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At polarised UNSC meet on Iran attack, only consensus is Middle East tensions shouldn’t escalate

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At polarised UNSC meet on Iran attack, only consensus is Middle East tensions shouldn’t escalate

United Nations, April 15 (IANS) After hearing a warning at the polarised Security Council’s emergency meeting from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the “Middle East was on the brink”, the only consensus was that there should be no further escalation of tensions there.

“The message around the Council table was very, very clear that there should be no further escalation. Everybody was of the same opinion on this,” Council President Vanessa Frazier told reporters after the meeting on Iran’s thwarted massive attack on Israel.

At the meeting convened hastily at Israel’s request within 24 hours of Saturday’s attack using barrages of missiles and fleets of drones, Israel and Iran traded charges, the US and Britain strongly condemned Iran, and Russia mounted a defence of Tehran.

The Council immobilised by its divisions did not take any action and the meeting was only an occasion for venting.

The opinions, however, coalesced around Guterres’ call “to step back from the brink”.

“It is vital to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East,” he said briefing the Council on Iran’s attack.

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“The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate. Now is the time for maximum restraint,” he said.

The capture of the Israeli-owned ship, Aries, by Iran, came up during the meeting with several countries calling for the release of the crew, including Indians.

Israel’s Permanent Representative Gilad Erdan asked the Council to not only condemn the attack but also to impose the strongest sanctions on Iran for going ahead with its nuclear programme.

He said that almost all of the missiles and drones were destroyed by Israel and its allies before they could hit their targets, but the failure of the attack should not mean that Tehran is not punished for the attack.

Holding up a video on his tablet, Erdan said it showed Israel neutralising missiles and drones over Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest Muslim shrines and said that Tehran was targeting Islam’s holy places in its quest for Shia domination.

Iran’s Permanent Representative Amir Saed Iravani said that Tehran was using its right to self-defence under the UN Charter to attack Israel after it had struck its diplomatic mission in Syria and killed its personnel.

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His country decided to attack Israel only because the Council did not act against it.

US Deputy Representative Robert Wood said his country “is not seeking escalation”, but it “also supports Israel’s exercise of its inherent right to defend itself in the face of this attack”.

He said that a strong condemnation by the Council of Iran and its proxies is the surest way to prevent an escalation of tensions in the Middle East.

Wood countered Iran’s claims of self-defence listing several actions by it across the region and said, “These and other reckless Iranian actions, are not inherently defensive actions”.

Russia’s Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia accused the US and its allies of following a double standard when it came to Iran because they would consider an attack on a diplomatic mission a justification for war under international law.

“For you everything that concerns Western missions and Western citizens is sacred and must be protected. But when it comes to other states, their citizens and their rights, including the right to self-defence, then it’s different,” he said.

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The West had blocked action on Israel’s attack on the Iranian diplomatic mission in Syria, he said.

“What happened on the night of April 14 did not happen in a vacuum. Iran’s steps were a response to the UN Security Council’s shameful inaction on Israel’s blatant attack on Damascus,” he asserted.

“The situation in the Middle East has become as heated as it may get and the conflict risks escalating to a region-wide confrontation, so we call on all parties who were involved in the incident to exercise restraint,” Nebenzia said.

The Council has scheduled an open debate on the Palestine situation in which all member nations can participate on Thursday with the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip that has seen more than 23,000 people killed crossing the half-year mark.

Israel’s attack was in retaliation for Hamas’s terrorist strike on October 7 in which more than 1,200 people were killed and about 250 were taken hostage.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

–IANS

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International

113 drug users recover in Kabul

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113 drug users recover in Kabul

113 drug users recover in Kabul

Kabul, July 20 (IANS) A total of 113 people with drug dependence have recovered after receiving medical treatment at the rehabilitation centre here, Mufti Abdul Mateen Qani, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, said on Saturday.

The former drug users have rejoined their families, the official said.

So far, 152 drug users are still under treatment at the rehabilitation centre.

The Afghan caretaker administration has banned the cultivation of opium poppy, processing it into drugs and drug trafficking, Xinhua news agency reported.

–IANS

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China initiates emergency response to flooding, typhoons in three regions

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China initiates emergency response to flooding, typhoons in three regions

China initiates emergency response to flooding, typhoons in three regions

Beijing, July 20 (IANS) The Chinese authorities on Saturday initiated a Level-IV emergency response in three provincial regions as the country continues to face severe flooding situations.

The regions involved are Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan, which are under the influence of two tropical depressions intensifying in the South China Sea and east to the Philippines, respectively, according to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

At a joint work conference Saturday, the Ministry of Emergency Management called on relevant departments to fulfill their responsibilities and improve the response to rainstorms and flood disasters, Xinhua news agency reported.

More efforts should be taken to strengthen dam inspections, especially in key sections, enhance the sharing and coordination of hydrological and meteorological information, and make good preparations for evacuation to prevent mass casualties, according to the meeting.

The authorities have also maintained Level-IV emergency responses in Sichuan, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan and Anhui. Eight work teams from the central government are helping relief work in flood-prone regions.

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The Ministry of Water Resources and the China Meteorological Administration have issued yellow alerts for mountainous flooding in Sichuan, Yunnan and Xizang. In the past 24 hours, 68 rivers in 12 provincial regions have faced flood threats exceeding the alert level.

China has a four-tier flood-control emergency-response system, with Level I being the most severe response, as well as a four-tier color-coded weather warning system, with red representing the most severe, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

–IANS

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5.7-magnitude earthquake hits off Indonesia's North Sumatra province

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5.7-magnitude earthquake hits off Indonesia's North Sumatra province

5.7-magnitude earthquake hits off Indonesia's North Sumatra province

Jakarta, July 20 (IANS) A 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province on Saturday evening, but did not trigger any large waves, according to the country’s meteorology, climatology, and geophysics agency.

The tremors struck at 19:05 Jakarta time (1205 GMT) with the epicentre situated at 153 km southwest of West Nias regency and a depth of 13 km under the seabed, the agency said, Xinhua news agency reported.

The agency officials did not issue a tsunami warning because the tremors were not expected to generate large waves.

Indonesia, an archipelago, is situated on the seismically active “Pacific Ring of Fire,” which predisposes the country to frequent earthquakes.

–IANS

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New Zealand Prime Minister dials PM Modi, vows to take forward ties with India

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New Zealand Prime Minister dials PM Modi, vows to take forward ties with India

New Zealand Prime Minister dials PM Modi, vows to take forward ties with India

Wellington, July 20 (IANS) New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon on Saturday dialled PM Narendra Modi, congratulating him on his recent election victory as both leaders reiterated their firm commitment to take bilateral cooperation to new heights in the years to come.

“I’ve just spoken with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and congratulated him on his recent election victory. I told the Prime Minister how much I value the immense contribution that Indian-Kiwis make to New Zealand. We both agreed there is so much more our countries can do together!” Luxon posted on X after the phone call.

During their conversation, both leaders noted that India-New Zealand ties are anchored in shared democratic values and close people-to-people ties.

Highlighting the momentum generated by recent high-level contacts between the two sides, they agreed to advance the mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in various areas, including trade and economic cooperation, animal husbandry, pharmaceuticals, education, space among others.

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“I thank Prime Minister Luxon for his call and warm felicitations. Reiterated our firm commitment to take forward India-New Zealand ties, which are rooted in shared democratic values and people-to-people ties,” said PM Modi.

Prime Minister Modi also thanked Luxon for looking after the interests of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand.

–IANS

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Over 30 missing after rain-triggered flash floods in China

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Over 30 missing after rain-triggered flash floods in China

Over 30 missing after rain-triggered flash floods in China

Beijing, July 20 (IANS) More than 30 people remained missing after flash floods struck Xinhua Village in southwest China’s Sichuan Province at around 2:30 am Saturday, local authorities said.

The floods triggered by torrential rains also damaged over 40 houses in the village in Hanyuan County, Ya’an City, according to the county’s emergency management bureau.

The disaster also disrupted roads, bridges and communications, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rescue operations are currently underway. A local fire brigade with 217 rescuers and 55 vehicles has rushed to the scene. The Ministry of Emergency Management has also dispatched 29 rescue experts and 13 sets of rescue equipment, as well as drones to provide emergency communications.

In addition to 10,000 sets of relief materials previously allocated to the province, the central authorities will send another 40,000 sets, including folding beds, quilts and towels, to support local governments in evacuating and resettling the affected people and providing basic living assistance.

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–IANS

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