Germany can’t look away if Syria uses chemical weapons

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a session at the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Germany can’t look away if Syria uses chemical weapons

  • The conservative leader said it could not be Germany’s answer to reject military intervention

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday Germany could not simply look away if chemical attacks took place in Syria, two days after her government said it was in talks with its allies about a possible military deployment in the war-torn country.
The conservative leader said it could not be Germany’s answer to reject military intervention, a direct rebuke of her Social Democratic coalition partners, who have rejected participation in military action against Syria.
“It cannot be the German position to simply say ‘no’, no matter what happens in the world,” she told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy, is under pressure from the United States to boost military spending and shoulder more responsibility within NATO. It did not participate in military strikes carried out by US, French and British forces on Syria in April after a chemical weapons attack.
But Merkel and her conservatives must win over the more pacifist Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in the ruling coalition, and overcome massive public opposition to Germany’s participation in military combat missions.
SPD leader Andrea Nahles on Wednesday told lawmakers her party would not agree to military intervention in Syria unless the United Nations authorized such action.


Wealth gaps affecting schoolchildren in Iraq

Iraqi schoolchildren walk through the arcades of the old city in Mosul. (AFP)
Updated 20 November 2018
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Wealth gaps affecting schoolchildren in Iraq

  • One-third of schools across the country operate multiple shifts in an effort to enroll as many kids as possible, meaning students may get just a few hours of class per day

BAGHDAD: Economic inequality is massively affecting whether students in war-ravaged Iraq finish school, the UN children’s agency warned Monday, urging the fledgling government in Baghdad to spend more on education.
An economic downturn, years of fighting and little government support has left Iraq’s school system lacking, UNICEF found in a new study of more than 20,000 families. Socio-economic status creates a huge gap in who graduates from secondary school — 73 percent for the wealthiest students compared to just 23 percent of the poorest students.
One-third of schools across the country operate multiple shifts in an effort to enroll as many kids as possible, meaning students may get just a few hours of class per day. To improve access to education, Iraq needs 7,500 new schools, UNICEF said.
“It’s to do with the conflict, the economic collapse, and lack of investment over the past 20 years. When the quality falls, then children themselves march out of the classroom,” UNICEF country director Peter Hawkins told AFP.
“Children are the future of this country, and a growing gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ sows discord and is detrimental for children and for Iraq,” he added.
The wide-ranging study was the first in seven years in Iraq. The country’s infrastructure, including its schools, has been hit hard by conflict, from the US-led invasion in 2003 to years of sectarian violence and bombings.
In 2014, Daesh overran a third of the country, implementing its own twisted curriculum in schools before being ousted from its urban strongholds last year.
And in recent months, a water crisis in the country’s south kept many children at home in fear of contracting diseases.
To get more children in school, the government must boost its spending on education, one of the lowest rates in the region at just 5.7 percent of total expenditure, UNICEF said.
“Ministers: Please use this to target investment to those children in greater need. Those children are your future,” Hawkins urged government members.
Parliamentary divisions mean Iraq has not appointed anyone to head the ministries of education or higher education.
According to Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, more than 1,050 schools across the country have been damaged to varying degrees by the recent violent years.
Sixty percent of the country’s 39 million people are under the age of 24.