US Envoy on Mideast Tour to Coordinate Efforts on Iran

US special envoy to Iran Rob Malley (AP)
US special envoy to Iran Rob Malley (AP)
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US Envoy on Mideast Tour to Coordinate Efforts on Iran

US special envoy to Iran Rob Malley (AP)
US special envoy to Iran Rob Malley (AP)

US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley will travel to the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain Nov. 11-20 to coordinate efforts ahead of fresh talks about reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Malley will lead a joint team among a number of US federal agencies, 9 days before the “5 + 1 group" of the permanent members of the Security Council meet in Vienna to get Washington and Tehran to resume compliance with the nuclear deal, under which Iran restrained its nuclear program in return for relief from US, EU and UN sanctions.

A statement released by the US State Department on Thursday, said Malley “will coordinate our approaches on a broad range of concerns with Iran, including its destabilizing activities in the region and the upcoming seventh round of talks on a mutual return to full compliance with the (deal)," referring to the Nov. 29 resumption of indirect US-Iran talks.

Malley’s trip will be his first to Israel as a member of the Biden administration. He has met several times with Israeli officials in Washington. He is one of the original architects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but has rarely appeared face-to-face with Israeli officials on this issue, given Israel's strong opposition to the deal.

Malley last spoke publicly on efforts to revive the JCPOA last month when he told reporters that Iran’s explanations for staying away from nuclear talks in Vienna are “running out.”

Days after, Iran announced readiness to resume negotiations on Nov. 29, after a five-months hiatus due to the elections that brought hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to power.

US President Joe Biden said he was ready to resume the nuclear agreement talks, under which Iran agreed to strict limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for comprehensive sanctions relief.

Iran wants a lifting of the US sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump after withdrawing from the deal in 2018.

The Biden administration says it will only negotiate actions taken by Trump on the nuclear program, not the steps imposed on other concerns such as human rights.



Biden Says Request for War Crimes Arrest Warrant for Israeli Leaders Is ‘Outrageous’

US President Joe Biden delivers a commencement address during Morehouse College's graduation ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
US President Joe Biden delivers a commencement address during Morehouse College's graduation ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
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Biden Says Request for War Crimes Arrest Warrant for Israeli Leaders Is ‘Outrageous’

US President Joe Biden delivers a commencement address during Morehouse College's graduation ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
US President Joe Biden delivers a commencement address during Morehouse College's graduation ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia on May 19, 2024. (AFP)

President Joe Biden on Monday condemned as “outrageous” an attempt by the chief prosecutor of the world’s top war crimes to seek arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with those of Hamas over actions taken during their seven-month war.

In a sharply worded statement, Biden rejected the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor's to seek the arrest of Netanyahu and Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant, saying “whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas."

“We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security,” Biden added.

The court’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, accused Netanyahu, Gallant, and three Hamas leaders — Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

A panel of three judges will decide whether to issue the arrest warrants and allow a case to proceed.


US Expresses Condolences for Death of Iranian President

Men hang a huge portrait of Iran's late President Ebrahim Raisi outside the Iranian embassy in Baghdad during a condolences service on May 20, 2024 for the president and his entourage, who were killed in a helicopter crash in Iran the previous day. (AFP)
Men hang a huge portrait of Iran's late President Ebrahim Raisi outside the Iranian embassy in Baghdad during a condolences service on May 20, 2024 for the president and his entourage, who were killed in a helicopter crash in Iran the previous day. (AFP)
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US Expresses Condolences for Death of Iranian President

Men hang a huge portrait of Iran's late President Ebrahim Raisi outside the Iranian embassy in Baghdad during a condolences service on May 20, 2024 for the president and his entourage, who were killed in a helicopter crash in Iran the previous day. (AFP)
Men hang a huge portrait of Iran's late President Ebrahim Raisi outside the Iranian embassy in Baghdad during a condolences service on May 20, 2024 for the president and his entourage, who were killed in a helicopter crash in Iran the previous day. (AFP)

The United States expressed its "official condolences" Monday for the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in a helicopter crash, the State Department said.

"As Iran selects a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms," department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he did not have insight into the cause of the helicopter crash that killed Raisi, adding that he did not necessarily see any broader impact on regional security.

"I can't speculate on what may have been the cause," Austin told reporters. 


Cohen Acknowledges Stealing from Trump at Hush Money Trial

 Michael Cohen is cross examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche during former US President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, US, May 20, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters)
Michael Cohen is cross examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche during former US President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, US, May 20, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters)
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Cohen Acknowledges Stealing from Trump at Hush Money Trial

 Michael Cohen is cross examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche during former US President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, US, May 20, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters)
Michael Cohen is cross examined by defense lawyer Todd Blanche during former US President Donald Trump's criminal trial on charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York City, US, May 20, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. (Reuters)

Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen testified on Monday that he stole money from Trump's company, an admission that could chip away at his credibility as a star witness at the former US president's hush money trial.

Questioned by Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche, Cohen acknowledged stealing from the Trump Organization by including a reimbursement to a technology company in his bonus package and pocketing most of the money.

"So you stole from the Trump Organization, right?" Blanche asked.

"Yes sir," Cohen, 57, testified.

Cohen said he paid roughly $20,000 of the $50,000 that Trump's company owed to the tech company in cash, handing it off in a brown paper bag at his office. He said he kept the rest. He was reimbursed $100,000 total by the Trump Organization for that payment.

Cohen is the final and most important witness for New York prosecutors as they seek to convince a jury that Trump broke the law by covering up a $130,000 payment that bought the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.

But as a convicted felon and admitted liar, Cohen is a problematic witness. Prosecutors have buttressed his testimony with documentary evidence, while Trump's lawyers have sought to undermine Cohen's credibility through his cross-examination.

After his testimony concludes, Trump's lawyers will have a chance to present evidence and witnesses of their own.

It was unclear whether Trump would take the witness stand. Defense lawyers often opt not to call witnesses or present their own evidence when they believe prosecutors have failed to make their case.

Though Trump said before the trial began that he planned to testify, Blanche told the judge last week that it was no longer certain. Outside the courtroom on Monday, Trump did not tell reporters whether he would testify or not.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS NEXT WEEK

At the outset of Monday's session, Justice Juan Merchan said he expected the prosecution and the defense to wrap up their presentations this week and make their closing arguments next week.

The first former president to face a criminal trial has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the payment to Daniels, who had threatened to go public with her account of an alleged 2006 sexual encounter - a liaison Trump denies.

Outside the courtroom, Trump, 77, has blasted the trial as a politically motivated effort to hobble his attempt to take back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election.

Inside the courtroom, Trump has sat at the defendant's table listening to Daniels tell her account of their time together in lurid detail. Other witnesses, including Cohen, have discussed efforts to bury unflattering stories at a time Trump faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehavior.

Trump's lawyers said last week they did not think they would need much time unless Trump opted to testify.

"That's another decision that we need to think through," Blanche said on Thursday, the last day the trial convened.

If he chooses to testify, Trump will have the opportunity to convince jurors that he was not responsible for the paperwork at the heart of the case, and rebut Daniels' detailed account of their meeting in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

He would not be restrained by a gag order that bars him in other settings from criticizing witnesses, jurors and relatives of the judge and prosecutors.

However, he would face cross-examination by prosecutors, who could try to expose inconsistencies in his story. Any lies told under oath could expose him to further criminal perjury charges.

Trump last appeared as a witness in a civil business-fraud trial last year, delivering defiant and rambling testimony that aggravated Justice Arthur Engoron, who was overseeing the case. Engoron would go on to order him to pay $355 million in penalties after finding he fraudulently overstated his net worth to dupe lenders.

The hush money trial is widely seen as the least consequential of the four criminal prosecutions Trump faces, but it is likely the only one to go to trial before the election. Trump faces charges in Washington and Georgia of trying to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden and charges in Florida of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House in 2021. He has pleaded not guilty in all three cases.


Pro-Palestinian Protesters at Drexel Ignore Call to Disband as Arrests Nationwide Approach 3,000

Pro-Palestinian protesters set up an encampment at the University of Drexel campus as they rally to mark the Nakba anniversary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 18, 2024. (AFP)
Pro-Palestinian protesters set up an encampment at the University of Drexel campus as they rally to mark the Nakba anniversary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 18, 2024. (AFP)
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Pro-Palestinian Protesters at Drexel Ignore Call to Disband as Arrests Nationwide Approach 3,000

Pro-Palestinian protesters set up an encampment at the University of Drexel campus as they rally to mark the Nakba anniversary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 18, 2024. (AFP)
Pro-Palestinian protesters set up an encampment at the University of Drexel campus as they rally to mark the Nakba anniversary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 18, 2024. (AFP)

Pro-Palestinian protesters ignored a request by Drexel University's president to disband their encampment on Monday as arrests linked to campus demonstrations against the Israel-Hamas war approached the 3,000 mark nationwide.

Drexel's campus remained on lockdown, with classes being held virtually as police kept watch over the demonstration on the school's Korman Quad. Many Drexel employees were told to work from home.

In a statement issued a day earlier, Drexel President John Fry said as many as 60 protesters were at the encampment, lambasting it as “intolerably disruptive to normal university operations." He said there were "serious concerns about the conduct of some participants, including distressing reports and images of protestors subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech, signs and chants.” Fry threatened disciplinary action against Drexel students participating in the protest.

The Drexel Palestine Coalition responded on Instagram late Sunday that “it is slander to accuse the encampment of ‘hateful’ or ‘intimidating' actions when we have done neither.” The group accused Drexel and city police of harassment and intimidation.

No arrests were reported.

Students and others have set up tent encampments on campuses around the country to press colleges to cut financial ties with Israel. Tensions over the war have been high on campuses since the fall but demonstrations spread quickly following an April 18 police crackdown on an encampment at Columbia University.

Nearly 3,000 people have been arrested on US campuses over the past month. As summer break approaches, there have been fewer new arrests and campuses have been calmer. Still, colleges have been vigilant for disruptions to commencement ceremonies.

The encampment at Drexel, which has about 22,000 students, was set up after several hundred demonstrators marched from Philadelphia’s City Hall to west Philadelphia on Saturday. Nearby, on the University of Pennsylvania campus, university and city police arrested 19 demonstrators Friday night, including six Penn students.

Elsewhere, dozens of George Washington University graduates walked out of commencement ceremonies at the base of the Washington Monument on Sunday, disrupting university President Ellen Granberg’s speech, while at Morehouse College in Atlanta, President Joe Biden told the graduating class that he heard the voices of protest, and had called for “an immediate ceasefire” in Gaza and the return of hostages taken by Hamas.

Wesleyan University in Connecticut said it has reached agreement with student protesters to review possible divestment, with meetings scheduled for later this month and in the fall. Wesleyan President Michael Roth announced the deal over the weekend and disclosed that 1.7% of Wesleyan’s endowment was invested in aerospace and defense businesses, but that none were directly involved in the manufacture of weapons. He said protesters had agreed to clear their encampment on Monday.

The latest Israel-Hamas war began when Hamas and other gunmen stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking an additional 250 hostage. Palestinian militants still hold about 100 captives, while Israel’s military has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants.


What We Know So Far about the Helicopter Crash That Killed Iran’s President and Others

A woman mourns the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran on May 20, 2024. (AFP)
A woman mourns the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran on May 20, 2024. (AFP)
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What We Know So Far about the Helicopter Crash That Killed Iran’s President and Others

A woman mourns the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran on May 20, 2024. (AFP)
A woman mourns the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran on May 20, 2024. (AFP)

The helicopter crash that killed Iran’s president and foreign minister has sent shock waves around the region.

Iranian state media on Monday said that President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and others had been found dead after an hourslong search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country’s northwest. State TV gave no immediate cause for the crash.

Here’s what we know so far.

WHO WAS ON BOARD AND WHERE WERE THEY GOING? The helicopter on Sunday was carrying Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Raisi was returning after traveling to Iran’s border with Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev when the crash occurred in the Dizmar forest in East Azerbaijan province.

IRNA said the crash killed eight people including three crew members aboard the Bell helicopter, which Iran purchased in the early 2000s.

HOW DID THE SEARCH OPERATION GO? Iranian officials said the mountainous, forested terrain and heavy fog impeded search-and-rescue operations, which continued overnight.

The president of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, said Sunday evening that 40 search teams were on the ground despite “challenging weather conditions.” Because of the bad weather, it was "impossible to conduct aerial searches” via drones, Koulivand said, according to IRNA.

It was not until early Monday that officials announced the helicopter had been found and all of its occupants were dead.

HOW WAS THE CRASH SITE FOUND? Early Monday, Turkish authorities released what they described as drone footage showing what appeared to be a fire in the wilderness that they “suspected to be wreckage of a helicopter.” The coordinates listed in the footage put the fire about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the Azerbaijan-Iranian border on the side of a steep mountain.

Footage released by IRNA showed what the agency described as the crash site, across a steep valley in a mountain range. Soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language said: “There it is, we found it.” Shortly after that, state TV in an on-screen scrolling text said: “There is no sign of life from people on board.”

HOW WILL RAISI'S DEATH IMPACT IRAN? Raisi was seen as a protege to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and a potential successor for his position within the country’s Shiite theocracy.

Under the Iranian constitution, if a president dies, the country’s first vice president — in this case, Mohammad Mokhber — would become president. Khamenei has publicly assured Iranians that there would be “no disruption to the operations of the country” as a result of the crash.

WHAT HAS INTERNATIONAL REACTION BEEN? After news broke of the search operation, countries including Russia, Iraq and Qatar made statements of concern about Raisi’s fate and offered to assist in the search.

Azerbaijani President Aliyev offered any support necessary. Relations between the two countries have been chilly due to Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, Iran's regional arch-enemy.

There was no immediate official reaction from Israel. Last month, following an Israeli strike on an Iranian consular building in Damascus that killed two Iranian generals, Tehran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. They were mostly shot down and tensions have apparently subsided.

The US, which has its own history of tensions with Tehran, also has yet to comment publicly on Raisi’s death.


Ship that Caused Deadly Baltimore Bridge Collapse to Be Refloated and Moved

FILE PHOTO: View of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, US, April 4, 2024. REUTERS/Nathan Howard/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: View of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, US, April 4, 2024. REUTERS/Nathan Howard/File Photo
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Ship that Caused Deadly Baltimore Bridge Collapse to Be Refloated and Moved

FILE PHOTO: View of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, US, April 4, 2024. REUTERS/Nathan Howard/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: View of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, US, April 4, 2024. REUTERS/Nathan Howard/File Photo

The container ship that caused the deadly collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge is scheduled to be refloated on Monday and moved to a nearby marine terminal.
The Dali has remained at the collapse site since it lost power and crashed into one of the bridge’s supporting columns on March 26, killing six construction workers and snarling traffic into Baltimore Harbor, The Associated Press said.
High tide Monday morning is expected to bring the best conditions for crews to start refloating and transit work on the ship, according to a statement from the Key Bridge Response Unified Command.
Up to five tugboats will escort the Dali on its 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) path to the marine terminal. The work is expected to last at least 21 hours.
Crews conducted a controlled demolition on May 13 to break down the largest remaining span of the collapsed bridge.
The Dali experienced four electrical blackouts within about 10 hours before leaving the Port of Baltimore for Sri Lanka and hitting the bridge, according to a preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.


Iran’s Mokhber Appointed President, Kani Becomes Acting FM

FILE PHOTO: Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber welcomes Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq (not pictured) upon his arrival at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran May 28, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber welcomes Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq (not pictured) upon his arrival at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran May 28, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
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Iran’s Mokhber Appointed President, Kani Becomes Acting FM

FILE PHOTO: Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber welcomes Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq (not pictured) upon his arrival at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran May 28, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber welcomes Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq (not pictured) upon his arrival at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran May 28, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iran’s supreme leader has appointed First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as the country’s acting president after a helicopter crash killed President Ebrahim Raisi.
Ali Khamenei made the announcement in a condolence message he shared for Raisi’s death in the crash Sunday. The helicopter was found Monday in northwestern Iran.
Khamenei also announced five days of mourning in the message.

Mokhber now has a maximum period of 50 days to hold elections, Iran's official news agency IRNA reported.

Iran's government cabinet also appointed on Monday Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani as acting foreign minister following the death of Hossein Amirabdollahian in the same helicopter crash.


World Leaders Express Condolences to Iran over President's Death

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi waves upon his arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 24 April 2024 (reissued 20 May 2024). EPA/CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi waves upon his arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 24 April 2024 (reissued 20 May 2024). EPA/CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE
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World Leaders Express Condolences to Iran over President's Death

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi waves upon his arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 24 April 2024 (reissued 20 May 2024). EPA/CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi waves upon his arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 24 April 2024 (reissued 20 May 2024). EPA/CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE

World leaders on Monday reacted to the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi who was killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain near Azerbaijan border.
Raisi, a hardliner long seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the country’s foreign minister and others have been found dead at the site of a helicopter crash Monday after an hourslong search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country’s northwest, state media reported. Raisi was 63.
Several world leaders reacted to his death, the following are reactions to the news:
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on X platform: "Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow."
Türkiye’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said: "From the first moment we heard of the accident, we have been in contact with the Iranian authorities and mobilized all means to assist (rescue) efforts. Relevant institutions including our Defense Ministry and AFAD disaster authority did their best but unfortunately we weren't able to hear good news," Fidan told a joint news conference on Monday with his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar in Islamabad.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan expressed his condolences saying Raisi was a "valuable colleague and brother".
"As a colleague who personally witnessed his efforts for the peace of the Iranian people and our region during his time in power, I remember Mr. Raisi with respect and gratitude," Erdogan said on social media platform X, adding Türkiye stood by Iran in this difficult time.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari in a statement also expressed shock and sorrow over Raisi's death. He extended his condolences to the bereaved families of the Iranian president, the foreign minister and others who died in the accident.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has announced a day of mourning over the death of Raisi.
“I along with the government and people of Pakistan, extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the Iranian nation on this terrible loss. May the martyred souls rest in heavenly peace. The great Iranian nation will overcome this tragedy with customary courage,” Sharif wrote on the social platform X on Monday.
Sharif recently hosted Raisi and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian when they visited Pakistan and said: “They were good friends of Pakistan."
The Chinese foreign ministry said that President Xi Jinping has expressed condolences over Raisi's death.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, said on X: “The European Union expresses its sincere condolences for the death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Abdollahian, as well as other members of their delegation and crew in a helicopter accident. Our thoughts go to the families."
Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement that Raisi and Abdollahian were known as "true, reliable friends of our country".
"Their role in strengthening mutually beneficial Russian-Iranian cooperation and trusting partnership is invaluable.
"We sincerely extend our condolences to the families and friends of the victims, as well as to the entire friendly people of Iran. Our thoughts and hearts are with you in this sad hour."
Japan’s government spokesperson, Yoshimasa Hayashi said that Japan expresses its deepest condolences to the government and people of Iran over the death of President Raisi and the foreign minister.


Protestors Block New Caledonia Roads as French Police Pour in

A burnt vehicle is seen in the Normandy industrial zone in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 20, 2024. (Photo by Theo Rouby / AFP)
A burnt vehicle is seen in the Normandy industrial zone in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 20, 2024. (Photo by Theo Rouby / AFP)
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Protestors Block New Caledonia Roads as French Police Pour in

A burnt vehicle is seen in the Normandy industrial zone in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 20, 2024. (Photo by Theo Rouby / AFP)
A burnt vehicle is seen in the Normandy industrial zone in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 20, 2024. (Photo by Theo Rouby / AFP)

A thousand police arrived in New Caledonia from France and streets were relatively calm, the French High Commission said on Monday, but roads were blocked and the airport remained shut, stranding tourists on the Pacific island after a week of riots.

The activist group organizing the protests in the French-ruled territory, Field Action Co-ordination Cell (CCAT), said in a statement on Monday blockades would continue, urging protestors to use a peaceful approach.

Roadblocks were making it difficult to supply food to stores in several areas and provide secure travel for medical staff, Reuters quoted New Caledonia government officials as saying.

"It's important to point out that the problem is not so much a lack of staff, medical and food supplies but more importantly an access problem," a government statement said.

France's top official in the territory, Louis Le Franc, said on Sunday evening a police operation to regain control of the road from the capital Noumea to the international airport would take several days. Gendarmes had dismantled 76 road blocks.
There are around 3,200 people stuck waiting to leave or enter New Caledonia as commercial flights have been cancelled due to the unrest that broke out last week, the local government said.
The protests were sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved in France that will change who is allowed to participate in elections, which local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.
Six people have been killed and the unrest has left a trail of burnt businesses, torched cars, looted shops, and road barricades, cutting off access to medicine and food.
Three of those killed were indigenous Kanak youths and two were police officers. A sixth person was killed on Saturday during a gun battle between two groups at a roadblock, French police said.
The business chamber said 150 companies had been looted and burnt.
Pro-independence political parties said they want the French government to withdraw the electoral reform before they restart talks.


New Taiwanese President Calls on China to Stop Its Threats

Taiwan's new President William Lai Ching-te (right) waves alongside outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen during the inauguration ceremony (Sam Yeh/ AFP)
Taiwan's new President William Lai Ching-te (right) waves alongside outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen during the inauguration ceremony (Sam Yeh/ AFP)
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New Taiwanese President Calls on China to Stop Its Threats

Taiwan's new President William Lai Ching-te (right) waves alongside outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen during the inauguration ceremony (Sam Yeh/ AFP)
Taiwan's new President William Lai Ching-te (right) waves alongside outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen during the inauguration ceremony (Sam Yeh/ AFP)

Taiwan President Lai Ching-te asked China on Monday to stop its military and political threats, saying in his inauguration speech that peace is the only choice and that Beijing had to respect the choice of the Taiwanese people.
Lai, addressing the crowd outside the Japanese-colonial-era presidential office in central Taipei, repeated a call for talks with China, which views the proudly democratic island as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing's control, Reuters said.
"I also want to urge China to stop intimidating Taiwan politically and militarily, and to take on the global responsibility with Taiwan to work hard on maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the region, to ensure the world is without the fear of war breaking out," he said. "We also want to declare this to the world: Taiwan makes no concessions on democracy and freedom. Peace is the only option and prosperity is our goal for long-term peace and stability."
There was no immediate reaction from China, which repeatedly called Lai a "separatist" risking war in the run-up to his election in January.
Taiwan has faced pressure from China, including regular air force and navy activities near the island, since the election victory by Lai, 64, who is widely known by his English name, William.
Lai, who took over from Tsai Ing-wen having served as her vice president for the past four years, said people must be realistic about the threat and Taiwan must show its determination to defend itself.
"Fellow citizens, we have the ideal to pursue peace, but we must not have illusions," he said. "Before China gives up using force to invade Taiwan, citizens must understand this: Even if we accept all of China's claims and give up our sovereignty, China's ambition to annex Taiwan will not disappear."
Lai received loud applause after reiterating that the Republic of China - Taiwan's formal name - and the People's Republic of China are "not subordinate to each other", a line Tsai also took.
Taiwan's defense ministry, in its daily report on Monday about Chinese military activities in the previous 24 hours, said six Chinese aircraft had crossed the Taiwan Strait's median line, which previously served as an unofficial boundary but that China says it does not recognise.
At least one of the aircraft got within 43 nautical miles (80 km) of the northern Taiwanese port city of Keelung, according to a map provided by the ministry.
In attendance at the ceremony are former US officials dispatched by President Joe Biden, lawmakers from countries including Japan, Germany and Canada, and leaders from some of the 12 countries that still maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, such as Paraguay President Santiago Pena.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Lai, saying the United States looked forward to working with him "to advance our shared interests and values, deepen our longstanding unofficial relationship, and maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait".
FIGHTER JETS AND SING-ALONGS
Taiwanese fighter jets flew in formation over Taipei after Lai's speech.
At the end of the ceremony, Lai and Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim, formerly Taiwan's de facto ambassador to the United States, led the crowd in a sing-along to pop songs as they danced onstage with the other performers.
Lai wore a purple tie, representing a butterfly native to Taiwan, and a yellow pin on his lapel of mustard flowers, a common plant in fields across the island.
He received seals symbolizing his presidential power from the parliament speaker, including the seal of Republic of China and the seal of honor, both brought to Taiwan after the Republican government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong's Communists.
Late Sunday, widely read state-backed Chinese newspaper the Global Times said Lai could become "more and more provocative" once he takes office.
"So in the long term, the state of cross-straits relations will not be optimistic," it said in an online commentary.
Lai's domestic challenges loom large too, given his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost its parliamentary majority in the January election.
On Friday, lawmakers punched, shoved and screamed at each other in a bitter dispute over parliamentary reforms the opposition is pushing. There could be more fighting on Tuesday when lawmakers resume their discussions.