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 61 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 06:16 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
China, Japan Leaders Meet in Sign of Easing Tensions

by Naharnet Newsdesk 22 April 2015, 13:47

The leaders of China and Japan held talks on Wednesday for only the second time since taking office, seeking to repair a relationship damaged by territorial disputes and a bitter wartime legacy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the sidelines of a summit in the Indonesian capital Jakarta for about 30 minutes, a Japanese official told AFP, speaking anonymously.

Shaking hands before the talks started, the two men looked more relaxed than at a meeting at a summit in November last year in China, where they shared an awkward handshake.

Beijing and Tokyo's historically frosty relations have plunged to their lowest level in decades over competing claims to Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea and China's view that Abe is not sufficiently repentant about Japan's wartime aggression.

Just before the meeting, Abe, a strident nationalist, stoked fresh regional anger by stopping short of apologizing for Japan's World War II rampage through Asia in a speech to the gathering of Asian and African leaders.

He expressed "deep remorse" but did not make a "heartfelt apology" or refer to "colonial rule and aggression", failing to echo the language of a landmark 1995 statement on Japanese wartime aggression and drawing a rebuke from South Korea.

His statements at the start of the two-day summit Wednesday, which commemorates a key conference 60 years ago that helped emerging nations forge a common identity, were weaker than those by previous leaders.

Referring to principles of peace laid down at the original conference, he told delegates: "And Japan, with feelings of deep remorse over the past war, made a pledge to remain a nation always adhering to those very principles throughout, no matter what the circumstances."

The speech by Abe at the Asia-Africa Summit was being closely watched for clues about a statement he is due to make later this year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Observers are waiting to see whether he will make direct reference to his country's "colonial rule and aggression" and express remorse and apologize, as previous premiers did on the 50th and 60th anniversaries.

He suggested in a TV interview this week that he will not repeat a formal apology in the statement.

For China and South Korea, which suffered under the yoke of Japan's imperial ambition, Abe's language is a crucial marker of Tokyo's acceptance of guilt for its march across Asia in the 1930s and 1940s, which left millions dead.

As well as the statement later this year, attention will also focus on Abe's choice of words about the war when he heads to the United States this weekend on a week-long trip, during which he will address a joint session of congress.

In the Jakarta speech, Abe also made a veiled attack at China over ongoing maritime disputes: "We should never allow to go unchecked the use of force by the mightier to twist the weaker around."

As well as a maritime dispute with Japan, China is locked in territorial disputes with several countries in the South China Sea.

Abe's Jakarta speech was just his latest move that risks inflaming regional tensions -- it came after he sent an offering this week to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, the supposed repository of the country's war dead including 14 infamous war criminals.

And on Wednesday, more than 100 Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine, which China and South Korea view as a symbol of Japan's unwillingness to repent for aggressive warring, drawing a swift rebuke from Seoul which expressed "deep disappointment and regret".

Source: Agence France Presse

 62 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 06:14 AM 
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Pakistan Executes 19 Prisoners in Two Days

by Naharnet Newsdesk 22 April 2015, 12:19

Pakistan has hanged 19 prisoners in the past two days, officials said Wednesday, bringing the total number put to death since executions resumed in December to nearly 100.

A total of 15 went to the gallows on Tuesday, the most in a single day since executions restarted in the wake of a Taliban massacre at a school, and a further four on Thursday, officials said,

One execution took place in the southwestern province of Baluchistan and the rest in Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province.

Punjab prisons chief Farooq Nazir said he did not have details of individual cases and charges, but most of the 18 executed in the province had been convicted of murder and had been on death row for between eight and 10 years.

In Baluchistan a convict was hanged at Mach prison on Tuesday for the 2004 murder of a man during a robbery at a house, prison officials told AFP.

The Justice Project Pakistan, a human rights law firm, said their latest count of executions so far was 99. A tally by AFP puts the total at 95.

A moratorium on the death penalty had been in force since 2008, but executions were restarted in December after Taliban militants gunned down 154 people, most of them children, at a school in the restive northwest.

The moratorium was initially lifted only for those convicted of terrorism offenses, but in March was extended to cover all capital offenses.

The European Union, the United Nations and human rights campaigners have all urged Pakistan to reinstate the moratorium.

Critics say Pakistan's criminal justice system is marred by police torture, poor legal representation for victims and unfair trials.

Human rights group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.

Source: Agence France Presse

 63 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 06:13 AM 
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India Takes Al-Jazeera Off Air in Kashmir Map Row

by Naharnet Newsdesk 22 April 2015, 10:01

India's government took Al-Jazeera news channel off the air on Wednesday for five days after officials insisted it had repeatedly shown wrong maps of disputed Kashmir.

Al Jazeera in India showed a blue screen on Wednesday with a sign saying "as instructed by the ministry of information and broadcasting, this channel will not be available".

An official said the order was made earlier this month over the maps that showed parts of the Himalayan Kashmir region in arch rival Pakistan and China, an extremely sensitive issue in India.

"The ban has been imposed for five days and it was done on instructions of an inter-ministerial committee, who took cognisance of an incorrect map of India in which the channel showed parts of Kashmir in Pakistan and China," the official told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity.

The order comes amid a simmering censorship row in India over a series of recent bans that have sparked accusations of a growing climate of intolerance under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

They include a ban on screening a BBC documentary on the fatal gang-rape of a  student that sparked mass protests in Delhi.

Al-Jazeera India bureau chief Anmol Saxena said the channel has "made representations to the ministry" and was hopeful of having the order revoked.

According to local media reports, Al Jazeera breached India's broadcasting code over the maps shown in 2014 and 2013 which on some occasions also did not include the Lakshadweep and Andaman islands.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but both claim the whole of the region and have gone to war twice over its control since partition in 1947.

New Delhi imposes tight restrictions on all printed maps, insisting they show all of Kashmir as being part of India.

The government in 2011 ordered The Economist magazine cover up a map of disputed borders in Kashmir. The news weekly placed white stickers over a diagram of the borders on 28,000 copies on sale in India.

"Eventually India might realize how idiotic this looks," the magazine's South Asia bureau chief Adam Roberts tweeted over the order against Al-Jazeera.

Source: Agence France Presse

 64 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 06:12 AM 
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Afghan Taliban Announce 'Spring Offensive' to Start Friday

by Naharnet Newsdesk 22 April 2015, 08:27

The Afghan Taliban said their annual "spring offensive" will begin on Friday, vowing nationwide attacks in what is expected to be the bloodiest fighting season in a decade as NATO forces pull back from the frontlines.

This year's offensive marks the first fighting season in which Afghan security forces will battle the insurgents without the full support of U.S.-led foreign combat forces.

The militants have already stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets in recent weeks, taking a heavy toll on civilians and Afghan security forces.

"The Islamic Emirate is going to launch the spring operations under the inspirational name of 'Azm' (determination) at 5 am on 24th April 2015," the Taliban said in a statement on Wednesday, using their official name.

"The main targets of these operations... will be the foreign occupiers, especially their permanent military bases... officials of the stooge regime, their military constellations, especially their intelligence, interior ministry and defence ministry officials."

NATO's combat mission formally ended in December but a small follow-up foreign force has stayed on to train and support local security personnel.

US President Barack Obama last month backpedalled on plans to shrink the US force in Afghanistan this year by nearly half, agreeing to keep the current level of 9,800 US troops until the end of 2015.

The Taliban, who have waged a deadly insurgency since they were ousted from power in late 2001, warned that the announcement would damage any prospects of peace talks as they vowed to continue fighting.

 

- Casualties rise -

Aside from the Taliban, the Afghan government has also repeatedly warned of the Islamic State (IS) group making inroads into the country.

President Ashraf Ghani blamed IS for a suicide attack on Saturday in the eastern city of Jalalabad that killed 33 people and wounded more than 100 others. If verified, that would mark the first major attack by the jihadists in the country.

On Saturday, after months of stalemate, Afghanistan's new government announced appointees to fill every remaining post in cabinet -- save the crucial one of defence minister.

The delay over the appointment has sparked fierce public criticism, with many blaming the recent uptick in deadly insurgent attacks on the leadership vacuum.

The upsurge in attacks has taken a heavy toll on ordinary Afghans.

The number of civilians killed and wounded in Afghanistan jumped 22 percent in 2014, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

And in the first three months of 2015, civilian casualties from ground fighting were up eight percent on the same period last year, a new UNAMA report said.

But in their statement, the Taliban said their "top priority will be given to safeguard and protect the lives and properties of the civilian people" during the offensive.

The Afghan government and NATO are yet to respond to the Taliban's announcement. In the past they rejected these offensives as propaganda.

Afghanistan's High Peace Council, the government body in charge of leading peace efforts with the Taliban, urged insurgents to abandon the fight and join the negotiating table.

"Evading talks and continuing war will not solve Afghan people's problems," it said in a statement that coincided with the Taliban announcement.

"The people favour peace and want to know the stance of the insurgents as soon as possible. We hope the warring sides use this historic opportunity to decide responsibly."

Source: Agence France Presse

 65 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 06:10 AM 
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Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 'seriously wounded in air strike'

Exclusive: Baghdadi no longer in day-to-day control of terror group as he recovers from injuries sustained during attack in March, according to sources

Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen in Beirut
Tuesday 21 April 2015 12.24 BST
Guardian

The leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been seriously wounded in an air strike in western Iraq, sources have told the Guardian.

A source in Iraq with connections to the terror group revealed that Baghdadi suffered serious injuries during an attack by the US-led coalition in March. The source said Baghdadi’s wounds were at first life-threatening, but he has since made a slow recovery. He has not, however, resumed day-to-day control of the organisation.

Baghdadi’s wounding led to urgent meetings of Isis leaders, who initially believed he would die and made plans to name a new leader.

Two separate officials – a western diplomat and an Iraqi adviser – confirmed the strike took place on 18 March in the al-Baaj a district of Nineveh, close to the Syrian border. There had been two previous reports in November and December of Baghdadi being wounded, though neither was accurate.

The diplomat confirmed an air strike on a three-car convoy had taken place on that date between the village of Umm al-Rous and al-Qaraan. The attack targeted local Isis leaders and is believed to have killed three men. Officials did not know at the time that Baghdadi was in one of the cars.

Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi official who advises Baghdad on Isis, told the Guardian: “Yes, he was wounded in al-Baaj near the village of Umm al-Rous on 18 March with a group that was with him.”

US officials were unable to confirm the report. “We have nothing to confirm this report,” said a Pentagon spokesman.

Baghdadi is understood to have been spending much of his time in al-Baaj, about 200 miles west of the Isis stronghold of Mosul. “He chose this area because he knew from the war that the Americans did not have much cover there,” said a source privy to some of Baghdadi’s movements. “From 2003 (the US military) barely had a presence there. It was the one part of Iraq that they hadn’t mapped out.”

Al-Baaj, a Sunni tribal area, has long remained outside of state control even under ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s regime, and was considered a safe haven for jihadists from 2004 onwards.

Residents have long used smuggling networks as well as small valleys and tracks to import goods from nearby Syria and to other parts of Sunni areas of Iraq in Nineveh and Anbar. Al-Qaida in Iraq and all its subsequent incarnations, including Isis, had largely unfettered access to the routes until al-Baaj became a focus of US surveillance earlier this year.

Baghdadi had at least one earlier brush with death when US jets attacked a two-car convoy on the outskirts of Mosul on 14 December. His close aide Auf Abdul Rahman al-Efery was killed when a rocket fired from a war plane hit one of the cars. Baghdadi was believed to be in the second car, which was not hit.

In recent months, air strikes have been increasingly effective in targeting the Isis leadership. Baghdadi’s deputy, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, and the head of the group’s military operations in Iraq were both killed in early December.

After seizing control of a large chunk of Iraq and Syria last June, and threatening Baghdad and Irbil, Isis has recently lost substantial ground in both countries. An offensive led by Shia militias and the Iraqi military took back Iraq’s fourth city, Tikrit, last month, as well as close to 7,000 sq km in the centre of the country.

A Kurdish push from the north in January reclaimed close to 20,000 sq km. Both offensives appear to be paving the way for an assault in Mosul, which is not expected before the autumn. Isis remains in full control of Mosul, as well as Anbar province and much of eastern Syria.

The border between the two countries is largely redundant and, despite air strikes, the group remains in control of six crossing points that allow a ready flow of funds, fighters and weapons. Baghdadi had declared the swath of land from eastern Aleppo to central Iraq to be part of a caliphate that he leads.

While Baghdadi invokes authority as a religious leader, the constant threat from the skies has led to some of its command and strategic decisions being made by other members of the leadership. Since Baghdadi’s wounding, Isis’s military and Shura councils have become increasingly prominent in decision-making, the source close to the organisation revealed.

Click to watch: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/world/video/2014/nov/13/isis

 66 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 06:07 AM 
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U.S. Welcomes Poland's Plans to Buy Patriot Missiles

by Naharnet Newsdesk 22 April 2015, 06:52

The United States welcomed Tuesday news that Poland is planning to buy the U.S.-made Patriot missile system in an unprecedented revamp of its military in a deal worth up to $5 billion.

"Poland is a stalwart NATO ally, and its defense modernization program... directly fortifies the military strength of the alliance," State Department acting spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

Amid heightened tensions with neighboring Russia, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski announced earlier that Warsaw would hold exclusive talks with Washington on the multibillion-euro air defense contract for the system built by Raytheon. Talks will begin in May.

"Economic diplomacy in support of American companies and workers is a centerpiece of our international agenda, and Raytheon's selection reflects a coordinated advocacy approach by the Departments of State, Commerce and Defense," Harf added.

The program was also "expected to generate at least $2.5 billion in U.S. export content — that means supporting American jobs at home and growing our manufacturing base," she said.

Poland's defense ministry said it wanted to acquire eight missile batteries by 2025, with two of them to be delivered within three years of signing a deal.

"The U.S. offer is regarded as the most advantageous from the viewpoint of Polish security and fulfilling (NATO) alliance obligations," the Polish defense ministry said.

Harf added that the U.S. "remains committed to Poland's security and NATO's collective defense."

"The program also includes co-development and co-production elements that will also strengthen Poland's defense industry," she said in her statement.

While picking the U.S. for its missiles, Poland went with the Europeans for helicopters, announcing that it would test Airbus-made multi-purpose choppers to replace its Soviet-era equipment.

Source: Agence France Presse

 67 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 06:06 AM 
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EU under Pressure as Horror of Migrant Disaster Emerges

by Naharnet Newsdesk 22 April 2015, 06:54

European governments were under mounting pressure Wednesday to act decisively on the Mediterranean migrant crisis as harrowing details emerged of the fate of those who died in the worst tragedy to date.

With the crisis set to be discussed at an emergency summit on Thursday, allegations of callous disregard for Arab and African lives are pushing EU leaders to respond to a disaster in which 800 people are feared to have died in appalling circumstances off the coast of Libya on Sunday.

The vast majority of those on board were locked in the hold or the middle deck of the 20-meter (66-foot) boat when it capsized following a collision with a Portuguese cargo ship responding to its distress signal.

Only 28, including two crew members who have been arrested, survived and 24 bodies have been recovered.

A Bangladeshi teenager who was among the survivors revealed there had been three classes of passengers on board the perilously overcrowded vessel.

"Those who had the least money were stuffed into the hold at the bottom, and locked inside," the teen, identified by his first name Abdirizzak, told Corriere della Sera.

"We were on the middle level and only those who paid more were above."

When the first collision happened in pitch darkness, scenes of pure terror ensued, he said.

"Everyone was screaming, pushing, punching, elbowing -- terrified. From below we could hear those who were locked in shouting 'Help, Help!'

"I don't know how but somehow we managed to swim outside just in time before the boat went down."

Another Bangladeshi survivor told Britain's Daily Telegraph the migrant boat had hit the Portuguese container ship three times.

"People panicked -- they all ran to the other side of the deck. That’s what tipped us over," 17-year-old Riajul was quoted as saying.

"Most of the other migrants were African and they didn't know how to swim. I did and that's why I survived.

Prosecutors in the Sicilian city of Catania said Tuesday they believed the boat's Tunisian captain was responsible for steering mistakes and the reckless overcrowding which led to disaster.

Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, will appear before a judge on Friday along with crew member and Syrian national Mahmud Bikhit, 25, who was also arrested following the catastrophe.

Most of the survivors and the victims appear to have been young men but the exact breakdown of the human cargo may never be known as the wreck has sunk in one of the deepest parts of the Mediterranean.

The U.N. Security Council called overnight for a strengthened global response to migration and human trafficking, and the 15-member council voiced support for southern European countries struggling with the refugee influx.

After a one-minute silence in parliament in memory of the victims, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called on his country's European partners to help stabilize the countries sending the flood of migrants into lawless Libya and onto boats for Europe.

"Fighting people trafficking means fighting the slave traders of the 21st century. It is not only a question of security and terrorism -- it is about human dignity," Renzi told deputies.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Italy and other southern European countries in the frontline of the crisis needed more financial support.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said the EU should be looking at building massive refugee camps in North Africa to shelter would-be migrants and refugees.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is ready to offer the services of a Royal Navy warship for rescue efforts, according to a report in The Times.

EU governments have already agreed to double the resources available to a maritime border patrol mission, but that has been attacked as too little, too late by refugee and rights groups.

Sunday's disaster was the worst in a series of migrant shipwrecks that have claimed more than 1,750 lives this year -- 30 times higher than the same period in 2014 -- and nearly 5,000 since the start of last year.

If current trends continue, there could be 30,000 deaths at sea this year and Italy will have to process 200,000 migrants landing on its soil, according to projections by aid workers.

Italian officials believe there could be up to one million refugees from Syria, Eritrea and sub-Saharan Africa already in Libya hoping to board boats.

Australia has urged the EU to follow its example and send naval boats to turn the traffickers back.

EU leaders will on Thursday discuss ideas including trying to capture or destroy people-smuggling boats and a pilot scheme for the fast-track return of migrants to their home countries.

************

Migrant shipwreck: one child’s journey from Somalia to the shores of Italy

Said, 16, describes ordeal at the hands of traffickers before becoming one of just four children to survive disaster in Mediterranean

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome
Tuesday 21 April 2015 23.23 BST

Said’s journey from Somalia began about a year ago; it has not quite ended yet. The 16-year-old was trying to make his way to Norway, where his parents hoped he would meet relatives, but his journey was interrupted on the shores of Italy after his survival against the odds in the catastrophic shipwreck in the Mediterranean.

He is one of just four children who have lived to tell the story of the disaster that killed up to 950 migrants from Africa who were desperate to reach Italy. About 100 children are believed to be among the dead, according to witness accounts collected by Save the Children, the aid agency that is working with migrants and focuses on meeting the needs of traumatised children who have made the treacherous journey.

The aid group said 2,500 children could die in the Mediterranean by the end of the year if the current trend continues.

Said arrived in Sicily on Monday night. His parents had put him in the care of Sudanese traffickers last summer in an attempt to get one of their children – he also has five sisters and three brothers – to Norway.

His odyssey began with a journey across the desert until he reached the Libyan border, where he was taken and held by armed smugglers for nine months until his parents were able to pay for the first part of his trip.

He wasn’t the only child there. Said told Save the Children that he witnessed other children being mistreated, and some dying from starvation and illness. Once his parents paid the smugglers, he was sent to Tripoli.

It was a terrifying ordeal that took six days. In that time, Said hid constantly and was afraid of being held captive again by the smugglers.

Once he got to Tripoli, he became just one of thousands of migrants who are waiting to make the journey first to Italy and then – for many – other parts of Europe.

Said said that at 11pm on 18 April he was put on a rubber dinghy which transported him to the now-notorious fishing boat. The date does not match a statement released on Tuesday by prosecutors in Catania, who said they believed the boat left Tripoli on 16 April.

Said said there were many nationalities represented on the boat, including people from Mali, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan and Senegal. He overheard smugglers – who have been compared to modern-day slave drivers by Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi – saying they wanted to get 1,200 people on board but stopped at 800.

Another survivor has estimated that as many as 950 people could have been on the boat. Only 28 survived, including the alleged captain of the ship and one of his crew members. Both have been accused of multiple manslaughter. Their attorney could not be reached for comment.

According to Said’s statement, passengers were beaten as they got on board and many were locked in holds under the boat.

On the night of 19 April, the smugglers made a distress call, Said said. When the lights of a cargo vessel called the King Jacob became visible, the desperate passengers lunged to one side of the boat, and it capsized.

Said remembers fainting, and then woke up.

He told aid workers that he is tired and hopes to complete his journey to Norway, although he has no money and is unsure of his next move. The only thing he does know is that he does not want to rely on smugglers to get there.

Source: Agence France Presse

 68 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 06:01 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
IS Group is 'Russia's Greatest Enemy', not U.S., Says Lavrov

by Naharnet Newsdesk 22 April 2015, 13:21

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the Islamic State group was Moscow's greatest enemy, notwithstanding the strained relations with the United States over the Ukraine conflict.

"I believe IS is our greatest enemy right now," Lavrov said in an interview with Russian radio stations when asked whether he considers China, IS or NATO Russia's greatest threat.

Lavrov said "hundreds of Russian citizens, hundreds of Europeans, hundreds of Americans are fighting for IS, along with CIS (former Soviet) countries."

"They are already returning home. They come here to rest after fighting and can get up to dirty tricks at home," he said.

"As far as (relations with the) United States are concerned, these are state issues, these are issues of the world order, which have to be resolved through talks."

Russia's relations with the West, particularly with the United States, have plummeted to a post-Cold War low over the war in Ukraine and sanctions imposed over Moscow's role in supporting pro-Russian militants.

Source: Agence France Presse

 69 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 06:00 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
'Many' Human Remains Found at MH17 Crash Site

by Naharnet Newsdesk 22 April 2015, 14:05

Dutch investigators have recovered "many" more body parts and pieces of wreckage after resuming their search at the MH17 plane crash site in Ukraine, the Netherlands said Wednesday.

All 298 passengers and crew onboard the Malaysia Airlines jetliner -- most of them Dutch -- died when it was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine last year.

"Many human remains have been found in the first few days of this mission," the Dutch justice ministry said in a statement.

Investigators also recovered around 50 cubic meters (around 1,750 cubic feet) of plane wreckage as well as personal effects including jewelery, passports and photographs.

Everything that has been found will be taken to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and from there to the Netherlands.

The latest search operation started last week in Petropavlivka, about 10 kilometers (six miles) west of Grabove where most of the debris fell.

The Boeing 777 was flying at high altitude when it was shot down on July 17.

The remains of all but two victims, both Dutch, have been identified.

Kiev and the West claim that the plane was shot down by the separatists using a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denies the charges, pointing the finger at Kiev.

The Netherlands has been charged with leading the investigation into the cause of the incident and identifying the victims of the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Source: Agence France Presse

 70 
 on: Apr 22, 2015, 05:59 AM 
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Spain Recalls Ambassador to Venezuela as Row Deepens

by Naharnet Newsdesk 22 April 2015, 14:47

Spain recalled its ambassador to Caracas Wednesday after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused Madrid of "terrorism", as a row between the two countries intensified.

"Given the level of verbal irritation that I have seen from president Maduro, I have decided to recall our ambassador to Caracas for consultation," said Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

"The adjectives used by the authorities -- never by the Venezuelan people -- are absolutely intolerable," he added.

Maduro accused the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of "supporting terrorism" in Venezuela and of being behind "an international conspiracy to overthrow the government".

He said Rajoy belongs to a "group of corrupt (leaders), bandits and thieves".

Spain and Venezuela summoned each other's ambassadors April 15 as accusations flew back and forth across the Atlantic of a Venezuelan opposition crackdown and Spanish "racism" and "meddling".

The spat erupted after Spanish lawmakers passed a motion on April 14 calling on Venezuela, a former colony of Spain, to release jailed opposition leaders.

Maduro condemned the measure as "an act of aggression by corrupt Spanish elites" and called Rajoy "a racist".

Tensions rose over Spain's support for jailed opposition figures Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas, and Leopoldo Lopez, a political leader.

Lopez is accused of playing a role in the student demonstrations against the government that left 43 people dead last year.

Source: Agence France Presse

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