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Showing posts from February 5, 2016

Syrian army, allies seize town in southern province Deraa: Al-Manar, activist group

BEIRUT: Syrian government forces and allied fighters seized the town of Ataman near the southern city of Deraa Friday, Hezbollah's Al Manar television and a Syrian monitoring group said, building on gains made last week in the province.

The recapture from rebels of Ataman, around 3 km (2 miles) north of Deraa, came a day after dozens of air strikes believed to be carried out by Russian warplanes targeted the area, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Syrian army and its allies, which include Lebanese group Hezbollah, have in recent days made significant advances against insurgents in the northern province of Aleppo. The Russian-backed assaults have helped derail peace talks in Geneva.

Russia strikes kill 21 civilians in Syria's Aleppo city: activists

At least 21 civilians, including three children, were killed Thursday in Russian strikes on rebel-held districts of Syria's Aleppo city, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes on six neighborhoods of the northern city had also wounded many, and that the toll could rise.

The raids come as government forces press an offensive north of the city, backed by Russian warplanes, to encircle rebels in the east of Aleppo city.

Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said it was first time his organisation had been able to confirm Russian air strikes on Aleppo city since Moscow began its intervention on Sept. 30.

Until now Russian strikes had been concentrated on Aleppo province, he said.

Aleppo city has been divided between rebel control in the east and government control in the west since shortly after fighting there began in mid-2012.

In an operation launched on Monday, government forces have now almost encircled the east of the city, cutting the m…

After 20 Years, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Still in Political Limbo

After nine years in office, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will step down in December perhaps without achieving one of his more ambitious and elusive political goals: ensuring the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

“This year marks 20 years since it has been open for signature,” he said last week, pointing out that the recent nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – the fourth since 2006 — was “deeply destabilizing for regional security and seriously undermines international non-proliferation efforts.”

Now is the time, he argued, to make the final push to secure the CTBT’s entry into force, as well as to achieve its universality.

In the interim, states should consider how to strengthen the current defacto moratorium on nuclear tests, he advised, “so that no state can use the current status of the CTBT as an excuse to conduct a nuclear test.”

But how close – or how further away– are we from the CTBT coming into force?

Jayantha D…

Europe is Disintegrating While its Citizens Watch Indifferent

By Roberto Savio

We are witnessing the slow agony of the dream of European integration, disintegrating without a single demonstration occuring anywhere, among its 500 millions of citizens. It is clear that European institutions are in an existential crisis but the debate is only at intergovernmental level.

This proves clearly that European citizens do not feel close to Brussels. Gone are the 1950s, when young people mobilized in the Youth Federalist Movement, with activists from the Federal Movement led by Altiero Spinelli, and the massive campaign for a Europe that would transcend national boundaries, a rallying theme of the intellectuals of the time.

It has been a crescendo of crisis. First came the North-South divide, with a North that did not want to rescue the South, and made austerity a monolithic taboo, with Germany as its inflexible leader. Greece was the chosen place to clash and win, even if its budget was just 4 percent of the whole European Union. The front for fiscal discipl…