United Nations, Sep 23 (AP/UNB) — With rising unilateralism challenging its very existence, the United Nations convenes its annual meeting of world leaders Monday and will try once more to tackle problems together as a community of nations, addressing threats ranging from Mideast conflicts to the effects of global warming — and also encouraging the glimmer of hope over the nuclear standoff in North Korea.
This year, 133 world leaders have signed up to attend the General Assembly session, a significant increase from last year's 114. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the expected large turnout "eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations," though other U.N. officials and diplomats said it's in response to growing concerns about an increasingly turbulent world.
The seven-year-old conflict in Syria and the three-year war in Yemen that has sparked the world's worst humanitarian crisis and is now seriously threatening large-scale famine will certainly be in the spotlight, along with meetings on other Mideast and African hot spots. So will Iran, which faces escalating hostile rhetoric from the Trump administration over its activities supporting international terrorism, which Tehran vehemently denies.
Guterres said last week that one of his overriding concerns in an increasingly globalized world is the threat to having the U.N.'s 193 member nations work together, which is the foundation of the United Nations.
"Multilateralism is under attack from many different directions precisely when we need it most," the U.N. chief told reporters Thursday. "In different areas and for different reasons, the trust of people in their political establishments, the trust of states among each other, the trust of many people in international organizations has been eroded and ... multilateralism has been in the fire."
Guterres challenged diplomats at last week's opening of the 73rd session of the General Assembly by saying: "At a time of fragmentation and polarization, the world needs this assembly to show the value of international cooperation."
Whether it will be able to remains in question.
At this year's gathering of presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and minsters, populist leaders will include U.S. President Donald Trump, President Andrzej Duda of Poland and Premier Giuseppe Conte of Italy along with the foreign ministers of Hungary and Austria.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters that Trump, who champions an "America First" policy, wants to talk about "protecting U.S. sovereignty," and she reiterated Washington's opposition to the 2015 Paris climate agreement on curbing global warming and a newly agreed international compact aimed at regulating migration.
"We really value sovereignty of the country," Haley said. "It is not saying multilateralism can't work, but it's saying sovereignty is a priority over all of that, and we always have to make sure we're doing that — and there are many countries that agree with us."
Before stepping down as U.N. humanitarian chief Aug. 31, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein expressed serious concern that populism, intolerance and oppression are "becoming fashionable again."
"It all builds, because once you start down the path of intolerance, it's very difficult to stop it, unless at the end of the day you have conflict," he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to be a key voice joining Guterres in the coming week in speaking out against this trend and supporting multilateralism as key to promoting peace.
The week's activities kick off with a peace summit Monday morning honoring the 100th birthday this year of South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. A statue of Mandela will be unveiled at U.N. headquarters and leaders are expected to adopt a declaration recognizing the years 2019-2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace.
Trump is hosting an event Monday on "The World Drug Problem" and Haley said 124 countries have signed a global call to action. Activists on drug policy note it was never negotiated, and one group, the Harm Reduction Coalition, called it "an instance of heavy-handed U.S. 'with us or against us' diplomacy."
The increasingly strident U.S. rhetoric against Iran is expected to be a feature in U.S. speeches. Haley said that "every dangerous spot in the world — Iran seems to have its fingerprints in it," which Tehran denies.
Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement in May and the foreign ministers of the five remaining powers who support the deal — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — are expected to meet privately Monday evening with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The General Assembly's "General Debate," as the ministerial session is called, officially opens Tuesday with Guterres' report on the state of the world, to be followed soon after by speeches from Trump, Macron and late in the morning by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.
The U.S. holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council in September and has scheduled two ministerial meetings, the first on Wednesday presided over by Trump. It was initially to focus on Iran but has now been broadened to the topic of "nonproliferation" of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
"I'm sure that is going to be the most watched Security Council meeting ever," Haley told reporters.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will preside over the second meeting Thursday on North Korea, an issue the Security Council was united on in imposing increasingly tough sanctions. But that unity now appears to be at risk over enforcement of sanctions and the broader issues of how to achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and when sanctions should be lifted against North Korea.
Guterres welcomed the recent "positive meeting" in Pyongyang between the leaders of North and South Korea but warned that "there will not be success in intra-Korean negotiations if simultaneously there is not success in the American and North Korean" negotiations to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations has received 342 requests for meetings during the high-level week.
They includes sessions on conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Mali and Central African Republic as well as the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, aid for Palestinians, education for girls, modern slavery, environmental threats, efforts to end poverty, and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Asked what are the big issues, Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told The Associated Press: "All of them are big issues — nonproliferation, cooperation, the world peace architecture — it's every year, but this year it's maybe more topical than ever."
Uruguayan Ambassador Elbio Rosselli said the biggest issue for his country is multilateralism.
"It's a vow that all of us ought to keep reinforcing particularly at this conjuncture where so many undercurrents and contrary views are surfacing on different scenarios," he told AP. "The validity of this institution is more than ever necessary, and for that we need the recommitment of all states."
Tehran, Sept 23 (AP/UNB) — Militants disguised as soldiers opened fire Saturday on an annual Iranian military parade in the country's oil-rich southwest, killing at least 25 people and wounding over 60 in the deadliest terror attack to strike the country in nearly a decade.
Women and children scattered along with once-marching Revolutionary Guard soldiers as heavy gunfire rang out at the parade in Ahvaz, the chaos captured live on state television.
The region's Arab separatists, once only known for nighttime attacks on unguarded oil pipelines, claimed responsibility for the brazen assault.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed regional countries and their "U.S. masters" for funding and arming the separatists, issuing a stark warning as regional tensions remain high in the wake of the U.S. withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal.
"Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives," Zarif wrote on Twitter.
The attack came as rows of Revolutionary Guardsmen marched down Ahvaz's Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard. It was one of many around the country marking the start of Iran's long 1980s war with Iraq, commemorations known as the "Sacred Defense Week."
Journalists and onlookers turned to look toward the first shots, then the rows of marchers broke as soldiers and civilians sought cover under sustained gunfire. Iranian soldiers used their bodies at time to shield civilians in the melee, with one Guardsman in full dress uniform and sash carrying away a bloodied boy.
"Oh God! Go go go! Lie down! Lie down!" one man screamed as a woman fled with her baby.
In the aftermath, paramedics tended to the wounded as soldiers, some bloodied, helped their comrades to ambulances. Video obtained by The Associated Press of the aftermath showed bodies of soldiers, some appearing lifeless, laying on the ground in pools of blood. One had a blanket covering him. A man screamed in grief.
The attack killed at least 25 people and wounded over 60, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. It said gunmen wore military uniforms and targeted a riser where military and police commanders were sitting. At least eight of the dead served in the Revolutionary Guard, an elite paramilitary unit that answers only to Iran's supreme leader, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
"We suddenly realized that some armed people wearing fake military outfits started attacking the comrades from behind (the stage) and then opened fire on women and children," an unnamed wounded soldier told state TV. "They were just aimlessly shooting around and did not have a specific target."
State TV hours later reported that all four gunmen had been killed, with three dying during the attack and one later succumbing to his wounds at a hospital.
President Hassan Rouhani ordered Iran's Intelligence Ministry to immediately investigate the attack.
"The president stressed that the response of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the slightest threat would be harsh, but those who support the terrorists should be accountable," IRNA reported.
Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the attack as exposing "the atrocity and viciousness of the enemies of the Iranian nation."
"Their crime is a continuation of the conspiracies by the U.S.-backed regimes in the region which have aimed at creating insecurity in our dear country," Khamenei said in a statement. "However, to their dismay, the Iranian nation will persist on the noble and prideful path they have taken and will — like before — overcome all animosities."
Initially, authorities described the assailants as "takfiri gunmen," a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group. Iran has been deeply involved in the fight against IS in Iraq and has aided embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country's long war.
But later, state media and government officials seemed to come to the consensus that Arab separatists in the region were responsible. The separatists accuse Iran's Persian-dominated government of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority, though an Ahvazi Arab, Gen. Ali Shamkhani, serves as the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.
Khuzestan province also has seen recent protests over Iran's nationwide drought, as well as economic protests.
Iran has blamed its Mideast archrival, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for funding Arab separatists' activity. State media in Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the attack, though a Saudi-linked, Farsi-language satellite channel based in the United Kingdom immediately carried an interview with an Ahvazi activist claiming Saturday's attack.
Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran's ambassador to the U.K., called the channel's decision a "heinous act" in a post on Twitter and said his country would file a complaint with British authorities over the broadcast.
Yacoub Hor al-Tostari, a spokesman for the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahvaz, later told the AP that members of an umbrella group of Ahvazi activists his organization leads carried out the attack.
The attack undermined the Iranian government "on the day it wants to give a message to the world that it is powerful and in control," al-Tostari said. To bolster his claim, he gave details about one of the attackers that the AP could not immediately verify.
The Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for the attack in a message on its Amaaq news agency, but provided no evidence it carried out the assault. They also initially wrongly said the Ahvaz attack targeted Rouhani, who was in Tehran. The militants have made a string of false claims in the wake of major defeats in Iraq and Syria.
In Tehran, Rouhani watched a military parade that included ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel and U.S. military bases in the Mideast. Rouhani said the U.S. withdraw from the nuclear deal was an attempt to get Iran to give up its military arsenal. United Nations inspectors say Iran is still complying with the deal, which saw it limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
"Iran neither put its defensive arms aside nor lessens its defensive capabilities," Rouhani said. "Iran will add to its defensive power day by day."
Meanwhile, Iranian Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for the armed forces, alleged without evidence that the four militants involved in Saturday's attack "were dependent to the intelligence services of the U.S. and the Mossad" of Israel.
"They have been trained and organized in two Persian Gulf countries," he said, without elaborating.
Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded.
That assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the revolution.
In the last decade, mass-casualty militant attacks have been incredibly rare. In 2009, more than 40 people, including six Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide attack by Sunni extremists in Iran's Sistan and Baluchistan province.
Jaipur, Sept 22 (UNB) - BJP president Amit Shah today said Bangladeshi migrants are "termites" who would soon be struck off the country's electoral rolls, reports NDTV.
Mr Shah, who was addressing a public rally at Gangapur in Rajasthan's Sawai Madhopur district ahead of the state assembly elections, went on to credit the BJP government with publishing the National Register of Citizens in Assam and identifying "nearly 40 lakh" illegal immigrants. "It will now pick out each and every infiltrator," he said.
The BJP president went on to describe the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan as an unshakeable "Angad ka Paon" that cannot be dislodged by the opposition. He was referring to a character in the Ramayana who possessed a foot that even demon king Ravana could not move.
The Congress cannot help the country because it has neither a leader nor a policy, Mr Shah said, adding that party president Rahul Gandhi should deliver an account of what his own family has done for the country in the last four generations before asking the BJP to list out its achievements over the last four years.
He claimed that Rajasthan had been a "sick state" before Ms Raje opened its doors to progress.
The BJP president later went on to attend another event in Kota. He had visited Rajasthan earlier this month to review preparations for the party's election campaign.
Nairobi, Sep 22 (AP/UNB) — A survivor has been found inside a capsized Tanzanian ferry two days after the disaster on Lake Victoria, an official said Saturday, while coffins arrived for at least 167 victims and counting.
An engineer was found near the engine of the upturned vessel, Mwanza regional commissioner John Mongella told reporters. The Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation reported he had shut himself into the engine room. His condition was not immediately clear.
Search efforts continued around the ferry's exposed underside as families of victims prepared to claim the dead. No one knows how many people were on board the ferry, which had a capacity of 101. Officials on Friday said at least 40 people had been rescued.
The government's Chief Secretary John Kijazi announced the rising death toll to reporters after President John Magufuli ordered the arrests of those responsible.
"This is a great disaster for our nation," Magufuli said, announcing four days of national mourning.
The badly overloaded ferry capsized in the final stretch before shore on Thursday afternoon as people returning from a busy market day shifted and prepared to disembark. Horrified fishermen and other witnesses have expressed fear that more than 200 could have died.
Pope Francis, the United Nations secretary-general, Russian President Vladimir Putin and a number of African leaders have expressed shock and sorrow.
The MV Nyerere, named for the former president who led the East African nation to independence, was traveling between the islands of Ukara and Ukerewe when it sank, according to the government agency in charge of servicing the vessels.
Accidents are often reported on the large freshwater lake surrounded by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Some of the deadliest have occurred in Tanzania, where aging passenger ferries often carry hundreds of passengers and well beyond capacity.
In 1996, more than 800 people died when passenger and cargo ferry MV Bukoba sank on Lake Victoria.
Nearly 200 people died in 2011 when the MV Spice Islander I sank off Tanzania's Indian Ocean coast near Zanzibar.
Kinshasa, Sep 22 (AP/UNB) — A Congolese woman who refused an Ebola vaccination and then disappeared has died of the virus near the heavily traveled border with Uganda, which is preparing to begin vaccinations as needed.
The confirmed Ebola death announced by local authorities highlights the challenges health workers are facing in a region of northeastern Congo that had never experienced an outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever before. Authorities have fought rumors and trained community members including traditional healers in efforts to calm and educate nervous residents.
The 32-year-old woman had assisted in the burials of other Ebola victims and health workers had followed her as a possible case, but she refused a vaccination and disappeared from the city of Beni, said the vice governor of Ituri Province, Pacifique Keta.
She died on Thursday at a hospital in Tshomia, on Lake Albert.
It is the closest a confirmed Ebola death in the current outbreak has been to Uganda, which has said it was making arrangements with the World Health Organization to vaccinate health workers and other high-risk populations as needed. Three thousand vaccine doses will be imported.
Congo's health ministry said that as of Friday there have been 116 confirmed cases, including 68 deaths, of Ebola in the outbreak that was declared on Aug. 1. More than 10,000 people have been vaccinated.
Ebola monitoring has been taking place at the border and Uganda is considered what WHO calls "very high risk."
"To date, health workers in Uganda have responded to over 100 Ebola alerts that have been found to be negative for the Ebola virus," WHO's country office there has said.
The U.N. health agency has not recommended travel restrictions.