The Latest: Idlib residents protest Syria president Assad

Syrian activists say residents in the country's last opposition-held province, Idlib, are demonstrating against President Bashar Assad, in defiance of an expected government offensive to retake the territory.

The activist-run Orient News channel reported protests in the town of al-Bab and the provincial capital, Idlib.

Wissam Zarqa, a university instructor, says the demonstrations started after congregational prayers on Friday, which mark the end of the work week in the Muslim world. Fridays have become the customary day of protest throughout the Arab world since the 2011 uprisings that swept through the region.

Zarqa says demonstrators are flying the green, white and black flag of Syria's uprising against Assad.

The Kremlin says that President Vladimir Putin could meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan next week.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that preparations are under way for Putin's meeting with Erdogan in Sochi on Monday. He wouldn't elaborate on the meeting's agenda, but the two leaders are likely to discuss the tensions in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib.

The Syrian army, backed by Russia and Iran, is preparing for a military offensive to reclaim control over Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold on the border with Turkey. Turkey strongly warned against the military action, saying it would trigger a humanitarian catastrophe.

Russia has urged Turkey to persuade rebels in Idlib to sever ties with al-Qaida linked rebels in the area.

Turkey's military and defense chiefs have visited areas bordering Syria where the country has reinforced troops amid fears of a looming Syrian government offensive on Syria's last rebel-held province of Idlib.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler on Friday inspected troops in the border provinces of Hatay and Gaziantep.

Turkey has been reinforcing the border in recent weeks. Syrian activists meanwhile said new military reinforcements had arrived to beef up Turkish observation points inside Idlib.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reported late Thursday that commando units as well as howitzers, tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavy work machines were sent to the town of Reyhanli, in Hatay province as reinforcements

Turkey's foreign minister says his country is still working for a peaceful solution for Syria's rebel-held province of Idlib, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would hold talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Turkish media said the two leaders would meet in the Russian city of Sochi.

Speaking during a visit to Pakistan on Friday, Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "We will continue our efforts with Iran and with Russia. ... We will continue our efforts on international platforms as well." His comments were broadcast live on Turkish television.

At a meeting in Tehran last week, the leaders of Russia and Iran backed military operations in Idlib despite pleas from Erdogan for a cease-fire.

Turkey fears a humanitarian crisis in Idlib, which straddles Turkey's borders and is home to more than 3 million people.

 

September 14, 2018

Sources: ABC News

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    1 September 23, 2018
  •  The Latest: Iran says US ally behind military parade attack

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    llied country supports the group that attacked a military parade on Saturday.</p><p> Rouhani said Sunday that the U.S. supports small nations in the southern Persian Gulf that in turn back the militants behind the attack. He did not identify the attackers. Arab separatists claimed the assault, which killed at least 25 people and wounded more than 60, and Iranian officials appear to have accepted the claim.</p><p> Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE view Iran as a regional menace and have long accused it of meddling in other countries' affairs. Iran backs militant groups across the region.</p><p> Iran has summoned diplomats from Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands over allegedly harboring "members of the terrorist group" that launched an attack on a military parade in the country's southwest.</p><p> A statement early Sunday from Iran's Foreign Ministry also quoted ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying Danish and Dutch diplomats were told Iran "already warned" their governments about this.</p><p> The statement also criticized Britain over a Saudi-linked, Farsi-language satellite channel immediately airing an interview with an Ahvazi separatist claiming the attack.</p><p> Saturday's attack in Ahvaz killed at least 25 people and wounded over 60.</p><p> Arab separatists in the region claimed the assault and Iranian officials believe they carried it out. The Islamic State group also claimed the attack, but initially offered incorrect information about it and provided no proof.</p>

    1 September 23, 2018
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    1 September 23, 2018
  •  Iran-backed militias accused of reign of fear in Iraqi Basra

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  • Tiger Woods is 18 holes away from historic win at Tour Championship

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    1 September 23, 2018
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    1 September 23, 2018
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    1 September 23, 2018
  • Senate panel quietly investigating Kavanaugh assault claims amid testimony negotiations

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    ntious negotiations this week over whether Dr. Christine Blasey Ford would testify against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Senate Judiciary Committee was investigating her claims by contacting people who may be able to shed light on what might have happened more than three decades ago. </p><p>Throughout the week, the committee reached out to several people who might have information about a house party in 1982 where Ford, a 51-year-old college professor, says she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, a source with knowledge of the investigation told USA TODAY, adding several people have offered statements to the committee. </p><p>Among those who have been contacted: a friend of Ford, who USA TODAY isn't naming to protect her privacy because she is seemingly not connected to the confirmation process.</p><p>The committee reached out to the friend on Tuesday as someone who was possibly in attendance at the party where Ford alleges an inebriated Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her, put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams and tried to remove her clothes. </p><p>Kavanaugh has repeatedly and categorically denied the allegations.</p><p>The committee asked the friend if she would agree to have a confidential phone call with minority and majority staff so she could be asked about the allegations against Kavanaugh, according to an email exchange obtained by USA TODAY. </p><p>But, it appears, the woman doesn't remember the party described by Dr. Ford. </p><p>Through her lawyer, the woman told the committee on Saturday that she does not know Kavanaugh and she didn't remember being at a party with him, emails show. </p><p>The only other person who has been publicly identified as being contacted by the committee is Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh. Ford has said Judge witnessed the alleged assault. </p><p>Judge told the committee he has no memory of the incident and does not want to testify.</p><p>"I did not ask to be involved in this matter nor did anyone asked me to be involved," Judge said in a written statement forwarded to the committee by his attorney. "The only reason I am involved is that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford remembers me as the other person in the room during the alleged assault."</p><p>The correspondence reveals the behind-the-scenes work of the Republican-led committee as it attempts to investigate Ford's accusations, even though it could affect the outcome of Kavanaugh's appointment to the nation's highest court. </p><p>Ford's attorney, Debbie Katz, said it wasn't surprising that someone wouldn't remember events at a party from 30 years ago. </p><p>"As Dr Ford has said, she did not share her story publicly or with anyone for years following the incident with Judge Kavanaugh," Katz said in a statement, adding it was an "unremarkable" party for others so it would make sense that her friend might not remember it. "Dr. Ford of course will never forget this gathering because of what happened to her there."</p><p>The committee's investigation has been in the backdrop of a  week filled with contentious negotiations between Ford, her attorneys and the committee leadership over whether she would testify. </p><p>On Saturday, a tentative agreement was made for Ford to appear before Congress on Thursday. Other details over her appearance haven't been outlined and the back-and-forth was sure to continue on Sunday and into next week. </p><p>Some of those details included whether Ford would testify to the committee before or after Kavanaugh; whether the committee would subpoena a possible witness to the alleged assault, Kavanaugh's boyhood friend Mark Judge; and who would conduct the questioning. </p><p>Republicans had floated the idea of having a female committee staffer question Ford, to avoid the optics of the panel's all-male Republican roster interrogating Ford. </p><p>It's unclear whether Saturday's discussions between Ford and committee leadership resolved any of the details. </p>

    1 September 23, 2018

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