Elko, Nevada, Oct 21 (AP/UNB) - President Donald Trump on Saturday said he will exit a landmark arms control agreement the United States signed with the former Soviet Union, saying that Russia is violating the pact and it's preventing the U.S. from developing new weapons.
The 1987 pact, which helps protect the security of the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Far East, prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
"Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many years," Trump said after a rally in Elko, Nevada. "And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not allowed to."
The agreement has constrained the U.S. from developing new weapons, but America will begin developing them unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop the weapons, Trump said. China is not currently party to the pact.
"We'll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say let's really get smart and let's none of us develop those weapons, but if Russia's doing it and if China's doing it, and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable," he said.
National Security Adviser John Bolton was headed Saturday to Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. His first stop is Moscow, where he'll meet with Russian leaders, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. His visit comes at a time when Moscow-Washington relations also remain frosty over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race and upcoming U.S. midterm elections.
There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin or the Russian Foreign Ministry on Trump's announcement.
Trump didn't provide details about violations, but in 2017, White House national security officials said Russia had deployed a cruise missile in violation of the treaty. Earlier, the Obama administration accused the Russians of violating the pact by developing and testing a prohibited cruise missile. Russia has repeatedly denied that it has violated the treaty and has accused the United States of not being in compliance.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has previously suggested that a Trump administration proposal to add a sea-launched cruise missile to America's nuclear arsenal could provide the U.S. with leverage to try to convince Russia to come back in line on the arms treaty.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said in February that the country would only consider using nuclear weapons in response to an attack involving nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, or in response to a non-nuclear assault that endangered the survival of the Russian nation.
"We are slowly slipping back to the situation of cold war as it was at the end of the Soviet Union, with quite similar consequences, but now it could be worse because (Russian President Vladimir) Putin belongs to a generation that had no war under its belt," said Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent Russian political analyst. "These people aren't as much fearful of a war as people of Brezhnev's epoch. They think if they threaten the West properly, it gets scared."
Trump's decision could be controversial with European allies and others who see value in the treaty, said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who focuses on nuclear arms control.
"Once the United States withdraws from the treaty, there is no reason for Russia to even pretend it is observing the limits," he wrote in a post on the organization's website. "Moscow will be free to deploy the 9M729 cruise missile, and an intermediate-range ballistic missile if it wants, without any restraint."
U.S. officials have previously alleged that Russia violated the treaty by deliberately deploying a land-based cruise missile in order to pose a threat to NATO. Russia has claimed that U.S. missile defences violate the pact.
In the past, the Obama administration worked to convince Moscow to respect the INF treaty but made little progress.
"If they get smart and if others get smart and they say let's not develop these horrible nuclear weapons, I would be extremely happy with that, but as long as somebody's violating the agreement, we're not going to be the only ones to adhere to it," Trump said.
Johannesburg, Oct 21 (AP/UNB) — Nigeria's government says 55 people have been killed in the latest eruption of communal violence in north-central Kaduna state.
A spokesman says President Muhammadu Buhari condemns the fighting that led to Thursday's killings in Kasuwan Magani and that "frequent resort to bloodshed by Nigerians over misunderstandings that can be resolved peacefully is worrisome."
Kaduna's governor cites the state police commissioner as saying that more than 20 people have been arrested. The governor urges "peace and harmony despite ethnic and religious diversity."
Central Nigeria has seen bouts of deadly communal violence that some blame on ethnic and religious differences and others blame on tensions over increasingly scarce resources in Africa's most populous nation.
Nigeria is about equally divided between a largely Christian south and Muslim north.
Kabul, Oct 20 (AP/UNB) — Some Afghans lined up for hours to cast their vote Saturday in a chaotic start to parliamentary elections that are being protected by tens of thousands of security forces on alert nationwide following a campaign marred by relentless violence.
In some parts of the capital Kabul, voters waited for polls to open five hours after the official opening time of 7 a.m. In some of the city's western neighborhoods, voters were posting pictures of closed polling stations hours after they were scheduled to open.
Afghans hoping to bring change to a corrupt government have in the eight years since the last elections endured a resurgent Taliban that have carried out near-daily attacks on security forces, seizing large swathes of the countryside and threatening major cities.
The Islamic State affiliate, meanwhile, has launched a wave of bombings targeting the country's Shiite minority, killing hundreds. Both groups have threatened to attack anyone taking part in the vote.
Poll workers struggled with a new biometric system and in several polling stations workers took an extraordinary amount of time to locate names on voter lists. In some polling stations in Kabul, voting started considerably late leading to small disturbances by frustrated voters, some of whom had come to vote nearly two hours before polls opened.
The new biometric machines meant to curtail fraud were late additions to Afghanistan's elections and had not been tested in the field and workers had not had more than a few weeks to learn the system. Even the Independent Election Commission chairman, Abdul Badih Sayat, warned ahead of polling that the system might experience glitches and asked for voters' patience.
The chaos at the polls could compromise the legitimacy of Saturday's vote in the minds of many Afghans, who have already expressed fears of fraud aimed at keeping the warlords and politically corrupt who currently dominate Afghanistan's Parliament in power.
As the extent of the delays began to be known, Sayat went on national television to promise that everyone who wanted to vote would have an opportunity. He extended voting till 8 p.m. at those polling stations which opened as many as six hours late. For those polling stations that were still closed six hours after the 7 a.m. polling start, Sayat said they would vote on Sunday.
North of Kabul, thousands of outraged voters blocked a road after waiting more than five hours for a polling station to open, said Mohammad Azim, the governor of Qarabagh district where the demonstration took place.
Sayat said dozens of teachers who had been trained in the new biometric system had not shown up for work at the polling stations. It wasn't clear whether that was related to a Taliban warning directed specifically at teachers and students telling them to stay away from the polls.
It also wasn't immediately clear how many of the 21,000 polling stations across the country would be affected by the new closing time.
Afghanistan's deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq expressed outrage at the chaotic start to polling and assailed election preparation by the country's Independent Election Commission.
"The people rushed like a flood to the polling stations, but the election commission employees were not present, and in some cases they were there but there were no electoral materials and in most cases the biometric systems was not working," he said.
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry said it had increased its deployment of National Security Forces to 70,000 from the original 50,000 to protect the country's 21,000 polling stations.
Elections in the two provinces of Kandahar and Ghazni have been delayed as well as in 11 of the country's nearly 400 districts.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani marked his ballot at the start of voting. In a televised speech afterward, he congratulated Afghans on another election and praised the security forces, particularly the air force, for getting ballots to Afghanistan's remotest corners. He also reminded those elected to Parliament that they are there to serve the people and ensure the rule of law.
The Independent Election Commission registered 8.8. million people. Wasima Badghisy, a commission member, called voters "very, very brave" and said a turnout of 5 million would be a success.
At a polling station in crowded west Kabul, Khoda Baksh said he arrived nearly two hours early to cast his vote, dismissing Taliban threats of violence.
"We don't care about their threats. The Taliban are threatening us all the time," said 55-year-old Baksh, who said he wanted to see a new generation of politicians take power in Afghanistan's 249-seat Parliament. He bemoaned the current Parliament dominated by warlords and a corrupt elite. "They have done zero for us."
Within hours of the start of polling, several minor incidences of violence had occurred in Kabul as well as several provinces as both the upstart Islamic State group affiliate and the Taliban have vowed to disrupt elections
In the run-up to the elections, two candidates were killed while polling in Kandahar was delayed for a week after a rogue guard gunned down the powerful provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq. In the capital of Kabul, security was tight, with police and military personnel stopping vehicles at dozens of checkpoints throughout the congested city.
Commission deputy spokesman Aziz Ibrahimi said results of Saturday's voting will not be released before mid-November and final results will not be out until later in December.
Ghani said Afghans alone are carrying out elections as he praised the millions of voters who registered, defying threats from insurgents.
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said.
Luke Air Force Base, Oct 20 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump on Friday called Saudi Arabia's announcement that suspects are in custody in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a "good first step" and said he would work with Congress on a U.S. response.
The president spoke to the media at a defense roundtable in Arizona hours after Saudi Arabia claimed that Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor last seen on Oct. 2, was killed in a "fistfight" at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The kingdom also said that 18 suspects were in custody and that intelligence officials had been fired.
Asked by a reporter whether he thought Saudi Arabia's explanation for Khashoggi's death was credible, Trump said, "I do. I do." But he said before he decided what to do next, he wanted to talk to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
"Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, but what happened is unacceptable," Trump said. Regarding the Saudi arrests, he said, "It's a big first step. It's only a first step, but it's a big first step."
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers including Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham expressed skepticism of the Saudi account, which was vastly different than that given by Turkish officials, who had said an "assassination squad" sent by the kingdom had killed and dismembered Khashoggi.
"First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement," Graham, R-S.C., tweeted Friday. "Now, a fight breaks out and he's killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince."
Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and royal court insider for decades in Saudi Arabia, had written columns critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the kingdom's direction while living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. He went to the Saudi consulate to obtain paperwork for his upcoming marriage.
"The Saudi 'explanation' for murdering journalist and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi in a consulate_a fistfight gone wrong_is insulting," tweeted Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee. "Since the Trump Administration won't stand up against atrocity, Congress must."
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California said Saudi Arabia's claim that Khashoggi died in a brawl wasn't credible.
"If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him," said Schiff, the ranking member of the House intelligence committee.
"The Kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump Administration will not take the lead, Congress must," Schiff said.
In a statement Friday night, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the U.S. will closely follow international investigations into Khashoggi's death and will advocate for justice that is "timely, transparent and in accordance with all due process."
Earlier Friday, Sanders said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken to the crown prince and briefed the president and John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser. Trump dispatched Pompeo earlier in the week to Saudi Arabia and Turkey to speak to officials about the case.
Taipei, Oct 20 (AP/UNB) — Thousands of pro-independence demonstrators gathered in Taiwan's capital on Saturday to express their disapproval with China's stance toward their island.
China cut off contact with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's government shortly after her inauguration in 2016 and has been ratcheting up diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Taiwan in a bid to compel her to agree to Beijing's insistence that the self-governing island democracy is a part of China.
"I want to loudly say no to China," said 43-year-old demonstrator Ping Cheng-wen, who is self-employed. "I just don't agree with China's rhetoric. We have our own sovereignty, and Taiwan is a country."
Another demonstrator at the rally in Taipei, Kuo Jung-min, an 85-year-old Presbyterian church pastor and Hebrew language professor at Taiwan Theological College and Seminary, said pro-unification advocates should move to China if they think it is a better place to live.
"We have to be real Taiwanese, not fake Chinese," Kuo said. "There is no use being Chinese. Those who advocate pro-unification still live in Taiwan. If China is that good, why don't they just move to China?"
In an Oct. 10 National Day address, Tsai called on China not to be a "source of conflict" and pledged to boost Taiwan's defenses against Beijing's military threats. Tsai said the best way to defend Taiwan was to "make it indispensable and irreplaceable to the world," while remaining nonconfrontational in its attitude toward China.
China and Taiwan separated amid civil war in 1949 and China considers the island part of its territory to be taken control of by force if necessary.