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Iraq parliament calls for US forces to leave

MEMO | November 10, 2018

Iraqi MP Ahmad Al-Assadi, senior leader of the Iraqi Construction Alliance, revealed on Friday parliamentarian moves to pressure the Iraqi government to evict US forces from the country.

Al-Assadi said that the previous Iraqi parliament had started the calls, but now the new parliament was calling for a clear timetable for the US withdrawal from Iraq, Arabi21 reported. He added that US forces had entered the country at the request of the Iraqi government for training purposes and assistance in fighting Daesh.

Yet Al-Assadi stressed that: “After the big victory against these gangs [Daesh], the Iraqi government has the right to evaluate the need for American forces to remain on Iraqi soil”. He also said that the calls for US forces to leave would be doubled during the next parliamentary term, noting that the parliament was likely to accept the existence of advisors and trainers based only on the need specified by the authorities.

Regarding the position of the government, Al-Assadi said: “The government has the right to estimate its need for advisors and trainers. The parliamentary discussions, which called for revealing the number, places and need for the American forces were not closed”.

He stressed however that the parliament is entitled to make the final decision regarding whether US forces remain in Iraq or are asked to withdraw.

November 10, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Mixed Bag Midterms: Democrats Take House by Slim Margin, Republicans Increase Lead in Senate

21WIRE | November 7, 2018

Undoubtedly, 2018 saw one of the most hotly contested Midterm contests in living memory. As the final returns trickled in this morning, it seems that ‘check and balances’ have returned to Washington, sort of.

The results are now in. As many pollsters had predicted, the Democratic Party succeeded in flipping the House, regaining control after eight years on the outer rim. In the upper chamber, the Republicans were able to expand their Senate majority lead. What will it mean going forward?

After sifting through the remains of this heated Midterm battle, here are the key domestic takeaway points thus far:

♦ Democratic win in the House dealt a major blow to President Trump’s legislative agenda going forward, although their majority is very thin with less than a 30 seat advantage – meaning they will still struggle to pass measures on even a basic majority. In a nutshell: expect lots of gridlock.

♦ The Republican result in the Senate means that Trump will have a clearer path to confirming any political and Cabinet appointees, as well as any Supreme Court Justices, should any more vacant seats become available during the remainder of the current term.

For months the Democrats were hyping a “blue tsunami” which was downgraded to a ripple, largely in thanks to Trump himself. Nearly all of the seats which president Trump stumped for on his nationwide whistle-stop tour went red, while nearly all GOP runners who opposed Trump ended up losing their bids – indicating a marked increase in the Trump factor. This result will be duly noted looking forward into the 2020 GOP races. This also bodes well for Trump erecting a full GOP tent in his reelection bid.

The Democrats lost in their marquee Senate effort, a race which attracted more national attention than any other race, between GOP incumbent Ted Cruz and his bilingual skateboarding challenger, Beto O’Rourke. Cruz’s narrow victory did little to abate the shock realization that Texas, a perennial lock for Republicans, is how split evenly right down the middle.

Also, the ‘curse of Kavanaugh’ appeared to be in play as Missouri’s Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill lost to Republican Josh Hawley in that key race. Last month, McCaskill had voted against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

If legacy figure Nancy Pelosi is elected as Democrat Speaker of the House, then expect Democrats to push for impeachment proceeding against President Trump. Whether that effort will prevail or not depends on how many Rhino Republicans they can recruit into the anti-Trump ranks. It remains to be seen how the Rhino factor will look in a year, but expect newly elected Mitt Romney to assume the crown of John McCain in leading the Never Trump vanguard as well as pushing for weapons and war around the globe.

One thing is certain: if gaff-prone Pelosi reigns again, it will provide the GOP with endless soundbites from which to lambast Democrats in their 2020 election adverts.

Get ready for a tumultuous two years in US domestic politics.

November 7, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

India has historic role in Moscow format on Afghanistan

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 6, 2018

Many a slip between the cup and the lip may be possible when it comes to the Afghan peacemaking, but with the caveat added, prospects for the second Moscow conference on Afghanistan slated for coming Friday have significantly improved with the expected participation by officials of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), a government body responsible for reconciliation efforts with the militants, and a five-member Taliban delegation led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar attending the event.

This is a signal diplomatic victory for Russia. One may say that an Afghan ‘Astana Process’ (similar to the one on Syria) is taking off.

The Kabul government has done some tight rope walking, given the immense US pressure on it to dissociate from the Moscow event. Afghanistan will now be formally represented by the HPC instead of the foreign ministry. The ‘formula’ is a ‘win-win’ – Kabul has acceded to Moscow’s request without annoying the Americans.

But this is just as well because the foreign ministry in Kabul is virtually defunct and the Ashraf Ghani government has become all but relevant. And it also accommodates the Taliban’s steadfast refusal to sit at a table with the ‘puppet’ government in Kabul.

Among the regional states, Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have apparently confirmed their participation. Delhi seems to be agonizing over a decision. It has hitherto maintained that it will attend only if Afghanistan takes part. The big question is whether Delhi will now take a pragmatic decision, since the HPC is after all a government body.

The decision to sit across a table facing the Taliban representatives may cause some heartburn for the hardliners in the Indian establishment, but then, this is how all insurgencies end.

Of course, for a variety of reasons, it will be extremely short sighted on the part of the Modi government to boycott the Moscow event. One, a truly regional process involving all the major protagonists is taking shape, finally, in the search for an Afghan settlement. India’s interests lie in partaking of it.

Two, the Moscow format is in friendly and trusted hands, because Russia is a close friend and strategic partner and it will never be party to anything that hurts India’s core interests. Moscow’s approach to the fight against terrorism is similar to Delhi’s – unwavering, principled, uncompromising. Indeed, in the joint statement issued after the recent Modi-Putin summit in Delhi, India specifically voiced its support for the Moscow format on Afghanistan.

Three, the forthcoming conference provides a useful occasion for India to interact with the Taliban who are definitely going to be in the power structure in some form or the other in a near future in Afghanistan. Early birds catch the worm, as they say.

Four, it is in India’s interests to contribute to any regional consensus regarding Afghanistan. By now, it is abundantly clear that the US says nice things about India’s role in Afghanistan but does nothing to bring India to the high table.

Five, the Moscow format provides a unique opportunity for India to harmonise with Pakistan and China. Quite obviously, the Moscow format is at its core SCO+2 (Iran and Turkmenistan).

Finally, this pivotal moment is somewhat like the last train leaving the station. It is better to be on board than left stranded on the platform with nowhere to go.

Importantly, the decision-makers in Delhi must be able to anticipate the outcome of the Moscow conference. In a nutshell, an intra-Afghan dialogue is commencing with the regional states acting as facilitators.

In the final analysis, this process is only going to supplement whatever efforts are under way by the Americans to get the Taliban to the negotiating table. Clearly, it isn’t the Russian intention to undercut the peace talks.

Having said that, the HPC is a composite body representing the plural Afghan society and the Americans can never hope to bring about an intra-Afghan dialogue, having been an interventionist power since 2001.

The bottom line is that India has always believed in the raison d’etre of an intra-Afghan dialogue as the pathway leading to a settlement. Any settlement that is imposed on the Afghans by external parties will be unworkable. Therefore, as a stakeholder in the stability, unity and independence of Afghanistan, India must whole-heartedly welcome the dialogue commencing at the Moscow conference.

November 6, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Tehran Voices Protest to Denmark Envoy Over Statements on Iran’s Secret Service

Sputnik – 31.10.2018

Earlier, Tehran refuted Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET)’s allegations that Iranian intelligence officers were plotting an assassination of an Iranian separatist group official on the Danish soil.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Denmark’s envoy in Teheran, who lodged a formal protest regarding announcements about an Iranian Secret Service operation in the Nordic state, the ministry’s official representative Bahram Ghasemi said.

“This morning, Denmark’s envoy to Tehran had a meeting with the head of the First Department for Northern Europe, during which the ambassador has heard a protest regarding precipitated political reaction of several Danish politicians and media in connection to the detention of a person with Norwegian and Iranian citizenships on suspicion of plotting a manslaughter in Denmark,” Ghasemi noted.

On Tuesday, Danish media reported, citing the country’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen, that Copenhagen had recalled the Danish ambassador to Iran for consultations following the accusations.

Earlier, Danish police announced the arrest of a Norwegian citizen with an Iranian background in connection with an alleged Iranian Intelligence attack on an individual in Denmark. At the same time, Norwegian police confirmed they were assisting Danish law enforcement on the issue.

Tehran, in its turn, rejected statements made by the head of the PET about the illegal activities of Iranian intelligence services in Denmark.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 2 Comments

US takes leap of faith toward Taliban

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | October 31, 2018

According to reports, the Taliban disclosed on Tuesday that five former Guantanamo inmates from their leadership hierarchy have joined their political office in Qatar. This dramatic development signals that the talks between the Taliban and the US are getting under way seriously in search of an Afghan settlement.

The five former Guantanamo inmates were top figures in the Taliban regime in the 1990s and close confidantes of late Mullah Omar – former interior minister Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, former army chief Muhammad Fazil, former governor of Balkh and Laghman Noorullah Noori, Taliban’s deputy intelligence chief Abdul Haq Wasiq and Taliban’s communication chief Nabi Omari.

They were released from Guantanamo Bay by the Barack Obama administration after 12 years of incarceration in 2014 in exchange for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held hostage by the Taliban for nearly five years. The five Taliban leaders were shifted from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar where they have been in protective custody of local authorities. If they are indeed joining the Taliban’s political office in Doha, it can only be with the approval of the Qatari authorities and the acquiescence of the US.

The stunning part is that these five Taliban leaders once carried the stigma in the US eyes of having been closely associated with the al-Qaeda. Indeed, Washington had all along anticipated that a time would come when the hardcore Taliban leadership would need to be constructively engaged. That alone explains why the (Afghan) Taliban was thoughtfully excluded from the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Washington took the plea that the Afghan Taliban is an insurgency with control over vast swaths of territory and aspirations to govern the country. It conveniently left the door open to negotiate with them and reconcile them, hopefully, when the time came.

Evidently, the Trump administration assesses that that time has come. The induction of the dreaded 5 Taliban leaders with al-Qaeda links to mainstream peace talks follows the recent visit of the new US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad to Pakistan and Qatar. Khalilzad is a diplomat in a hurry and is raring to negotiate peace even if it involves interlocutors who might have been closely associated with the al-Qaeda in the 1990s.

(Guantanomo Bay detention camp)

Indeed, it shows Khalilzad’s cold realism and pragmatism as a veteran diplomat, while on the other hand also the sense of urgency within the Trump administration that a settlement must be negotiated as quickly as possible.

There is no evidence that the Kabul government has been consulted or is party to this development in Qatar. Khalilzad will be proceeding on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, since Afghan polity is hopelessly fragmented and it must be a bitter pill for the Kabul elite to accept that the five Guantanamo Bay inmates are back in political circulation as top protagonists.

On the contrary, Khalilzad is working in close consultation with Islamabad. The release of the former No 2 in Taliban hierarchy Mullah Baradar by Pakistan last week (at Khalilzad’s instance) synchronizes with the development in Qatar. Clearly, Pakistan is positioning Mullah Baradar also in anticipation of the commencement of the fateful talks in Qatar in a very near future.

(Mullah Baradar)

Time is running out, because Afghanistan is due to hold presidential election in April 2019. The US is intensely conscious that another puppet government elected through a farcical election charade and post-election gerrymandering will lack legitimacy and even spell doom for the country. The sensible thing will be to bring the Taliban to the forecourt and get them involved in the upcoming political contestation.

How that is going to be possible in the limited time ahead remains to be seen. In all respects, a tricky and dangerous transition looms ahead – ominously reminiscent of the UN-sponsored transition in 1992 from communist rule to the Mujahideen, which collapsed in spectacular failure.

Once the Qatar talks begin in right earnest, the last ounce of legitimacy left in the Kabul set-up will drain away. The pressure will increase on filling the power vacuum that will inevitably arise. However, compared to 1992, the good part is that while the Afghan Mujahideen were split into rival groups, with some such as the Jamiat way out of the orbit of Pakistani control, that is not the case with the Taliban. Pakistan is in a position to shepherd them in the right direction.

But Pakistan will expect the US to reciprocate by taking into consideration its sensitivities and interests – especially, the revival of the old full-bodied relationship between the two countries. Read an opinion piece, here, in today’s Dawn newspaper underscoring the criticality of Washington and Islamabad moving in tandem in search of a ‘joint solution’ through the coming 6-month period in order for Khalilzad’s talks to be fruitful and productive.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 7 Comments

Canada seems to prefer state of ‘war’ in Korea, not peace

By Yves Engler · October 28, 2018

Who prefers military might over peaceful discussion to settle a long festering international dispute? Canada, it seems.

It may surprise some that a Canadian general is undercutting inter-Korean rapprochement while Global Affairs Canada seeks to maintain its 70-year old war footing, but that is what the Liberal government is doing.

At the start of the month Canadian Lieutenant General Wayne Eyre told a Washington audience that the North Koreans were “experts at separating allies” and that a bid for a formal end to the Korean war represented a “slippery slope” for the 28,500 US troops there. “So what could an end-of-war declaration mean? Even if there is no legal basis for it, emotionally people would start to question the presence and the continued existence of the United Nations Command,” said Eyre at the Carnegie Institute for International Peace.“And it’s a slippery slope then to question the presence of U.S. forces on the peninsula.”

The first non-US general to hold the post since the command was created to fight the Korean War in 1950, Eyre became deputy commander of the UNC at the end of July. He joined 14 other Canadian officers with UNC.

Responsible for overseeing the 1953 armistice agreement, UNC has undercut Korean rapprochement. At the start of the month the Financial Times reported, “the US-spearheaded United Nations Command has in recent weeks sparked controversy in host nation South Korea with a series of moves that have highlighted the chasm between Seoul’s pro-engagement attitude to Pyongyang and Washington’s hard line.”  In August, for instance, the UN force blocked a train  carrying South Korean officials from crossing the Demilitarized Zone as part of an initiative to improve relations by modernizing cross-border railways.

As it prepares to concede operational control over its forces to Seoul in coming years, Washington is pushing to “revitalize” UNC, which is led by a US General who simultaneously commands US troops in Korea. According to the Financial Times, the UN force “serves to bolster and enhance the US’s position in north-east Asia at a time when China is rising.” To “revitalize” UNC the US is pressing the 16 countries that deployed soldiers during the Korean War to increase their military contribution going forward, a position argued at a Vancouver gathering in January on promoting sanctions against the North.

In other words, Ottawa and Washington would prefer the existing state of affairs in Korea because it offers an excuse for keeping tens of thousands of troops near China.

As part of reducing tensions, ridding the peninsula of nuclear weapons and possibly reunifying their country, the two Korean governments have sought a formal end to the Korean War. It’s an initial step in an agreement the Korean leaders signed in April and last month they asked the UN to circulate a peace declaration calling for an official end to hostilities. But, Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has responded gingerly to these efforts. In response to Seoul and Pyongyang’s joint announcement to seek a formal end to the Korean War in April Freeland said, “we all need to be careful and not assume anything.”

Two Global Affairs Canada statements released last month on the “North Korea nuclear crisis” studiously ignored the Koreas’ push for an official end to hostilities. Instead they called for “sanctions that exert pressure on North Korea to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs completely, verifiably and irreversibly.” The second statement said UN Security Council sanctions “must … remain in place until Pyongyang takes concrete actions in respect of its international obligations.”

Global Affairs’ position flies in the face of South Korea, Russia, China and other nations that have brought up easing UN sanctions on North Korea. Washington, on the other hand, is seeking to tighten sanctions.

Partly to bolster the campaign to isolate North Korea a Vancouver Island based submarine was sent across the big pond at the start of the year. In April Ottawa also sent a CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft and 40 military personnel to a US base in Japan from which British, Australian and US forces monitor the North’s efforts to evade UN sanctions. A September Global Affairs Canada statement titled “Canada renews deployment in support of multinational initiative to enforce UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea” noted: “A Canadian Armed  Forces maritime patrol aircraft will return to the region to help counter North Korea’s maritime smuggling, in particular its use of ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products. In addition, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Calgary, on operations in the area as part of Canada’s continued presence in the region, was named to contribute to this effort.”

Rather than undermine Korean rapprochement, Ottawa should call for an official end to the 70-year old war and direct the Canadians in UNC to support said position. Canada should welcome peace in Korea even if it may trouble those seeking to maintain 30,000 US troops to “contain” China.

October 28, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Putin: Russia Reserves Right to Help Damascus Contain Terror Threat in Idlib

© Sputnik / Mikhail Klimentyev

Sputnik – 27.10.2018

ISTANBUL – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday his country will take active steps if terrorists use the Idlib demilitarized zone as a cover to launch attacks on the rest of Syria.

“Should radicals … launch armed provocations from the Idlib zone, Russia reserves the right to give active assistance to the Syrian government in liquidating this source of terrorist threat,” the Russian President vowed during a summit on Syria in Istanbul.

He also proposed an initiative to hold an international conference to solve the problem of Syrian refugees.

“We offered partners to support the Russian initiative of convening an international conference on Syrian refugees. We understand what is linked to this issue, we understand the problems, but if we don’t work together, we won’t achieve any results,” Putin said following the quadrilateral talks on the Syrian settlement.

According to the Russian president, the parties agreed to broaden the concept of “humanitarian aid” and to understand it as “supply of medical equipment, medicines, restoration of infrastructure and water supply.”

Addressing the upcoming setup of the Syrian constitutional committee, Putin said that constitutional reform would strengthen statehood and unite the Syrian society.

“First of all, it is necessary to ensure the launch of the activities of the constitutional committee in Geneva, which is intended to consider the fundamental issues of the future state system of Syria. At the same time, decisions taken at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi should be taken into account,” he said after talks with the leaders of Turkey, France, and Germany in Istanbul.

He stressed that such a committee should be recognized as legitimate by all parties in Syria and be respected.

“Only in this case, this structure will be efficient and effective, it will be able to prepare and implement a mature constitutional reform that will strengthen Syrian statehood and unite Syrian society. So, the work on forming a committee must be serious, painstaking, and it needs to be done fundamentally. Russia, as a guarantor of the Astana process, will actively participate in it,” the Russian leader continued.

Russia hopes that by the end of the year, the Constitutional Committee of Syria will be approved and will work, Putin said, stressing that the work on the creation of the committee should be conducted with respect to the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic, otherwise it would be counterproductive.

There is progress in the creation of a constitutional committee of Syria, but patience is needed, the Russian president added.

“You said that 9 months after the decision in Sochi we didn’t achieve a specific result. I want to remind you that before the start of the Astana process, the parties didn’t meet at all for a year. This process simply stalled,” Putin recalled.

According to the president, “nothing happened at all” over that period. Then, as he noted, the Astana process was initiated, and “the wheel began to spin on and on.”

“Yes, the agreements reached are not being implemented as quickly as we would like, but there is still some progress. We managed to persuade the Syrian government to submit its part of the list for the formation of a constitutional committee. This is not an easy process, yes, there must be people who are trusted by all parties involved in the conflict. But we need patience and respect for all participants in the process. Only on this path will we succeed,” he said.

The Russian leader also underlined that only the Syrian people can decide for themselves.

“Our principled position is that the fate of our own country, including the choice of personalities on the political scene, should be determined by the Syrian people themselves,” he said after talks with the leaders of Turkey, France and Germany in Istanbul.

He noted that certain conditions must be created for this, one of which is the launch of the political process to form a constitutional committee and the beginning of its work. Participants of the summit in Istanbul did not discuss any personalities regarding the Syrian leader, since this is counterproductive, the president added.

On Saturday, Putin, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a joint statement in Istanbul following a meeting dedicated to the Syrian crisis and other international problems.

In January this year, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress was held in Sochi. Its main result was the decision to establish a constitutional commission that will work in Geneva.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments

Russian S-300s Supplied to Syria Were ‘Modernized’ – Reports

Sputnik – 19.10.2018

Moscow has delivered advanced S-300 air defense missiles to Syria to protect the country’s troops deployed in the war-torn Arab country in the wake of last month’s downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane during an Israeli airstrike in Latakia.

The three battalion sets of S-300PM-2 air defense missile handed over to Syria by Russia are more advanced compared to their conventional counterparts, the newspaper Izvestiya wrote, citing Defense Ministry sources in Moscow.

The S-300PM-2 system is equipped with a more advanced radar station, an improved target illumination and guidance station (firing radar) and a mobile command post.

Launchers have also been upgraded enabling the use of more advanced, powerful and long-range missiles, compared to the “classic” S-300.

Unlike conventional S-300s, the modernized air defense system can fire medium-range tactical ballistic missiles, while retaining its ability to destroy aerial targets up to 250 kilometers (155 miles) away.

The S-300PM-2 also boasts improved anti-jamming capability allowing it to operate in conditions of electronic warfare.

Contrary to media reports, the S-300PM-2 currently deployed in Syria will not be operated by Iranians because the only specialists who can operate this system are in Russia, the source told the newspaper.

Iranians have never operated such systems because the S-300PMU-2 supplied to Iran is an export version with a simplified circuit and control modes compared to the S-300PM-2.

The source noted that the automatic control system on the export PMU-2 version does not allow it to interact with Russian air defense systems that have been transferred to the Syrian armed forces.

Earlier this month, debka.com cited US and Israeli intelligence sources as claiming that the S-300PM-2 batteries deployed in Syria would be operated by Iranian teams. They also insisted that Russia had originally planned to entrust the system’s operation to Iranians, that’s why it had allegedly given the Syrians a version of the S-300PMU-2 it had supplied to Iran in 2016.

In early October, Russia donated to Syria three battalion sets of S-300 missile systems of eight launchers each of which had been repaired in Russia where they had been used before being replaced by the more advanced S-400 system.

The Russian Defense Ministry then said that it would take three months to train Syrian specialists to operate the missile system.

Russia announced the supply of S-300 air defense missiles to Syria after a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane was mistakenly shot down by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli air raid on September 17.

The S-300PM-2 system entered service with the Russian army in the 2010s.

In December 2015, the first regiment S-300PM-2 took over combat duty to protect the airspace of the country’s central industrial region.

The regiment was later re-equipped with the most modern domestic anti-aircraft system, the S-400 Triumph, and, according to the source, some of the S-300PM-2s were sent to Syria.

October 19, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Syrian President Assad grants amnesty to army deserters

RT | October 9, 2018

Syrian President Bashar Assad has granted general amnesty to army deserters both within Syria and those outside the country.

A decree published by state media on Tuesday says the amnesty doesn’t include “criminals” and those on the run unless they turn themselves in to authorities. Deserters in Syria have four months to do so; those abroad have six months.

The amnesty could help boost the return of refugees, some of whom have not been able to go back home because they were blacklisted, AP reported.

Government forces have managed over the past year to capture wide areas once held by insurgents, including in southern Syria and the eastern suburbs of the capital, Damascus. The flashpoint is now Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

Pro-Russia party wins Latvia elections

Press TV – October 7, 2018

Latvia’s pro-Russia Harmony Party has won the country’s general elections, and will have to negotiate with other parties to form a coalition government.

Harmony won the Saturday parliamentary elections with 19.91 percent of the votes, followed by KPV LV and New Conservative Party, with 14.06 percent with 13.6 percent, respectively.

Turnout in the elections was 54.59 percent, according to the election website.

The pro-European Union (EU), pro-NATO liberal For Development/For! Party came fourth with 12.04 percent.

The rightwing National Alliance gained 11.03 percent. The Greens and Farmers Union — which currently holds the posts of both president and prime minister — won 9.96 percent.

The New Unity took 6.67 percent as the last party crossing the five-percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

The current parliament will keep working until November while parties discuss a new coalition.

No Harmony — until now

Latvia’s political parties had until now always tried to form coalition governments without Harmony in the blend.

The party will now hold 24 seats in the 100-seat parliament. KPV LV and the New Conservatives will jointly hold 31 seats.

The top three parties can muster the 55 seats needed to form a coalition government.

“No coalition combination is possible without Harmony,” the party’s chairman Nils Ushakovs told local media.

October 7, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

50,000 Syrians returned home from Lebanon this year – official

RT | September 26, 2018

Fifty thousand Syrians have returned home from Lebanon so far in 2018, a top Lebanese official said Tuesday.

The number could reach 200,000 in a year’s time if it continues at this rate, according to Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s General Security agency. It had organized the return of 25,000 Syrians in coordination with Damascus, and another 25,000 had made their own way home, Reuters reports.

Lebanon is hosting 976,000 registered Syrian refugees, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The government says the total number of Syrians in the country is around 1.5 million.

September 26, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Trump Says He Accepts Maduro’s Meeting Invitation

teleSUR | September 26, 2018

Less than a day after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro invited U.S. President Donald Trump to a meeting based on mutual respect, the U.S. leader said Wednesday he would be open to meeting his Venezuelan counterpart.

Maduro said he hoped to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Trump. The White House responded to a similar request last year by saying such a meeting would happen when the country returned to democracy.

“I’m even willing to talk to President Trump, I think President Trump and I can speak, we understand each other, hopefully one day … the miracle of a face-to-face conversation will take place, between President Donald Trump of the United States and Nicolas Maduro de Venezuela,” the Venezuelan leader said during his speech in Caracas Tuesday.

“I would certainly be open to it, I’m willing to meet with anybody,” Trump said on Wednesday as he arrived at United Nations headquarters after answering a question by a reporter about Maduro’s invitation to meet. “We’re going to take care of Venezuela, if he’s here and he wants to meet, it was not on my mind, it was not on my plate, but if I can help people that’s what I’m here for.”

The comments come just a day after the United States imposed new sanctions on President Maduro’s wife and several of his top allies on Tuesday as Trump also appeared to back a military coup against Maduro in comments he made to reporters Tuesday shortly after his speech at the UNGA.

The latest sanctions are further extending on the already-brutal economic war Washington has been waging against the socialist country with the help of its right-wing allies in the region in an effort to oust the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

“All options are on the table, everyone,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “The strong ones and the less than strong ones and you know what I mean by strong. Every option is on the table with respect to Venezuela.”

September 26, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment