Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Russia warns West not to blackmail it over Ukraine <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Russia blamed Kiev on Monday for a surge in fighting in Ukraine and warned the West that any attempt to increase economic pressure on Moscow would be &quot;absolutely destructive&quot; blackmail.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Pro-Moscow separatists, backed by what NATO says are Russian troops, have launched an offensive in southeastern Ukraine and President Barack Obama said Washington was considering all options short of military action to isolate Russia.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any Russian involvement in the fighting and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of whipping up anti-Russian hysteria to justify extending economic sanctions against Moscow.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Instead of increasing pressure on those who refuse to engage in dialogue to resolve the conflict peacefully, we see renewed talks about blackmailing Russia economically,&quot; RIA news agency quoted Peskov as saying.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Russia has never agreed with such threats and such threats and blackmail have never led to anything and never will ... renewed threats of increased economic pressure on Russia are an absolutely destructive, unjustified and ultimately short-sighted approach.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lavrov said the separatists in Ukraine were responding to attacks by government forces and the only way forward was through direct dialogue.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We see attempts to derail the peace process and attempts again and again by the Kiev leadership to solve the problem by using force to suppress the southeast. These attempts lead nowhere,&quot; Lavrov told a news conference.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The European Union has called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers of its 28 member states for Thursday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We expect our Western partners ... not to do anything that gives the Kiev authorities the impression that all their actions automatically will win support in the West,&quot; Lavrov said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He accused the West of &quot;chronic&quot; finger-pointing at Moscow over the Ukraine conflict, in which more than 5,000 people have been killed in more than nine months of fighting.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lavrov said it would have been naive to believe the separatists would accept being shelled by government forces without responding.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He said the rebels had started actions to &quot;eliminate the positions from which the Ukrainian armed forces had shelled populated areas with heavy weapons&quot;.</div> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:28:00 +0000 Reuters 2443232 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/09/08/94/tnzyl.jpg UN envoy Angelina Jolie urges end of suffering by Iraqi IS victims <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div><div>Hollywood star and United Nations envoy Angelina Jolie has urged world leaders to increase efforts in alleviating the suffering of victims of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where the group, rising to international prominance after entering the Syrian Civil War, continues to have growing influence.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Jolie, who became a special envoy to the UN Refugee Agency in 2012, made a visit on Sunday to Dohuk, Iraq where she spent her time &quot;visiting Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqi citizens in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to offer support to 3.3 million displaced people,&rdquo; the international body said on its website Sunday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The agency noted that the situation of refugees in the area has worsened since Jolie&rsquo;s last visit in 2012.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It is shocking to see how the humanitarian situation in Iraq has deteriorated since my last visit. On top of large numbers of Syrian refugees, two million Iraqis were displaced by violence in 2014 alone. Many of these innocent people have been uprooted multiple times as they seek safety amidst shifting frontlines,&quot; she said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Jolie added that &quot;nothing can prepare you for the horrific stories of these survivors of kidnap, abuse and exploitation and to see how they cannot all get the urgent help they need and deserve,&quot; stressing that much more international assistance is needed.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The UN counts that more than 3.8 million Syrians have fled domestic strife to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, while 7.6 million remain displaced inside their own country.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There are some 3.1 million internally displaced Iraqis, according to the UN, including a million having been displaced between 2003 and 2013 and 2.1 million in 2014.</div><div>&nbsp;</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:28:00 +0000 Egypt Independent 2443209 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/01/26/484151/5055a8c06.jpg Syriza could win outright majority as Greece rejects austerity <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of Greece">Greece</a>&#39;s leftwing Syriza appeared on course to trounce the ruling conservatives in Sunday&#39;s snap election and could win the absolute majority it wants to fight international creditors&#39; insistence on painful austerity measures.</p><p>Syriza was on course to win between 149-151 seats in the 300 seat parliament, with 36.5 percent of the vote, almost nine points ahead of the conservative New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, according to interior ministry projections, based on a partial count of the vote.</p><p>While a final result may not come for hours, 40-year-old Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras was set to become prime minister of the first<a href="" title="Full coverage of Euro Zone">euro zone</a>&nbsp;government openly opposed to bailout conditions imposed by European Union and International Monetary Fund during the economic crisis.</p><p>His expected victory raises the prospect of an immediate standoff with German Chancellor Angela Merkel&#39;s government and could raise questions over distribution of the next tranche of more than 7 billion euros (5.2 billion pounds) in outstanding international aid Greece needs in the next few months.</p><p>Tsipras&#39; campaign slogan &quot;Hope is coming!&quot; resonated with voters, weary of austerity after six years of constant crisis that has sent unemployment over 25 percent and threatened millions with poverty.</p><p>&quot;The vote is a &#39;No&#39; to unilateral austerity, a &#39;No&#39; to a Europe that they tried to turn into Merkel&#39;s punching bag,&quot; Syriza senior official Dimitris Papadimoulis said on Greece&#39;s Mega television.</p><p>With flag-waving supporters hitting the streets of Athens, some shedding tears of joy,&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of Germany">Germany</a>&#39;s Bundesbank warned Greece it needed to reform to tackle its economic problems and the euro fell nearly half a U.S. cent.</p><p>A Syriza spokesman said Samaras had called Tsipras to congratulate him on winning the vote.</p><p>A total of seven parties are set to enter parliament, including the far-right Golden Dawn, but the final result will depend heavily on votes still to be counted in Athens, which accounts for slightly under half of Greece&#39;s 11 million population.</p><p>Tsipras has promised to keep Greece in the euro and has toned down some of the fiery rhetoric for which he was known but his arrival in power would herald the biggest challenge to the approach so far adopted to the crisis by euro zone governments.</p><p>Financial markets have been worried a Syriza victory will trigger a new financial crisis in Greece, but the repercussions for the euro zone are expected to be far smaller than feared the last time Greeks went to the polls in 2012.</p><p>If Syriza ends up short of an absolute majority, Tsipras will have to try to form a coalition with smaller parties or reach an agreement that would allow Syriza to form a minority government with ad-hoc support from others in parliament.</p><p>Michalis Kariotoglou, an official from the pollsters that processed the results for the interior ministry, said the election had produced a &quot;thriller&quot;.</p><p>A number of parties could fit as potential partners, including the centrist To Potami or the anti-bailout Independent Greeks. However if it requires support to govern, it may find itself hostage to its partners&#39; demands, raising questions over how durable a Syriza government would prove.</p><p><strong>STANDOFF WITH BERLIN</strong></p><p>Coming after the European Central Bank&#39;s move to pump billions into the bloc&#39;s flagging economy, Sunday&#39;s result will stir consternation in Berlin, which insists the bailout deal must be respected.</p><p>Asked about the reminder of the need for reform from Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, Syriza spokesman Panos Skourletis told Greek television: &quot;It confirms the negotiations have already started.&quot;</p><p>Tsipras has promised to renegotiate a deal with the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund &quot;troika&quot; and write off much of Greece&#39;s 320 billion-euro debt, which at more than 175 percent of gross domestic product, is the world&#39;s second highest after&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of Japan">Japan</a>.</p><p>At the same time, he wants to roll back many of the harsh austerity measures demanded by the &quot;troika&quot;, raising the minimum wage, lowering power prices for poor families, cutting property taxes and reverse pension and public sector pay cuts.</p><p>U.S. investment bank J.P. Morgan said the result could weigh on markets but that it considered speculation over a possible Greek exit from the euro was &quot;a stretch&quot; and a negotiated deal appeared the most likely outcome.</p><p>It added: &quot;our base case remains that a Syriza government or Syriza-dominated coalition would alter its platform to retain troika financing.&quot;</p><p>Syriza officials have said they would seek a six-month &quot;truce&quot; putting the bailout programme due to end on Feb. 28 on hold while talks with creditors begin.</p><p>Greece, unable to tap the markets because of sky-high borrowing costs, has enough cash to meet its immediate funding needs for the next couple of months but it faces around 10 billion euros of debt repayments over the summer.</p><p>Without fresh cash, it will be unable to meet the payments, raising the spectre of an exit from the euro.</p><div>&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 22:57:00 +0000 Reuters 2443195 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/01/26/499612/syriza.jpg UN to hold new Libya talks, gunmen kidnap deputy foreign minister <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>A new round of talks between rival&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of Libya">Libya</a>n factions will take place in Geneva on Monday, the United Nations said, even as gunmen kidnapped the deputy foreign minister of the recognised government.</p><p>Nearly four years after a NATO-backed revolt ousted Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is in turmoil with two rival governments and two parliaments backed by armed factions who Western governments fear may drag the country into civil war.</p><p>The internationally-recognised government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and the elected House of Representatives have worked out of the east after one faction, Libya Dawn, took over Tripoli in the summer, set up its own government and reinstated the old parliament known as the GNC.</p><p>A delegation from the House of Representatives and parties allied to Tripoli attended a first round of talks in Switzerland this month, but major representatives from Libya Dawn and the General National Congress have not joined.</p><p>In a new push, the U.N. mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said two rounds of talks would take place this week in Switzerland. A first round pursing the &quot;main political track&quot; would convene on Monday followed by a second one gathering local councils.</p><p>&quot;UNSMIL plans to convene a number of other tracks at a later stage. These will include representatives from Libyan political parties, social and tribal forces, as well as the armed groups,&quot; it said in a statement.</p><p>The U.N. wants to form a national unity government but has said that smaller steps such as local ceasefires and prisoner exchanges would be a more realistic option to achieve first.</p><p>Last week, the GNC said it was suspending its participation in the talks it says should take place inside Libya, blaming the seizing of a central bank branch in Benghazi by Thinni&#39;s forces. Thinni&#39;s government has said the bank, which controls vital oil revenues, was only being secured.</p><p>The talks came as more violence shook the desert nation.</p><p>In Bayda, seat of the eastern government, gunmen kidnapped deputy foreign minister Hassan al-Saghir by snatching him from his hotel, interior minister Omar al-Zanki said.</p><p>In Benghazi, scene of a separate battle between army forces allied to Thinni and Islamists, 13 people were killed and 38 wounded during clashes in the al-Lithi district, medics and military officials aid.</p><p>Salim al-Naili, a special forces battalion commander, accused the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia of having shelled residential buildings. Critics have also accused Thinni&#39;s troops of causing casualties by using war planes inside the city.</p><p>The Tripoli-based government said in a statement five of its soldiers had been killed north of Sabha, the main city in the south, by former Gaddafi loyalists.</p> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 22:12:00 +0000 Reuters 2443193 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/09/20/484151/download_2.jpg