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20 January 2020

IRAN BACKTRACKS ON PLAN TO SEND FLIGHT RECORDERS TO UKRAINE

The Iranian official leading the investigation into the Ukrainian jetliner
that was accidentally shot down by the Revolutionary Guard appeared to
backtrack on January 19 on plans to send the flight recorders abroad for
analysis, a day after saying they would be sent to Kyiv.
Hassan Rezaeifar was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying the
flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have
no plans to send them out.
He said Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that
it may send the flight recorders - commonly known as black boxes - to
Ukraine or France. But as of yet, we have made no decision. The same
official was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency on January 18 as
saying the recorders would be sent to Ukraine, where French, American and
Canadian experts would help analyse them. Iranian officials previously said
the black boxes were damaged but are usable.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts. Iran
may be hesitant to turn over the recorders for fear that more details from
the crash - including the harrowing 20 seconds between when the first and
second surface-to-air missiles hit the plane - will come to light.


EXPERTS WARN OVER SCALE OF MYSTERIOUS CHINA SARS-LIKE VIRUS

The true scale of the outbreak of a mysterious SARS-like virus in China is
likely far bigger than officially reported, scientists have warned, as
countries ramp up measures to prevent the disease from spreading.
Fears that the virus will spread are growing ahead of the Lunar New Year
holiday, when hundreds of millions of Chinese move around the country and
many others host or visit extended family members living overseas.
Authorities in China say two people have died and at least 45 have been
infected, with the outbreak centred around a seafood market in the central
city of Wuhan, a city of 11 million inhabitants that serves as a major
transport hub.
But a paper published on Friday by scientists with the MRC Centre for Global
Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College in London said the number of
cases in the city was likely closer to 1,700. The researchers said their
estimate was largely based on the fact that cases had been reported overseas
-- two in Thailand and one in Japan.
The virus -- a new strain of coronavirus that humans can contract -- has
caused alarm because of its connection to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong
Kong in 2002-2003.
China has not announced any travel restrictions, but authorities in Hong
Kong have already stepped up detection measures, including rigorous
temperature checkpoints for inbound travellers from the Chinese mainland.
The US said from Friday it would begin screening flights arriving from Wuhan
at San Francisco airport and New York's JFK -- which both receive direct
flights -- as well as Los Angeles, where many flights connect.


TRUMP MARKS U.S.-JAPAN SECURITY PACT WITH CALL FOR STRONGER, DEEPER ALLIANCE

President Donald Trump marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of the
security treaty between the United States and Japan with a call for a
stronger and deeper alliance between the two countries, despite criticising
the pact six months ago.
"As the security environment continues to evolve and new challenges arise,
it is essential that our alliance further strengthen and deepen," Mr. Trump
said in a statement dated Jan. 18.
"I am confident that in the months and years ahead, Japan's contributions to
our mutual security will continue to grow, and the alliance will continue to
thrive."
Last June, Mr. Trump told a news conference in Japan that the treaty -
signed six decades ago on Sunday and the linchpin of Japan's defence policy
- was "unfair" and should be changed, echoing his long-held view that Japan
is a free-rider on defence.
Mr. Trump at the time added he was not thinking of withdrawing from the
pact.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday called for making the treaty
more robust.
"We have elevated the relationship to one in which each of us, the U.S. and
Japan, protects the other, thereby giving further force to the alliance,"
Mr. Abe said at a Tokyo reception to mark the anniversary of the signing.
"Going forward, it is incumbent upon us to make it even more robust, to make
it a pillar for safeguarding peace and security in both outer space and
cyberspace."


YEMEN MISSILE, DRONE ATTACK KILLS AT LEAST 70 SOLDIERS

At least 70 Yemeni soldiers have been killed in missile and drone attacks
blamed on Huthi rebels, on a mosque in the central province of Marib,
medical and military sources said Sunday.
Saturday's strike follows months of relative calm in the war between the
Iran-backed Huthis and Yemen's internationally recognised government which
is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.
The Huthis attacked a mosque in a military camp in Marib-about 170
kilometres (105 miles) east of the capital Sanaa-during evening prayers,
military sources told AFP.
A medical source at a Marib city hospital, where the casualties were
transported, said that at least 70 soldiers were killed and more than 50
injured in the strike.
The attack came a day after coalition-backed government forces launched a
large-scale operation against the Huthis in the Naham region, north of
Sanaa.
Fighting in Naham was ongoing on Sunday, a military source said according to
the official Saba news agency.
"Dozens from the (Huthi) militia were killed and injured," the source added.
Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi condemned the "cowardly and
terrorist" attack on the mosque, Saba reported.


CHILEANS MARCH AGAINST POLICE REPRESSION OF SOCIAL UNREST

Hundreds of Chileans rallied Saturday night to protest what they call police
repression during three months of the worst social unrest since democracy
replaced the country's military dictatorship in 1990.
More than 1,000 people, many wearing black, marched in silence from Plaza
Italia, ground zero of all the protests, along Alameda Avenue, the main
thoroughfare in Chile's capital.
Keeping quiet was their way of denouncing the security forces' use of tear
gas, water cannon and birdshot, although the latter was barred in November
because it was causing many injuries.
"We are marching because of the human rights violations we have suffered. We
will be here as long as is needed. This is the new Chile," said a social
worker who gave her name only as Ana Maria.
The unrest broke out over a metro fare rise but quickly grew into a broader
outcry against economic and social inequality in what had been considered
among the most stable countries in Latin America.
A total of 29 have died in violence related to the protests and nearly 3,700
were injured -- more than 400 with eye injuries from the birdshot fired by
police, according to the National Human Rights Institute.
The protesters on Saturday night got close to the La Moneda presidential
palace. They sang and shouted slogans against conservative President
Sebastian Pinera, whose approval rating has dropped to single digits since
the protests began in November.


RUSSIAN ACTIVISTS TAKE AIM AT PUTIN IN MARCH AGAINST REPRESSION

More than a thousand opposition activists of various stripes marched in
central Moscow on Sunday after President Vladimir Putin proposed re-drafting
the constitution, unleashing political upheaval.
Protesters-mostly young anti-fascist activists-chanted "Revolution" and "No
to dictatorship" and some carried copies of the constitution.
The annual sanctioned march was called to commemorate the memory of lawyer
Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova who were gunned down in
Moscow by ultra-nationalists in 2009.
A number of independent local deputies including Yulia Galyamina and
opposition-minded Russians joined the march, carrying copies of the
constitution and chanting "Putin leave!".
About ten people including a protester who carried a placard urging Putin to
quit power were detained by police.
More than 1,400 people took part in the march, said the White Counter group
which monitors political protests.
The march took place after Putin stunned the nation on Wednesday by
proposing sweeping amendments to the constitution, the first major changes
to the country's basic law since it was adopted under Boris Yeltsin in 1993.
The move triggered the resignation of his government.
Observers say Putin's proposals are designed to ensure his grip on power
after he leaves the Kremlin and his critics have accused him of
orchestrating a "constitutional coup".


7 MISSING, OVER 150 RESCUED AFTER NEPAL AVALANCHE

Four South Koreans and three Nepali guides remain missing following an
avalanche near the Annapurna mountain range, while over 150 domestic and
foreign tourists have been rescued from in and around the area, officials
said.
The incessant snowfall caused the avalanche near a popular trekking route in
the Himalayan country. The area is close to the base camp for Annapurna, one
of the highest peaks in the Himalayas.
"Four South Koreans and three Nepalis, guides and porters and who were
separated from their nine-member group are still out of contact as over 150
Nepalis and foreigners rescued from around the area on Saturday alone," Bhim
Gurung, chairman of ward No-11 of the Annapurna Rural Municipality, told
Xinhua on Saturday evening.
Efforts to mobilize helicopters for the rescue operation were hampered by
continued bad weather.
Despite rescue efforts on Saturday, helicopter companies and trekking
agencies said that the situation of the seven people missing remained
unknown.


'SAD' PRINCE HARRY SAYS NO OTHER OPTION BUT TO END ROYAL ROLE

Britain's Prince Harry spoke on Sunday of his sadness at being forced to
give up his royal duties in a deal with Queen Elizabeth and senior Windsors
that will see him and his wife Meghan exit official roles to seek an
independent future.
Buckingham Palace and the queen announced on Saturday that Harry and Meghan
would no longer be working members of Britain's monarchy, no longer use
their "Royal Highness" titles and would now pay their own way in life,
freeing them to forge new careers.
The new arrangement was struck to end a crisis the couple sparked by
announcing earlier this month they wanted to cut down on official
engagements and spend more time in North America, while remaining active
royals.
In a speech to the Sentebale charity on Sunday, a clearly upset Harry said
the final outcome was not what he and his American wife, a former actress,
had wanted.
"Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the Commonwealth and my
military associations without public funding. Sadly that wasn't possible,"
the prince, the sixth-in-line to the throne, said.
"I've accepted this knowing it doesn't change who I am, or how committed I
am. But I hope that helps you understand what it had come to, that I would
step back from all I have ever known to take a step forward into what I hope
can be a more peaceful life."
Under the arrangement, Harry will remain a prince and the couple will keep
their titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex as they begin a new life split
between Britain and North America where they will spend the majority of
their time. But they will not take part in any future ceremonial events or
royal tours.

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