UN lifts arms embargo on Somali forces

The United Nations headquarters building is seen from inside the General Assembly hall, on Sept. 21, 2021. (AP)
The United Nations headquarters building is seen from inside the General Assembly hall, on Sept. 21, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 02 December 2023
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UN lifts arms embargo on Somali forces

The United Nations headquarters building is seen from inside the General Assembly hall, on Sept. 21, 2021. (AP)
  • “The lifting of the arms embargo enables us to confront security threats, including those posed by Al-Shabab,” he said

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The UN Security Council on Friday completely lifted an arms embargo on Somali government forces, but continued to maintain sanctions against the Al-Shabab jihadist group.
The UN implemented a general arms embargo on Somalia in 1992, but has since largely eased it in regards to Somali forces.
The embargo did not apply to deliveries of weapons for the development of Somali security forces, although the UN committee overseeing the sanctions had to be notified and could object to certain heavy weapons.
A first resolution adopted unanimously Friday lifted the general embargo, removing the last restrictions on the Somali government.
A second resolution reimposed the arms embargo on Al-Shabab, maintaining the ban on delivery of weapons, ammunition and military equipment to the Islamist group and “other actors intent on undermining peace and security in Somalia.”
Somali ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman welcomed the moves.
“The lifting of the arms embargo enables us to confront security threats, including those posed by Al-Shabab,” he said.
“It also allows us to bolster the capacity of the Somali security forces by accessing lethal arms and equipment to adequately safeguard our citizens and our nation.”
After making significant progress, Somalia’s offensive against Al-Shabab has stalled for months, raising concerns about the government’s capacity to crush the 16-year insurgency led by the Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The Somali army, in alliance with clan militias, has been supported by troops from the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) in recapturing vast areas of the territory.
UN resolutions call for the ATMIS force to be reduced to zero by the end of next year, handing over security to the Somali army and police.
However, the government requested in September a three-month “technical pause” in the pullout of 3,000 troops.
The drawdown of those troops “will conclude as scheduled on December 31 of 2023,” the Somali envoy said, adding that the government was committed to the country’s forces taking over security responsibilities “within the agreed timelines.”
 

 


In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza

In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza
Updated 12 sec ago
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In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza

In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza
  • Says Israel must open new border crossings, not impose any unnecessary restrictions on aid delivery
  • Urges Hamas to agree to an immediate six-week ceasefire as mediators push for peace in Egypt’s Cairo

CAIRO/RAFAH, Gaza Strip: US Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday demanded Palestinian militant group Hamas agree to an immediate six-week ceasefire while forcefully urging Israel to do more to boost aid deliveries into Gaza, where she said innocent people were suffering a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

In some of the strongest comments by a senior leader of the US government to date on the issue, Harris pressed the Israeli government and outlined specific ways on how more aid can flow into the densely-populated enclave where hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine, following five months of Israel’s military campaign.
“Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire,” Harris said at an event in Selma, Alabama. “There is a deal on the table, and as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a ceasefire.”
“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act...The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses,” she said.

 

On Sunday, a Hamas delegation had arrived in Cairo for the latest round of ceasefire talks, billed by many as the final possible hurdle for a truce, but it was unclear if any progress was made. Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth’s online version reported that Israel boycotted the talks after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages who are still alive.
Washington has insisted the ceasefire deal is close and has been pushing to put in place a truce by the start of Ramadan, a week away. A US official on Saturday said Israel has agreed on a framework deal.
An agreement would bring the first extended truce of the war, which has raged for five months so far with just a week-long pause in November. Dozens of hostages held by Hamas militants would be freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian detainees.
One source briefed on the talks had said on Saturday that Israel could stay away from Cairo unless Hamas first presented its full list of hostages who are still alive. A Palestinian source told Reuters that Hamas had so far rejected that demand.

After the Hamas delegation arrived, a Palestinian official told Reuters the deal was “not yet there.” There was no official comment from Israel.
In past negotiations, Hamas has sought to avoid discussing the well-being of individual hostages until after terms for their release are set.
In other diplomatic moves, Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz will meet Harris at the White House on Monday and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Tuesday. US envoy Amos Hochstein will visit Beirut on Monday to pursue efforts to de-escalate the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border.

“Gunfire and chaos“
The death last week of more than 100 Palestinians approaching an aid truck in Gaza has captured the severe humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated enclave, an incident Harris recalled during her speech.
“We saw hungry, desperate people approach aid trucks simply trying to secure food for their family after weeks of barely any aid reaching northern Gaza and they were met with gunfire and chaos,” Harris said.
Israel said on Sunday its initial review of the incident had found that most of those killed or wounded had died in a stampede. Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israeli troops at the scene initially fired only warning shots, though they later shot at some “looters” who “approached our forces and posed an immediate threat.”

A Palestinian girl carries a child through the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)

Muatasem Salah, a member of the Emergency Committee at the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Reuters the Israeli account was contradicted by machine gun wounds.
In her comments, Harris laid out specific ways on how the Israeli government can allow more aid into Gaza. “They must open new border crossings. They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian personnel, sites and convoys are not targeted, and they must work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza, so more food, water and fuel can reach those in need.”
Under pressure at home and abroad, the Biden administration on Saturday carried out its first airdrop of aid into the coastal enclave, with a US military transport plane dropping 38,000 meals along Gaza’s Mediterranean coastline.
Critics of airdrops say they have only a limited impact on the suffering, and that it is nearly impossible to ensure supplies do not end up in the hands of militants.
The United States will continue these airdrops, Harris said, and added that Washington was working on a new route by sea to also send aid.
The war was unleashed in October after Hamas fighters stormed through Israeli towns killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, Israeli forces have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.
Swathes of the Gaza Strip have been laid to waste, nearly the entire population has been made homeless, and the United Nations estimates a quarter of Gazans are on the verge of famine.
At a morgue outside a Rafah hospital on Sunday morning, women wept and wailed beside rows of bodies of the Abu Anza family, 14 of whom Gaza health authorities say were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight.
The youngest of the family who were killed were infant twins Wesam and Naaem, the first children of their mother after 11 years of marriage. They were born a few weeks into the Gaza war.
“My heart is gone,” wailed Rania Abu Anza, who also lost her husband in the attack. “I haven’t had enough time with them.”


Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared

Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared
Updated 39 min 11 sec ago
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Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared

Malaysia may renew the search for MH370 a decade after the flight disappeared
  • Announcement comes after a US technology firm proposed fresh search in southern Indian Ocean where plane went missing 
  • The Boeing 777 plane, carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanished from radar shortly after taking off in Mar. 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia’s government said Sunday it may renew the hunt for MH370 after a US technology firm proposed a fresh search in the southern Indian Ocean where the Malaysia Airlines plane is believed to have crashed a decade ago.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said Texas-based Ocean Infinity has proposed another “no find, no fee” basis to scour the seabeds, expanding from the site where it first searched in 2018. He said he has invited the company to meet him to evaluate new scientific evidence it has to find the plane’s final resting place.

If the evidence is credible, he said, he will seek Cabinet’s approval to sign a new contract with Ocean Infinity to resume the search.

“The government is steadfast in our resolve to locate MH370,” Loke told a remembrance event to mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of the jet. “We really hope the search can find the plane and provide truth to the next-of-kin.”

The Boeing 777 plane carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese nationals, from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, to Beijing, vanished from radar shortly after taking off on March 8, 2014. Satellite data showed the plane deviated from its flight path and was believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.

But an expensive multinational government search failed to turn up any clues, although debris washed ashore on the east African coast and Indian Ocean islands. A private search in 2018 by Ocean Infinity also found nothing, but the tragedy sparked moves to bolster aviation safety.

K.S. Nathan, a member of the Voice MH370 group comprising next-of-kin, said Ocean Infinity initially planned a search last year but it was delayed by the delivery of its new fleet of ships and assets. It is now on track to resume the hunt, he said.

Ocean Infinity CEO Oliver Punkett was reported as saying by the New Straits Times that the company has been focusing on innovating technologies and robotics to enhance their search capabilities since 2018.

“We now feel in a position to be able to return to the search for MH370,” he told the English-language daily. “We’ve been working with many experts, some outside of Ocean Infinity, to continue analizing the data in the hopes of narrowing the search area down to one in which success becomes potentially achievable.”

Loke declined to reveal the fee proposed by Ocean Infinit y if it finds the plane, as this is subject to negotiation. He said financial cost is not an issue and that he doesn’t foresee any hindrances for the search to proceed if all goes well.

Loke’s response sparked tears of joy in some family members at the event held in a mall in a Kuala Lumpur suburb.

“I’m on top of the world,” said Jacquita Gomes, whose flight attendant husband was on the plane. She said she is thankful that she may now have a chance for full closure and say a final goodbye.

“We have been on a roller coaster for the last 10 years. ... If it is not found, I hope that it will continue with another search,” she said.

Family members of passengers from Malaysia, Australia, China and India paid tribute to their loved ones during the event, lighting a candle on stage to remember them.

“No matter if it is 10 years, 20 years or more, as long as we are still alive...we will not cease to press for the truth. We believe the truth will eventually come to light,” said Bai Zhong, from China, whose wife was on the plane.


Nikki Haley says she no longer feels bound by the GOP pledge requiring her to support the eventual nominee

Nikki Haley says she no longer feels bound by the GOP pledge requiring her to support the eventual nominee
Updated 04 March 2024
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Nikki Haley says she no longer feels bound by the GOP pledge requiring her to support the eventual nominee

Nikki Haley says she no longer feels bound by the GOP pledge requiring her to support the eventual nominee
  • Haley had signed the pledge required by the Republican National Committee, but current front-runner Donald Trump did not
  • She said “the RNC is now not the same RNC” as it was at the time of the debates and that she has always had “serious concerns” about Trump

WASHINGTON: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said Sunday she no longer feels bound by a pledge that required all GOP contenders to support the party’s eventual nominee in order to participate in the primary debates.

The Republican National Committee had made the pledge a prerequisite for all candidates, and nearly every major contender signed, except for Donald Trump, the current front-runner, who skipped the debates.
When Haley, Trump’s lone remaining major challenger for the nomination, was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether she was compelled to honor that commitment, she said, “No. I think I’ll make what decision I want to make.”
She said “the RNC is now not the same RNC” as it was at the time of the debates. She also maintained that she has always said she had “serious concerns” about Trump, for whom she served as UN ambassador.
The RNC is in the midst of major changes, with the chair, Ronna McDaniel, set to leave the job on Friday. She was Trump’s hand-picked choice to lead the RNC shortly after the 2016 election, but Trump now is poised to install loyalists atop the organization. He has announced his preference for North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley, a little-known veteran operative, to replace McDaniel. Trump also has picked his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to serve as committee co-chair.
Haley dismissed questions about whether she would drop out and eventually endorse Trump.
“Right now, my focus is, ‘How do we touch as many voters? How do we win?’” she said. “I want the American people to see that you don’t have to live this way. There is a path forward. And we can do it with someone who can put in eight years, that can constantly focus on results and not the negativity and the baggage that we have right now.”
Trump on Saturday continued his march toward the nomination, winning caucuses in Idaho and Missouri and sweeping the delegate haul at a party convention in Michigan.
Trump’s count is now 244, compared with 24 for Haley. A candidate needs to secure 1,215 delegates to clinch the nomination.
The next event on the Republican calendar was Sunday in the District of Columbia. Two days later is Super Tuesday, when 16 states will hold primaries on what will be the largest day of voting of the year outside of the November election. Trump is on track to lock up the nomination days later.
“I’ve always said this needs to be competitive. As long as we are competitive, as long as we are showing that there is a place for us, I’m going to continue to fight,” Haley said.


A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee

A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee
Updated 04 March 2024
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A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee

A chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the GOP nominee
  • 2 in 10 Iowa voters, one-third of New Hampshire voters, and one-quarter of South Carolina voters would be so disappointed by Trump’s renomination that they would refuse to vote for him in the fall
  • Anywhere between one-half and two-thirds of the staunchly anti-Trump voters in the early contests said they had voted for Biden in 2020

WASHINGTON: A small but substantial chunk of Republican primary and caucus voters say they would be so dissatisfied if Donald Trump became the party’s presidential nominee that they would not vote for him in November’s general election, according to AP VoteCast.

An analysis of the data shows that many of those voters were unlikely to vote for Trump, some even before this year, but it still points to potential problems for the former president as he looks to consolidate the nomination and pivot toward an expected rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.
According to AP VoteCast surveys of the first three head-to-head Republican contests, 2 in 10 Iowa voters, one-third of New Hampshire voters, and one-quarter of South Carolina voters would be so disappointed by Trump’s renomination that they would refuse to vote for him in the fall.
This unwillingness to contemplate a presidential vote for Trump isn’t confined to voters in the earliest states.
Lee and Bill Baltzell defected from the Republican Party to register as independents a year ago. They attended a rally for supporters of Trump’s last major rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, last week in Centennial, Colorado, to encourage her to keep running against Trump.
“We don’t know that Trump will run into more legal problems and be disqualified, and I’d rather not see Biden in there for another four years,” said Bill Baltzell, 60.
If it’s between Biden and Trump, Lee Baltzell, 58, said she would consider writing in an alternative.
“I don’t know. I did not vote for Biden the last time; I don’t know that I could do it this time. But I don’t know if I could vote for Trump.”
Opposition from voters like the Baltzells hasn’t slowed Trump’s march toward the nomination, but it could be an issue for him later on. It’s not clear how much of a problem, though, because a dive into the numbers shows that many of the “never-Trump” voters in the early states were unlikely to vote for him in the general election to begin with.
Many of the voters who said they wouldn’t vote for Trump as the nominee aren’t Republicans at all. In the first three head-to-head contests, anywhere from 17 percent to 31 percent of the voters who said they wouldn’t support Trump in the general election identified as Democrats, and between 14 percent and 27 percent identified as independents.
Even for some of those Republicans, voting for Trump was already a tough sell. Anywhere between one-half and two-thirds of the staunchly anti-Trump voters in the early contests said they had voted for Biden in 2020.
Then there is the fact that primaries tend to draw out the people with the most passionate opinions. Voter turnout in primaries and caucuses, particularly ones that are relatively uncompetitive, is typically lower than it would be in a general election.
Still, about 1 in 10 early contest voters who said they supported Trump in the 2020 general election said they wouldn’t be doing so this year.
One question, though, is whether that means they would vote for Trump’s opponent instead.
“I won’t vote for Trump, I’ll just say that. I voted for him twice; I could never vote for him again,” said Linda Binkley, 74, a registered Republican who isn’t pleased by the prospect of a Trump vs. Biden matchup. She added, “I’m not sure I can vote for Biden.”
If Trump becomes the nominee, he will likely need to win over some of the moderates who supported Biden in 2020 if he wants to return to the White House. From that perspective, even a small amount of opposition from within his own party — not to mention broader skepticism among independents — could be a problem in the future.

AP VoteCast is a series of surveys conducted among 1,597 Republican caucus voters in Iowa, 1,989 New Hampshire voters who took part in the Republican primary and 2,466 Republican primary voters in South Carolina. The surveys were conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.


Philippines foreign minister urges China: ‘stop harassing us’

Philippines foreign minister urges China: ‘stop harassing us’
Updated 04 March 2024
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Philippines foreign minister urges China: ‘stop harassing us’

Philippines foreign minister urges China: ‘stop harassing us’
  • China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory, brushing aside claims from a host of Southeast Asian nations

MELBOURNE: Philippine foreign minister Enrique Manalo told AFP on Monday that his country wants to solve maritime disputes with China peacefully — but delivered a simple message to Beijing: “stop harassing us.”
Speaking on the sidelines of an ASEAN-Australia summit in Melbourne, Manalo defended his government’s policy of publicizing Chinese maneuvers in contested maritime territory — including the recent passage of warships near Scarborough Shoal.
“It’s merely trying to inform the people of what’s going on,” Manalo said. “And some countries or one country at least has some difficulty with that.”
“But our simple explanation is if you would stop harassing us and, and perhaps performing other actions, there wouldn’t be any news to report.”
China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory, brushing aside claims from a host of Southeast Asian nations.
Scarborough Shoal — a triangular chain of reefs and rocks in the disputed South China Sea — has been a flashpoint between the countries since China seized it from the Philippines in 2012.
Philippine governments have tried to rally international and regional support to their cause — with mixed results.
“The Philippines is committed to a peaceful resolution of disputes through diplomatic means, or peaceful means,” Manalo said, while insisting “this will not be done at the expense of our national interest.”
“We are reaching out to partners in like-minded countries with similar issues and similar concerns.”
But Manalo acknowledged there were was at least a small question mark over support from the Philippines’ most important security partner — the United States.
The two countries are treaty allies, meaning Washington has formally pledged to come to Manila’s defense in the event of a military conflict.
Ask about the November election — which will pit incumbent Joe Biden against Republican firebrand Donal Trump, he said it was a topic of frequent debate behind closed doors.
“Every country in the world is probably thinking of that, of course. The United States is a major, it’s a treaty ally of the Philippines. So obviously, any differences or changes in US policy from existing policies would most likely have some kind of effect.”
“At this stage it’s fairly difficult to assess how it would happen, or what would happen,” he said.
“But all I can say is we are, of course, carefully monitoring the election season in the United States, but I’ve had talks with many of my other colleagues from other countries, and I think everybody is doing the same.”
“So certainly all eyes will be riveted on that election this year.”