Australia Says Chinese Spy Ship’s Presence off West Coast ‘Concerning’

The People's Liberation Army-Navy's (PLA-N) Intelligence Collection Vessel Haiwangxing is pictured operating near the coast of Australia in this handout image released May 13, 2022. (Australian Department of Defense/Handout via Reuters)
The People's Liberation Army-Navy's (PLA-N) Intelligence Collection Vessel Haiwangxing is pictured operating near the coast of Australia in this handout image released May 13, 2022. (Australian Department of Defense/Handout via Reuters)
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Australia Says Chinese Spy Ship’s Presence off West Coast ‘Concerning’

The People's Liberation Army-Navy's (PLA-N) Intelligence Collection Vessel Haiwangxing is pictured operating near the coast of Australia in this handout image released May 13, 2022. (Australian Department of Defense/Handout via Reuters)
The People's Liberation Army-Navy's (PLA-N) Intelligence Collection Vessel Haiwangxing is pictured operating near the coast of Australia in this handout image released May 13, 2022. (Australian Department of Defense/Handout via Reuters)

A Chinese intelligence ship was tracked off Australia's west coast within 50 nautical miles of a sensitive defense facility, Australia said on Friday, raising concern amid an election campaign about China's assertive behavior in the region.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Chinese navy vessel was not in Australian territorial waters but its presence was "concerning".

"It is clearly an intelligence ship and they are looking at us and we're keeping a close eye on them," he told reporters.

Australia had tracked the spy ship over the past week as it sailed past the Harold E Holt naval communications station at Exmouth, which is used by Australian, US and allied submarines.

China's embassy in Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Australia holds a general election on May 21 and the question of a national security threat posed by China has been a major campaign theme.

"I think it is an act of aggression. I think particularly because it has come so far south," Defense Minister Peter Dutton told a news conference.

"It has been in close proximity to military and intelligence installations on the west coast of Australia."

Relations between the two major trading partners have been strained in recent years over various issues including Chinese influence in Australia and the Pacific region.

Dutton questioned the "strange timing" of the vessel's appearance although Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews declined link it to the election campaign and Morrison said Chinese navy vessels had been off the Australian coast previously.

The opposition Labor Party said it was seeking a briefing from the government.

Chinese navy vessels have been tracked off Australia's north and eastern coasts several times in recent years, and the same Chinese vessel monitored Australian navy exercises with the US military off the east coast last year.

In February, China and Australia exchanged accusations over an incident in which Australia said one of its maritime patrol aircraft detected a laser directed at it from a People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) vessel.

On the latest incident, Australia's defense department said in a statement the Dongdiao Class Auxiliary Intelligence ship named Haiwangxing traveled down the west coast, crossing into Australia's Economic Exclusion Zone on May 6, and coming within 50 nautical miles of the communications station on May 11.

"I certainly don't believe that when you take it together with the many other coercive acts and the many statements that have been made which have been attacking Australia's national interests, you could describe it as an act of bridge building or friendship," Morrison said.



Netanyahu Divides Families of Hamas Captives to Weaken Pressure

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with families of Israeli captives held by Hamas (dpa)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with families of Israeli captives held by Hamas (dpa)
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Netanyahu Divides Families of Hamas Captives to Weaken Pressure

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with families of Israeli captives held by Hamas (dpa)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with families of Israeli captives held by Hamas (dpa)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has successfully divided the protest movement organized by the families of Israeli captives held by Hamas to alleviate their pressure.
Through a network of assistants, supporters, and campaign financiers, Netanyahu established a new movement named Tikva, advocating for the continuation of military operations in the Gaza Strip until the liberation of the Israeli captives and avoiding negotiations with Hamas.
The new movement was announced on Sunday as a strategy to alleviate the pressure from the large-scale demonstrations and firm demands of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.
The Forum called for an immediate end to the war and negotiations for a prisoner exchange with Hamas.
They threatened a hunger strike and planned to appeal to US President Joe Biden to represent them in negotiations.
Netanyahu is reportedly disturbed by these demonstrations, which portray him as indifferent to the lives of citizens and captive soldiers.
Although he did not attack the protestors publicly, Netanyahu has been sharply critical in private circles.
Netanyahu created divisions among these families since the war began, but his supporters remained a small, ineffective minority.
Well-funded professional entities have formed a significant and active movement, organizing meetings and campaigns in Israel and abroad to counter the Forum.
They promote the idea that freeing the captives should only be achieved through military pressure on Hamas and accuse those advocating for negotiations of aiding the enemy.
The founding document considers partial deals with Hamas as discriminatory against soldiers killed in action, labeling it a grave injustice to the fighters.
Zvika Mor, a father of a captive and a member of the Likud party, argued in a radio interview that the Hostages and Missing Families Forum spreads a defeatist attitude among the people and soldiers.
He emphasized that the majority of Israelis reject negotiations with Hamas and support the army's plan to liberate captives forcefully.
Eliyahu Libman, council chairman of Kiryat Arba in the West Bank, asserted that Israel needs to demonstrate it was solid and united, rejecting negotiations with Hamas.
Libman's son, Elyakim, is among the captives of Hamas.
Meanwhile, the Forum asserted that this new movement represents a politically-motivated minority with few hostages.
They said they would sacrifice their children for the Prime Minister's failing policies.
They believe the majority of families and Israelis want the government to prioritize the captives' issue and ceasefire until all are freed.
According to the economic newspaper Calcalist, the new movement was initiated by Berale Crombie, a businessman who funds Netanyahu's campaigns, channeling money through the Minister of Heritage, Amihai Eliyahu, via an association led by his brother.
Crombie, Netanyahu's prominent fundraiser, spearheaded the initiative aided by Shmuel Medad, chairman of the right-wing Honenu.
Medad, known for his aggressive stance at a recent meeting with Netanyahu and captive families, declared his readiness to sacrifice his daughter for Israel's victory over Hamas, although it was later revealed he had no daughter in captivity.


Russia Targets Kyiv with Ballistic Missiles. Ukraine Says It Intercepted All of Them

Ukrainian soldiers monitor the sky at their position in the Donetsk region, on December 10, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)
Ukrainian soldiers monitor the sky at their position in the Donetsk region, on December 10, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)
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Russia Targets Kyiv with Ballistic Missiles. Ukraine Says It Intercepted All of Them

Ukrainian soldiers monitor the sky at their position in the Donetsk region, on December 10, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)
Ukrainian soldiers monitor the sky at their position in the Donetsk region, on December 10, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)

Russia fired eight ballistic missiles at Kyiv early Monday, all of which were shot down, Ukraine’s Air Force said. The thwarted attack still left one person injured by shrapnel and three more suffered severe stress reactions, officials said.
A series of loud explosions rang out in Ukraine's capital just after 4 a.m., as the city was under its nightly curfew, followed by air raid sirens.
Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said that in Darnytskyi district of eastern Kyiv the debris of an intercepted missile fell without catching fire, and elsewhere in the capital the explosive wave damaged the windows of a house.
Kyiv is routinely targeted by Russian drone and missile attacks.
Just over two weeks ago, Kyiv came under what Ukrainian officials said was the most intense drone attack since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022. Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched 75 Iranian-made Shahed drones against the capital, of which 74 were destroyed by air defenses.
Monday’s attack on the capital happened as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in Argentina, where he attended the swearing-in of the country’s new president, Javier Milei. It was the Ukrainian leader’s first official trip to Latin America as Kyiv continues to court support among developing nations for its 21-month-old fight against Russia’s invading forces.
Zelenskyy met with Milei as well as with the presidents of Uruguay, Paraguay and Ecuador. During the inauguration ceremony, Zelenskyy could be seen exchanging words with Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, widely considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies in Europe and one of the few European leaders who hasn’t sided with Ukraine in the war.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said he had a “highly straightforward conversation” with Orban, “focused on our European affairs.”
He said he also spoke by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen “about joint work at the EU level and about the joint defense of Europe.”
EU leaders are meeting later this week in Brussels. Orban has demanded that EU membership talks with Ukraine and billions of euros in funding meant for Kyiv be taken off the agenda.
Zelenskyy was due to travel to Washington for meetings Tuesday with President Joe Biden and other US officials.
“Volodymyr Zelenskyy will focus on ensuring unity among the United States, Europe and the world in supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russian terror and strengthening the international order based on rules and respect for the sovereignty of each nation,” his office said in a statement.
Biden has asked Congress for a $110 billion ($61.4 billion) package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel, along with other national security priorities. But the request is caught up in a debate over US immigration policy and border security.
Elsewhere in Ukraine on Monday, Russia fired 18 drones overnight, and the Air Force intercepted all of them, mostly over the southern Mykolaiv region.


Iran Accuses European Diplomat of ‘Cooperating with Israel’

Floderus was arrested at a time when an Iranian national was being tried in Sweden (Mizan news/AFP)
Floderus was arrested at a time when an Iranian national was being tried in Sweden (Mizan news/AFP)
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Iran Accuses European Diplomat of ‘Cooperating with Israel’

Floderus was arrested at a time when an Iranian national was being tried in Sweden (Mizan news/AFP)
Floderus was arrested at a time when an Iranian national was being tried in Sweden (Mizan news/AFP)

Iranian authorities have accused a Swedish EU diplomat, held in a Tehran prison for more than 600 days, of conspiring with Iran's arch-enemy Israel, the judiciary said Sunday.
“Johan Floderus is accused of extensive measures against the security of the country, extensive intelligence cooperation with the Zionist regime and corruption on earth,” the judiciary's Mizan Online news agency said, according to AFP.
Corruption on earth is one of Iran's most serious offenses and carries a maximum penalty of death.
Floderus, 33, was arrested on April 17, 2022, at Tehran airport as he was returning to Iran from a trip with friends.
The Swede, who works for the European Union diplomatic service, is being held in Tehran's Evin prison.
Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billström said: “There is no basis whatsoever for keeping Johan Floderus in detention, let alone bringing him to trial.”
The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, called for his immediate release, saying: “There are absolutely no grounds for keeping Johan Floderus in detention.”
The prosecution claimed Floderus had gathered information on Iran's “nuclear and enrichment programs,” carried out “subversive projects” for the benefit of Israel and established a network of “agents of the Swedish intelligence service.”
It further claimed he was involved in “intelligence cooperation and communication with the European Union” and exiled opposition group, the People's Mujahedin (MEK), according to Mizan.
Floderus’s case was not revealed publicly at first while the Swedish government and the EU worked quietly behind the scenes for his release.
In September, the Floderus family broke the silence and called for intensified efforts to secure his release.
At the time, Iran’s judiciary said Floderus had “committed crimes” in the country and an investigation into his case was being finalized.
An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP in September that they had not received “a clear answer” as to why Floderus had been detained.
And 600 days after Floderus was detained by Iranian authorities, Human Rights Watch called for his immediate release adding that Swedish authorities should do more to ensure that happens.
“The immediate and unconditional release of Floderus and others arbitrary detained should be a top priority for Sweden as well as for the EU in relations with Iran,” it said.
Iran has long used detained foreign nationals as bargaining chips to secure the release of its citizens or frozen funds held abroad.
Floderus's arrest came after an Iranian citizen received a life jail term in Sweden for his role in the Iranian regime's 1988 mass executions of thousands of opponents.
EU relations with Iran have also been battered by Tehran's deliveries of weaponry to Russia and a crackdown on protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.
The 27-nation EU has placed repeated rounds of sanctions on Iran over the weapons supplies and the repression of demonstrators.


Philippines Summons Chinese Envoy over Sea Confrontations

Philippine Coast Guard ship Melchora Aquino watches over a Philippine civilian ship (L), loaded with provisions for Filipino fishermen and troops. Ted ALJIBE / AFP
Philippine Coast Guard ship Melchora Aquino watches over a Philippine civilian ship (L), loaded with provisions for Filipino fishermen and troops. Ted ALJIBE / AFP
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Philippines Summons Chinese Envoy over Sea Confrontations

Philippine Coast Guard ship Melchora Aquino watches over a Philippine civilian ship (L), loaded with provisions for Filipino fishermen and troops. Ted ALJIBE / AFP
Philippine Coast Guard ship Melchora Aquino watches over a Philippine civilian ship (L), loaded with provisions for Filipino fishermen and troops. Ted ALJIBE / AFP

The Philippines said it had summoned China's envoy on Monday and flagged the possibility of expelling him following the most tense confrontations between the countries' vessels in years at flashpoint reefs in the disputed South China Sea.
Videos released by the Philippine Coast Guard showed Chinese ships blasting water cannon at Philippine boats during two separate resupply missions to fishermen at Scarborough Shoal and a tiny garrison at Second Thomas Shoal on Saturday and Sunday.
There was also a collision between Philippine and Chinese boats at Second Thomas Shoal, where a handful of Filipino troops are stationed on a grounded warship, with both countries trading blame.
Diplomatic protests had been filed and "the Chinese ambassador has also been summoned", foreign ministry spokeswoman Teresita Daza told a news conference on Monday.
Daza said declaring China's ambassador Huang Xilian as "persona non grata" in the Philippines was also "something that has to be seriously considered".
China's ramming and water cannoning of Filipino boats as well as the use of a long-range acoustic device was a "serious escalation" of their tactics, Jonathan Malaya, assistant director general of the National Security Council, told reporters.
The China Coast Guard, however, said one of the Philippine supply boats deliberately hit its vessel after "disregarding our multiple stern warnings".
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including waters and islands near the shores of its neighbors, and has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its assertions have no legal basis.
It deploys boats to patrol the busy waterway and has built artificial islands that it has militarized to reinforce its claims.
- 'Dangerous and destabilizing' -
On Sunday, the US State Department called on China to halt its "dangerous and destabilizing" actions in the sea, while foreign diplomats in Manila also criticized China's behavior.
The confrontations at Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal were the most intense between Philippine and Chinese vessels in years, analysts said, as the countries seek to assert their competing maritime territorial claims.
"I expect that this will become even more frequent and persistent," said Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines' Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.
"We should use the opportunity to build up our alliances and partnerships, and to prepare for the worst as it is clear that they will continue to deprive us of access to our rights and resources as a country," Batongbacal told AFP.
Song Zhongping, an analyst and former officer in the Chinese military, said US support for the Philippines was making Manila feel "emboldened to provoke China", which was exacerbating tensions.
"If the Philippines clings to its course and feels that it can provoke China with the support of countries outside the region... then conflict or some other contingency could erupt at Ren'ai Reef or Huangyan Island," Song said, using the Chinese names for Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal.
China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012 following a tense standoff, while the Philippine Navy deliberately grounded a World War II-era navy ship on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to check China's advance in the waters.
Relations between Manila and Beijing have deteriorated under President Ferdinand Marcos, who has sought to improve ties with traditional ally Washington and deepen defense ties in the region, while also pushing back against Chinese actions in the South China Sea.
In a statement late Sunday, Marcos said the Philippines remained "undeterred" following the latest incidents.
"No one but the Philippines has a legitimate right or legal basis to operate anywhere in the West Philippine Sea," Marcos said, using Manila's term for the South China Sea waters to the immediate west of the Philippines.


Iran Unveils Drones Armed with Air-to-air Missiles

Minister of Defense, Commander of the Iranian Army, Commander of the Air Force and Commander of Air Defense during the inauguration of the drones in an unknown location last April (AP)
Minister of Defense, Commander of the Iranian Army, Commander of the Air Force and Commander of Air Defense during the inauguration of the drones in an unknown location last April (AP)
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Iran Unveils Drones Armed with Air-to-air Missiles

Minister of Defense, Commander of the Iranian Army, Commander of the Air Force and Commander of Air Defense during the inauguration of the drones in an unknown location last April (AP)
Minister of Defense, Commander of the Iranian Army, Commander of the Air Force and Commander of Air Defense during the inauguration of the drones in an unknown location last April (AP)

Iran said it has reinforced its air defense capabilities by adding combat drones equipped with air-to-air missiles to its arsenal, state media reported on Sunday.

"Dozens of Karrar drones armed with air-to-air missiles have been added for air defense in all border areas of the country," the official IRNA news agency said.

The drones, with an operational range of up to 1,000 kilometres (620 miles), were exhibited Sunday morning during a televised ceremony organized at a military academy in Tehran.

"The enemies will now have to rethink their strategies" because the Iranian forces have "become more powerful", IRNA quoted the commander-in-chief of Iran's army, General Abdolrahim Mousavi, as saying.

The Karrar interceptor drone, the first version of which was unveiled in 2010, has been equipped with a "Majid" thermal missile with a range of eight kilometres (five miles) "made entirely in Iran", added the agency.

It "succeeded in its operational tests" during military exercises held in October, Mousavi said.


Iran Plan to Kill Israelis in Cyprus Foiled, Says Netanyahu

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. (AP)
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Iran Plan to Kill Israelis in Cyprus Foiled, Says Netanyahu

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. (AP)

Israel and Cyprus have foiled an Iranian plan to kill Israelis on the east Mediterranean island, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement on Sunday.

"The Cypriot security and law enforcement agencies, in cooperation with the Mossad (Israeli intelligence), thwarted an Iranian terrorist infrastructure that planned to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets in Cyprus," the statement said.

It followed confirmation by Cyprus police in Nicosia that they had arrested two people for "national security" reasons, after a media report that two Iranians were being held on suspicion of plotting to attack Israelis.

The newspaper Kathimerini Cyprus said the two Iranians were awaiting deportation.

It said they were political refugees with probable links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and had been in the early stages of gathering intelligence about targets.

Netanyahu's office said that after the arrests, "considerable information was obtained, which led to the discovery of the attackers, their modus operandi, the targets of the attack and the Iranian plan to kill innocents in Cyprus and elsewhere".

Cyprus police would only confirm to AFP that they made arrests.

"Two people have been arrested. We are investigating a terrorism-related case," a spokesperson said.

Israel's statement, issued on behalf of Mossad and the National Security Council, said Iran "has expanded its efforts to advance terrorism around the world" since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Israel has vowed to destroy the Iran-backed Hamas after the attack, which it says killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Israel's military offensive in Gaza has since killed at least 17,700 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Cyprus has a sizable Israeli community as political ties have grown in recent years based on tapping regional energy resources.

The island also served as a transfer hub for foreign nationals evacuated from Israel following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

The statement from Netanyahu's office said Israel's National Security Council "and the intelligence community recently updated the threat level toward Israelis abroad and are continuing to instruct Israeli citizens accordingly".

Sunday's was the third reported case of plots against Israelis in Cyprus over the past two years.

In June, Mossad said it had detained an Iranian planning a terrorist attack against Israeli targets on the island.

In September 2021, Cyprus police arrested an Azeri with a gun who was trying to cross to the Turkish-occupied north of the island.

Mossad said it had actively prevented the contract killing of Israeli business people living in Cyprus.


Nobel Winner Mohammadi Denounces ‘Tyrannical’ Regime in Iran

Ali and Kiana Rahmani, children of Narges Mohammadi, an imprisoned Iranian human rights activist, hold the Nobel Peace Prize 2023 award, accepting it on behalf of their mother at Oslo City Hall, Norway December 10, 2023. (NTB/Fredrik Varfjell via Reuters)
Ali and Kiana Rahmani, children of Narges Mohammadi, an imprisoned Iranian human rights activist, hold the Nobel Peace Prize 2023 award, accepting it on behalf of their mother at Oslo City Hall, Norway December 10, 2023. (NTB/Fredrik Varfjell via Reuters)
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Nobel Winner Mohammadi Denounces ‘Tyrannical’ Regime in Iran

Ali and Kiana Rahmani, children of Narges Mohammadi, an imprisoned Iranian human rights activist, hold the Nobel Peace Prize 2023 award, accepting it on behalf of their mother at Oslo City Hall, Norway December 10, 2023. (NTB/Fredrik Varfjell via Reuters)
Ali and Kiana Rahmani, children of Narges Mohammadi, an imprisoned Iranian human rights activist, hold the Nobel Peace Prize 2023 award, accepting it on behalf of their mother at Oslo City Hall, Norway December 10, 2023. (NTB/Fredrik Varfjell via Reuters)

Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi denounced Sunday a "tyrannical and anti-women religious" government in Iran, in a speech delivered by her children who accepted the award in her absence.

Mohammadi, who has campaigned against the compulsory wearing of the hijab and the death penalty in Iran, has been held since 2021 in Tehran's Evin prison.

Instead, her 17-year-old twins Ali and Kiana, both living in exile in France since 2015, received the award on her behalf, reading a speech she managed to smuggle out of her cell.

"I am a Middle Eastern woman, and come from a region which, despite its rich civilization, is now trapped amid war, the fire of terrorism, and extremism," she said in a message that was written "behind the high, cold walls of a prison".

"The Iranian people will dismantle obstruction and despotism through their persistence," Mohammadi said in her speech.

"Have no doubt -- this is certain," she said.

Mohammadi has been arrested and convicted several times in recent decades, and her twin children have not seen their mother for almost nine years.

"Personally I'm rather pessimistic," Kiana Mohammadi told reporters on Saturday, while his brother Ali said he remained "very, very optimistic".

The "Woman, Life, Freedom" movement seeks the end of Iran's imposition of a headscarf on all women and an end to the cleric-led government in Tehran.

Empty chair

"I am an Iranian woman, a proud and honorable contributor to civilization, who is currently under the oppression of a despotic religious government," she said.

A chair was left symbolically empty at the ceremony, where a portrait of Mohammadi was displayed.

Mohammadi is one of the women spearheading the "Woman, Life, Freedom" uprising, which saw months-long protests across Iran triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman, died on September 16, 2022, while being held by Iran's religious police for allegedly breaching the country’s dress code for women.

"The mandatory hijab imposed by the government is neither a religious obligation or a cultural tradition, but rather a means of maintaining authority and submission throughout society," Mohammadi said in the speech read before the Norwegian royal family and foreign dignitaries.

She said Iran "is fundamentally alienating itself from its people", denouncing government repression, the lack of an independent judicial system, propaganda and censorship, and corruption.

Mohammadi is currently carrying out a hunger strike in solidarity with the Baha'i community, according to her family.

In Mandela's footsteps

Mohammadi is the fifth laureate in the more than 120-year history of the Nobel Peace Prize to receive the award while detained.

She follows Germany's Carl von Ossietzky, Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, China's Liu Xiaobo and Belarus's Ales Beliatski.

"Narges Mohammadi's struggle is also comparable to that of Albert Lutuli, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, which took place over a period of more than 30 years before the apartheid system in South Africa came to an end," the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said in a speech.

Protests in Iran triggered by Amini's death have been severely repressed.

The Iran Human Rights group (IHR) says 551 demonstrators, including dozens of women and children, have been killed by security forces, and thousands have been arrested.

On Saturday, the lawyer for Amini's family said her parents and brother, who were due to receive the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought on Amini's behalf at a ceremony on December 13, was being prohibited from leaving Iran.

The other Nobel prizes, in literature, chemistry, medicine, physics and economics, were to be awarded later Sunday at ceremonies in Stockholm.


Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Heads to Argentina in Bid to Win Support from Developing Nations

06 December 2023, Ukraine, Kiev: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honors fallen defenders on the Day of the Armed Forces at the Wall of Remembrance near St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral. (Ukrainian Presidential Pool/dpa)
06 December 2023, Ukraine, Kiev: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honors fallen defenders on the Day of the Armed Forces at the Wall of Remembrance near St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral. (Ukrainian Presidential Pool/dpa)
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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Heads to Argentina in Bid to Win Support from Developing Nations

06 December 2023, Ukraine, Kiev: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honors fallen defenders on the Day of the Armed Forces at the Wall of Remembrance near St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral. (Ukrainian Presidential Pool/dpa)
06 December 2023, Ukraine, Kiev: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honors fallen defenders on the Day of the Armed Forces at the Wall of Remembrance near St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral. (Ukrainian Presidential Pool/dpa)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to Buenos Aires to witness the swearing-in on Sunday of Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei.

It is the Ukrainian leader’s first-ever trip to Latin America as Kyiv continues to court support among developing nations for its 21-month-old fight against Russia's invading forces.

A political outsider who has railed against what he calls entrenched official corruption in Argentina and promised to uproot the political establishment, Milei ran on a pro-Western foreign policy platform, repeatedly expressing distrust of Moscow and Beijing.

Zelenskyy phoned Milei shortly after the Argentinian’s electoral victory, thanking him for his “clear support for Ukraine” which he described in social media posts as “well-noticed and appreciated by Ukrainians.”

In its readout of the call published shortly afterwards, Milei’s office said he had offered to host a summit between Ukraine and Latin American states, a potential boon to Kyiv’s monthslong effort to strengthen its relationships with countries of the global south.

Zelenskyy and other senior Ukrainian officials have repeatedly presented Ukraine’s war against Russia as resistance against colonial aggression, hoping to win support from Asian, African and Latin American states that in the past struggled to free themselves from foreign domination, sometimes turning to Moscow for support against Western powers.

Zelenskyy used the trip to Argentina to meet leaders of several developing countries. He met the prime minister of the West African country of Cape Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva, on his way to Buenos Aires. Once in Argentina, Zelenskyy met separately with the presidents of Paraguay, Ecuador and Uruguay, his office said.

“The support and strong united voice of Latin American countries that stand with the people of Ukraine in the war for our freedom and democracy is very important for us,” Zelenskyy said in a statement.

He also had a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, discussing "the details of the next defense package from the French Republic, which will significantly enhance Ukraine’s firepower, and the current needs of our country in armaments,” Zelenskyy’s office said.


Blinken Defends Bypassing Congress to Sell Weapons to Israel, Presses Lawmakers to Help Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken answers questions during a press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron at the State Department December 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken answers questions during a press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron at the State Department December 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Blinken Defends Bypassing Congress to Sell Weapons to Israel, Presses Lawmakers to Help Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken answers questions during a press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron at the State Department December 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken answers questions during a press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron at the State Department December 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday defended the emergency sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition and also called for quick congressional approval of more than $100 billion in aid for Israel, Ukraine and other national security priorities.

Blinken said the needs of Israel's military operations in Gaza justify the rare decision to bypass Congress. “Israel is in combat right now with Hamas,” he said during television interviews. “And we want to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Hamas."

The tank ammunition and related support constitute only a small portion of military sales to Israel, Blinken said, and that the rest remains subject to congressional review. "It’s very important that Congress‘s voice be heard in this,” he said.

The decision to proceed with the sale of more than $106 million for tank shells came as the Biden administration's larger aid package is caught up in a debate over US immigration policy and border security.

Blinken noted that President Joe Biden has said he is willing to make significant compromises to get the aid package moving. “It’s something the president is fully prepared to engage on,” Blinken said.

The stakes are especially high for Ukraine, America's top diplomat said, given that “we are running out of funding” for the Ukrainians.

“This is a time to really step up because if we don’t, we know what happens. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will be able to move forward with impunity and we know he won't stop in Ukraine.”

Blinken appeared on ABC's “This Week” and CNN's “State of the Union.”


Iran Tries Swedish EU Employee for ‘Spying for Israel’

Swedish citizen Johan Floderus (C) attends a court hearing in Enghelab court in Tehran, Iran, 10 December 2023. (EPA)
Swedish citizen Johan Floderus (C) attends a court hearing in Enghelab court in Tehran, Iran, 10 December 2023. (EPA)
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Iran Tries Swedish EU Employee for ‘Spying for Israel’

Swedish citizen Johan Floderus (C) attends a court hearing in Enghelab court in Tehran, Iran, 10 December 2023. (EPA)
Swedish citizen Johan Floderus (C) attends a court hearing in Enghelab court in Tehran, Iran, 10 December 2023. (EPA)

Iran said on Sunday that it had begun the trial of a Swedish national employed by the European Union who is charged with spying for Israel and "corruption on earth," a crime that carries the death penalty.

Sweden said on Saturday that the trial had begun of Johan Floderus, who was detained in April 2022 while on holiday in Iran, but did not say what he was charged with.

The Iranian judiciary's Mizan news agency said in an online report on Sunday that Floderus's trial had begun and that he was indicted "based on corruption on earth, widespread activities against national security (and) wide intelligence cooperation with the Zionist regime", a reference to Israel.

Corruption on earth is a capital offense under Iran's religious laws.

Sweden's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Saturday the ministry said there were "no grounds whatsoever to detain Johan Floderus, let alone put him on trial."

Floderus' family has said he was detained "without any justifiable cause or due process."

Rights groups and Western governments have accused the Islamic Republic of trying to extract political concessions from other countries through arrests on security charges that may have been trumped up. Tehran says such arrests are based on its criminal code and it denies holding people for political reasons.

Relations between Sweden and Iran have been tense since 2019 when Sweden arrested a former Iranian official for his part in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners in the 1980s.

The judiciary said Floderus had operated through projects by US and European institutions to gather intelligence for Israel. It said another hearing would be announced at a later date.