Serbia’s president denies troop buildup near Kosovo, alleges ‘campaign of lies’ in wake of clashes

Serbia’s president denies troop buildup near Kosovo, alleges ‘campaign of lies’ in wake of clashes
Kosovo police officers search restaurant and building in northern Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, on Sept. 29, 2023, following an attack by 30 gunmen near the village of Banjska early Sunday. (AP)
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Updated 02 October 2023

Serbia’s president denies troop buildup near Kosovo, alleges ‘campaign of lies’ in wake of clashes

Serbia’s president denies troop buildup near Kosovo, alleges ‘campaign of lies’ in wake of clashes
  • Both the US and EU earlier Serbia to scale down its troop presence with its border with Kosovo to reduce tensions
  • Serbia has denied Kosovo’s allegations that it trained the group of some 30 men involved in an attack last week

BELGRADE: Serbia’s president on Sunday denied US and other reports of a military buildup along the border with Kosovo, complaining of a “campaign of lies” against his country in the wake of a shootout a week earlier that killed four people and fueled tensions in the volatile Balkan region.

Both the United States and the European Union expressed concern earlier this week about what they said was an increased military deployment by Serbia’s border with its former province, and they urged Belgrade to scale down its troop presence there.
Kosovo’s government said Saturday it was monitoring the movements of the Serbian military from “three different directions.” It urged Serbia to immediately pull back its troops and demilitarize the border area.
“A campaign of lies ... has been launched against our Serbia,” President Aleksandar Vucic responded in a video post on Instagram. “They have lied a lot about the presence of our military forces .... In fact, they are bothered that Serbia has what they describe as sophisticated weapons.”
Associated Press reporters traveling in the border region Sunday saw several Serbian army transport vehicles driving away toward central Serbia, a sign that the military might be scaling down its presence in the region following calls from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and others.
Tensions have soared following the violence in northern Kosovo last Sunday involving heavily armed Serb gunmen and Kosovo police officers. The clash was one of the worst since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and prompted NATO to announce it would beef up a peacekeeping force stationed in the country.
Serbia has denied Kosovo’s allegations that it trained the group of some 30 men who opened fire on police officers, leaving one dead, and then barricaded themselves in an Orthodox Christian monastery in northern Kosovo. Three insurgents died in the hours-long shootout that ensued.
Kosovo has also said it was investigating possible Russian involvement in the violence. Serbia is Russia’s main ally in Europe, and there are fears in the West that Moscow could try to stir trouble in the Balkans to avert attention from the war in Ukraine.
John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Friday that US officials were monitoring a large deployment of Serbian troops along the border with Kosovo, describing it as an “unprecedented staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks and mechanized infantry units.”
Vucic has several times over the past months raised the combat readiness level of Serbian troops on the border with Kosovo. Serbia also has been reinforcing its troops with weapons and other equipment mainly purchased from Russia and China.
“We will continue to invest in the defense of our country but Serbia wants peace,” the president said Sunday. “Everything they said they made up and lied, and they knew they were making up and lying.”
Last weekend’s shootout near the village of Banjska followed months of tensions in Kosovo’s north, where ethnic Serbs are a majority of the population and have demanded self-rule. Dozens of soldiers from the NATO-led peacekeeping force known as KFOR were injured in May in a clash with ethnic Serbs protesting the Kosovo police presence in the area.
Fearing wider instability as the war rages in Ukraine, Washington and Brussels have sought to negotiate a normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, but the two sides have failed to implement a tentative agreement that was recently reached as part of an EU-mediated dialogue.

Asian publishers join campaign to counter Western narrative on Palestine

Asian publishers join campaign to counter Western narrative on Palestine
Updated 9 sec ago

Asian publishers join campaign to counter Western narrative on Palestine

Asian publishers join campaign to counter Western narrative on Palestine
  • #ReadPalestine campaign makes available works by Palestinian authors 
  • Publishers say literary community ‘cannot remain neutral’ over plight of the Palestinians

JAKARTA: Asian publishers want to counter the Western media narrative as they take part in a global initiative launched this week to encourage people to read Palestinian authors and history. 

#ReadPalestine started on Wednesday and runs through to Dec. 5. 

It was created by Publishers for Palestine, a global solidarity collective comprising more than 350 publishers who have called for an end to all violence against Palestinian people and for Tel Aviv and its allies to be held accountable for war crimes in the wake of the deadly Israeli onslaught on Gaza that started last month. 

The collective, which includes more than 70 Asian publishers, has made available for free download more than 30 works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. 

“The initiative aims to be an amplifier for the Palestinian cause within the literary community, particularly in the West,” Iskandar Kamel of Malaysia’s Kawah Buku told Arab News.

“The way they have muted themselves and chosen to align with genociders, adopting an apolitical stance and neutrality in the face of atrocities, is entirely unacceptable. This is especially noteworthy considering that, all the while, they have preached about human rights and liberal principles to the Global South.”

Kamel cited as an example the biggest annual book fair in Frankfurt, which last month called off an awards ceremony to celebrate Palestinian writer Adania Shibli. 

“Publishers, bookstores, authors and the entire literary community cannot remain neutral; choosing to be apolitical is not an option. It is our responsibility to play our part,” he said. 

Ronny Agustinus, chief editor of the Indonesian publishing company Marjin Kiri, is a member of the International Alliance of Independent Publishers, which wrote a letter condemning the cancelation of the Frankfurt event. 

“Because there are so many misunderstandings about Palestine from various parties, it becomes important to share studies and reading materials as thoroughly and as much as possible about Palestine so that we can get the whole picture,” he said. 

“Literature can paint the reality of Palestinian lives poignantly and evocatively.” 

The #ReadPalestine free ebook list includes “Wild Thorns,” a novel by Sahar Khalifeh about life in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and “Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear” by Mosab Abu Toha, a Palestinian poet whose abduction by Israeli forces made global headlines earlier this month. He was later released following an international outcry.   

“Writers and publishers bear histories and narratives; and with them, truth. Western media is so powerful and it has skewed the thinking of many people, including writers. We can fight against that through our books and writings,” said Faye Cura of Philippines-based Gantala Press. 

When it comes to Palestinian literature, women writers are Cura’s favorite. 

“Many people have biased views against Muslim women, thinking they are ‘conservative,’ ‘passive,’ ‘silent,’ etc. The women writers definitely resist all that and paint a stronger, more powerful image of the Palestinian woman,” she said. 

She hopes that #ReadPalestine will forge strong relations among writers, translators, artists and publishers across the world so that the “conversation and resistance continue until liberation.”

Malaysian publisher The Patriots said speaking about the Palestinian plight was also a responsibility of the literary community. 

“We are collectively disappointed with this ongoing cancel culture against the Palestinian literature. It is against free speech to do so,” The Patriots said in a statement to Arab News. 

“We hope this initiative could at the very least break this hostile attempt. The Palestinians could not, should not and must not be stifled.”  

Explainer: How will countries measure climate action at COP28? 

Explainer: How will countries measure climate action at COP28? 
Updated 30 November 2023

Explainer: How will countries measure climate action at COP28? 

Explainer: How will countries measure climate action at COP28? 
  • In September, the United Nations offered an early stocktake assessment that revealed countries were far behind in meeting climate goals
  • It said action required “on all fronts” to keep global average temperature rise limited to 1.5 C beyond which irreversible climate impacts will occur

DUBAI: Countries will for the first time assess how far off track they are to curb global warming at this year’s COP28 climate change summit, a process known as the “global stocktake.” 

Governments will look at progress so far as well as what action is still needed to get the world on track. The aim is to yield a plan by the end of the two-week UN conference in Dubai. 

The assessment could become politically divisive as it sets the stage for the next few years of global action in cutting planet-warming emissions. 


Each country sets its own targets and policies for meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement’s overall goal of holding global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius of preindustrial times, and aiming for just 1.5 C of warming. 

Under the 2015 pact, countries must gauge their progress as of this year, and then every five years afterwards. Based on the results, countries may be pressed to set more ambitious climate policies or to contribute more financing to help developing countries adopt clean energy. 

This year’s stocktake could also offer important guidance as countries prepare to update their emissions-cutting targets again by 2025. For example, the stocktake could advise that CO2-cutting targets should cover a country’s entire economy, not just certain sectors. 


In September, the United Nations offered an early stocktake assessment that revealed countries were far behind in meeting climate goals. It said action was required “on all fronts” to keep the global average temperature rise limited to 1.5 C — the threshold beyond which scientists say more severe and irreversible climate impacts will occur. 

Despite a huge increase in the number of countries setting CO2-cutting targets since the Paris Agreement, current emissions plans still put the world on track to warm by at least 2.5 C, the UN estimates. 

Many countries also have yet to set strong enough short-term policies to steer their economies toward emissions targets for 2030 and 2050. 

The global average temperature has already warmed by 1.2 C since pre-industrial times, which is causing widespread drought along with more frequent deadly heat waves, wildfires and storms around the world. 


Before the stocktake has even started, countries are squabbling over the scope of future plans — including whether they should commit to phase out fossil fuel use, end investments in new coal power plants or triple renewable energy capacity within this decade. 

COP28 delegates will also need to decide if the stocktake should recommended action for specific sectors, such as the energy or manufacturing sectors. 

The UN’s report in September urged countries to cut CO2-emitting coal power by 67 percent to 82 percent from 2019 levels by 2030. 

The report also called for more finance to help poorer countries adopt clean energy, and noted that billions of dollars were still being invested in fossil fuels every year. 

The European Union wants the stocktake to produce “concrete policy signals” for countries to follow. 

Some developing countries have suggested the stocktake should focus on pressuring wealthy nations to do more, since they have contributed the most emissions to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, diplomats said. 

“This is where we take stock and see where we are — where are the gaps between the targets and our ambitions, and the actual action. What then needs to be decided... what do we then do from here,” Dan Jorgensen, Denmark’s Global Climate Policy Minister, told Reuters. 

COP28 summit opens in Dubai with hopes for early deal on climate damage fund 

COP28 summit opens in Dubai with hopes for early deal on climate damage fund 
Updated 30 November 2023

COP28 summit opens in Dubai with hopes for early deal on climate damage fund 

COP28 summit opens in Dubai with hopes for early deal on climate damage fund 
  • Governments are preparing for marathon negotiations on whether to agree, for the first time, to phase out world’s use of CO2-emitting coal, oil and gas
  • UAE COP28 presidency published proposal on eve of summit for countries to formally adopt outlines of new fund to cover losses and damages in poor countries

DUBAI: As global leaders gather in Dubai for the world’s UN climate conference, delegates hope to clinch an early victory on a disaster fund on Thursday before the summit turns its focus to fossil fuels and other divisive topics. 

Governments are preparing for marathon negotiations on whether to agree, for the first time, to phase out the world’s use of CO2-emitting coal, oil and gas, the main source of warming emissions. 

With finance also high on the meeting agenda, the United Arab Emirates’ COP28 presidency published a proposal on the eve of the summit for countries to formally adopt the outlines of a new UN fund to cover losses and damages in poor countries being hit by climate disasters like extreme flooding or persistent drought. 

An early breakthrough on the damage fund — which poorer nations have demanded for years — could help grease the wheels for other compromises to be made during the two-week summit. 

Some diplomats said they hoped the draft deal would be approved quickly, with one delegate describing the possibility of objections at this point as “opening Pandora’s box.” The deal was crafted over many months of tough negotiations involving wealthy and developing countries. 

Establishing the fund allows rich countries to begin pledging money for it, and nations including Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands are expected to announce contributions over the next few days, European diplomats told Reuters. 

The European Union has pledged a “substantial” contribution, but wants countries whose economies have boomed in recent decades, like China and the UAE, to follow suit. 

“Everyone with the ability to pay should contribute,” said EU Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra, who said he wanted to “broaden the donor base beyond the usual suspects, simply because that reflects the reality of 2023.” 

Adnan Amin, CEO of the COP28 summit, told Reuters this month the aim was to secure several hundred million US dollars for the climate disaster fund during the event. He said he was “hopeful” that the UAE would make a contribution. 

“We cannot rest until this fund is adequately financed and starts to actually alleviate the burden of vulnerable communities,” said Samoa’s Ambassador to Europe, Pa’olelei Luteru, who is also the chairman of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) negotiating bloc. 

Countries are split between European nations and climate-vulnerable states demanding an agreement to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, and oil and gas producers seeking to preserve a role for traditional energy sources. 

Many developing countries are also reluctant to quit fossil fuels, which they say are necessary to grow their economies. 

Another major task at this year’s summit will be for countries to assess their progress in meeting global climate goals — chiefly the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). 

This process, known as the global stocktake, should yield a high-level plan telling countries what they need to do. 

Indian official was behind plot to assassinate Sikh American in US — DOJ

Indian official was behind plot to assassinate Sikh American in US — DOJ
Updated 30 November 2023

Indian official was behind plot to assassinate Sikh American in US — DOJ

Indian official was behind plot to assassinate Sikh American in US — DOJ
  • Says Nikhil Gupta worked with Indian government employee on plot to assassinate US citizen who advocated for Sikh sovereign state in India
  • Prosecutors did not name Indian official or the target, although they did describe the latter as a US citizen of Indian origin

NEW YORK: An Indian government official directed an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist, who is also a US citizen, on US soil, the Justice Department said on Wednesday, in announcing charges against a man accused of orchestrating the attempted murder.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Nikhil Gupta, 52, worked with the Indian government employee, whose responsibilities included security and intelligence, on the plot to assassinate the New York City resident who advocated for a Sikh sovereign state in northern India.

Prosecutors did not name the Indian official or the target, although they did describe the latter as a US citizen of Indian origin. US officials have named him as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Gupta was arrested by Czech authorities in June and is awaiting extradition. He could not be reached for comment.

“The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a US citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs,” Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in a statement.

The Indian official is described in the related indictment as a “Senior Field Officer” with responsibilities in “Security Management” and “Intelligence” employed by the Indian government who “directed the plot from India.”

The charges come after a senior Biden administration official last week said US authorities had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States and issued a warning to India over concerns the government in New Delhi was involved.

Biden instructed CIA director Bill Burns to contact his Indian counterpart, then travel to India to deliver a message that “we will not tolerate such activities and that we expect those responsible to be held fully accountable,” a senior US official said Wednesday.

Biden also raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 summit, where he “emphasized the seriousness of this issue and the potential repercussions for our bilateral relationship were similar threats to persist,” the official said. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Blinken also discussed the issue with India’s foreign minister.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines also traveled to India to aid the government in an internal investigation, the official said.


The issue is highly delicate for both India and the Biden administration as they try to build closer ties in the face of an ascendant China perceived as a threat for both democracies.

India’s Washington embassy and its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but earlier on Wednesday India’s foreign ministry said New Delhi would formally investigate the concerns aired by the United States.

“India takes such inputs seriously since they impinge on our national security interests as well,” the ministry said, vowing to “take necessary follow-up action” on the findings of the panel set up on Nov. 18.

Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said that after the defendant “credibly indicated” he was directed by an Indian government official, “we took this information very seriously and engaged in direct conversations with the Indian government at the highest levels to express our concern.”

“The government of India was clear with us that they were taking this seriously and would investigate,” she said, adding: “We will continue to expect accountability from the government of India based on the results of their investigations.”

The US started voicing its concerns and related details to Modi’s government as early as April, an Indian official who is aware of the matter, but not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters.

The official said the issue was also discussed on Nov. 10, when Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met their counterparts in the Indian capital for the so-called 2+2 dialogue.

News of the incident comes two months after Canada said there were “credible” allegations linking Indian agents to the June murder of a Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in a Vancouver suburb, something India has rejected.


According to US prosecutors, the Indian official recruited Gupta in May 2023 to orchestrate the assassination. Gupta had previously told the official he had been involved with trafficking drugs and weapons, prosecutors said.

Gupta then reached out to someone he believed was a criminal associate for help hiring a hitman, but that associate was actually a Drug Enforcement Administration undercover agent, prosecutors said.

The day after Nijjar was killed, Gupta wrote to the undercover DEA agent saying Nijjar “was also the target” and “we have so many targets,” prosecutors said.

Gupta faces two counts of murder-for-hire and murder-for-hire conspiracy. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted.

The Indian government has complained about the presence of Sikh separatist groups outside India, including in Canada and the United States. The groups have kept alive the movement for Khalistan, or the demand for an independent Sikh state to be carved out of India.

The movement is considered a security threat by India, although the cause hardly has any support inside the country presently having been crushed in the 1990s.

Sikh militants were blamed for the 1985 bombing of an Air India Boeing 747 flying from Canada to India in which all 329 people on board were killed.

Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, dies at 100

Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, dies at 100
Updated 30 November 2023

Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, dies at 100

Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford, dies at 100
  • Kissinger exerted uncommon influence on global affairs under Nixon and Ford, earning both vilification and Nobel Peace Prize
  • He conducted first “shuttle diplomacy” in quest for Middle East peace, used secret channels to pursue ties between US and China

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the diplomat with the thick glasses and gravely voice who dominated foreign policy as the United States extricated itself from Vietnam and broke down barriers with China, died Wednesday, his consulting firm said. He was 100.
With his gruff yet commanding presence and behind-the-scenes manipulation of power, Kissinger exerted uncommon influence on global affairs under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, earning both vilification and the Nobel Peace Prize. Decades later, his name still provoked impassioned debate over foreign policy landmarks long past.
Kissinger’s power grew during the turmoil of Watergate, when the politically attuned diplomat assumed a role akin to co-president to the weakened Nixon.
“No doubt my vanity was piqued,” Kissinger later wrote of his expanding influence. “But the dominant emotion was a premonition of catastrophe.”
A Jew who fled Nazi Germany with his family in his teens, Kissinger in his later years cultivated the reputation of respected statesman, giving speeches, offering advice to Republicans and Democrats alike and managing a global consulting business. He turned up in President Donald Trump’s White House on multiple occasions. But Nixon-era documents and tapes, as they trickled out over the years, brought revelations — many in Kissinger’s own words — that sometimes cast him in a harsh light.
Never without his detractors, Kissinger after he left government was dogged by critics who argued that he should be called to account for his policies on Southeast Asia and support of repressive regimes in Latin America.
For eight restless years — first as national security adviser, later as secretary of state, and for a time in the middle holding both titles — Kissinger ranged across the breadth of major foreign policy issues. He conducted the first “shuttle diplomacy” in the quest for Middle East peace. He used secret channels to pursue ties between the United States and China, ending decades of isolation and mutual hostility.
He initiated the Paris negotiations that ultimately provided a face-saving means — a “decent interval,” he called it — to get the United States out of a costly war in Vietnam. Two years later, Saigon fell to the communists.
And he pursued a policy of detente with the Soviet Union that led to arms control agreements and raised the possibility that the tensions of the Cold War and its nuclear threat did not have to last forever.
At age 99, he was still out on tour for his book on leadership. Asked in July 2022 interview with ABC whether he wished he could take back any of his decisions, Kissinger demurred, saying: “I’ve been thinking about these problems all my life. It’s my hobby as well as my occupation. And so the recommendations I made were the best of which I was then capable.”
Even then, he had mixed thoughts on Nixon’s record, saying “his foreign policy has held up and he was quite effective in domestic policy” while allowing that the disgraced president had “permitted himself to be involved in a number of steps that were inappropriate for a president.”
As Kissinger turned 100 in May 2023, his son David wrote in The Washington Post that his father’s centenary “might have an air of inevitability for anyone familiar with his force of character and love of historical symbolism. Not only has he outlived most of his peers, eminent detractors and students, but he has also remained indefatigably active throughout his 90s.”
Asked during a CBS interview in the leadup to his 100th birthday about those who view his conduct of foreign policy over the years as a kind of “criminality,” Kissinger was nothing but dismissive.
“That’s a reflection of their ignorance,” Kissinger said. “It wasn’t conceived that way. It wasn’t conducted that way.”
Kissinger was a practitioner of realpolitik — using diplomacy to achieve practical objectives rather than advance lofty ideals. Supporters said his pragmatic bent served US interests; critics saw a Machiavellian approach that ran counter to democratic ideals.
He was castigated for authorizing telephone wiretaps of reporters and his own National Security Council staff to plug news leaks in Nixon’s White House. He was denounced on college campuses for the bombing and allied invasion of Cambodia in April 1970, intended to destroy North Vietnamese supply lines to communist forces in South Vietnam.
That “incursion,” as Nixon and Kissinger called it, was blamed by some for contributing to Cambodia’s fall into the hands of Khmer Rouge insurgents who later slaughtered some 2 million Cambodians.
Kissinger, for his part, made it his mission to debunk what he referred to in 2007 as a “prevalent myth” — that he and Nixon had settled in 1972 for peace terms that had been available in 1969 and thus had needlessly prolonged the Vietnam War at the cost of tens of thousands of American lives.
He insisted that the only way to speed up the withdrawal would have been to agree to Hanoi’s demands that the US overthrow the South Vietnamese government and replace it with communist-dominated leadership.
Pudgy and messy, Kissinger incongruously acquired a reputation as a ladies’ man in the staid Nixon administration. Kissinger, who had divorced his first wife in 1964, called women “a diversion, a hobby.” Jill St. John was a frequent companion. But it turned out his real love interest was Nancy Maginnes, a researcher for Nelson Rockefeller whom he married in 1974.
In a 1972 poll of Playboy Club Bunnies, the man dubbed “Super-K” by Newsweek finished first as “the man I would most like to go out on a date with.”
Kissinger’s explanation: “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”
Yet Kissinger was reviled by many Americans for his conduct of wartime diplomacy. He was still a lightning rod decades later: In 2015, an appearance by the 91-year-old Kissinger before the Senate Armed Services Committee was disrupted by protesters demanding his arrest for war crimes and calling out his actions in Southeast Asia, Chile and beyond.
Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in the Bavarian city of Fuerth on May 27, 1923, the son of a schoolteacher. His family left Nazi Germany in 1938 and settled in Manhattan, where Heinz changed his name to Henry.
Kissinger had two children, Elizabeth and David, from his first marriage.