G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine

G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine
President Joe Biden is among the participants at the G7 summit in Italy. (File/AP)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine

G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine
  • The Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence are also on the packed agenda
  • For a second year running, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit, taking part in talks on Thursday

BARI: Group of Seven leaders will aim to boost funding for Ukraine in its war with Russia and offer a united face in confronting China’s political and economic ambitions at their annual summit in southern Italy on Thursday.
For a second year running, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit, taking part in talks on Thursday, and he is due to sign a new, long-term security accord with US President Joe Biden.
The G7 leaders look likely to announce they have agreed at least in principle on plans to issue $50 billion of loans for Ukraine using interest from Russian sovereign assets frozen after its invasion of Ukraine to back the multi-year debt package.
“I think we will have the major tentpoles of this decided, but some of the specifics left to be worked through by experts on a defined timetable,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said of the discussions.
“I think we are on the verge of a good outcome here,” he added.
Officials acknowledge the plan is complex, with legal experts still having to thrash out the details that will need the backing of European nations, particularly Belgium, which is not in the G7.

Packed Agenda
With the Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence also on a packed agenda, the June 13-15 summit in the southern Italian region of Puglia would be taxing for leaders at the best of times, but most of them are also bowed down by their own domestic woes.
Only the host, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, is riding high after triumphing in Italy’s European election last weekend, but achieving meaningful results in the luxury Borgo Egnazia hotel resort will be a tall order.
Biden’s goal at the G7 was to reinforce the idea that the United States is best served if it is closely aligned with its democratic allies and partners, Sullivan said, when asked about the prospects of it being the president’s last summit given he faces a re-election battle in November.
Underscoring US determination to punish Moscow for its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Washington on Wednesday dramatically broadened sanctions on Moscow, including by targeting China-based companies selling semiconductors to Moscow.
By announcing new restrictions on Chinese firms on the eve of the G7 meeting, Biden is no doubt hoping to persuade Western allies to show greater resolve in confronting Beijing over its support for Russia and its industrial over-capacity.
Speaking ahead of the start of the summit, Sullivan said that China was a significant creditor to many heavily indebted countries.
“The G7 communique is not singling out or focusing on a single country,” he said, but added that China needed to play a constructive role in dealing with the debt burden.


Halt Gaza war now, Trump tells Netanyahu

Halt Gaza war now, Trump tells Netanyahu
Updated 13 min 31 sec ago
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Halt Gaza war now, Trump tells Netanyahu

Halt Gaza war now, Trump tells Netanyahu

JEDDAH: Israeli forces killed at least 30 more Palestinians in Gaza on Thursday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks in Washington with the US president and vice president.

In Florida on Friday Netanyahu will meet Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who used a TV interview on Thursday to urge the Israeli leader to halt the war. “You have to end this fast. It can’t continue to go on like this. It’s too long. It’s too much,” Trump said.

Netanyahu took part in separate meetings at the White House with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic nominee in November’s presidential election.

Biden has offered Netanyahu almost unlimited financial and military support in his war on Gaza, but the president has also been increasingly critical of Israel over the Palestinian death toll, and denounced restrictions on the amount of aid getting through to the enclave, much of which has been reduced to rubble.
In Gaza on Thursday at least 30 Palestinians were killed in airstrikes and shelling as Israeli forces pushed deeper into towns on the eastern side of Khan Younis and tanks advanced in central Rafah.

Fighting has centred on the eastern towns of Bani Suaila, Al-Zanna and Al-Karara. Strikes there killed 14 Palestinians, several were wounded by tank and aerial shelling, and an airstrike east of Khan Younis killed four people.
Israeli bombardment intensified in several areas in Rafah near the Egypt border as tanks operated north, west and in the town center. Deir Al-Balah, where tanks have not yet invaded, is currently crowded with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from other areas of the enclave.


Gaza war protesters hold a ‘die-in’ near the White House as Netanyahu meets with Biden, Harris

Gaza war protesters hold a ‘die-in’ near the White House as Netanyahu meets with Biden, Harris
Updated 16 sec ago
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Gaza war protesters hold a ‘die-in’ near the White House as Netanyahu meets with Biden, Harris

Gaza war protesters hold a ‘die-in’ near the White House as Netanyahu meets with Biden, Harris
The protesters poured red liquid onto the street, saying it symbolized the blood of those killed in Gaza.
They chanted, “Arrest Netanyahu,” and brought in an effigy of Netanyahu with blood on its hands and wearing an orange jumpsuit

WASHINGTON: Protesters against the Gaza war held a “die-in” across from Lafayette Park and the White House on Thursday as President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The protesters poured red liquid onto the street, saying it symbolized the blood of those killed in Gaza. They chanted, “Arrest Netanyahu,” and brought in an effigy of Netanyahu with blood on its hands and wearing an orange jumpsuit. The jumpsuit reads, “Wanted for crimes against humanity.”
More than 39,000 people have died in Gaza since the start of the war in October. Dozens of Israeli hostages remain in Hamas captivity.
In an address to Congress on Wednesday, Netanyahu defended Israel’s conduct during the war, as thousands of demonstrators massed near the Capitol, marching through city streets carrying Palestinian flags and calling for Netanyahu’s arrest.
Outside Washington’s Union Station, protesters removed American flags and hoisted Palestinian ones in their place to massive cheers in the crowd. They sprayed graffiti on a monument to Christopher Columbus.
In a statement Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, spoke strongly about the protesters’ actions.
“Pro-Hamas graffiti and rhetoric is abhorrent, and we must not tolerate it in our nation,” she said. “I condemn the burning of the American flag. That flag is a symbol of our highest ideals as a nation and represents the promise of America. It should never be desecrated in that way.”
The number of protesters Thursday was significantly smaller than the day before.
Hazami Barmada, who described herself as a grassroots activist, spoke through a megaphone of Biden’s decision not to see reelection and to pass the baton to Harris.
“Biden did not voluntarily leave the race, Joe Biden was pushed out of the race,” she said. “And Kamala Harris still needs to prove her humanity” before earning the trust of pro-Palestinian voters.
“I’m not going to give you my vote until you show you share the ideals that the Democratic Party is supposed to believe in,” she said.
At one point, a young man with an Israeli flag draped over his shoulders walked into the middle of the protest circle and posed for the journalists’ cameras as the crowd jeered.
Police worked to keep the two sides apart.
As police led the man away — he wasn’t detained — Barmada shouted, “See, they even want to occupy our protests. Even our land isn’t enough!”
As police cleared the way, the protesters later marched through city streets toward the National Mall.

Prosecutors urge judge not to toss out Trump’s hush money conviction, pushing back on immunity claim

Prosecutors urge judge not to toss out Trump’s hush money conviction, pushing back on immunity claim
Updated 17 min 10 sec ago
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Prosecutors urge judge not to toss out Trump’s hush money conviction, pushing back on immunity claim

Prosecutors urge judge not to toss out Trump’s hush money conviction, pushing back on immunity claim
  • the high court’s opinion “has no bearing” on the hush money case: attorney’s office

NEW YORK: Prosecutors are urging a judge to uphold Donald Trump’s historic hush money conviction, arguing in court papers released Thursday that the verdict should stand despite the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on presidential immunity.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office said in a court filing that the high court’s opinion “has no bearing” on the hush money case and does not support vacating the jury’s unanimous verdict or dismissing the case.
Prosecutors said Trump’s lawyers failed to raise the immunity issue in a timely fashion and that, even so, the case involved unofficial acts — many pertaining to events prior to his election — that are not subject to immunity.
Lawyers for the former president and current Republican nominee are trying to get the verdict — and even the indictment — tossed out because of the Supreme Court’s July 1 decision. It gave presidents considerable protection from prosecution.
The ruling came about a month after a Manhattan jury found Trump guilty of falsifying business records to conceal a deal to pay off porn actor Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election. At the time, she was considering going public with a story of a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, who says no such thing happened. He has denied any wrongdoing.
He was a private citizen when his lawyer paid Daniels. But Trump was president when the attorney was reimbursed. Prosecutors say those repayments were misleadingly logged simply as legal expenses in Trump’s company records.
The attorney, Michael Cohen, testified that he and the then-president discussed the repayment arrangement in the Oval Office.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that prosecutors rushed to trial instead of waiting for the Supreme Court’s view on presidential immunity, and that the trial was “tainted” by evidence that shouldn’t have been allowed under the high court’s ruling.
Judge Juan M. Merchan plans to rule on the Trump attorneys’ request Sept. 6. He has set Trump’s sentencing for Sept. 18, “if such is still necessary” after he reaches his conclusions about immunity.


Thousands flee fast-spreading wildfire in northern California

Thousands flee fast-spreading wildfire in northern California
Updated 24 min 49 sec ago
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Thousands flee fast-spreading wildfire in northern California

Thousands flee fast-spreading wildfire in northern California
  • More than 3,500 people had evacuated the area, Governor Gavin Newsom said

LOS ANGELES: Firefighters were battling a fast-moving wildfire in the US state of California on Thursday, authorities said, with more than 3,500 people forced to flee their homes.
The Park Fire, enveloping more than 71,000 acres, broke out Wednesday evening, on the last day of a heat wave affecting the region.
More than 1,150 personnel were deployed to fight the blaze, which was only three percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
As of 12:00 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Thursday, the fire had enveloped 71,489 acres (290 square kilometers), according to CalFire.
More than 3,500 people had evacuated the area, Governor Gavin Newsom said.
The town of Chico, under threat from the fire, is located just 12 miles (20 kilometers) west of Paradise, a town that was destroyed by a massive wildfire in 2018, resulting in the deaths of 85 people.
The cause of the Park Fire remains under investigation, according to CalFire.
On Thursday, the National Weather Service issued a “red flag” weather warning for “critical fire weather conditions” in the area, including wind gusts and low humidity.
The western United States has experienced several heat waves since the beginning of June, and dozens of fires are currently burning in the region.
Oregon, California’s northern neighbor, is battling a megafire that is the largest in the country, having ravaged more than 268,000 acres of forest and prompting evacuations in a rural region.
The raging flames have created vast columns of smoke, affecting air quality as far away as neighboring Idaho.
Wildfires were also burning in western Canada, where part of the tourist town of Jasper has been destroyed.
Western North America has increasingly been affected by extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change.
In mid-July, Newsom warned of a fire season that was “shaping up to be very active.”


Argentine President Milei travels to France to meet Macron after outcry over racist soccer chants

Argentine President Milei travels to France to meet Macron after outcry over racist soccer chants
Updated 25 min 43 sec ago
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Argentine President Milei travels to France to meet Macron after outcry over racist soccer chants

Argentine President Milei travels to France to meet Macron after outcry over racist soccer chants
  • The Argentine presidency said that in addition to meeting Macron and other French officials at the Elysee Palace on Friday, Milei would attend the 2024 Olympic opening ceremony
  • Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, said she held “constructive” talks about Milei’s libertarian reforms with Argentine Economy Minister Luis Caputo

BUENOS AIRES: Argentine President Javier Milei arrived Thursday in Paris, his office said, where he is expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron after tensions escalated between their countries over the Argentine soccer team’s derogatory post-match chants about French players.
A short clip captured during Argentina’s Copa America victory celebrations in Miami earlier this month shows triumphant Argentine players chanting a song considered racist toward French players of African heritage. “They play for France but their parents are from Angola,” the refrain goes, with some transphobic slurs mixed in.
French officials castigated the Argentina athletes in the Instagram live video posted by midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who publicly apologized. The French soccer federation filed a legal complaint over the “unacceptable racist and discriminatory remarks.” Fernandez’s English club Chelsea started an internal disciplinary procedure.
“Argentina is the enemy in France,” was a headline Thursday in Argentine newspaper Clarín, citing the deafening boos and jeers that greeted the Argentine national anthem in Paris.
Censure from the soccer world snowballed into a political scandal last week when Argentina’s conservative vice president, Victoria Villarruel, defended Fernandez and the team, saying that Argentina would not tolerate criticism from a “colonialist” country.
In a widely shared social media post, she insisted that Argentina was not a racist country because, unlike France, “We never had colonies or second-class citizens. We never imposed our way of life on anyone.”
“Enough with faking indignation, hypocrites,” she added.
French diplomats in Buenos Aires were seething.
President Milei, a right-wing populist, has sought to walk a fine line — nodding to the upswell of nationalism buoying the Argentina team while attempting to curb diplomatic backlash. Already, Milei’s rhetorical attacks on leaders and enthusiasm for the far-right have sparked diplomatic rows with Argentina’s historic allies and major foreign investors, Brazil and Spain.
Last week, Milei removed the undersecretary of sport, Julio Garro, from his post for requesting that team captain Lionel Messi apologize for the chants. “No government can tell the Argentine national team, world champion and two-time champion of Copa America, what to comment, what to think or what to do,” Milei’s office said at the time.
But more recently the presidential spokesperson, Manuel Adorni, has tried to distance Milei from what he called Villarruel’s “personal” and “unfortunate” comments.
He said that Karina Milei, the president’s sister and general secretary, took it upon herself to disavow Villarruel’s remarks in a meeting with the French ambassador last week.
“It’s a comment that does not represent the opinion of the government,” Adorni said of Villarruel’s post. “Relations with France are intact.”
But controversy has only mounted after chaos engulfed the Olympic men’s soccer match between Argentina and Morocco.
Doubling down on her nationalist messaging, Vice President Villarruel posted footage of Wednesday’s incident, showing Morocco fans invade the field and rain bottles and other objects down on Argentine players in an outpouring of anger over Argentina’s late goal.
“Although they insult us and whistle our anthem, Argentina is destined for greatness,” she wrote.
The Argentine presidency said that in addition to meeting Macron and other French officials at the Elysee Palace on Friday, Milei would attend the 2024 Olympic opening ceremony and hold talks with French business leaders.
The investment-focused meetings come as Argentina seeks to lobby for support from major shareholders of the International Monetary Fund, including France and the US, to reach a new deal for extra funds.
Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, said she held “constructive” talks about Milei’s libertarian reforms with Argentine Economy Minister Luis Caputo on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro, where G20 finance ministers were gathering.
As in previous months, Georgieva praised Argentina’s performance in fighting inflation and slashing the deficit, writing on X, “We are committed to support the govt’s efforts to turn around the economy for the benefit of Argentine people.”
But she said nothing about an imminent new loan for the crisis-stricken country.
Argentina — the IMF’s biggest debtor — needs more cash to pay the fund back for past borrowing under the program, originally worth $57 billion in 2018.
Analysts say that right-wing Milei is pinning his hopes on Donald Trump becoming president of the US, the IMF’s main stakeholder.
“The expectation of the government is that a Trump administration would be more politically favorable to Milei and that by early next year it would exert some pressure on the IMF,” said Marcelo J. García, Americas director at geopolitical risk firm Horizon Engage.