Macron: Daesh military defeat in Syria, Iraq ‘within weeks’

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the Forbidden City in Beijing, in this Jan. 9, 2018 photo. (AP)
Updated 20 January 2018

Macron: Daesh military defeat in Syria, Iraq ‘within weeks’

TOULON, France: French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that Daesh in Syria and Iraq would be defeated militarily “in the coming weeks,” as he laid out plans for bolstering France’s defense capabilities.
“Today, thanks to the efforts of all the nations involved, the Daesh military organization in the Levant is almost completely defeated,” Macron said in a speech aboard a helicopter carrier in the southern port of Toulon.
“I’m confident that in the coming weeks we will achieve a military victory on the ground,” he said.
“I want us now to firmly commit with our partners to stabilization, reconstruction and aid to populations” after years of conflict, he said.
With many of its leaders dead and its fighters on the run, Daesh has now lost almost all the land it once controlled in Syria and Iraq.
France, which recently pulled out two of the 12 Rafale fighter jets it had been operating in the region, currently has about 1,200 personnel in the international coalition fighting the militants.
Macron said that although combat operations would continue, the country would “adapt” its contribution this year to developments, without providing details.
The French government has increased the 2018 defense budget by 1.8 billion euros, bringing it to 34.2 billion euros ($42 billion).
Macron reiterated his pledge to lift French defense spending to two percent of the country’s GDP by 2025, in line with the target agreed to by NATO members in 2014.
The increased spending will include a “renewal” of France’s nuclear arsenal during his five-year term, Macron said, calling nuclear deterrence “the keystone of our defense strategy for the past 50 years.”


Trump finally dons mask as US sets new virus case record

Updated 37 min 15 sec ago

Trump finally dons mask as US sets new virus case record

  • “I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place,” POTUS tells reporters
  • The US is the worst hit by COVID-19, with more than 3.2 million cases and at least 134,000 deaths as of Saturday

BETHESDA, USA: President Donald Trump finally yielded to pressure and wore a face mask in public for the first time on Saturday as the US posted another daily record for coronavirus cases, while Disney World reopened in a state hit hard by the pandemic.

White House experts leading the national fight against the contagion have recommended wearing face coverings in public to prevent transmission of the illness.

But Trump had repeatedly avoided wearing a mask, even after staffers at the White House tested positive for the virus and as more aides have taken to wearing them.

Hours after the World Health Organization urged countries to step up control measures to rein in the disease, Trump donned a dark mask bearing the presidential seal as he visited wounded military veterans at the Walter Reed military hospital in a suburb outside Washington.

“I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place,” he told reporters as he left the White House.

Trump is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the polls ahead of a November election and surveys show most Americans are unhappy with how he has handled the public health crisis.

But the president has continued to praise his own response to the pandemic despite a cascade of figures showing the extent of the disease’s spread across the United States.

 

Record-breaking numbers

The country posted yet another daily record of confirmed cases on Saturday night, with 66,528 new infections, while the death toll rose by almost 800 to nearly 135,000.

As of Saturday, the US had recorded more than 3.2 million coronavirus cases and at least 134,000 deaths from the disease. 

It is the country worst hit by the illness, followed by Brazil — which surpassed 70,000 deaths on Friday.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected over 12.5 million people, killed over 560,000 and triggered massive economic damage since the disease was first detected in China late last year.

In Florida, where nearly one in six of those new infections were recorded, the Walt Disney World theme park partially reopened after four months of shutdown prompted by the virus.

Hundreds of people queued to enter the park in Orlando, some sporting Mickey ears but all wearing face masks, with social distancing and other hygiene precautions also in place.

Days earlier, top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said that Florida had begun reopening before meeting the criteria that would have enabled it to do so safely.

 

Aggressive approach urged

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to adopt an aggressive approach to tackling the virus, citing successful mitigation efforts in Italy, South Korea and elsewhere.

“Across all walks of life, we are all being tested to the limit,” he told a virtual news conference in Geneva on Friday.
“Only aggressive action combined with national unity and global solidarity can turn this pandemic around,” he added.

Elsewhere, French officials warned of rising cases in metropolitan France as the death toll there topped 30,000.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted a decision to allow bars and other businesses to reopen may have come “too soon” after his country reported a record 1,500 new infections on Friday.

Australian authorities said they would slash by half the number of people allowed to return from overseas each day after a fresh surge in cases that saw a lockdown imposed on Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city.

In Hong Kong, a spike has marked a setback for the city after daily life had largely returned to normal, with restaurants and bars resuming regular business and cultural attractions reopening.

Schools in the city will be closed from Monday after the city recorded “exponential growth” in locally transmitted infections.