NATO chief says Russia, North Korea pact shows mutual support by authoritarian powers

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responds to a reporter's question during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 20 June 2024
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NATO chief says Russia, North Korea pact shows mutual support by authoritarian powers

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said North Korea had provided “an enormous amount of ammunition” to Russia while both China and Iran were supporting Moscow militarily in its war against Ukraine

OTTAWA: Russia’s new defensive pact with North Korea shows increasing alignment among authoritarian powers and underscores the importance of democracies presenting a united front, the head of NATO said on Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a deal with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un that included a mutual defense pledge, a move that overhauls Moscow’s policy toward Pyongyang.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said North Korea had provided “an enormous amount of ammunition” to Russia while both China and Iran were supporting Moscow militarily in its war against Ukraine.
“We need to be aware that authoritarian powers are aligning more and more. They are supporting each other in a way we haven’t seen before,” he told a panel discussion during an official visit to Ottawa.
“When they are more and more aligned — authoritarian regimes like North Korea and China, Iran, Russia — then it’s even more important that we are aligned as countries believing in freedom and democracy,” he said.
The growing closeness between Russia and other Asian nations means it is all the more important that NATO works with allies in the Asia-Pacific, he said, adding this was why leaders from Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea had been invited to a NATO summit in Washington next month.
Stoltenberg also said he expected Canada to meet the NATO target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.
Canada’s Liberal government, which has poured billions into social programs, only spends 1.37 percent of GDP on its military. In April it issued a plan to reach 1.76 percent by 2030.
Other NATO members “are concerned about the fiscal balance, they want to spend money on health (and) education” he said, adding that “if we’re not able to preserve peace, then what we do on health and climate change and education ... will fail.”

 


Child killed in Colombia’s first lethal drone attack

Updated 7 sec ago
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Child killed in Colombia’s first lethal drone attack

BOGOTA: A ten-year-old boy died Wednesday in a drone attack targeting soldiers in Colombia, the first death of its kind in the country which has struggled to rein in guerrilla violence.

The defense ministry’s press office said it was the first drone death in Colombia and blamed the attack on a group of dissident guerrillas who broke away from the FARC armed group when it signed a peace deal with the government years ago.

“Young Dylan, age 10, was killed following the launching of grenades by drones targeting” soldiers in the restive southwest department of Cauca, the regional military commander, General Federico Mejia, said in a video on the social network X.

The grenade fell on a soccer field in the town of El Plateado, a stronghold of the Central General Staff (EMC) rebel group which broke away from FARC.

The explosion also left six wounded, according to the Army.

Colombia’s leftist guerrillas are increasingly relying on drones to drop explosives on rivals.

Unlike the sophisticated payloads mounted on drones by soldiers in Ukraine, for example, the guerrillas mainly use commercially available drones to drop homemade explosives or fireworks.

In June, the army reported having recorded 17 drone attacks in six weeks, without any deaths, a new turn in Colombia’s six decades of internal armed conflict.

Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez expressed solidarity with the boy’s family on X, saying he was killed “during a terrorist attack carried out by the Carlos Patino Front.”

That group, which is involved in drug trafficking, is a hard-line faction of the EMC.

“We are reinforcing the military offensive to protect the population and capture those responsible for the attack,” added Velasquez.

The army said on X it had deployed “more than 800 soldiers” in the Cauca department, with a “clear and forceful” mission: to capture and neutralize the rebel leaders.”

A leader of the Carlos Patino Front denied responsibility when contacted by AFP and blamed the army for the attack.

“The community of El Plateado knows the truth,” said Kevin Arcos, a commander with the group.

The Micay Canyon, where El Plateado is located, is a mountainous region blanketed by bright green coca plantations — the main ingredient of cocaine.

The regional military commander Mejia said rebels were waging an offensive in El Plateado in retaliation for military operations against the guerrillas “who are at the top of these mountains trying to generate control of illicit economies.”


Brazil’s Lula seeks to bolster support for global alliance against hunger

Updated 6 min 42 sec ago
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Brazil’s Lula seeks to bolster support for global alliance against hunger

  • Hunger is something that requires a political decision,” Lula said during a ministerial meeting to establish the global alliance

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva unveiled a global alliance against hunger and poverty in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, an initiative he described as one of Brazil’s top priorities for its current presidency of the Group of 20 nations.
“Hunger is not something natural. Hunger is something that requires a political decision,” Lula said during a ministerial meeting to establish the global alliance. The leftist leader slammed the perpetuation of hunger across the world despite sufficient production.
Lula was seeking to bolster support ahead of the formal establishment of the alliance later this year, when world leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the Nov. 18-19 summit of the leading 20 rich and developing nations.
The alliance aims to implement a mechanism to mobilize funds and knowledge to support the expansion of policies and programs to combat inequality and poverty, according to a statement from Brazil’s G20 press office on Tuesday. It will be managed from a secretariat located at the Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome and Brasilia until 2030, with half of its costs covered by Brazil, Lula said in his speech.
A former trade unionist who governed between 2003 and 2010, Lula returned to the presidency for a third, non-consecutive term in 2023 after thwarting the reelection bid of former president Jair Bolsonaro.
Lula, who was born to a poor family in Brazil’s northeastern Pernambuco state, has long sought to tackle hunger both at home and abroad.
Food security issues and poverty are present across Brazil, from the Amazon to large urban centers, which means the country can bring expertise to the global discussion, said Marcelo Cândido da Silva, a history professor at the University of Sao Paulo and vice-coordinator of an international research project against hunger.
Brazil is also one of the world’s top exporters of food, sending abroad large quantities of corn, soja, coffee, sugar, beef and chicken.
Ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030 are part of the UN’s sustainable development goals, adopted in 2015, but progress has been lagging.
Around 733 million people faced hunger in 2023, equivalent to one in eleven people globally and one in five in Africa, according to the annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, released in Rio on Wednesday.
There was a sharp upturn in people facing moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and since then numbers have remained stubbornly high despite progress in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a statement accompanying the launch of the report.
“A future free from hunger is possible if we can rally the resources and the political will needed to invest in proven long-term solutions,” said World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain in the statement.
As well as spotlighting hunger and poverty, Brazilian diplomats are using the presidency of the G20 to push for the reform of global governance institutions and advocate for a sustainable energy transition.
Those efforts are part of Lula’s bid to pitch his nation – and himself — as leader for the Global South.
The alliance against hunger and poverty “allows Brazil to position itself as a leader because it is bringing an issue dear to the world’s poorest countries to a forum where they are not represented, the G20,” said Eduardo Mello, a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation think tank and university.
But there is a lack of political will because of ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, Mello said.


Gaza ceasefire deal in ‘closing stages’: US official

Updated 7 min 19 sec ago
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Gaza ceasefire deal in ‘closing stages’: US official

  • The official played down a fiery speech to Congress by Netanyahu in which he pledged ‘total victory’
  • He added that the talks with Biden Thursday would be more focused on the mechanics of a deal

WASHINGTON: Negotiations for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal are in their “closing stages,” a US official said Wednesday, ahead of talks between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden will try to close some “final gaps” in his talks with Netanyahu at the White House on Thursday but key elements including the fate of the hostages remain in Hamas’s court, the senior administration official said.

“We believe it’s in the closing stages and a deal is closeable,” the US official said on condition of anonymity in a call previewing Netanyahu’s visit.

There would be a “lot of activity in the coming week” toward reaching a long-sought deal, said the official, adding that an agreement was “not only possible, it’s essential and necessary.”

The US official played down a fiery speech to Congress by Netanyahu on Wednesday in which he pledged “total victory,” saying that the talks with Biden would be more focused on the mechanics of a deal.

A possible truce now hinges on a handful of issues about how a deal would come into effect, with Hamas having eased its demand for a full Israeli pull-out, the official said.

“I don’t expect the meeting (with Netanyahu) to be a yes or no, it’s a kind of like ‘how do we close these final gaps?’ And there are some things we need from the Israeli side, no question,” the official said.

“But there’s also some key things that are only in the hands of Hamas because the hostages are in the hands of Hamas.”

A Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Out of 251 people taken hostage that day, 114 are still being held inside the Gaza Strip, including 42 who the military says are dead.

More than 39,100 Palestinians, also mostly civilians, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war broke out, according to data provided by the health ministry of Hamas-run Gaza.


Three dead in shooting among Ukrainian troops

Updated 15 min 58 sec ago
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Three dead in shooting among Ukrainian troops

  • No further details were provided and the army did not say who was responsible, saying only that weaponry had been used for ‘personal’ rather than military reasons

KYIV:  A shooting incident among Ukrainian soldiers stationed in the northeastern Kharkiv region has left three soldiers dead and four others seriously wounded, the Ukrainian army said Wednesday.

No further details were provided and the army did not say who was responsible, saying only that weaponry had been used for “personal” rather than military reasons.

“In one of the units, soldiers used firearms on the basis of personal relationships. As a result of the shooting, three soldiers were killed and four others were injured,” the “Khortytsia” regional grouping of the Ukrainian army said.

The wounded suffered “serious” injuries and law enforcement officials were at the scene, it said.

“Management is taking all necessary measures to prevent such incidents in the future,” it added.

Violence among fellow soldiers is a sensitive issue in both Russia and Ukraine, but mass shootings are rare.

In January 2022, weeks before Russia invaded, a 21-year-old Ukrainian national guard conscript killed four fellow soldiers and a civilian with an assault rifle at an aerospace factory.

In May 2024, a 57-year-old Russian soldier recruited from a penal colony was reported to have shot dead six of his fellow troops in the eastern Donetsk region.


Rushdie attacker indicted on terrorism charges

Updated 24 July 2024
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Rushdie attacker indicted on terrorism charges

NEW YORK: The man accused of trying to kill the author Salman Rushdie in a stabbing attack in 2022 has been indicted on separate US federal terrorism charges, according to documents unsealed Wednesday.
Hadi Matar, a 26-year-old American of Lebanese descent who was already charged by the state of New York for the attack, has now been indicted by a grand jury on three counts that include attempting to provide material to support a foreign terrorist organization, said the indictment dated July 17 but not unsealed until now.
That organization is Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, the US Justice Department said.