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Donald Trump Did Not Meet With Iraqi PM For Security Reasons: US

The Pentagon has about 5,200 soldiers deployed in Iraq as part of the coalition fighting the IS

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Video: Frustrations Run High in Third Week of Shutdown. VOA

US President Donald Trump could not meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdelmahdi on his recent surprise trip to the Middle Eastern country because for “security reasons” the premier was only informed of the president’s visit two hours earlier, the White House said on Thursday.

In remarks to reporters who travelled with the US president, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that for “security reasons” the White House could only invite the Iraqi premier to meet with Trump two hours prior to the time that could be scheduled for the meeting.

Abdelmahdi was elsewhere in Iraq and could not rearrange his schedule to meet with Trump on such short notice, Sanders said, Efe reported.

Given the US announcement, the Iraqi premier’s press office issued a statement saying that the meeting could not be arranged due to a lack of agreement regarding how to conduct it and so the two leaders spoke on the phone instead.

During that telephone conversation, Trump invited Abdelmahdi to visit the White House and the prime minister accepted, Sanders said.

In addition, she said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Abdelmahdi in Baghdad on January 11.

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Donald Trump. VOA

Trump and his wife Melania on Wednesday made a surprise visit to US troops deployed in Iraq, the first time the president has visited soldiers stationed abroad.

The first couple visited the US Ain al Asad base in Iraq’s western Al Anbar province, and on their return to Washington aboard Air Force One they stopped in Germany to spend 45 minutes with US soldiers at the Ramstein military base.

Last week, Trump announced that he was withdrawing from Syria all 2,000 US troops stationed there to fight the Islamic State as part of an international coalition.

According to local media, the president also ordered the withdrawal of 7,000 of the 14,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan, although this has not been officially confirmed.

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The Pentagon has about 5,200 soldiers deployed in Iraq as part of the coalition fighting the IS.

Last week, Pompeo assured Abdelmahdi that the US remains committed to the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Iraq and promised that the international coalition will continue working closely with the Iraqi military to destroy the remnants of the Islamic State. (IANS)

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US to Crack Down on Chinese Traffickers of Deadly Fentanyl

The Treasury identified Zheng Fujing, 36, and a company he controls, Qinsheng Pharmaceutical Technology, and a partner, Zheng Guanghua

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Officials of Ministry of Public Security, National Health Commission and National Medical Products Administration attend a news conference on fentanyl-related substances control, in Beijing, China April, 1, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS. VOA

The US Treasury took action Wednesday to crack down on Chinese traffickers of deadly fentanyl, sanctioning producer-exporters and warning banks on financial schemes used to distribute the synthetic opioid behind thousands of US overdose deaths.

The Treasury identified Zheng Fujing, 36, and a company he controls, Qinsheng Pharmaceutical Technology, and a partner, Zheng Guanghua, as a major, Shanghai-based production fentanyl production and trafficking organization.

The Zheng drug trafficking organization, the Treasury said, produced and shipped hundreds of controlled substances, including fentanyl analogues such as carfentanil, which is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

“Zheng created and maintained numerous websites to advertise and sell illegal drugs in more than 35 languages,” it said.

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The US Treasury took action Wednesday to crack down on Chinese traffickers of deadly fentanyl, sanctioning producer-exporters and warning banks on financial schemes. Pixabay

Moreover, it said, Zheng was producing counterfeit cancer pills that replace the active cancer-fighting ingredient with “dangerous synthetic drugs.”

Yan, meanwhile, produces and trafficks in synthetic opioids, cannabinoids, and cathinones, and amphetamine-like drug, the Treasury charged.

“Yan has tried to evade prosecution by modifying the chemical structure of his synthetic analogues based on his monitoring of legislation and law enforcement activities in the United States and China,” the Treasury said.

All three men have already been indicted in separate trafficking cases in the United States.

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The Treasury’s designation of the three as “significant foreign narcotics traffickers” under the US Kingpin Act allows the Treasury to use more sanctions and controls to attack their networks.

The Treasury said it had also issued an advisory to banks and other financial institutions describing how synthetic opioid producers and traffickers operate in financial networks, with the aim of closing off their ability to produce and sell their drugs.

“We are making the financial sector aware of tactics and typologies behind illicit schemes to launder the proceeds of these fatal drug sales, including transactions using digital currency and foreign bank accounts,” said Kenneth Blanco, the head of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The Treasury said both the Zheng and Yan groups used digital currencies like bitcoin for production operations and sales. (VOA)