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India calls for vigilance against terrorists acquiring chemical, biological weapons

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United Nations:  Indian authorities are startled by the potential threat of terrorists and non-state actors acquiring chemical or biological weapons,calling upon international authorities to be alert.

“The international community should continue to be vigilant on non-state actors and terrorist groups seeking or using chemical weapons,” India’s delegate Abhishek Banerjee told the General Assembly committee on disarmament Thursday.

Citing “the new challenges to international peace and security emanating from proliferation trends, including the threat posed by terrorists or other non-state actors seeking access to biological agents or toxins for terrorist purposes,” Banerjee said India wanted the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) strengthened.

An All India Trinamool Congress member of the Lok Sabha representing Diamond Harbour in West Bengal, Banerjee is one of the five members of parliament from the ruling and opposition parties who have been deputed to India’s delegation to the UN.

Banerjee proclaimed the two conventions against chemical and biological weapons as exemplars of non-discriminatory treaties in the field of disarmament and said they can be “a model for the future elimination of the other type of weapons of mass destruction-nuclear weapons.”

Unlike the other two treaties, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) allows a select group of nuclear weapon states that also happen to be permanent members of the Security Council to possess and develop nuclear weapons while banning them for the rest. This makes the elimination of nuclear arms impossible. India has not signed the treaty citing these two factors.

Banerjee noted that India had destroyed its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2009 and had contributed to the efforts of the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to eliminate Syria’s chemical armaments.

The Chemical Weapons Convention should not be implemented in a manner that hinders legitimate activities, especially in countries like India with a large and growing chemical industry, he added.

(IANS)

 

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Russia, Iran, Syria warn the United States against launching new strikes on Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the circumstances surrounding the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people were still not clear

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U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria, VOA

Syria, April 15, 2017: Russia, Syria and Iran have warned the United States against launching new strikes on Syria and called for an international investigation into the chemical weapons attack in Syria.

The foreign ministers from Russia, Syria and Iran, meeting Friday in Moscow, said any further unilateral action by the U.S. in Syria would be met with “grave consequences” and pose a danger to the entire world.

The U.S. fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s al-Shayrat air base last week in response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria days earlier.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the circumstances surrounding the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people were still not clear.

He criticized the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, for not sending experts to the site of the attack to investigate.

“We consider it unacceptable to analyze events from a distance,” he said. Lavrov said the investigation should also be widened to include experts from many nations.

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Russia has rejected accusations from Western countries that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the attack. Russia has alleged that the victims were killed when Syrian warplanes hit a rebel chemical arsenal. The U.S. accuses Assad of deliberately launching the attack.

“The use of chemical weapons as a pretext for violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent state — a member of the United Nations — is a very dangerous activity,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said. “It is essential to prevent such acts as the events in Khan Sheikhoun in [the] future.”

Lavrov said the U.S. missile strike on Syria was Washington seeking “excuses for regime change.” He added, “These attempts will not succeed, this will not happen.”

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Lavrov met Friday with his counterparts from Syria and Iran after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Moscow earlier this week. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Friday’s meeting sent a “strong message” to Washington.

Russia and Iran are strong allies of Assad’s government and have backed the president during Syria’s six-year civil war. (VOA)

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US President Donald Trump can’t be judged by Syria related tweets in 2013: White House official

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US President Donald Trump. VOA

Washington, April 8, 2017: A White House official said Donald Trump’s tweets in 2013 arguing against military action in Syria should not be held against him because he was not the President then, a media report said.

“I think you’d admit that the things you say when you’re in a certain situation without the requisite experience that may come later shouldn’t be held against you,” Trump’s Deputy Assistant, Sebastian Gorka, said on Friday.

“You may have great ideas about what it means to be a parent, but you have no idea what it means to bear the responsibility once you have children. This is the same situation.”

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Gorka said Trump’s perspective is different as President, CNN reported.

“What one says as a businessman…or what one says on the campaign trail in a politically charged environment for a year, is incredibly different to the perspective you may have after you take on the mantle of the commander-in-chief, and you are the person responsible for the safety of all Americans,” Gorka said.

“That’s what experience tells us, and to judge based on statements they made when they were not in that position of responsibility.”

Trump’s past tweets arguing against intervention in Syria resurfaced on Thursday, when Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian airfield in response to the chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime on a rebel stronghold that killed over 80 civilians, including children. (IANS)

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US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley opens to ideas on expanding UN Security Council

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Nikki Haley, Wikimedia

New York, March 30, 2017: US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley has said she is open to ideas on adding permanent members to the UN Security Council but did not made a categorical endorsement of India’s bid for one of the permanent seats.

“I’m open to hearing anyone on what they have to say and looking at it and going further,” she said answering a question on Wednesday by Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) President Richard Haas about Security Council reform.

She candidly admitted, “First of all, I’m in learning mode. And as I look at that, I know there is conversations of reform of Security Council.”

Haas had mentioned previous administrations raising Council expansion with India being mentioned as a candidate for a permanent seat and asked for President Donald Trump administration’s or her views about it.

Former President Barack Obama had endorsed several times India’s bid for permanent membership in Council.

In her speech at the CFR, Haley outlined a bold plan to shake up the UN and lead campaign for drastic reforms to both achieve its goals and to make it more efficient.

Washington is the biggest financier of the world body putting up 22 per cent of the regular budget and 28.36 per cent of the peacekeeping outlay. President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed a 31 per cent cut to the State Department budget, which could impact its contributions to the UN.

Haley said that she would focus in the coming weeks on UN peacekeeping operations, an area with major involvement by India, which has 7,606 troops under the UN banner.

She criticised the peacekeeping operations and said it was shocking that there was no basic evaluation of its missions. Rather than concentrating on finding a political solution through peacekeeping, the UN got bogged down in “parochial questions” about troop-contributors, operation-funders, and the UN establishment.

When the US assumes the presidency of the Council, she said: “We will lay out a comprehensive vision for how peacekeeping missions should be reviewed moving forward. We will go back to first principles and ask hard questions.”

Human rights would be the other priority area, she said. “The fact is, peace and security cannot be achieved in isolation from human rights,” she added. “Human rights abuses are not the by-product of conflict; they are the cause of conflict, or they are the fuel that feeds the conflict.”

She noted that the Council had not held sessions devoted exclusively to the subject and said she intended to call one on the connection between human rights and security.

“We intend to challenge member states to start walking the walk and not just talking the talk of human rights,” she said.

“We will see which countries rise to the challenge and which resort to the same old tired excuses. It will be very telling if any country tries to block this debate. (IANS)