Turkey Pulling Troops Out of NATO Exercise, Erdogan Says; Stoltenberg Apologizes

 

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses to his ruling party's provincial leaders in Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 17, 2017.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses to his ruling party's provincial leaders in Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 17, 2017.

 

Turkey is pulling 40 soldiers out of a NATO exercise in Norway, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, after his name was included in a list of enemies on a poster at the drill, an incident that drew an apology from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Turkey has the second-largest army in the alliance and borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran, giving it great strategic importance for NATO. But the relationship has become fractious as Ankara drifts away from the alliance and the European Union, alarming the West.

Erdogan said an "enemy poster," featuring his name on one side and a picture of modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, on the other, was unfurled at the training exercise in Norway, prompting a decision by Turkey's military chief and European Union minister to pull the troops out.

"They said they had decided to pull our troops out and will do so, so we told them to not stop and go ahead ... take our 40 soldiers out of there," Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in Ankara.

Commenting on the incident at NATO's Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway, Stoltenberg said: "I apologize for the offense that has been caused."

"The incidents were the result of an individual's actions and do not reflect the views of NATO," he said in a written statement.

The individual involved, a civilian contractor seconded by Norway and not a NATO employee, was immediately removed from the exercise, Stoltenberg said. It would be up to the Norwegian authorities to decide on any disciplinary action, he said.

"Turkey is a valued NATO ally, which makes important contributions to Allied security," Stoltenberg added.

The Norwegian ministry of defense and the joint war center command both declined to comment.

Lebanon's Hariri Finds Himself Caught in Regional Feuds

A poster of resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri with Arabic that read, "We are all with you," hangs on a street in Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 13, 2017.

A poster of resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri with Arabic that read, "We are all with you," hangs on a street in Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 13, 2017.

 

Saad Hariri has seen a lot in his 47 years.

His father, Lebanon’s charismatic leader and influential businessman Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in a 2005 bombing that rocked the country and thrust the young man into a political career before he was ready.

He led an uprising that ended decades of Syrian military presence in Lebanon, and was later wanted by the government in Damascus for arming rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

He was ousted as prime minister by the militant group Hezbollah in 2011 while meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office; years later, he formed another unity government with the same group, which was implicated in his father’s death.

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2011 photo, President Barack Obama meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Hariri who resigned from Saudi Arabia nearly two weeks ago has been caught in the crossfire between the region’s two feuding powers - Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran.
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2011 photo, President Barack Obama meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Hariri who resigned from Saudi Arabia nearly two weeks ago has been caught in the crossfire between the region’s two feuding powers - Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran.

But the most bizarre twist came two weeks ago, when he was summoned to Riyadh by his patrons, the Saudi royal family. The next day, on Nov. 4, he resigned in a broadcast on Saudi TV.

The man who has played a balancing act for years in Lebanon’s delicate, sectarian-based political system was cast onto an unknown path, as was his country.

Hariri finds himself caught between the region’s two feuding powers, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, raising questions about the fate of the dynasty that has been the face of politics for decades in Lebanon.

“In many ways, Saad is a copy of Rafik Hariri, with the difference in circumstances,” said Paula Yacoubian, the Future TV anchor who interviewed Hariri on Sunday in his residence in Saudi Arabia, where many Lebanese believe he is being held against his will.

FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2017 photo, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2017 photo, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

His father was a self-made billionaire who amassed his construction fortune in Saudi Arabia and then helped rebuild a civil war-shattered Lebanon as prime minister. He was killed when his motorcade was struck by truck bomb in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005, and four Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia by a U.N.-backed court for the killing.

The bombing immediately thrust Saad Hariri — and the political novice had to learn fast.

With an international business degree from Georgetown University, he moved into his new role, but the shadow of his father was always there. For years during meetings, he kept a large portrait of his father sitting on an empty chair next to his. A pin of his father still adorns the lapel of his suits.

Like his father, he lives in fear of being assassinated, traveling around town in elaborate security convoys.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri gives a live TV interview in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday Nov. 12, 2017, saying he will return to his country “within days”.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri gives a live TV interview in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday Nov. 12, 2017, saying he will return to his country “within days”.


In his resignation speech from Riyadh, Hariri cited fears for his life as one reason for stepping down, in addition to blaming what he called meddling in the region by Iran and Hezbollah.

The resignation caught Lebanon by surprise, and many believed that Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi national, was coerced by the Saudis. Lebanese President Michel Aoun refused to accept it until he returned home to Beirut.

In Sunday’s interview of Hariri on Future TV, which is affiliated with his party, Yacoubian spent more than an hour trying to dispel speculation of coercion.

A sad and weary Hariri was emotional at times in the broadcast, appearing to hold back tears and sparking sympathy for him. But the interview did little to ease suspicions and only increased calls for his return.

Yacoubian said later that Hariri clearly seemed to be under pressure as he finds himself in a tough spot.

“Hariri is a kind man and politics sometimes needs foxes. ... He is a good man, that’s what he is. Maybe in politics you shouldn’t be that good,” she said.

The resignation, aiming to pressure coalition partner Hezbollah to stay out of regional affairs, instead has turned into a campaign for Hariri to return home and either formally resign or resume the job.

“If Hariri were a savvier politician, he could have used different words; he could have refused to resign, or insisted on doing so from Beirut,” wrote Lebanon expert Thanassis Cambanis in the Atlantic.

His resignation appears to have caused cracks within the family and the Future Movement he heads, as rumors circulate about possible replacements.

In many ways, the soft-spoken Hariri has always been a stranger to Lebanon’s intricate and sometimes violent politics.

Despite his wealth and sudden political fame, he has stayed humble, and comes across as affable and warm. At lunches with journalists, he is relaxed, but guarded, often receiving his own separate healthy menu of grilled chicken and vegetables, before lighting a long cigar over coffee and dessert. On social media, he often posts smiling selfies with journalists and politicians.

Runners compete in the Beirut Marathon, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Absent from the marathon this year is the outgoing PM Saad Hariri, a regular participant, who resigned from his post unexpectedly last week while in Saudi Arabia.
Runners compete in the Beirut Marathon, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Absent from the marathon this year is the outgoing PM Saad Hariri, a regular participant, who resigned from his post unexpectedly last week while in Saudi Arabia.

He ran in the annual Beirut Marathon and supported civil marriage, a popular cause stiffly rejected by conservative clergymen in Lebanon.

“I’m one of the people,” Hariri said in the interview, affectionately thanking them for calling for his return. “I'm my father’s son.”

While he was always critical of Hezbollah and Iran, he has found a way to work with them.

In 2009, a Saudi and Syrian rapprochement after years of tension from the elder Hariri’s assassination made it possible for the son to form a unity government. As part of easing strains, Saad Hariri had to meet Assad, whom he had accused of involvement in his father’s killing. Yacoubian, who has interviewed him five times, said it was the only other time besides Sunday that she detected he was tense.

In his first term as prime minister, Hariri served for over a year, filled with political stress arising from investigations into his father’s death, which at the time he blamed on the Syrian government.

In January 2010, Hezbollah ministers and their allies toppled Hariri’s government by resigning from the national unity Cabinet, rendering him a lame duck just as he met with Obama in Washington.

After the demonstrations against Assad turned into an armed rebellion, Syria issued a warrant for Hariri’s arrest in December 2011 on charges of providing weapons to the Sunni rebels.

For years, Hariri lived in self-imposed exile between Saudi Arabia and France, before he returned in 2016 to form a new unity government.

Lebanese newspapers with coverage of an interview with resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri hang at a newstand, in Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 13, 2017.
Lebanese newspapers with coverage of an interview with resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri hang at a newstand, in Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 13, 2017.

In an article in The New York Times in September 2016, months before taking office, Hariri urged Iran to stop meddling in Arab affairs. His rhetoric against Iran and Hezbollah was not much different from his defiant words in the Nov. 4 resignation from Saudi Arabia.

“Iran can be part of the solution. But it must accept the extended Arab hand, led by Saudi Arabia, for normalized, neighborly relations, allowing Sunni Arabs to get down to the real task of getting rid of extremism,” Hariri wrote.

In December 2016, another tacit agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran made Hariri prime minister again in a coalition government that included Hezbollah. It was yet another uneasy partnership that seemed to teeter on the edge of collapse, particularly as Hezbollah became more assertive in the region.

Still, in the days before he resigned, Hariri was enthusiastic about economic progress, tweeting and posting about parliamentary elections expected in the spring, and stressing the need for national unity above all else.

Hariri’s last meeting in Lebanon before he was summoned to Saudi Arabia was with an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader. Speculation has been rife that the meeting was the reason for Riyadh's surprise summoning. In the interview with Yacoubian, Hariri said he told Ali Akbar Velayati to end Iran’s meddling in Arab affairs.

His comment prompted a back and forth with Velayati. What is clear is that Hariri got caught between the region’s two feuding powers.

Hariri “wanted to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and we welcomed it,” Velayati said.

UN Panel Blasts North Korea for Building Nukes While Its People Starve

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as children eat during his visit to the Pyongyang Orphanage on International Children's Day in this undated photo, June 2, 2014.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as children eat during his visit to the Pyongyang Orphanage on International Children's Day in this undated photo, June 2, 2014.

 

A United Nations committee condemned North Korea Tuesday for building nuclear weapons and missiles while its population starves.

The European Union and Japan co-sponsored the resolution in the human rights committee. It passed by consensus and will go the General Assembly.

It condemns the North for “diverting its resources into pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles over the welfare of its people.”

Experts believe as many as 70 percent of North Koreans do not have enough food.

The resolution also strongly criticized Pyongyang for “gross human rights violations” including torture, executions without trials and arbitrary arrests.

The resolution also demands that North Korea provide detained foreign nationals with counselor access and communication with their families.

North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Ja Song Nam attends a G-77 Ministerial Meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 22, 2017.
North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Ja Song Nam attends a G-77 Ministerial Meeting at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 22, 2017.

North Korea's U.N. ambassador Ja Song Nam says his government “categorically rejects” the resolution, saying it is part of the “political and military confrontation, plot, and conspiracy of the United States and other hostile forces.”

Zimbabwe President, Wife In Custody As Military Takes Control of Capital

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, left, and his wife Grace chant the party's slogan during a solidarity rally in Harare, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, left, and his wife Grace chant the party's slogan during a solidarity rally in Harare, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.

 

Zimbabwe’s ruling party has claimed on social media that President Robert Mugabe and his family were detained Tuesday night in what increasingly looks like an attempt to depose longtime president.

“Last night the first family was detained and are safe, both for the constitution and the sanity of the nation this was necessary,” said the Wednesday morning Tweet, sent from the @zanu_pf handle. “Neither Zimbabwe nor ZANU are owned by Mugabe and his wife. Today begins a fresh new era and comrade Mnangagwa will help us achieve a better Zimbabwe.”

The Twitter account has previously been used to air the party’s beliefs, though it was not possible to independently verify the claims.

 

The tweet refers to recently deposed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mugabe last week accused of disloyalty and plotting to seize power. Mnangagwa’s whereabouts early Wednesday were unknown -- South African officials would not confirm rumors that he is in neighboring South Africa, although members of the powerful military veterans’ association told reporters last week that he was planning to come to South Africa after he fled Zimbabwe last week.

The claim adds to the military’s statement early Wednesday, delivered after soldiers took over state television, that the army is not carrying out a military takeover of the government and that Mugabe and his family are safe. However, the situation remained tense in the capital as Zimbabweans both inside and outside the country watched and wondered about the fate of the 93-year-old president, who has ruled the Southern African nation since 1980. In that time, the economy has all but collapsed and Zimbabwe has become a pariah state in the West over allegations of human rights abuses.

“We wish to make this abundantly clear this is not a military takeover of government,” army spokesman Maj. Gen. SB Moyo said in the early morning statement. “What the Zimbabwe defense forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which if not addressed may result in violent conflict.”

"We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice," he said.

The announcement followed witness reports of at least three explosions and heavy gunfire in the capital city of Harare early Wednesday.

Witnesses also said military vehicles and soldiers were on the streets early Wednesday, hours after soldiers took over state broadcaster ZBC. Local residents said instead of the usual 11 p.m. newscast, music videos were played instead.

Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 14, 2017.
Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 14, 2017.

A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Harare told VOA the streets appeared calm and had no confirmed sightings of military vehicles. The embassy warned Americans via its web site to "shelter in their residences" and work from home on Wednesday. They said the embassy will be minimally staffed and closed to the public.

The Canadian Embassy, via Twitter, reported “increased military activity in Harare” early Wednesday, but did not give details. The embassy, they said, will be closed Wednesday.

 

A State Department official said the United States "encourages all Zimbabweans to approach disputes calmly and peacefully while following democratic, transparent, and constitutional processes for resolving differences."

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe's ruling party accused the armed forces chief of "treasonable conduct" after he threatened to intervene in the country's political affairs.

The statement from the ZANU-PF party was released amid worries that the military might be taking action to oust Mugabe.

Witnesses Tuesday reported tanks and armed personnel carriers moving on roads outside the capital.

The current tension was sparked last week when Mugabe fired his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and accused him of disloyalty and plotting to seize power. Many observers saw the move as a step toward the installation of Mugabe's wife, Grace Mugabe, as vice president. That would put the first lady in position to become president when her 93-year-old husband retires or dies.

Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe, center, walks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at a ceremony to rename Harare International airport to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.
Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe, center, walks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at a ceremony to rename Harare International airport to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.

At a Monday news conference, the head of Zimbabwe's armed forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, warned he would "step in" unless Mugabe stopped trying to purge the ruling ZANU-PF party of Mnangagwa supporters. Dozens have been arrested since the vice president was fired on November 5.

Tuesday's ZANU-PF statement, signed by party information secretary Simon Khaya Moyo, said Chiwenga's comments were "clearly calculated to disturb national peace and stability" and meant to "incite insurrection and violent challenge to the Constitutional Order."

Mnangagwa, 75, was seen for years as a likely successor to the president, and maintains strong backing in the army. Grace Mugabe, 52, has support in the party's youth wing and is believed to have engineered the firing of another vice president, Joice Mujuru, in 2014.

Sebastian Mhofu in Harare contributed to this report

Macron Unveils Plan to Boost French Youth, Fight Extremism

French President Emmanuel Macron poses with employees during a visit to the Plaine Images industry hub in Tourcoing, northern France, Nov. 14, 2017.

French President Emmanuel Macron poses with employees during a visit to the Plaine Images industry hub in Tourcoing, northern France, Nov. 14, 2017.

 

President Emmanuel Macron says the French government itself fueled homegrown Islamic extremism by abandoning its poorest neighborhoods — and he’s promising tough and “sometimes authoritarian” new measures to combat radicalization.

Macron unveiled a multibillion-euro plan Tuesday to help France’s troubled banlieues — suburban regions where crime flourishes and job opportunities are scant, especially for minorities with origins in former French colonies.

More than 5 million people live in France’s poorest neighborhoods, where unemployment is 25 percent — well above the nearly 10 percent national average. For those under 30, the prospects are even worse — more than a third are officially unemployed.

Macron’s answer is to provide grants for poor youths to launch startups, double the funding for public housing, expand child care, improve public transport in isolated or poor neighborhoods, offer subsidies for companies that hire disadvantaged youth and hire more local police officers.

French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with a resident next to French Minister of Public Action and Accounts Gerald Darmanin, second right, during a visit to Tourcoing, Nov. 14, 2017.
French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with a resident next to French Minister of Public Action and Accounts Gerald Darmanin, second right, during a visit to Tourcoing, Nov. 14, 2017.

Macron’s predecessors also spent billions to try to fix the banlieues, and failed. But he’s undeterred, and says the stakes are increasingly high.

“Radicalization took root because the state checked out” and abdicated its responsibilities in impoverished neighborhoods, Macron said — leaving extremist preachers to fill the void.

Radical recruiters argued “I will take care of your children, I will take care of your parents ... I will propose the help that the nation is no longer offering,” Macron said.

Several extremist attackers who have targeted France in recent years were raised in troubled French social housing. The head of domestic French intelligence agency DGSI, Laurent Nunez, said Tuesday that nearly 18,000 people in France are on radicalism watch lists, a growing number.

Macron said his government will present about 15 measures to fight radicalization and will close “unacceptable structures” that promote extremism and “try to fracture us.”

Macron spent three hours Monday talking to residents in Clichy-sous-Bois, a Paris suburb where the death of two boys fleeing police led to weeks of nationwide riots in 2005, an eruption of anger over discrimination, isolation and joblessness.

French President Emmanuel Macron, center, meets residents of the Cite du Chene Pointu during his visit focused on the theme of urban planing in Clichy-sous-Bois, Nov. 13, 2017.
French President Emmanuel Macron, center, meets residents of the Cite du Chene Pointu during his visit focused on the theme of urban planing in Clichy-sous-Bois, Nov. 13, 2017.

On Tuesday, he visited Tourcoing in northern France, taking selfies with residents and promoting local technology entrepreneurs.

Labeled by critics as the “president of the rich” for his business-friendly economic vision, Macron insisted Tuesday that his strategy will only succeed if companies hire minorities and the poor.

He promised measures to name and shame companies found to discriminate when hiring, to ensure help for teenagers seeking internships, and to include poor youths in French technology incubators.

Some proposals are small but significant, such as state aid to keep libraries open later, so young people have a safe place to be after dark in dangerous neighborhoods.

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