UK urges ‘strong’ response to alleged Syria chemical attack

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street in London, Britain, March 13, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 09 April 2018
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UK urges ‘strong’ response to alleged Syria chemical attack

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday called for a "strong and robust international response" to an alleged poison gas attack on a rebel-held town near Damascus.
Speaking with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on the phone, Johnson "underlined the urgent need to investigate what had happened in Douma and to ensure a strong and robust international response," the Foreign Office said in a statement.
US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron earlier also called for a "strong, joint response" to the suspected chemical attack on Saturday that killed dozens of people.
Syria and its ally Russia have dismissed allegations that the attack was carried out by Syrian forces as "fabrications" and have warned against using them to justify military action.
Damascus and Moscow accused Israel on Monday of carrying out a deadly dawn bombing raid on a military airbase in Syria.
The Foreign Office statement did not apportion blame for the alleged chemical attack.
But it said that Le Drian and Johnson "noted that international investigators mandated by the UN Security Council had found the Assad regime responsible for using poison gas in at least four separate attacks since 2014".
The two "agreed that those responsible for this attack must be held to account" and a UN Security Council meeting on Monday would be "an important next step in determining the international response and that a full range of options should be on the table," it added.
Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman called reports of a chemical weapons attack "deeply disturbing" and said Britain would work with its allies on "a coordinated approach".
The spokesman said Britain was "not involved" in the bombing raid on a Syrian airbase.


Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

Updated 17 July 2019
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Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

  • The constitutional declaration is expected to be signed on Friday
  • The deal aims to help the political transition in Sudan

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s ruling military council and an opposition alliance signed a political accord on Wednesday as part of a power-sharing deal aimed at leading the country to democracy following three decades of autocratic rule.

The agreement, which ended days of speculation about whether a deal announced earlier this month would hold, was initialed in Khartoum in the presence of African mediators following a night of talks to iron out some details of the agreement.

Sudan’s stability is crucial for the security of a volatile region stretching from the Horn of Africa to Libya that is riven by conflict and power struggles.

The deal is meant to pave the way to a political transition after military leaders ousted former President Omar Al-Bashir in April following weeks of protests against his rule.

At least 128 people were killed during a crackdown that began when security forces dispersed a protest camp outside the Defense Ministry in central Khartoum in June, according to medics linked to the opposition. The Health Ministry had put the death toll at 61.

A political standoff between Sudan’s military rulers and protesters threatened to drag the country of 40 million toward further violence before African mediators managed to bridge the gap between the two sides.

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, hailed the agreement as the start of a new partnership between the armed forces, including the paramilitary forces he leads, and the opposition coalition of Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC).

Ibrahim Al-Amin, an FFC leader, said the accord signaled a new era of self-reliance for Sudan’s people.

“We want a stable homeland, because we have suffered a great deal,” Amin said in a speech after the ceremony.

Ethiopian mediator Mahmud Dirir said Sudan, long under international isolation over the policies of Bashir’s Islamist administration, needed to overcome poverty and called for the country to be taken of a US list of states that support terrorism.

The sides are still working on a constitutional declaration, which is expected to be signed on Friday.

Power-sharing deal

Under the power-sharing deal reached earlier this month, the two sides agreed to share power in a sovereign council during a transitional period of just over three years.

They also agreed to form an independent government of technocrats to run the country and to launch a transparent, independent investigation into the violence.

The power-sharing agreement reached earlier this month called for a sovereign council comprised of 11 members — five officers selected by the military council, five civilians chosen by the FFC and another civilian to be agreed upon by both sides.

The constitutional declaration will now decide the duties and responsibilities of the sovereign council.

The military was to head the council during the first 21 months of the transitional period while a civilian would head the council during the remaining 18 months.

But the agreement was thrown into doubt when new disputes surfaced last week over the military council’s demand for immunity for council members against prosecution.

The military council also demanded that the sovereign council would retain ultimate decision-making powers rather than the government.