Sunday, June 30, 2019

African and Ethiopian Officials Call for Restraint in Sudan
Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt AU envoy for Sudan (SUNA Photo)

June 29, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - The African Union envoy and Ethiopian mediator Saturday called on the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) to exercise restraint and to avoid what may undermine negotiations.

The two officials made their joint call in a press conference held in Khartoum before protests the opposition FFC scheduled to organise to recall their rejection of military rule in Sudan on the occasion of the 30 anniversary of a coup that brought al-Bashir to power in 30 June 1989.

"We call on the political actors to show in this delicate circumstance the highest degree of responsibility and restraint and to refrain from any act or statement that disturbs the atmosphere and obstructs reaching an agreement," AU envoy Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt in a joint press conference.

The two African officials further called on the international community to redouble its efforts to support joint African mediation until an agreement is reached to achieve peace and political stability in the country.

The Troika countries, UK, U.S. and Norway released a joint statement calling on the TMC to respect the right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and to avoid any use of violence against peaceful protests the opposition plan to hold on Sunday.

They also reaffirmed their support for the demand of the Sudanese people for a peaceful, agreed transition towards democracy in Sudan and the ongoing African Union-Ethiopian mediation.

The statement called on the Sudanese parties to engage with the African Union-Ethiopian proposal to achieve a peaceful democratic transition through the formation of a civilian-led transitional government.

U.S. Envoy, Saudi Diplomat Discuss Efforts to End Sudan’s Crisis
US envoy for Sudan and Saudi State Minister for African Affairs speak to reporters in Jeddah on 29, June 2019 (Photo SPA)

June 29, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Donald Both and Saudi State Minister for African Affairs Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Qattan discussed the ongoing efforts to settle the Sudanese crisis and to ensure a peaceful power transfer in the east African country.

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Saturday said the meeting discussed means to bolster "security and stability, in (Sudan)".

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Al-Qattan warned of the risk of expansion of terrorist groups to Sudan.

He pointed out that the Sudanese people, with the support of Saudi Arabia, will not allow civil war and chaos to reign in Sudan, stressing such a situation "will only benefit the forces of terrorism, extremism and destruction".

The Saudi diplomat also underscored "the need for joint action and coordination of positions between our countries and permanent consultation to avoid failure in Sudan."

"There is a need to agree on an integrated plan to save Sudan," he warned.

Makila James, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Africa and the Sudans told the Congress on 25 June that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pressing the Sudanese military to hand over power to a civilian-led government because they want to avoid broader regional instability that may be caused by this crisis.

"They are sending similar kind of messages. We have urged them to continue to do that publicly privately and to use their leverage" when it comes to disbursing the remaining 2.5 billons economic support to the east African nation, she further said.

Booth told reporters that his regional tour aimed at finding a political solution to Sudan allowing to bring stability in the country.

He said that he talked with many parties and that the most important thing about the situation now is to "form a transitional government that will stop all these existing conflicts".

"Working with various countries, with Saudi Arabia and the (ruling Transitional Military Council provides an important opportunity to overcome these difficulties and find a peaceful solution to this dilemma," he further said.

U.S. officials say their efforts at this stage, aimed at bringing the military council to hand over power reach an agreement with the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change over the formation of a civilian-led administration.

President Receives Special Message from Ethiopia Premier
By Vision Reporter
30th June 2019 03:42 PM

The President and the Ethiopian Envoy discussed matters of mutual interest between Uganda and Ethiopia.

President Museveni and Prime Minister’s Special Advisor, Girma Birru Geda imeeting at State House, Nakasero in Kampala.


KAMPALA - President Yoweri Museveni has received a special message from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia,  Ahmed Abiy

The Prime Minister’s Special Advisor, Girma Birru Geda, who is also the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States of America, delivered the message to President Museveni on Saturday at State House, Nakasero in Kampala.

The President and the Ethiopian Envoy discussed matters of mutual interest between Uganda and Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Ambassador to Uganda, Alemtsehay, among others, attended the meeting.
DRC Launches "Large-scale" Military Operations in North-Eastern Region
Africa News

Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has confirmed “large-scale” military operations in Ituri (north-east) after massacres of civilians, as well as an “eradication plan” of foreign armed groups.

“I have just ordered our armed forces to conduct large-scale operations in the Djugu and Mahagi territories,” said the president for his first message on the occasion of Independence Day on June 30, 1960.

Dozens of civilians were massacred in these two territories according to local authorities who point the responsibility of a militia whose army claims to have recovered the stronghold.

DRC President has launched "large-scale" operations in Ituri following massacres of civilians.

“I decided to commemorate June 30th in Ituri province,” said the expected president this Sunday in provincial capital Bunia.

“These operations will extend to Minembwe in South Kivu to put an end to the adventures of all the outlaws,” the president added.

He also announced a “plan for total eradication” of foreign armed groups under discussion “with Monusco (United Nations Mission in Congo) and neighboring countries concerned” (mainly Uganda and Rwanda).

He praised the “political relaxation” he has been following since his inauguration: “The political exiles are back, the meetings and demonstrations are held without any hindrance”.

“I refuse that some malicious leaders can confuse democracy and anarchy,” he repeated. The head of state on Saturday used the same argument the day before to endorse the ban on a demonstration by his former opposition allies this Sunday in Kinshasa.

Celebrating African First Ladies: Senegal's Marieme Faye Sall
Africa News

Often described as mothers to the nations their husbands lead, Africa’s first ladies are often expected to be unifying figures, serving the president of the nation and the voters who entrusted him the mandate to lead.

A first lady by definition is the wife of the head of state, and it therefore follows that most African nations led by a male president, has a first lady.

As of March 2019, all African countries have male heads of state. The last female head of state who led an African nation was Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose tenure expired in January 2018.

Across the continent, several first ladies have been recognised, applauded and sometimes vilified for the roles they play to support the politics of their husbands.

As we celebrate women in the month of March and beyond, Africanews shall publish the profiles and work of different African first ladies, highlighting their politics and activism among other issues.

The the Serve Senegal Foundation among others, helps patients who urgently need the chance to receive hemodialysis and renal care, as well as the populations in distress in the flooded bottomlands, the most impoverished fisherwomen, and the most needy pilgrims traveling to the Holy Places of Islam.

Mary fought alongside her husband for two decades in the guerilla war that sought self-determination for the people of South Sudan. She was last year promoted to the rank of Major General in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

“The promoted female officers are from Shield One and Shied two in the SPLA. They actually joined the movement since 1983 and they are from the Women’s Battalion known as Katiba Banat,” SPLA army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said of the promotion.

Since 2006, Mary’s CWC foundation has championed human rights advocacy, HIV/AIDS prevention, maternal and infant health and education.

Antoinette was also first lady of the Republic of Congo during her husband’s first presidential term, between February 5, 1979 and August 31, 1992. She has therefore cumulatively served as First Lady for 35 years as of 2019.

Antoinette, along with several other members of the president’s family have been investigated several times by authorities in the United States and France, over suspected involvement in money laundering among other crimes.

Prevention in May 2001 in Kigali, Rwanda, and co-founded the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) in 2002. She served as the OAFLA president from 2004 until 2006.

The Imbuto Foundation – which means “seed” in Kinyarwanda, established in 2007, extends basic care and economic support to HIV affected families and has various programmes in health, education, youth and economic empowerment.

Janet has consistently supported her husband’s political ambitions, and lived in exile from 1971 until 1979, and again from 1981 until Museveni’s resistance movement captured power in 1986.

In 2005, Janet expressed her ambition to join active politics and won a parliamentary seat in the 2006 general elections. She was re-elected in 2011, but did not seek re-election in 2016.

Zinash told her fellow first ladies at a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa in February that she was planning to build 20 high schools, 15 of which are under construction.

‘‘I have planned to construct boarding schools for the blind and the disabled. I also support institutions for the elderly and work on similar issues,’‘ Zinash said.

The Office of the First Lady says through her charity work that includes providing support to the ‘disabled and special needs communities’, Zinash has become ‘a hope for so many’.

Prior to taking up her role as First Lady, Zinash lived with her three daughters, in the United States.

Margaret is liked by many Kenyans for her simplicity in regard to her dressing, nature and manner.

“She is my friend, partner and strong supporter. Strong and successful women make a strong and successful Kenya,’‘ president Kenyatta said of the first lady in 2018.

The office of First Lady

While the position of first lady is not legally or constitutionally provided for in many countries, many presidencies cater for the Office of the First Lady, through which the holder is facilitated to implement projects towards social causes, and often influence policy.

The Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), created in 2002, brings together First Ladies of Africa ‘to advocate for policies that make health services accessible and laws that boost women and youth empowerment’.

‘‘First Ladies of Africa reinforce favorable policies and programs through advocacy, resource mobilization and development of partnerships with all stakeholders at all levels,’‘ reads part of the statement on the OAFLAD website.

OAFLAD is currently led by First Lady of Burkina Faso, Adjoavi Sika Kabore, who is deputised by her Kenyan counterpart Margaret Kenyatta.
West African Nations Adopt Single Currency; ECOWAS
Africa News

ECOWAS, the Economic Community for West African States have adopted a single currency named Eco, which it plans to launch by 2020.

Eco was adopted on Saturday in Abuja in a meeting of the 15 member-country regional bloc.

Discussed for thirty years, this single currency between the 15 countries that make up the ECOWAS – eight of which use the CFA franc, pegged to the euro according to a fixed parity guaranteed by France, former colonizer of the region – is seen as a gamble risked by many analysts, but would be a strong political symbol, says AFP.

West African nations have adopted a single currency named eco, which they plan to launch by 2020.

According to local media reports there was “a real firm political will” for the region to hastily achieve the single currency.

During the meeting in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari handed over chairmanship of the organization to the President of Niger Republic Mahamadou Issoufou during the closing ceremony of the 55th Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government held at the State House Conference Center in Abuja according to local media reports.

The ECOWAS Prize for Excellence was awarded post-humously to former UN secretary general Koffi Annan and Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh (Renowned for her contributions towards curbing the spread of Ebola virus in Nigeria by placing the patient zero, Patrick Sawyer, in quarantine despite pressures from the Liberian government.) for their contribution to the well being of the region, local media reports

Picture courtesy Nigeria’s Presidential press
Trump Meets North Korea’s Kim at DMZ
Sun Jun 30, 2019 10:04AM

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un (R) stands with US President Donald Trump south of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom, in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), on June 30, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump has met North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, in what was effectively an impromptu get-together.

During a brief outdoors meeting at the DMZ, which saw a flurry of flash photography and cameramen and bodyguards swirling around, Trump stepped over the demarcation line into North Korean territory and Kim into South Korean territory, marking historic firsts.

“This is my honor. I didn’t expect it. Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Trump said.

Kim, for his part, said, “President Trump just crossed… became first US president to visit our country. This is an expression of his willingness to eliminate the aggression of the past and open a new future.”

“We’re going to go and talk for a while,” the US president said before the two headed back into the South for follow-up discussions.

Inside the House of Freedom on the southern side, Trump told a throng of reporters that he would invite Kim over to the White House.

Kim said it would be a great honor if Trump visited Pyongyang.

“It’s a great day for the world,” the US president also said, while Kim said, “I am convinced our relationship will enable us to overcome barriers standing in the way.”

Trump and Moon then escorted Kim back to the North, with Trump saying, “This was a very historic day, a legendary day.”

Ahead of the meeting on Sunday, Trump was touring the DMZ accompanied by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

A day earlier, he joined a press conference with Moon, saying he had sent out a last-minute invitation to Kim for the meeting over Twitter toward the end of his trip to the South.

“I’ll be meeting with Chairman Kim. I look forward to it very much. I look forward to seeing him. We’ve developed a very good relationship,” Trump told the presser.

Against a backdrop of sheer hostility, marked by fiery exchanges between the two, Trump suddenly opened up to Kim last year and began voicing hope about the quality of potential relations between their countries.

The two heads of state met for the first time in Singapore last year on Washington’s initiative, with a view to enabling the North’s denuclearization.

They met for a second summit in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, in February. But that summit abruptly ended over disagreements on mutual compromises.

Subsequent working-level talks also effectively snagged.

However, a recent exchange of affable messages between the leaders of the two countries again raised hopes for the revival of talks.

Following his Sunday meeting with Kim, Trump said US sanctions on North Korea would remain in place, but he said they could be scaled back as part of renewed negotiations.

"I don't like sanctions being on this country... But at some point during the negotiations things can happen, and that's when we will be talking about sanctions," the US president told reporters.

The US has over the years imposed or spearheaded rounds of sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

Washington now demands that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons entirely before the sanctions are lifted; Pyongyang insists on a step-by-step approach that would include verifiable American commitment to end its massive military presence near its territorial waters.
Donald Trump Meets Kim Jong Un in DMZ; Steps Onto North Korean Soil
9:07 a.m. ET June 30, 2019
USA Today

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (right) speaks as he stands with President Donald Trump at the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea on Sunday, June 30, 2019.

SEOUL – In a made-for-television event with more symbolism than substance, President Donald Trump met Sunday with Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, and became the first U.S. president to step onto North Korean territory.

"Stepping across that line was a great honor," Trump told Kim after walking him on the North Korean side of the border, claiming "a lot of progress has been made" in the wake of their two past summits in Singapore and Vietnam.

After meeting with Kim for nearly an hour, Trump said both sides will set up "teams" to revive negotiations to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, a goal that has proved elusive for years.

Trump called it a "legendary" day that could lead to progress.

Kim told Trump that "I did not expect to see you at this place," before reminding him he would be the first U.S. president to cross into North Korea. Kim could be seen clapping when Trump actually stepped onto North Korean territory.

Later, while being questioned by American reporters, Kim lauded Trump for a "determined and courageous visit" designed to "bring an end to the unpleasant past."

While Trump had said the meeting would be little more than a quick handshake, he and Kim wound up speaking for close to an hour in a nearby building. They re-emerged for another stroll along the border, followed by armies of camera-wielding journalists and security personnel.

Trump and Kim shook hands and walked the border area amid an extraordinary and chaotic scene, as photographers, reporters, and security guards jostled for position and yelled at one another to get out of the way. At one point, Kim could be seen chuckling over the pandemonium. Trump grinned frequently during his chats with the North Korean leader.

"We met and we liked each other from Day One," Trump had said of Kim.

Members of Trump's entourage were in the room for his meeting with Kim, including senior advisers – and family members – daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. They later also went into a building that allowed them to cross the border into North Korea, an experience that Ivanka Trump described as "surreal."

While applauding Trump's goals, foreign policy analysts said the border meeting and the theatrics won't mean much unless he and Kim are able to make real progress on a deal to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. That has not been possible after the first two Trump-Kim summits.

Trump tends to "equate how he feels about a foreign leader and how he is treated with diplomacy," tweeted Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. "They are not the same. What matters is what is agreed to and actually happens. It is not the personal but policy that counts."

After the meeting, Trump told reporters that he would invite Kim to visit the United States "at the right time," and that could happen if things work out.

Trump had announced earlier on Sunday he would meet with Kim during a news conference in Seoul with South Korea President Moon Jae-in, who praised the idea as a "handshake for peace."

The DMZ includes the border between North and South Korea, and no U.S. president had ever stepped over that line until Sunday. Trump had said earlier he would have "no problem" becoming the first U.S. president to actually set foot in North Korean territory, and he did just that.

Before the brief chat with Kim, Trump received a traditional tour of the DMZ and how American and Korean forces guard the world's most heavily fortified region.

Critics said Kim has made no progress toward ending his nuclear weapons programs, even after two summit meetings with Trump, and should not be rewarded with the prestige of another presidential meeting.

Trump dismissed the criticism, saying that "we're doing well" with North Korea, and that tensions have been greatly reduced since he started meeting with Kim.

The two leaders have held summits in Singapore and Vietnam but have been unable to strike a deal in which North Korea junks its nuclear weapons facilities in exchange for reductions of economic sanctions.

Following the meeting with Kim, Trump headed to nearby Osan Air Base and spoke with U.S. troops. He then boarded Air Force One to return to the U.S. after a brief Asia trip.

Trump arrived in Seoul after attending the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. While there, he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to re-start talks on a new trade agreement that could end the economically damaging trade war between the world's two largest economies.

The last time they met, Trump and Kim met, they broke off negotiations after a second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. That meeting failed to yield progress toward an agreement in which North Korea would dismantle its nukes.

Kim and the North Koreans said they would not submit a specific plan to dismantle nuclear weapons sites until the U.S. removes economic sanctions; Trump and the U.S. said they wouldn't remove sanctions until Kim and the North Koreans put up a denuclearization plan.

Early in his term, Trump mocked Kim as "Little Rocket Man," and threatened to rain "fire and fury" on North Korea if it ever made a move to use nuclear weapons.

As the North Koreans made overtures for settlement talks, Trump changed his tune toward Kim. In the wake of the summits, first in Singapore and then in Vietnam, Trump now casts Kim as someone with whom he can make a deal.

Trump's faith is in contrast to foreign policy analysts and some aides who believe Kim will never give up his nuclear weapons, the key to control of his regime.

Before and after his meeting with Kim, Trump criticized predecessor Barack Obama for his approach to North Korea, as well as news coverage of his dealings with Kim. The current president claimed, without evidence, that his policy has avoided war with North Korea.

Many foreign policy analysts see the latest Trump-Kim get-together as a prelude to a third summit.

Harry J. Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies with the Center for the National Interest, said the two leaders can't afford to renew the kinds of threats they made little more than two years ago.

"There will be a reset in relations, and that is a win for both leaders," Kazianis said. "Both men have too much to lose now if they were to go back to the dark days of 'fire and fury.' A deal will take time to come together, but it will come together."

Olivia Enos, a policy analyst with the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, said the impromptu Trump-Kim meeting would do little to advance denuclearization.

That requires "sustained working-level negotiations" among experienced negotiators, she said, not "another photo-opp" with a "rights-abusing, illegal nuclear weapons-possessing North Korean dictator."

Trump had planned to visit the Demilitarized Zone during a trip to South Korea in 2017, but bad weather forced him to cancel.

Visiting the DMZ, one of the world's most heavily guarded areas, has become a near rite of passage for American leaders. Every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has toured the area except for George H.W. Bush, and he went when he was vice president.

In the run-up to his visit, Trump made questionable assertions about his North Korea policy.

At one point, Trump said previous presidents had sought meetings with Kim, but couldn't get one. Not so. Previous presidents refused to grant Kim a meeting because of the regime's behavior and North Korea's refusal to make any sort of commitment to forgo nuclear weapons.

"Trump is lying," tweeted Ben Rhodes, a foreign policy aide during Obama's eight years in office. "Obama never sought a meeting with Kim Jong Un. Foreign policy isn’t reality television it’s reality."

Rhodes later added: "Photo ops don’t get rid of nuclear weapons, carefully negotiated agreements do."

The significance of the latest Trump-Kim meeting will have to be measured later.

Michael McFaul, a U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama  administration, tweeted that if the Trump-Kim handshake "eventually leads to complete and verifiable North Korean denuclearization, today will remembered as a historic day."

He added: "And if it doesn’t, it will be remembered as a photo op stunt. High stakes."
Putin Reiterates That North Korea Requires Security Guarantees
Leo Byrne 
North Korea
June 28th, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday told his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in that North Korea would give up its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees.

The news comes via South Korean Blue House statements of the meeting between the two leaders at the G20 Summit in Osaka which kicked off earlier in the day.

North Korea was one of the more significant issues on the agenda, with Putin recently meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April in the Russian Far East.

“We could discuss … the developments in the region as a whole and on the Korean Peninsula, especially because, as you know, I recently met with the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Putin said at the start of his meeting with Moon, according to a readout from the Kremlin.

“I would like to share my impressions from that meeting with you and speak about the situation in general.”

During the meeting, Puting told Moon that North Korea required “firm” guarantees before it would consider giving up its nuclear weapons.

“Vladimir Putin told President Moon that the North’s leader would abandon his regime’s nuclear program but as long as (the international community and the United States) firm guarantee the security of his regime and there are actual concessions for denuclearization,” Blue House vice spokesperson Han Jeong-woo said, in comments carried by the Korea Times.

Putin’s comments to Moon are similar to those he made following his summit with the North Korean leader, with Putin telling reporters at the time that security was one of Kim’s primary concerns.

“First and foremost, (Kim) wants to ensure his national interest and ensure his country’s security, but only if the partners of North Korea – primarily the United States – are ready to engage in constructive dialogue,” Putin said in April after his meeting with Kim.

“There’s no other way. You have to have a dialogue, I think there is no other way.”

Also on Friday, Washington signaled that it was ready to re-enter talks with North Korea, even as Pyongyang’s statements via its state-run media seemingly remain truculent.

Washington’s Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun told his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon that the U.S. was ready to  “ready to hold constructive discussions with North Korea” and make “simultaneous and in parallel.”

Biegun’s comments echoed earlier remarks made in Washington when he struck a positive tone on negotiations with North Korea, saying he hoped they would be back on track in the future.

Following the Friday meeting, Lee was reported to have said he believed a “positive atmosphere” for diplomacy had been created following an exchange of letters between the North Korean and the U.S. leaders and a recent Sino-DPRK summit in Pyongyang.

Featured image: The Kremlin
North Korea, U.S. Agree to Restart Working-level Talks at Panmunjom Meeting
President Trump hails "very good meeting" with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un

Oliver Hotham 
North Korea News
June 30th, 2019

The leaders of North Korea and the U.S. on Sunday agreed to restart working-level discussions on denuclearization, U.S. President Donald Trump told press following a meeting with Kim Jong Un at the Panmunjom peace village.

Speaking just minutes after the DPRK leader crossed back into North Korean territory following 50-minutes of talks with the U.S. President, Trump praised what he said had been “a very very good meeting with Chairman Kim.”

“We’ve agreed that we’re each going to designate a team, and the team will try and work out some details,” he said, stressing that “speed is not the object.”

“We want to see if we can do a really comprehensive good deal,” the President continued. “Nobody knows how thing’s turn out, but certainly this was a great day, this was a very legendary very historic day.”

The two leaders, he said, “agreed to have teams set up” to continue diplomacy, to be chosen by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Special Representative for North Korea policy Stephen Biegun.

“What’s going to happen is over the next two or three weeks the teams are going to start working to see whether or not they can do something,” Trump said, describing the issues set to be under discussion as “pretty complicated but not as complicated as people think.”

Kim and Trump met and shook hands at the military demarcation line (MDL) dividing the two Koreas around 1545 local time.

Trump then crossed over into the North Korean side, becoming the first U.S. President in history to step foot in DPRK territory.

Asked about the decision, Trump told reporters after the meeting that “I said ‘would you like me to come across,’ he said ‘I would be so honored’ and that’s the way it worked out.”

“From what I understand this is the… first time that something like that has happened,” he said. “I didn’t know really what he was going to say but it was my honor to do it. We had a very good meeting.”

The meeting was the first between the leaders of North Korea and the U.S. since February, when a summit between the two in Hanoi fell apart amid disagreement over sanctions.

It followed months of diplomatic stalemate between Pyongyang and Washington, seemingly broken just last week by news that Kim Jong Un had received a letter from the U.S. President and a China-DPRK summit in the North Korean capital.

One North Korea watcher described the timing of Sunday’s meeting as “curious.”

“This impromptu U.S.-DPRK summit took place just a week after Chinese President Xi made his first trip to Pyongyang for a summit there,” Peter Ward, a PhD candidate at the University of Vienna and a writer and researcher on the North Korean economy, said.

Another expert told NK News that Sunday’s talks suggested a growing flexibility on the part of both Pyongyang and Washington.

“I think Kim must have given Trump the sense that Pyongyang was ready to talk details on denuclearization, and that they understand that this can only move forward at the working-level,” Andray Abrahamian, a Koret fellow at Stanford University, said.

“It was gonna take a gesture from the U.S. to break through after Hanoi, and the North Koreans needed to commit to a technical approach,” he added. “I think we got both of those today.”

Also present at Panmunjom was South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who shook hands and shared a few words with the North Korean leader ahead of a one-on-one meeting between Kim and Trump.

Following his meeting with Trump, Kim Jong Un said he and Trump “have created a precedent where we can meet at any time we want without being restrained to venue and format.”

Moon, in return, answered: “that fact by itself is significant.”

Speaking at the joint news conference following the summit, the South Korean President said the “historic meeting takes place at the bold proposal of President Trump.”

“I would like to express my respect for President Trump’s very bold and creative approach,” he said. “And I believe that the peace process to achieve the complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean peninsula crossed a big hill through today’s meeting.”

The South Korean President said he has “huge expectations,” repeatedly expressing his gratitude toward Trump and expressing his view that “good results will be around the corner.”

“The optics are fantastic for President Moon,” Peter Ward, the North Korea watcher, said. “It comes at a time when the economy is struggling, and when a diplomatic process initiated by South Korea has faltered.”

“One of Moon’s chief successes was the peace process between the DPRK and the U.S.: this surprise meeting was extremely good for Moon.”

Coverage of Sunday’s summit in North Korean media is likely to emerge early on Monday morning — and is likely to offer more insights into Pyongyang’s response to the meeting.

“Both externally and domestically oriented North Korean state media will likely give prominent coverage to Kim’s meeting with the U.S. President tomorrow,” Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said.

“Media will likely play up the ‘sudden’ arrangement of the meeting, as it did for the second Kim-Moon summit in Panmunjom in May 2018,” she continued.

“State media may play up the fact that the meeting took place on Trump’s initiative; it may even say that Kim went to Panmunjom at Trump’s invitation.”

“This may help boost Kim’s estimation in the people’s eyes and further bolster the state media narrative in recent weeks that one of Kim’s major achievements is that he placed the DPRK on the same level as the world’s great powers.”

President Trump following the meeting then headed to Osan Air Base, where he addressed U.S. troops stationed in Korea and hailed his “great relationship” with the North Korean leader.

He is set to depart South Korea later in the evening.

Colin Zwirko and Dagyum Ji contributed reporting

Featured image: White House 
New White House Press Secretary Roughed Up in Scuffle with North Korean Guards: Report
The Hill
06/30/19 08:14 AM EDT

Newly appointed White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham was reportedly bruised in a scuffle with North Korean guards as President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Tensions escalated after the guards tried to prevent U.S. reporters from entering a room inside the Freedom House in South Korea as Trump and Kim began their meeting, according to The Guardian.

White House and foreign affairs correspondents tweeted about the encounter, saying Grisham got into a struggle with North Korean guards to ensure reporters had access to the meeting.

"New WH Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham got into a scuffle with the North Koreans to move members of the WH press pool into position to cover Trump and Kim, I’m told," CNN's Jim Acosta tweeted. "Grisham was a bit bruised. Source called it 'an all out brawl.'"

Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs shared a picture of Grisham's scuffle with North Korean security, adding that the scuffle resulted in "body blows."

CNN's Allie Malloy added that Grisham was seen on camera shouting "Go! Go!" as she opened a path for U.S. reporters to cover the meeting.

It remains unclear if Grisham received any significant injuries from the encounter. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Trump on Sunday made history by becoming the first U.S. president to set foot on North Korean soil. The occasion came as Trump met with Kim to restart stalled nuclear talks.

The two met for nearly one hour at the Freedom House on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Zimbabwe First Lady Offers Shelter to Street Girls
29 JUN, 2019 - 00:06
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa greets one of the young girls living and working on the streets after she gave them blankets, sanitary wear, toiletries and clothes during their interaction in Harare yesterday. — (Picture by John Manzongo)

Freeman Razemba Senior Reporter

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday interacted with girls and women living and working in the city’s streets who she has since provided with accommodation to ease their plight. She also donated clothes, towels, toiletries, hygiene kits, blankets and jackets to them.

Vulnerable schoolchildren from Harare and surrounding areas attended the meeting at Girls’ High School.

Amai Mnangagwa said this was the last day that these women and girls were going back to the streets again and promised to look after them at a place she had identified where they will be given food, clothes, sent to school and afforded better medical treatment, among others.

“I would like to thank you for coming for this interaction and I want you to feel free during this interact. Take me as your mother, grandmother and aunt,” she said.

She said the National Orphan Care Policy adopted in 1999 revealed that most of the people living in the streets started in 1990 as a result of the HIV and Aids pandemic after their parents passed on.

In 1999, after wide consultation, Government adopted the Zimbabwean National Orphan Care Policy, which set forth its response to the orphan crisis.

The policy affirmed the importance of family and community care and clearly stated that institutional care should be regarded as a last resort.

Amai Mnangagwa said as a result of the country many orphans due to the pandemic, several children’s homes were established to look after them.

She, however, said the children’s homes could not accommodate all these homeless children.

“It has also been discovered that there are several issues that drive children to live in the streets. They also face many problems such as being abused and this worries me most. This is the reason why I have come here to interact with you so that we will be able to solve all the problems,” she said.

She said she was worried about the conditions undwer which  these children were living especially during this winter as they had no clothing, no accommodation, no food and had nowhere to bath.

Amai Mnangagwa said she was reliably informed that most of the girls were being raped, resulting in unwanted pregnancies while others were exposed to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

She added that it was worrying that most of them could not even afford to go to school or seek treatment while others did not have birth certificates and other identity documents.

“Because of living in the streets, some of these children end up abusing drugs, selling drugs, being taught to be involved in criminal activities and engaging into prostitution while others are giving birth to babies while in the streets,” Amai Mnangagwa said.

She said there was need to continue protecting and looking after these children in order to solve the problems they were facing.

The First Lady later gave them a chance to give testimonies on the factors that pushed them to the streets.

One of them who lost her parents at a tender age said a few years ago she moved out of the family home in Chitungwiza to escape abuse by her grandmother.

“I started living along First Street and as a result of this I started abusing drugs, smoking and drinking alcohol and at one time I was raped. However, with the help of good Samaritans I am in the process of getting my life back.

“At the moment, I am a tout and in the process of raising money to further the cutting and designing course that I am doing,” she said.

She added: “If I don’t stand up for myself, no one will stand up for me.”

Meanwhile, another confessed to the First Lady yesterday that she was recently raped by an unknown man along an alley in the central business district during the night.

The 13-year-old, who was inflicted with an STI, is reported to be pregnant.

She told The Herald that she lived in the street and survived mostly on selling some foodstuffs recounting how on that day she went into an alley to relieve herself and was suddenly grabbed by the assailant who raped her.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police has since interviewed the girl with the hope of bringing the perpetrator to book as he is believed to roam around the city.
Zimbabwe Currency: Taking Back Control
 29 JUN, 2019 - 00:06
Prof Mthuli Ncube Special Correspondent

Zimbabwe is on a journey. A marathon. Indeed, sometimes it feels more of a steeplechase. As although the journey has just begun, we have faced a multitude of challenges to overcome already. This was not unexpected. And as responsible economists, you must always prepare to tackle these obstacles.

When embarking on an arduous journey such as the complete reformation and rebuilding of an economy, it is however crucial you know what your destination is. We know what our destination is: It is middle income status. It is prosperity for the people of Zimbabwe.

But knowing your destination is not always enough. You must be willing to deal with those hardships, those challenges, which inevitably crop up on any difficult journey.

Most importantly, you must take control of as many factors as possible. You must have control over your destiny.

This week, Zimbabwe took back control of its economic destiny.

In fact, it had always been apparent to us that for true stability, stability upon which economic growth can be built, our own currency was necessary.

The multicurrency regime was holding us back. Like a headwind for a cyclist who is already peddling up hill, the multicurrency regime had left us exposed to the elements.

In this case, the element was the aggressive inflation caused by the US Dollar pricing. Put simply, we had to take our destiny back into our own hands; we had to take back control of monetary policy to remove that element, and make it up the hill.

Regaining control will first and foremost benefit you, the hardworking Zimbabwean. Our teachers and doctors, our entrepreneurs and cleaners; they don’t earn in US dollars. So why sell in US dollars?

Prior to this move, the vast majority of our hard working Zimbabweans were being discriminated against in what had become a two tiered and unfair economy.

What we had was a situation whereby there were stable and affordable prices for the fortunate Zimbabweans who had access to dollars, and a paralysing high cost of living for the rest of the country. This is not right, and we had to step in.

The inevitable question posed by many therefore is why didn’t we act sooner? Indeed, they would be right in noting that the multicurrency regime is not a new phenomenon.

The answer however lies once again in our journey metaphor. You don’t trek through the desert without the necessary preparations.

You don’t cycle up a mountain without the necessary training. And you don’t run a marathon (or steeplechase!) without first making sure you are fit and healthy.

Thus prior to making this big decision, it was crucial for us to ensure that our key fundamentals were first put in place. The beating heart of these fundamentals is our national budget.

Once again it was vital that we gained control over our budget, over our spending; what economists call ‘fiscal’ control. We decreased spending, increased revenues and, for the first time in recent memory, the nation of Zimbabwe is now enjoying budget surpluses.

With the preparations complete and our body ready for the next stage of the race to put Zimbabwe back on its feet, we took it upon ourselves to venture past the next juncture, and move another step closer to our destination.

Abolishing the use of multiple currencies, and making the Zimbabwe Dollar the sole legal tender has always been a key component of our transitional stabilisation programme, and a crucial step in restoring normalcy to our economy.

We will work closely with our colleagues in the various ministries and the RBZ to ensure the correct next steps are now taken to guarantee this move is a success. We must continue to rapidly increase the flow of forex into the interbank market. But this must not be for the few.

Forex must also be made readily available to individuals and small businesses across our nation through organised, regulated, and legal channels.

This should also include the introduction of a new interest rate policy and a monetary policy committee.

Despite the reported complexity of this decision, day to day, not much will change. Zimbabwean workers will still receive their wages in RTGS dollar and bond notes, and when they go to the shops, the food on the shelves will be priced in the same currency.

Government also guarantees that those who do hold Nostro accounts will of course keep their access to those accounts in the currency in which it is currently held.

We therefore continue as a nation on the march forward on our path of progress, quickening the pace to our destination of prosperity.

We are under no illusions about the rough terrain we will face. There will be many more obstacles to face. But by taking back control of our fiscal and monetary mechanisms, by taking our fate firmly in our own hands, we are one step closer to reaching our destination.

Professor Mthuli Ncube is the Finance and Economic Development Minister
South Africa’s CEO Bloodbath
Staff Writer
Business Tech
28 June 2019

The past few weeks and months have seen arguably the biggest exodus and purge of leaders from the country’s top companies and state owned companies in recent history, with more heads expected to roll in future.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, leadership strategist and founder of executive search firm Jack Hammer, says the crisis playing out in SA boardrooms underscores the need for senior leaders to do more due diligence of their own prior to joining new organisations.

Some are justifiably walking the plank, due to egregious performance in one way or another, Goodman-Bhyat said. Others have become the ‘fall-guy’ for unhappy shareholders, or are departing voluntarily after recognising the ship they are captaining is un-steerable.

“Over the past year or two, we have seen a greater than usual number of CEO exits, with some top leaders voluntarily stepping down from public and private organisations, as their inability to reconcile their mission with the on-the-ground realities of a position became clear,” said Goodman-Bhyat.

She said that although circumstances across the various incidences differed, there was one clear lesson that emerged: the need for senior and chief executives to do more due diligence of their own prior to joining new organisations.

“The environment has changed dramatically, and even the most enthusiastic and able of leaders have had to contend with insurmountable externalities that may impact their ability to be successful in their roles,” said Goodman-Bhyat.

“Consider when many of the recently departed CEOs joined their new organisations. Each one of them were celebrated and hailed as champions at the time of their appointment. So confident and optimistic was SAA’s Vuyani Jarana when he embarked on the embattled national carrier’s turnaround strategy, that he famously made a bet to donate R100,000 to charity should he not succeed with his three-year plan.

“Yet here we are, not even two years later, and Jarana is leaving the building, reportedly because of a lack of support, slow decision-making, and blurred lines of accountability.”

Goodman-Bhyat said senior leaders should carefully scrutinise and evaluate the teams they will be joining, and do a pre-emptive assessment of their likelihood of success before accepting an offer, no matter how sweet.

“Keep in mind that there are three key stakeholders at the helm of leading any sizeable organisation: the Board, tasked with governance, oversight and key decisions such as the appointment of the CEO and other board members; the shareholders, who hold the board accountable for their decisions, and the CEO. Healthy tension and relative independence among these three parties are critical for ensuring the sustainable growth of an organisation.

“But senior leaders, and in particular CEOs, must remember that while the CEO is accountable to the board, and the board is accountable to shareholders, things quickly fall apart when the fortunes of a company are in the doldrums, and the sword of accountability may fall, sometimes unfairly, only on the big boss and perhaps a lieutenant or two.”

What CEOs and senior leaders of large companies should realise when considering a new position, is that this kind of shareholder and board pressure is a pretty standard response to poor performance, Goodman-Bhyat said.

“You may be good enough, and on top of your career with a track record of stellar proportions like many of the recently departed chiefs. But in today’s environment, it can be fatal to assume that you can walk into a new organisation and simply replicate that success.

“You need to be clear on the variables that may hamstring you in future, understand what you are walking into, and who will be there once you arrive,” said Goodman-Bhyat.

Senior leaders must accept the accountability and scrutiny that come with their roles, as well as reconcile the fact that when the chips fall, it is their own reputations on the line regardless of the circumstances. No use crying over spilt milk if you haven’t checked whether the cap is loose.

Leading the country’s top companies and parastatals has become an almost Sisyphean endeavour, Goodman-Bhyat said.
South Africa's Ramaphosa Meets Putin at G20
Africa News

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is among leaders attending the G20 summit in Japan.

On Friday, he met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Puti on the sidelines of the summit in Osaka.

“We pay much attention to multifaceted development of our relations with South Africa. The concrete steps in our global strategic partnership have been included in the joint statement which we have made in Johannesburg last year”, Putin said.

I want to welcome this opportunity to meet with you once again. It's always a great pleasure to have discussions and consultations with yourselves.

Both leaders discussed bilateral relations and their impending meetings in Russia for the Russia-Africa conference and in Brazil for the BRICS summit.

“I want to welcome this opportunity to meet with you once again. It’s always a great pleasure to have discussions and consultations with yourselves”, Ramaphosa said.

The G-20 leaders meeting in Japan runs till Saturday, June 29.
Sheikh Zakzaky Poisoned in Prison, His Health Conditions Serious: Doctors
Fri Jun 28, 2019 11:25AM

Top Nigerian Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been imprisoned for four years now, is said to have been poisoned in prison, according to doctors who found high levels of toxic substance in his blood.

Members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) announced that their cleric was poisoned, citing results of an investigation by the movement's Academic Forum.

Based on the findings, a high-level of toxicity has been diagnosed in the cleric’s blood, which has worsened his health condition.

Zakzaky’s legal team has long called for his release, saying he is suffering from health issues that require urgent medical care abroad, but the state high court in Kaduna has denied the request.

A team of medics examining Zakzaky in prison have renewed pleas for him to be released, saying levels of the chemical toxic substance — lead — is so dangerously high in his blood that requires an immediate medical treatment.

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria has announced that details of medical investigations conducted on Sheikh Zakzaky have indicated that both the Muslim cleric and his wife have a medical emergency.

A medical team sent by International Healthcare Research Center (IHRC) to Nigeria in April said that the imprisoned cleric was in urgent need of medical care that could only be fully accessed outside Nigeria.

Sheikh Zakzaky, who is in his mid-sixties, lost his left eyesight in a 2015 raid by security forces, that left more than 300 of his followers and three of his sons dead. His wife also sustained serious wounds.

He has been kept in custody along his wife and a large number of his followers ever since.

Back in 2016, Nigeria’s federal high court ordered his unconditional release from jail following a trial, but the government has so far refused to set him free.
Sudanese Police Use Tear Gas to Disperse Student Rally in Khartoum
Thu Jun 27, 2019 05:55PM

Sudanese protesters make a barricade on a road during their protest calling for the civilian government in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum, on June 22, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Riot police in crisis-hit Sudan have fired tear gas canisters to disperse a student protest rally held in capital Khartoum against military rulers.

Some 300 students from the banking college in Khartoum held a spontaneous rally Thursday, chanting “freedom, peace, justice”, the catch cry of the protest movement that led to the ouster of Omar al-Bashir.

“Many of them were holding banners calling for civilian rule as they protested not far from the presidential palace,” a witness told AFP, adding that the riot police arrived in no time and fired tear gas at the demonstration.

There were no immediate reports of any possible injuries or arrests.

Angry Sudanese people have been holding sporadic and scattered protest rallies in recent days in Khartoum ahead of mass demonstrations called by the umbrella protest movement Alliance for Freedom and Change to be held in Khartoum and other cities on June 30 against the generals who have seized power since April 11.

It is the first such nationwide call since a brutal crackdown on a sit-in outside the army headquarters on June 3 left dozens killed and hundreds injured.

Protest leaders from the alliance say around 130 people have lost their lives since the June 3 crackdown, the majority of them on that day itself. The government puts the death toll at 61 people, including three security personnel.

A group of five United Nations rights experts has urged the Human Rights Council to launch an “independent investigation” into possible violations committed by Sudanese security forces against “peaceful protesters.”

On April 11, the Sudanese military overthrew and then imprisoned Bashir after some four months of widespread protests over dire economic conditions and soaring prices of basic commodities. Bashir himself had come to power through a military coup in 1989.

Following Bashir’s ouster, the coup leaders established the so-called Transitional Military Council (TMC) with the task of running state affairs. But the coup leaders also moved to consolidate power and faced popular protests themselves.

Protest leaders later began negotiating with the generals in an attempt to work out a peaceful transition, and while the two sides made some progress in the talks, the negotiations abruptly broke down in May over remaining disagreements.

The protest movement then called a general strike, and tensions soared. The TMC began launching crackdown on protesters, who are demanding the TMC to immediately hand over power to a civilian government.
Hundreds Protest in Sudan Demanding Civilian Rule
Thu Jun 27, 2019 11:22PM

A few hundred protesters marched through the streets of Sudan's Omdurman on Thursday demanding civilian rule, just days ahead of a mass demonstration planned for June 30.

Earlier on Thursday security forces fired tear gas to disperse dozens of students demonstrating against the ruling military council at a financial academy in the heart of Sudan's capital Khartoum.

Dozens of lawyers had also gathered outside the main courthouse complex in Omdurman, Khartoum's twin city, calling for civilian rule and for people to join Sunday's planned demo.

Demonstrations in Khartoum have become rare since security forces broke up a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry on June 3, leaving more than 100 people dead, according to medical sources.

Protesters in Omdurman seemed upbeat as they marched on Thursday, playing music and waving Sudanese flags as one protester said that the violent end to the sit-in had "increased the people's fervour".

The sit-in had become the focal point of protests against former president Omar al-Bashir and the military council that ousted him on April 11.

Its dispersal caused the collapse of stalled talks between the military council and a coalition of opposition and protest groups over how to manage a transition towards elections.

(Source: Reuters)
Iran Registers Complaint to UN Security Council About Intruding US Spy Drone
Fri Jun 28, 2019 06:34PM

This picture shows the wreckage of a US Global Hawk spy drone shot down by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) over Iranian airspace on June 20, 2019. (Photo by IRNA)

The Islamic Republic of Iran has formally filed a complaint to the UN Security Council against the United States over the violation of its airspace with a reconnaissance drone shot down by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) earlier this month.

“The (Iranian) Foreign Ministry filed a complaint to the UN Security Council and the organization’s president (Mansour al-Otaibi) after a US spy drone violated Iran's airspace and was shot down. It lodged the complaint under Article 51 of the UN Charter,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Gholam-Hossein Dehqani said on Friday.

“The complaint states that Iran reserves the right to defend its maritime borders and confront any violation in case such acts are repeated. The US side claims that the drone had not entered the Iranian airspace. This is while they cannot corroborate such an allegation because it went down in the Iranian territory after being targeted,” he pointed out.

The IRGC shot down the intruding American spy drone in Iran’s southern coastal province of Hormozgan on June 20.

It said in a statement that the US-made Global Hawk surveillance drone was brought down by its Air Force near the Kouh-e Mobarak region — which sits in the central district of Jask County — after the aircraft violated the Iranian airspace.

According to the statement, the Global Hawk had flown from one of the American bases in the southern parts of the Persian Gulf region at 00:14 a.m. local time, with its identification transponders off in breach of all international aviation rules.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Dehqani stated that even though the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered the United States to halt the unilateral sanctions it has re-imposed on the supply of humanitarian goods such as medicine, food and medical devices, to Iran, Washington is pressing ahead with its campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran.

The United States has been escalating tensions with Iran under President Donald Trump. Leading a signature policy of “maximum pressure,” the US quit a United Nations-ratified nuclear agreement between Iran and six world states, which had been struck in 2015. It then proceeded to restore the sanctions that had been lifted under the deal.
US Will Sanction Any Country That Imports Iranian Oil: US Special Envoy
Fri Jun 28, 2019 03:50PM

Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iran, testifies before a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism hearing at the Capitol in Washington, DC on June 19, 2019. (AFP photo)

American special envoy for Iran Brian Hook has said the United States will sanction any country that imports oil from the Islamic Republic and there are no exemptions in this regard.

"We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil... There are right now no oil waivers in place," Brian Hook said on Friday in London when asked about the sale of Iranian crude to Asia.

He added that the United States would investigate reports of Iranian crude going to China.

"We will sanction any illicit purchases of Iranian crude oil," he told reporters.

US President Donald Trump on Monday announced new sanctions against Iran targeting Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Trump said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the Tehran's recent downing of a surveillance US drone by the IRGC. He said the Leader was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."

Iran on Tuesday warned that the new US sanctions meant “closing the doors of diplomacy” between Tehran and Washington.

Meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday denounced the Trump administration as being “afflicted by mental retardation.”

Rouhani also called the sanctions against the Leader “outrageous and idiotic.”

The Trump administration said on April 22 that, in a bid to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero, buyers of Iranian oil must stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions. The move ended six months of waivers, which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers -- Turkey, China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan -- to continue importing limited volumes.

The United States' insistence on zeroing out Iran's oil exports has cause many problems in the global market, keeping confused both experts and buyers as they look straight into what is shaping up to be a chaotic chapter for the petroleum industry.

This is while China and several other major purchasers of Iranian oil have already complained to the US about the decision.
Russia ‘Ready to Deliver S-400 to Iran,’ No Request Made Yet
Fri Jun 28, 2019 02:02PM

In this file photo, taken on August 22, 2017, a Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile launching system is seen displayed at the exposition field in Kubinka Patriot Park outside Moscow during the first day of the International Military-Technical Forum Army-2017. (By AFP)

Russia says it is ready to deliver advanced S-400 air defense missile systems to Iran but says it has not yet received any official request from the Islamic Republic for such a sale.

“We are open for discussions on delivering S-400 Triumph air defense systems, including to Iran. Especially given that this equipment is not subject to restrictions outlined in UN Security Council’s resolution issued on June 20, 2015,” a representative of the press service of the Russian Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation told Sputnik on Friday.

The official, whose name was not mentioned in the report, was referring to the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), which was adopted four years ago to endorse a nuclear deal between Iran and six other countries at the time, including Russia.

Iran has already received the earlier version of the missile defense system, the S-300, whose procurement had been withheld until the adoption of Resolution 2231 even though Russia had undertaken to deliver the systems to Iran under an 800-million-dollar deal reached in 2007.

The resolution terminated all past Security Council sanctions on Tehran, including those that prohibited the supply of arms.

In a report published on May 30, Bloomberg claimed Russia had rejected Iran’s request to buy S-400 missile defense systems, “concerned that the sale would stoke more tension” in the Middle East.

But a Russian deputy prime minister rejected the Bloomberg report back in early June.

The Russian official who spoke on Friday also stressed that Russia had “not received an official request from our partners on this matter yet.”

The newer remarks come amid heightened US hostility toward Iran. US President Donald Trump has withdrawn America from the deal with Iran, has imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, and has several times threatened to attack the country.

Despite the US’s withdrawal, the other signatories to the deal have remained in it, referencing international law, including Resolution 2231, for cooperation with Tehran.

The S-400 is an advanced air and missile defense system intended to engage incoming hostiles at ranges of up to 400 kilometers.
‘Not Enough Progress’ in Vienna Talks on Salvaging Iran Nuclear Deal
Sat Jun 29, 2019 02:16AM

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi (R) and EU External Action Service Secretary General Helga Schmid (L) take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom) and Iran at the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria, on June 28, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Iran's deputy foreign minister says progress has been made in Vienna talks aimed at saving the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers but the demands of the Islamic Republic are yet to be met.

"It was a step forward, but it is still not enough and not meeting Iran’s expectations," Abbas Araqchi told reporters on Friday after almost four hours of talks with senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

On Friday, the remaining signatories of the nuclear agreement met in the Austrian capital as a last-ditch effort to save the accord after the US withdrew last year.

US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington in May 2018 from the multilateral nuclear accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was reached between Iran and six world powers in 2015.

Afterwards, Washington re-imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the deal.

European signatories to the nuclear deal are facing a two-month ultimatum to help Iran navigate US sanctions or see Tehran take the second step of reducing its commitments on July 7.

In early May, Tehran suspended limits on its production of enriched uranium and heavy water, moves that did not technically violate the deal but signaled that its patience was wearing thin.

Referring to Iran's decision to go over the deal's core atomic restrictions, Araqchi said, "The decision to reduce our commitments has already been made in Iran and we continue on that process unless our expectations are met."

"I don’t think the progress made today will be enough to stop our process but the decision will be made in Tehran," he added.

'INSTEX operational'

Araqchi said the Europeans have confirmed that the planned INSTEX trade mechanism is now “operational” and the first transactions are already processed.

However, the Iranian official added that this was still insufficient because European countries were not buying Iranian oil.

"For INSTEX to be useful for Iran, Europeans need to buy oil or consider credit lines for this mechanism otherwise INSTEX is not like they or us expect," he said.

The European Union also issued a statement, saying the special trade channel was up and running

"France, Germany and the United Kingdom informed participants that INSTEX had been made operational and available to all EU member states and that the first transactions are being processed," sad the statement.

The trade mechanism was established last year after the US' withdrawal from the JCPOA.

France, Germany and Britain had been tinkering with INSTEX for months without making it operational, leaving Iran wondering whether they are serious about the idea.

In a joint statement earlier on Friday, Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, said they were working with the E3 to develop trade mechanisms.

Araqchi said all the parties in Vienna had agreed to hold a ministerial meeting "very soon."

China to continue to import Iranian oil

China has rejected the imposition of unilateral US sanctions on Iran, saying it would import Iranian oil in defiance of Washington’s bans on Tehran.

"We reject the unilateral imposition of sanctions," said Fu Cong, the director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Arms Control, on Friday.

Cong made the remarks a day before US and Chinese leaders are to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan in an attempt to resolve trade disputes.

"For us energy security is important and the importation of oil is important to Chinese energy security and also to the livelihood of the people," said Cong.

The Trump administration said on April 22 that, in a bid to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero, buyers of Iranian oil must stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions. The move ended six months of waivers, which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers -- Turkey, China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan -- to continue importing limited volumes.

"We do not accept this so-called zero policy of the United States," said Cong, who was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting on the implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal.

The United States' insistence on zeroing out Iran's oil exports has caused many problems in the global market, keeping confused both experts and buyers as they look straight into what is shaping up to be a chaotic chapter for the petroleum industry.

China and several other major purchasers of Iranian oil have already complained to the US about the decision.
US Senate Rejects Bid to Limit Trump's Iran War Powers
Fri Jun 28, 2019 09:10PM

Republican senators have blocked a largely Democratic-led amendment that aimed to restrict President Donald Trump’s authority to militarily strike Iran without first obtaining congressional approval.

During a voting session on Friday, the proposal by Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Tom Udall was rejected 50 to 40, but for the amendment to be added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), supporters needed 60 yes votes.

“We must tell the president and affirm to the American people that we will assume our constitutional responsibility,” said Udall, Democrat of New Mexico. “And we must do so now before — through miscalculation, mistake or misjudgment — our nation finds itself in yet another endless war.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also told reporters that “the American people are very afraid that this president, even if he doesn’t want to start a war, would bumble us into one.”

Tensions increased between the US and Iran after the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down an intruding American spy drone in the country’s southern coastal province of Hormozgan on June 20.

Following the downing of the RQ-4A drone, Trump claimed he had called off US strikes on three different Iranian sites 10 minutes before they were planned to be launched.

A few days later, the White House introduced new sanctions that targeted Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and senior commanders of Navy, Aerospace, and Ground Forces of the IRGC.

Washington is also set to slap bans on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is seen as the architect of a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, which Washington abruptly abandoned last year. The US reinstated its unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic following its exit from the landmark deal.
Haftar Orders Forces to Attack Turkish Ships, Interests in Libya
Sat Jun 29, 2019 02:20AM

Libya's strongman Khalifa Haftar has ordered his forces to attack Turkish ships and interests in the North African state, his spokesman said Friday, accusing Ankara of supporting Haftar's rivals in the Libyan conflict.

"Orders have been given to the air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters," said General Ahmad al-Mesmari.

"Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces," he added.

He also declared that any aircraft arriving from Turkey attempting to land in the capital Tripoli would be treated as hostile. The same would apply to Turkish ships docking at Libyan ports.

The spokesman said Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) force would attack any Turkish military presence, without elaborating.

Turkey supports Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tripoli which on Wednesday dealt a blow to eastern forces trying to seize the capital in a three-month campaign.

Turkey has supplied drones and trucks to forces allied to UN-backed Tripoli Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, while the LNA has received support from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, according to diplomats.

Turkish arms in Libya before 'vast operation' to break siege

Haftar’s offensive has upended UN-led plans to stabilize Libya after years of conflict that have left the oil-rich nation divided and caused living standards to plummet.

The conflict risks disrupting oil production, creating a vacuum to be exploited by militants and prompting more migrants to leave for Italy by boat.

Libya has been the scene of fighting between rival groups since the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 after a popular revolt and a Western military intervention.

His ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Daesh terrorist group.
DR Congo Mine Collapse Death Toll Rises to 43
Two galleries collapsed in an open-pit mine owned by Swiss mining giant Glencore, killing artisanal miners.

The number of artisanal miners killed by a landslide at a copper and cobalt mine owned by Swiss-based mining giant Glencore in southern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has risen to 43 and could climb further as the search for missing workers continues, local officials have said.

The accident occurred on Thursday in the Kolwezi area of Lualaba province when two galleries caved in at the KOV open-pit mine operated by the Kamoto Copper Company (KCC), a subsidiary of Glencore.

The original death toll was estimated at 36 but rose through Thursday evening and into Friday as more bodies were uncovered, the officials told Reuters news agency.

"We think that other bodies are still under the rubble," said Joseph Yav Katshung, the director of cabinet for the governor of Lualaba, Richard Muyej.

Muyej said the landslide was caused by "clandestine artisanal diggers who have infiltrated [the mine]".

"The old terraces gave way, causing significant amounts of material to fall," he told Reuters. "KOV is a delicate site and presents many risks."

Glencore said in a statement that it had confirmed 19 deaths "with possible further unconfirmed fatalities" and was assisting search-and-rescue operations by local authorities.

"The illegal artisanal miners were working two galleries in benches overlooking the extraction area. Two of these galleries caved in," the company said.

Artisanal mining by independent workers using their own materials on the edge of commercial mine sites is a big problem across Africa.

Rudimentary, outdated practices

The statement said KCC had observed a "growing presence" of illegal miners, with an average of 2,000 people daily sneaking onto its operating sites.

The rudimentary and often outdated practices employed by independent miners can compromise the safety of the mines, and accidents among them are common.

"KCC urges all illegal miners to cease from putting their lives at risk by trespassing on a major industrial site," Glencore said.

Delphin Monga, provincial secretary of the UCDT union which represents KCC employees, said a crack in that part of the pit had been noticed on Wednesday. He said KCC had put up red warning signs, but the diggers had ignored them.

Illegal mining is common and frequently deadly in the DRC, where safety is often poor and risk-taking high.

The KOV mine, which spans a vast flat expanse on the outskirts of the city of Kolwezi near the Zambian border, is one of the largest high-grade copper assets in the world.

The collapse of a 250-metre wall inside the same pit killed seven mine employees in 2016.

Thousands of illegal miners operate in and around mines in southern Congo, which produce more than half of the world's cobalt, a key component in electric car batteries.

Mine disasters in Africa have cost the lives of numerous miners, especially unauthorised artisanal miners who operate without safety standards or regulations.

At least nine illegal gold miners died in Zimbabwe when they were trapped in a mine last month.

Twenty-two died in a previous Zimbabwean gold-mine flood in February, and 14 tin miners were buried alive in Rwanda after heavy rains in January.

In February, about 20 people died when a truck carrying acid to Glencore's Mutanda Mine in DRC collided with two other vehicles.

The DRC's military deployed hundreds of soldiers last week to protect a copper and cobalt mine owned by China Molybdenum Co Ltd from illegal miners.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Sterck said if the incident is related to illegal mining, any effect may be relatively short-term beyond an investigative period.

"However, preventive action will likely be needed and it could impact Glencore's social licence to operate," he added.

The company said the incident had not affected output, but shares in Glencore closed down 4.9 percent, their worst day of trading since December.