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.”


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.