Blinken, Kagame discuss UN report that Rwanda supports rebel group

Update Blinken, Kagame discuss UN report that Rwanda supports rebel group
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he would raise the fate of Paul Rusesabagina, an American resident who was sentenced by a Kigali court to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges. (AFP)
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Updated 11 August 2022

Blinken, Kagame discuss UN report that Rwanda supports rebel group

Blinken, Kagame discuss UN report that Rwanda supports rebel group
  • Regional analysts expect US Secretary of State to privately exert pressure to stop Rwanda’s alleged support for the M23 rebel group

KIGALI: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday he discussed with Rwandan President Paul Kagame “credible reports” that Rwanda continued to support the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Blinken said Kagame and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi had agreed to engage in direct talks to address the fighting in eastern Congo.

The US senior diplomat is on a visit to Kigali less than a week after it emerged United Nations experts had found “solid evidence” Rwanda has been interfering militarily in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda’s government has disputed the UN findings.

The conflict was a focus of his meeting with Tshisekedi on Tuesday.

“My message to both President Tshisekedi and President Kagame this week has been the same: any support or cooperation with any armed group in eastern DRC endangers local communities and regional stability, and every country in the region must respect the territorial integrity of the others,” Blinken said during a joint media event with his Rwandan counterpart.

“Both presidents have agreed to engage in direct talks with each other.”

Kagame and Tshisekedi met at a summit in Angola to de-escalate tensions from the rebel insurgency.

Rwanda has previously denied accusations by Congo that it supports the M23 and that it has sent troops into the country. The M23 has denied it receives Rwandan support.

A target of the M23 and Rwandan operations in Congo has been the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu militia which Rwanda accuses Congo of using as a proxy. Congo’s government has denied this.

Standing next to Blinken, Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said Kigali backed peace in the region.

“We agreed on the need to eradicate all irregular armed groups operating in the eastern DRC including the FDLR and its factions,” Biruta said.

Biruta later told local media that Rwanda was not supporting the M23 rebel group.

Since May, M23 has waged its most sustained offensive in years, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands of people. By July, it controlled a territory in Congo almost three times as large as it did in March, UN experts said.


Saudi ambassador in India pledges to boost Riyadh’s ties with New Delhi

Saudi ambassador in India pledges to boost Riyadh’s ties with New Delhi
Updated 16 sec ago

Saudi ambassador in India pledges to boost Riyadh’s ties with New Delhi

Saudi ambassador in India pledges to boost Riyadh’s ties with New Delhi
  • The Kingdom is India’s fourth largest trade partner
  • New Saudi envoy to presented his credentials in early September

NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to India Saleh bin Eid Al-Hussaini has vowed to boost and strengthen relations between Riyadh and New Delhi during his tenure in the South Asian country, as officials and peoples of the two countries celebrated the 92nd Saudi National Day in the Indian capital.

Saudi Arabia celebrated its National Day on Sept. 23 to commemorate the renaming of the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by royal decree of King Abdulaziz Al-Saud in 1932.

The Saudi embassy in India hosted a National Day event in New Delhi on Friday, the first such festivity held since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Indian Health Minister Mansukh Mandavia was the chief guest during the occasion, which also saw other Indian officials in attendance.

Al-Hussaini, who presented his credentials to Indian President Droupadi Murmu earlier this month, has vowed to deepen Saudi-Indian ties during his tenure.

“This would be my endeavor to consolidate and accelerate the growth of our mutual and beneficial partnership and strengthen the friendly bond between the people of our countries,” Al-Hussaini said during his speech at the Saudi National Day event in New Delhi.

Saudi-Indian ties reached new highs when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited New Delhi in February 2019. In October that year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Riyadh at the invitation of King Salman, which saw the two nations establishing the Strategic Partnership Council.

Al-Hussaini, who described the crown prince’s New Delhi trip as a “landmark visit,” said that high-level engagements that year had “marked a new chapter in bilateral relations.”

India has been seeking to enhance its strategic partnership with the Kingdom since, as well as cooperation on international platforms, with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visiting Saudi Arabia earlier in September.

The India-Saudi strategic partnership is focused on four areas: Political issues, security, socio-cultural relations and defense cooperation.

Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trade partner, after the US, China and the UAE, with bilateral trade worth $42.8 billion in the 2021-22 fiscal year. Energy also plays an important role in their ties, with New Delhi importing about 18 and 22 percent of its crude oil and LPG demands, respectively, from the Kingdom.

 


France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake

France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake
Updated 24 September 2022

France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake

France’s Montpellier airport shut after plane skids into lake
  • Images showed the Boeing 737 of the West Atlantic cargo carrier tilting with its nose in the lake
  • The three crew escaped the accident in the early hours of Saturday unhurt

MONTPELLIER, France: French authorities on Saturday shut the airport in the southern city of Montpellier for an indefinite period after a cargo plane overran the runway and ended up with its nose in a nearby lake.
Images showed the Boeing 737 of the West Atlantic cargo carrier tilting with its nose in the lake and body perched on the land. The three crew escaped the accident in the early hours of Saturday unhurt, local authorities said.
The prefecture for the Herault region said the airport would be closed to both passenger and cargo planes until further notice as a security measure and until a specialized firm came to take the plane away.
“We will not reopen the airport as long as the aircraft is on the runway and the investigation is not finished,” an airport source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
“After the removal of the aircraft, the runway will also be carefully checked,” added the source.
Twenty-one commercial flights had been scheduled on Saturday at the airport which in peak season sees up to 197,000 passengers a month.
“A technical incident prevents normal operation,” said an English message on the airport’s website headlined “closure of Montpellier airport.”
The website showed that flights had either being canceled or diverted to Marseille.


Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia

Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia
Updated 24 September 2022

Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia

Powerful storm Fiona hits Canada’s Nova Scotia
  • Experts predicted high winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall from Fiona

HALIFAX: Powerful storm Fiona slammed into eastern Canada on Saturday with hurricane-force winds, nearly a week after devastating parts of the Caribbean.
The US National Hurricane Center said the center of the storm, now called Post-Tropical Cyclone Fiona, was crossing eastern Nova Scotia, bringing high winds and heavy rains.
The storm had weakened somewhat as it traveled north. As of 5 a.m. (0900 GMT), the storm was about 160 miles (255 km) northeast of Halifax, carrying maximum winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph) and barrelling north at around 26 mph (43 kph), the NHC said.
Experts predicted high winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall from Fiona. Although a gradual weakening was forecast during the next couple of days, Fiona was expected to maintain hurricane-force winds until Saturday afternoon, the NHC said.
Formerly designated a hurricane, the storm battered Caribbean islands earlier in the week, killing at least eight people and knocking out power for virtually all of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million people during a sweltering heat wave. Nearly a million people remained without power five days later.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delayed Saturday’s departure for Japan, where he was to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to receive briefings and support the government’s emergency response, Press Secretary Cecely Roy said on Twitter.
A hurricane warning was in effect for much of central Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, home to more than 150,000 people, and parts of Newfoundland, the Miami-based NHC said.
Canadian Hurricane Center meteorologist Ian Hubbard said on Friday the effects of Fiona would be felt over a wide area.
“The center of it is one thing, but the weather that’s associated with it in terms of the rain and where all the strong winds are, it’s going to be over a much larger area,” he said.
“Many, many places away from the center of the storm are still going to be seriously impacted from this,” Hubbard told Reuters.
There will be rough and pounding surf, with waves as high as 10 meters (33 feet) expected to hit the eastern shore of Nova Scotia Friday night.
Canadian authorities sent emergency alerts in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, warning of severe flooding along shorelines and extremely dangerous waves. People in coastal areas were advised to evacuate.
“We’ve had a few before, but they say this is going to be the biggest of them all,” said Chris MacPhee, 53, of Sydney, Nova Scotia, who stocked up on groceries, batteries and candles. He said he was feeling “a little nervous, I guess.”
The storm could prove more ferocious than the benchmarks of Hurricane Juan in 2003 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Canadian Hurricane Center meteorologist Bob Robichaud told a briefing.
The country’s two largest carriers, Air Canada and WestJet Airlines, suspended regional service starting Friday evening.
Trailing Fiona in the Caribbean is Tropical storm Ian, which is expected to become a hurricane on Sunday night. The NHC said that a hurricane watch is in effect for Cayman Islands.
The storms Ian’s projected path takes it just south of Jamaica, over western Cuba and into Florida early next week, the hurricane center said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Friday, freeing up funding and emergency services in advance of the storm.


North Korea may test submarine-launched ballistic missile: South Korea

North Korea may test submarine-launched ballistic missile: South Korea
Updated 24 September 2022

North Korea may test submarine-launched ballistic missile: South Korea

North Korea may test submarine-launched ballistic missile: South Korea
  • US Vice President Harris is set to visit the region next week and meet with leaders of Japan and South Korea

South Korea’s military has detected signs that North Korea may be preparing to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday, days before a visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris.
The military detected preparations this week in Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province, North Korea, Yonhap reported, citing an unnamed South Korean military source. This is in line with a US-based think tank’s report this week, which cited commercial satellite imagery.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is aware of signs and movements suggesting North Korean provocations, including SLBMs, the presidential office said in a statement on Saturday.
US Vice President Harris is set to visit the region next week and meet with leaders of Japan and South Korea.
A senior US administration official told a briefing on Friday that a nuclear test or other provocation was possible during Harris’ trip to the region, but that they had no predictions or announcements to make.
A US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for the first time in about four years, joining other military vessels to participate in joint drills with South Korean forces.
North Korea has denounced previous US military deployments and joint drills as rehearsals for war and evidence of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.


Heavy rains, lightning kill at least 36 in northern India

Heavy rains, lightning kill at least 36 in northern India
Updated 24 September 2022

Heavy rains, lightning kill at least 36 in northern India

Heavy rains, lightning kill at least 36 in northern India
  • Lightning strikes are common during India’s monsoon season, which runs from June to September
  • Global warming has also increased the frequency of lightning

LUCKNOW, India: Hazardous weather killed at least 36 people in northern India over the past 24 hours, including 12 who died after being struck by lightning, officials said as they warned of more heavy downpours in the coming days.
Across the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, some 24 people died after their homes collapsed amid unrelenting rains, Relief Commissioner Ranvir Prasad said.
Mohamed Usman, 15, was on his friend’s roof in the city of Prayagraj when lightning struck Friday evening, killing him instantly. His friend Aznan, who goes by one name, was injured and is being treated in a hospital.
“As soon as they set foot on the roof, they were hit by lightning and my son died,” said Mohammad Ayub, Usman’s father.
Officials said 39 people in the state have died from lightning in the last five days, prompting the state government to issue new guidelines for how people can protect themselves during a thunderstorm.
Lightning strikes are common during India’s monsoon season, which runs from June to September.
Col. Sanjay Srivastava, whose organization Lightning Resilient India Campaign works with the Indian Meteorological Department, said that deforestation, the depletion of bodies of water, and pollution all contribute to climate change, which leads to more lightning.
Global warming has also increased the frequency of lightning, said Sunita Narain, director general at the Center for Science and Environment. A 1-degree-Celsius (1.8-degree-Fahrenheit) rise in temperature increases lightning by 12 times.
There has been a 34 percent rise in lightning strikes across India over the past year, which has caused deaths to also jump. India recorded 1,489 deaths due to lightning in 2016, and the number grew to 2,869 in 2021, according to Srivastava.