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Syrian rebels receive US-made TOW anti-tank
2014.04.16 01:53:04

Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad for the first time received at least 20 US-made TOW anti-tank missiles from a "Western source," a rebel official told AFP news agency Tuesday.

"Moderate, well-organized fighters from the Hazm movement have for the first time received more than 20 TOW anti-tank missiles from a Western source," the source said on condition of anonymity, and without specifying who had supplied the rockets.

The Hazm movement, part of the opposition Free Syrian Army, brings together mainly ex-army officers and soldiers who defected from the military to join the revolt.

"More have been promised should it be proven that the missiles are being used in an effective way," the source said.

"Dozens of fighters have been trained with international assistance in the use of these missiles," the rebel said, adding that the weapons have been used in flashpoint areas of Idlib, Aleppo and Latakia provinces in the north.

Amateur video distributed by the opposition Masarat media network showed rebels unpacking, loading and firing several missiles at unnamed locations in the Syrian countryside.

"Most of the targets were tanks," said the rebel official, adding that "the 20 missiles have been used 100 percent effectively, always hitting their targets."

Vastly outgunned by the army, rebels have frequently called on the West to provide them with specialized weaponry.

"The international community needs to help stop Assad's army and Iran. We are calling for anti-aircraft weapons to be shipped over," opposition National Coalition member Louay Muqdad told AFP Tuesday.

[AFP]



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Mortar rounds landed near schools
2014.04.16 01:50:35

Two mortar rounds landed near schools in predominantly Christian districts of the Syrian capital Tuesday, killing one child and wounding 41 other people, state media said.

Syria's official news agency said one of the shells struck a school in the Bab Touma neighborhood, killing one child and wounding 36 others. In a separate attack, another mortar round exploded near the Mar Elias Church in the Dweilaa district, wounding five people. The church compound also includes a school.

Opposition fighters say they aren't specifically targeting Damascus' large Christian minority. Still, because the mortars cannot be precisely targeted, their victims have often been civilians, including children in schools.

In the central city of Homs, 15-year-old Tarek Ghrair, a player for the country's national youth football team was killed when a mortar shell exploded near his home in the Ghouta district, according to the Syrian Football Association's president. The city's main stadium is located the neighborhood.

[AP]



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Court banned members of the Muslim Brotherhood
2014.04.16 01:49:41

A court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on Tuesday banned members of the Muslim Brotherhood from running in upcoming elections, a lawyer and state media said.

The court authorities to bar any candidacies from Brotherhood members or former members in presidential and parliamentary elections.

Egypt's military-installed authorities are engaged in a deadly crackdown against the Islamist movement, which swept elections in Egypt after the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 but is now blacklisted as a "terrorist group." [AFP]



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Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister
2014.04.16 01:47:38

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Tuesday said the "grave news" that President Bashar al-Assad's forces had carried out two poison gas attacks last week was a challenge to "international will".

Rebels and the Syrian government have blamed each other for the alleged poison gas attacks on Friday and Saturday on rebel-held Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama.

Both sides said chlorine gas had been used.

These continuous violations by the Damascus regime require the international community to take firm action against the continuous defiance of international, Arab and Islamic will,

Prince Saud said at a news conference in Riyadh.

The reported gas attacks posed a clear challenge to the Security Council decision to dismantle Assad's chemical arsenal, he said.

[Reuters]



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Muslim Brotherhood
2014.04.16 01:46:00

State-owned television channels reported that a verdict was issued by Alexandria Urgent Matters Court banning Muslim Brotherhood members form running in upcoming presidential and parliament elections.



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UN's refugee agency
2014.04.16 01:43:54

The UN's refugee agency said Tuesday it was partially lifting a call to stop returning asylum seekers to Bulgaria because conditions there had improved.

Under current rules, European countries must return asylum seekers to the first country on the continent they arrive in.

But in January the United Nations urged European nations to suspend all returns to Bulgaria, citing "systematic deficiencies in reception conditions and asylum procedures" after the country was swamped with refugees from war-ravaged Syria.

On Tuesday the agency said the situation had improved, but the advice still stood for vulnerable people such as children or people suffering trauma or injuries.

Since there have been significant improvements, we are relaxing our directive, but only partially.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva.



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Egypt's presidential election
2014.04.16 01:26:34

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gained eight times the number of signatures needed to register as a candidate in Egypt's presidential election, according to his campaign.

To find out more click here.



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Syria's army launched a major ground assault
2014.04.16 01:24:07

Syria's army launched a major ground assault on the central city of Homs on Tuesday, state television said, with troops entering rebel-held districts under government siege for nearly two years.

"The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces have achieved key successes in the Old City of Homs," Syrian state television said, adding that troops were advancing in several besieged neighborhoods in the area.

[AFP]



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Air Berlin cancelled flights to Egypt
2014.04.16 01:22:42

Germany's second-biggest airline, Air Berlin, on Monday said it has cancelled flights this month to Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort on the Red Sea because of deteriorating security for foreign tourists on the Sinai Peninsula.

The suspension will last until April 30 inclusive, a peak period for Europeans seeking a sunny destination during their Easter vacations.

People who have already bought tickets will be reimbursed or offered places on flights to another Egyptian Red Sea resort, Hurghada, located not on the Sinai Peninsula but across the Gulf of Suez.

The airline's announcement follows warnings by Belgium, Germany and Switzerland for their nationals to avoid all the Sinai following stepped up unrest and violence there.

In February, three South Korean tourists were killed in a bomb attack on a bus claimed by an al-Qaeda-inspired group.

Scores of Egyptian policemen and soldiers have been killed in attacks claimed by Sinai-based fighters.

[AFP]



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Mortar shells on schools
2014.04.16 01:20:08

A child was martyred and 41 others, most of them children, were injured by "terrorist" mortar shells on schools in Bab Touma and al-Dwailaa, in Damascus, a source at Damascus Police Command said according to Syrian state news agency SANA.



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Kiev should focus on engaging all
2014.04.16 00:41:06

Russia's Putin has said Kiev should focus on engaging all parts of the country in drawing up a new constitution, according to the Kremlin. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Reports of Russian interference in Ukraine
2014.04.16 00:40:17

Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, has told US President Barack Obama that reports of Russian interference in Ukraine are wrong. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Putin urges Obama to prevent bloodshed in Ukraine
2014.04.16 00:39:27

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his US counterpart Barack Obama in a phone conversation to use the American side’s capabilities in full to prevent the use of force and a bloodshed in Ukraine, the Kremlin said Monday.

“The Russian side stressed that protest rallies in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov, Slavyansk and other cities of the Ukrainian Southeast are a result of the Kiev leadership’s unwillingness and inability to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian speaking population,” the Kremlin said.

ITAR-TASS



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States | Barack Obama

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Pro-Russian demonstrators in eastern Ukraine
2014.04.16 00:37:14

Any use of armed force against pro-Russian demonstrators in eastern Ukraine could spark a civil war, Moscow's envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Monday.

"The (Ukrainian) acting minister of the interior has said that armed forces will be used against those who are in the manifestations and also there are units being organized of paramilitary people who will be given weapons and who will be under command of the officers. It will be, as we heard, nearly 12,000 of these people. This is dangerous," Andrey Kelin told reporters, speaking in English.

"In Moscow we strongly believe it might lead to a civil war. We are very worried," he said after an OSCE Permanent Council meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Ukraine's ambassador to the OSCE, Ihor Prokopchuk, said "the acts which are qualified as the acts of terrorism need to get another quick response from the Ukrainian authorities. At the same time, every effort is taken to find a solution, a negotiated solution to this very tense situation." [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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John Brennan visited Kiev
2014.04.16 00:35:38

White House confirms Russian media reports that CIA director was in Kiev over the weekend:

John Brennan visited Kiev as part of a routine trip to Europe and any claims that it was anything other than that by Russia were "absurd", White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday. [AFP]

"We don't normally comment on the CIA director's travel but given the extraordinary circumstances in this case and the false claims being leveled by the Russians at the CIA we can confirm that the director was in Kiev as part of a trip to Europe," Carney told reporters. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States | CIA

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Putin appoints Aksyonov acting governor of Crimea
2014.04.15 01:54:02

President Vladimir Putin has appointed Sergey Aksyonov as Acting Governor of Crimea.

At a meeting on Monday, April 14, Putin said gubernatorial elections in Crimea would be held on September 14.

The Russian president asked whether Crimea was ready for the elections. “Crimea is ready,” Aksyonov assured the president.

TAR-TASS



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Crimea

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Russia had started a war against Ukraine
2014.04.15 01:52:38

Ukraine's deputy foreign minister said on Monday Russia had started a war against Ukraine and urged the world to "stop Russia's aggression."

Danilo Lubkivsky said during a news conference in Kiev:

This is about the war Russia has started against Ukraine. Ukraine will move forward and we will absolutely win in this war because for us this is not the war against Russians, for us this is the struggle for our independence, for our solidarity, for our future. And that future is of our choice, not Russia's.

"We need to combine all international efforts to return Russia to civilised rules of existence of independent countries, to stop Russia's aggression. That aggression is not just against Ukraine, that aggression is against the world," Lubkivsky said. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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EU discuss fresh sanctions against Russia
2014.04.15 01:51:16

The European Union discussed fresh sanctions against Russia on Monday as foreign ministers angrily blamed Moscow for fomenting trouble in restive eastern Ukraine while holding out hope of a diplomatic breakthrough.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on arriving for talks with his 27 counterparts:

Further sanctions have to be the response to Russia's behavior. There have to be consequences.

Events of the last 48 hours in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Kremlin militants have seized official buildings in orchestrated attacks, are "clearly a further escalation of the crisis," Hague said.

There could be no "doubt that this has been planned and brought about by Russia," he said, adding that Russian denials of involvement "do not have a shred of credibility."

Lithuanian counterpart Linkus Linkevicius, whose Baltic nation takes a hard line on Russian meddling after being occupied by its large neighbor, said Europe was seeing "signs of state-owned terrorism" and "must use all leverage."

"We must not (concentrate) on washing the dishes when the house is on fire," said Linkevicius as Swedish hardliner Carl Bildt said that "if they escalate, I think we should escalate."

A draft statement on Ukraine put to the bloc's 28 ministers suggested adding more Russians to an EU blacklist of 33 people subjected to an EU visa ban and asset freeze.

It also reiterated that any further steps by Russia to destabilize Ukraine "would lead to additional and far-reaching consequences" on economic ties. [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | European Union

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US signs $1bn loan guarantee for Ukraine
2014.04.15 01:48:16

The United States on Monday signed a $1bn loan guarantee for Ukraine, part of an aid package aimed at supporting the country's economic recovery.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement:

The Ukrainian people have demonstrated tremendous courage as they have charted an independent course for their country and demanded a government that truly reflects the will of the people.

[AFP]



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Escalation of the crisis in Ukraine
2014.04.15 01:47:04

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel warned on Monday of an escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, saying "Russia was clearly prepared to allow tanks to roll across European borders".

Speaking at an event in Berlin alongside new French Prime Minister Manuel Valls to commemorate World War One, Gabriel urged Europe to remember the lessons of the two world wars and not take freedom and security for granted.

Gabriel said:

We must take serious the nationalistic forces in Europe but also what is happening in European neighbouring countries. This is becoming dramatically clear since the good news from Maidan square in Kiev - that the firing on demonstrators had stopped and that the democratic constitution would be installed again - since these hopeful reports were replaced by continued military confrontation and by reports that Russia was clearly prepared to allow tanks to roll across European borders.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Germany

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