Pentagon welcomes Saudi anti-IS troop proposal
Pentagon welcomes Saudi anti-IS troop proposal

The Pentagon on Friday welcomed Saudi Arabia's pledge to commit ground forces to fight Islamic State jihadists in Syria, should the US-led coalition ever send in combat troops. Saudi Arabia has been part of the coalition since late 2014. "We welcome the announcement by Saudi Arabia that they

5 days agoAFP
  • Saudi Arabia, Bahrain ban Iranian ships from ports - reports

    (Repeats to add reporting credit) LONDON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have banned Iranian-flagged vessels from entering their waters and imposed other shipping restrictions, according to ship insurers citing local reports, potentially escalating tensions between Tehran and Riyadh. Iran has been struggling to ramp up oil exports and still faces insurance and financing hurdles despite the lifting of international curbs on its banking, insurance and shipping sectors last month as part of a nuclear deal with world powers. A ban on Iranian ships in those ports is unlikely to affect international trade, although the uncertainty will add to trade hiccups for Iran.

    • Reuters Middle East
  • Dubai visitors jailed for Dh766,000 villa break-in

    Five visitors have been jailed for five years each for breaking into a villa and stealing Dh766,000 worth of gold jewellery and cash after damaging the surveillance camera system. The five Colombian men, G.A., F.S., J.A., J.B. and C.K., had broken into an Emirati man’s villa from where they stole the valuables in Nad Al Hammar area in June.

    • Gulf News
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  • UN urges Turkey to open borders to fleeing Syrians

    The United Nations on Tuesday urged Turkey to open its borders to tens of thousands of Syrians who have overwhelmed nearby emergency camps after fleeing a major government offensive. The main border crossing north of Syria's second city Aleppo remained closed, forcing huge crowds including women and children to sleep in tents or in the open. "There are no longer enough places for families to sleep," said Ahmad al-Mohammad, a field worker with medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

    • AFP
  • Pope says he angered Merkel with comments on Europe

    Pope Francis has revealed that he received an angry phone call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel after he compared Europe to a "barren woman", in an interview published Monday. In an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera, Francis said he had received an angry phone call from Merkel afterwards. "She was a bit angry because I had compared Europe to a barren woman, incapable of producing children," Francis said.

    • AFP
  • Syrians recount 'hell' of Aleppo life under air strikes

    Syrian farmer Mahmud Turki was sitting on his couch at sunset watching the news with his family after eating supper. Then an air strike hit his home and turned his life upside down. "The moment of the air strike... nobody can describe it," Turki -- stitches still in his head and his body covered in bruises -- said from his hospital bed in neighbouring Turkey, where he was among just a few allowed across for treatment.

    • AFP
  • GCC debt to double, assets to slide by 2020: report

    Public debt of the oil-rich Gulf states is expected to double and assets decline by a third by 2020 as they seek to finance budget deficits due to sliding prices, a report said Tuesday. After having posted massive deficits of $160 billion last year and faced with a $159 billion deficit in 2016, the six Arab states of the Gulf will have to borrow and tap into their huge fiscal reserves to finance the budget shortfall, said the report released by the head of research at Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz), M.R. Raghu. In 2012, in contrast, the Gulf states posted a combined surplus of $220 billion.

    • AFP
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  • Prominent reformists back in Iran election: official

    Prominent but as yet unnamed reformists are among more than 1,400 initially rejected candidates now eligible to contest Iran's parliamentary elections on February 26, a government official said Tuesday. The new approvals raise the potential for a change in the balance of power in Iran's parliament, a prospect that looked impossible after thousands of contenders were barred in a first round of vetting. Anyone seeking to become one of Iran's 290 MPs must satisfy the Guardian Council, a conservative-dominated constitutional watchdog of clerics and jurists, of their suitability for public office.

    • AFP
  • Don't harass innocent Muslims, Bukhari tells Modi

    New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) Prominent Muslim leader Syed Ahmed Bukhari on Monday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said innocent Muslims must not be harassed in the name of fighting the Islamic State terror group. Security agencies must be more transparent while detaining terror suspects, the Shahi Imam of the 17th-century Jama Masjid here told Modi during their half-hour meeting at the prime minister's residence. "I urged the prime minister that while detaining people for terrorist activities or suspected links with the Islamic State, special care must be taken to ensure that the lives of innocent Muslim youth and their families are not ruined," Bukhari told IANS.

    • IANS
  • Unlicensed loudspeakers in mosques, temples: HC dismisses plea

    New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a plea seeking a complete ban on the use of all unlicensed loudspeakers in mosques and temples here on grounds of noise pollution. Dismissing the plea, a bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath noted that Delhi Police has issued various directions and orders that have been referred to in the petition. Delhi Police has also taken steps to deal with the violation of provisions pertaining to the use of loudspeakers, the bench said.

    • IANS
  • Pension fund promises financial security for Indians

    Indian expatriates in the UAE can now expect financial security after retirement with the Government of India’s National Pension Scheme expanding its ambit to include overseas Indians as well. Beginning November 2015, the Reserve Bank of India allowed all Non Resident Indians (NRIs) around the world, including those in the UAE, to subscribe to the existing National Pension Scheme (NPS) overseen by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) in India.

    • Gulf News
  • Bad News For Insurance, Great News For Virginia

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  • Majid Al Futtaim to invest $3.7 bln building two malls in Riyadh

    (Adds CEO comments, details) By Katie Paul RIYADH, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Majid Al Futtaim will invest 14 billion riyals ($3.7 billion) building two malls in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, the Dubai-based company said on Monday. The 300,000-square metre Mall of Saudi, which privately-held Majid Al Futtaim said would be the kingdom's largest, will include shops, restaurants, entertainment, offices, hotels and residential units, plus Saudi's first indoor ski slope. The plans mark a major retail expansion into Saudi Arabia, despite reduced expectations for economic growth in the world's top oil exporter due to a prolonged oil price slump.

    • Reuters Middle East
  • Oil prices slide as output cut hopes fade

    Oil fell on Monday, with New York prices briefly ducking underneath $30 amid a broader selloff on global stock markets, as hopes of an output cut faded. Prices had rebounded in Asian trading hours after OPEC producers Saudi Arabia and Venezuela held talks on the beleaguered market, raising hopes of production cutbacks. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery sank to $29.57 per barrel, before pulling back slightly to stand at $30.21, down 68 cents from Friday's closing level.

    • AFP
  • US steps up military pressure on North Korea

    Beijing, Feb 9 (IANS) The US is leading a drive to exert military pressure on North Korea in response to Pyongyang's satellite launch which could escalate regional tension. US defence officials on Monday said Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would meet his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Hawaii this week to discuss Pyongyang's launch, Xinhua reported. Lee Sun-jin, South Korean Army General and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Katsutoshi Kawano, head of Japan's Self-Defence Forces, would participate in the meeting, which was scheduled after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6.

    • IANS
  • Experts yet not ready to say meteorite hit Tamil Nadu college

    Chennai, Feb 8 (IANS) It remains a mystery whether an object that fell from the skies into an engineering college campus in Vellore was a meteorite or not. While the Tamil Nadu government declared on Sunday that it was indeed a meteorite, space scientists are not yet ready to say so without necessary tests. "We are not yet saying it is an object from outside the planet," an official of the Physical Research Laboratory under the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said on condition of anonymity.

    • IANS
  • Only 5 Wooded Homesites Left in Greenbelt Station!

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  • Israel plans to encircle itself with security fences

    Jerusalem, Feb 10 (IANS) Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he has plans to encircle Israel with fences because the Mideast is filled with "wild beasts" that imperil the Jewish country. "We are preparing a multi-year plan to surround the entire State of Israel with security fences to protect ourselves in the current Middle East," Netanyahu said during a tour to the construction site of a new fence along its eastern border with Jordan, Xinhua reported. "In the place where we live, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts," Netanyahu said, apparently referring to Islamist militants.

    • IANS
  • Iraq deploying thousands of troops to retake Mosul

    The Iraqi army is deploying thousands of soldiers to a northern base in preparation for operations to retake the Islamic State group's hub of Mosul, officials said on Monday. IS seized Mosul in June 2014 and except for air strikes has held Iraq's second city largely unopposed for more than 18 months as the country's security forces battled the jihadists in other areas. "Units from the Iraqi army have begun arriving to a military base near the Makhmur district to start launching initial military operations toward Mosul," a staff brigadier general told AFP on condition of anonymity.

    • AFP
  • Nobody liked me in school: Katrina Kaif

    Mumbai, Feb 8 (IANS) She enjoys immense popularity as a Hindi film celebrity today, but Katrina Kaif says nobody liked her when she was in school. While she has been in the limelight for her rumoured relationships with actors like Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina said that if she has to date a person, one thing she would notice would be his persona and the vibe around him.

    • IANS
  • Georgia to build $2.5 bn Black Sea port on China's Silk Road

    Georgia on Monday announced plans to build a new deep-water Black Sea port in a $2.5-billion project that aims to boost trade between China and Europe along the historic Silk Road route. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said the ex-Soviet country had awarded the contract to build the port to a joint venture called Anaklia Development Consortium, made up of Georgia's TBC Holding and US-based Conti International. "The project will bring tremendous opportunities for Georgia and the entire region, making the new Silk Road concept fully operational," Kvirikashvili told journalists.

    • AFP
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  • Congress welcomes TRAI decision against discriminatory pricing

    New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) The Congress on Monday welcomed the decision of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) saying no to discriminatory pricing of data content and said it vindicates the position of the party as articulated by party vice president Rahul Gandhi. "The decision, though taken after contradictory posturing on part of the government, vindicates the demands raised consistently and unequivocally by Rahul Gandhi as indeed millions of net neutrality supporters, activists and internet users across the country," Randeep Singh Surjewala, the Congress party in-charge of communications, said in a statement. The Congress hoped that the government will now look seriously and sincerely into the issue of call drops "that is afflicting nearly 100 crore mobile phone users across service providers".

    • IANS
  • Confident India face Sri Lanka in T20I opener

    Pune, Feb 8 (IANS) India will aim to hold on to their current form when they take on an injury-hit Sri Lanka in the opening game of their three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Tuesday. The confidence of the home team is sky high following a 3-0 hammering of Australia Down Under and the T20I series against the Island nation will be ideal for preparations for the upcoming Asia Cup in Bangladesh and World T20 in India in March-April. India, who vaulted seven places to first after sweeping aside Australia last week, need to win the series against Lanka to retain the coveted position in International Cricket Council (ICC) T20I rankings.

    • IANS
  • Attacks keep millions away from famed Egypt tourist sites

    Said Ramadan has lost count of how much he's borrowed just to stay afloat while other vendors at Giza's pyramids have already lost hope, as jihadist attacks bring Egypt's tourist industry to its knees. Since Egypt's then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi in 2013, a deadly insurgency led by the Islamic State jihadist group has kept away millions of tourists. Tourism in Egypt was dealt a body blow when a Russian airliner blew up mid-air over the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, killing all 224 people on board, mostly Russian tourists.

    • AFP
  • Bollywood movies cementing factor in India-Myanmar ties

    Yangon, Feb 9 (IANS) A Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, Myanmar is home to bustling precious stone markets and one of the most impressive Buddhist sites.

    • IANS
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  • Mascherano advises Neymar to stay at Barcelona

    Barcelona, Feb 9 (IANS) Spanish football club Barcelona's defender Javier Mascherano sent a message to Brazilian striker Neymar that the best place for him to continue improving as a player is at Camp Nou. Mascherano was speaking amid stories that the Brazilian has offers from clubs in England with Real Madrid also interested in signing the player who has two-and-half years remaining on his current contract, reports Xinhua. "If he wants to be the best player in the world, then Barcelona is the ideal club for him to be at.

    • IANS
  • Warning of Islamic State's tentacles spreading to South Asia

    United Nations, Feb 10 (IANS) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned of the danger of the Islamic State spreading its tentacles to South Asia through organisations like the Tehreek-e-Khilafat in Pakistan and called for international action against the grave threat. The Islamic State now controls swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, but Ban said, "The recent expansion of the ISIL sphere of influence across West and North Africa, the Middle East and South and South-East Asia demonstrates the speed and scale at which the gravity of the threat has evolved in just 18 months." "In Afghanistan and Pakistan, ISIL continues to develop a network of contacts and sympathisers who carry out attacks in its name," Ban said.

    • IANS
  • Saudi Arabian builders delay payments amid state spending clampdown

    * Saudi labour ministry issues statement on unpaid wages * Industry sources say several firms face this problem * Government spending cuts hitting construction sector most * Some firms face shortages of working capital * Banks' bad loan provisions rising, may affect wider economy By Tom Arnold and Andrew Torchia DUBAI, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Some Saudi Arabian construction companies are struggling to pay their staff on time in a sign of growing pressure on the economy from low oil prices, which are causing the government to slow spending on building projects. One executive at a large Saudi construction firm, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters it had been having problems paying its employees for a few months.

    • Reuters Middle East
  • Alia Bhatt, Vikrant Massey cast together in ad

    Mumbai, Feb 8 (IANS) Actors Alia Bhatt along with Vikrant Massey will be seen endorsing ice-cream brand Cornetto, earlier promoted by Sidharth Malhotra and Yami Gautam. The news of Alia, who is rumoured to be dating Sidharth, taking over the endorsements was announced via a statement on Monday. The actress is excited about representing the brand, and said: "I am extremely happy to have the opportunity to be associated with Cornetto - a brand that has been a part of my life through all these years.

    • IANS
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  • Iraqi forces recapture eastern part of Ramadi

    Baghdad, Feb 10 (IANS) The Iraqi security forces fought fierce clashes with Islamic State militants and retook control of the eastern part of the city of Ramadi, while the troops seized a road linking the city to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, the military said on Tuesday. The troops and allied paramilitary Sunni tribal fighters recaptured several areas in eastern Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's western province of Anbar, including the districts of Sajjariyah and Juwaiba, and rushed into Huseiba al-Sharqiya area, the military said in a statement, Xinhua reported. "Our forces are advancing firmly to chase the enemy, and have opened the highway between Ramadi and Baghdad which passes through the town of Khaldiyah, the statement said, referring to the road that also links Ramadi with the military airbase of Habbaniyah where US troops and allied coalition military personnel stationed.

    • IANS
  • Obama urges Arab world to set up inclusive governments

    US President Barack Obama urged Arab countries on Monday to establish inclusive governments to ensure security in a region rocked by turmoil. "When governments truly invest in their citizens, their education, skills, and health, and universal human rights are upheld, countries are more peaceful, more prosperous and more successful," he told the opening day of the World Government Summit in Dubai. "As we have seen in the tumult across the Middle East and North Africa, when governments do not lift up their citizens, it's a recipe for instability and strife," he said in a video address to the conference.

    • AFP
  • Brexit could mean migrant camps in UK: Cameron's office

    Prime Minister David Cameron's office on Monday warned that Britain leaving the European Union could mean migrant camps being set up on British shores if UK border checks are removed from Calais in France. "Should Britain leave the EU there's no guarantee those controls would remain in place," Cameron's spokesman said at a daily briefing. Cameron's spokesman said Britain and France had "positive working relations" on border issues.

    • AFP
  • Hamas fighter killed in new Gaza tunnel collapse

    A Hamas militant was killed on Tuesday when a tunnel collapsed in the Gaza Strip, the group said, in the fourth such incident over the past few weeks. The death brings to 11 the number of Gazans killed in four separate collapses since January 26, and comes with Israeli concern building over the reconstruction of tunnels it says could be used for attacks. Israel's military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot said Tuesday that militant tunnels in Gaza were now the army's main priority.

    • AFP
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  • Prove Dawood-Modi meeting or sack Azam: BJP to Akhilesh

    Lucknow, Feb 9 (IANS) The BJP on Tuesday demanded that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav sack his minister Azam Khan for his "baseless allegations" that Prime Minister Narendra Modi met underworld don Dawood Ibrahim in Pakistan. Azam Khan, the state parliamentary affairs minister, has alleged that during his brief stopover in Pakistan in December last year, Modi held a closed door meeting with Dawood Ibrahim at the residence of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore.

    • IANS
  • Iran hopes for agricultural boom post-sanctions

    (Repeats with no changes) * 5 million tonnes of wheat carried over from 2015 * Foreign investment set to boost production after sanctions * Extra production and easier trade open the door to exports By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin DUBAI, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Iran plans to turn itself into a major food exporter, hoping the lifting of sanctions will boost international trade and allow investment in the agricultural sector, an official in Iran's state grain buying agency said. Foreign business delegations have flocked to Tehran since the United States, European Union and United Nations lifted international sanctions last month after reaching a deal to curb and monitor Iran's disputed nuclear program.

    • Reuters Middle East
  • Ex-model can seek divorce payout from Saudi sheikh in UK: court

    A former model who was married to a wealthy Saudi sheikh won the right to seek a payout from him in London, after a court rejected Monday his claim to have diplomatic immunity. Christina Estrada, 53, who has appeared in the Pirelli calendar and was once linked to Britain's Prince Andrew, will be able to seek a share of Sheikh Walid Juffali's estimated £4 billion (five billion euro, $5.7 billion) fortune. Juffali had argued that his status since 2014 as permanent representative for Saint Lucia to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) meant he was immune from a claim.

    • AFP
  • 40,000 starving to death as S.Sudan teeters on famine: UN

    At least 40,000 people are being starved to death in South Sudan war zones on the brink of famine, the United Nations said Monday, in a plea to rival forces to let aid in. The figures released in a UN report describe some of the worst conditions yet in more than two years of a civil war marked by atrocities and accusations of war crimes, including the blockading of food supplies. "Nearly 25 percent of the country's population remain in urgent need of food assistance, and at least 40,000 people are on the brink of catastrophe," the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN children's agency UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a joint statement.

    • AFP
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  • Nida Fazli, renowned Bollywood lyricist, Urdu poet dead

    Mumbai, Feb 8 (IANS) Renowned Urdu poet and Bollywood lyricist Muqtida Hasan Nida Fazli, died here on Monday after suffering a bout of breathlessness followed by a massive heart attack, a family source said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Fazli's verses and his contribution to cinema and writing will endure in the times to come. "Nida Fazli Sahab is no longer with us but his verses will live on and so will his contribution to writing and cinema," Modi tweeted.

    • IANS
  • DDCA row: HC dismisses AAP leader's plea over defamation suit

    New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a plea filed by AAP spokesperson Deepak Bajpai seeking removal of his name from a defamation suit filed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Jaitley has sought Rs.10 crore in damages following the Aam Aadmi Party leaders' statements on alleged financial irregularities in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). In the suit, Jaitley has named Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas, Raghav Chadha, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai.

    • IANS
  • Continuing T20 matches will help in World T20 preparations: Dhoni

    Pune, Feb 8 (IANS) Ahead of the opening game of the three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series against Sri Lanka, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Monday said the non-stop T20 matches in the coming days will help the team prepare well for the forthcoming World T20 scheduled to be played at home in March-April. The confidence of the home team is sky high following a 3-0 hammering of Australia Down Under and the T20I series against the island nation will be ideal for preparations for the upcoming Asia Cup in Bangladesh and most importantly the World T20 in India. "It's only the T20 format (that India will be playing for a while).

    • IANS
  • Chechen forces in Syria helping Russia pick bomb targets: state TV

    By Andrew Osborn MOSCOW, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Chechen forces loyal to the Kremlin are on the ground in Syria gathering military intelligence deep inside Islamic State-controlled territory which the Russian air force is using to identify bombing targets, Russian state TV has said. Chechen intelligence agents have also infiltrated the ranks of the militant group, according to Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, who said he had sent undercover agents to train alongside its fighters at the start of the Syrian war. "According to Ramzan Kadyrov, an extensive spy network has been set up inside Islamic State," said Russian state TV, whose coverage usually reflects the Kremlin line.

    • Reuters Middle East
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  • Death of Ryan student: Father wants CBI enquiry

    New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) The father of six-year-old Devansh Kakrora, who died after falling in a septic tank of his school here on January 30, said on Monday that his son was "murdered" and he wants a CBI investigation into the case. "I am not satisfied with the Delhi Police probe. "I want a CBI probe in the case," he said.

    • IANS
  • Yemeni forces clash with Qaeda gunmen in Aden

    Yemeni forces clashed Tuesday with Al-Qaeda militants in Aden as the Saudi-led coalition provided air cover, in a bid to drive the jihadists out of the city, security officials said. Al-Qaeda controls part of the southern port city which has become the temporary headquarters of the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi as it battles to retake large parts of Yemen from Shiite Huthi rebels. Forces loyal to Hadi laid siege early Tuesday to Aden's central Mansura district and clashed with militants, while coalition Apache helicopters provided air cover, security officials in the city said.

    • AFP
  • Pakistan to sign 15-yr deal for 3.5 mln tonnes Qatari LNG per yr -govt official

    Pakistan is set to sign a 15-year import deal for 3.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year from Qatar, a Pakistan government official said on Monday. Previously the two governments had discussed a 15-year deal for 1.5 million tonnes per year with scope for the volume to increase over time. The official said details of the terms would be announced ha later this week, adding that Pakistan had secured the LNG at a competitive price.

    • Reuters Middle East
  • Italy demands answers as anger mounts over student slain in Egypt

    Italy on Monday warned Egypt it would not allow the fate of Giulio Regeni to be brushed under the carpet as anger mounted over the Cambridge University student's torture and killing in Cairo. With the media publishing gruesome details of Regeni's treatment and pointing the finger at Egyptian security services, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was under pressure to authorise a state funeral for the slain 28-year-old. Regeni disappeared on January 25 and was found dead on February 3.

    • AFP
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  • Neymar happy at Barcelona, says club director

    Barcelona, Feb 8 (IANS) Barcelona director of football Robert Fernandez insists striker Neymar has the backing of the Catalan club and renewal of his contract is soon to be wrapped up. Arriving at Barcelona in 2013, the Brazilian superstar has been the centre of interest from clubs across Europe, with the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City keeping tabs, prompting the European champions to look at securing his future. "Neymar and his management are very happy and we are very relaxed," Fernandez was quoted as saying by dailymail.co.uk on Monday.

    • IANS
  • Iran hopes high turn-out in parliamentary elections

    Tehran, Feb 10 (IANS) Iran's high legislative body has reversed disqualification of hundreds of candidates for imminent parliamentary elections and expects a large number of people would participate in the parliamentary elections later this month, an Iranian Interior Ministry official announced here on Tuesday. The qualification of more than 1,500 candidates, already rejected by the Guardian Council of Constitution, was reconsidered and now they can run for parliamentary elections slated for February 26, the deputy Interior Minister, Hossein-Ali Amiri said, Xinhua reported.

    • IANS
  • Syria rebels lose new ground to Kurds, regime: monitor

    Syrian rebels have withdrawn from three villages threatened by Russian strikes in the northern province of Aleppo that borders Turkey, allowing Kurdish fighters to overrun them, a monitor said Monday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels abandoned the villages of Aqlamiyah, Deir Jamal and Mareanar on Sunday at the insistence of residents who feared their homes would be bombed. Opposition factions north of Syria's second city Aleppo have been increasingly stuck "between the pincers" of YPG forces on one side and pro-government fighters on the other, a military source told AFP.

    • AFP
  • Sisi regime eclipses Mubarak's 5 years after Egypt revolt

    Five years after being ousted after a mass uprising, Egypt's ex-president Hosni Mubarak is in a military hospital suite and his clan has been nearly rehabilitated under an even more repressive regime. Mubarak stepped down on February 11, 2011 after 18 days of street protests against the police abuses and corruption that marred the Arab world's largest country during 30 years of Mubarak rule. The groups say that Sisi, who as then army chief ousted freely elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, has installed a regime which is more repressive than Mubarak's, crushing all opposition.

    • AFP
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  • 75 IS men killed, as forces regain areas in Iraq's Ramadi

    Ramadi (Iraq), Feb 9 (IANS) At least 75 Islamic State militants were killed on Monday as the Iraqi security forces recaptured two areas from the extremist militants in eastern and east of the flashpoint city of Ramadi, the capital city of Iraq's western Anbar province, a provincial security source said. The troops and allied paramilitary Sunni tribal fighters rushed into Huseiba al-Sharqiya area, some 10 km east of Ramadi, and retook control of the area after heavy clashes with IS militants, leaving some 43 IS militants killed, including five suicide bombers, and capturing seven of the extremist militants, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

    • IANS
  • Iran considers stakes in refineries in other countries - Shana

    Iran holds a stake in a refinery project in Malaysia and is considering taking stakes in projects in five other countries, the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company (NIOEC) was quoted as saying on Monday. Hamid Sharif Razi said the NIOEC holds a 30 percent stake in a 250,000 barrel a day refinery project in Malaysia, and was planning to take a 40 percent stake in a 300,000 barrel a day refinery in Indonesia, according to the Shana news agency.

    • Reuters Middle East
  • Moscow slams UN chief for Syria comments

    The Russian foreign ministry on Monday criticised UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon over his claim that Russian air strikes in Syria had undermined last week's peace talks to end the country's five-year war. Ban had "practically" accused Russia of leading to the collapse of the talks, it added. UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura last week suspended attempts to begin a dialogue between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the opposition, as Russia pressed its bombing campaign in the war-torn country.

    • AFP
  • Iran nuclear deal delays bomb by 10-15 years: IISS chief

    The deal between world powers and Iran has delayed Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons by 10 to 15 years, the head of a top defence think-tank told AFP on Tuesday. The agreement struck in Vienna in July between Iran and the permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5 plus one) sees sanctions progressively lifted in return for Tehran ensuring its nuclear programme remains for civilian use. "2015 was by and large a decent year for news on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," said John Chipman, the director-general and chief executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

    • AFP
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  • Lucky few cross Turkey's border as Syrians flee offensive

    While tens of thousands of people fleeing the fierce fighting of a Russian-backed regime offensive in Syria huddled in makeshift camps and hoped to get across the border into Turkey, just a handful were lucky enough to make the crossing. One of them was 15-year-old Mohammad Rahma, who lost his eyesight in a Russian air strike about a month ago. An estimated 30,000 Syrians who fled the offensive on opposition strongholds in northern Aleppo province have been massing for days around the Bab al-Salama border gate, across from Turkey's Oncupinar crossing.

    • AFP
  • Kremlin rebukes Merkel over Syria criticism

    The Kremlin on Tuesday issued a rare rebuke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel a day after she criticised Russian air strikes in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Merkel should carefully watch what she said on the Syrian crisis. "We once again call on everyone to be very careful and responsible in their choice of words, given the already delicate situation in Syria now and the Syrian settlement," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

    • AFP
  • Chechen strongman claims Russian spies in Syria to infiltrate IS

    Pro-Kremlin Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has claimed spies from his region of Russia are being sent to infiltrate the Islamic State group and assist Moscow in its bombing campaign in Syria. Kadyrov, who has led the North Caucasus region of Chechnya since 2007, made the claims in a preview of a documentary set to air on state television on Wednesday. The documentary claims that "agents from special forces from Chechnya were embedded" in IS training camps to collect intelligence and help identify targets for Russian air strikes.

    • AFP
  • Russian air strikes in Syria 'good thing': Del Ponte

    Former war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who is currently probing rights abuses in Syria, on Monday backed Russia's air strikes on "terrorist groups" in the war-torn country. "Overall, I think the Russian intervention is a good thing, because finally someone is attacking these terrorist groups," Del Ponte told Swiss public broadcaster RTS, listing the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra among the groups targeted.

    • AFP
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  • Syria rebels under pressure as displaced mass on the border

    Beleaguered rebels in northern Syria faced double defeat on Monday by both the Russian-backed regime and advancing Kurdish militia, as tens of thousands of displaced amassed on the Turkish border. The worsening refugee crisis has pushed Germany and Turkey to ask NATO for help policing Turkey's shores, after two dozen more migrants drowned there en route to Greece. In Ankara, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with Turkish leaders, saying the two countries would ask a meeting of NATO defence ministers whether and how NATO could support coastguards.

    • AFP
  • US welcomes Saudi troop offer for Syria: FM

    The United States welcomes a Saudi offer to deploy special forces to support a coalition ground operation against the Islamic State group inside Syria, the kingdom's foreign minister said Monday. Speaking after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said any operation would be US-led but that Saudi Arabia would play a leading role. "The United States government was very supportive and very positive about the kingdom's readiness to provide special forces to the operation in Syria, should the international coalition make a decision to do so," he told reporters.

    • AFP
  • EXCLUSIVE-INTERVIEW-Damascus vows to recapture Aleppo from rebels

    * Truce proposed by states backing rebels, says adviser * Syrian army is backed by Russia and Hezbollah * Damascus aims to control border with Turkey By Tom Perry and Laila Bassam DAMASCUS, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Damascus aims to secure Syria's border with Turkey and recapture the city of Aleppo with its latest military offensive, a top adviser to President Bashar al-Assad said on Tuesday. In an interview in her Damascus office, Bouthaina Shaaban held out little hope for diplomatic efforts to end the five-year civil war, telling Reuters proposals for a ceasefire were coming from states that "do not want an end to terrorism" and wanted to shore up insurgents who are losing ground.

    • Reuters Middle East
  • UN fears for hundreds of thousands if Syria troops encircle Aleppo

    By Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of civilians could be cut off from food supplies if Syrian government forces succeed in their offensive to encircle rebel-held parts of Aleppo, the United Nations said on Tuesday, warning of a massive new flight of refugees. Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air strikes and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, have launched a major offensive in the countryside around Aleppo, which has been divided between government and rebel control for years. The assault to surround Aleppo, once Syria's biggest city with 2 million people, amounts to one of the most important shifts of momentum in the five year civil war that has killed 250,000 people and already driven 11 million from their homes.

    • Reuters Middle East
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  • Turkey will take refugees fleeing Syrian forces 'when necessary' - PM

    ANKARA, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Turkey will admit the almost 30,000 people fleeing war-torn Syria who have amassed at the border "when necessary," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, adding Russia's air assault should not be tolerated with the idea that Turkey will accept the refugees. The latest developments in Syria are an attempt to pressure Turkey and Europe on the migration issue, Davutoglu said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. ...

    • Reuters Middle East
  • Headley exposes Pakistan's role in 2008 Mumbai terror strike

    Mumbai, Feb 8 (IANS) Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist-turned-approver David Coleman Headley on Monday revealed a goldmine of information for Indian authorities on various aspects leading to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, while deposing via video conference from a US jail before Special TADA Court Judge G.A. Sanap here. Among the stunning disclosures was a hitherto unknown fact that two unsuccessful attempts were made in Mumbai in September and October 2008 which failed, before the final strike at multiple locations in south Mumbai on November 26-29, 2008. "Headley has made several sensitive revelations.

    • IANS