korean migrants and defectors returned by China regularly faced torture, detention, summary execution and forced abortion, said the report.

Kirby warned China’s charge d’affaires in Geneva Wu Haitao in a Dec 16 letter that the forced repatriations might amount to “the aiding and abetting (of) crimes against humanity”, it said.

Wu, in a reply also published in the report, said that the fact that some of the illegal North Korean migrants regularly managed to get back into China after their return showed that the allegations of torture were not true.

“The DPRK (North Korea) has been looked at by the Security Council solely as a nuclear proliferation issue,” Julie de Rivero of campaign group Human Rights Watch told Reuters.

“This (report) is putting human rights in the DPRK on the map, which it wasn’t before, and hopefully will put the spotlight on the U.N. and international community to respond to not just the security threat,” she added.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Is Stephen Harper’s Canada Israel’s New Best Friend?.


 

Stephen Harper Canada
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (l) shakes hands with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper as Harper’s wife Laureen watches during a welcoming ceremony for Harper at Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem Jan. 19, 2014. Harper is on a four-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

With the Middle East in turmoil, Europe moving backward and the United States fatigued from years of war and recession, Canada has emerged as a staunch supporter of Israel. At a time when Israel is routinely singled out for condemnation, Canada has been at the forefront of those defending Israel and criticizing its enemies.

This outspokenness comes amid the growing economic and political clout of Canada, a country that is traditionally accustomed to keeping a low profile internationally. While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper embarked on his first trip to Israel, from Jan. 19-22, the Jewish state rolled out the red carpet for him. Has Israel found a new best friend?

“[Harper] really understands the importance and moral justification for a Jewish state. He gets it,” Rabbi Philip Scheim of Toronto’s Beth David Synagogue, who is traveling as part of Harper’s delegation to Israel, told JNS.org.

Since World War II, Canada’s foreign policy has centered on multilateralism and participation in international organizations. But Harper has moved beyond those traditional corridors and has focused on a stronger and more independent Canadian foreign policy.

Part of this new independent foreign policy has been supporting Israel, an often-unpopular position around the world. Immediately upon taking office in 2006, Harper bucked world opinion and supported Israel in its war against the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. This outward support has continued in every military engagement Israel has been involved in since.

Canada has also supported Israel in the U.N., joining only a handful of small nations and the U.S. in voting against upgrading the Palestinians to nonmember observer state status in 2012 and repeatedly voting against resolutions condemning Israel.

On Iran, Harper has aligned more closely with Israel’s position than with the positions of some of its allies in Europe and the U.S. In 2012, Harper cut diplomatic ties with Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Ottawa, Canada’s capital. More recently, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said he was “deeply skeptical” of the interim nuclear deal with Iran and reaffirmed that Canada would maintain its sanctions against Iran.

These positions have come with some costs for Canada. In a shocking outcome in 2010, Canada lost a bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Some speculated that Harper’s strong pro-Israel stance might have played a role in straining relations with the U.N.’s large Islamic bloc.

“This is really something we have not seen before, a prime minister of Canada taking a really strong position at a great political cost. He knows that this could really hurt him in some areas, but he doesn’t care, because this is what he really believes,” Scheim told JNS.org.

Harper, an evangelical Christian who belongs to the Colorado-based Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, has also come under fire from critics who claim that his faith influences his foreign policy.

“My sense is that there may be an element of religious connection [to Israel]. But that is certainly not all of it; I think it also has to do with his sense of the world, his sense of justice and understanding of history, especially Jewish history,” Scheim said.

But Canada, like its American and European allies, still has a vocal anti-Israel movement within the country, particularly on college campuses and in certain media outlets.

In 2005, Toronto’s York University became the first school to host “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW), and its student union, the largest in Canada, voted last year to divest from Israel. IAW events have also spread to other Canadian universities.

Harper’s recent selection of Vivian Bercovici, who is Jewish and has been a vocal supporter of Israel, to be Canada’s next ambassador to Israel has also drawn some criticism in the Canadian media. In an interview with Baird, CBC anchor Evan Solomon questioned whether it is appropriate to appoint a pro-Israel Jew to be the ambassador to Israel.

“Vivian Bercovici is Jewish, so there are going to be some questions. Why not appoint someone who doesn’t even have the perception of any kind of bias [in favor of Israel]?” Solomon asked.

Yet despite the criticism of Harper’s pro-Israel stance, Shimon Fogel, CEO of Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, credits Harper for making support for Israel a mainstream position in Canada.

“Adopting those positions on Israel is what a mainstream party should look like in the eyes of most of the Canadian electorate today,” Fogel told JNS.org.

This support has shown itself in the positions of the leaders of Canada’s two main opposition parties, the centrist Liberal Party and the center-left New Democratic Party (NDP).

“Yes, the Liberal Party will have Israel’s back—but not because it’s in our political interests to do so at home, but because it is the right thing to do on the world stage,” Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau recently told a crowd of 500 people at Beth Tikvah Synagogue in Toronto, the Jewish Tribune of Toronto reported.

Meanwhile, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has strong Jewish ties. Mulcair’s wife is a French Sephardic Jew whose parents are Holocaust survivors, and his children are being raised Jewish. Mulcair has described himself as an “ardent support of Israel in all instances.”

Adding to their credentials, both Trudeau and Mulcair have also visited Israel before.

“The opposition parties are very close to the position of the Conservative government [on Israel]. But it has to be recognized that this government [Harper’s Conservative Party] established that benchmark,” Fogel told JNS.org.

Amid the political implications, one aspect of Harper’s trip that may be overlooked is the economic component. Like Israel, Canada has successfully weathered the global economic crisis over the past five years and has invested heavily in high-tech areas.

“One of the things we have done over the last decade has tried to broaden the base of support for Israel. We have spent a lot of time to helping foster interest and engagement of the private sector in seeing Israel as a high-tech destination. There has been a ton of partnerships and investments from the private sector,” Fogel said.

Joining Harper on the trip to Israel are 30 of Canada’s top business executives, including billionaire real estate and media moguls David Asper and Albert Reichmann, as well as Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu.

Upon touching down in Israel for the first time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Harper and praised him as “a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people.”

“I think he has taken a moral stand worthy of admiration, and I welcome him on behalf of the Israeli government and on behalf of all the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said, the Jerusalem Post reported.

At a time when few countries around the world come to Israel’s defense, Rabbi Scheim believes the trip is an opportunity for Israel to finally express its appreciation for Harper.

“He is very well-known in Israel,”Scheim told JNS.org. “You go to the U.S., nobody knows who the prime minister of Canada is, but in Israel, the whole country knows him, and I am very proud to identify with him.”

For the original article, visit jns.org.

Source: STANDING WITH ISRAEL.

Exclusive: North Korea tells China of preparations for fresh nuclear test -source.


  • A soldier stands guard in front of a rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang in this April 8, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files

    View PhotoReuters/Reuters – A soldier stands guard in front of a rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang …more 

BEIJING (Reuters) – North Korea has told its key ally, China, that it is prepared to stage one or even two more nuclear tests this year in an effort to force the United States into diplomatic talks, said a source with direct knowledge of the message.

Further tests could also be accompanied this year by another rocket launch, said the source, who has direct access to the top levels of government in both Beijing and Pyongyang.

North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing global condemnation and a stern warning from the United States that it was a threat and a provocation.

“It’s all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year,” the source said, adding that the fourth nuclear test would be much larger than the third, at an equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT.

The tests will be undertaken, the source said, unless Washington holds talks with North Korea and abandons its policy of what Pyongyang sees as attempts at regime change.

North Korea also reiterated its long-standing desire for the United States to sign a final peace agreement with it and establish diplomatic relations, he said. North Korea remains technically at war with both the United States and South Korea after the Korean war ended in 1953 with a truce.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged North Korea to “refrain from additional provocative actions that would violate its international obligations” under three different sets of U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea “is not going to achieve anything in terms of the health, welfare, safety, future of its own people by these kinds of continued provocative actions. It’s just going to lead to more isolation,” Nuland told reporters.

The Pentagon also weighed in, calling North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs “a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security.”

“The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defence commitments to allies in the region,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Major Catherine Wilkinson.

Initial estimates of this week’s test from South Korea’s military put its yield at the equivalent of 6-7 kilotons, although a final assessment of yield and what material was used in the explosion may be weeks away.

North Korea’s latest test, its third since 2006, prompted warnings from Washington and others that more sanctions would be imposed on the isolated state. The U.N. Security Council has only just tightened sanctions on Pyongyang after it launched a long-range rocket in December.

Pyongyang is banned under U.N. sanctions from developing missile or nuclear technology after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

North Korea worked to ready its nuclear test site, about 100 km (60 miles) from its border with China, throughout last year, according to commercially available satellite imagery. The images show that it may have already prepared for at least one more test, beyond Tuesday’s subterranean explosion.

“Based on satellite imagery that showed there were the same activities in two tunnels, they have one tunnel left after the latest test,” said Kune Y. Suh, a nuclear engineering professor at Seoul National University in South Korea.

Analysis of satellite imagery released on Friday by specialist North Korea website 38North showed activity at a rocket site that appeared to indicate it was being prepared for a launch (http://38north.org/2013/02/tonghae021413/).

NORTH ‘NOT AFRAID’ OF SANCTIONS

President Barack Obama pledged after this week’s nuclear test “to lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats” and diplomats at the U.N. Security Council have already started discussing potential new sanctions.

North Korea has said the test was a reaction to “U.S. hostility” following its December rocket launch. Critics say the rocket launch was aimed at developing technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“(North) Korea is not afraid of (further) sanctions,” the source said. “It is confident agricultural and economic reforms will boost grain harvests this year, reducing its food reliance on China.”

North Korea’s isolated and small economy has few links with the outside world apart from China, its major trading partner and sole influential diplomatic ally.

China signed up for international sanctions against North Korea after the 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests and for a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in January to condemn the latest rocket launch. However, Beijing has stopped short of abandoning all support for Pyongyang.

Sanctions have so far not discouraged North Korea from pursuing its nuclear ambitions.

“It is like watching the same movie over and over again,” said Lee Woo-young, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies. “The idea that stronger sanctions make North Korea stop developing nuclear programmes isn’t effective in my view.”

The source with ties to Beijing and Pyongyang said China would again support U.N. sanctions. He declined to comment on what level of sanctions Beijing would be willing to endorse.

“When China supported U.N. sanctions … (North) Korea angrily called China a puppet of the United States,” he said. “There will be new sanctions which will be harsh. China is likely to agree to it,” he said, without elaborating.

He said however that Beijing would not cut food and fuel supplies to North Korea, a measure it reportedly took after a previous nuclear test.

He said North Korea’s actions were a distraction for China’s leadership, which was concerned that the escalations could inflame public opinion in China and hasten military build-ups in the region.

The source said he saw little room for compromise under North Korea’s youthful new leader, Kim Jong-un. The third Kim to rule North Korea is just 30 years old and took over from his father in December 2011.

He appears to have followed his father, Kim Jong-il, in the “military first” strategy that has pushed North Korea ever closer to a workable nuclear missile at the expense of economic development.

“He is much tougher than his father,” the source said.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Phillip Stewart in WASHINGTON; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, David Brunnstrom and Jackie Frank)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

ReutersBy Benjamin Kang Lim | Reuters

Furious over sanctions, NKorea vows to nuke US.


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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Thursday vowed to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States, amplifying its threatening rhetoric hours ahead of a vote by U.N. diplomats on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test.

An unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said the North will exercise its right for “a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors” because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against the North.

Although North Korea boasts of nuclear bombs and pre-emptive strikes, it is not thought to have mastered the ability to produce a warhead small enough to put on a missile capable of reaching the U.S. It is believed to have enough nuclear fuel, however, for several crude nuclear devices.

Such inflammatory rhetoric is common from North Korea, and especially so in recent days. North Korea is angry over the possible sanctions and over upcoming U.S.-South Korean military drills. At a mass rally in Pyongyang on Thursday, tens of thousands of North Koreans protested the U.S.-South Korean war drills and sanctions.

The U.N. Security Council is set to impose a fourth round of sanctions against Pyongyang in a fresh attempt to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current council president, said the council will vote on the draft sanctions resolution Thursday morning.

The resolution was drafted by the United States and China, North Korea’s closest ally. The council’s agreement to put the resolution to a vote just 48 hours later signaled that it would almost certainly have the support of all 15 council members.

The statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman was carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

It accused the U.S. of leading efforts to slap sanctions on North Korea. The statement said the new sanctions would only advance the timing for North Korea to fulfill previous vows to take “powerful second and third countermeasures” against its enemies. It hasn’t elaborated on those measures.

The statement said North Korea “strongly warns the U.N. Security Council not to make another big blunder like the one in the past when it earned the inveterate grudge of the Korean nation by acting as a war servant for the U.S. in 1950.”

North Korea demanded the U.N. Security Council immediately dismantle the American-led U.N. Command that’s based in Seoul and move to end the state of war that exists on the Korean Peninsula, which continues six decades after fighting stopped because an armistice, not a peace treaty, ended the war.

In anticipation of the resolution’s adoption, North Korea earlier in the week threatened to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War.

North Korean threats have become more common as tensions have escalated following a rocket launch by Pyongyang in December and its third nuclear test on Feb. 12. Both acts defied three Security Council resolutions that bar North Korea from testing or using nuclear or ballistic missile technology and from importing or exporting material for these programs.

U.S. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said the proposed resolution, to be voted on at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), would impose some of the strongest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations.

The final version of the draft resolution, released Wednesday, identified three individuals, one corporation and one organization that would be added to the U.N. sanctions list if the measure is approved.

The targets include top officials at a company that is the country’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of ballistic missile-related equipment, and a national organization responsible for research and development of missiles and probably nuclear weapons.

The success of a new round of sanctions could depend on enforcement by China, where most of the companies and banks that North Korea is believed to work with are based.

The United States and other nations worry that North Korea’s third nuclear test pushed it closer to its goal of gaining nuclear missiles that can reach the U.S. The international community has condemned the regime’s nuclear and missile efforts as threats to regional security and a drain on the resources that could go to North Korea’s largely destitute people.

The draft resolution condemns the latest nuclear test “in the strongest terms” for violating and flagrantly disregarding council resolutions, bans further ballistic missile launches, nuclear tests “or any other provocation,” and demands that North Korea return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It also condemns all of North Korea’s ongoing nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment.

But the proposed resolution stresses the council’s commitment “to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution” and urged a resumption of six-party talks with the aim of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula “in a peaceful manner.”

The proposed resolution would make it significantly harder for North Korea to move around the funds it needs to carry out its illicit programs and strengthen existing sanctions and the inspection of suspect cargo bound to and from the country. It would also ban countries from exporting specific luxury goods to the North, including yachts, luxury automobiles, racing cars, and jewelry with semi-precious and precious stones and precious metals.

According to the draft, all countries would now be required to freeze financial transactions or services that could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear or missile programs.

To get around financial sanctions, North Koreans have been carrying around large suitcases filled with cash to move illicit funds. The draft resolution expresses concern that these bulk cash transfers may be used to evade sanctions. It clarifies that the freeze on financial transactions and services that could violate sanctions applies to all cash transfers as well as the cash couriers.

The proposed resolution also bans all countries from providing public financial support for trade deals, such as granting export credits, guarantees or insurance, if the assistance could contribute to the North’s nuclear or missile programs.

It includes what a senior diplomat called unprecedented new travel sanctions that would require countries to expel agents working for sanctioned North Korean companies.

The draft also requires states to inspect suspect cargo on their territory and prevent any vessel that refuses an inspection from entering their ports. And a new aviation measure calls on states to deny aircraft permission to take off, land or fly over their territory if illicit cargo is suspected to be aboard.

___

Lederer reported from the United Nations. Foster Klug in Seoul contributed to this report.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By HYUNG-JIN KIM and EDITH M. LEDERER | Associated Press

Russia opposes referring Syrians to ICC now: official.


MOSCOW (Reuters) – A senior Russian official said Moscow would not immediately back calls to refer suspected war criminals in Syria to the International Criminal Court, adding such a move would obstruct efforts to stop the violence.

U.N. investigators said on Monday that Syrian leaders they had identified as suspected war criminalsshould face the ICC in the Hague.

Because Syria is not party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the court can investigate the situation only if it receives a referral from the U.N. Security Council, in which Moscow is a permanent and a veto-wielding member.

“From our point of view, the priority task is to stop violence, start a political process … To speak of necessity now to quickly put somebody in front of the ICC is not the path we should follow. At this stage it would be untimely and unconstructive,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilovtold a news conference on Tuesday.

The investigators on Monday urged the U.N. Security Council to “act urgently to ensure accountability” for violations, including murder and torture, committed by both sides.

“We think both sides are responsible for that is happening in Syria in terms of human rights abuses,” Gatilov said. “Attempts to put blame solely on the Syrian government are illegitimate because the opposition has also committed and is committing human rights violations.”

Moscow, a long-time ally of Damascus, has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have increased pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence which has seen nearly 70,000 people killed in almost two years.

Moscow on Tuesday said there had been some progress recently in Syria, where both sides of the conflict have started discussing the possibility of dialogue. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the situation had started “moving from a dead end.”

Lavrov is to discuss the situation in Syria when he meets Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and foreign ministers of Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt who are due in Moscow for talks on Wednesday.

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry also said a plane carrying 99 people, including Russians fleeing the war-torn Syria, left for Moscow on Tuesday from the city of Latakia on the Mediterranean Sea coast, Itar Tass news agency said.

(Writing by Thomas Grove and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Jane Baird)

Source. YAHOO NEWS.

By Gabriela Baczynska | Reuters

NATO must have U.N. mandate for post-2014 Afghan mission: Russia.


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Russia will stop cooperating with NATO over Afghanistan after 2014 unless the alliance gets U.N. Security Council authorization for its new training mission in Afghanistan, a senior Russian diplomat said on Wednesday.

A NATO official said only that it would be “helpful” to have a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the post-2014 training mission, but stopped short of saying it was essential.

Nikolay Korchunov, Russia’s acting ambassador to NATO, did not specify what any halt to Russian cooperation with NATO on Afghanistan after 2014 would mean, but Russia will be an important transit route for NATO as it ships out billions of dollars of equipment from Afghanistan in the next few years.

NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels gave military experts the go-ahead on Wednesday to begin detailed planning of the post-2014 training and advisory mission that will start after NATO ends combat operations in Afghanistan.

“Let’s proceed from the assumption that any such mission should be based on an international mandate,” Korchunov said in written emailed replies to questions sent by Reuters.

“It is a pre-condition both for carrying on the operation and for our cooperation with NATO on that issue post-2014.”

Korchunov told Reuters that by international mandate he meant a new United Nations Security Council resolution.

The current mission of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan is endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

But the nature of the mission will change after 2014, when ISAF is due to hand over security duties in the whole country to Afghan forces, possibly requiring a new resolution.

The new training and advisory mission is expected to be much smaller, but NATO has given no details yet.

RESOLUTION “HELPFUL”

Responding to Korchunov’s comments, a NATO official said it would be “helpful” to have a U.N. Security Council resolution in support of NATO’s planned post-2014 mission.

Pressed on whether NATO could go ahead with the post-2014 without a U.N. resolution, the official said: “NATO of course takes its decisions autonomously based on the consensus of its allies. All its missions are based and conducted according to the principles of the United Nations charter.”

“Clearly it is in the interest of the whole international community and of countries in the region, including Russia, to have a stable Afghanistan with the right training, advice and assistance for the Afghan security forces,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters that an invitation from the Afghan government was a “pre-condition” for the post-2014 NATO mission.

“And we would want to have a U.N. resolution, a resolution of the U.N. Security Council, too,” he told reporters at the NATO meeting on Tuesday evening.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a regular critic of NATO. But he has backed cooperation with NATO on Afghanistan, allowing the use of Russian territory for transit and supplies.

However, any wrangling involving the Security Council could prove problematic. International pressure on Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been curbed after by Russia and China blocking Western-backed draft U.N. resolutions.

NATO must send home or dispose of 200,000 shipping containers and vehicles as it scales down its combat mission in Afghanistan over the next few years and the Russian route is important to lessen its dependence on Pakistan.

Pakistan re-opened NATO transit lines through its territory in July after months of closure over a NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

(Additional reporting by Angelika Stricker)

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Adrian Croft | Reuters

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