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NATO celebrates 75th birthday, gifts Ukraine more air defence systems

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NATO celebrates 75th birthday, gifts Ukraine more air defence systems

Washington, July 10 (IANS) US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced dozens of additional air defence systems for Ukraine to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a defence alliance of 32 countries of North America and Europe, up from just 12 when it was born after the Second World War in 1949.

NATO is also expected to announce an “irreversible” path for Ukraine to join the alliance.

The three-day summit is being hosted by the US, which had hosted the first in 1949, also in Washington DC. Leaders and officials from the allied countries are meeting in groups and bilaterally to discuss the threat posed to the alliance by Russia and China chiefly, and Iran and North Korea.

“Today I’m announcing a historic donation of air defence equipment for Ukraine,” President Biden said at the opening of the NATO summit in Washington, at the same venue where the inaugural summit had been held in 1949.

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“The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, and Italy will provide Ukraine with the equipment for five additional strategic air defence systems.”

He added: “Make no mistake, Russia is failing in this war. More than two years into Putin’s war of choice, his losses are staggering: more than 350,000 Russian troops dead or wounded; nearly 1 million Russians, many of them young people, have left Russia because they no longer see a future in Russia.”

The summit is being attended by leaders of the 32 allied countries and those of partner countries, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The White House has said allies will announce their intention to provide a minimum baseline funding of 40 billion euros ($43.2 billion) over the next year. They will also ensure sustainable levels of security assistance for Ukraine to prevail. The alliance has seen unusual turmoil in recent years caused chiefly by former President Donald Trump’s unorthodox and critical views of its present and future. He threatened to leave the alliance if the member countries did not meet the mutually agreed target of spending at least 2 per cent of their country’s GDP on defence.

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Biden kept his foot on the pedal and, as he reported in his remarks, 23 of the countries will have reached that goal or crossed in 2024. The remaining countries are expected to get there soon.

“It’s remarkable progress — proof that our commitment is broad and deep, that we’re ready, that we’re willing, and we’re able to deter aggression and defend every inch of NATO territory across every domain: land, air, sea, cyber, and space,” he said.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan noted in an OpEd in The New York Times that for the first time since the inception of the alliance, “that our European partners have carried more of the burden than the United States in a major conflict”. He was referring to the NATO contributions to Ukraine, which have faced questions at home in the US about how long can it be funded.

–IANS

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Lebanon's war with Israel not to stop as long as offensive against Gaza continues: Hezbollah leader

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Lebanon's war with Israel not to stop as long as offensive against Gaza continues: Hezbollah leader

Lebanon's war with Israel not to stop as long as offensive against Gaza continues: Hezbollah leader

Beirut, July 17 (IANS) Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday that Lebanon’s war with Israel will not stop as long as the offensive against Gaza continues.

In a televised speech marking the Islamic holy day of Ashura, Nasrallah warned Israel against “going too far” in targeting civilians in southern Lebanon, saying it will push its group “to launch missiles and target new settlements that were not previously targeted.”

He denied rumours about an agreement to be reached regarding the Lebanese front, stressing that “the future of the situation in the south will be decided in light of the results of the battle” in Gaza, reported Xinhua news agency.

“If the war stops, the party responsible for negotiating is the Lebanese state,” said Nasrallah.

In addition, Nasrallah accused America of “bearing full responsibility” for the killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army because it supplied weapons.

The leader also vowed to rebuild villages and towns destroyed in the confrontations.

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Tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border escalated on Oct. 8, 2023, following a barrage of rockets launched by the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah toward Israel in solidarity with Hamas’ attack on Israel the day before. Israel then retaliated by firing heavy artillery toward southeastern Lebanon.

–IANS

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Egypt, German FMs discuss regional crisis over phone

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Egypt, German FMs discuss regional crisis over phone

Egypt, German FMs discuss regional crisis over phone

Cairo, July 17 (IANS) Egyptian Foreign Minister Badr Abdelatty discussed regional crisis with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday in a phone conversation, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Abdelatty highlighted that the current regional conditions proved the pivotal role of Egypt, stressing that the two countries’ collaboration is important given Egypt’s weight in the region and Germany’s role in Europe and the international arena, Xinhua news agency reported.

He reviewed the Egyptian endeavours in mediating the negotiation process to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, stressing the necessity to exert pressure on the Israeli government for the full implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions regarding ending the war and delivering humanitarian aid and the importance of continued German support for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

During the talks, Abdelatty also underscored the perilous humanitarian conditions in Sudan and their impact on doubling the numbers of refugees and displaced people.

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For her part, the German minister stressed the importance of stability in the Middle East for her country.

Baerbock spoke highly of Egypt’s role in alleviating the suffering of Gazans, underscoring Germany’s keenness to support Egypt in this regard.

They agreed to continue coordination on regional situations and ways to resolve escalating regional conflicts.

–IANS

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King Charles III unveils Labour government's priorities for UK

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King Charles III unveils Labour government's priorities for UK

King Charles III unveils Labour government's priorities for UK

London, July 17 (IANS) The United Kingdom’s King Charles III on Wednesday set out the new Labour government’s legislative agenda, promising to focus on economic growth and tackling issues ranging from housing shortages to illegal immigration.

“Securing economic growth will be a fundamental mission,” the King said in a speech written for him by the government.

The monarch’s speech at Westminster marked the state opening of Parliament with Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s government. The Labour Party swept into power with a landslide in UK’s general election held early this month.

“My government will govern in service to the country,” said the King. “My government’s legislative programme will be mission-led and based on the principles of security, fairness and opportunity for all.”

The King said the government will “get Britain building” as they seek to accelerate the delivery of “high-quality infrastructure and housing.”

Making good on Labour’s promise to fix the cost-of-living crisis with clean power, the government will introduce a bill to set up Great British Energy, a publicly-owned clean power company headquartered in Scotland, which is expected to help accelerate investment in renewable energy such as offshore wind.

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The King also confirmed Labour’s plan to renationalize the country’s passenger railway network as the new government seeks to establish a more efficient and reliable rail service for passengers, reports Xinhua news agency.

A bill will be introduced to modernize the country’s asylum and immigration system, the King said, with the establishment of a new Border Security Command to strengthen the border and make streets safer.

The UK government will also seek to “reset” the relationship with European partners and work to improve the country’s trade and investment relationship with the European Union, according to the speech.

–IANS

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Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners

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Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners

Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners

Moscow, July 17 (IANS) Russia and Ukraine exchanged 95 prisoners from each side who were captured during their ongoing conflict, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

The United Arab Emirates mediated in the swap of prisoners, the ministry said in a statement.

The freed Russian soldiers will be taken to Moscow for medical treatment and rehabilitation in the ministry’s medical facilities, it added, Xinhua news agency reported.

Previously in late May and June, Russia and Ukraine conducted two rounds of prisoner swaps, freeing 75 and 90 military personnel from each side, respectively.

–IANS

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Visa Japan unit investigated for alleged antitrust violations

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Visa Japan unit investigated for alleged antitrust violations

Visa Japan unit investigated for alleged antitrust violations

Tokyo, July 17 (IANS) Japan’s antitrust authority is investigating Visa’s Japanese unit for allegedly pressuring card companies to exclusively use its credit information system, a practice potentially hindering competition and harming consumers, local media reported on Wednesday.

The local unit of Visa, a major global credit card brand, is suspected of imposing higher fees on credit card companies that did not use its network for credit checks, thereby forcing them to abandon competitors’ networks, national news agency Kyodo reported, citing sources close to the matter.

The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) inspected Visa Worldwide Japan Co.’s Tokyo office, suspecting violations of the country’s antimonopoly law, which forbids dominant companies from enforcing unfair trading terms on weaker firms. Violations can result in cease-and-desist orders or penalties.

Visa’s practice is likely aimed at excluding competitors from the market, which could keep fees high and increase the burden on consumers and shops that use the service, said the report, Xinhua news agency reported.

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Most Japanese credit card companies rely on networks operated by Visa or NTT Data Japan Corp. for credit information checks.

The JFTC is also examining Visa’s Singaporean unit, which oversees Asia-Pacific operations, and investigating whether Visa’s U.S. headquarters were involved.

In 2023, Japan’s credit card transactions totaled approximately 105 trillion yen (about 670 billion U.S. dollars), data from the Japan Consumer Credit Association showed.

–IANS

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