Category Archives: Information

Thousands protest against Houthi rule in Yemen after embassies close

Pro-Houthi protesters demonstrate to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the uprising that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah


(Reuters) – Yemenis in the capital Sanaa and the central city of Taiz held the largest protests yet against a takeover by a Shi’ite Muslim militia group on Wednesday after the United States, Britain and France shut their embassies over security fears.

Hundreds massed in the capital against the Houthi fighters, who manned checkpoints and guarded government buildings they control. The militants, bedecked in tribal robes and automatic rifles, shot in the air and thrust daggers at the crowds opposing their rule.

Tens of thousands of people also carried banners and chanted anti-Houthi slogans in Taiz, which the militants have not taken.

The Iranian-backed Houthi movement has called its seizure of power a revolution and says it wants to rid the country of corruption and economic peril — though Yemen’s rich Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab neighbors say it is a coup.

Yemen had long been at the forefront of the U.S.-led war against al Qaeda, but the long-standing alliance between Washington and Sanaa appears to have ended for now.

The U.S. ambassador and diplomatic staff left the embassy on Wednesday, local workers said, a day after Washington announced it was closing the mission. Embassy workers had already destroyed weapons, computers and documents, they added.

“Recent unilateral actions disrupted the political transition process in Yemen, creating the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community in Sanaa,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

France and Britain announced the closure of their embassies on Wednesday, and German Embassy employees said the mission was getting rid of sensitive documents and would close soon..

The Houthis, who overran Sanaa in September and formally took power last week, are stridently anti-American, and chant “death to America” at rallies.

Abdel Malik al-Ijri, a member of the Houthi movement’s political bureau, said on Facebook the decision to close the embassies was “not justified at all and comes in the context of pressure on our people”.

“Governments of brotherly and friendly countries in the near future will realize that it is in their interest to deal with the will of our people with due respect,” al-Ijri wrote.

He also dismissed a report from U.S. embassy workers that the militants had seized more than 20 of their vehicles, saying they had been taken by airport authorities.

HOUTHI ADVANCE

Houthi forces advanced far into the south on Tuesday night, according to local officials, continuing their expansion of recent months which is raising fears of an all-out civil war.

Leaders and Sunni tribesmen in the southern and eastern regions, which the group has so far not seized, are arming themselves against their push and are in some cases making common cause with Yemeni Al Qaeda militants.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the global militant group’s most powerful arms, has repeatedly bombed and attacked Houthi targets.

Other tribes from Yemen’s formerly independent south, which has clamored for secession for almost a decade, vowed on Wednesday to repel any Houthi attack.

The Houthi forces are bolstered by army units widely believed to maintain loyalty to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh — though he denies any link.

Saleh ruled the country for thirty-three years, balancing the competing interests for Yemen’s kaleidoscope of armed tribes, political bosses and militants – a feat he called “dancing on the heads of snakes.”

But he was eased out of power after “Arab Spring” protests against his rule in 2011 under a delicate transition plan drawn up by Yemen’s rich Sunni Gulf Arab neighbors – all of them opponents of the Houthis.

Those neighbors have called the Houthi takeover a coup. Saleh and his former ruling party have denied an attempt to settle old scores and reassert its control over the country through the Houthis.

The tenure of Saleh’s successor, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, was defined by gridlock among Yemen’s array of feuding parties. Hadi resigned last month along with his whole government after Houthi gunmen attacked his home.

(Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


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U.S. gunman kills three Muslims near North Carolina university

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill appears in a police booking photograph provided by the Durham County Sheriff in Durham, North Carolina February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Durham County Office of the Sheriff/handout

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill appears in a police booking photograph provided by the Durham County Sheriff in Durham, North Carolina February 11, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Durham County Office of the Sheriff/handout


<span class="articleLocatio

n”>(Reuters) – A gunman shot dead three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina, enraging Muslim activists who on Wednesday demanded U.S. state and federal authorities investigate the suspect for possible hate crimes.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill, was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder, the Chapel Hill Police Department said in a statement on Wednesday. On a Facebook page appearing to belong to Hicks, he had posted frequent messages critical of various religions.

Police identified the victims in the Tuesday evening shooting as dental student Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told Reuters the three were Muslim.

“Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, the religious attire of two of the victims, and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Police have offered no motive for the killings. Hicks was being held at the Durham County Jail, police said.

The university said in a statement that police responded to a report of gunshots at 5:11 p.m. local time and found the three victims, who were all pronounced dead at the scene.

The university said Barakat was a second-year student at its dentistry school and his wife was planning on starting there in the next school year, while her sister was a student at North Carolina State University. The wife listed herself on Facebook as a student at North Carolina State University.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner and Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Howard Goller)


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U.S. gunman kills three Muslims near North Carolina university

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill appears in a police booking photograph provided by the Durham County Sheriff in Durham, North Carolina February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Durham County Office of the Sheriff/handout

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill appears in a police booking photograph provided by the Durham County Sheriff in Durham, North Carolina February 11, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Durham County Office of the Sheriff/handout


<span class="articleLocatio

n”>(Reuters) – A gunman shot dead three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina, enraging Muslim activists who on Wednesday demanded U.S. state and federal authorities investigate the suspect for possible hate crimes.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill, was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder, the Chapel Hill Police Department said in a statement on Wednesday. On a Facebook page appearing to belong to Hicks, he had posted frequent messages critical of various religions.

Police identified the victims in the Tuesday evening shooting as dental student Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told Reuters the three were Muslim.

“Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, the religious attire of two of the victims, and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

Police have offered no motive for the killings. Hicks was being held at the Durham County Jail, police said.

The university said in a statement that police responded to a report of gunshots at 5:11 p.m. local time and found the three victims, who were all pronounced dead at the scene.

The university said Barakat was a second-year student at its dentistry school and his wife was planning on starting there in the next school year, while her sister was a student at North Carolina State University. The wife listed herself on Facebook as a student at North Carolina State University.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner and Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Howard Goller)


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Thomson Reuters Corp sees revenue growth in 2015

A logo of Thomson Reuters is seen during the Reuters Economic Forum at Santiago, November 8, 2013. REUTERS/Claudio Reyes

A logo of Thomson Reuters is seen during the Reuters Economic Forum at Santiago, November 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Claudio Reyes


(Reuters) – Thomson Reuters Corp said on Wednesday it expects its revenue to grow in 2015 and reported that it added more sales for its products to financial customers in 2014.

The news and information company forecast that its revenue would increase, factoring out currency changes or acquisitions.

“I am pleased to say that we expect to return to organic revenue growth and achieve greater profitability in 2015,” Chief Executive Jim Smith said in a statement.

The company reported positive net sales – which strips out cancellations – in its Financial & Risk division after a six year dry spell.

The Financial & Risk division, which caters to banks and other financial institutions, represents more than half of the company’s total revenue. Sales have lagged in recent years as banks slash spending and cut headcount.

Total revenue for the year was flat before currency adjustments at $12.6 billion, meeting the company’s 2014 forecast.

For the fourth quarter, total revenue rose 1 percent before currency considerations to $3.2 billion. It decreased 2 percent when currencies moves were factored in. Analysts on average were expecting $3.27 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The rise in quarterly revenue was due to strength at the company’s Legal division, which reported a 2 percent increase in revenue to $872 million and its Tax & Accounting unit, where revenue rose 10 percent to $397 million.

Adjusted for special items, fourth quarter income was $347 million, or 43 cents per share, compared with $170 million, or 21 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts were expecting 47 cents per share.

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley)


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Thomson Reuters Corp sees revenue growth in 2015

A logo of Thomson Reuters is seen during the Reuters Economic Forum at Santiago, November 8, 2013. REUTERS/Claudio Reyes

A logo of Thomson Reuters is seen during the Reuters Economic Forum at Santiago, November 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Claudio Reyes


(Reuters) – Thomson Reuters Corp said on Wednesday it expects its revenue to grow in 2015 and reported that it added more sales for its products to financial customers in 2014.

The news and information company forecast that its revenue would increase, factoring out currency changes or acquisitions.

“I am pleased to say that we expect to return to organic revenue growth and achieve greater profitability in 2015,” Chief Executive Jim Smith said in a statement.

The company reported positive net sales – which strips out cancellations – in its Financial & Risk division after a six year dry spell.

The Financial & Risk division, which caters to banks and other financial institutions, represents more than half of the company’s total revenue. Sales have lagged in recent years as banks slash spending and cut headcount.

Total revenue for the year was flat before currency adjustments at $12.6 billion, meeting the company’s 2014 forecast.

For the fourth quarter, total revenue rose 1 percent before currency considerations to $3.2 billion. It decreased 2 percent when currencies moves were factored in. Analysts on average were expecting $3.27 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The rise in quarterly revenue was due to strength at the company’s Legal division, which reported a 2 percent increase in revenue to $872 million and its Tax & Accounting unit, where revenue rose 10 percent to $397 million.

Adjusted for special items, fourth quarter income was $347 million, or 43 cents per share, compared with $170 million, or 21 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts were expecting 47 cents per share.

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley)


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Greek finance minister enters euro zone lions' den

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis addresses a news conference following talks with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, at the finance ministry in Berlin February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch


(Reuters) – Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis headed for a showdown with euro zone finance ministers on Wednesday after his new leftist-led government won a parliamentary confidence vote for its refusal to extend an international bailout.

The former academic said he was ready for a clash with euro zone paymaster Germany and its allies over Greece’s determination to scrap austerity measures, end cooperation with the “troika” of EU/ECB/IMF officials overseeing the bailout program and demand a “haircut” restructuring its debt.

“If a debt can no longer be paid off then that leads to a haircut,” Varoufakis told German magazine Stern in an interview released on Wednesday. “What is critical is that Greece’s debt cannot be paid off in the near future.”

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said that if Greece is not willing to request an extension of its 240 billion euro bailout – the biggest in financial history – “then that’s it”, ruling out further assistance or debt forgiveness.

He and other euro zone ministers said they wanted to hear Greece’s ideas at a Eurogroup meeting beginning at 1630 GMT (11:30 a.m. EST) in Brussels, but they warned that time was short since the bailout program expires at the end of this month and no solution is in sight.

Greek bond yields rose and shares fell before the meeting, with investors concerned that failure to reach a deal in the next couple of weeks could lead to a possible Greek default and exit from the euro currency.

However, most analysts said the odds were on an agreement emerging this month after lots of sound and fury.

“We are once again seeing a kind of chicken race between the new Greek government on one side and the ‘troika’ on the other,” Swedish SEB Bank chief economist Robert Bergqvist said. “Our main scenario implies a compromise that will ease current financial market worries.”

European Union leaders will take up the issue at their first summit with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday. EU officials said they would be briefed on the talks but there would be no room for debt negotiation at a summit mostly devoted to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, fighting terrorism and longer-term reform of the euro zone’s governance.

Tsipras struck a defiant tone in parliament late on Tuesday, saying that “little Greece” was changing Europe by casting off austerity.

“We are not negotiating the bailout; it was canceled by its own failure,” the leader of the hard left Syriza party declared before winning the confidence vote with the backing of 162 lawmakers in the 300-seat chamber. “I want to assure you that there is no going back. Greece cannot return to the era of bailouts.”

Tsipras agreed on Wednesday to work on reforms with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based inter-governmental think-tank, but said they would not be imposed from outside.

OECD chief Angel Gurria appeared to endorse Tsipras’s criticisms of the bailout program after they met in Athens, saying it had produced low growth, high unemployment, rising inequality and a loss of trust.

DEBT RENEGOTIATION

Varoufakis has proposed a six-month transition in which Greece would be allowed to issue more short-term debt, receive the proceeds of ECB holdings of Greek bonds and tap unused bank rescue funds while renegotiating its debt. Athens would swap its euro zone loans for GDP-linked bonds and its ECB-held debt for interest-bearing perpetual bonds with no reimbursement date.

EU officials have said the most Greece can expect is a further extension of the repayment deadline for its euro zone loans, a lower interest rate and perhaps a prolonged moratorium on debt service payments, in return for continued reforms under some form of external supervision.

A senior party aide of Chancellor Angela Merkel said “direct provocation” by the new Greek government had diminished the German parliament’s willingness to help Athens. Tsipras has talked of seeking reparations for the World War Two Nazi occupation of Greece and personally rebuffed Schaeuble.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan, whose country emerged successfully from its own EU/IMF bailout in 2013 and now has the highest growth rate in Europe, said he was pessimistic about Wednesday’s talks and accused the Greeks of double-speak.

“I don’t see the basis for a solution emerging yet,” Noonan told a parliamentary committee in Dublin. “Many of the proposals that are emanating are, on the face of it, technically impossible.”

He said Tsipras and Varoufakis had said different things to their domestic and European audiences.

Austria’s finance minister, Hans Joerg Schelling, said he thought a solution could be reached by the end of February if Greece wanted, otherwise things would enter a “critical phase”.

“We again have a situation now in which money is being withdrawn from Greek banks. We have a situation that certain debts may not be able to be serviced, and that is of course a critical phase because the reaction on financial markets would be enormous,” he told ORF radio.

Greek ministers have talked of possibly turning to Russia or China for assistance if there is a deadlock with the euro zone.

Tspiras discussed deepening cooperation and investment in a telephone call with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, a Greek government official said. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she was not aware of any offer of aid to Athens.

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotsias held talks in Russia on Wednesday but there was no mention of financial assistance from Moscow at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart.

The new government meanwhile confirmed that it has halted plans to privatize the main ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, in which China’s Cosco had been a contender.

(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, Angeliki Koutantou and Deepa Babington in Athens and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by David Stamp)


Source: Newsjyoti Bestsellers

Greek finance minister enters euro zone lions' den

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis addresses a news conference following talks with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, at the finance ministry in Berlin February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch


(Reuters) – Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis headed for a showdown with euro zone finance ministers on Wednesday after his new leftist-led government won a parliamentary confidence vote for its refusal to extend an international bailout.

The former academic said he was ready for a clash with euro zone paymaster Germany and its allies over Greece’s determination to scrap austerity measures, end cooperation with the “troika” of EU/ECB/IMF officials overseeing the bailout program and demand a “haircut” restructuring its debt.

“If a debt can no longer be paid off then that leads to a haircut,” Varoufakis told German magazine Stern in an interview released on Wednesday. “What is critical is that Greece’s debt cannot be paid off in the near future.”

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said that if Greece is not willing to request an extension of its 240 billion euro bailout – the biggest in financial history – “then that’s it”, ruling out further assistance or debt forgiveness.

He and other euro zone ministers said they wanted to hear Greece’s ideas at a Eurogroup meeting beginning at 1630 GMT (11:30 a.m. EST) in Brussels, but they warned that time was short since the bailout program expires at the end of this month and no solution is in sight.

Greek bond yields rose and shares fell before the meeting, with investors concerned that failure to reach a deal in the next couple of weeks could lead to a possible Greek default and exit from the euro currency.

However, most analysts said the odds were on an agreement emerging this month after lots of sound and fury.

“We are once again seeing a kind of chicken race between the new Greek government on one side and the ‘troika’ on the other,” Swedish SEB Bank chief economist Robert Bergqvist said. “Our main scenario implies a compromise that will ease current financial market worries.”

European Union leaders will take up the issue at their first summit with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday. EU officials said they would be briefed on the talks but there would be no room for debt negotiation at a summit mostly devoted to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, fighting terrorism and longer-term reform of the euro zone’s governance.

Tsipras struck a defiant tone in parliament late on Tuesday, saying that “little Greece” was changing Europe by casting off austerity.

“We are not negotiating the bailout; it was canceled by its own failure,” the leader of the hard left Syriza party declared before winning the confidence vote with the backing of 162 lawmakers in the 300-seat chamber. “I want to assure you that there is no going back. Greece cannot return to the era of bailouts.”

Tsipras agreed on Wednesday to work on reforms with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based inter-governmental think-tank, but said they would not be imposed from outside.

OECD chief Angel Gurria appeared to endorse Tsipras’s criticisms of the bailout program after they met in Athens, saying it had produced low growth, high unemployment, rising inequality and a loss of trust.

DEBT RENEGOTIATION

Varoufakis has proposed a six-month transition in which Greece would be allowed to issue more short-term debt, receive the proceeds of ECB holdings of Greek bonds and tap unused bank rescue funds while renegotiating its debt. Athens would swap its euro zone loans for GDP-linked bonds and its ECB-held debt for interest-bearing perpetual bonds with no reimbursement date.

EU officials have said the most Greece can expect is a further extension of the repayment deadline for its euro zone loans, a lower interest rate and perhaps a prolonged moratorium on debt service payments, in return for continued reforms under some form of external supervision.

A senior party aide of Chancellor Angela Merkel said “direct provocation” by the new Greek government had diminished the German parliament’s willingness to help Athens. Tsipras has talked of seeking reparations for the World War Two Nazi occupation of Greece and personally rebuffed Schaeuble.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan, whose country emerged successfully from its own EU/IMF bailout in 2013 and now has the highest growth rate in Europe, said he was pessimistic about Wednesday’s talks and accused the Greeks of double-speak.

“I don’t see the basis for a solution emerging yet,” Noonan told a parliamentary committee in Dublin. “Many of the proposals that are emanating are, on the face of it, technically impossible.”

He said Tsipras and Varoufakis had said different things to their domestic and European audiences.

Austria’s finance minister, Hans Joerg Schelling, said he thought a solution could be reached by the end of February if Greece wanted, otherwise things would enter a “critical phase”.

“We again have a situation now in which money is being withdrawn from Greek banks. We have a situation that certain debts may not be able to be serviced, and that is of course a critical phase because the reaction on financial markets would be enormous,” he told ORF radio.

Greek ministers have talked of possibly turning to Russia or China for assistance if there is a deadlock with the euro zone.

Tspiras discussed deepening cooperation and investment in a telephone call with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, a Greek government official said. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she was not aware of any offer of aid to Athens.

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotsias held talks in Russia on Wednesday but there was no mention of financial assistance from Moscow at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart.

The new government meanwhile confirmed that it has halted plans to privatize the main ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, in which China’s Cosco had been a contender.

(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, Angeliki Koutantou and Deepa Babington in Athens and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by David Stamp)


Source: Newsjyoti Bestsellers

Obama seeks some limits on ground troops for Islamic State fight

Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State while taking part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.   REUTERS/Stringer

Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State while taking part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer


(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama will propose to Congress on Wednesday a new three-year authorization for the use of force against Islamic State with limits on U.S. combat troops’ involvement, lawmakers and congressional aides said.

Obama has defended his authority to lead an international coalition against Islamic State since Aug. 8 when U.S. fighter jets began attacking the jihadists in Iraq. But he has faced criticism for failing to seek the backing of Congress, where some accuse him of breaching his constitutional authority.

Facing pressure to let lawmakers weigh in on an issue as important as the deployment of troops and chastened by elections that handed power in Congress to Republicans, he said in November he would request formal authorization for the use of military force (AUMF).

An outline of that request, expected to be handed to Congress on Wednesday, could stir debate over how U.S. troops should be deployed and the extent of U.S. engagement in Iraq and Syria.

The proposal would allow the use of special forces and advisors for defensive purposes but bar “enduring offensive ground forces,” lawmakers and aides said. It would not, however, set geographic limits for the campaign against the group.

Until now, Obama has justified U.S. air strikes in Iraq and Syria under a 2001 authorization passed after the Sept. 11 attacks and a 2002 authorization used by President George W. Bush in the Iraq war.

The new proposal would repeal the 2002 authorization but leave in place the 2001 AUMF, which has been invoked by the White House to carry out drone and missile strikes against suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen and Somalia.

VOTE IN MARCH?

Fueled by outrage over the death of aid worker Kayla Mueller, the last-known U.S. hostage held by Islamic State militants, as well as the slayings of journalists and a Jordanian pilot, lawmakers said they planned quick hearings on the authorization, and a vote within weeks of Congress’ return from a Feb. 16-20 recess.

Both Republicans and Democrats said there had been unusually close consultations between the administration and Capitol Hill on the authorization.

Many of Obama’s fellow Democrats, war-weary after more than a dozen years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, say they will oppose any AUMF that includes “boots on the ground.”

Obama’s opposition to the Iraq War helped propel him to victory in the 2008 campaign and bringing troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan has been a focus of his presidency.

“I worry that this AUMF gives the ability for the next president to put ground troops back into the Middle East,” said Senator Chris Murphy, adding that that would be a sticking point for himself and many other Democrats.

Some hawkish Republicans oppose restrictions on military commanders such as a ban on ground troops. Others are calling for a more extensive authorization allowing U.S. forces to challenge President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, where a four-year-long civil war has fueled the rise of the Islamic State group.

“If the authorization doesn’t let us counter Assad’s air power, I think it will fail,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a leading Republican foreign policy voice.

The White House has declined to discuss the specific time frame or details of its planned AUMF.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, David Lawder and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Jason Szep and Christian Plumb)


Source: Newsjyoti Bestsellers

Obama seeks some limits on ground troops for Islamic State fight

Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State while taking part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.   REUTERS/Stringer

Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State while taking part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer


(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama will propose to Congress on Wednesday a new three-year authorization for the use of force against Islamic State with limits on U.S. combat troops’ involvement, lawmakers and congressional aides said.

Obama has defended his authority to lead an international coalition against Islamic State since Aug. 8 when U.S. fighter jets began attacking the jihadists in Iraq. But he has faced criticism for failing to seek the backing of Congress, where some accuse him of breaching his constitutional authority.

Facing pressure to let lawmakers weigh in on an issue as important as the deployment of troops and chastened by elections that handed power in Congress to Republicans, he said in November he would request formal authorization for the use of military force (AUMF).

An outline of that request, expected to be handed to Congress on Wednesday, could stir debate over how U.S. troops should be deployed and the extent of U.S. engagement in Iraq and Syria.

The proposal would allow the use of special forces and advisors for defensive purposes but bar “enduring offensive ground forces,” lawmakers and aides said. It would not, however, set geographic limits for the campaign against the group.

Until now, Obama has justified U.S. air strikes in Iraq and Syria under a 2001 authorization passed after the Sept. 11 attacks and a 2002 authorization used by President George W. Bush in the Iraq war.

The new proposal would repeal the 2002 authorization but leave in place the 2001 AUMF, which has been invoked by the White House to carry out drone and missile strikes against suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen and Somalia.

VOTE IN MARCH?

Fueled by outrage over the death of aid worker Kayla Mueller, the last-known U.S. hostage held by Islamic State militants, as well as the slayings of journalists and a Jordanian pilot, lawmakers said they planned quick hearings on the authorization, and a vote within weeks of Congress’ return from a Feb. 16-20 recess.

Both Republicans and Democrats said there had been unusually close consultations between the administration and Capitol Hill on the authorization.

Many of Obama’s fellow Democrats, war-weary after more than a dozen years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, say they will oppose any AUMF that includes “boots on the ground.”

Obama’s opposition to the Iraq War helped propel him to victory in the 2008 campaign and bringing troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan has been a focus of his presidency.

“I worry that this AUMF gives the ability for the next president to put ground troops back into the Middle East,” said Senator Chris Murphy, adding that that would be a sticking point for himself and many other Democrats.

Some hawkish Republicans oppose restrictions on military commanders such as a ban on ground troops. Others are calling for a more extensive authorization allowing U.S. forces to challenge President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, where a four-year-long civil war has fueled the rise of the Islamic State group.

“If the authorization doesn’t let us counter Assad’s air power, I think it will fail,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a leading Republican foreign policy voice.

The White House has declined to discuss the specific time frame or details of its planned AUMF.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, David Lawder and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Jason Szep and Christian Plumb)


Source: Newsjyoti Bestsellers

Ukraine peace summit overshadowed by some of war's worst fighting

Pro-Russian separatists stand next to tanks on the outskirts of Horlivka, eastern Ukraine February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Pro-Russian separatists stand next to tanks on the outskirts of Horlivka, eastern Ukraine February 10, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov


(Reuters) – The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine were due to attend a peace summit on Wednesday, but Ukraine’s pro-Moscow separatists diminished the chance of a deal by launching some of the war’s worst fighting in an assault on a government garrison.

Kiev said 19 of its soldiers were killed in a day of pro-Russian separatist assaults at a single location near the railway hub of Debaltseve, some of the worst losses it has reported in nine months of war.

Rebels who tore up a five-month-old truce in January are trying to encircle government forces in Debaltseve, a strategic location that would let them link up their main strongholds.

The summit is being held in neighboring Belarus under a Franco-German proposal to try to halt the fighting. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande will meet Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Hopes for a breakthrough are slim, with European officials acknowledging that the advancing rebels are unlikely to agree to halt and go back to previous positions.

A surge in fighting in the 24 hours before the leaders were to gather, including a rocket attack that killed 11 people deep in government-held territory on Tuesday, could be intended to force Poroshenko to accept a deal recognizing the rebel advance.

Hours before the talks were due to start, officials still spoke of the possibility that the meeting would be called off.

“There are a number of problems which remain to be resolved … but it is very likely to go ahead,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Inter radio. “It is really a last-chance negotiation.”

Still, Moscow maintained its optimism. A Russian diplomatic source said it was 70 percent likely that an agreement would be reached.

“The presidents aren’t traveling (to Minsk) for no reason,” the source said.

ADVANTAGE

Well over 5,000 people have been killed so far in a conflict in which Kiev accuses Russia of supplying separatists with men and weapons to further the break-up of Ukraine. Moscow denies it is involved in fighting for territory Putin calls “New Russia”.

If the French and German leaders were hoping their peace initiative would be met by conciliatory moves on the ground, the prospect of talks appears to have triggered the opposite, with the pro-Russian rebels determined to drive home their advantage.

Armored columns of Russian-speaking soldiers with no insignia have been advancing for days around Debaltseve. Last week they captured the small town of Vuhlehirsk next to Debaltseve, and a reconnaissance unit was there on Tuesday salvaging equipment from abandoned Ukrainian trenches.

The squad’s commander said his men did not want a truce while they had government forces on the run.

On the Russian side of the border, Moscow announced war games on Tuesday on the eve of the talks.

The United States has been openly discussing arming the Ukrainian government, a move that is opposed by European allies who say it would escalate the conflict while falling far short of giving Kiev the firepower needed to win.

President Barack Obama says he has yet to make up his mind on the question of sending weapons. He spoke by phone overnight to Putin, and the White House said he warned the Russian leader that the costs would rise if Moscow kept aiding the separatists.

Kiev military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov, briefing journalists on rebel attempts to encircle government forces holding Debaltseve, said the 19 soldiers had been killed “in shelling, rocket attacks and military clashes”.

Poroshenko visited Ukraine’s military headquarters in the government-held town of Kramatorsk overnight, where seven civilians and four soldiers were killed by rockets fired at a target that was nowhere near the front line.

“This is a crime against humanity. This is almost 50 kilometers from the front line and the Russian-backed rebels and terrorist attacking civilians, attacking the peaceful city of Kramatorsk. This is absolutely unacceptable.

“These crimes should be punished. We demand an immediate, unconditional ceasefire, the closing of the border, and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Ukrainian territory,” he said.

In separatist-held territory, one person was killed on Wednesday when a shell hit a bus station in the city of Donetsk, east Ukraine, a Reuters witness said.

The body of a man could be seen behind the wheel of a minibus after a shell fell through the roof of the station, burning up the vehicle and another beside it, he said.

Emergency services at the scene said another person had died in hospital following the attack, while two people were seriously wounded. There was no immediate comment from rebel authorities or the Kiev-controlled regional administration.

(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic, Alessandra Prentice, Margarita Chornokondatrenko, Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Richard Balmforth; editing by Peter Graff/Janet McBride)


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