World leaders at UN look for progress on N.Korea, brace for Trump

In this file photo taken on September 21, 2016 security guards are seen on the UN building roof at the UN General Assembly in New York. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2018
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World leaders at UN look for progress on N.Korea, brace for Trump

  • About 130 heads of state and government are turning up for the six-day marathon of speeches and meetings
  • Unpredictable Trump takes the podium on Tuesday to face foes and increasingly uneasy allies at the UN General Assembly

UNITED NATIONS, USA: North Korea and Iran will dominate this week’s gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, where President Donald Trump will be in the spotlight as he continues to upend global diplomacy.
After warming up to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and ditching the Iran nuclear deal, the unpredictable Trump takes the podium on Tuesday to face foes and increasingly uneasy allies at the UN General Assembly.
On Wednesday, he will for the first time chair a Security Council meeting on non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction that will focus heavily on Iran — likely triggering a clash with other big powers.
“It will be the most watched Security Council meeting ever,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley said of Trump’s first time wielding the gavel.
The diplomatic gathering will take stock of the thaw in relations between North and South Korea, and groundbreaking US-North Korea moves to address the threat from Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Last year, world leaders shuddered when Trump threatened to totally destroy North Korea and belittled Kim as “Rocket Man” who was “on a suicide mission.”
An exchange of insults ensued, with Kim calling out the “mentally deranged US dotard.”


Trump’s address to the assembly will be the “polar opposite of what we heard last year,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, an expert on North Korea and Iran at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The president will tout his June face-to-face with Kim as a major diplomatic win but “he should think twice if he plans to repeat his claim that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat,” she said.
Despite the Trump-Kim landmark summit in Singapore, there has been little concrete progress on denuclearization.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho has been invited by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for talks on the sidelines of the assembly meeting. Ri is scheduled to deliver his address on September 29.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in will encourage Trump to press on with the rapprochement, but the US president is likely to get a different message from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has taken a tough stance on maintaining sanctions pressure on Pyongyang.
When he takes the podium shortly after Trump on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will meanwhile address the fall-out from the US decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal which lifted international sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program.
European countries along with Russia and China are still working to salvage the accord and will use the council meeting chaired by Trump to defend what they consider a milestone in non-proliferation.
“The members of the Security Council are not going to take kindly to being lectured by President Trump on the subject of Iran,” said DiMaggio.
“These very countries, which include our closest allies, are now facing US sanctions as they scramble to save the agreement.”
Pompeo reiterated Sunday that Trump is willing to meet Rouhani as part of a “constructive dialogue” — but added on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that that seemed unlikely at present.
In a weekend op-ed in the Washington Post, Rouhani charged that Trump’s offer of direct talks was not “genuine” and came with a list of “openly insulting pre-conditions.”
And Haley — while she condemned “any terrorist attack” after the deadly assault on a military parade in southwest Iran — urged Rouhani to acknowledge popular discontent.
“He has oppressed his people for a long time,” Haley told CNN on Sunday.
The UN rendezvous takes place during a sharp divide between the United States, accused of turning its back on multilateralism, and countries that view the global rules-based order as their best hope to tackle the world’s problems.
Struggling with tighter budgets from US cuts, the United Nations has been put on the defensive as its peace efforts in Syria, Libya and Yemen fall short.
“Multilateralism is under attack from many different directions precisely when we need it most,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
About 130 heads of state and government are turning up for the six-day marathon of speeches and meetings on tackling a long list of issues from climate change to poverty.
Russia and China will be represented by their foreign ministers.
Among those making their debut on the world stage will be Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has signed a historic peace deal with Eritrea, Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.