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Death toll rises to 20 after storms hit US

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San Francisco, May 28 (IANS) At least 20 people have been killed after storms hit the US states of Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky over the Memorial Day weekend.

In Texas, the storm destroyed a roadside travel stop and a community of mobile homes in Cooke County. Texas Governor Greg Abbot said at a press briefing on Sunday that seven people were killed and more than 100 others injured.

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed at a press conference at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office Sunday night that eight people have died in the storms

In Kentucky, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg confirmed one death following Saturday night’s storms. Another person was killed in Mercer County, Kentucky, according to Mercer County Emergency Management Director Brad Cox. The third death was confirmed by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. He declared emergency zones in five Kentucky counties.

In northeastern Oklahoma, two people were killed and others were injured after a tornado hit Mayes County, according to emergency management officials.

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This is the deadliest tornado in Texas state history since 2015. The National Weather Service gave it a preliminary rating of EF-2 with 135 mph winds. Texas Governor Greg Abbot issued disaster emergencies across four counties.

Nearly 400,000 people in Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky have no power after severe storms and tornadoes swept through the region, according to poweroutage.us.

Forecasters reported on Monday that the storms could shift east and impact the states such as New York and Alabama.

–IANS

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Xi stresses PLA's political loyalty at crucial meeting held in old revolutionary base

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Yanaan (China), June 19 (IANS) Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasised the armed forces’ political loyalty at a crucial meeting on the political work in the military held in Yan’an, an old revolutionary base in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.

Xi, also the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), demanded efforts to ensure a solid political guarantee for building a strong military, as he addressed the CMC Political Work Conference, held from Monday to Wednesday, reported Xinhua news agency.

The Yan’an conference, which Xi personally decided to convene, took place 10 years after a similar meeting was held in Gutian, east China’s Fujian Province. The participants discussed and made arrangements for promoting political work in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Xi emphasized the need to uphold the Party’s absolute leadership over the military and to build a high-quality cadre team that is loyal, clean, responsible, and capable of fulfilling the mission of strengthening the military.

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On Monday afternoon, Xi led CMC members and heads of various departments and units to visit the revolutionary relics at Wangjiaping, where the CMC’s headquarters were stationed from August 1937 to March 1947.

Xi visited the former residences of late revolutionary leaders including Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Zhu De in Yan’an to honor the memory of their revolutionary struggle.

The Yan’an conference marks a return to the roots of the military, Xi said.

He called on senior military officials to shoulder the responsibilities entrusted by the Party and the people to keep strengthening the armed forces.

–IANS

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Hezbollah claims Israeli strike killed three of its fighters in Lebanon

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Beirut/Tel Aviv, June 19 (IANS/DPA) At least three members from the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement were killed Wednesday in an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah and Lebanese security sources said.

Lebanese security sources said the Israeli drone attack struck an area in the southern village of Yaroun, not far from the border with Israel. According to the same sources Yaroun was hit twice overnight and this morning

In a statement, Hezbollah declared the deaths of three of its fighters. The militia usually does not elaborate on when and where its fighters die.

The strike was an Israeli retaliation to a series of attacks carried out by the Shiite militia, among them drones fired on Israeli soldiers in Metulla in northern Israel.

The state-run Lebanese news agency NNA also reported Israeli air strikes on the areas around Khiyam and near the coastal city of Tyre.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that on Wednesday morning, “several Hezbollah terrorists were identified entering a military structure in the area of Yaroun which is used as a weapons storage facility.”

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It said the air force attacked the structure where the terrorists operated.

The IDF said that senior commanders had approved “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon” during a situation assessment. The readiness of the troops will be further increased.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is due to give a speech at 5 pm (1400 GMT) on Wednesday in the southern suburbs of Beirut – a Hezbollah stronghold.

His speech was planned to commemorate a senior Hezbollah commander Talib Abdallah, who was killed by Israel last week.

–IANS/DPA

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Putin gives another luxury Russian limousine to Kim as gift

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Seoul, June 19 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin gave another Russian luxury vehicle as a gift to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the occasion of their summit in Pyongyang, according to news reports on Wednesday.

Putin gave Kim a new Aurus vehicle and a tea set, and these items were among the many gifts exchanged between the two leaders, Russia’s TASS news agency reported, quoting Yury Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy advisor, as saying.

This is the second Aurus car that Putin has gifted to Kim. North Korea revealed in February that Putin had given Kim an Aurus limousine as a gift, according to Yonhap news agency.

Kim rode with Putin in the first Aurus vehicle from Sunan airport to the Kumsusan Guest House after Putin arrived in the North Korean capital early Wednesday.

Photos released by Russian and other foreign media showed Putin and Kim taking turns to take the wheel in the new Aurus around the guest house following the summit talks.

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Giving a vehicle as a gift to Kim constitutes a violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions banning the supply, sale and transfer of luxury items to North Korea, under Resolution 2397 adopted in December 2017.

–IANS

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Russia, North Korea ink treaty calling for mutual assistance if either is attacked

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Seoul, June 19 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a comprehensive strategic partnership treaty calling for mutual assistance if either is attacked, as they held summit talks in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

Putin also said Russia does not rule out military and technical cooperation with North Korea in line with the partnership treaty, fueling concern the two countries could further deepen their already serious military cooperation, including in Russia’s war in Ukraine, Yonhap news agency reported.

“The treaty on comprehensive partnership signed today provides for mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties to this treaty,” Putin said after summit talks with Kim, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

Putin hailed the treaty as a “truly groundbreaking document” that “reflects the desire of the two countries not to rest on their laurels, but to bring our relations to a new qualitative level,” according to TASS.

Putin also said the U.N. sanctions regime against North Korea should be revised. He went on to say that “attempts to blame North Korea for the deterioration of the situation are categorically unacceptable.”

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“North Korea has the right to take reasonable measures to strengthen its own defense capabilities, ensure national security and protect its sovereignty,” Putin said.

Kim declared that the North’s relations with Russia have been upgraded to the level of alliance.

“Relations between our two nations rose to a new high of alliance,” Kim said. “It is greatly satisfying to conclude a great treaty that befits a changed international situation and the strategic nature of new DPRK-Russia relations.”

The two leaders met again nine months after they held a summit in Russia’s Far East last September, as Russia, under international sanctions over its war with Ukraine, has been bolstering military and other cooperation with North Korea.

Since the Kim-Putin summit last year, the two nations have been bolstering military ties, with the North being accused of supplying Russia with ammunition for use in Moscow’s war in Ukraine in exchange for aid and suspected technological assistance for its space program.

Putin’s trip came amid concerns that the two nations have been strengthening military cooperation beyond arms transactions as they are forming a united front against what they called U.S.-led hegemony.

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The two nations have yet to release details about the new partnership treaty, but it will replace bilateral treaties that North Korea and Russia have so far clinched, including a treaty of bilateral ties in 2000 that centered on cooperation in non-military sectors.

North Korea and the former Soviet Union signed a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance in 1961. The treaty included a provision for so-called automatic military intervention, under which if one side is under armed attack, the other provides military troops and other aid without hesitation.

At the latest summit in Pyongyang, the two leaders reaffirmed the ever-tightening bilateral relations.

Kim expressed “full support” on Wednesday for Russia’s war in Ukraine and pledged to strengthen strategic cooperation, according to TASS.

He said relations between the two countries are “entering a new period of prosperity,” praising Russia’s role in the global strategic balance and vowing to “strengthen strategic cooperation.”

Putin also expressed gratitude to Kim for Pyongyang’s support for Moscow’s policy on Ukraine and also voiced hope to hold the next summit with Kim in Moscow, TASS reported.

Experts said North Korea and Russia are expected to highlight cooperation in the economic sector as any arms deals and military cooperation violate United Nations Security Council resolutions against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

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In an article published on Tuesday by the Rodong Sinmun, the North’s main newspaper, Putin vowed to build alternative systems for trade and settlements with North Korea that will not be controlled by the West and jointly resist “illegal and unilateral restrictions” in an apparent reference to international sanctions.

After the summit, Russia and North Korea signed inter-government agreements on healthcare, medical education and science cooperation, the Kremlin was quoted as saying by Russian news reports.

Experts said Russia is expected to assist North Korea’s space development program in exchange for Pyongyang’s arms supplies, but it is not likely to transfer sensitive weapons technology to Pyongyang.

In late May, North Korea’s attempt to launch a military spy satellite ended in failure as a satellite-carrying rocket exploded right after liftoff. In November last year, North Korea successfully placed a spy satellite into orbit, and it has a plan to launch three more such satellites in 2024.

–IANS

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Cyril Ramaphosa takes oath of office for 2nd term as South Africa president

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Johannesburg, June 19 (IANS) Cyril Ramaphosa, leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), took the oath of office as the nation’s president for the next five years Wednesday at a ceremony in Pretoria, the administrative capital.

“As the President of the Republic, I will work with everyone to reach out and work with every political party and sector that is willing to contribute to finding solutions to the challenges our country faces as we transition to a new decade of freedom,” Ramaphosa said in his address at the ceremony, Xinhua news agency reported.

Ramaphosa, 71, was reelected as South African president by the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, on June 14, receiving 283 votes. His opponent, Julius Malema from the Economic Freedom Fighters, garnered 44 votes. Under the South African Constitution, once elected by the National Assembly, the president-elect must assume office within five days.

“We will invite all parties, civil society, labor, business, and other formations to a national dialogue on the critical challenges facing the nation. We will seek, as we have done at so many important moments in our history, to forge a social compact to realize the aspirations of our National Development Plan,” said Ramaphosa, emphasising the significance of forming a government of national unity.

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In the general elections on May 29, the ANC secured 159 out of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, falling below the 50 percent needed to maintain its 30-year-old outright majority in the lower house of parliament for the first time.

The ANC on Monday announced that a total of five political parties, including the ANC, the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, GOOD and the Patriotic Alliance, have officially signed a statement of intent to participate in the government of national unity.

–IANS

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