Egypt Independent: World-Main news en France opens Iraq conference urging 'global' fight on jihadists <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>French President Francois Hollande called on Monday for united international action to tackle the threat from Islamic State militants as he opened a conference on Iraq bringing together members of a US-led coalition.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The United States this week unveiled an outline plan to fight the Islamist militants simultaneously in Iraq and Syria. It believes it can forge a solid alliance despite hesitancy among some partners and questions over the legality of action, notably in Syria where the militant group has a power base.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;What is the threat?&quot; the French leader said as he opened the one-day meeting of officials from some 30 states in Paris.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It is global so the response must be global ... Iraq&#39;s fight against the terrorists is also our fight. We must commit ourselves together - that is the purpose of this conference,&quot; said Hollande, who last week traveled to Baghdad to meet members of Iraq&#39;s new government.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Iraqi President Fuad Masum said he hoped the Paris meeting would bring a &quot;quick response&quot; to jihadists who have declared a caliphate or Islamic state ruled under Sharia law in the heart of the Middle East.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Islamic State&#39;s doctrine is either you support us or kill us&lrm;. It has committed massacres and genocidal crimes and ethnic purification,&quot; he told delegates.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Foreign ministers from the main European states, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Iraq&rsquo;s neighbors and Gulf Arab states Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, gathered to discuss political, security and humanitarian aspects of tackling Islamic State.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Iran, which is highly influential in its neighbor Iraq, is not attending the conference.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We wanted a consensus among countries over Iran&#39;s attendance, but in the end it was more important to have certain Arab states than Iran,&quot; a French diplomat said, signaling that Saudi Arabia had not been keen on Tehran coming.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>French officials say the coalition plan must go beyond military and humanitarian action, arguing there must also be a political plan for once Islamic State has been weakened in Iraq.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>They argue that the 2003 US-led intervention in Iraq, in which Paris did not participate, ultimately contributed to the current crisis because it lacked a long-term vision for the different strands of Iraqi society.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>No Free Pass</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>France has said it is ready to join US air strikes in Iraq but says legal and military limitations make it more difficult in Syria, where Islamic State&#39;s main powerbase lies.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Earlier, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said French aircraft would begin reconnaissance flights over Iraq on Monday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We told the Iraqis we were available and asked them for authorization (to fly over Iraq),&quot; Fabius told France Inter radio, confirming that the first flights from a French base in Abu Dhabi would begin on Monday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The cost of inaction would be to say to these butchers &#39;go ahead, you have a free pass&#39;. We won&#39;t accept that,&quot; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A French official confirmed two Rafale fighter jets and a refueling aircraft had taken off on Monday for Iraq.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The idea of a coalition has been accepted in Western capitals and 10 Arab states, including regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday it was too early to say what tasks individual partners would take.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>US officials said several Arab countries have offered to join the United States in air strikes against Islamic State targets, but declined to say which countries made the offers.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Norwegian daily VG quoted Foreign Minister Boerge Brende as saying Oslo, which is at the Paris conference, was considering a military presence in Iraq.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;First and foremost we have said that there would an additional contribution to humanitarian work. But we are also considering whether we will, separately to the humanitarian help, also contribute with military capacity building,&quot; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;This could be training of personnel, but it will depend on the demand we get,&quot; he added.</div> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 09:29:00 +0000 Reuters 2438425 at sites/default/files/photo/2012/05/15/26837/french_president-elect_francois_hollande.jpg PM Cameron to make one of last Scotland visits before vote to try to keep UK intact <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>British Prime Minister David Cameron will make one of his final visits to Scotland later on Monday four days before a historic independence referendum to warn Scots a vote to leave the United Kingdom is a forever choice.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>With opinion polls suggesting the referendum remains too close to call, Cameron, the leader of the England-centric ruling Conservative party, is expected to try to appeal to Scots&#39; emotions by likening the four-nation UK to a family.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;There&#39;s no going back from this. No re-run. If Scotland votes &quot;yes&quot; the UK will split and we will go our separate ways forever,&quot; he is expected to say, according to advance extracts given to local media by his office.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Cameron is likely to repeat the anti-independence &quot;Better Together&quot; campaign&#39;s core message: That inside the UK Scotland can have the benefits of belonging to a larger more influential entity while enjoying an ever increasing measure of autonomy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He will make his intervention, expected during the second half of Monday, after David Beckham, the retired high-profile footballer, added his name to a petition of English celebrities who say they want the Scots to stay in the UK.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The celebrity group, &quot;Let&#39;s Stay Together&quot;, is organizing a public rally on Monday evening in London&#39;s Trafalgar Square to appeal to Scots not to break up the United Kingdom.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>On Sunday, thousands of independence supporters took to the streets of Scotland&#39;s largest city, Glasgow, as polls showed the rival camps running desperately close.</div> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 08:06:00 +0000 Reuters 2438422 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/05/09/484151/big_ben.jpg Video shows slaying of British aid worker <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Islamic State extremists released a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines, who was abducted in Syria last year, and British Prime Minister David Cameron late Saturday condemned his slaying as &quot;an act of pure evil.&quot;<br /><br />Cameron confirmed Haines&#39; death in a statement after the British Foreign Office had said earlier that it was &quot;working urgently to verify the video.&quot; Haines is the third Westerner beheaded in recent weeks by the Islamic State group, which has seized vast swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.<br /><br />&quot;This is a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker. It is an act of pure evil,&quot; Cameron said, adding that &quot;my heart goes out to the family of David Haines who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude throughout this ordeal.&quot;<br /><br />&quot;We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes,&quot; Cameron said.<br /><br />Cameron returned to his residence at 10 Downing Street shortly after midnight and is expected to chair a meeting of the government&#39;s emergency response committee early Sunday.<br /><br />The video emerged a day after Haines&#39; family issued a public plea late Friday urging his captors to contact them.<br /><br />The Foreign Office said it was offering Haines&#39; family &quot;every support possible. They ask to be left alone at this time.&quot;<br /><br />Islamic State militants recently beheaded two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and posted the videos online after the U.S. began launching airstrikes and humanitarian missions in August to aid waning Iraqi and Kurdish security forces in northern Iraq. The Islamic State group has also put out videos showing the beheading of Kurdish and Lebanese soldiers and the mass shooting of dozens of captured Syrian soldiers.<br /><br />At the end of the video showing the beheading of Sotloff, the Islamic State group threatened to kill Haines next and briefly showed him on camera.</p><div>The Egyptian foreign ministry condemned the murder of Haines considering it a barbaric and brutal act incompatible with the teachings of Islam and humanitarian and ethical rules.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The ministry emphasized the need for concerted and combined efforts by the international community to fight terrorism as a global phenomenon that aims to undermine stability, security and development in the world.</div><p><br />Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama issued a statement strongly condemning &quot;the barbaric murder&quot; of Haines by the Islamic State terrorist group.<br /><br />&quot;The United States stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve. We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region and the world,&quot; Obama said.<br /><br />On Wednesday, Obama gave a nationally televised speech outlining a potential military campaign to &quot;degrade and ultimately destroy&quot; the Islamic State militants that is likely to include training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels and Iraqi forces, providing intelligence, and expanding airstrikes against extremists in Iraq and potentially into Syria. Britain was among the initial group of countries joining the U.S.-led coalition to root out the Islamic State extremists.<br /><br />In the video showing Haines&#39; slaying, the group threatened to kill another British captive. Both British men were dressed in orange jumpsuits against an arid Syrian landscape, similar to that seen in the Foley and Sotloff videos.<br /><br />The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. terrorism watchdog, reported the video, which was also posted online by users associated with the Islamic State group.<br /><br />The video was entitled &quot;A Message to the Allies of America.&quot; Haines&#39; killer, who appeared to be the same masked man speaking with a British accent and brandishing a knife as in the previous videos, tells the British government that its alliance with the U.S. will only &quot;accelerate your destruction&quot; and will drag the British people into &quot;another bloody and unwinnable war&quot;.<br /><br />In the video, according to a transcript provided by SITE, Haines says that he holds Cameron &quot;entirely responsible for my execution&quot; because Britain has &quot;voluntarily entered into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic state.&quot;<br /><br />His killer says in the video that Haines was paying the price for Britain&#39;s decision to supply weapons to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who are battling the Islamic State group in northern Iraq. He references U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State fighters near the Haditha Dam in western Iraq, which the US began targeting on Sept. 7 &mdash; indicating that Haines&#39; killing took place sometime during the past week.<br /><br />The British government had managed to keep Haines&#39; kidnapping secret out of concern for his safety until the Sotloff beheading video identified him as a captive and the next victim.<br /><br />Late Friday, the family of Haines issued a public plea urging his captors to contact them.<br /><br />In a short statement released through Britain&#39;s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the family said: &quot;We are asking those holding David to make contact with us.&quot;<br /><br />Haines, 44, was abducted near a refugee camp in northern Syria in March 2013 while working for the French international aid agency ACTED which was helping thousands of Syrians displaced by the fighting between Syrian President Bashar Assad&#39;s forces and rebel groups, including the Islamic State, seeking to oust him. ACTED said in a statement earlier this month that Haines had worked with as an international aid worker since 1999, helping victims of conflict in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. Before heading to Syria, ACTED said Haines had worked in 2012 as a &quot;non-partisan unarmed civilian peace facilitator&quot; in South Sudan.<br /><br />Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the Islamic State group releases such videos because it has concluded that neither the American nor the European public has the stomach for a protracted conflict in which civilians are tortured and killed.<br /><br />&quot;Each video that&#39;s released, of course, is a propaganda coup, if you will,&quot; Rubin, a Pentagon official during the George W. Bush administration, told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday night.<br /><br />If the slaying of Haines took place in the last few days, Rubin said, the timing suggests that U.S. and other forces have no idea where the extremists are keeping their captives and that, in turn, means a lack of intelligence about what goes on within the group itself.<br /><br />Mike Haines said in a statement issued by the Foreign Office that his brother was devoted to humanitarian work.<br /><br />&quot;David was most alive and enthusiastic in his humanitarian roles,&quot; Mike Haines said. &quot;His joy and anticipation for the work he went to do in Syria is for myself and family the most important element of this whole sad affair. He was and is loved by all his family and will be missed terribly.&quot;<br /><br />British media have reported that Haines, who is married to a Croatian woman, was educated in Perth, Scotland and spent 11 years serving in the British Royal Air Force before becoming an international aid worker. Britain&#39;s Press Association said Haines had a teenage daughter in Scotland from a previous marriage and a 4-year-old daughter from his present marriage.</p> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 09:16:00 +0000 AP,DPA 2438414 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/06/20/484151/volunteer_fighters.jpeg Britain says European leaders ready to push ahead with Russia sanctions <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>European leaders spoke early on Thursday and agreed to push ahead with a package of sanctions against Russia by the end of the week, due to its aggression towards Ukraine, British Prime Minister David Cameron&#39;s spokesman said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;This morning the prime minister took part in a joint call with several fellow European leaders; president (Herman) Van Rompuy, Chancellor (Angela) Merkel, president (Francois) Hollande and prime minister (Matteo) Renzi,&quot; Cameron&#39;s spokesman told reporters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;(They spoke) to discuss the subject of sanctions against Russia in the context of Ukraine and agreement to proceed with the implementation of the sanction package that was agreed earlier in the week.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Sanctions come into force when published in the official journal of the European Commission. &quot;They were in agreement it should be published by the end of the week,&quot; the spokesman said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>EU diplomats had said on Wednesday that while Germany was pushing to have the sanctions implemented, several other EU countries had wanted to hold off because a ceasefire in Ukraine was holding.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The focus of the call was all about how sanctions and the fact that you have had this increasing ratchet of sanctions has been working and that is why it is important these sanctions go ahead and are implemented,&quot; Cameron&#39;s spokesman said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;If Russia genuinely reverses course then of course European Union and others will return to the subject but there unfortunately has been very little evidence so far and that is why you have the European Union going ahead.&quot;</div> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 13:26:00 +0000 Reuters 2438402 at sites/default/files/photo/2012/10/13/156431/eu_flags.jpeg