Iran Says It Puts Imaging Satellite Successfully into Orbit amid Tensions with West

The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, before the beginning of a board of governors meeting, in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, before the beginning of a board of governors meeting, in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
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Iran Says It Puts Imaging Satellite Successfully into Orbit amid Tensions with West

The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, before the beginning of a board of governors meeting, in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, before the beginning of a board of governors meeting, in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

 Iran claimed on Wednesday that it successfully launched an imaging satellite into space, a move that could further ratchet up tensions with Western nations that fear its space technology could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran's Communication Minister Isa Zarepour said the Noor-3 satellite had been put in an orbit 450 kilometers (280 miles) above the Earth's surface, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. It was not clear when exactly the launch took place, The Associated Press said.
There was no immediate acknowledgment from Western officials of the launch or of the satellite being put into orbit. The US military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Iran has had a series of failed launches in recent years.
Zarepour said the aerospace arm of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which has had success in launching satellites in the past, had carried out the most recent launch.
Authorities released footage of a rocket taking off from a mobile launcher without saying where the launch occurred. Details in the video corresponded with a Guard base near Shahroud, some 330 kilometers (205 miles) northeast of the capital, Tehran. The base is in Semnan province, which hosts the Imam Khomeini Spaceport from which Iran’s civilian space program operates.
The Guard operates its own space program and military infrastructure parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces and answers only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
It launched its first satellite into space in April 2020. But the head of the US Space Command later dismissed it as a “tumbling webcam in space” that would not provide vital intelligence. Western sanctions bar Iran from importing advanced spying technology.
The United States has alleged that Iran’s satellite launches defy a UN Security Council resolution and has called on Tehran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
The US intelligence community’s 2022 threat assessment claims the development of satellite launch vehicles “shortens the timeline” for Iran to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile because it uses similar technology.
Iran has always denied seeking nuclear weapons and says its space program, like its nuclear activities, is for purely civilian purposes. US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Iran abandoned an organized military nuclear program in 2003.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. The program has seen recent troubles, however. There have been five failed launches in a row for the Simorgh program, another satellite-carrying rocket.
A fire at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in February 2019 killed three researchers, authorities said at the time. A launchpad rocket explosion later that year drew the attention of then-President Donald Trump.
Tensions are already high with Western nations over Iran's nuclear program, which has steadily advanced since Trump five years ago withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers and restored crippling sanctions on Iran.
Efforts to revive the agreement reached an impasse more than a year ago. Since then, the IAEA has said Iran has enough uranium enriched to near-weapons grade levels to build “several” nuclear weapons if it chooses to do so. Iran is also building a new underground nuclear facility that would likely be impervious to US or Israeli airstrikes. Both countries have said they would take military action if necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Iran has expressed willingness to return to the 2015 nuclear deal but says the US should first ease the sanctions.



Italy: Interior Minister Calls Violence Against Minors at Pro-Palestine Demo 'a Defeat'

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)
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Italy: Interior Minister Calls Violence Against Minors at Pro-Palestine Demo 'a Defeat'

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)

Italy’s interior minister acknowledged as a “defeat” the use of police batons against high school students demonstrating in the Tuscan city of Pisa last week, while warning lawmakers Thursday of growing violent tendencies among pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
Italians have expressed outrage at police violence against two pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Pisa last Friday; the one in Pisa included high school students who are minors, at least 11 of whom suffered bruises when police responded with batons, The Associated Press reported.
President Sergio Mattarella told the interior minister over the weekend that “the authority of law enforcement is not measured by truncheons but by its ability to ensure security while protecting, at the same time, the freedom to publicly express opinion. With kids, truncheons express failure.”
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi told the lower house of parliament that in Pisa law enforcement reacted after demonstrators tried to beach a police barrier with “pushes, kicks, insults, spitting and attempts to remove the shields.” Seventeen demonstrators were injured, among them 11 minors, along with two police officers, he said.
"We all hope that public demonstrations take place peacefully and without incidents, and when it comes to physical contact with minors it is in any case a defeat,'' the minister said, underlining the need for a transparent investigation.
Video of the incident taken by bystanders shows half a dozen officers in riot gear brandishing wooden batons striking demonstrators in a narrow alley leading to a piazza. The officer in charge of the mobilization has been transferred, Italian media reported.
The minister said both the Pisa and the Florence demonstrations were illegal, having failed to file official notice of the intent to gather at least three days in advance.
In Florence, at least 300 protesters chanting anti-Israel and anti-American slogans attempted to reach the US Consulate, which had been the target of a firebomb attack on Feb. 2, the minister told lawmakers. At least five demonstrators were treated at hospitals, he said.
He noted a “climate of growing aggression toward law enforcement” in the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, with the apparent aim to provoke a police reaction. Incidents have been reported at 33 of the 1,076 demonstrations since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, he said.


Putin Warns West of Risk of Nuclear War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
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Putin Warns West of Risk of Nuclear War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY

President Vladimir Putin warned Western countries on Thursday that there was a genuine risk of nuclear war if they sent their own troops to fight in Ukraine, and he said Moscow had the weapons to strike targets in the West.
Addressing parliament and other members of the country's elite, Putin, 71, repeated his accusation that the West is bent on weakening Russia, and he suggested Western leaders did not understand how dangerous their meddling could be in what he cast as Russia's own internal affairs.
He prefaced his warning with a specific reference to an idea, floated by French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, of European NATO members sending ground troops to Ukraine - a suggestion that was quickly rejected by the United States, Germany, Britain and others.
"(Western nations) must realize that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. Don't they get that?!" said Putin.
Putin, who was speaking ahead of a March 15-17 presidential election when he is certain to be re-elected for another six-year term, lauded what he said was Russia's vastly modernized nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world, Reuters reported.
The war in Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in Moscow's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Putin has previously warned of the dangers of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.
Visibly angry, Putin, Russia's paramount leader for more than two decades, suggested Western politicians recall the fate of those, like Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler and France's Napoleon Bonaparte who unsuccessfully invaded his country in the past.
"But now the consequences will be far more tragic," said Putin. "They think it (war) is a cartoon," he said.


Poland Detains Russian Citizen Accused of Being an ISIS Member in Syria

27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
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Poland Detains Russian Citizen Accused of Being an ISIS Member in Syria

27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Poland's Internal Security Agency (ABW) has detained a Russian citizen accused of being a member of ISIS, the National Prosecutor's Office said in a statement on Thursday.

"The prosecutor... charged the detainee with being part of armed groups in the Syrian Arab Republic aimed at committing crimes of a terrorist nature," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

It said that the accused had been a part of Jabhat Al-Nusra and al-Qaeda before joining ISIS.
The man is being held in pre-trial detention for three months and if found guilty could face eight years in prison.


Ukraine Repels Russian Attacks but Situation is Difficult

This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)
This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)
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Ukraine Repels Russian Attacks but Situation is Difficult

This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)
This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)

Ukrainian forces have pushed back Russian troops from the village of Orlivka, west of Avdiivka, but the situation on the eastern front remains difficult, Ukrainian army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Thursday.
Orlivka is less than 2 kilometers northwest of Lastochkyne, which was recently occupied by Russian forces, Reuters said.
Russian forces last week captured the strategic eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka after a months-long assault and are pressing on several other areas along the front line, Ukrainian authorities say.
Ukraine's military said this week it had withdrawn from two more villages near Avdiivka, losing more territory as support from its Western allies runs short.
"The enemy continues active offensive actions in many areas of the front line. The situation is particularly tense in the Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia sectors," Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.
He said Russian assault units were trying to break through the Ukrainian defenses and capture the settlements of Tonenke, Orlivka, Semenivka, Berdychi and Krasnohorivka.
Syrskyi, who visited troops on the eastern front, said some commanders had revealed certain shortcomings in their "situational awareness and assessment of the enemy", which directly affected the sustainability of defense in certain areas.
"I took all measures to remedy the situation on the ground, with the allocation of additional ammunition and material resources, as well as the necessary reserves," Syrskyi said.
The Ukrainian military and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy have repeatedly said that troops are lacking military equipment and ammunition needed to repel Russian attacks because of a shortage of military aid from Western allies.


Biden 'Continues to Be Fit for Duty,' His Doctor Says, after President Undergoes Annual Physical

US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
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Biden 'Continues to Be Fit for Duty,' His Doctor Says, after President Undergoes Annual Physical

US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

President Joe Biden “continues to be fit for duty,” his doctor wrote Wednesday after conducting an annual physical that is being closely watched as the 81-year-old seeks reelection in November.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden's physician, wrote that the president is adjusting well to a new device that helps control his sleep apnea and has experienced some hip discomfort but also works out five times per week, The Associated Press said.
“President Biden is a healthy, active, robust, 81-year-old male who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency,” O’Connor said in a six-page memo on the president’s health, following a physical that took Biden to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for more than 2 1/2 hours.
His memo added that Biden “feels well and this year's physical identifies no new concerns.”
The oldest president in US history, Biden would be 86 by the end of a second term, should he win one. His latest physical mirrored one he had in February last year when O'Connor described Biden as “healthy, vigorous” and “fit” to handle his White House duties.
Still, voters are approaching this year’s election with misgivings about Biden’s age, having scrutinized his gaffes, his coughing, his slow walking and even a tumble off his bicycle.
After he returned to the White House on Wednesday, Biden attended an event on combating crime and suggested that when it came to his health “everything is squared away” and "there is nothing different than last year.”
He also joked about his age and people thinking "I look too young.”
Former President Donald Trump, 77, is the favorite to lock up the Republican nomination later this month, which would bring him closer to a November rematch against Biden. Trump was 70 when he took office in 2017, which made him the oldest American president to be inaugurated — until Biden broke his record by being inaugurated at 78 in 2021.
O'Connor's report said that Biden’s stiff walking was no worse than last year and was the result of arthritic changes in his spine. He said the president also noted “some increased left hip discomfort.” There were no signs of stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or other similar conditions in what the report called an “extremely detailed neurologic exam.”
Biden, last summer, began using a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine at night to help with sleep apnea, and O'Connor wrote that the president had responded well to that treatment and is “diligently compliant" about using it.
A recent special counsel’s report on the investigation into Biden's handling of classified documents repeatedly derided Biden's memory, calling it “hazy,” “fuzzy,” “faulty,” “poor” and having “significant limitations.” It also noted that Biden could not recall defining milestones in his own life such as when his son Beau died or when he served as vice president.
Still, addressing reporters the evening of the report's release, Biden said "my memory is fine” and grew visibly angry as he denied forgetting when his son died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that O’Connor was one of a team of 20 different medical specialists who helped complete the physical.
Asked why Biden wasn't undergoing a cognitive test as part of the physical, Jean-Pierre said that O'Connor and Biden's neurologist “don't believe he needs one.”
“He passes a cognitive test every day, every day as he moves from one topic to another topic, understanding the granular level of these topics,” Jean-Pierre said, noting that Biden tackled such diverse issues as Wednesday's crime prevention event before his planned trip to the US-Mexico border on Thursday and next week's State of the Union address.
“This is a very rigorous job," she added.
That picture of the president doesn’t reflect the type of struggles with routine tasks that might indicate the need for further tests, said Dr. Michael Rosenbloom, a neurologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
“Constantly questioning older folks who may have an occasional lapse is a form of ageism,” Rosenbloom said.
From sleep apnea to arthritis, Biden’s health report “seems pretty run of the mill for an 81-year-old person,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Linder, chief of general internal medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
“His doctors are in a unique position to assess his cognitive ability on a daily basis,” Linder said. "These doctors are able to see how he’s functioning day to day. That’s much more useful” than a cognitive assessment.
Many Americans, including Democrats, have expressed reservations about Biden seeking a second term during this fall's election. Only 37% of Democrats say Biden should pursue reelection, down from 52% before the 2022 midterm elections, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Biden counters that his age brings wisdom, and he has begun to criticize Trump for the former president’s recent public gaffes.
The president joked that his age was classified information and suggested during a taping in New York on Monday of “Late Night With Seth Meyers ″ that Trump mistakenly called his wife Melania, “Mercedes” during a weekend speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference -- though the Trump campaign says he was correctly referring to political commentator Mercedes Schlapp.
Trump has indeed had his share of verbal miscues, mixing up the city and state where he was campaigning, calling Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the leader of Turkey and repeatedly mispronouncing the militant group Hamas as “hummus.” More recently, he confused his Republican primary rival Nikki Haley with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While he was president, Trump's annual physical in 2019 revealed that he had gained weight and was up to 243 pounds. With his 6-foot, 3-inch frame, that meant Trump's Body Mass Index was 30.4. An index rating of 30 is the level at which doctors consider someone obese under this commonly used formula.
Wednesday's report listed Biden as 6-foot tall and weighing 178 pounds.


Canada Says It's Working to Airdrop Aid to the Gaza Strip as Soon as Possible

A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
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Canada Says It's Working to Airdrop Aid to the Gaza Strip as Soon as Possible

A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Canada is working to airdrop humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, a cabinet minister said Wednesday.
The confirmation that an active effort is underway comes after Canadian International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said Ottawa was exploring new options to deliver aid, The Associated Press said.
He said the provision of airdrops in partnership with like-minded countries in the region, such as Jordan, was on the table.
Hussen said last week that the provision of aid is nowhere near what’s needed and a tedious inspection process was slowing down the movement of supplies brought in by truck.
He made the comments following a trip to the Rafah border crossing, the only way in or out of the Gaza Strip since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
Canada has put $100 million Canadian ($74 million) toward aid for the besieged territory since the start of the conflict, including $40 million Canadian ($30 million) committed in January.


Asylum Bids in EU Reach 7-year High with Syrians, Afghans Topping List

An Italian Coast Guard ship carrying illegal immigrants rescued at sea passes near a tourist boat on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, on September 18, 2023 (Reuters)
An Italian Coast Guard ship carrying illegal immigrants rescued at sea passes near a tourist boat on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, on September 18, 2023 (Reuters)
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Asylum Bids in EU Reach 7-year High with Syrians, Afghans Topping List

An Italian Coast Guard ship carrying illegal immigrants rescued at sea passes near a tourist boat on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, on September 18, 2023 (Reuters)
An Italian Coast Guard ship carrying illegal immigrants rescued at sea passes near a tourist boat on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, on September 18, 2023 (Reuters)

Asylum applications in the EU surged to over one million last year, a seven-year high, with Syrians then Afghans remaining the top groups seeking protection, the bloc's asylum agency said Wednesday.

The data from the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) means the number of asylum-seekers in 2023 neared a level last seen in 2015-2016, when hundreds of thousands of people -- many of them Syrians fleeing civil war -- sought refuge.

Immigration, including of asylum seekers, is a headline issue for Europe as it heads for elections in June.

Far-right nationalist parties arguing for tougher entry criteria are predicted to increase their representation in the European Parliament, AFP reported.

Germany, the EU country receiving the biggest number of asylum applications in 2023 -- around 29 percent of the total -- has been roiled by the issue.

Members of that country's far-right AfD party -- soaring in the polls -- last year met extremists to discuss expelling immigrants and "non-assimilated citizens" according to a report by investigative outlet Correctiv. That sparked big counter demonstrations in Berlin and elsewhere against racism.

According to the EUAA, a total 1.14 million asylum applications were registered last year across the 27-nation European Union plus its Schengen-associated nations Norway and Switzerland.

That was an 18 percent increase over 2022 and confirmed an upward trend evident since 2020, as the EU emerged from the coronavirus pandemic during which travel was curbed.

Germany's 334,000 asylum applications received was double that of France's 167,000, and also far above Italy's 136,000.

Across the EU, Syrians submitted 181,000 applications.

Afghans lodged 114,000 which, though they were the second-biggest group, was 11 percent lower than for 2022.

There were 101,000 applications from Turkish nationals -- an 82 percent rise over the previous year -- with most lodged in Germany.

Spain saw a third more applications from Venezuelans and Colombians, at more than 60,000 for each group. They are often able to enter Spain regularly, without needing visas.

Around half that number was recorded for Moroccans, applying mostly in Austria, and for Egyptians, most of them in Italy.

Smaller numbers of Guineans and Ivorians sought asylum, mostly in France.

While Germany received nearly one in three of lodged asylum bids, it was Cyprus, followed by Austria and Greece that had the highest proportion in relation to their much smaller populations.

The EUAA noted that Hungary -- whose nationalist government is opposed to an EU drive to share responsibilities for arriving asylum-seekers -- received a mere 30 asylum applications in 2023.

That was likely because Hungary requires asylum-seekers to make a "declaration of intent at a Hungarian embassy in a non-EU country before they can enter the country" to apply, it said.

Not all applications made across the EU are approved.

The EUAA said the overall recognition rate last year was 43 percent, which was the highest since 2016 -- but results are highly correlated to nationality.

Syrians and Afghans were often granted protection -- in 80 percent and 61 percent of cases, respectively -- though the status of that protection varied.

Syrians over the past few years have tended not be classed as refugees but rather given subsidiary protection, which allows them to stay but with more obstacles to acquiring citizenship or getting permanent residency.

For Afghans, refugee status was being generally approved, reflecting the persecution many face in their country since 2021 under Taliban rule.

For Turkish nationals, the recognition rate in the EU has "significantly" decreased since 2019, the EUAA said, with only a quarter of applications winning protection.


German Police Defuse Grenade Found in Red Army Faction Suspect's Home

German police officers guard a building where Daniela Klette, a 65-year-old alleged member of Germany's notorious Red Army Faction (RAF) militant group, has been arrested after decades on the run from armed robbery and attempted murder charges, in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2024 - Reuters
German police officers guard a building where Daniela Klette, a 65-year-old alleged member of Germany's notorious Red Army Faction (RAF) militant group, has been arrested after decades on the run from armed robbery and attempted murder charges, in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2024 - Reuters
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German Police Defuse Grenade Found in Red Army Faction Suspect's Home

German police officers guard a building where Daniela Klette, a 65-year-old alleged member of Germany's notorious Red Army Faction (RAF) militant group, has been arrested after decades on the run from armed robbery and attempted murder charges, in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2024 - Reuters
German police officers guard a building where Daniela Klette, a 65-year-old alleged member of Germany's notorious Red Army Faction (RAF) militant group, has been arrested after decades on the run from armed robbery and attempted murder charges, in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2024 - Reuters

The Berlin apartment block in which a suspected Red Army Faction (RAF) militant lived during three decades on the run had to be evacuated on Wednesday after authorities found a grenade in her apartment, police said.

Daniela Klette, 65, and two other suspects are alleged to have belonged to the third generation of the leftist militant group which from the early 1970s committed a string of murders and kidnappings of government officials, US soldiers and German diplomats, originally in protest against the Vietnam war.

"Our specialists have so far removed one grenade from the flat on Sebastianstrasse in (Berlin's) Kreuzberg and defused it in a safe place," police wrote on social media. "Other objects are still being examined."

It was unclear if a person detained on Tuesday and released the following morning was linked to the two remaining suspects: Burkhard Garweg, 55, and Ernst-Volker Staub, 69, who have also been at large for 30 years. Authorities declined to comment on media reports of a third arrest on Wednesday, according to AFP.

The charges against the three relate not to the militant group's political crimes but to bank robberies and at least one attempted murder committed between 1991 and 2016 to finance their life underground.

It remained unclear where Klette, now in custody in the northern city of Bremen after her arrest in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, hid out over the past three decades, though newspaper Die Welt published footage appearing to show her dancing at a Berlin carnival in 2011.


Congress: Deal Reached to Avoid Partial Government Shutdown Friday

US Congress general photo (File/AFP)
US Congress general photo (File/AFP)
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Congress: Deal Reached to Avoid Partial Government Shutdown Friday

US Congress general photo (File/AFP)
US Congress general photo (File/AFP)

Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress reached an agreement in principle on Wednesday to extend the federal budget by a few days and defer the threat of a government shutdown.

The agreement by Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate would push back the start of a shutdown from Friday until March 8, giving policymakers some breathing room to try to reach a deal to fund the government.

"We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government," they said in a statement, AFP reported.

They added that "a short-term continuing resolution to fund agencies through March 8 and the 22 will be necessary, and voted on by the House and Senate this week."

For several months, the United States has been deadlocked over the adoption of a finance bill for 2024.

The two parties have been entangled in partisan wrangling, and have only been able to pass a series of mini-bills to extend the US federal budget by a few days or months at a time.

The consequences of a government shutdown would be significant, and would include air traffic controllers going unpaid, some government agencies grinding to a halt, and the closure of America's much-beloved National Parks.

It must now be passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate, and then signed into law by President Joe Biden to postpone this threat.


New Zealand Lists Hamas as Terrorist Group, Sanctions 'Extremist' Israeli Settlers

Al-Qassam Brigades fighters accompany two prisoners during the prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel last November (AFP)
Al-Qassam Brigades fighters accompany two prisoners during the prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel last November (AFP)
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New Zealand Lists Hamas as Terrorist Group, Sanctions 'Extremist' Israeli Settlers

Al-Qassam Brigades fighters accompany two prisoners during the prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel last November (AFP)
Al-Qassam Brigades fighters accompany two prisoners during the prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel last November (AFP)

New Zealand on Thursday listed Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist entity and imposed travel bans on "extremist" Israeli settlers whom it said had committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said in a statement that the attacks by Hamas on Israel in October "were brutal and we have unequivocally condemned them”, Reuters reported.
But he added that "New Zealand wants to be clear that the designation of Hamas is about the actions of an offshore terrorist entity and is not a reflection on the Palestinian people in Gaza and around the world."
New Zealand has designated the military wing of Hamas as a terrorist entity since 2010.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the whole of Hamas bears responsibility for the October attacks, making it difficult for the New Zealand government to distinguish between the group's military and political wings.
The Oct. 7 attacks killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, Israel's air and ground campaign in Hamas-governed Gaza has killed about 30,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry.
New Zealand's decision makes it a criminal offense to carry out property or financial transactions with Hamas or provide material support. It also freezes any Hamas assets in New Zealand.
It does not prevent New Zealand from providing humanitarian and future development assistance for civilians in Gaza or from giving consular support to New Zealand citizens or permanent residents in the conflict zone.
Luxon also said he was "seriously concerned by the significant increase in extremist violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers" against Palestinians in recent months.
"This is particularly destabilizing in what is already a major crisis," Luxon said.
New Zealand's consistent position has been that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are a violation of international law.
The government said it would continue to support a future Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution, urging an end to the current conflict and an urgent restart of the Middle East peace process.