Iran’s EX-President Admits ‘Widespread Discontent’

Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Iran’s former reformist President Mohammad Khatami on the sidelines of an event before the 2009 presidential elections (archives - Parliament News)
Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Iran’s former reformist President Mohammad Khatami on the sidelines of an event before the 2009 presidential elections (archives - Parliament News)
TT

Iran’s EX-President Admits ‘Widespread Discontent’

Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Iran’s former reformist President Mohammad Khatami on the sidelines of an event before the 2009 presidential elections (archives - Parliament News)
Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Iran’s former reformist President Mohammad Khatami on the sidelines of an event before the 2009 presidential elections (archives - Parliament News)

Iran’s former reformist President Mohammad Khatami on Sunday admitted that reforms have reached a deadlock in his country and urged returning to the constitution of the “Islamic Republic.”

Khatami’s stance goes against his ally Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who has called for reforming the constitution and proposed an alternative to the current government.

As the 44th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution approaches, Khatami said that the Iranian society is beset by many troubles, but he called for a return to the constitution.

“Changing and amending the constitution is in order, but by returning to the spirit of the same constitution, many reforms can be made,” said Khatami according to Iranian media.

Unlike Khatami, Mousavi called for drafting a new constitution and submitting it to a popular referendum for a “free and fair” vote. Mousavi said that the aim of doing so is changing the power dynamics and the current formula of the country’s system of government.

“What is evident today is widespread discontent,” said Khatami, according to AFP.

Khatami said he hoped that the use of “non-violent civil methods” could “force the governing system to change its approach and accept reforms.”

The former president also implicitly referred to the widening gap between the establishment and the rest of the people, especially the protesters, the majority of whom are young people.

President from 1997 to 2005 before being forced into silence, Khatami said he regretted that Iran’s population was “disappointed with Reformism as well as with the ruling system.”

Khatami rejected demands to overthrow the regime and said: “In terms of the balance of power and the capabilities and strength of the state, it is not possible to overthrow (the regime).”

He warned that raising slogans for overthrowing the establishment will only lead to more restrictions and damages.

Khatami's statements came after Mousavi sharply criticized the ruling establishment and called for a new constitution and a popular referendum.



Indians Vote in the First Phase of the World's Largest Election as Modi Seeks a Third Term

A polling officer takes the thumb impression of a woman before she votes at a polling station during the first phase of the general election, in Bikaner district, Rajasthan, India, April 19, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave
A polling officer takes the thumb impression of a woman before she votes at a polling station during the first phase of the general election, in Bikaner district, Rajasthan, India, April 19, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave
TT

Indians Vote in the First Phase of the World's Largest Election as Modi Seeks a Third Term

A polling officer takes the thumb impression of a woman before she votes at a polling station during the first phase of the general election, in Bikaner district, Rajasthan, India, April 19, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave
A polling officer takes the thumb impression of a woman before she votes at a polling station during the first phase of the general election, in Bikaner district, Rajasthan, India, April 19, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Millions of Indians began voting on Friday in a six-week election that's a referendum on Narendra Modi, the populist prime minister who has championed an assertive brand of Hindu nationalist politics and is seeking a rare third term as the country's leader.
People began lining up at polling stations hours before they were allowed in at 7 a.m. in parts of 21 states, from the Himalayan mountains to the tropical Andaman Islands. Nearly 970 million voters — more than 10% of the world’s population — will elect 543 members to the lower house of Parliament for five years during the staggered election that runs until June 1. The votes will be counted on June 4. There are a total of 28 states in India.
The voting ended at 6 p.m. (1230 GMT) and the turnout was estimated at around 60% of 166.3 million eligible voters in the first round, the election authority said in a statement. By comparison, India’s 2019 national election registered the highest ever voter turnout — 67.11% — in the history of Indian parliamentary elections.
The second round will be held on April 26, and turnout is expected to increase over the course of the voting. Authorities said the voting was largely peaceful on Friday. Media reports said that some supporters of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress party clashed in Chhindwara, a city in central India, during the voting.
Some workers of the BJP and the All India Trinamool Congress clashed in West Bengal state on Thursday night. Some injuries were reported, but the election authority didn't give any details.
This election is seen as one of the most consequential in India’s history and will test the limits of Modi's political dominance.
If Modi wins, he’ll be only the second Indian leader to retain power for a third term, after Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister.
Most polls predict a win for Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which is up against a broad opposition alliance led by the Indian National Congress and powerful regional parties.
It's not clear who will lead India if the opposition alliance, called INDIA, wins the election. Its more than 20 parties haven't put forward a candidate yet.
The BJP controls much of India's Hindi-speaking northern and central parts, but is now trying to gain a foothold in the east and south. Their toughest challenge is in the southern Tamil Nadu state, with 39 seats, where voting is being held on Friday.
Voters in hot and humid Chennai, the state's capital, began briskly filling the city's nearly 4,000 polling booths. A number of them said they were voting for a change in federal government given rising prices, unemployment and religious polarization stoked by the BJP.
“First thing I came to vote for is to have a country without any religious disharmony. In Tamil Nadu — Hindus, Muslims, Christians, we're all together. And this unity should grow," said 65-year-old Mary Das, who was waiting to vote.
P. Chidambaram, an opposition Congress party leader and the country’s former finance minister, said that the people of Tamil Nadu wouldn't vote for the BJP as “it is imposing one language, one culture, one system and one kind of food.”
The BJP has long struggled to capture votes in the state, where two powerful regional parties — the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam — dominate. The BJP drew a blank in 2019, and won one seat in 2014.
In Rajasthan, people returning from polling stations covered their heads against dusty winds.
“If the new government is able to solve unemployment, then it will be good. People are migrating from this region to earn a living," said Atinder Singh, 26.
Voting is also taking place in the northeastern state of Manipur, where a near-civil war for a year has triggered ethnic violence. Mobs have rampaged through villages and torched houses, and more than 150 people have been killed.
The election comes after a decade of Modi's leadership, during which the BJP has consolidated power through a combination of Hindu-first politics and economic development.
Modi has ratcheted up Hindu nationalist rhetoric on the campaign trail and has sought to present himself as a global leader. His ministers tout him as the steward of a surging India, while his supporters celebrate his campaign promise to make India a developed nation by 2047, when it marks 100 years of independence.
But while India’s economy is among the world’s fastest-growing, many of its people face growing economic distress. The opposition alliance is hoping to tap into this, seeking to galvanize voters on issues like high unemployment, inflation, corruption and low agricultural prices that have driven two years of farmers' protests.
The opposition — and critics — also warn that Modi has turned increasingly illiberal. They accuse Modi of using tax authorities and the police to harass the opposition, and they fear a third term could undermine India's democracy. His Hindu nationalist politics, they argue, has bred intolerance and threatens the country's secular roots.
Modi insists that India's commitment to democracy is unchanged. He told a Summit for Democracy meeting in New Delhi in March that “India is not only fulfilling the aspirations of its 1.4 billion people, but is also providing hope to the world that democracy delivers and empowers.”
The Indian leader, who enjoys vast popularity, is targeting a two-thirds majority this time.
The BJP hopes for a landslide win powered by its popular welfare programs, which it says have improved access to clean toilets, health care and cooking gas, as well as providing free grain to the poor. Moves like the construction of a controversial temple to Ram on the site of a demolished mosque, and the scrapping of the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir's former autonomy, may resonate with supporters who hail him as the champion of the Hindu majority.
“Any party that comes back for a third term, and with a brute majority, is a scary prospect for democracy,” said Arati Jerath, a political commentator.
 


North Korea Says It Tested ‘Super-Large’ Cruise Missile Warhead and New Anti-aircraft Missile

In this photo provided Saturday, April 20, 2024, by the North Korean government, a missile that the state media call "Hwasal-1 Ra-3 strategic cruise missile", is launched from transporter erector launcher vehicle in North Korea, Friday, April 19, 2024. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
In this photo provided Saturday, April 20, 2024, by the North Korean government, a missile that the state media call "Hwasal-1 Ra-3 strategic cruise missile", is launched from transporter erector launcher vehicle in North Korea, Friday, April 19, 2024. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
TT

North Korea Says It Tested ‘Super-Large’ Cruise Missile Warhead and New Anti-aircraft Missile

In this photo provided Saturday, April 20, 2024, by the North Korean government, a missile that the state media call "Hwasal-1 Ra-3 strategic cruise missile", is launched from transporter erector launcher vehicle in North Korea, Friday, April 19, 2024. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
In this photo provided Saturday, April 20, 2024, by the North Korean government, a missile that the state media call "Hwasal-1 Ra-3 strategic cruise missile", is launched from transporter erector launcher vehicle in North Korea, Friday, April 19, 2024. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea said Saturday it tested a “super-large” cruise missile warhead and a new anti-aircraft missile in a western coastal area as it expands military capabilities in the face of deepening tensions with the United States and South Korea.

North Korean state media said the country’s missile administration on Friday conducted a “power test” for the warhead designed for the Hwasal-1 Ra-3 strategic cruise missile and a test-launch of the Pyoljji-1-2 anti-aircraft missile. It said the tests attained an unspecified “certain goal.”

Photos released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency showed at least two missiles being fired off launcher trucks at a runway.

North Korea conducted a similar set of tests Feb. 2, but at the time did not specify the names of the cruise missile or the anti-aircraft missile, indicating it was possibly seeing technological progress after testing the same system over weeks.

KCNA insisted Friday’s tests were part of the North’s regular military development activities and had nothing to do with the “surrounding situation.”

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest in years, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dialing up his weapons demonstrations, which have included more powerful missiles aimed at the US mainland and US targets in the Pacific.

The United States, South Korea and Japan have responded by expanding their combined military training and sharpening their deterrence strategies built around strategic US assets.

Cruise missiles are among a growing collection of North Korean weapons designed to overwhelm regional missile defenses. They supplement the North’s vast lineup of ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed at the continental United States.

Analysts say anti-aircraft missile technology is an area where North Korea could benefit from its deepening military cooperation with Russia, as the two countries align in the face of their separate, intensifying confrontations with the US. The United States and South Korea have accused North Korea of providing artillery shells and other equipment to Russia to help extend its warfighting in Ukraine.


World Leaders Call on Iran and Israel to Avoid Allowing Conflict to Worsen

A man crosses a street as motorists drive past a billboard depicting Iranian ballistic missiles in service in Tehran on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
A man crosses a street as motorists drive past a billboard depicting Iranian ballistic missiles in service in Tehran on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
TT

World Leaders Call on Iran and Israel to Avoid Allowing Conflict to Worsen

A man crosses a street as motorists drive past a billboard depicting Iranian ballistic missiles in service in Tehran on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
A man crosses a street as motorists drive past a billboard depicting Iranian ballistic missiles in service in Tehran on April 19, 2024. (AFP)

World leaders called on Iran and Israel to try to avoid escalating tensions following the apparent Israeli airstrike on Friday near an Iranian air base and nuclear facility.
Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in Italy warned of new sanctions against Iran for its drone and missile attack on Israel last weekend, and urged both sides to avoid worsening the conflict, The Associated Press said.
Meanwhile, an apparent Israeli strike on Iran saw troops fire air defenses near the central city of Isfahan. It came days after Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile assault on Israel.
Israel also carried out a missile strike on an air defense unit in southern Syria, causing material damage, Syria's state-run SANA news agency said, citing a military statement.
Israel had vowed to respond to Iran’s weekend attack.
Regional tensions have increased since the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, when Hamas and Islamic Jihad — two militant groups backed by Iran — carried out a cross-border attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel responded with an offensive in Gaza that has caused widespread devastation and killed more than 33,900 people, according to local health officials.


Iran’s Foreign Minister Downplays Drone Attack, Says Tehran Investigating

An Iranian woman walks past a huge anti-Israeli banner carrying pictures of missiles, in Tehran, Iran, 19 April 2024. (EPA)
An Iranian woman walks past a huge anti-Israeli banner carrying pictures of missiles, in Tehran, Iran, 19 April 2024. (EPA)
TT

Iran’s Foreign Minister Downplays Drone Attack, Says Tehran Investigating

An Iranian woman walks past a huge anti-Israeli banner carrying pictures of missiles, in Tehran, Iran, 19 April 2024. (EPA)
An Iranian woman walks past a huge anti-Israeli banner carrying pictures of missiles, in Tehran, Iran, 19 April 2024. (EPA)

Iran's foreign minister on Friday said Tehran was investigating an overnight attack on Iran, adding that so far a link to Israel had not been proven as he downplayed the strike.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told NBC News the drones took off from inside Iran and flew for a few hundred meters before being downed.

"They're ... more like toys that our children play with, not drones," Abdollahian said.

"It has not been proved to us that there is a connection between these and Israel," he said, adding that Iran was investigating the matter but that media reports were not accurate, according to Tehran's information.

Iranian media and officials described a small number of explosions, which they said resulted from air defenses hitting three drones over Isfahan in central Iran in the early hours of Friday. They referred to the incident as an attack by "infiltrators", rather than by Israel, obviating the need for retaliation.

Abdollahian warned that if Israel retaliated and acted against the interests of Iran, Tehran's next response would be immediate and at maximum level.

"But if not, then we are done. We are concluded," he said.

The attack appeared to target an Iranian Air Force base near the city of Isfahan, deep inside the country, but without striking any strategic sites or causing major damage.

Israel has said nothing about the incident. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had not been involved in any offensive operations, while the White House said it had no comment.

CALIBRATED RETALIATION

Israel had said it would retaliate after a strike on April 13, the first ever direct attack on Israel by Iran, which caused no deaths after Israel and its allies shot down hundreds of missiles and drones.

Tehran launched those attacks in response to a presumed Israeli airstrike on April 1 that destroyed a building in Iran's embassy compound in Damascus and killed several Iranian officers including a top general.

Allies including the US had pressed all week to ensure any further retaliation would be calibrated not to provoke more escalation, and Western countries tightened sanctions on Iran to mollify Israel.

There was no word from Israel on Friday as to whether further action might be planned. Apart from direct strikes on Iranian territory, it has other ways of attacking, including cyber-attacks and strikes on Iranian proxies elsewhere.

Violence between Israel and Iranian proxies across the Middle East has intensified throughout six months of bloodshed in Gaza, raising fears the longstanding foes' shadow war could spiral into a direct conflict.

Israel's assault on Gaza began after Hamas gunmen attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel's military offensive has killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Gazan health ministry.

As night fell on Friday, Israeli planes and tanks pounded several areas across the Gaza Strip, with air strikes hitting areas of Rafah where over half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are sheltering, according to residents, Hamas media and officials at the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

One strike hit two apartments in a residential building in the city, killing nine people, including four children, and wounding several others, health officials said.

Air strikes also destroyed at least five houses in the Al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, residents and Hamas media said.

"They (Israeli security) phoned some residents and ordered them to evacuate their houses before planes bombed some buildings nearby," Abu Omar, a resident of Al-Nuseirat, told Reuters via a chat app.

"Soon as we ran away explosions shook the ground," he added.

Israel's government did not immediately reply to a request for comment.


G7 Pledges Swift Aid for Ukraine, Seeks to Calm Middle East

 Foreign Ministers attend an Indo-Pacific meeting on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting on Capri Island, Italy, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP)
Foreign Ministers attend an Indo-Pacific meeting on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting on Capri Island, Italy, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP)
TT

G7 Pledges Swift Aid for Ukraine, Seeks to Calm Middle East

 Foreign Ministers attend an Indo-Pacific meeting on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting on Capri Island, Italy, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP)
Foreign Ministers attend an Indo-Pacific meeting on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting on Capri Island, Italy, Friday, April 19, 2024. (AP)

Group of Seven (G7) major powers pledged on Friday to bolster Ukraine's air defenses to counter increasingly deadly Russian attacks and told China to stop supporting Moscow's military industry if it wanted good relations with the West.

Foreign ministers from the G7, comprising the United States, Italy, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Britain, wrapped up three days of talks on the island of Capri that were dominated by wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.

They acknowledged they had to do more to help Ukraine, which is struggling to hold off stronger Russian forces, and urged de-escalation in the Middle East, where the deep enmity between Israel and Iran risks triggering a wider regional conflict.

But the ministers also said the multitude of global crises was pulling leading democracies closer together.

"We emerge from this meeting of the foreign ministers more united than ever," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Alarmed by growing Russian momentum on the battlefield, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro

Kuleba came to Capri in person to tell G7 allies that they needed to send more aid, saying wars in his home country and the Middle East were linked.

Iran supplies Russia with the same type of armed drones that were used last week as part of its large-scale attack on Israel.

"The narrative that the West has to choose between supporting Israel or Ukraine is wrong because these are two theaters of the same war," Kuleba told reporters.

The G7 said in a statement it would increase security assistance for Kyiv, specifically bolstering "Ukraine's air defense capabilities to save lives and protect critical infrastructure".

Two years after launching its invasion, Russia has been targeting key Ukrainian energy infrastructure, killing hundreds of civilians in its strikes. Russia says the energy system is a legitimate target and denies targeting civilians.

CHINA

Blinken said that, while North Korea and Iran were the main suppliers of weapons to Russia, China was the "primary contributor" to Moscow's defense industry.

"If China purports on the one hand to want good relations with Europe and other countries, it can't, on the other hand, be fueling what is the biggest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War," he said.

Echoing that sentiment, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters that Berlin could not tolerate seeing China forging closer ties with Russia.

"If China openly pursues an ever closer partnership with Russia, which is waging an illegal war against Ukraine, ... we cannot accept this," she said at the end of the Capri meeting.

Military aid to Kyiv has slowed in recent months, with European partners apparently running low on ammunition and vital US funding blocked by Republicans in Congress.

The US House of Representatives might, however, finally get to vote on a $61 billion package for Kyiv this weekend.

Another key funding issue under review is how to use profits from some $300 billion of sovereign Russian assets held in the West to help Ukraine, as EU member states hesitate over concerns about the legality of such a move.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said there was a legal basis for using the interest from the funds, but experts were now looking to see if the capital itself could be used.

A decision is expected to be taken at a summit of G7 leaders in the Italian region of Puglia in June.

DE-ESCALATION

The foreign ministers' summit ended shortly after what sources described as an Israeli attack on Iran in retaliation for a recent Iranian drone and missile assault on Israel.

The G7 ministers said they would work to prevent conflict between Israel and Iran spiraling out of control, while simultaneously seeking to end the war in Gaza.

"The political objective of the G7 is de-escalation. We have worked and continue to work to be active players in securing de-escalation throughout the Middle East," Tajani said.

Italy has seen a number of pro-Palestinian protests in recent months, some of which have turned violent.

By holding the foreign minister's meeting on a tiny Mediterranean island, Italian authorities were able to prevent any protesters from disturbing the discussions.

However, skirmishes broke out on Friday between police and demonstrators in the southern city of Naples, which lies across the bay from Capri, with crowds chanting "Free Gaza" and holding up a banner that read: "Stop the Genocide".


NATO Allies Pledge Additional Air Defense Systems for Kyiv, Stoltenberg Says

 Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference at the end of a virtual meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council (NUC) at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference at the end of a virtual meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council (NUC) at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
TT

NATO Allies Pledge Additional Air Defense Systems for Kyiv, Stoltenberg Says

 Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference at the end of a virtual meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council (NUC) at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference at the end of a virtual meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council (NUC) at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, on April 19, 2024. (AFP)

NATO allies on Friday agreed to provide Kyiv with additional air defense systems, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said after a special meeting of allied defense ministers with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"In addition to Patriots, there are other weapons that allies can provide, including (the French system) SAMP/T, and many others, who do not have available systems, have pledged to provide financial support to purchase them for Ukraine," Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

Zelenskiy asked for the meeting, which was held online, as his country is facing a shortage of ammunition, with vital funding from the US blocked by Republicans in Congress for months and the EU failing to deliver munitions on time.

Stoltenberg didn't go into detail how many new air defense systems Ukraine will receive, but said he expected fresh announcements in the coming days.

"Help is on its way. And I expect more help and support to be announced in the very near future," he told reporters.

Last week, Germany pledged to supply Kyiv with a third Patriot battery out of its military stocks.

The United States has the highest number of Patriot systems in its inventories. In Europe, nations such as Spain and Greece own Patriot batteries.


US House Advances $95 Billion Ukraine-Israel Package toward Saturday Vote

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 19, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images via AFP)
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 19, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images via AFP)
TT

US House Advances $95 Billion Ukraine-Israel Package toward Saturday Vote

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 19, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images via AFP)
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 19, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images via AFP)

The US House of Representatives advanced a $95 billion legislative package on Friday providing aid to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific in a broad bipartisan vote, overcoming hardline Republican opposition that had held it up for months.

Friday's procedural vote, which passed 316-94 with more support from Democrats than the Republicans who hold a narrow majority, advanced a package similar to a measure that passed the Democratic-majority Senate in February.

Democratic President Joe Biden, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell and top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries had been pushing for a House vote since then. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson had held off in the face of opposition from a small but vocal segment of his party.

In addition to the aid for allies, the package includes a provision to transfer frozen Russian assets to Ukraine, and sanctions targeting Hamas and Iran and to force China's ByteDance to sell social media platform TikTok or face a ban in the US.

The legislation provides more than $95 billion in security assistance, including $9.1 billion for humanitarian aid, which Democrats had demanded.

If the House passes the measure, as expected, the Senate will need to follow suit to send it to Biden to sign into law.

Schumer on Friday told senators to be prepared to come back over the weekend if needed.

Some conservative lawmakers oppose aid to Ukraine, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, has sent mixed messages about it.

Some Democrats also oppose certain provisions in the bill, notably on Israel aid, and had pushed for more conditions on that assistance. 


Israel Gave US Last-Minute Warning About Drone Attack on Iran, Italian FM Says at G7 

An Iranian woman walks past an anti-Israel banner with a picture of Iranian missiles on a street in Tehran, Iran April 19, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
An Iranian woman walks past an anti-Israel banner with a picture of Iranian missiles on a street in Tehran, Iran April 19, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
TT

Israel Gave US Last-Minute Warning About Drone Attack on Iran, Italian FM Says at G7 

An Iranian woman walks past an anti-Israel banner with a picture of Iranian missiles on a street in Tehran, Iran April 19, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
An Iranian woman walks past an anti-Israel banner with a picture of Iranian missiles on a street in Tehran, Iran April 19, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

The United States told the Group of Seven foreign ministers on Friday that it received “last minute” information from Israel about a drone action in Iran, Italy’s foreign minister said.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who chaired the meeting of ministers of industrialized countries, said the United States provided the information at a Friday morning session that was changed at the last minute to address the suspected attack.

Tajani said the US informed the G7 ministers that it had been “informed at the last minute” by Israel about the drones. “But there was no sharing of the attack by the US. It was a mere information.”

Early Friday, Iran fired air defenses at a major air base and a nuclear site near the central city of Isfahan after spotting drones. They were suspected to be part of an Israeli attack in retaliation for Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile assault on the country last weekend.

The foreign ministers condemned Iran’s recent attacks against Israel, writing that “the G7 supports the security of Israel.”

In a closing communique, the G7 ministers warned that they are prepared to impose new sanctions on Iran, and called for both sides to avoid escalating the conflict.

“The G7 worked and will work for a de-escalation,” Tajani said in a closing press conference. He said that would include a de-escalation of tensions, followed by a ceasefire, liberation of hostages and aid to the Palestinian people.


Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Visits Frontline Donetsk Region 

Ukrainian servicemen with the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a mortar at Russian forces on the front line near the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, on March 3, 2024. (AP)
Ukrainian servicemen with the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a mortar at Russian forces on the front line near the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, on March 3, 2024. (AP)
TT

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Visits Frontline Donetsk Region 

Ukrainian servicemen with the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a mortar at Russian forces on the front line near the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, on March 3, 2024. (AP)
Ukrainian servicemen with the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a mortar at Russian forces on the front line near the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, on March 3, 2024. (AP)

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday visited the frontline Donetsk region in Ukraine's east and held a meeting on the defense situation.

He said on X that he also visited a paratroopers' medical platoon and examined the construction of fortifications: "Every effort must be made in this regard."

Twenty-five months into Moscow's full-scale invasion, Ukraine is on the back foot, and Russian troops are inching forward.

Kyiv scaled up its efforts to build effective defense lines as its officials warned about Russian troops preparing a possible offensive later this spring or in summer.

Video from the trip shared by Zelenskiy showed an entrance sign to the town of Sloviansk, about 30 km from the target of a recently intensified Russian advance - Chasiv Yar.

Ukraine's army chief said Moscow troops forces aimed to capture the town by May aiming to set the stage further advance in the region. Kyiv's brigades were holding back the assaults.


Taiwan Says New Chinese Air Routes Threaten Taiwanese Islands’ Flight Safety 

Construction of Xiang'an International Airport in China's Xiamen as seen from Kinmen, Taiwan December 20, 2023. (Reuters)
Construction of Xiang'an International Airport in China's Xiamen as seen from Kinmen, Taiwan December 20, 2023. (Reuters)
TT

Taiwan Says New Chinese Air Routes Threaten Taiwanese Islands’ Flight Safety 

Construction of Xiang'an International Airport in China's Xiamen as seen from Kinmen, Taiwan December 20, 2023. (Reuters)
Construction of Xiang'an International Airport in China's Xiamen as seen from Kinmen, Taiwan December 20, 2023. (Reuters)

Taiwan said on Friday China's decision to open new air routes that run perilously close to two Taiwanese-controlled islands was a flight safety risk taken without consultation, adding it will demand any aircraft using them be asked to turn around.

Taiwan's government expressed anger in January after China "unilaterally" changed a flight path called M503 close to the sensitive median line in the Taiwan Strait. China claims democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory.

The new Chinese routes to China's Xiamen and Fuzhou cities, called W123 and W122 respectively, connect to the M503 flight route, and run alongside existing routes to the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, which have regular flights to and from Taiwan.

China had said in January it was opening routes from west to east - in other words, in the direction of Taiwan - on the two flight paths from Xiamen and Fuzhou, but had not until now announced when they would go into operation.

China's civil aviation regulator said in its brief statement on Friday that those routes were now in operation, adding that from May 16 it would "further optimize" airspace around Fuzhou airport.

It did not elaborate, but that is four days before Taiwan President-elect Lai Ching-te is inaugurated, a man Beijing believes is a dangerous separatist. Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed.

China's regulator added that the changes to the flight paths will help meet the "development needs" of flights along the Chinese coast, ensure flight safety, enhance the ability to respond to thunderstorms and improve normal flight operations.

Taiwan's Civil Aviation Administration said the measure seriously impacted aviation safety in Taiwanese airspace, calling it a unilateral move taken without consultation.

At its nearest point, close to Kinmen, there is only a 1.1 nautical mile distance between the Chinese and Taiwanese flight paths, it said.

"The airspace between the two sides is very small, and there are certain risks," it added.

CONTROLLED AIR SPACE

Taiwanese air traffic controllers will "strongly request" their Chinese counterparts guide any aircraft away when an aircraft approaches Taiwan's air space, it said.

Chinese aircraft are not permitted by Taiwan to fly in the airspace Taipei controls around Kinmen and Matsu.

The strait's median line had for years served as an unofficial demarcation between Taiwan and China and was not crossed by combat aircraft from either side.

But China says it does not recognize the line's existence and Chinese warplanes now regularly fly over it as Beijing seeks to pressure Taipei to accept its sovereignty claims.

Flights to and from Taiwan and China's Xiamen and Fuzhou take a circuitous route skirting the median line rather than flying directly across the strait. Domestic Taiwanese flights to Kinmen and Matsu fly directly across the strait.

Taiwan has complained about the M503 route before, in 2018, when it said China opened the northbound part of it without first informing Taipei in contravention of a 2015 deal to first discuss such flight paths.

The democratically elected government of Taiwan rejects China's sovereignty claims and says only the island's people can decide their future.