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UN chief launches initiative to ensure fair mineral sourcing for clean energy

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United Nations, April 27 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has unveiled a new initiative aimed at integrating fairness, sustainability, and human rights into the procurement and use of essential minerals for the clean energy transition.

The initiative introduces the Panel on Critical Energy Transition Minerals, which unites a diverse group of governments, organizations, and UN bodies. This panel is tasked with developing a set of common and voluntary principles to uphold environmental and social standards in the energy transition, Xinhua news agency reported.

“A world powered by renewables is a world hungry for critical minerals,” Guterres stated on Friday during the panel’s launch.

This initiative, first announced at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, is poised to present its initial recommendations before the high-level UN General Assembly Week in September. COP28 stands for the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The demand for minerals critical to renewable energy technologies, like solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles, is skyrocketing. For example, the UN Trade and Development body predicts that demand for lithium, essential for high-efficiency batteries and electronics, could increase by more than 1,500 per cent.

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Such rising demands offer a significant opportunity for many developing countries, particularly in Africa, which holds over a fifth of the global reserves for a dozen metals crucial to the energy transition.

“The race to net zero cannot trample over the poor…the renewables revolution is happening, but we must make sure that it is done in a way that moves us towards justice,” Guterres emphasized, highlighting the potential benefits for developing nations in terms of job creation, economic diversification, and revenue enhancement.

He also stressed the importance of these nations not being relegated to mere suppliers of raw materials within the clean energy value chain.

Guterres further noted, “Little wonder that resource-rich developing countries are calling for urgent action to ensure that they, and their communities, benefit from the production and trade of critical minerals; and that people and nature are protected.”

The panel is co-chaired by Ambassador Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa and Director-General for Energy Ditte Juul Jorgensen of the European Commission. Its membership spans across continents, including Australia, Botswana, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Japan, Britain and the United States, alongside entities like the African Union, the European Union, UN agencies, and non-governmental organizations.

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“This work is extremely complex, but the world cannot wait,” Guterres concluded, reaffirming the UN’s full support for the panel’s mission to ensure a just and equitable clean energy future.

–IANS

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Israeli army says they killed a Hezbollah commander in south Lebanon

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Beirut/Tel Aviv, June 20 (IANS/DPA) The Israeli army said on Thursday that they killed another pro-Iranian Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon.

It said that “terrorist Fadel Ibrahim” was eliminated by an Israeli aircraft in a precise strike in the area of Deir Kifa in southern Lebanon.

The army said: “Ibrahim was the commander of Hezbollah operations in the Jouaiyya area, as part of his role, Ibrahim was responsible for planning and carrying out terror attacks against Israel and commanding Hezbollah ground forces in the area of Jouaiyya.”

Hezbollah confirmed his death and said that in response to the attack in Deir Kifa, the Shiite militia reportedly fired dozens of rockets at targets in northern Israel.

The Lebanese news agency NNA had previously reported that one person was killed in a drone strike on a car in the affected area.

There were also Israeli attacks on other places in southern Lebanon like Khiyam and Iqlim al-Tuffah region.

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The Israeli military also said it had destroyed a rocket launcher on Lebanese soil.

There are concerns that the conflict between the Israeli military and the Hezbollah militia will continue to expand.

–IANS/DPA

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Over 3300-year-old cargo ship uncovered off Israel's coast

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Jerusalem, June 20 (IANS) An over 3,300-year-old ship’s cargo of hundreds of intact Canaanite storage amphorae was revealed at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, 90 km off Israel’s coast, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the London-based gas and oil company Energean said in a joint statement on Thursday.

The IAA said that under the cargo, found 1.8 km deep in the sea, is probably the skeleton of a 12-14 meter-long ship, as yet unexcavated, the oldest found in the world in the deep seas.

Last year, the ship was discovered by an underwater robot during a survey by Energean, which operates in the Israeli gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Energean and the IAA recently conducted a complex operation to extract two sample amphorae from opposite ends of the ship to minimize disturbance to the intact assemblage of the ship and its cargo.

The IAA noted that the ship likely sank due to a storm or an attempted piracy attack, which were common events in the late Bronze Age.

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Examination revealed that the amphora type found in the cargo was designed for efficiently transporting relatively cheap, mass-produced products such as oil, wine, and other agricultural goods like fruit.

The large quantity of amphorae on board indicates significant commercial ties between their country of origin and the ancient Near Eastern lands on the Mediterranean coast, the IAA said.

It added that this period saw a rise in international commerce, with organised commercial networks, tax collection, and trade supervision.

Advancements in ship manufacturing allowed for greater cargo volumes, boosting the status of port cities in the eastern Mediterranean, with goods transported in amphorae to the Aegean Sea, Crete, and Mycenaean Greece.

–IANS/DPA

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German minister says deal soon for deporting Afghans, Syrians

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Potsdam (Germany), June 20 (IANS/DPA) German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has expressed confidence that the country will soon find ways to deport immigrants convicted of serious crimes or deemed Islamist threats to Afghanistan and Syria.

“We are in concrete negotiations on this and are confident that we will be able to achieve this for this group,” Faeser said on Thursday at a meeting with the state interior ministers from Germany’s 16 federal states just outside Berlin.

There are only a small number of such people, Faeser stressed. She said the German government is examining the extent to which repatriation via neighbouring countries would be possible in the case of Afghan nationals, citing Uzbekistan as a country that had been previously discussed.

However, Faeser did not want to publicly name any countries with which talks are ongoing out of fears of “jeopardizing the concrete negotiations we are currently conducting.”

Germany halted deportations to Afghanistan after the Taliban, a radical Islamist group, seized power over the country in August 2021.

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But resuming deportations to Afghanistan and war-torn Syria has been a hot-button issue in Germany, particularly in the wake of the slaying of a policeman by a knife-wielding Afghan migrant during an attack in the German city of Mannheim in May.

–IANS/DPA

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Egyptian consular teams search for missing Haj pilgrims in Saudi hospitals

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Cairo, June 20 (IANS/DPA) The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it has deployed consular teams in Mecca and the holy sites to find missing Egyptians, amid reports that hundreds have died due to intense heat during the Haj pilgrimage.

Consular teams are currently visiting hospitals to find Egyptian citizens receiving treatment or bodies of those who have passed away and match them with lists of people reported missing by their relatives, the ministry said in a statement.

Unconfirmed reports said that hundreds of Egyptians died during the Haj. The privately-owned Masrawy website published a report under the headline “A terrifying toll,” which included a list with names of 323 Egyptians who have reportedly died during the pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

However, authorities have not released any official toll.

The foreign ministry said that since there is a large number of Egyptian pilgrims who are not registered with the official Haj database, it needs “double the effort and longer time to search for those missing and find their relatives.”

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The ministry said it will continue “to exert all efforts in coordination with the Saudi authorities to ensure finding the missing Egyptian citizens as quickly as possible,” and secure their return back home.

Some 1.8 pilgrims took part in this year’s Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam, which began in Mecca on Friday evening in blistering heat.

The temperature in Mecca and other nearby holy sites hovered around 50 degrees Celsius through Tuesday’s final pilgrimage day.

–IANS/DPA

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Romania clears way for Dutch PM Rutte to become NATO chief

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Bucharest, June 20 (IANS/DPA) Romania is endorsing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to become NATO Secretary General, clearing the final hurdle on Rutte’s path to the top job, according to a press release published by the office of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Thursday.

Iohannis had put himself forward for the role, but “informed his NATO allies at the end of last week that he had withdrawn his candidacy for the post,” the press release said.

On Thursday, Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defence “declared themselves in favour of Romania’s support for the Dutch prime minister’s candidacy,” according to the statement.

The announcement means no obstacles remain to Rutte becoming the next NATO chief. Romania was the only NATO country that had not yet endorsed Rutte, who needs the unanimous support of all 32 member states. Hungary and Slovakia endorsed Rutte after a European Union leaders’ summit earlier this week.

The term of current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is due to end on October 1. In Washington on Tuesday, Stoltenberg said: “I think it’s obvious that we are very close to a conclusion in the alliance, for allies to select the next secretary general. And I think that’s good news.”

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Romania’s opposition to Rutte’s candidacy followed from its support for Iohannis, the country’s head of state. But Romania’s northwestern neighbour, Hungary, resisted Rutte in particular until this week.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban ended his opposition on Tuesday. “Hungary is ready to support PM Rutte’s bid for NATO Secretary General,” Orbán said on X, alongside a copy of a letter from Rutte promising to respect an agreement between Orbán and the current secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, that Hungary will not be required to contribute to Ukraine’s war effort.

Rutte’s letter, also dated Tuesday, noted that remarks he made in 2021 “have caused dissatisfaction in Hungary. My priority in a possible future capacity as NATO Secretary General will be to maintain unity and treat all Allies with the same level of understanding and respect.”

EU leaders have accused Orban’s government of undermining the rule of law in Hungary, and European Union courts have also ruled against Budapest.

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Rutte and Orban met on Monday ahead of a dinner for EU leaders in Brussels, after which Rutte told reporters that he would soon be sending a letter to Orban. Rutte told members of the press that the Hungarian premier had not asked him to apologize, and that they were focused on the “future.”

Slovakia’s new president, Peter Pellegrini, also said in Brussels on Monday that his country would back Rutte, Slovakian national news agency TASR reported.

Stoltenberg said on Tuesday: “I think Mark Rutte is a very strong candidate. He has a lot of experience as Prime Minister. He’s a close friend and colleague, and I therefore strongly believe that very soon the Alliance will have decided on my successor, and that will be good for all of us, for NATO and also for me,” he added.

–IANS/DPA

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