South Korea prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for pension chief


The National Pension Service (NPS) Chairman Moon Hyung-pyo is summoned to the Independent Counsel Team in Seoul, South Korea, December 27, 2016. News1 via REUTERS

South Korea’s special prosecutor’s office said on Thursday it has applied for a warrant to arrest National Pension Service Chairman Moon Hyung-pyo, who is under emergency detention, on charges of abuse of power and giving false testimony.

The office told a briefing that Moon had acknowledged ordering the world’s third-largest pension fund to support the $8 billion merger last year of two Samsung Group [SAGR.UL] affiliates while he was head of the health ministry.

Moon had denied during a parliamentary hearing in November that he had exerted pressure on the National Pension Service, which is run by the health ministry, to back the merger as a major shareholder.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-politics-pension-idUSKBN14I0CY

Use of chlorine weapons suspected in east Aleppo: monitor


People walk near rubble of damaged buildings, in the rebel-held besieged area of Aleppo, Syria November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Containers of a chemical suspected to be chlorine were dropped by helicopters on rebel-held east Aleppo on Tuesday, causing breathing difficulties in some people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the local health authority said.

The Britain-based war monitor said its network of sources had reported seeing at least four barrel bombs dropped on the al-Qaterji and Dahrat Awad neighborhoods, with the smell of chlorine filling the area. Medical sources told the Observatory they thought the gas was chlorine.

The Aleppo Health Directorate for east Aleppo said there were a number of cases of breathing difficulties reported.

Earlier on Tuesday the Syrian army advised civilians in besieged east Aleppo to avoid going into the streets and to steer clear of militant positions, and urged rebels to stop firing into government-held western Aleppo.

On Nov. 11, the executive body of the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW condemned the alleged use of banned toxic agents by the Syrian government and by militant group Islamic State.

A 13-month international inquiry by the OPCW and United Nations concluded in a series of reports that Syrian government forces, including helicopter squadrons, were responsible for the use of chlorine barrel bombs against civilians.

Syrian authorities deny having used chemical weapons in the conflict. Islamic State has not commented.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-chemicalweapons-idUSKBN13H1WM

Iran once again exceeds a nuclear deal limit -IAEA report


Iran has exceeded a soft limit on sensitive material set under its nuclear deal with major powers, the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Wednesday, hours after Donald Trump – who has strongly criticized the agreement – won the U.S. presidential election.

It is the second time Tehran has surpassed the 130 metric tonne threshold for heavy water, a material used as a moderator in reactors like Iran’s unfinished one at Arak, since the deal was put in place in January. It had 130.1 tonnes of the material on Tuesday, the watchdog said.

The last time Iran overstepped that mark was brief, passing without major criticism from the other countries that signed the nuclear deal last year. But there are questions about whether the incoming Trump administration will react to such incidents the same way.

“On 2 November 2016, the director general expressed concerns related to Iran’s stock of heavy water to the vice president of Iran and president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, … Ali Akbar Salehi,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a confidential report seen by Reuters.

The IAEA is policing the restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear activities under the deal it signed with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. The agreement also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

Iran told the agency it would prepare to transfer 5 tonnes of heavy water out of the country, as provided for in the deal, and a senior diplomat said Iran planned to carry out the shipment in the coming days.

A U.S. State Department spokesman, speaking at a regular news briefing in Washington, confirmed Iran’s intention to export the excess heavy water.

“It’s important to note that Iran made no effort to hide this, hide what it was doing from the IAEA,” spokesman Mark Toner said.

Rather than setting a strict limit on heavy water as it does for enriched uranium, the deal estimates Iran’s needs to be 130 tonnes and says any amount beyond the country’s needs “will be made available for export to the international market”.

Trump has called the agreement, one of President Barack Obama’s top achievements, “the worst deal ever negotiated” and said he would “police that contract so tough they (the Iranians) don’t have a chance”.

Iran also exceeded the heavy-water limit in February, with 130.9 tonnes. (Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Paul Simao)

http://news.trust.org/item/20161109162444-vzdxw

FBI, Homeland Security chiefs preparing for violence at political conventions


U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers on Thursday that they were preparing their agencies for the possibility of violence, both from unruly demonstrators and terrorists, at the upcoming Republican and Democratic nominating conventions.

Speaking before the House Homeland Security Committee, Johnson said he was concerned that demonstrations at the events could get out of hand.

In an interview with Reuters following his testimony, Johnson said he knew of no specific or credible threat to either convention but that it was important to be prepared.

Johnson said the Department of Homeland Security would be sending more than 3,000 personnel to each convention.

Recent clashes between attendees and protesters at rallies for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump have led to physical assaults and arrests.

The Republican National Convention being held July 18-21 in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia from July 25-28 follow a string of high-profile shootings.

In June, an Islamic State sympathizer committed the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, killing 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Last week, five police officers in Dallas were killed by a black man angry about police shootings of unarmed black men.

Comey told the committee that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was monitoring the threat of violence at the conventions “very, very carefully.”

“Anytime there is a national spotlight on a political event in the United States, there is a risk that groups that aspire to do just that, engage in acts of domestic terrorism, will be attracted,” Comey said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-conventions-security-idUSKCN0ZU264

 

Commentary: Why Ukraine’s NATO membership is not in America’s interests


Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin (L) talks with Belgium's Foreign Minister Didier Reynders during a NATO foreign ministers meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 2, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

The United States-Russia relationship is already in bad shape, and U.S. diplomats are hurting it further by sending conflicting messages about Ukraine’s future relationship with NATO.

First, NATO and Kiev signed a letter of intent in February for cooperation between their special operations forces. Two months later American ambassador and current NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow said it was time to bring the Ukrainian military “in line with NATO standards.” Barely one week later, though, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO ruled out NATO expansion for the “next several years.”

These muddled messages only cause confusion, provoking Russia while potentially false hope for Ukraine. For that reason, it’s time for Washington to make clear that Ukrainian accession to NATO is not on the table. Here’s why.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-nato-commentary-idUSKCN0XW0V3

 

 

Syrian army sends reinforcements to Aleppo


An aid convoy of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent enters the Wafideen Camp, controlled by Syrian government forces, near a poster of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, to deliver aid into the rebel-held besieged Douma neighborhood of Damascus, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

The Syrian army was on Monday reported to be sending reinforcements to Aleppo, where renewed fighting is threatening a fragile truce in the run-up to the next round of peace talks.

Underlining the conflict’s regional dimensions, Iranian media announced the first deaths of members of its regular army in Syria, a week after Tehran said army commandos had been deployed in support of Damascus. Iran’s military support has so far mostly been provided by the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.

An eruption of fighting near the ancient city of Aleppo in the last two weeks marks the most serious challenge yet to a “cessation of hostilities” brokered by the United States and Russia with the aim of facilitating peace talks.

Pointing to the frayed state of the truce, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura, who is visiting Damascus, that Turkey and Saudi Arabia were behind violations of the deal.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idUSKCN0X81ZU

Islamic State video calls for jihad after Brussels blasts


In the footage, Islamic State noted that Belgium was part of a coalition fighting militants in the Middle East.

It featured the training of Belgian militants suspected in the Nov. 13 shooting and suicide bombing rampage by Islamic State that killed 130 people in Paris.

“The crusaders aircrafts, including Belgium’s, continue to bomb Muslims in Iraq and the Levant in the night and day,” said the video.

“Every Muslim who is well aware of the history of Islam, knows that the holy war against infidels is an integral part of Islam, and those who read history would know.”

http://news.yahoo.com/islamic-state-video-calls-jihad-brussels-blasts-142945523.html