June 19, 2013
Obama renews push for nuclear arms cuts in Berlin speech
President Obama renewed his push for a reduction in the world’s nuclear stockpiles during a wide-ranging speech in Berlin on Wednesday, claiming the U.S. could continue to maintain a strong deterrent while ultimately striving toward eliminating nuclear weapons.
“So long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe,” Obama said.
Russia Opposes Imbalance of Strategic Nuclear Deterrence as Obama Proposes Arms Cuts
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia will not allow for an imbalance in strategic nuclear deterrence, speaking ahead of a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama about major new arms reductions.
“We cannot allow the balance of the system of strategic deterrence to be disturbed or the effectiveness of our nuclear force to be decreased,” Putin was quoted by Russian agencies as saying at a government meeting while discussing Russia’s military space program.
Obama refuses to specify US aid to Syrian rebels
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday refused to specify the exact nature of new US military aid to Syrian rebels, after his officials let it be known they could expect shipments of small arms.
“I cannot and will not comment on specifics on our programs related to the Syrian opposition,” Obama said, at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
FSA accuses Syrian army, Hezbollah of chemical weapons use
The opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) reported that chemical weapons were used on Wednesday in a Damascus town by Hezbollah fighters and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
The town of Zamalka, outside of Damascus, was targeted by chemical weapons, which caused victims to choke and led to a number of casualties, according to opposition activists.
AP EXCLUSIVE: US supervises war games in Jordan amid fears of spillover from Syrian conflict
ZARQA, Jordan — Under the watchful eye of stern-faced American advisers, hundreds of U.S.-trained Jordanian commandos fanned across this dusty desert plain, holding war games that could eventually form the basis of an assault in Syria.
With the recent deployment of Patriot missiles near the Syrian border, and the mock Syrian accents of those playing the enemy, the message was clear: There is fear of spillover from the Syrian war in this U.S.-allied kingdom, and the potential for a Jordanian role in securing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles should Bashar Assad’s regime lose control.
Hezbollah fighters battle rebels near Syrian capital, says NGO
Hezbollah fighters joined Syrian regime troops in their offensive against rebels near Damascus on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has said.
The move by Hezbollah was an attempt to cut rebel supply lines, according to the Observatory.
Army troops, together with Hezbollah, fought rebels near the Khomeini hospital in the Zayabiyeh village, southeast of Damascus, the group stated.
Explosion rocks Latakia military depot
Syrian state television reported Wednesday afternoon that an “accidental explosion” at a military depot outside Latakia injured six people, while activists reported a car bomb had hit the facility.
Associated Press cited the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying that 13 soldiers were injured in the explosion.
Friends of Syria to meet Saturday in Doha: France
PARIS: The core group of nations making up the Friends of Syria will meet on Saturday in Doha to discuss concrete help for the Free Syrian Army after recent successes by government forces, a French foreign ministry official said.
The meeting will be attended by foreign ministers from the 11 countries making up the core group, including France, the United States, Britain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
U.S. military team in Jordan planning ways to deal with Syria’s chemical weapons
Months before the Obama administration said it had concluded that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels, the Pentagon began drawing on the expertise of obscure military experts to develop plans to reduce the risks from Syria’s massive stockpile of the banned munitions.
U.S. military officials were sent to Jordan to develop a range of options to keep the lethal agents from falling into the hands of extremists among the opposition or being spread throughout the region by foreign fighters aligned with the Syrian government.
Russian marine and air power head for Syria versus Western intervention – “to defend Russian citizens,” says Moscow
Just one day after Western G8 leaders failed to ram past Vladimir Putin a resolution mandating Assad’s ouster, Moscow said Wednesday that two warships carrying 600 Russian marines are heading for Syria “to protect Russian citizens.” Russian Deputy Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Gradusov said an air force umbrella would be there if needed. debkafile: This was a thinly disguised Russian flexing of muscle against continuing Western arms supplies to the Syrian rebels.
Syrian opposition: Assad cannot play part in solution to conflict
Any solution to the Syrian conflict must lead to the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Syria’s main opposition bloc said on Wednesday.
In comments which came after a statement from G8 leaders on achieving a “political solution” to the conflict, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said it was “committed to any political solution that puts an end to the bloodshed, and achieves the Syrian people’s aspirations to bring down the Assad regime.”
Jolie says Syria crisis ‘worst’, calls for more aid
Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie urged the international community to boost aid to Syrian refugees hit by what she called “the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century,” a UNHCR statement said Wednesday.
Jolie, who is UNHCR special envoy for refugee affairs, visited the Jordan-Syria border overnight accompanied by head of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
Largest ever UK disaster response for Syria crisis
Prime Minister David Cameron today set out the largest single funding commitment ever made by the UK in response to a humanitarian disaster, as he announced a £175 million emergency package for the Syrian crisis.
But the Prime Minister warned that the international community as a whole must now follow this lead.
Philippines Golan peacekeepers to stay for now
The Philippines Wednesday said it would keep its peacekeepers in the Golan Heights until at least August, and may stay longer if the U.N. increased security there.
The announcement by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario followed repeated government warnings in recent weeks that it was considering swiftly pulling out its 341 soldiers from the volatile area between Syria and Israel.
Hamas says its Iran ties worsen over Syrian civil war
Hamas said on Wednesday its relations with financial backer Iran have suffered as a result of the Islamist group’s support of rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad, a long-time Iranian ally.
Hamas was also once an Assad ally but last year endorsed the revolt against him in a shift that deprived the Syrian leader of an important Sunni Muslim supporter in the Arab world. “Our relations with Iran were affected both on the political and the financial levels,” said Ghazi Hamad, deputy minister of foreign affairs in the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Experts: Limited US arms to Syria unlikely to harm Israel
US plans to arm Syrian rebels have raised fears in Israel that the weapons could fall into the wrong hands, but analysts played down the threat — provided no big guns are involved.
Washington said last week that it would provide Syria’s rebels with military support in the form of small arms after it determined that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons.
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday declined to categorize the arms the US will send to the rebels.
Turkey has all the right to respond to border violation by Syria
Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu said, if there was any violation to the border as a real threat for national security again, Turkey would respond
ANKARA (AA) – Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, “if there was any violation to the border as a real threat for national security again, Turkey would respond”.
In an interview aired Wednesday, in his comments on Hasan Rowhani who was elected as Iranian President, Davutoglu told Al Jazeera that “We hope that the new Iranian administration will understand the situation in Syria better than before, they will listen to Syrian people more”.
Hosni Mubarak: No one forced me to step down, I did it to save lives
Toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that his decision to step down was his own, adding that he could have remained in power if he had wanted to, in an interview with Egyptian daily Al-Watan published on Wednesday.
Mubarak reportedly made the statements in an interview conducted at the Tora Prison Hospital in Cairo.
EU Holds Fresh Talks on Blacklisting Hizbullah
European Union experts held a second round of talks at Britain’s behest Wednesday on whether to add the military wing of Hizbullah to its list of international “terrorist groups,” diplomatic sources told Agence France Presse.
After months of hesitation, counter-terror specialists from the 27-nation bloc first met on the issue June 4 but failed to reach unanimity on blacklisting the group.
Iraq Suicide Bomber Kills 5 Ahead of Vote
A suicide bombing in northern Iraq on Wednesday killed the leader of a provincial political party and four relatives, officials said, on the eve of elections his bloc was to participate in.
Yunus al-Ramah, head of the United Iraq party, had been hosting a social gathering at his home in the town of Al-Hadhr, in Nineveh province, when the attack took place, according to security and medical officials.
Obama: Afghan government and Taliban leaders must talk
Afghans must engage in dialogue to achieve a resolution in the country’s conflict, despite mistrust between the government and the Taliban, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.
Obama was speaking in Berlin a day after his administration said it would begin talks with the Taliban this week in order to negotiate peace after 12 years of war.
The White House’s suggestions have upset Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s U.S.-backed government; his administration suspended talks with the U.S. on a troop agreement.
Karzai suspends U.S. talks in row over Taliban office
Afghan President Hamid Karzai Wednesday broke off crucial security talks with the United States, angry over the name given to a new Taliban office in Qatar that is meant to facilitate peace negotiations.
The ongoing Afghan-U.S. talks must reach an agreement if Washington is to maintain soldiers in Afghanistan after a NATO combat mission ends next year.
Suicide bombing kills two in Yemen’s Shiite North
A suicide attack on Wednesday rocked a local market in Yemen’s mainly-Shiite city of Saada killing two civilians, a Zaidi Ansarullah rebel told AFP.
The attacker detonated a bomb-laden motorbike in the middle of the market, said the rebel, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The blast left another 11 people critically wounded, he added.
New US ambassador arrives in Libya
The new US ambassador to Libya arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday, an embassy source said, nine months after her predecessor and three other Americans were killed in an Islamist attack in Benghazi.
Career diplomat Deborah Jones will present her credentials on Thursday to the General National Congress, Libya’s highest political and legislative authority, state news agency LANA said.