France’s support for Ukraine ‘will not waver’, Macron vows

France’s support for Ukraine ‘will not waver’, Macron vows
French President Emmanuel Macron attends the national tribute to the Armenian communist resistance fighter Missak Manouchian and his comrades at the Pantheon in Paris, France.
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Updated 24 February 2024
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France’s support for Ukraine ‘will not waver’, Macron vows

France’s support for Ukraine ‘will not waver’, Macron vows

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin early Saturday not to “count on any fatigue from Europeans” over the war in Ukraine, pledging that France’s support for Kyiv “will not waver.”
“Battered and bruised, but still standing. Ukraine is fighting for itself, for its ideals, for our Europe. Our commitment at its side will not waver,” he wrote in a message on X marking the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion, which falls on Saturday.
A separate statement from Macron’s office touted the European Union’s support for Kyiv, including accepting refugees, offering civil and military aid, and levelling sanctions on Moscow.
“President Putin’s Russia must not count on any fatigue from Europeans,” the statement said.
“France is also committed to continuing its support on all fronts, including the supply of military equipment, cooperation between defense industries through the development of co-productions, training, intelligence and civilian aid,” it added.
“The outcome of this war will be decisive for European interests, values and security.”
The French pledge of support came as other key Ukrainian allies renewed their commitment to assisting Kyiv.
US President Joe Biden on Friday announced more than 500 new sanctions against Russia, while vowing sustained pressure to stop President Vladimir Putin’s “war machine.”
The sanctions, described as the largest single tranche since the start of the war, also seek to impose a cost for the death last week in a Siberian prison of Putin’s most vocal critic, Alexei Navalny.
Britain, meanwhile, announced Saturday a new £245 million ($311 million) defense package to help boost the production of “urgently needed artillery ammunition” for Ukraine, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisting in an earlier statement that “tyranny will never triumph.”


Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report

Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report
Updated 15 April 2024
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Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report

Pakistan, Sri Lanka could benefit from debt-for-nature swaps to fight climate change — report
  • Debt-for-nature swaps refers to when poorer countries have debt written off in return for protecting ecosystems
  • Swaps could provide $100 billion for fight against climate change, new report by British non-profit organization says

LONDON: Debt-for-nature swaps, where poorer countries have debt written off in return for protecting ecosystems such as barrier reefs or rainforests, could provide $100 billion for the fight against climate change, a new report has calculated.

The UK-based, non-profit International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) based the estimate on the possibility of debt swaps in many of the 49 less developed countries seen as most at risk of debt crises.

Belize, Ecuador, Barbados, Gabon and Cabo Verde have all done such swaps in recent years and Laura Kelly, the director of IIED’s sustainable markets research group, said many of those in debt distress and also often most threatened by global warming, were looking at them.

The IMF and World Bank, whose figures the analysis is based on, estimate the countries focused on collectively owe $431 billion, mostly to wealthier governments, the IMF itself and pension and hedge funds.

At the same time, these countries received less than $14 billion in climate finance according to OECD figures from 2021, which is significantly less than they need to limit climate change or at least adapt to it.

The aim of IIED’s report is to encourage a drive for more debt swaps at the upcoming IMF and World Bank Spring meetings which start later this week.

Kelly said countries that could benefit included Pakistan, Sri Lanka and The Gambia in West Africa, which is at “huge risk” of sea level rise she stressed and needs to invest heavily in flood prevention and wetland preservation.

Ghana too, which like Sri Lanka is now restructuring its debt, is another obvious candidate. One of its key exports, cocoa beans used for chocolate, could thrive if more is done to protect its vital rainforests.

“For governments (that do debt swaps) it creates some fiscal space, but also it helps to achieve outcomes in terms of climate and nature that have global impact,” Kelly said, adding that many countries were interested in potentially doing them.


At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack

At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack
Updated 50 min 34 sec ago
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At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack

At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack
  • If US attacks Iran, Tehran will use “inherent right to respond proportionately,” says Iranian envoy
  • Tensions in Middle East escalated on Saturday when Iran launched dozens of drones, missiles at Israel

NEW YORK: Iran has on Sunday said that it has no intention of engaging militarily with the US in the region, but if the latter initiates a military operation against it, its citizens, or security interests “Iran will use its inherent right to respond proportionately." 

Iran’s permanent representative to the UN Amir Saeid Iravani told a meeting of the UN Security council that his country’s Saturday attack on Israel was "precise, only targeted military objectives and was carried out carefully to minimize the potential for escalation and prevents civilian harm." 

Iran on Saturday launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation against an Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which killed seven revolutionary guards, including two generals. Iran had warned that Israel would be “punished” for the strike, which took place on April 1. 

The emergency Security Council meeting was requested by Israel’s permanent representative to the UN Gilad Erdan who called council members to “unequivocally condemn Iran (and) immediately act to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization.” 

Iran had said that Saturday’s attack was in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter, which invokes the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” 

US ambassador Robert Wood warned that “if Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States or further action against Israel, Iran will be held responsible. " 

Wood condemned in the strongest terms "the unprecedented attack on Israel by Iran and its militant proxies and partners.” Iran's "reckless actions" not only posed a threat to populations in Israel, but also to other UN member states in the region, including Jordan and Iraq, he added.  

"Security Council has an obligation to not let Iran actions go unanswered,” said the US diplomat, adding that "for far too long, Iran has flagrantly violated its international legal obligations through the actions of its IRGC, by arming Hezbollah, by arming, facilitating and enabling Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE and more recently, merchant and commercial shipping in the Red Sea.” 

Wood also accused Iran of being complicit in the October 7 attack on Israel, having provided “significant funding and training for Hamas.”  

He said the US will explore “additional measures to hold Iran accountable at the UN,” and called on the Security Council to unequivocally condemn Iran's actions and call for it “and its partners and proxies to cease their attacks. " 

Israel’s Gilad Erdan compared Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Hitler. He said that in its “plot to impose a global Shiite hegemony through its proxies, Iran has even attacked Saudi Arabia, the Aramco oil field in the UAE and anyone else they view as an obstacle.” 

"The only option is to condemn Iran and utilize every means necessary to make them pay a heavy price for their horrible crimes,” Erdan told the council, as he warned that Tehran is “barreling towards nuclear capabilities, has enriched uranium up to 60% purity, and its breakout time to produce nuclear weapons is now mere weeks away.  

“Impose sanctions on Iran before it is too late," said Erdan. 

Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan shows a video of the Iran missile attack during a meeting  of the Security Council on Middle East security on April 14, 2024. (REUTERS)

The Israeli envoy added that "we are being fired upon from all fronts, from every border. We are surrounded by Iran's terror proxies. The war in Gaza extends far broader than Israel and Hamas. All of the terror groups attacking Israel are tentacles of the same Shia octopus, the Iranian octopus." 

He warned that "while the Ayatollah regime thinks Israel is a frog in boiling water. They are wrong. This attack crossed every red line and Israel reserves the legal right to retaliate.  We are a nation of lions. Following such a massive and direct attack on Israel, the entire world let alone Israel cannot settle for inaction." 

Russia's Vasily Nebenzia accused the council of hypocrisy and double standard over its failure to convene in a similar fashion following Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, or what he called the “now regular attacks by Israel against Syria and Lebanon.” 

The Russian envoy warned that “if the council’s inaction on such matters will continue "then your appeals to restraint by all parties can become futile." 

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the Security Council of hypocrisy and double standard for not convening in a similar fashion following Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. (Getty Images/AFP)

China's deputy permanent representative Dai Bing noted Iran’s statement that its military action was in response to Israel's aggression against his diplomatic premises and “the matter can be deemed concluded." 

Dai added that "if the flames of the Gaza conflict are allowed to continue raging, then the adverse spillover is set to spread still further, making the region, even more unstable. Countries and peoples in the Middle East, have no desire for nor can they afford a larger conflict or war." 

Algeria's Deputy Permanent Representative Nacim Gaouaoui said recent developments cannot overrule the central question “which is the aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza, and at the same time, it can never be used as a pretext or cover to launch a land attack against Rafah.  

“Algeria calls again for ceasefire, and an end to Israel's heinous killing machine.” 

Slovenia's Samuel Zbogar condemned the attacks on Israel in same way Slovenia condemned the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus earlier in April. 

"The sequence of these events accelerates the spiral of violence, escalating into a broader conflict of unpredictable scope,” Zbogar said, as he urged all parties to “choose the path of dialogue and diplomacy, and refrain from further retaliations." 

"Slovenia continues to believe that a ceasefire in Gaza would have a calming effect on tensions in the region. Every moment we delay the risk of a broader conflict increases in these chaotic times," added Zbogar.  

Malta's UN ambassador Vanessa Frazier said the Middle East is experiencing “one of the bleakest and most volatile periods in modern history, which risks spiraling out of control if all sides do not take a step back. 

"Focus should be on defusing tensions by advocating for an immediate and permanent cease fire to the war in Gaza, facilitate immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and ensure the delivery of sustained humanitarian aid throughout Gaza. All we are witnessing, our steps in the opposite direction," lamented Frazier.  

Sierra Leone’s UN ambassador Michael Imran Kanu warned that “the escalating tension in the Middle East is dangerous and unprecedented, with the potential to destabilize not only the entire region, but impact global peace and security.” 

UK’s permanent representative to the UN Barbara Woodward condemned Iran’s attack on Israel and accused Tehran of being intent on sowing chaos in the region.   

Britain's UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward, addressing the Security Council meeting, accused Iran of being intent on sowing chaos in the Mideast region. (AP)

“As we have demonstrated, the United Kingdom will continue to stand up for Israel's security, and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq.” 

France’s deputy permanent representative Nathalie Broadhurst said Iran crossed a new threshold in its destabilizing action and is risking a military escalation for which “it would be responsible.”  

Broadhurst called upon Tehran and its allies “to at long last, and without further delay cease their destabilizing activities throughout the region.” 


Ukraine’s top commander says Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9

Ukraine’s top commander says Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9
Updated 15 April 2024
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Ukraine’s top commander says Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9

Ukraine’s top commander says Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9
  • Fighting getting harder on eastern front, Zelensky says
  • Russia pushing toward Donetsk region town on high ground

KYIV: Ukraine’s top commander said on Sunday Russian forces aimed to capture the town of Chasiv Yar by May 9, setting the stage for an important battle for control of high ground in the east where Russia is focusing its assaults.

The fall of the town west of the shattered city of Bakhmut by the date Moscow marks the Soviet victory in World War Two would indicate growing Russian battlefield momentum as Kyiv faces a slowdown in Western military aid.
Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who warned this weekend that the situation in the east had deteriorated, said Russia was focusing its efforts west of occupied Bakhmut to try to capture Chasiv Yar before moving toward the city of Kramatorsk.
Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region lies 5-10 kilometers (3-6 miles) from Bakhmut, the devastated city captured by Russian forces in May last year after months of bloody fighting.
Kyiv’s brigades were holding back the assaults near Chasiv Yar for now and had been reinforced with ammunition, drones and electronic warfare devices, he said in a statement on the Telegram messenger.
“The threat remains relevant, taking into account the fact that the higher Russian military leadership has set its troops the task of capturing Chasiv Yar by May 9,” he said, without elaborating.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, writing on Facebook, said he visited Ukrainian units on the eastern front on Sunday and described the situation as “tense,” with Russia trying to make headway in areas west of Bakhmut.

“Despite the numerical superiority of the enemy, we effectively disrupt these plans thanks to the courage, training and professionalism of the defenders,” he wrote.
Russia marks May 9 with a big military parade on Red Square overseen by President Vladimir Putin who won a new six-year term in the Kremlin at a tightly-controlled election in March.

Attacks on the energy system
The war has escalated in recent weeks with Russia staging three massive air strikes on Ukrainian power plants and substations, raising fears over the resilience of an energy system that was hobbled in the war’s first winter.
President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians in his nightly address on Sunday: “The situation at the front during such a hot war is always difficult. But these days — and especially on the Donetsk front — it’s getting harder.”
The Ukrainian leader has warned the Kremlin may be preparing to launch a big offensive in late spring or summer.
It is unclear where that attack would come, but Russia has focused its attacking efforts in the Donetsk region.
Ukraine has this year tried to find a pressure point to strike back against the Kremlin, using domestically-produced long-range drones to bomb oil facilities deep inside Russia.
Ukraine now faces manpower challenges and artillery shell shortages.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a think-tank in Philadelphia, said on X that Chasiv Yar would likely prove an important battle.
“Chasiv Yar is located on defensible high ground. If Russia takes the (town), they could potentially increase the rate of advance deeper into Donetsk (region) as part of an expected summer offensive,” he said.
“Russian forces will still have to cross the canal to take the (town), but they have now reached the canal southeast of the (town). Immediate increased deliveries of ammunition could prove critical.”


Police probe killer’s targeting of women in Sydney mall attack

Police probe killer’s targeting of women in Sydney mall attack
Updated 15 April 2024
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Police probe killer’s targeting of women in Sydney mall attack

Police probe killer’s targeting of women in Sydney mall attack
  • Cauchi’s assault, which lasted about half an hour, was brought to an end when solo police inspector Amy Scott shot him dead

SYDNEY: Australian police said Monday they are investigating why a 40-year-old man with mental illness appeared to target women as he roamed a Sydney shopping mall with a large knife, killing six people and injuring a dozen more.
Videos shared on social media showed unshaven itinerant Joel Cauchi pursuing mostly female victims as he rampaged through the vast, crowded Westfield shopping complex in Bondi Junction on Saturday afternoon.
Five of the six victims killed were women, as well as most of those wounded.
“The videos speak for themselves don’t they, and that’s certainly a line of inquiry for us,” New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb said.
“That’s obvious to me, it’s obvious to detectives, that that seems to be an area of interest — that the offender had focused on women and avoided men,” she told national broadcaster ABC.
Webb stressed that police could not know what was in the mind of the attacker.
“That’s why it’s important now that detectives spend so much time interviewing those who know him.”
Cauchi’s Facebook profile said he came from Toowoomba, near Brisbane, and had attended a local high school and university.
A distinctive grey, red and yellow dragon tattoo on his right arm was used to help identify him.
The last of Cauchi’s six victims was identified Monday as Yixuan Cheng, a young Chinese woman who was a student.
The other women killed were a designer, a volunteer surf lifesaver, the daughter of an entrepreneur, and a new mother whose wounded nine-month-old baby is in hospital.
The mother, 38-year-old Ashlee Good, handed her injured baby girl to strangers in desperation before being rushed to hospital where she died of her wounds.
The baby, named Harriet, remains in a stable condition in a Sydney hospital, police said.
Good’s family described her as “a beautiful mother, daughter, sister, partner, friend, all-round outstanding human and so much more.”
“To the two men who held and cared for our baby when Ashlee could not — words cannot express our gratitude,” they said in a statement to Australian media.
The only man killed was 30-year-old Pakistani man Faraz Tahir, who had been working as a security guard when he was stabbed.
Cauchi’s assault, which lasted about half an hour, was brought to an end when solo police inspector Amy Scott shot him dead.
Following the shooting, Scott — who has been hailed as a hero — was spending time with her family to deal with the “very traumatic matter,” the state police chief said.
In a statement, Cauchi’s parents offered thoughts for the victims and said their son’s actions were “truly horrific.”
“We are still trying to comprehend what has happened. He has battled with mental health issues since he was a teenager.”
The parents also sent a message to the officer who shot their son dead.
“She was only doing her job to protect others and we hope she is coping alright,” they said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had spoken to the families of some of the victims.
“The gender break-down is of course concerning — each and every victim here is mourned,” he told ABC radio, promising a “comprehensive” police investigation.
Cauchi is believed to have traveled to Sydney about a month ago and hired a small storage unit in the city, according to police. It contained personal belongings, including a boogie board.
He had been living in a vehicle and hostels, and was only in sporadic contact with his family via text messages, his parents said.


At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack

At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack
Updated 15 April 2024
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At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack

At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over attack
  • Iran envoy: If US attacks Iran, Tehran will use “its inherent right to respond proportionately” 
  • US ambassador: If Iran attacks US, it will be held responsible

NEW YORK: Iran has on Sunday said that it has no intention of engaging militarily with the US in the region, but if the latter initiates a military operation against it, its citizens, or security interests “Iran will use its inherent right to respond proportionately." 

Iran’s permanent representative to the UN Amir Saeid Iravani told a meeting of the UN Security council that his country’s Saturday attack on Israel was "precise, only targeted military objectives and was carried out carefully to minimize the potential for escalation and prevents civilian harm." 

 

 

Iran on Saturday launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation against an Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which killed seven revolutionary guards, including two generals. Iran had warned that Israel would be “punished” for the strike, which took place on April 1. 

The emergency Security Council meeting was requested by Israel’s permanent representative to the UN Gilad Erdan who called council members to “unequivocally condemn Iran (and) immediately act to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization.” 

Iran had said that Saturday’s attack was in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter, which invokes the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” 

US ambassador Robert Wood warned that “if Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States or further action against Israel, Iran will be held responsible. " 

Wood condemned in the strongest terms "the unprecedented attack on Israel by Iran and its militant proxies and partners.” Iran's "reckless actions" not only posed a threat to populations in Israel, but also to other UN member states in the region, including Jordan and Iraq, he added.  

"Security Council has an obligation to not let Iran actions go unanswered,” said the US diplomat, adding that "for far too long, Iran has flagrantly violated its international legal obligations through the actions of its IRGC, by arming Hezbollah, by arming, facilitating and enabling Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE and more recently, merchant and commercial shipping in the Red Sea.” 

 

 

Wood also accused Iran of being complicit in the October 7 attack on Israel, having provided “significant funding and training for Hamas.”  

He said the US will explore “additional measures to hold Iran accountable at the UN,” and called on the Security Council to unequivocally condemn Iran's actions and call for it “and its partners and proxies to cease their attacks. " 

Israel’s Gilad Erdan compared Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Hitler. He said that in its “plot to impose a global Shiite hegemony through its proxies, Iran has even attacked Saudi Arabia, the Aramco oil field in the UAE and anyone else they view as an obstacle.” 

"The only option is to condemn Iran and utilize every means necessary to make them pay a heavy price for their horrible crimes,” Erdan told the council, as he warned that Tehran is “barreling towards nuclear capabilities, has enriched uranium up to 60% purity, and its breakout time to produce nuclear weapons is now mere weeks away.  

“Impose sanctions on Iran before it is too late," said Erdan. 

Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan shows a video of the Iran missile attack during a meeting  of the Security Council on Middle East security on April 14, 2024. (REUTERS)

The Israeli envoy added that "we are being fired upon from all fronts, from every border. We are surrounded by Iran's terror proxies. The war in Gaza extends far broader than Israel and Hamas. All of the terror groups attacking Israel are tentacles of the same Shia octopus, the Iranian octopus." 

He warned that "while the Ayatollah regime thinks Israel is a frog in boiling water. They are wrong. This attack crossed every red line and Israel reserves the legal right to retaliate.  We are a nation of lions. Following such a massive and direct attack on Israel, the entire world let alone Israel cannot settle for inaction." 

Russia's Vasily Nebenzia accused the council of hypocrisy and double standard over its failure to convene in a similar fashion following Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, or what he called the “now regular attacks by Israel against Syria and Lebanon.” 

The Russian envoy warned that “if the council’s inaction on such matters will continue "then your appeals to restraint by all parties can become futile." 

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the Security Council of hypocrisy and double standard for not convening in a similar fashion following Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. (Getty Images/AFP)

China's deputy permanent representative Dai Bing noted Iran’s statement that its military action was in response to Israel's aggression against his diplomatic premises and “the matter can be deemed concluded." 

Dai added that "if the flames of the Gaza conflict are allowed to continue raging, then the adverse spillover is set to spread still further, making the region, even more unstable. Countries and peoples in the Middle East, have no desire for nor can they afford a larger conflict or war." 

Algeria's Deputy Permanent Representative Nacim Gaouaoui said recent developments cannot overrule the central question “which is the aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza, and at the same time, it can never be used as a pretext or cover to launch a land attack against Rafah.  

“Algeria calls again for ceasefire, and an end to Israel's heinous killing machine.” 

Slovenia's Samuel Zbogar condemned the attacks on Israel in same way Slovenia condemned the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus earlier in April. 

"The sequence of these events accelerates the spiral of violence, escalating into a broader conflict of unpredictable scope,” Zbogar said, as he urged all parties to “choose the path of dialogue and diplomacy, and refrain from further retaliations." 

"Slovenia continues to believe that a ceasefire in Gaza would have a calming effect on tensions in the region. Every moment we delay the risk of a broader conflict increases in these chaotic times," added Zbogar.  

Malta's UN ambassador Vanessa Frazier said the Middle East is experiencing “one of the bleakest and most volatile periods in modern history, which risks spiraling out of control if all sides do not take a step back. 

"Focus should be on defusing tensions by advocating for an immediate and permanent cease fire to the war in Gaza, facilitate immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and ensure the delivery of sustained humanitarian aid throughout Gaza. All we are witnessing, our steps in the opposite direction," lamented Frazier.  

Sierra Leone’s UN ambassador Michael Imran Kanu warned that “the escalating tension in the Middle East is dangerous and unprecedented, with the potential to destabilize not only the entire region, but impact global peace and security.” 

UK’s permanent representative to the UN Barbara Woodward condemned Iran’s attack on Israel and accused Tehran of being intent on sowing chaos in the region.   

Britain's UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward, addressing the Security Council meeting, accused Iran of being intent on sowing chaos in the Mideast region. (AP)

“As we have demonstrated, the United Kingdom will continue to stand up for Israel's security, and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq.” 

France’s deputy permanent representative Nathalie Broadhurst said Iran crossed a new threshold in its destabilizing action and is risking a military escalation for which “it would be responsible.”  

Broadhurst called upon Tehran and its allies “to at long last, and without further delay cease their destabilizing activities throughout the region.”