Specter of Chernobyl looms large over UN Security Council meeting

The UN Security Council met to discuss the danger to the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (AP/Reuters)
The UN Security Council met to discuss the danger to the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (AP/Reuters)
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Updated 05 March 2022

Specter of Chernobyl looms large over UN Security Council meeting

The UN Security Council met to discuss the danger to the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (AP/Reuters)
  • US envoy said a catastrophe was narrowly avoided in Ukraine ‘by the grace of God’ after a Russian attack sparked a fire at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant
  • Russia’s ambassador described the incident and the meeting as another attempt by the West to create hysteria over Ukraine as part of a campaign of disinformation

NEW YORK: “By the grace of God, the world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the permanent US representative to the UN, told the Security Council on Friday.

“We all waited to exhale as we watched the horrific situation unfold in real time.”

She was speaking during an emergency meeting of the council that was called by the UK to discuss a fire that broke out the night before at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine as Russian troops attacked and seized control of the facility.

The envoy said the attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was “incredibly reckless and dangerous” and had put it “at grave risk.”

The fire was extinguished early on Friday. It caused damage to a training facility at the plant but did not affect any of its six reactors.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that none of the nuclear reactors or other essential equipment were damaged and radiation levels remain normal. The Ukrainian staff at the plant continue to run it, and safety systems are functioning, he added.

The incident triggered condemnation worldwide, along with warnings of the potentially catastrophic consequences of such an attack for the Ukrainian people and populations across the region.

Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, said the people of Ukraine are all too aware of the devastation nuclear accidents can cause.

“The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 stands as a lasting example of why it is vital to ensure all nuclear power plants have the highest standards of safety and security,” she told the council.

She added that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has followed “with great alarm” the reports of fighting around the plant.

“Military operations around nuclear sites and other critical civilian infrastructure are not only unacceptable but highly irresponsible,” DiCarlo said. “Every effort should be made to avoid a catastrophic nuclear incident.”

Thomas-Greenfield joined other council members in calling on Russia to withdraw its troops from the plant “to permit medical treatment for injured personnel, to ensure operators have full access to the site,” and to halt any further use of force that might put at risk the 15 operable nuclear reactors across Ukraine.

Directly addressing Vassily Nebenzia, her Russian counterpart on the council, Thomas-Greenfield said: “This Council needs answers. We need to hear you say this won’t happen again.

“We call on you to withdraw your troops and weaponry from Ukraine. We call on you to respect Ukraine’s borders, its people, and the UN Charter.

We call on you to respect your own troops enough not to send them into an unjust war — or on a suicide mission against a nuclear power plant.”

She added: “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin must stop this madness and he must stop it now. Cooler heads must prevail.”

In response, Nebenzia said: “Today’s meeting is another attempt by Kyiv authorities to spread artificial hysteria around what is taking place in Ukraine and they are being assisted by their Western backers.”

The Russian envoy said news reports about the incident at Zaporizhzhia were false and “part of an unprecedented campaign of lies and disinformation against Russia.”

He said the fire was not caused by Russian shelling and instead accused Ukrainian “saboteurs” of causing it by shooting at a Russian patrol. He added that forces from his country now control the power plants at both Zaporizhzhia and Chernobyl, to prevent them falling into the hands of “Ukrainian terrorists.”

Nebenzia dismissed what he described as an attempt by his “dear Western colleagues” to turn the incident on Thursday into a global scandal.

“Ukrainian nationalists are now under your protection and have carte blanche from you,” he added.

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative, and president of the Security Council this month, said another Chernobyl must be prevented, as the dire consequences would affect not only Ukraine but the entire region.

“Nuclear safety is a critical issue for my country and we will continue every possible effort to maintain nuclear safety,” she said.

Nusseibeh joined the other ambassadors in welcoming a second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine which resulted in a preliminary agreement for the opening of humanitarian corridors so that people fleeing the war can leave safely.

She added that the UAE calls for an immediate end to hostilities and for the conflict to be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.


Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away
Updated 12 sec ago

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away
  • Semeru volcano on Java island spews a column of ash 1.5km into the air
  • Indonesia has the largest population globally living in close range to a volcano
JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Semeru volcano on Java island erupted early on Sunday, spewing a column of ash 1.5km into the air, prompting authorities to warn residents to stay away from the eruption area.
Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency, BNPB, warned residents not to conduct any activities within 5km of the eruption center and to stay 500 meters from riversides due to risks of lava flow.
Japan’s Meteorology Agency said was monitoring for the possibility of a tsunami there after the eruption, public broadcaster NHK reported.
The volcano began erupting at 2:46 a.m. (1946 GMT on Saturday), BNPB said in a statement. Videos posted on social media showed grey ash clouds in nearby areas.
BNPB did not immediately respond to Japan’s warning of tsunami risk.
Indonesian authorities have distributed masks to local residents, BNPB said in a statement, adding that volcanic activity remained at level III, below the highest level of IV.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the largest population globally living in close range to a volcano, including 8.6 million within 10km.

Daesh claims attack on Pakistani envoy in Kabul

Taliban fighters stand guard near to the site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
Taliban fighters stand guard near to the site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
Updated 04 December 2022

Daesh claims attack on Pakistani envoy in Kabul

Taliban fighters stand guard near to the site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
  • “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will not allow any malicious actors to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in Kabul,” it said in a statement, vowing to find and punish those responsible

KABUL: The Daesh group claimed responsibility Saturday for an attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul, which Islamabad decried as an “assassination attempt.”
A security guard was wounded in the attack Friday in the Afghan capital.
In a statement cited by jihadist monitor SITE, Daesh’s regional chapter said it had “attacked the apostate Pakistani ambassador and his guards.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has called it “an assassination attempt” on the head of the mission, and demanded an investigation.
A Kabul police spokesman said one suspect had been arrested and two light weapons seized after security forces swept a nearby building.
Although Pakistan does not officially recognize Afghanistan’s Taliban government, it kept its embassy open even as the hard-line group took over in August last year, and maintains a full diplomatic mission.
An embassy official told AFP a lone attacker “came behind the cover of houses and started firing,” but that the ambassador and other staff were safe.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said they strongly condemned the “failed attack.”
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will not allow any malicious actors to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in Kabul,” it said in a statement, vowing to find and punish those responsible.
Pakistan has complicated relations with the Taliban, with Islamabad long accused of supporting the hard-line group even while backing the US-led invasion of Afghanistan that toppled them following the 9/11 attacks.
Pakistan is home to more than a million Afghan refugees, and the porous border they share is frequently the scene of clashes.
Since returning to power, the Afghan Taliban have insisted they would not allow foreign militant groups to operate from home soil.
 

 


Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing

Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing
Updated 04 December 2022

Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing

Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing
  • FOI request shows 20 percent of 2022 intake ‘disappeared’ while in Kent County Council care

LONDON: Up to 20 percent of Albanian child migrants relocated to an English council in 2022 have been classified as disappeared after going missing, the BBC reported.

Kent County Council admitted 197 unaccompanied Albanian child migrants up to Oct. 31, but figures show that 39 have gone missing.

Officials said that the council is working closely with the UK Home Office to protect and safeguard vulnerable migrant children.

It comes as figures revealed that almost 12,000 Albanians crossed into the UK this year.

The number is an almost 4,000 percent increase on last year’s figure.

Ecpat UK, a campaign group that aims to protect vulnerable children, described the figures obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request as “concerning.”

Head of policy, advocacy and research Laura Duran said that the 20 percent figure represented a “really high” number of missing children.

“We’re really concerned they are at risk of exploitation or have effectively been trafficked,” she said.

“They could be facing labor exploitation in different industries such as construction or car washes. They could be criminally exploited in drug distribution or in cannabis farms, or they could be sexually exploited.”

In a statement, Kent County Council said: “While all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are vulnerable to exploitation, research and experience evidences that some nationalities are particularly vulnerable and can go missing from local authority care very quickly.

“Kent County Council has used both established safeguarding protocols, including the National Referral Mechanism, and initiated multi-agency strategies to minimize the risks for these children as much as possible.

“The council continues to take a proactive role in safeguarding all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in its care.”


UK officials warn over Strep infections after child deaths

UK officials warn over Strep infections after child deaths
Updated 04 December 2022

UK officials warn over Strep infections after child deaths

UK officials warn over Strep infections after child deaths
  • Six children in England and Wales died after being diagnosed with the rare invasive Group A strep (iGAS) illness

LONDON: UK health officials warned on Friday that parents have to be alert for scarlet fever symptoms in their children, following the death of six youngsters from a more serious Group A strep-related illness.

British youngster Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, 4, started showing signs of a red rash across his lower back, and was prescribed antibiotics and Calpol.

Two weeks later, his condition worsened and he developed stomach pains, before dying in an ambulance en route to hospital.

Britain’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said five other children in England and Wales had died after being diagnosed with the rare invasive Group A strep (iGAS) illness.

UKHSA Deputy Director Colin Brown said the UK was “seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual” but resulting serious illnesses were “still uncommon.”

“The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics,” he added.

“However, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious.”

Brown urged parents to talk to a health professional if their child showed “signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”

The UKHSA said there were 851 scarlet fever cases reported in England in the most recent week with statistics available, compared to an average of 186 for the preceding years.

Investigations are also underway following reports of an increase in lower respiratory tract Group A strep infections in children over the past few weeks, which have caused severe illness.

* With AFP


US condemns shooting at Pakistan’s embassy in Afghanistan

Islamabad  claims that  anti-Pakistan forces are organizing terrorist attacks from hideouts in Afghanistan. (AP)
Islamabad claims that anti-Pakistan forces are organizing terrorist attacks from hideouts in Afghanistan. (AP)
Updated 03 December 2022

US condemns shooting at Pakistan’s embassy in Afghanistan

Islamabad  claims that  anti-Pakistan forces are organizing terrorist attacks from hideouts in Afghanistan. (AP)
  • In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Friday said the US condemned the Embassy attack, telling reporters “we offer our sympathies and wish a quick recovery to those affected by the violence”

ISLAMABAD: The US on Saturday condemned an attack a day earlier on the Pakistani Embassy in Afghanistan’s capital, in which a senior Pakistani diplomat escaped unhurt but one of his Pakistani guards was wounded, sending a wave of anger in this Islamic nation.
Friday’s assault comes amid rising tensions between the South Asian neighbors over Islamabad’s claims that anti-Pakistan forces are organizing terrorist attacks from hideouts in Afghanistan.
Shots were fired at the embassy from a nearby building by an as-yet known assailant or assailants. Shortly after the shooting, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif took to Twitter on Friday, calling the attack an “assassination attempt” against Pakistan’s head of mission in Afghanistan, Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani.
Pakistan repatriated the wounded guard Israr Mohammad by helicopter and he was being treated at a hospital on Saturday.
The embassy attack came days after Pakistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar flew to Kabul to hold talks with Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on a range of issues, including the latest threat from Pakistani Taliban who recently ended a monthslong ceasefire with Pakistan and asked fighters to resume attacks across the country.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Friday said the US condemned the Embassy attack, telling reporters “we offer our sympathies and wish a quick recovery to those affected by the violence.”
The US is “deeply concerned by the attack on a foreign diplomat and we call for a full and transparent investigation,” Price said.
The US chargé d’affaires for Afghanistan, Karen Decker also condemned the attack on Nizamani in a tweet Saturday.
“Outraged at attack on my diplomatic counterpart @PakinAfg, Ubaid Nizamani; I am grateful he is safe & wish a quick recovery to the brave security guard who was injured. I join the call for a swift, thorough and transparent investigation,” Decker wrote.
Muttaqi on Friday evening called Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to condemn the “terrorist attack” targeting Nizamani, according to a Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement.
Muttaqi assured Bhutto-Zardari that “the Afghan government will bring the perpetrators of this heinous attack to justice swiftly,” the statement said.
Bhutto-Zardari thanked Muttaqi and said the “Taliban government must prevent the terrorists from undermining relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the statement said. It said Pakistan on its part reiterated its unwavering commitment to fight terrorism, saying “Pakistan will be undeterred by such cowardly attacks.”
Friday’s shooting comes a day after Pakistan demanded Afghanistan’s Taliban government prevent terrorist attacks being organized from their soil by Pakistani Taliban, who are hiding in Afghanistan.
Pakistan made the request after a suicide bomber dispatched by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan group, or TTP blew himself up near a truck carrying police officers on their way to protect polio workers near Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. A police officer and three civilians were killed in Wednesday’s attack.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in their country last year as the US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from Afghanistan.
On Friday, Kabul’s police chief spokesman Khalid Zadran said police had detained a suspect at the building from where the shots were fired Friday. Also Friday, a prominent politician and warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, escaped unhurt in a separate attack in Kabul, his office said.

 

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