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.



Iran's FM Calls EU Sanctions 'Regrettable'

Iranians walk near an anti-Israel banner carrying pictures of Iranian missiles and drones in Tehran, Iran, 22 April 2024. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH
Iranians walk near an anti-Israel banner carrying pictures of Iranian missiles and drones in Tehran, Iran, 22 April 2024. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH
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Iran's FM Calls EU Sanctions 'Regrettable'

Iranians walk near an anti-Israel banner carrying pictures of Iranian missiles and drones in Tehran, Iran, 22 April 2024. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH
Iranians walk near an anti-Israel banner carrying pictures of Iranian missiles and drones in Tehran, Iran, 22 April 2024. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

European Union sanctions announced following Iran's attack against Israel are "regrettable" because the country was acting in self-defense, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian posted on X on Tuesday.
Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles on Israel in what it said was retaliation against a suspected Israeli bombing of its embassy compound in Damascus.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed in principle to expand sanctions on Iran by agreeing to extend restrictive measures on Tehran's weapons exports of any drone or missile to Iranian proxies and Russia.
"It is regrettable to see the EU deciding quickly to apply more unlawful restrictions against Iran just because Iran exercised its right to self-defense in the face of Israel’s reckless aggression," Amirabdollahian said on X, before calling on the EU to apply sanctions on Israel instead.
More work will need to follow in Brussels to approve a legal framework before the expansion of the sanctions can take effect, Reuters reported.


Satellite Photos Suggest Iran Radar System for Russian-made Air Defense Battery Struck in Isfahan

Burn marks surround what analysts identify as a radar system for a Russian-made S-300 missile battery, center, near an international airport and air base is seen in Isfahan, Iran, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
Burn marks surround what analysts identify as a radar system for a Russian-made S-300 missile battery, center, near an international airport and air base is seen in Isfahan, Iran, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
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Satellite Photos Suggest Iran Radar System for Russian-made Air Defense Battery Struck in Isfahan

Burn marks surround what analysts identify as a radar system for a Russian-made S-300 missile battery, center, near an international airport and air base is seen in Isfahan, Iran, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
Burn marks surround what analysts identify as a radar system for a Russian-made S-300 missile battery, center, near an international airport and air base is seen in Isfahan, Iran, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Satellite photos taken Monday suggest an apparent Israeli retaliatory strike targeting Iran's central city of Isfahan hit a radar system for a Russian-made air defense battery, contradicting repeated denials by officials in Tehran of any damage in the assault.
The strike on an S-300 radar in what appears to have been a very limited strike by the Israelis would represent far more damage done than in the massive drone-and-missile attack Iran unleashed against Israel on April 13. That may be why Iranian officials up to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have been trying to dismiss discussing what the attack actually did on Iranian soil, The Associated Press reported.
Analysts believe both Iran and Israel, regional archrivals locked in a shadow war for years, now are trying to dial back tensions following a series of escalatory attacks between them as the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip still rages and inflames the wider region. But a strike on the most advanced air defense system Iran possesses and uses to protect its nuclear sites sends a message, experts say.
“This strike shows Israel has the ability to penetrate Iran’s air defense systems,” said Nicole Grajewski, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment's nuclear policy program who wrote a forthcoming book on Russia and Iran. “The precision of it was quite remarkable.”
The satellite images by Planet Labs PBC taken Monday morning near Isfahan's dual-use airport and air base, some 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Tehran, showed an area nearby that served as a deployment point for the air defense system. Burn marks sit around what analysts including Chris Biggers, a consultant former government imagery analyst, previously had identified as a “flap-lid” radar system used for the S-300.
Less-detailed satellite images taken after Friday showed similar burn marks around the area, though it wasn't clear what was at the site, AP reported. Biggers said other components of the missile system appeared to have been removed from the site — even though they provide defensive cover for Iran's underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.
“That’s a powerful statement, given the system, the location, and how they use it,” Biggers wrote.
On Friday, air defenses opened fire and Iran grounded commercial flights across much of the country. Officials in the aftermath sought to downplay the attack, trying to describe it as just a series of small drones flying through the sky.
“What happened ... was not a strike,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian claimed in an interview with NBC News. “They were more like toys that our children play with – not drones.”
In the attack's aftermath, however, Iraqis found what appeared to be remnants of surface-to-air missiles south of Baghdad. That, coupled with a suspected Israeli strike on a radar station in Syria the same day, suggests Israeli fighter jets flew over Syria into Iraq, then fired so-called “standoff missiles” into Iran for the Isfahan attack. Small, shorter-range drones may have been launched as well — Israel has been able to launch sabotage attacks and other missions inside of Iran.
Still, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani repeated Tehran's denial Monday.
“Relevant authorities have announced that this harassment attack has caused no damage whatsoever and Iran’s defensive system has carried out their duties," Kanaani told journalists at a briefing. "Therefore, in our opinion this issue is not worthy of addressing.”
The S-300 and their years-delayed delivery to Iran show the challenge Tehran faces in getting any foreign-made advance weapon systems into the country. Russia and Iran initially struck a $800 million deal in 2007, but Moscow suspended their delivery three years later because of strong objections from the United States and Israel.
After Iran reached its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Russia unfroze the deal and is believed to have given Iran four sets of an export variant of the S-300.
The relationship between Iran and Russia has deepened in recent years. Moscow relies heavily on Iran's bomb-carrying Shahed drones to target sites across Ukraine as part of its war on the country. Those same drones featured in Iran's attack on Israel.
Tehran meanwhile has made repeated comments over recent years about trying to obtain Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia to improve its decades-old fighter fleet. In September, a Russian-made YAK-130 combat trainer aircraft entered service in Iran. That model can be used to train pilots for the Su-35.
Russia now has the S-400, but the S-300 which has a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and the capability to track down and strike multiple targets simultaneously, remains one of the most-potent air defense weapons in the world. The batteries can be used to shoot down missiles as well as aircraft.
Iran likely needs Russian assistance to repair the damaged radar — and will seek newer weapons as well as time goes on, Grajewski said.
“Iran wants new weapons from Russia all the time – to try to show that it’s not so isolated,” she said.


2 Malaysian Navy Helicopters Collide, 10 Killed

In this photo released by Fire & Rescue Department of Malaysia, fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of two helicopter in Lumur, Perak state, Monday, April 23, 2024. (Terence Tan/Ministry of Communications and Information via AP)
In this photo released by Fire & Rescue Department of Malaysia, fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of two helicopter in Lumur, Perak state, Monday, April 23, 2024. (Terence Tan/Ministry of Communications and Information via AP)
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2 Malaysian Navy Helicopters Collide, 10 Killed

In this photo released by Fire & Rescue Department of Malaysia, fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of two helicopter in Lumur, Perak state, Monday, April 23, 2024. (Terence Tan/Ministry of Communications and Information via AP)
In this photo released by Fire & Rescue Department of Malaysia, fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of two helicopter in Lumur, Perak state, Monday, April 23, 2024. (Terence Tan/Ministry of Communications and Information via AP)

Two Malaysian navy helicopters collided in mid-air and crashed during a rehearsal for a naval parade on Tuesday, killing all 10 crew members aboard, the navy said.
The incident occurred at the Lumut naval base in the western state of Perak at 9.32 a.m. on Tuesday morning (0132 GMT), the navy said.
"All victims were confirmed dead at the scene and sent to the Lumut naval base military hospital for identification," the navy said.
A video circulating on local media showed several helicopters flying in formation, when one of the choppers' rotor clipped another before both aircraft crashed into the ground. Local police confirmed the footage was genuine.
The navy said it would carry out an investigation into the cause of the accident.

Seven crew members were aboard the AW139 maritime operation helicopter, the navy said. That aircraft is produced by AgustaWestland, which is a subsidiary of the Italian defense contractor Leonardo. Three other crew members were on a Fennec lightweight helicopter, manufactured by European multinational defense conglomerate Airbus.

Defense Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the aircraft were rehearsing for a parade celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Royal Malaysian Navy, due to be held on Saturday.
Efforts were underway to verify the identities of the crew members killed, all of whom were below the age of 40, Mohamed Khaled told reporters.


Israel Planned Bigger Attack on Iran, but Scaled it Back to Avoid War

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
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Israel Planned Bigger Attack on Iran, but Scaled it Back to Avoid War

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

By Ronen Bergman and Patrick Kingsley

Israel abandoned plans for a much more extensive counterstrike on Iran after concerted diplomatic pressure from the United States and other foreign allies and because the brunt of an Iranian assault on Israel soil had been thwarted, according to three senior Israeli officials.

Israeli leaders originally discussed bombarding several military targets across Iran last week, including near Tehran, the Iranian capital, in retaliation for the Iranian strike on April 13, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive discussions.

Such a broad and damaging attack would have been far harder for Iran to overlook, increasing the chances of a forceful Iranian counterattack that could have brought the Middle East to the brink of a major regional conflict.

In the end — after President Biden, along with the British and German foreign ministers, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent a wider war — Israel opted for a more limited strike on Friday that avoided significant damage, diminishing the likelihood of an escalation, at least for now.

Still, in the view of Israeli officials, the attack showed Iran the breadth and sophistication of Israel’s military arsenal.

Instead of sending fighter jets into Iranian airspace, Israel fired a small number of missiles from aircraft positioned several hundred miles west of it on Friday, according to the Israeli officials and two senior Western officials briefed on the attack. Israel also sent small attack drones, known as quadcopters, to confuse Iranian air defenses, according to the Israeli officials.

Military facilities in Iran have been attacked by such drones several times in recent years, and on several occasions Iran has said it did not know who the drones belonged to — a claim interpreted as Iranian reluctance to respond.

One missile on Friday hit an antiaircraft battery in a strategically important part of central Iran, while another exploded in midair, the officials said. One Israeli official said that the Israeli Air Force intentionally destroyed the second missile once it became clear that the first had reached its target, to avoid causing too much damage. One Western official said it was possible the missile had simply malfunctioned.

The officials said Israel’s intention was to allow Iran to move on without responding in kind, while signaling that Israel had developed the ability to strike Iran without entering its airspace or even setting off its air defense batteries. Israel also hoped to show that it could hit those batteries in a part of central Iran that houses several major nuclear facilities, including an uranium enrichment site at Natanz, hinting that it could have also reached those facilities if it had tried.

The Israeli military declined to comment.

The path to this attack began on April 1, when Israel struck an Iranian embassy complex in Damascus, Syria, killing seven Iranian officials, including three senior military leaders. Iran had not retaliated after several similar strikes in the past, leading Israeli officials, they say, to believe that they could continue to mount such attacks without drawing a significant Iranian response.

This time proved different: Within a week, Iran began privately signaling to neighbors and foreign diplomats that its patience had reached a limit, and that it would respond with a major strike on Israel — its first ever direct attack on Israeli soil.

During the week of April 8, Israel began preparing two major military responses, according to the Israeli officials.

The first was a defensive operation to block the expected Iranian attack, coordinated with the US Central Command — its top commander, Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, visited Israel that week — as well as with militaries of allied countries.

The second was a huge offensive operation to be carried out if the Iranian strike materialized. Initially, Israeli intelligence believed that Iran planned to attack with a “swarm” of large drones and up to 10 ballistic missiles, the Israeli officials said. As the week progressed, that estimate grew to 60 missiles, heightening Israeli desire for a strong counterattack.

Israel’s military and political leaders began discussing a counterstrike that could begin as soon as Iran began firing the drones — even before it was known how much damage, if any, they caused. According to one official, the plan was presented to Israel’s war cabinet by the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, and his Air Force chief, Tomer Bar, early on Friday, April 12 — two days before Iran’s attack.

Israel’s intentions changed after Iran attacked, the officials said. The attack was even bigger than expected: With more than 100 ballistic missiles, 170 drones and some 30 cruise missiles, it was one of the largest barrages of this kind in military history.

But Israel’s defense, in coordination with several countries, took down most of the missiles and drones, and there was only limited damage on the ground, reducing the need for a swift response. And there were questions about whether Israel should risk taking its focus off defense while the assault was still underway, two officials said.

The turning point, however, was an early-morning phone call between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mr. Biden, during which the American president encouraged the Israeli leader to treat the successful defense as a victory that required no further response, according to three Israeli and Western officials, who described those discussions on the condition of anonymity. Mr. Netanyahu emerged from the call opposed to an immediate retaliation, the Israelis said.

The following day, the Israeli government began signaling to foreign allies that it still planned to respond, but only in a contained way that fell far short of what it had previously planned, according to one of the senior Western officials.

Instead of a broad counterattack that might leave Iran’s leaders believing they had no option but to respond in kind, Israeli officials said, they settled on a plan that they hoped would make a point to Iranian officials without publicly humiliating them.

They initially planned the attack for Monday night, the Israeli officials said, pulling out at the last minute amid fears that Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia that has been engaged in a low-level conflict with Israel since October, might significantly increase the intensity of its strikes on northern Israel.

Foreign officials continued, without success, to encourage Israel not to respond at all, then signaled their willingness to accept an Israeli attack that left Iran with the option of moving on without losing face, according to an Israeli and a Western official.

After Israel finally carried out its attack early on Friday morning, Iranian officials did exactly that — focusing on the small drones rather than the missiles and dismissing their impact.

Officials in Tehran also largely avoided blaming Israel for the assault. That, coupled with Israel’s own decision not to claim responsibility for it, helped to reduce the risk of an escalation.

The New York Times


Pro-Palestinian Protests Sweep US College Campuses after Mass Arrests

FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
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Pro-Palestinian Protests Sweep US College Campuses after Mass Arrests

FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Columbia canceled in-person classes, dozens of protesters were arrested at New York University and Yale, and the gates to Harvard Yard were closed to the public Monday as some of the most prestigious US universities sought to defuse campus tensions over Israel's war with Hamas.
More than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia’s green were arrested last week, and similar encampments have sprouted up at universities around the country as schools struggle with where to draw the line between allowing free expression while maintaining safe and inclusive campuses, The Associated Press reported.
At New York University, an encampment set up by students swelled to hundreds of protesters throughout the day Monday. The school said it warned the crowd to leave, then called in the police after the scene became disorderly and the university said it learned of reports of “intimidating chants and several antisemitic incidents.” Shortly after 8:30 p.m., officers began making arrests.
“It’s a really outrageous crackdown by the university to allow the police to arrest students on our own campus," said New York University law student Byul Yoon.
The protests have pitted students against one another, with pro-Palestinian students demanding that their schools condemn Israel's assault on Gaza and divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel. Some Jewish students, meanwhile, say much of the criticism of Israel has veered into antisemitism and made them feel unsafe, and they point out that Hamas is still holding hostages taken during the group's Oct. 7 invasion.
Tensions remained high Monday at Columbia, where the campus gates were locked to anyone without a school ID and where protests broke out both on campus and outside.
US Rep. Kathy Manning, a Democrat from North Carolina who was visiting Columbia with three other Jewish members of Congress, told reporters after meeting with students from the Jewish Law Students Association that there was “an enormous encampment of people” who had taken up about a third of the green.
“We saw signs indicating that Israel should be destroyed,” she said after leaving the Morningside Heights campus. Columbia announced Monday that courses at the Morningside campus will offer virtual options for students when possible, citing safety as their top priority.
A woman inside the campus gates led about two dozen protesters on the street outside in a chant of, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” — a charged phrase that can mean vastly different things to different groups. A small group of pro-Israel counter demonstrators protested nearby.
University President Minouche Shafik said in a message to the school community Monday that she was “deeply saddened” by what was happening on campus.
“To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday,” Shafik wrote, noting that students who don’t live on campus should stay away.
Protests have roiled many college campuses since Hamas’ deadly attack on southern Israel, when militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. During the ensuing war, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.
The protest encampment sprung up at Columbia on Wednesday, the same day that Shafik faced bruising criticism at a congressional hearing from Republicans who said she hadn't done enough to fight antisemitism. Two other Ivy League presidents resigned months ago following widely criticized testimony they gave to the same committee.
In her statement Monday, Shafik said the Middle East conflict is terrible and that she understands that many are experiencing deep moral distress.
“But we cannot have one group dictate terms and attempt to disrupt important milestones like graduation to advance their point of view,” Shafik wrote.
Over the coming days, a working group of deans, school administrators and faculty will try to find a resolution to the university crisis, noted Shafik, who didn't say when in-person classes would resume.
US House Republicans from New York urged Shafik to resign, saying in a letter Monday that she had failed to provide a safe learning environment in recent days as “anarchy has engulfed the campus.”
In Massachusetts, a sign said Harvard Yard was closed to the public Monday. It said structures, including tents and tables, were only allowed into the yard with prior permission. “Students violating these policies are subject to disciplinary action,” the sign said. Security guards were checking people for school IDs.
The same day, the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee said the university’s administration suspended their group. In the suspension notice provided by the student organization, the university wrote that the group's April 19 demonstration had violated school policy, and that the organization failed to attend required trainings after they were previously put on probation.
The Palestine Solidary Committee said in a statement that they were suspended over technicalities and that the university hadn't provided written clarification on the university's policies when asked.
“Harvard has shown us time and again that Palestine remains the exception to free speech," the group wrote in a statement.
Harvard did not respond to an email request for comment.
At Yale, police officers arrested about 45 protesters and charged them with misdemeanor trespassing, said Officer Christian Bruckhart, a New Haven police spokesperson. All were being released on promises to appear in court later, he said.
Protesters set up tents on Beinecke Plaza on Friday and demonstrated over the weekend, calling on Yale to end any investments in defense companies that do business with Israel.
In a statement to the campus community on Sunday, Yale President Peter Salovey said university officials had spoken to the student protesters multiple times about the school’s policies and guidelines, including those regarding speech and allowing access to campus spaces.
School officials said they gave protesters until the end of the weekend to leave Beinecke Plaza. A large group of demonstrators regathered after Monday's arrests at Yale and blocked a street near campus, Bruckhart said. There were no reports of any violence or injuries.


North Korean Leader Leads Rocket Drills

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) overseeing a simulated nuclear counterattack drill at an undisclosed location, North Korea, 22 April 2024 (issued 23 April 2024). EPA/KCNA
A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) overseeing a simulated nuclear counterattack drill at an undisclosed location, North Korea, 22 April 2024 (issued 23 April 2024). EPA/KCNA
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North Korean Leader Leads Rocket Drills

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) overseeing a simulated nuclear counterattack drill at an undisclosed location, North Korea, 22 April 2024 (issued 23 April 2024). EPA/KCNA
A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) overseeing a simulated nuclear counterattack drill at an undisclosed location, North Korea, 22 April 2024 (issued 23 April 2024). EPA/KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised salvo launches of the country’s “super-large” multiple rocket launchers that simulated a nuclear counterattack against enemy targets, state media said Tuesday.

The report by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency came a day after the South Korean and Japanese militaries detected the North firing what they suspected were multiple short-range ballistic missiles from a region near its capital, Pyongyang, toward its eastern seas.

Analysts say North Korea’s large-sized artillery rockets blur the boundary between artillery systems and ballistic missiles because they can create their own thrust and are guided during delivery. The North has described some of these systems, including the 600mm multiple rocket launchers that were tested Monday, as capable of delivering tactical nuclear warheads.

KCNA said Monday’s launches represented the first demonstration of the country’s nuclear-weapons management and control system called “Haekbangashoe,” or “nuclear trigger.” The report described the drill as aimed at demonstrating the strength and diverse attack means of North Korea’s nuclear forces amid deepening tensions with the United States and South Korea, which it portrayed as “warmongers” raising tensions in the region with their combined military exercises.

State media photos showed at least four rockets being fired from launch vehicles as Kim watched from an observation post. It said the rockets flew 352 kilometers (218 miles) before accurately hitting an island target and that the drill verified the reliability of the “system of command, management, control and operation of the whole nuclear force.”

KCNA said Kim expressed satisfaction, saying that the multiple rocket launchers were as accurate as a “sniper’s rifle.”
He said the drill was crucial for “preparing our nuclear force to be able to rapidly and correctly carry out their important mission of deterring a war and taking the initiative in a war in any time and any sudden situation.”

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the weapons from Monday’s launches flew about 300 kilometers (185 miles) before crashing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The ranges suggested the weapons would likely target sites in South Korea.

The latest launches came as South and the United States have been conducting a two-week combined aerial exercise that continues through Friday aimed at sharpening their response capabilities against North Korean threats.


EU Foreign Ministers Agree to Expand Iran Sanctions

A general view shows the Milad Telecommunications Tower in Iran's capital Tehran on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
A general view shows the Milad Telecommunications Tower in Iran's capital Tehran on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
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EU Foreign Ministers Agree to Expand Iran Sanctions

A general view shows the Milad Telecommunications Tower in Iran's capital Tehran on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
A general view shows the Milad Telecommunications Tower in Iran's capital Tehran on April 19, 2024. (AFP)

EU foreign ministers agreed in principle on Monday to expand sanctions on Iran following Tehran's missile and drone attack on Israel, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

The European Union already has multiple sanctions programs against Iran, for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights abuses and supplying drones to Russia.

But several EU countries had called for widening the drone-related sanctions regime to cover missiles and transfers to proxy forces.

"We have reached a political agreement in order to enlarge and expand the existing drone (sanctions) regime in order to cover missiles and their potential ... transfer to Russia," Borrell told reporters after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

The sanctions would also be expanded beyond Russia to cover drone and missile deliveries not only to Russia but also to proxies in the region, he said.

More work will need to follow to approve a legal framework before the expansion of the sanctions can take effect.


Iranian, Pakistani Leaders Vow to Boost Trade in Meeting That Seeks to Mend Diplomatic Rift

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Press Information Department via AP)
In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Press Information Department via AP)
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Iranian, Pakistani Leaders Vow to Boost Trade in Meeting That Seeks to Mend Diplomatic Rift

In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Press Information Department via AP)
In this photo released by Press Information Department, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hand with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif prior to their meeting at prime minister house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Press Information Department via AP)

Iranian and Pakistani leaders vowed to strengthen economic and security cooperation in a meeting on Monday, as the two countries seek to smooth over a diplomatic rift.

Their meeting was part of efforts by Islamabad and Tehran to mend ties which had been briefly strained in January when each carried out strikes in other's territory, targeting militants accused of attacking their own security forces.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharifin spoke to reporters after meeting at Sharif's office, hours after Raisi arrived in Islamabad for a three-day visit.

Authorities have deployed hundreds of additional police and paramilitary forces to ensure security during the visit.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant violence in recent months, mostly blamed on Pakistani Taliban and insurgents targeting security forces in Pakistan and neighboring Iran.

Sharif welcomed Raisi with an honor guard ceremony in front of the premier's office. According to a statement released by the premier’s office, the two leaders discussed a range of bilateral issues and vowed to cooperate to fight terrorism, as well as jointly reiterating condemnations of Israel's war in Gaza.

Sharif praised Iran’s “strong stand on the issue of Palestine” and said “Pakistan is also with the Palestinians.”

In his televised remarks, Raisi said that the killings by Israel in Gaza were being committed with the support of the United States and other Western countries. He criticized the international organizations, including the United Nations, saying “they say they support human rights, but they proved that they are inefficient”.

He also vowed to boost what he called “unacceptably” meager bilateral trade and called for setting up more border markers. Pakistan and Iran set up the first such border market in southwestern Pakistan's Baluchistan province last year, promising to set up five more such markets under a 2012 agreement.

The two leaders also signed eight cooperation agreements, according to Sharif's office.

Authorities said the two sides also discussed the multi-billion gas pipeline project, on hold since 2014. The project — opposed by Washington for what it says is a violation of sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program — launched in 2013 to supply Iranian natural gas to energy-starved Pakistan.

Iran says it has already completed the pipeline on its side of the border after investing $2 billion. Pakistan was supposed to finish construction on its territory by the end of 2014, but work stalled, leading to tensions between the two nations.

The Iranian president is set to meet with his Pakistani counterpart Asil Ali Zardari who helped launch the pipeline project after travelling to Iran in 2013.

He also met with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar. The two discussed regional and global developments and “affirmed commitment to peace and constructive dialogue for resolving regional challenges.”

Raisi is accompanied by his spouse and a high-level delegation. He plans to visit Karachi, the country's biggest city, and Lahore, where he will meet with the country's recently elected first female chief minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

The visit comes after Iran's airstrike into Israel, which was in response to an Israeli strike in Syria that had killed two Iranian generals in a consular building. Pakistan is among the countries that has no diplomatic relations with Israel because of the issue of Palestinian statehood.


European Nations with Patriots Hesitate to Give Their Missile Systems to Ukraine 

German Patriot air defense system units are seen at the Vilnius airport, ahead of a NATO summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania July 10, 2023. (Reuters)
German Patriot air defense system units are seen at the Vilnius airport, ahead of a NATO summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania July 10, 2023. (Reuters)
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European Nations with Patriots Hesitate to Give Their Missile Systems to Ukraine 

German Patriot air defense system units are seen at the Vilnius airport, ahead of a NATO summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania July 10, 2023. (Reuters)
German Patriot air defense system units are seen at the Vilnius airport, ahead of a NATO summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania July 10, 2023. (Reuters)

European Union countries possessing Patriot air defense systems appeared hesitant on Monday to give any to Ukraine, which is desperately seeking at least seven of the missile batteries to help fend off Russian air attacks.

Russia’s air force is vastly more powerful than Ukraine’s, but sophisticated missile systems provided by Kyiv’s Western partners can pose a major threat to Russian aviation as the Kremlin’s forces slowly push forward along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line in the war.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot said the Netherlands is “looking at every kind of possibility at the moment” and is offering financial support to a German initiative to help Ukraine bolster its air defenses and to buy more drones.

Asked at a meeting of European Union foreign and defense ministers why the Netherlands is reluctant to send some of its Patriot systems, Slot said: “We are looking again if we can deplete our store of what we still have, but that will be difficult.”

Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the military organization “has mapped out existing capabilities across the alliance and there are systems that can be made available to Ukraine.” He did not name the countries that possess Patriots.

The Patriot is a guided missile system that can target aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles. Each battery consists of a truck-mounted launching system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station and a generator.

A key advantage of the US-made systems, apart from their effectiveness, is that Ukrainian troops are already trained to use them.

But Patriots take a long time to make — as long as two years, some estimates suggest — so countries are reluctant to give them up and leave themselves exposed. Germany had 12, but it is supplying three to Ukraine. Poland, which borders Ukraine, has two and needs them for its own defenses.

Asked whether his country would provide any, Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson said: “I don’t exclude that possibility, but right now we’re focused on financial contributions.” He said Sweden would send other systems that could “relieve some of the pressure” on the need for Patriots.

Jonson also noted that more US deliveries of air defense systems might come, after the US House of Representatives passed a package over the weekend of $61 billion in support, including $13.8 billion for Ukraine to buy weapons.

Questioned about whether Spain might step up with Patriots, Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said that his country “will make its decisions based on the power it has in its hands to support Ukraine.”

“I don’t think we’re helping anyone if we hear all the time what it is that’s being given, when it’s being given and how it’s getting in,” he told reporters at the meeting in Luxembourg.

NATO keeps track of the stocks of weapons held by its 32 member countries to ensure that they are able to execute the organization’s defense plans in times of need.

But Stoltenberg said on Friday that if dropping below the guidelines is “the only way NATO allies are able to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to defend themself, well that’s a risk we have to take.”

Beyond providing new Patriot batteries, Stoltenberg said that it’s also important for countries to ensure that the batteries they do send are well maintained, have spare parts and plenty of interceptor missiles.

In a separate development at Monday's meeting, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis expressed concern about possible Russian sabotage against facilities in Europe being used to train Ukrainian troops.

Two German-Russian men were arrested in Germany last week on suspicion of espionage, one of them accused of agreeing to carry out attacks on potential targets including US military facilities, prosecutors said.

“We are witnessing very similar events in our region, not just in Lithuania but also in Latvia and Estonia as well,” Landsbergis told reporters.

“There seems to be a coordinated action against the European countries that is coming from Russia,” he said. “We have to find a way to deal with the threat ... because Russia is fighting not just against Ukraine but the West as well.”


3 Germans Arrested on Suspicion of Spying for China, Transferring Info on Potential Military Tech

German Police - May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
German Police - May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
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3 Germans Arrested on Suspicion of Spying for China, Transferring Info on Potential Military Tech

German Police - May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
German Police - May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

Three people suspected of spying for China and facilitating the transfer of information on technology with potential military uses were arrested in Germany on Monday.
Prosecutors said that the three German citizens are accused of having acted for Chinese intelligence since some point before June 2022. They are also suspected of violating German export laws, The Associated Press said.
One of the suspects, identified only as Thomas R. in line with German privacy laws, was allegedly an agent for an employee of China's Ministry of State Security and procured information in Germany on “militarily usable innovative technologies” for that person, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
To do that, prosecutors said, he used Herwig F. and Ina. F, a couple who own a company in Duesseldorf that was used to contact and work with German researchers.
The couple allegedly set up a research transfer agreement with an unidentified German company, the first step in which was to draw up a study for a Chinese partner on the technology of machine parts that could be used for powerful ship engines, including those in battleships. Thomas R.'s handler at the MSS was behind the Chinese partner and the project was financed by the Chinese state, prosecutors said.
At the time of the arrests, the suspects were in negotiations on further research projects that could be useful for expanding the combat strength of the Chinese navy, they added.
The suspects also procured with MSS funding a special laser and exported it to China without permission, although it was classified as a “dual-use” instrument under European Union rules, prosecutors said.
The homes and offices of the suspects, who were arrested in Duesseldorf and in Bad Homburg, near Frankfurt, were searched.