UN Security Council Agrees Syria Peace Process Resolution

syria crisisThe five permanent of the UN Security Council have agreed the text of a draft UN resolution for the Syrian peace process, diplomats say.

The 15-member council is expected to adopt the resolution later on Friday, officials said.

World powers have been meeting in New York with the aim of advancing a tentative plan to bring about a ceasefire in Syria.

The Syrian war, which is heading towards its fifth year, has killed more than 250,000 people, the BBC reports.
Nearly 12 million people have also been displaced, the UN says.

The draft text asks the UN to bring together the Syrian government and the opposition for talks by early January.
It also said that a ceasefire should be implemented in parallel with the talks.

However, actions against groups considered terrorist organisations would not be affected. This would allow Russian, French and US air-strikes against Islamic State to continue.

However, one of the major sticking points so far has been which rebel groups should be considered terrorist outfits and consequently excluded from any talks or ceasefire.

French FN Routed In Key Vote

French FN Routed In Key VoteFrance’s Far-right National front (FN) party has suffered a shocking defeat in  the second round of municipal elections after preliminary results showed that it failed to win a single region.

This means that the party has been beaten into third place, despite leading in six of 13 regions in the first round of voting.

Former President, Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right republicans are set to win most seats ahead of the ruling socialists.

Acknowledging defeat, FN Leader, Marine Le Pen, pledged to keep fighting. She blamed the outcome on the mainstream parties which joined forces to keep the FN from power, telling her supporters they had been “disenfranchised in the most indecent ways by a campaign of lies and disinformation”.

She had stood as a regional presidential candidate in the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, while her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, was the FN’s candidate in the race in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, in the south.

After both led with more than 40 per cent  of the vote in the first round on December 6, the Socialist candidates in those regions pulled out so their voters could support Republican candidates in the second round.

The FN actually increased its votes in the second round to more than 6.8 million, from 6.02 million on  December 6 as more people voted, according to the Ministry of  Interior (In French). But the FN share of the vote went down slightly from 27.73 per cent to 27.36 per cent.

The Republicans increased their share from 26.65 per cent to 40.63 per cent and the Socialists from 23.12 per cent to 29.14 per cent.

The overall turnout increased from 22.6 million on  December 6 to 26.2 million on Sunday. Sunday’s figures were based on a count of 98 per cent of votes so far.

France Carries Out Surveillance Mission On Syria

france syriaFrench military aircraft have carried out reconnaissance and intelligence flights over areas controlled by Islamic State in Libya and plan to carry out further missions over the North African state, a presidential press document showed on Friday.

According to a press dossier provided ahead of President Francois Hollande’s visit to the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier off the coast of Syria, two missions were carried out on Nov. 20 and 21 around the towns of Sirte and Tobruk.

The missions would be the first time Paris has publicly acknowledged carrying out operations over Islamic State zones in Libya. Sirte is controlled by Islamic State.

“Other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights are also planned,” the document showed.

Neither the defense ministry nor president’s office were immediately available for comment.


Quadri Ready For ITTF World Tour In Poland

ITTF-quadriAfter a disappointing start in the French League, Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri will this week return to the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour in Warsaw, Poland.

Last week, Quadri could not save his French team, Morez from losing 4-zero to Chartres A.S in the elite league of the French Table Tennis League.

Quadri is seeded number 25 and he will start his campaign from the main draw of the men’s singles of the five-day tournament.

In the men’s doubles, the Nigerian will partner his continental arch-rival and friend, Egypt’s Omar Assar.

France Donates Books To N/Army Language Institute

French_DonationThe Nigerian Army has received a boost in its fight against insurgency, as the French government donated books to the Nigerian Army Language Institute (NALI), in Ovim, Isikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State.

The Commandant of NALI, Col. Joseph Ajanaku received the books from the France Defense Attaché in Nigeria, Col. Marc Humbert.

Col. Humbert said the mastery of French will enable the Nigerian Army personnel adapt in their various military assignments with their French-speaking couterparts, especially in neighbouring countries where the fight against Boko Haram has been extended to.

Ajanaku commended the French government, adding that it is the first country to assist the college in achieving the objectives for which it was set up.

He also noted that the first set of students just commenced activities on August 1, 2015, starting the French Basic Course 1, maintaining that the donated books will help them to be proficient in French language.

He further noted that NALI was established to teach seven languages including Arabic, French, Swahili, Portuguese, German and Chinese while other will be added in due course in line with Nigeria’s bi-lateral agreements with other nations.

France Begins MH370 Debris’ Searches Around Reunion

France Begins MH370 Debris' Searches Around Reunion IslandFrance has commenced air, land and sea searches on and around the French Indian Ocean Island of Reunion.

These searches launched by France are coming in the anticipation of recovering more remains that could be linked to the MH370.

According to BBC, Malaysia said on Thursday that a wing section found on the island definitely came from the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight.

However, the French investigators have not confirmed the link which is causing frustration among the families of victims.

France had also dismissed the statements made by Malaysia that more debris had been found.

The Boeing 777, which had 239 people on board and most of which were Chinese, was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 when it disappeared from radar.

A piece of debris that experts believed could be from the missing flight MH370 earlier arrived Paris, France’s capital, from the Island where it was found.

Putin Announces Ceasefire Deal With Ukraine

Ukraine Presidentukraine, Vladimir Putin, has announced ceasefire after meeting all night in Belarus with leaders of Russia, France and Germany, to secure a peace deal. The leaders of Russia and Ukraine have announced that ceasefire will begin in Eastern Ukraine on 15 February.

After marathon talks with leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany, Russia President, Vladimir Putin said “We have managed to agree on the main issues.”

French President, Francois Hollande also said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.

The meeting in Belarus – which began on Wednesday – was focused on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone in Eastern Ukraine.

Before the meeting started, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had said that achieving a ceasefire was significant. Thousands of people have been killed and indisposed in the fighting.

Russia has been accused of arming and reinforcing pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine, a claim That was denied.  The talks are set to focus on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone.

The Ukrainian and Russian presidents barely looked at each other when they were forced to shake hands. At a family photo of the leaders, not a single person was smiling. There was even an image of Vladimir Putin inside the negotiations snapping a pencil in two.

Heavy shelling was reported in the rebel-held city of Luhansk; by a freelance reporter, Pierre Sautreuil, (in French) that a rebel military base seemed to be the target of one bombardment in the south-east of the city.

Mr Poroshenko had earlier said that the situation threatened to spin “out of control” if the parties did not agree to ceasefire.

The Ukrainian warned that his government was prepared to impose martial law, adding that the Minsk summit was one of the final chances to bring about an unconditional ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.

US President Barack Obama has refused to rule out supplying “lethal defensive weapons” to Kiev if diplomacy fails, but Russia says that would worsen the crisis.

Idris Elba, International Footballers Launch Campaign Against Ebola

Idris ElbaA public awareness campaign was launched on Wednesday, December 3, by international football stars and the British actor, Idris Elba.

It’s focus is to put an end to West Africa’s Ebola epidemic and to show to the health workers fighting the disease, that they are being recognized.

Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia are countries that have been most affected by the Ebola epidemic with a record of more than 6,000 people dead.

The British Actor, Idris Elba, whose parents hail from Sierra Leone and Ghana, said ”For me, the battle against Ebola is a personal one. To see those amazing countries in West Africa where my father grew up and my parents married being ravaged by this disease is painful and horrific.”

The Africa United campaign, unveiled ahead of the African Cup of Nations draw in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo on Wednesday, broadcasts information on the disease and how to stop it spreading in French, English, Krio and other local languages.

Messages would be sent out to the three countries and their neighbours via television, radio, billboards and phone text messages, said organizers.

The campaign was backed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation.

In one of the campaign’s spots, Elba plays a football coach giving a half-time talk during West Africa’s “life or death” match against Ebola and passing on tips on how to spot the disease and prevent new infections.

Footballers Yaya Touré, Carlton Cole, Fabrice Muamba, Andros Townsend, Kei Kamara and Patrick Vieira pay homage to the work of frontline healthcare workers by wearing their names on the backs of their jerseys.

Manchester City midfielder, Touré hails from Ivory Coast, which shares borders with three countries hit by the disease but has so far been spared.

Touré said, “I could not sit back without doing something to help fight Ebola, the campaign pays tribute to the many African heroes who are in the villages, towns and cities using their skills, resourcefulness and intelligence to battle Ebola.”

French Troops Free Five Aid Workers Kidnapped In Mali

Handout photo of French troops boarding a transport plane in Ndjamena, ChadFrench troops in Mali on Thursday freed five local aid workers kidnapped in February, the French and Malian governments said, killing about a dozen of their captors in the process.

Land and air forces were deployed in the rescue mission, which targeted the kidnappers’ two pick-up trucks in the remote desert region North of Timbuktu, a spokesman at Central Command of French Armed Forces, Colonel Pascal Georgin said.

“About a dozen among the group of kidnappers were killed”, he said.

Two of the aid workers were hit by bullets during the operation and were receiving medical care for minor injuries at a Gao military hospital, according to a Malian employee for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Four of the aid workers belonged to the organization and the employee named them as Filipe Diarra, Ousmane El Ansary, Youssouf Ag Rissa and Amikal Ag Handaka. The fifth was a volunteer for the same organization.

“We are relieved at this happy outcome for our team. For the families, who were immediately informed, it’s the end of the ordeal,” said Christoph Luedi, head of the Malian ICRC branch.

The group had been travelling on a remote road between Kidal and Gao on February 8 when their truck was seized.

It was not clear at the time who abducted the aid workers and a statement issued on Thursday by the French and Malian presidencies did not give any further details, beyond saying they had been captured by a “terrorist group”.

France sent troops into its former colony in early 2013 to drive out al Qaeda-linked Islamic militants after they took control of the desert North.

Despite the presence of French and U.N. peacekeepers, small pockets of fighters continue to carry out sporadic attacks in the vast, landlocked country.

In an incident that underscored the ongoing security risks, two French radio journalists working in the northern city of Kidal were abducted and killed in November.

Car Bombs Kill At Least Eight At Libya Army Academy In Benghazi

Libya BombSeveral car bombs exploded at a Libyan Army academy in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday (March 17), killing at least eight people and wounding more than a dozen, hospital sources and a security official said.

A first bomb exploded at the academy’s front gate as people were leaving a graduation ceremony, security officials said. One or two other bombs exploded almost at the same time, wounding at least 13 people.

No group claimed responsibility for the bombing in Benghazi, where Libyan armed forces have been battling militants from hardline Islamist groups such as Ansar al Sharia, listed as a foreign terrorist organisation by Washington.

Instability in the eastern city is just part of the struggle a weak central government faces in controlling armed groups, militias and brigades of former rebels who once battled Muammar Gaddafi and now refuse to disarm.

Most countries have closed their consulates in Benghazi and some foreign airlines have stopped flying there since the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in an Islamist militant attack in September 2012.

Unknown gunmen killed a French citizen earlier in March, while police found seven Egyptian Christians shot dead execution-style on a beach outside Benghazi, home to several oil firms. No one has claimed responsibility for that killing.

An American schoolteacher was also killed by gunmen in December. Western diplomats are concerned the violence in Benghazi will spill over to the capital, Tripoli.

Nigerian Players Crash Out Of Singles Event At ITTF World Tour In Kuwait

Nigerian duo of Aruna Quadri and Kazeem Makanjuola have crashed out of the men’s singles event at the ongoing International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour tagged Kuwait Open.

Makanjuola was the first to say goodbye to the tournament after failing to win a game in his two matches against his French and Portuguese counterparts. The debutant at the ITTF World Tour lost to Frenchman Benjamin Brossier 5-11, 9-11, 8-11, 5-11, and suffered another defeat against Portugal’s Joao Monteiro 10-12, 7-11, 6-11, 7-11

Portugal-based Aruna Quadri started his campaign in group nine with a 13-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6 win over Egypt’s Mohamed Elsobky but failed to progress after losing to Russia’s Alexey Liventsov 11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 to exit the singles event.

Winner of the Lagos Table Tennis International Classics, Egypt’s Omar Assar could not advance to the main draw after a narrow loss to Singapore’s Zhaoxu Xin in an encounter that ended 11-9, 5-11, 11-4, 9-11, 7-11, 11-5, 9-11 having recorded a 4-2 win over Korea’s Chan-Hyeok Park in his first group match.

The only African player flying in the men’s singles is Egypt’s Ahmed Saleh, who won his two matches to seal a place in the last 64.

Speaking after his exit, Quadri admitted that he played well but that his opponent was more tactical in his approach to the game.

“Nothing went wrong during the match because I played better than  the first game that I won. I want to say that there was so much difference when compared to my performance in this same tour three years  ago. My opponent did not win an easy point. Before I used to have  difficult in receiving service but this year I was able to overcome  this. I hope to do better at the Qatar Open next week,” Quadri said.

The Nigerian representatives will be hoping for a better outing in the men’s doubles.

French, Niger troops kill Islamists holding out at Niger base

French special forces and Niger troops shot dead on Friday the last two Islamists involved in a twin attack on a military base and a French uranium mine in Niger claimed by the mastermind of January’s mass hostage-taking in Algeria.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed veteran of al Qaeda’s North African operations, said in a statement that his Mulathameen brigade organised Thursday’s raids with the MUJWA militant group in retaliation for Niger’s role in a French-led war on Islamists in Mali.

The coordinated dawn attacks killed 24 soldiers and one civilian and damaged machinery at Areva’s (AREVA.PA) Somair mine in the remote town of Arlit, a key supplier of uranium to France’s nuclear power program. The attacks raised fears that Mali’s conflict could spread to neighboring West African states and brought an Islamist threat closer to France’s economic interests.

Niger’s government said French special forces had helped to end the resistance of two Islamists fighters who were holed up inside the army barracks in the desert town of Agadez early on Friday.

“Niger is more determined that ever to fight terrorism in all its forms,” the government spokesman, Justice Minister Amadou Marou, told state television.

He said a total of 10 Islamists died in the attacks: eight in Agadez and two in Arlit. “The government reassures national and international opinion that every step is being taken to protect people and property across the whole of the country.”

Two military cadets were killed by the cornered Islamists, the minister said. However, a military source, asking not to be identified, said the cadets were shot dead in Friday’s raid.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television that special forces had intervened at the request of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou. France stationed special forces in northern Niger to help protect its desert uranium mines, which provide a fifth of the fuel for France’s nuclear reactors.

Niger has emerged as a firm ally of France and the United States in the fight against al Qaeda-linked groups in the Sahel. It has deployed 650 troops in neighboring Mali and sought to shut its porous desert borders to Islamist groups that are thought to have shifted their bases to southern Libya.

Belmokhtar, signing his statement with his pseudonym Khalid Abu al-Abbas, said the raids were a response to Issoufou’s public claims that the Islamists had been defeated in Mali.

“We will have more operations by the strength and power of Allah and not only that, but we will move the battle to inside his country if he doesn’t withdraw his mercenary army,” the communique, whose authenticity could not be verified, said.