World Newsletter

FRONT PAGE NEWS
13 January 2020

CHINA SAYS WON'T CHANGE POSITION ON TAIWAN AFTER LANDSLIDE ELECTION

China will not change its position that Taiwan belongs to it and the world
will only ever recognise that there is "one China", Beijing said on Sunday
after President Tsai Ing-wen won re-election and said she would not submit
to China's threats.
China's ramped up efforts to get democratic Taiwan to accept Beijing's rule
under a "one country, two systems" model, as well as anti-government
protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, dominated the election campaign.
China says Taiwan is its territory. Taiwan says it is an independent country
called the Republic of China, its formal name.
Tsai won another four-year term by a landslide, and her Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP) also gained a majority in parliament.
Speaking on Saturday after the scale of her victory become clear, Tsai
called for talks to resume with China, but said she hoped Beijing understood
Taiwan and its people won't submit to intimidation.
China's Foreign Ministry, responding to the vote, said Taiwan was an
internal affair for China.
"No matter what changes there are to the internal situation in Taiwan, the
basic fact that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of
China will not change," the ministry said in a statement.
The Chinese government will not change its stance sticking to the "one
China" principle and opposing Taiwan independence, it added.


FOUR IRAQI SERVICEMEN WOUNDED IN ROCKET ATTACK ON IRAQ BASE HOSTING U.S.
TROOPS

Four members of Iraq's military were wounded Sunday in a rocket attack
targeting an air base just north of Baghdad where American trainers were
present until recently, Iraqi security officials said.
The attack by at least six rockets came just days after Iran fired ballistic
missiles at two bases in Iraq that house U.S. forces, causing no casualties.
There are no Americans currently at Balad airbase and there were none during
the attack, according to a coalition spokesperson. The base had hosted
American trainers, advisers and a company that provides maintenance services
for F-16 aircraft, according to an Iraqi defense official who spoke on
condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Recent heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran were sparked last month
when a rocket attack killed an American contractor at a base in Iraq. The
U.S. has blamed that attack and others on Iran-backed militias.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet Sunday that he
was"outraged" by the attacks.
"Outraged by reports of another rocket attack on an Iraqi airbase," he
tweeted. "I pray for the speed recovery of the injured and call on the
government of Iraq to hold those responsible for these attacks accountable."
"These continued violations of Iraq's sovereignty by groups not loyal to the
Iraqi government must end," he added.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.


IRAN PLANE DOWNING: SECOND DAY OF PROTESTS TURNS UP HEAT ON LEADERS

Iran's leaders have faced a second day of protests following their admission
the military shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people
on board, many of them Iranians.
Protesters in Tehran and in several other cities chanted slogans against the
leadership.
Clashes with security forces and the firing of tear gas are reported.
Iran admitted "unintentionally" hitting the plane after initially denying
it, amid rising tensions with the US.
Dozens of Iranians and Canadians, as well as nationals from Ukraine, the UK,
Afghanistan and Sweden died on the plane.
Demonstrators attended new protests despite a large deployment of security
forces.
Riot police, members of the elite Revolutionary Guard on motorbikes, and
plainclothes security officials were out in force.
In one apparently symbolic act rejecting state propaganda, video showed
students taking care not to walk over US and Israeli flags painted on the
ground at Shahid Beheshti university in Tehran.
In some social media clips, protesters can be heard chanting anti-government
slogans, including: "They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is
right here." Many of the protesters are women.


"DON'T KILL YOUR PROTESTERS, US IS WATCHING," TRUMP TELLS IRAN

US President Donald Trump warned Iran Sunday against killing protesters who
have risen up over the regime's downing of a civilian airliner as his
defense secretary left the door open to talks with Tehran without
preconditions.
Trump's salvo came as Iran's Islamic regime faced a challenge from angry
street protests, having come to the brink of war with the US after a series
of tit-for-tat confrontations.
"To the leaders of Iran -- DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS," Trump tweeted,
warning that the world and "more importantly, the USA is watching."
In an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" just before the tweet, US
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Trump was still willing to hold talks with
Iran's leaders. "We're willing to sit down and discuss without precondition
a new way forward, a series of steps by which Iran becomes a more normal
country,"aid.
And if something happened to the protesters? Esper replied: "The president
has drawn no preconditions other than to say we're willing to meet with the
Iranian government."


IRAN'S ONLY FEMALE OLYMPIC MEDALIST REPORTEDLY DEFECTS

Iran's only woman Olympic medalist said she defected from the Islamic
Republic and fled to the Netherlands in an online letter that describes
herself as "one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran." Taekwondo
athlete Kimia Alizadeh accused Iranian officials of sexism and mistreatment.
"Whatever they said, I wore," Ms. Alizadeh wrote in the letter posted
Saturday. "Every sentence they ordered, I repeated."
She described the decision to leave Iran as difficult, but necessary.
There was no immediate reaction from Iranian authorities. ISNA said Ms.
Alizadeh had been reported injured and unable to compete. Their report
suggested Ms. Alizadeh may try to compete under another nation's flag at the
2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.
Ms. Alizadeh, 21, won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing
government pressure. In September, Saeed Mollaei, an Iranian judoka, left
the country for Germany. He said Iranian officials had forced him to not
compete with Israeli judoka.
Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for
Australia last year.


NIGER GOVERNMENT REVISES TOLL OF JIHADIST ATTACK TO 89

A jihadist attack on a military camp in western Niger on January 9 left 89
soldiers dead, according to a new toll announced by the government on public
radio on January 12.
"After a thorough search, the toll has been established as 89 dead among
friendly forces, and 77 dead for the enemy," said spokesman Zakaria
Abdourahame.
The previous toll given for the attack on the Chinegodar camp on January 9
was 25 soldiers killed.
Three days of national mourning have been declared to honour the dead.
Heavily armed assailants had stormed the military base in an area where
dozens also died in a previous jihadist attack.
The raid near to the volatile frontier with Mali was carried out by
attackers in vehicles and on motorbikes.
The attack happened in the same region Tillaberi, also bordering Burkina
Faso, where 71 Niger soldiers were killed in a December attack, claimed by
the Islamic State group, that saw hundreds of jihadists storm a camp near
the border with Mali with artillery.
The latest attack is the deadliest on Niger's military since Islamist
extremist violence began to spill over from neighbouring Mali in 2015.


PAK FM QURESHI EMBARKS ON VISIT TO IRAN, SAUDI AMIDST REGIONAL TENSION

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday embarked on a
visit to Iran and Saudi Arabia amidst regional tension over the killing of a
top Iranian general in a US drone strike in Iraq.
Mr. Qureshi's visit came after Prime Minister Imran Khan directed him to
travel to the region following the tension between the US and Iran.
Mr. Khan has said that Pakistan, which shares its border with Iran, will not
be party to any regional conflict and rather play the role of a peacemaker.
Pakistan's powerful military has also said it will not allow its soil to be
used against anyone.
In Tehran, Mr. Qureshi will meet his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif and
exchange views on the evolving situation in the Middle East and Gulf region,
the Foreign Office said.
From Tehran, he will visit Riyadh on January 13 to hold talks with Saudi
Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and consult on the issues of
regional peace and stability.
"The recent developments seriously endanger peace and security in an already
volatile region and underscore the need for immediate and collective efforts
for a peaceful resolution," the FO said.
During these visits, Mr. Qureshi will share Pakistan's perspective on the
current situation, stress the imperative of avoiding any conflict,
underscore the importance of diffusion of tensions, and stress the need for
finding a diplomatic way forward, it said.
The Foreign Minister will convey Pakistan's readiness to support all efforts
that facilitate resolution of differences and disputes through political and
diplomatic means, the FO said.


TAAL VOLCANO: LAVA SPEWS AS 'HAZARDOUS ERUPTION' FEARED

A volcano in the Philippines has begun spewing lava, as authorities warn
that a "hazardous eruption" is possible "within hours or days".
In the early hours of Monday weak lava began flowing out of Taal volcano-
located some 70km (45 miles) south of the capital Manila.
It comes after it emitted a huge plume of ash triggering the evacuation of
some 8,000 people from the area.
Taal is the Philippines' second most active volcano.
It is one of the world's smallest volcanoes and has recorded at least 34
eruptions in the past 450 years.
"Taal volcano entered a period of intense unrest... that progressed into
magmatic eruption at 02:49 to 04:28... this is characterised by weak lava
fountaining accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning," the Philippine
Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said in a statement.
But PHIVOLCS director Renato Solidum said that signs of a hazardous
eruption, including "flows of ashes, rocks, gas at speeds of more than 60
kph horizontally" had not yet occurred, according to CNN Philippines.
PHIVOLCS has now raised the alert level from 3 to 4, out of a maximum of 5.


RETIRED POPE BENEDICT WARNS FRANCIS AGAINST RELAXING PRIESTLY CELIBACY RULES

Retired Pope Benedict XVI has issued a defence of priestly celibacy in the
Catholic Church as his successor considers easing a ban on married men
serving as priests.
Pope Benedict made the appeal in a book co-authored with Cardinal Robert
Sarah.
It comes in response to a proposal to allow married men to be ordained as
priests in the Amazon region.
Pope Benedict, who retired in 2013, said he could not remain silent on the
issue.
In the book, Pope Benedict says celibacy, a centuries-old tradition within
the Church, has "great significance" because it allows priests to focus on
their duties.
The 92-year-old says "it doesn't seem possible to realise both vocations
[priesthood and marriage] simultaneously".
It is rare for Pope Benedict, who was the first pontiff to resign in almost
600 years, to intervene in clerical matters.
The Vatican is yet to comment on the book, which was previewed in part by
French newspaper Le Figaro before its full publication on Monday.


WHITE HOUSE SAYS US HAS ASKED NORTH KOREA TO RESUME TALKS

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien said the United States
had reached out to North Korea seeking to resume talks, according to an
interview published on Sunday by Axios.
O'Brien also said it was a "positive" sign that North Korean leader Kim Jong
Un had not delivered on a warning of a "Christmas gift." Some analysts had
said that might be a sign Pyongyang was preparing a long-range missile test,
while U.S. President Donald Trump said last month the gift "might be a
beautiful vase."
"We've reached out to the North Koreans and let them know that we would like
to continue the negotiations in Stockholm that were last undertaken in early
October," O'Brien told the online news site on Friday. "We've been letting
them know, through various channels, that we would like to get those back on
track."
A spokesman for the National Security Council did not immediately comment on
Sunday.
On Saturday, North Korea said it had received birthday greetings for Kim
from Trump, but their personal relationship was not enough for a return to
talks, according to a statement published by state news agency KCNA.
Trump relied on his personal rapport with Kim to push for denuclearization
in talks in 2018 and 2019, but those efforts have largely failed at the
working level and sparked new concerns about Pyongyang's nuclear
capabilities.
North Korea will not discuss proposals such as those Trump made at his last
summit with Kim in Hanoi in February 2019, a Foreign Ministry adviser said
Saturday.


11 KILLED IN US STORMS

At least 11 people were killed as powerful storms swept across southern
parts of the US, with winds, tornadoes and floods.
Of the victims, a police officer and a firefighter were killed in Lubbock,
Texas on Saturday morning, with another critically injured, after they were
hit by a car while responding to a traffic accident, Xinhua news agency
reported.
Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power from Texas to Ohio.
Chicago: More than 1,000 flights were cancelled as a winter storm hit the
Chicago area with heavy winds and rain.
On Saturday morning, the city's O'Hare International Airport cancelled over
950 flights, while the Midway International Airport cancelled about 60,
reports Xinhua news agency. A Winter Weather Advisory was issued for
northern Illinois and the Chicago area early Saturday morning, and would be
in effect until 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Freezing rain started to hit the Chicago area overnight into Saturday
morning, and was expected to transition to snow. A Flood Watch is also in
effect for some counties. The Chicago Department of Emergency Management
said it was prepared, with 1,800 trucks and other equipment state-wide on
standby.

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