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Fury, Tears As Thousands Mourn Iran Commander Killed By US

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Thousands of Iraqis chanting “Death to America” on Saturday mourned an Iranian commander and others killed in a US drone attack that sparked fears of a regional proxy war between Washington and Tehran.

The killing of Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani on Friday was the most dramatic escalation yet in spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States, which pledged to send thousands more troops to the region.

Iraqi political leaders and clerics attended the mass ceremony to honour 62-year-old Soleimani and the other nine victim of the pre-dawn attack on Baghdad international airport, including Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

US President Donald Trump said Friday he had decided to “terminate” Iran’s military mastermind to prevent an “imminent” attack on US diplomats and troops.

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” he insisted.

But the strike – which killed four more Iranian Guards and five members of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network — infuriated Iran, whose ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, called it an “act of war” by its arch-enemy.

On Saturday, the Hashed said a new strike had hit a convoy of their forces north of Baghdad, with Iraqi state media blaming the US.

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But US-led coalition spokesman Myles Caggins denied involvement, telling AFP: “There was no American or coalition strike.”

Mourning Procession

Mass ceremonies started in Baghdad Saturday for Soleimani — a veteran military figure revered as a hero by many in Iran and the region — and the other victims of Friday’s attack.

Iraq’s caretaker premier Adel Abdel Mahdi joined Muhandis associate Hadi al-Ameri, Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim, former PM Nuri al-Maliki and other pro-Iran figures in large crowds accompanying the coffins.

The coffins were first brought to a revered Shiite shrine in northern Baghdad, where thousands of mourners chanted “Death to America!”

Dressed in black, they waved white Hashed flags and massive portraits of Iranian and Iraqi leaders, furiously calling for “revenge”.

The crowds headed south to a point near the Green Zone, the high-security district home to government offices and foreign embassies, including America’s.

The remains will later be taken to the Shiite holy city of Najaf to the south, and the remains of the Guards will then be flown to Iran, which has declared three days of mourning.

As head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arm, Soleimani was a powerful figure domestically and oversaw wide-ranging Iranian involvement in regional power struggles.

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Soleimani had long been considered a lethal foe by Washington, with Trump saying he should have been killed “many years ago”.

Tehran has already named Soleimani’s deputy, Esmail Qaani, to replace him.

His first order of business was made clear Friday when Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promised “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death.

US Scales Back OPS

Iraqi paramilitary figures including US-blacklisted Qais al-Khazaali and militiaman-turned-politician Moqtada Sadr have called on their fighters to “be ready”.

Hashed al-Shaabi Media / AFP

And, elsewhere in the region, Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah threatened “punishment for these criminal assassins”.

Amid the tensions, the Pentagon said up to 3,500 additional US troops would be dispatched to Iraq’s southern neighbour Kuwait, to boost some 14,000 reinforcements already deployed to the region last year.

There are approximately 5,200 US troops stationed across Iraq to train Iraqis to fight jihadists.

They have faced a spate of rocket attacks that the US has blamed on pro-Iran factions and which last month killed an American contractor.

On Saturday, a US official told AFP the US-led forces were scaling back operations and refocusing surveillance to watch for new rocket attacks.

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“Our first priority is protecting coalition personnel,” the official said, saying there would be only “limited” training and anti-jihadist operations for now.

US citizens were meanwhile urged to leave Iraq immediately and American staff were being evacuated from oil fields in the south.

Abdel Mahdi warned Friday that the US strike would “spark a devastating war in Iraq”, while President Barham Saleh pleaded for “voices of reason” to prevail.

Pro-Iran factions in Iraq have seized on Soleimani’s death to push parliament to revoke the security agreement allowing for the deployment of US forces on Iraqi soil.

Iraqi lawmakers were to convene in emergency session on Sunday and expected to hold a vote.

Analysts said the US strike, which sent world oil prices soaring, would be a game-changer.

Phillip Smyth, a US-based specialist on Shiite armed groups, described the killing as “the most major decapitation strike that the US has ever pulled off.”

He expected “bigger” ramifications than either the 2011 operation that killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden or the 2019 raid that killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

AFP

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China Releases Two Canadian Detained For Morethan 1000 Days

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China Releases Two Canadian Detained For Morethan 1000 Days
Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor (right), two Canadian citizens detained in China on espionage charges, have been released after nearly three years, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
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China Releases Two Canadian Detained For Morethan 1000 Days

Two Canadians detained by China for nearly three years have been released, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday night.

Trudeau said Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor boarded a plane headed for Canada at about 7:30 p.m. ET Friday night and would land in Canada sometime Saturday.

“These two men have gone through an unbelievably difficult ordeal for the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance and grace and we are all inspired by that,” said Trudeau at a late evening news conference in Ottawa.

Trudeau would not discuss details about how their release came about but he thanked Canadian
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been held in China since late 2018. They were arrested on espionage charges in China shortly after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant related to the company’s business dealings in Iran. However, China has consistently denied that the cases were in any way connected.

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Earlier Friday, the United States Department of Justice and Meng reached an agreement to defer prosecution of US charges against her until late 2022, after which point the charges could be dropped.

China Releases Two Canadian Detained For Morethan 1000 Days

The US case centered on whether Meng misled HSBC bank about Huawei’s relationship with an Iranian subsidiary, Skycom, which the US alleges would have violated US sanctions against Iran.

Meng appeared virtually in a court in Brooklyn, New York, and pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.

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However, as part of the deal, Meng confirmed the statement of facts in the deferred prosecution agreement are true. Those facts include that she misrepresented Huawei’s relationship with Skycom to HSBC, according to court documents. If she says or implies otherwise, it could violate the terms of the deal and result in her prosecution.
CNN affiliate CTV News says it has confirmed that Meng left Canada aboard a private jet Friday evening.

Cnn.com

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UNGA: Boko Haram Still Functional in Nigeria But Too Weak Now – Buhari Tells World Leaders

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UNGA: Boko Haram Still Functional in Nigeria But Too Weak Now - Buhari Tells World Leaders
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UNGA: Boko Haram Still Functional in Nigeria But Too Weak Now – Buhari Tells World Leaders

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has said that Nigeria will spare no efforts at getting rid of Boko Haram terrorists, especially in the North-East part of the West African nation.

Buhari also said that though the insurgent group has been weakened by the defence forces, it is still active in the country, preying on soft targets.

He stated this on Friday while addressing over 80 world leaders at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Addressing the world leaders including the new UNGA President, Abdulla Shahid of Maldives, Buhari said, “Mr President, terrorism continues to dominate security discourse worldwide. In Nigeria, Boko Haram terrorist group though fragmented by internal strife and weakened by our defence forces is still active and preying on soft targets.

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UNGA: Boko Haram Still Functional in Nigeria But Too Weak Now – Buhari Tells World Leaders

“Nigeria will continue to work closely with the UN Counter-Terrorism bodies and entities with a view to bringing this scourge to an end.

“Nigeria has spared no efforts in addressing the challenges of terrorism posed by the activities of Boko Haram in North-East Nigeria, the Lake Chad region as well as banditry in the North-West and the North-Central. The Nigerian Security Forces have recorded considerable success in the fight against terrorism. As a result of the renewed vigour of our military, many terrorist fighters are voluntarily surrendering to our security forces.”

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The President lamented that Nigeria was concerned about illicit trading and movement of small arms which he said has been increasing criminality and insurgency in the country.

Buhari added, “Mr President, Nigeria remains deeply concerned about the illicit transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons. Their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world have had socio-economic consequences, especially on the continent of Africa.

“It is on this note that my delegation calls for the worldwide application of the arms trade treaty to curb and define accountability in conventional arms trading which is critical to the security of nations.

“This is in recognition of the need for a broad-based global partnership in the ongoing battle against trans-border crimes including terrorism and piracy.

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“Mr President, we must deal not only with the symptoms of conflict but also the causes that started the conflict in the first place. These include poor and undemocratic governance, human rights abuses, poverty, ignorance, injustice and inequality.

“There are no easy solutions to these problems, they require long-term investments and more effective international cooperation.”

Buhari also said that the democratic gains recorded in West Africa are now being eroded by the activities of power grabbers in the region, a thinly veiled reference to recent military takeovers in Mali and Guinea, both in West Africa.

He, however, restated that Nigeria supports the efforts of the continental and regional blocs including the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States at solving the issue.

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Boris Johnson Warns World Leaders They Have 1000 Hours To Tackle Climate Change

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Boris Johnson Warns World Leaders They Have 1000 Hours To Tackle Climate Change
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Boris Johnson Warns World Leaders They Have 1000 Hours To Tackle Climate Change

He told them they face “the most important period in the history of the planet” as he prepares to get them to thrash out an agreement to save the world.

The PM faces an uphill struggle ahead of his summit as India, the US, China and dozens of our own allies are still failing to do enough to tackle climate change – or cough up enough cash to stop it.

Top experts slammed big beasts for dragging their heels in setting tough emissions targets to stop the planet changing beyond all recognition.

Mr Johnson turned his fire on his own pals in the G20, urging them “show the leadership the world needs” and “do our duty by others less fortunate than ourselves” to make his COP26 summit a roaring success.

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He told the Major Economies Forum yesterday they must come together with “rock solid commitments” to “protect our planet and protect humanity for a thousand years to come”.

And rich nations must “get serious about filling the $100billion pot that the developing world needs to do its bit”, he demanded, after it was revealed it was still $20billion short.

Boris Johnson Warns World Leaders They Have 1000 Hours To Tackle Climate Change

Experts at the UN said that the goals set so far this year will not close the emissions gap – meaning the world is likely to miss targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Under countries’ current pledges, global emissions will be 16 per cent higher in 2030 than they were in 2010 – far off the 45 per cent reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed to stave off disastrous and irreversible climate change.

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Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India and China were among a handful of countries rated “critically insufficient” or “highly insufficient” by a recent climate tracker.

Even the EU, Germany and Norway were rapped as not doing enough to meet the Paris agreement goals.

The PM and President Biden will twist arms at the UN General Assembly summit in New York next week, where climate change is expected to be the number one issue on the agenda for the UK, which is hosting the global summit.

The PM and climate tsar Alok Sharma have been rallying countries to raise cash and submit new plans in the run up to the summit, where 100 world leaders have said they will attend, but efforts have been hampered by big nations dragging their feet.

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Mr Sharma said yesterday the frank reports were a “stark reminder of how urgent our work is ahead of COP26”.

He stressed: “This is a clear wake-up call for all of us – we need to act.” Downing Street said the PM was “disappointed there hasn’t been as much progress recently as there should have been”.

The Prime Minister also set out that the UK will be among the first signatories of the Global Methane Pledge, a US-EU initiative to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030 compared to levels during the 2020s.

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