Catalonian uncertainty as leader weighs independence declaration

Spain faces a week of deep political uncertainty as the secessionist leader of Catalonia considers whether to make a unilateral declaration of independence, against the backdrop of a bitter standoff with the central government in Madrid.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont had been expected to make a formal declaration at a specially convened session of the Catalan parliament on Tuesday.
But there was intense speculation on Monday about whether Puigdemont would go ahead with such a provocative move — particularly in the light of a huge rally against independence in Barcelona at the weekend that exposed deep misgivings about his tactics among some sections of Catalan society.
The French government said on Monday that it would not recognize an independent Catalonia, and that independence would result in automatic expulsion from the European Union.
In an interview with the French TV station CNews, Nathalie Loiseau, France’s minister of European affairs, said any declaration of independence would leave Catalonia isolated. “If independence were to be recognized — which is not something that’s being discussed — the most immediate consequence would be that (Catalonia) automatically left the European Union,” she said.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was determined to prevent a breakaway by the northeastern province, which is the powerhouse of the Spanish economy, in the wake of a banned referendum on October 1.
“Spain will not be divided, and the national unity will be preserved. To this end we will employ all the means we have within the law. It is up to the government to make decisions, and to do so at the right moment,” Rajoy said in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt on Monday.
“We have listened to many people. I believe we know what Spaniards think, and they should know that the government, too, is clear about what it has to do,” he said.
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said in an interview on Spanish radio that the government would invoke powers to take control of the regional government if Catalonia went ahead and declared independence.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, however, urged the government to refrain from invoking the never-before-used Article 155, which allows Madrid to take over autonomous regions.
“Escalation will not benefit anyone,” she said, urging both sides to begin dialogue with each other and for Rajoy to “be responsible and listen to the people,” and to roll back the police force that was dispatched to the region ahead of the vote.
Colau said Spain was amid its “worst institutional crisis since democracy began” and said Spain’s political representatives should “find a solution that is inclusive and up to standards we have been living.”

What’s at stake?

The stakes are high for both Spain and Europe if Catalonia chooses to break away.
Catalonia accounts for nearly a fifth of Spain’s economy, and leads all regions in producing 25% of the country’s exports, CNNMoney reports. It contributes much more in taxes (21% of the country’s total) than it gets back from the central government.
The prospect of an independent Catalonia has already prompted two major banks and some other businesses to move their registered headquarters to other parts of Spain.
There is more at stake for Madrid than losing wealth. The country has 17 regions with varying degrees of autonomy, and losing one may inspire others to begin, or revive, separatist movements.
But there are many other unanswered questions, including continued membership in the European Union.
If forced to apply independently for EU membership, Catalonia would have to convince all of the bloc’s current members, including Spain, to agree.
And if Catalonia became an independent state, it would not automatically be a World Trade Organization member, so would likely face stiff trade barriers that would hurt its economy.

Protests on both sides

Between 250,000 and 400,000 anti-independence Catalans, and supporters from the rest of Spain, marched through the streets of Barcelona on Sunday to protest any moves for a breakaway state, following a divisive and controversial referendum on October 1 that found a majority of Catalan voters in favor of independence.
But the result was not as decisive as it appeared — turnout was only 43%.
Puigdemont rescheduled a session of the Catalan Parliament for Tuesday after Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended Monday’s session.
Members of Puigdemont’s Popular Unity Candidacy party had threatened to meet in Parliament on Monday anyway, in an act of defiance, but it is unclear if they will.
A Catalan Parliament spokesperson told CNN that a new session had been called for Tuesday at 6 p.m. (12:00 p.m. ET), in which Puigdemont is expected to update members on the “current political situation.”
The address could be the moment when Catalonia’s leader declares that the region will break away.
Protesters wave Spanish, Catalan and EU flags in a march for unity on Sunday in Barcelona.

“Many people believe — and he seems to be moving in that direction — that he will use this opportunity to declare, or to announce the results of the referendum which, as far as he was concerned, were overwhelmingly in favor of independence,” Dominic Thomas, chair of the department of French and francophone studies at the University of California Los Angeles, told CNN.
Whatever happens this week, it’s clear that there are deep divisions over the issue, not only between Madrid and Barcelona, but within Catalonia as well.

Catalan Parliament to meet Tuesday

In an indication of the deep divisions the referendum has caused, those who marched in Barcelona on Sunday in support of remaining part of Spain argued there was no reason they couldn’t be both Catalan and Spanish.
But protesters have also marched in favor of independence since the October 1 vote, claiming that the Catalans have a distinct culture from the rest of Spain and that they contribute more to the economy than the other regions.
A woman takes part in the "Let's Talk" protest in Barcelona to call for dialogue on Saturday.

Thomas says that the “powerful” show of support for unity means that a declaration of independence may not be well received.
“Many people stayed home and didn’t vote (Sunday) so the whole question of the mandate that he would have in speaking before that Parliament and declaring independence would be challenged.
“The turnout in Barcelona and across Spain to talk about Spain and unity and to express the voice of those who would not want this referendum to go ahead was also overwhelmingly powerful.”

‘No turning back’

Spanish National Police clash with pro-independence supporters in Barcelona on October 1.

Divisions between Catalan leaders and the central government took a particularly brutal form on the day of the vote, when thousands of Spanish police went to Catalonia to try to shut the referendum down and clashed with protesters and voters.
Images of police firing rubber bullets, restraining elderly people and pulling voters from polling booths by the hair have shocked people around the world. Hundreds were injured.
Despite the outrage, Rajoy and Spanish King Felipe VIdefended the police and doubled down on their stance to take whatever measures necessary to keep Catalonia from seceding.
Rajoy was forced to apologize on Friday, but many in Catalan say the crackdown has only fueled their desire for independence.
“I didn’t feel that repressed until what happened on October 1,” said 25-year-old student Mireya Jimenez.
“I think that whatever they do, they have made us angry, and I think we have seen that a … part of Spain doesn’t like us — the king doesn’t like us either and so I think that, also because of how they’ve treated us just now, there is no turning back.”

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Catalonia’s president may bring crisis to head in parliament

Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades is set to come to a head on Tuesday when the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, reveals his plans for independence as he addresses the regional parliament for the first time since the referendum that provoked the standoff with the Spanish government.

Although Puigdemont had originally promised to make a unilateral declaration of independence within 48 hours of a victory for the secessionist campaign, he has so far held off doing so, calling instead for mediated negotiations with the Madrid government.

Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain’s anti-austerity Podemos party, tweeted: “Casado says Puigdemont could end up like Companys, who was tortured and shot. He’s either stupid or an irresponsible troublemaker.”

His appearance before parliament comes after the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, threatened to impose direct rule on Catalonia and a series of banks and businesses announced plans to relocate from the region amid the enduring uncertainty.

Despite the growing national and international pressure, it is unclear whether Puigdemont will push ahead with a formal declaration of independence or choose a less drastic option in the hope of avoiding any further escalation of tensions with Madrid.

The Spanish government – which has repeatedly argued that the referendum and the laws underpinning it are illegal and unconstitutional – has said it will use all the legal means at its disposal to stop Catalonia splitting from the rest of the country.

A Catalan government source dismissed suggestions that the president would opt for a merely symbolic recognition of independence, but refused to be drawn on what he might do.

“We’re still on track. We’re here to do what we’re here to do and we will do it especially now that we know that people have voted in a referendum and the result is clear,” they said.

“We’re not doing anything apart from what we have committed to do. It is the president’s prerogative to establish the exact parameters on which this will be done.”

Carles Puigdemont.

Rajoy has vowed to preserve national unity and shown himself willing to invoke article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows the central government to take control of an autonomous region if it “does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain”.
Rajoy has also said the thousands of Guardia Civil and national police officers originally deployed in Catalonia to prevent the vote would remain there “until things return to normal”.Invoking the article, which has never been used, would provoke an angry response in Catalonia. Tempers in the region remain high following the Spanish police’s efforts to stop the referendum on 1 October, which saw officers raiding polling stations, beating voters and firing rubber bullets at crowds.

Much could rest on the response of the Catalan regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, to either a unilateral declaration of independence or the imposition of direct rule from Madrid.

Unions representing the two national forces have already accused the Mossos d’Esquadra of “clear disobedience” and an “unacceptable passivity” when it came to halting the referendum.

While the Mossos agreed to seal off polling stations during the referendum, they warned that such actions risked public order.

The head of the force, Josep Lluís Trapero, is being investigated for sedition by Spain’s national court amid accusations that the Mossos failed to assist Guardia Civil officers who raided government buildings and arrested 14 Catalan officials last month.Speaking on Monday evening, the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, called for urgent negotiations, saying Spain was facing its “greatest institutional crisis” since its return to democracy following the death of Franco in 1975.On Monday, it emerged that the head of the Catalan high court had ordered Spanish national police officers to help protect the court building, which is usually guarded by the Mossos. Explaining his decision in a statement, Jesús María Barrientos said a declaration of independence could disrupt the running of the court and could even result in judges – including himself – being removed.

She asked both Rajoy and Puigdemont to drop their entrenched positions and to talk to each other. “We cannot allow ourselves to jeopardise either social cohesion or Catalan institutions,” she said.

“The results of 1 October cannot be used as a guarantee for the declaration of independence. But they do represent an opportunity to open dialogue and international mediation.” Urging both sides to calm the tensions, she added: “It’s time to build bridges; not to blow them up.”

An anti-independence protest in Barcelona on Sunday.

According to the Catalan government, 90% of participants voted for independence in the referendum on 1 October, with 2.3 million of Catalonia’s 5.3 million registered voters casting a ballot.

A full count of the votes has been complicated by the fact that police removed many ballot boxes from polling stations and shut down polling stations where up to 770,000 people could have voted.

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Che murdered 50 years ago – on October 9, 1967

Hungarian PM Orban Blasts US Billionaire for Destabilizing Europe

above~George Soros helps Nazis during Holocaust

OrbanSoroscrackdown

 

The standoff between George Soros and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is raging on: The European Commission has recently issued yet another ultimatum to Budapest over the country’s nongovernmental organization and education laws, which are allegedly targeting Soros’s entities in Hungary. The country’s ruling Fidesz party strikes back.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban appears to be the last obstacle in the way of George Soros’s plan to “reconstruct” Europe, experts say.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the European Commission (EC) has increased its legal action against Budapest over “restrictions on foreign funding,” which are “likely to affect civil society groups funded by the billionaire investor George Soros.” According to the official statement, EC reserves the right to “refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.”

Hungarian NGO Law ‘Targeting George Soros’

A Hungarian law passed in June 2017 stipulates that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive more than 24,000 euros a year from abroad should provide a list of their external sponsors and undergo a special registration as “organizations benefiting from foreign financing.”

According to the Hungarian prime minister, the legislation is aimed at targeting money laundering and terrorism funding. However, The Atlantic writes that “the law is… widely seen as targeting George Soros” in the first place.

Georges Soros, Chairman of Soros Fund Management, speaks during the session 'Recharging Europe' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 23, 2015. File photo.
The recent conflict between Orban and the Hungarian-born American magnate has been gaining pace since April 2017, when new educational legislation posing a challenge to the Soros-founded Central European University (CEU) in Hungary was inked by President Janos Ader. The law requires foreign accredited universities to provide educational services in the countries of their origin and bans them from awarding Hungarian diplomas in the absence of an agreement between Hungary and a country of accreditation.

Although the CEU is accredited in the United States, it does not provide any educational services there. Besides, there is no legally binding bilateral agreement between Budapest and Washington, as required by the new law.

In the eyes of the European Commission, the NGO and education laws contradict the bloc’s democratic principles. Thus, in July 2017 the EU issued a one-month ultimatum to Hungary, threatening Budapest with possible sanctions in court.

2015 ‘Soros Plan’: Flooding Europe With Migrants

However, there is yet another “apple of discord” between the Hungarian government on the one side and the influential American billionaire and his EU allies on the other.

The country’s ruling Fidesz party has recently launched a “national consultation” on the so-called “Soros plan” allegedly aimed at flooding Europe with migrants. The national consultations have been held in Hungary since 2011: The country’s government sends out questionnaires seeking to determine popular opinion on the most burning issues.

“The European Commission stops just short of saying that they are carrying out the Soros plan… but all their steps and ideas with regard to migration point in this direction,” Fidesz’s vice chairman Lajos Kosa said as quoted by Reuters.

The statement apparently came as a response to the September ruling by the European Court of Justice, which rejected Slovakia and Hungary’s complaints against the EU refugee quota plan. Earlier, Budapest and Bratislava appealed to the bloc’s top court to reconsider Brussels’ decision to share out 120,000 asylum seekers across the union. Speaking about the “Soros plan” the Hungarian ruling party refers to the billionaire’s article “Rebuilding the Asylum System” published on September 26, 2015, during the peak of the migrant crisis on the old continent.

In his op-ed Soros outlined what he called “a comprehensive plan,” which envisaged that the EU had to accept “at least a million asylum-seekers annually for the foreseeable future” and “share the burden fairly.”

The billionaire insisted that “the EU should provide €15,000 ($16,800) per asylum-seeker for each of the first two years to help cover housing, health care, and education costs” and offer “adequate funding to Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey to support the 4 million refugees currently living in those countries.”

In the end of his article Soros lambasted Viktor Orban‘s approach to the refugee crisis, claiming that the Hungarian prime minister’s vision “subordinates the human rights of asylum-seekers and migrants to the security of borders” and thus “threatens to divide and destroy the EU.”

Why Viktor Orban’s Positions Remain Strong

Despite the attacks from Brussels and the American billionaire, Viktor Orban’s political positions remain strong “because he acts as an active champion of national interests on the issue of migration,” Alexander Stykalin, a researcher at the Institute of Slavic and Balkan Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) told RT.

According to the Russian academic, “if there were elections in the country, [Orban] would most likely win again.”

For her part, Russian political analyst Anna Aryamova pointed out that Orban’s concerns about the migration problem are quite justified: “This mass migration spells danger for European countries, [in particular] for their economy and social sphere.”

She explained that “thus Europe is paying for the aggressive US policy” in the Middle East and North Africa. The migrant flow from the countries destabilized by Washington plays into America’s hand, according to the political analyst: The tension simmering in the wartorn regions is being exported to Europe, not the US.

“Soros’s [Open Society] Foundations is a global project that is seeking to influence global political processes,” Aryamova told RT. “Apart from this fund, there are many American organizations operating in Europe, but Soros is managing the largest financial flows and therefore he is attracting the most attention.”

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Original article

ER recommends other articles by Sputnik News

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Bent UK Border Force guard among 12 arrested in Calais over plot to smuggle guns and cocaine into Britain

border1

****UK BORDER FORCE CORRUPT****

A Border Force guard was among 12 people arrested as police swooped on a gang suspected of smuggling millions of pounds worth of guns and Class A drugs into Britain through the Channel Tunnel.

The 36-year-old officer based at the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone was arrested by French police near Calais in a joint operation with the Met and the National Crime Agency

 

Three other UK nationals were held in France as police seized bags containing 11 firearms, including pistols and revolvers, along with ammunition and silencers.

 crimeagency.jpg

French officers also recovered about 34 kilos of cocaine and seven kilos of heroin with an estimated street value of up to £5 million.

Drugs: French officers recovered about 34 kilos of cocaine and seven kilos of heroin with an estimated street value of up to £5 million (National Crime Agency)

The police operation had targeted a suspected organised crime group. The border guard is suspected of using his position to avoid checks to help get weapons and drugs into the UK.

Among the guns seized was a CZ 75 pistol, a handgun used by the army in the Czech Republic.

The Border Force officer was arrested with the three other British nationals at a location near Calais on Friday after a surveillance operation by French officers.

Shortly after, eight men were arrested by detectives from Scotland Yard’s Organised Crime Command at different locations in Kent.

The police operation had targeted a suspected organised crime group (National Crime Agency)

Six were due to appear at Barkingside magistrates’ court today charged with conspiracy to import firearms and Class A drugs. Two men were freed under investigation.

Officers from the National Crime Agency’s Anti-Corruption Unit have also carried out searches at two locations in Folkestone and Dover.

The unit’s head, Dave Hucker, said today: “Our investigation is ongoing, both in the UK and in France.”

The four Britons held near Calais were still being questioned by French police today. Earlier this year the NCA warned that more weapons were being smuggled into the UK from mainland Europe and there has been a rise in shootings.

In July, 79 handguns were found in engine blocks being taken by van through the Channel Tunnel. It was the largest haul of handguns ever seized by British police.

Royal Mail staff back national strike in pay and pension dispute

Royal Mail staff have voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of strike action, with a union not ruling out the prospect of national walkouts in the run-up to Christmas.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said a ballot of 110,000 staff had a turnout of 73% – with 89% of voters backing industrial action.

Any strike would represent the first at Royal Mail since its controversial privatisation four years ago.

The CWU said its next move will be decided at a meeting later this week, but insisted the vote indicated a clear feeling among members that Royal Mail bosses should step aside because they no longer have the trust of front line staff.

The dispute surrounds the closure of Royal Mail’s final salary pension scheme to new entrants, the terms of a replacement scheme, and also rows over pay and delivery office closures.

Royal Mail

Video:Union does not rule out Christmas strikes

The CWU says its list of gripes with the company are all linked to the privatisation – accusing bosses of cost cutting and asset stripping to satisfy shareholders.

Deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said: “This ballot result is hugely significant and demonstrates a strength of feeling that can only be translated as a massive vote of no confidence in the managerial leadership of the Royal Mail Group and the direction that they advocate.

“Any sense of vocational spirit and working together with management has been lost in a climate of fear and insecurity.

“This massive failure in trust has created a breakdown in relationships and a toxic environment where working together to solve difficult problems has become almost impossible.

“The managerial leadership has failed and should resign or be sacked.”

:: Royal Mail offers new pension plan to avert strike

Royal Mail says there are seven dog attacks every day on delivery staff
Image:This would be the first strike since Royal Mail’s privatisation four years ago

Royal Mail has insisted there are no grounds for industrial action and said a legally-binding agreement concerning dispute resolution – made with the union in 2013 – prevented the CWU from taking strike action until that process had been exhausted.

The company said it remained committed to finding a deal on pensions and pay, with offers still on the table including wage increases of 5% – linked to productivity improvements.

“Industrial action is damaging for our business. It undermines the trust of our customers. It makes it harder to pay for the great terms and conditions we provide for our employees.

“National industrial action means the current offer from Royal Mail, including on pensions, will be taken off the table,” its statement said.

The company also pointed out that a strike would be self-defeating for staff as they owned a fifth of Royal Mail shares.

The result was announced just after financial markets had closed for the day – with the value of Royal Mail’s shares already down almost 17% in the year to date, partly reflecting strike concerns.

Rival Parcel Hero was quick to jump on Royal Mail’s woes, warning any strike action could “cancel Christmas”.

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Spain may invoke Article 155 as Emergency develops

Spain’s Article 155: the constitution’s ‘nuclear option’

Article 155 of the Spanish constitution would allow the government in Madrid to intervene in the running of Catalonia. But it is an extreme measure for exceptional situations which has never been invoked before.

Students in Barcelona with a giant 'Estelada' flag

Article 155 is the most extreme measure available to the Madrid government, allowing it to take over the running of an autonomous region, should it declare independence.

In political circles, the article is known as “the nuclear option.” Spain’s former Foreign Secretary Jose Manuel Garcia described it as “an atomic bomb.”

The Spanish Congress describes the article as an “exceptional or extreme” measure “for situations that are equally exceptional or extreme.”

The article allows “all measures necessary to compel the community to meet said obligations, or to protect the above-mentioned general interest.”

Read more: Catalan mayor feels Spain coming ‘closer and closer’ to dictatorship

The measure has never been invoked in Spain. Similar provisions in other European countries have also never been invoked.

Catalonia is a region in north east SpainCatalonia is a region in north east Spain

Royal approval?

Spain’s constitutional court has moved to stop the Catalan government making a unilateral declaration of independence by suspending the regional parliament session in which the results of Sunday’s referendum were due to be discussed.

On Thursday, the court upheld a challenge by Catalonia’s Socialist party – which opposes secession from Spain – ruling that allowing the Catalan parliament to meet on Monday and potentially declare independence would violate the rights of the party’s MPs.

The court warned that any session carried out in defiance of its ban would be “null”, and added that the parliament’s leaders could face criminal action if they ignored the court order

Separatist lawmakers are mulling a unilateral declaration of independence, claiming they have a mandate from some 90 percent of the Catalan population.

The Spanish government, meanwhile, remains steadfast in its insistence that the constitution, in which the Spanish nation is “indivisible” be respected.

Spain’s King Felipe has appeared to hint that he might support the application of Article 155. “It is the purpose of the legitimate powers of the state to make sure that constitutional order is abided by,” he said after the independence referendum.

Spain has already shown a willingness to intervene in Catalan affairs, with Madrid last month imposing controls over Catalonia’s finances.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has warned Catalan separatists not to “force us to go where we don’t want to go.”

Catalonia timeline since 1932Catalonia timeline from 1932 to the October referendum date

Unstoppable force v immovable object

To invoke Article 155, Madrid would have to notify Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont that he must comply with any laws or duties in which the central government feels he is failing.

Puigdemont would then have to reject it. The central government would then have to go to the Senate, which represents the regions. The Popular Party has a comfortable majority there.

Read more:  Anti-independence Catalans have been ‘abandoned’ by Spain’s central government

The Europa Press news agency has said the government thinks it could “technically” apply Article 155 within five days.

Given the anger that the withdrawal of autonomy would almost certainly provoke, it could be like letting the genie out of the bottle. It might also inspire solidarity for Catalonia in other wantaway regions of Spain, like the Basque Country.

“Pressing the button of 155 could open Indiana Jones’s Ark of the Covenant, it’s dangerously unpredictable,” one Catalan regional government was quoted as saying by Catalonia’s La Vanguardianewspaper back in July.

Would Catalonian independence hurt Spain?

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 DW RECOMMENDS

Majority of Americans support attack on North Korea if it strikes South

The majority of Americans support using US troops to defend South Korea in the event of an attack by the North – for the first time in 27 years of polling on the issue, according to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Americans’ support for military action against North Korea grew from 47 percent two years ago to 62 percent in the council’s latest poll.

However, the survey found that a preemptive attack against North Korea’s nuclear program does not have wide support. Overall, 28 percent of Americans favor sending US troops to destroy North Korea’s nuclear facilities and 40 percent favor conducting airstrikes against its nuclear production facilities, according to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“Military action carries with it the very real risk of retaliation and escalation, and as in past surveys, lacks public support,” the group wrote.

The same study says that while sanctions have yet to curb North Korea’s nuclear program, increasing restrictions is the option that receives the most support from the American public – 76 percent.

On August 5, the UN Security Council unanimously agreed to impose more restrictive measures against Pyongyang, banning exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood.

The move came in response to North Korea’s latest missile launches in July, which it, as well as South Korea and the US, claimed were intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests. It was the UN’s seventh round of sanctions in 11 years.

Speaking at a Security Council meeting, the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the new resolution is the hardest package of sanctions against any country.

Washington “is taking and will continue to take prudent defensive measures to protect ourselves and our allies” from the North Korean threat, Haley said.

Even though the US, Russia and China – permanent members of the UN Security Council – are on the same page when it comes to trying to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and to get it to return to a non-proliferation regime, they differ on what will eventually work in achieving that outcome.

Having voted to impose the sanctions on Saturday, Russia’s envoy to the UN nonetheless criticized the drills that the US and South Korea regularly conduct in the region, saying that such actions also destabilize security on the Korean Peninsula.

In the wake of the vote, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated the joint Russian-Chinese initiative for “double freezing” which had previously been rejected by the US.

The initiative, put forward by the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers on July 4, would freeze “any missile launches and any nuclear tests in North Korea,” as well as “large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea,” Lavrov said.

The Trump administration has sought to put pressure on China, claiming that Beijing could stop North Korea if it wanted to, through blocking all economic transactions with its neighbor.

In June, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for allegedly helping North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and accused a Chinese bank of laundering money for Pyongyang.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang responded by saying China consistently opposes unilateral sanctions imposed outside the UN framework.

“We strongly urge the United States to immediately correct its relevant wrong moves to avoid affecting bilateral cooperation on the relevant issue,” he said in June.

70% of Americans disapprove of the way Trump’s talks to North Korea

Over two-thirds of US voters find President Donald Trump’s remarks on North Korea unhelpful in getting Pyongyang to stop its nuclear weapons program, according to a Fox News opinion poll.

Only 23 percent of Americans said otherwise, the survey found.

61 percent of the respondents said they see diplomacy as the best way to halt North Korea’s weapons programs, while 27 percent said that threatening military action is Trump’s best bet.

Overall, voter disapproval of the US president’s handling of North Korea is on the rise, from 45 percent in July to 50 percent in August and 55 percent in September, according to the poll.

Trump and the North Korean leadership have exchanged numerous threats recently, as the North continued its testing of ballistic missiles, including one of a reported hydrogen bomb.

Last Saturday, Trump tweeted that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whom he called Rocket Man, “won’t be around much longer.” North Koreans took it as a declaration of war, saying Pyongyang could shoot down US bombers “even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.”

The White House later denied that the US had declared war on North Korea.

At the UN General Assembly last week, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the North, if it attacked the US or its allies. Pyongyang responded with more threats.

Two permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia and China – insist on the US dialling down belligerent rhetoric toward the North and pursuing negotiations.

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US actions aiding ISIS in Syria say Hezbollah

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah says the US is serving the interests of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) by preventing the Syrian Army and its allies advancing in some areas of eastern Syria. US jets have this year targeted pro-government militias in eastern Syria that were advancing towards Washington’s local allies, Reuters said. The US was delaying the Syrian military in its battle to retake territory from IS, according to Nasrallah. “The Americans are working to hinder the battle against IS,” he said in a speech, part of a commemoration for Hezbollah fighters killed in clashes against IS, Nasrallah said on Sunday

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