Beijing, June 20 (AP/UNB) — The leaders of China and North Korea are holding talks in the North Korean capital.
China's official Xinhua News Agency said President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sat down for talks Thursday in Pyongyang. It provided no further details.
Xi arrived earlier Thursday for a two-day state visit. He and Kim are expected to discuss the stalled U.S.-North Korean talks on the latter's nuclear weapons program.
Xi is the first Chinese leader to visit North Korea in 14 years.
Chinese state media says President Xi Jinping was greeted with a huge arrival ceremony at the start of a two-day state visit to North Korea.
The official Xinhua News Agency says about 10,000 people stood in formation and waved flowers at the airport in Pyongyang on Thursday.
Xi and his wife were met by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife.
A banner read: "Long Live with Unbreakable Friendship and Unity Formed by Blood".
The two communist nations fought together against the United States, South Korea and their allies in the 1950-53 Korean War. They have had close, though sometimes strained, ties since the war.
A former North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea says he thinks the North's leader wants China to mediate between Pyongyang and Washington and relay his new proposal to President Donald Trump for a possible third summit.
Thae Yong Ho defected to South Korea while serving in Britain in 2016. He says Kim would want Chinese President Xi Jinping to deliver his message to Trump when they meet at next week's Group of 20 summit in Japan.
Xi is making a two-day state visit to North Korea on Thursday and Friday.
Thae says Kim may propose some compromise on his nuclear facilities to achieve a third summit but such a move would be only to buy time and not to denuclearize.
Chinese state media say President Xi Jinping has arrived in North Korea for first visit since taking office in 2013.
The Xinhua News Agency says Xi arrived shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday. During the two-day state visit, he's expected to talk with leader Kim Jong Un about reviving talks with Washington over North Korea's nuclear weapons.
China's official Xinhua news agency reported that Xi was accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, and several Communist Party officials. He would be the first Chinese president to visit North Korea in 14 years.
The summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons.
Chinese state media say President Xi Jinping has departed for his state visit to North Korea, which he has said will strengthen the countries' strategic ties.
Xinhua news agency said Xi left Thursday morning and was accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, and several Communist Party officials. He's expected to have talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, including about his nuclear program as talks have stalled with the U.S.
Experts say Xi will likely endorse North Korea's calls for an incremental disarmament process in which every action Pyongyang takes it met with U.S. concessions on sanctions and security issues.
Washington, June 20 (Xinhua/UNB) -- U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook on Wednesday described U.S. latest move in the Middle East as "defensive", reaffirming that Washington seeks a "comprehensive and enduring deal" with Tehran.
"No one should be uncertain about our desire for peace or our readiness to normalize relations should we reach a comprehensive deal," Hook said during a congressional hearing over U.S. Iran policy.
Hook told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that the ongoing pressure campaign against Iran has been effective, which aims to deprive Iran's revenue and to force it back to the table.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a nuclear deal in May last year and resumed energy and financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The United States in the past weeks has continuously deployed military assets to the region on the pretext of "Iran's threat." The latest move was on Monday when Pentagon announced to send about 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East.
Despite Hook called these actions as "defensive move" to restore deterrence, lawmakers were worried about the growing risk of unintended conflict between the United States and Iran.
"I see a growing risk of miscalculation. I see more and more scenarios that could spark a conflict-that could lead to the United States stumbling into war," said Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Engel also made clear to Hook that "military action against Iran without the approval of Congress is absolutely not an option."
The tensions between Washington and Tehran have been rising due to the attack on two oil tankers last week in Gulf of Oman as well as Iran's threats of not complying with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Hook started his intensive trip to the Middle East and Europe on Wednesday, during which he would discuss the Iran issue with U.S. allies and partners, according to a statement issued by the U.S. State Department.
The statement said Hook would hold bilateral meetings in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. The envoy would then travel to Paris, discussing "a range of issues concerning the Iranian regime" with his counterparts from Britain, Germany, and France.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday in a broadcast speech on state television that U.S. efforts to isolate Iran have been unsuccessful.
Dhaka, June 20 (UNB) - New Zealand has launched a gun buy-back scheme in the wake of the deadly Christchurch mosque shootings, reports BBC.
More than $208m New Zealand dollars (£108m, $136m), have been set aside to compensate owners of semi-automatic weapons which were banned following the attacks.
The ban was agreed by parliament in April, weeks after the shootings.
In March, a gunman killed 51 people at a mosque and Islamic centre during Friday prayers.
How will the buy-back work?
The scheme, which only applies to licensed guns, will last six months meaning people will have until 20 December to hand in their weapons.
"The buy-back has one objective - to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation," Minister of Police Stuart Nash said.
"Police have detailed plans in place for the next step, which is the collection of firearms from the community. It will be a huge logistical exercise and is expected to get under way in mid-July."
The new gun laws agreed in April ban military-style semi-automatic weapons and parts that can be used to assemble prohibited firearms.
The money set aside will compensate owners up to 95% of the original price of their weapons.
Police estimate that around 14,300 military style semi-automatic weapons would be covered by the new legislation.
So far, almost 700 weapons have already been handed in before the buy-back scheme was launched and around 5,000 have been registered by owners for the police to collect.
What happened in Christchurch?
On 15 March, Australian Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, attacked the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch.
He is charged with the murder of 51 people, 40 counts of attempted murder and one terrorism charge in New Zealand's deadliest peace time mass shooting.
The gunman, armed with semi-automatic rifles, is believed to have modified his weapons with high-capacity magazines so they could hold more bullets.
The suspect pleaded not guilty to all charges and is expected to face trial next year.
In 2016, New Zealand Police estimated that there were 1.2 million legal firearms owned by civilians - that equates to around one for every four people.
Geneva, June 20 (AP/UNB) — The gathering on the second floor of the Saudi consulate featured an unlikely collection: a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, agents of the crown prince's office. As they waited for their target to arrive, one asked how they would carry out the body.
Not to worry, the doctor said: "Joints will be separated. It is not a problem," he assured. "If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them."
Their prey, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, would not leave the consulate in Istanbul alive. And on Wednesday, more than eight months after his death, a U.N. special rapporteur revealed new details of the slaying — part of a report that insisted there was "credible evidence" to warrant further investigation and financial sanctions against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The report brought the grisly case back into the spotlight just as the prince and his country appeared to be emerging from the stain of the scandal. But it contained no smoking gun likely to cause President Donald Trump to abandon one of his closest allies — and none likely to send the crown prince before a tribunal.
And yet the details of the Oct. 2 killing were so chilling, and now so public, that it's hard to fathom that there won't be repercussions.
On the recording, apparently picked up by Turkish listening devices, intelligence officer Maher Mutreb is heard asking whether "the sacrificial animal" had entered the consulate, and a voice responds: "He has arrived." (Khashoggi is never mentioned by name in the audio.)
Two minutes later, Khashoggi enters the consulate, hoping to collect a Saudi document that would let him wed his Turkish fiancee. He is led into the consul general's office and told he has to return to Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi protests: "I notified some people outside. They are waiting for me. A driver is waiting for me."
"Let's make it short," the official tells him, adding: "Send a message to your son."
"Which son? What should I say to my son?" Khashoggi asks.
"You will type a message. Let's rehearse; show us," the official says, prodding: "Type it, Mr. Jamal. Hurry up."
Within minutes, the official loses patience and, the rapporteur said, apparently pulls out a syringe.
"Are you going to give me drugs?" Khashoggi asks.
"We will anesthetize you," he is told.
Then came the sounds of struggle, "movement and heavy panting," and finally — according to Turkish intelligence relayed in the report — the sounds of a saw.
He is believed to have been dismembered inside the consulate. His remains have never been found.
The nearly minute-by-minute narrative is part of a 101-page report from the U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. Agnes Callamard, who is not a United Nations staffer, launched her inquiry in January under her mandate from the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council.
Her report is to be presented at a council session that opens Monday. The 47-nation Geneva body has already supported more scrutiny of a Saudi-led military campaign in neighboring Yemen that has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of civilians.
The Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, dismissed the report in a tweet, saying that it contained "nothing new" and was riddled with "clear contradictions and baseless allegations which challenge its credibility."
"The Saudi judiciary is the sole party qualified to deal with the Khashoggi case and works with full independence," he added.
The report comes as damage to the crown prince's reputation had begun to fade, with countries and companies resuming business with the uber-wealthy kingdom. In recent weeks, the Trump administration has tried to ram through a sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia over objections in Congress. A British petrochemicals company laid out a $2 billion investment to build three plants in the kingdom.
Callamard said responsibility for Khashoggi's killing falls on Saudi Arabia, even if she can't attribute guilt. But the focus has lingered over the man who is next in line to become its king. There is, she said, "sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the Crown Prince demanding further investigation."
She said people directly implicated in the murder reported to him. And she flagged Saudi Arabia's track record with human rights violations in the past, saying "there was no way the leaders of that state including the crown prince were not aware of those violations."
Callamard listed dozens of recommendations, and urged U.N. bodies or Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to demand a follow-up criminal investigation. She insisted that the U.N. chief should be able to establish one "without any trigger by a state." But U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres could only do so with a mandate from "a competent intergovernmental body."
Callamard called for sanctions specifically against the crown prince, even before his guilt or innocence is determined.
An investigation should look into how much the crown prince knew, whether he had a direct or indirect role, and whether he could have stopped the killing, she said.
The 33-year-old prince, who continues to have the support of his father, King Salman, denies any involvement. Trump has defended U.S.-Saudi ties in the face of international outcry over the slaying. Many U.S. lawmakers have criticized Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia over the journalist's killing.
In an interview with the Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat published Sunday, the prince was quoted as saying Khashoggi's murder is a "very painful crime" and that the state "will seek to achieve full justice" against the perpetrators.
The report includes the names of 11 men on trial in Saudi Arabia for the killing; authorities there have never named them. It confirms that Saud al-Qahtani, a former top adviser to the crown prince who has been sanctioned by the U.S. in connection with Khashoggi's killing, has not been charged.
Callamard said Saudi Arabia should call off the trial and let the international community investigate, arguing that the case can hardly be considered a domestic issue now.
Saudi Arabia initially offered multiple shifting accounts about Khashoggi's disappearance. As international pressure mounted, the kingdom eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed by rogue officials in a brawl inside their consulate.
But the U.N. probe said it is hard to accept the theory that the leader of the 15-man Saudi team sent to the consulate at the time of Khashoggi's visit had planned the murder without any authorization from superiors in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has blamed the operation on Saudi agents who exceeded their authority. Saudi Arabia's own investigation said the agents were only given orders by two senior officials to forcibly bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, but not to kill him.
Before his death, Khashoggi wrote columns in The Washington Post criticizing the crown prince's crackdown on freedom of thought and expression, though he also commended the prince's social reforms. He wrote his columns after leaving Saudi Arabia to avoid being swept up in the crackdown.
In a statement, the U.S. State Department said it supported Callamard's "global mission to investigate extra-judicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. State Department officials met with her, at her request, to discuss several matters, including Jamal Khashoggi's killing. We are determined to press for accountability for every person who was responsible."
In Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the report had determined Saudi Arabia's responsibility over the killing, adding that the kingdom would have to account for the killing.
"They have declared that the Saudis are guilty and had knowledge," Erdogan said. "They will account for this, they will pay a price."
Callamard, an academic and rights advocate, said she never received a response from the Saudis on her request to travel to the kingdom, and said she only had access to a total of 45 minutes of tapes recorded within the consulate around the time of the killing. Turkish intelligence had referenced some seven hours of recordings.
Callamard was not allowed by Turkish authorities to take notes while listening to portions of the tapes. Her account was based on her memory of the Arabic audio.
Pittsburgh, June 20 (AP/UNB) — A Syrian refugee who came to the U.S. three years ago plotted to bomb a church this spring to inspire followers of the Islamic State of Iraq, federal authorities said in announcing the man's arrest Wednesday.
A criminal complaint alleges Mustafa Mousab Alowemer planned to bomb an unidentified church on Pittsburgh's north side, and purchased materials he thought were necessary to build a bomb. He also allegedly provided plans and a map to an undercover FBI agent he thought was a fellow Islamic State supporter.
"Targeting places of worship is beyond the pale, no matter what the motivation," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement. "The defendant is alleged to have plotted just such an attack of a church in Pittsburgh in the name of ISIS.
The 21-year-old Alowemer, a Pittsburgh resident, is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and two counts of distributing information relating to an explosive device or weapon of mass destruction.
Alowemer was born in Daraa, Syria and came to the U.S. as a refugee in 2016, according to the FBI. The federal court docket didn't list an attorney for Alowemer and the Department of Justice didn't return a message seeking whether he had an attorney who could comment on the charges announced Wednesday.
According to the criminal complaint, Alowemer met several times between April and June with the undercover FBI agent and an FBI source. During one of the meetings, Alowemer allegedly provided plot details, bomb materials he'd purchased and printed copies of Google satellite maps with markings showing the location of the church plus arrival and escape routes.
Alowemer planned to carry out the bombing next month by delivering the explosives in a backpack, according to the complaint.