Donald Trump should apologize for remarks: African states

African UN ambassadors and the African Union have called for “a retraction and an apology” from US President Donald Trump after he reportedly described them as “s***hole” countries. Trump has denied using the phrase.

Flags of African Union members flying at a 2010 summit in Uganda (Getty Images/AFP/M. Turkia)

All 54 African ambassadors to the United Nations decried Donald Trump’s reported remarks as “outrageous, racist, and xenophobic” on Friday, a day after US media reported that Trump had referred to African states, Haiti, and El Salvador as “s***hole countries.”

The UN diplomats met for an emergency session before issuing a joint statement to demand a “retraction and an apology” from the US president.

“For once, we are all on the same page,” an ambassador told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The ambassadors also thanked American citizens “from all walks of life who have condemned the remarks.”

Read moreTrump denies slur against migrants from ‘s***hole’ countries

Donald Trump in profile during a press conferenceTrump suggested taking in more immigrants from countries like Norway

On Thursday, Trump was meeting lawmakers to discuss a proposal for an immigration plan when he reportedly grew agitated as the conversation turned to citizens of Haiti and El Salvador, and immigrants from the African continent.

“Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?” he asked, according to multiple sources present at the White House meeting.

Read more: Norwegians decline President Donald Trump’s offer to move to US

The reports prompted outrage and accusations of racism from people in the US and the rest of the world. Trump later denied using the vulgar phrase, but said he used “tough” language at the meeting.

The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!

Trump’s alleged comments were met with condemnation from the United Nations.

“If confirmed, these are shocking and shameful comments from the president of the United States. Sorry, but there is no other word one can use but ‘racist,'” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘s***holes’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome,” he added.

‘Particularly upsetting’

Trump’s alleged statement also prompted outrage from the African Union (AU), the organization that includes all the 54 African UN states plus Western Sahara, which is not recognized by the UN.

Read moreTrump blasts court for protecting DACA ‘Dreamers’

The AU representative said they were alarmed by Trump’s “very racist” comments.

“Given the historical reality of how African Americans arrived in the United States as slaves, and the United States being the biggest example of how a nation has been built by migration — for a statement like that to come is particularly upsetting,” said Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for AU chief Moussa Faki.

Botswana and Senegal have summoned US ambassadors in their respective countries in protest of Trump’s remarks.

‘Haitians don’t deserve such treatment’

Haiti, which on Friday marked the eighth anniversary of the disastrous earthquake which claimed around 220,000 lives, also summoned the US representative for an explanation.

Read moreUS supends policy protecting 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants

Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!

Haiti’s ambassador in Washington has also asked for an apology, as Trump reportedly specifically questioned the protections granted to Haitian immigrants after the earthquake.

“Haitians don’t deserve such treatment,” said Paul Altidor, the Haitian ambassador. “Haitians should not be seen as a bunch of immigrants who come to the United States to exploit US resources.”

The president of El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, tweeted that Trump’s statement struck a blow “to the dignity of the Salvadoran people.”

El Salvador has also sent a formal letter of protest over Trump comments.

law,dj/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

Arrests in Tunisia near 800 amid protests

Hundreds of Tunisians have continued anti-government protests, with authorities arresting dozens of people. But the government said protests appeared to be slowing ahead of the Arab Spring anniversary.

Tunisian protesters hold up yellow cards in symbolic warning to the government. Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency

Tunisian police arrested another 150 people, including local opposition leaders, on Friday even as a series of week-long protests against price and tax rises appeared to diminish in intensity and numbers.

The latest arrests bring the total number of people detained to nearly 800, raising concerns that people are being arrested arbitrarily.

“The protests have declined and there was no damage, but last night the police arrested 150 people involved in rioting in the past few days, bringing the total number of detainees to 778,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Khelifa Chibani.

Sixteen “Islamist extremists” were among those arrested, he said.

Read more: Is there a trade-off between a strong economy and democracy?

Clashes earlier in the week were more violent. Dozens of government buildings were set alight and  at least one protester was killed, prompting the government to dispatch the army to several cities and towns.

Watch video01:55

Tunisia: Hundreds arrested after protests

The United Nations has called on the government to refrain from arresting people arbitrarily.

“We’re concerned about the high number of arrests … around a third of those arrested were between the ages of 15 and 20, so very young,” said UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, speaking to reporters in Geneva.

“We call on the authorities to ensure that people are not arrested in an arbitrary manner and that all those detained are treated with full respect for their due process rights and are either charged or promptly released,” he said.

Protests against austerity measures

The protests began Monday, ahead of the seven-year anniversary of the Arab Spring. The pro-democracy uprising began in Tunisia on January 14, 2011.

Tunisia is widely considered to be the only real success story of the Arab Spring, as the only country that didn’t revert to authoritarian rule or descend into civil war. But the economy has struggled and people are angry over the government’s latest austerity measures.

Waving yellow cards — an echo of the “warning” card” flashed by soccer referees —  protesters marching on administrative offices in the capital, Tunis, on Friday demanded the government reverse austerity measures implemented at the start of the year.

“The people want the Finance Act repealed” and “The people are fed up with the new Trabelsi,” they shouted, referring to the corruption-tainted in-laws of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

“The people’s money is in the palaces, and the children of the people are in the prisons,” read one placard.

Human rights group Amnesty International has accused Tunisian authorities of using “increasingly heavy-handed methods to disperse rallies and subsequently arrest protesters” during the unrest.

“Tunisian security forces must refrain from using excessive force, and end their use of intimidation tactics against peaceful demonstrators,” Amnesty said.

Watch video03:46

Tunisia – a struggling young democracy

bik/cmk (AFP, Reuters, AP)

COURTESY: DW

US makes large contributions to UN, expects to be respected – Haley to UNGA

US makes large contributions to UN, expects to be respected – Haley to UNGA
As the biggest contributor to the UN, the United States expects respect for its decisions, US envoy Nikki Haley has said, adding that Washington will remember the day it was “singled out” for an attack.

Haley was speaking ahead of the UN vote on the status of Jerusalem, in a desperate last attempt to swing the tide in Washington’s favor.

“When we make a generous contributions to the UN, we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognized and respected,” Haley said.

VIDEO: America will put the embassy to , that is what American people want; No vote at the UN will make difference to it – @nikkihaley http://on.rt.com/8vcs 

The outcome of vote would not affect the US decision on Jerusalem, which reflects the will of the American people and is not negotiable, Haley emphasized. What will be affected is Washington’s attitude towards the UN, the envoy warned.

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” Haley told the UNGA session. “We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations, and so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Haley’s threat of cutting aid did not stop 128 nations from voting in favor of the UNGA resolution calling for the US to reverse its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Still, some may have been convinced by the US envoy’s arguments. Apart from the US and Israel, seven more nations said ‘no’ to the motion, while 35 chose to abstain.

The overall outcome of the vote showed “dignity and sovereignty are not for sale,” said Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Iran said the vote meant a global “NO” to US intimidation.

“A resounding global NO to Trump regime’s thuggish intimidation at UN,” Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

The US issued a series of threats leading up to the UNGA vote, with Haley saying that Washington will be “taking names” of countries who vote against its decision, and Trump promising to cut aid to those who opposed Washington.

Courtesy: RT

UN Security Council to decide on new North Korea sanctions

The new proposed resolution targets oil exports and expatriate workers sent to make money for the regime of Kim Jong Un. The US-authored draft was reportedly negotiated on with China ahead of the vote.

Barbed wire in front of a North Korean flag (Getty Images/C. Chu)

The United Nations Security Council scheduled a vote for Friday over a new raft of sanctions on North Korea. The US-drafted proposal drastically caps oil exports to the isolated country in a bid to economically cripple Pyongyang into abandoning its missile program.

Watch video01:31

Rex Tillerson: China and Russia’s North Korea ties undermine peace efforts

The measures in the draft circulated to the Council’s 15 member states also included the repatriation of North Koreans working abroad within the next year, according to Reuters news agency. Experts believe that tens of thousands of North Koreans are forced to carry out manual labor in foreign countries to make money for the regime of Kim Jong Un.

Read more: Where did North Korea get its missile technology?

The resolution also seeks to ban about 90 percent of refined petroleum products to North Korea, capping exports to Pyongyang at 500,000 barrels a year.

Washington has long been calling on Beijing to stop oil exports to Pyongyang, with China always stopping short of imposing what the US deems truly painful sanctions.

The proposed sanctions follow North Korea’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile at the end of November. The North Korean government said the missile was capable of hitting any part of the United States. It was the 20th time the North launched a ballistic missile this year.

Although it remained unclear how China would vote on the resolution, UN diplomats told reporters that China and the United States had negotiated the language of the draft last week.

If the sanctions pass, it would be the 10th such resolution against North Korea over its weapons program in the past 11 years. The last sanctions resolution was adopted in September after North Korea’s sixth and strongest nuclear test.

On Thursday, Kim Jong Un proclaimed in a speech that “nobody can deny” that his country “poses a substantial nuclear threat to the US.”

es/sms (AP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

Kiribati – A Drowning Paradise in the South Pacific

The island nation of Kiribati in the South Pacific is at risk of disappearing into the sea. Climate change is causing sea levels to rise but the island’s inhabitants aren’t giving up. They are doing what they can to save their island from inundation.

Watch video42:55

Kiribati can hardly be surpassed in terms of charm and natural beauty. There are 33 atolls and one reef island — spread out over an area of 3.5 million square kilometers. All have white, sandy beaches and blue lagoons. Kiribati is the world’s largest state that consists exclusively of atolls. A local resident named Kaboua points to the empty, barren land around him and says, “There used to be a large village here with 70 families.” But these days, this land is only accessible at low tide. At high tide, it’s all under water. Kaboua says that sea levels are rising all the time, and swallowing up the land. That’s why many people here build walls made of stone and driftwood, or sand or rubbish. But these barriers won’t stand up to the increasing number of storm surges. Others are trying to protect against coastal erosion by planting mangrove shrubs or small trees. But another local resident, Vasiti Tebamare, remains optimistic. She works for KiriCAN, an environmental organization. Vasiti says: “The industrialized countries — the United States, China, and Europe — use fossil fuels for their own ends. But what about us?” Kiribati’s government has even bought land on an island in Fiji, so it can evacuate its people in an emergency. But Vasiti and most of the other residents don’t want to leave.

US ready to ‘fight for justice’ in Syria without UN approval – Haley

US ready to ‘fight for justice’ in Syria without UN approval – Haley
The US does not consider itself constrained by the United Nations Security Council and might seek “justice” in Syria on its own terms, the US representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, has said. The US took similar action in Libya in 2011.

READ MORE: Russia vetoes ‘unbalanced’ US resolution on Syrian chemical weapons, but its draft fails

“With the unity of this council, or alone, unrestrained by Russia’s obstructionism, we will continue to fight for justice and accountability in Syria,” Haley said, blasting Russia’s vetoing of the draft resolution on the extension of the Syrian chemical weapons probe on Friday.

The draft, proposed by Japan, envisioned the “technical extension” of the probe for another 30 days. Explaining Russia’s decision to block the resolution, Russian UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya said that there is no sense in prolonging the mission if some glaring flaws in its work are not amended.

“There can be no other way after the JIM’s [the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism] leadership disgraced itself with its fictitious investigation into the sarin use incident in Khan Shaykhun and signed off on baseless accusations against Syria,”he said.

Haley went on to accuse Russia of showing no flexibility in negotiating the conditions of the probe, claiming that Moscow had only “dictated and demanded” while the US had “incorporated elements of the Russian draft” into its own in the hopes of reaching a consensus.

Russia vetoed the US draft on Thursday, with Nebenzya calling it “unbalanced” and solely designed to discredit Russia and its role in the Syrian settlement. Haley subsequently accused the Russian mission of ignoring the US delegation’s attempts to contact it before the vote.

READ MORE: ‘Full of systemic deficiencies’: Russia slams OPCW report on Idlib chemical attack at UNSC

Haley’s remarks on the impossibility of reaching the Russian mission provoked an angry reaction from Moscow, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov calling it “fake diplomacy.” Lavrov said that “it seems we are witnessing a new phenomenon in international relations, as now, apart from fake news, there is also fake diplomacy.”

The rival draft was co-sponsored by Russia and China, and “aimed at the extension and qualitative improvement” of the fact-finding mission, according to Nebenzya. However, it also failed, gaining the support of only four Security Council members.

While both Russia and the US used their veto powers on the respective resolutions, Haley accused Moscow of obstructing the work of the UNSC and its efforts to find “the truth.”

Russia has repeatedly criticized the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM)’s report on the chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun as being filled with “omissions, inconsistences and contradictions.” It also says it does not follow standard procedures for an impartial inquiry as it relies on questionable testimonies provided by rebels and NGOs, some of which are suspected of links to terrorists. In particular, it pointed to experts’ refusal to visit the site of the attack despite security guarantees.

In 2011, the US intervened in the region to curb the violence in the ongoing civil war in Libya. Under the pretext of a UN mandate to establish a no-fly zone in the country and save civilian lives, the US-led NATO coalition waged a full-fledged campaign that eventually resulted in the slaughter of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and multiple civilian deaths, the number of which varies from 72, according to Human Rights Watch, to more than 1,000 in unconfirmed reports. The country is still in tatters and the war involving tribes and militants is ongoing.

Despite the UN not giving the greenlight for a full-fledged campaign in Syria, US Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed that the organization sanctioned action there, justifying it with the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists. Damascus has repeatedly blasted the US for operating on Syrian territory without its consent and in violation of international law, and views the US presence as an invasion.

Courtesy: RT

Saudi Arabia agrees to lift blockade on Yemen as children face starvation & cholera

As children in war-torn Yemen continue to face severe malnutrition and a deadly cholera outbreak, Saudi Arabia has agreed to reopen air and sea ports following a week-long blockade. RT has met with children affected by the dire situation.

Riyadh’s decision, announced earlier on Monday, comes four days after the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that nearly 400,000 children in Yemen are “at risk of death from severe acute malnutrition.” Children are also facing a deadly cholera outbreak, with 50 percent of the cases belonging to those under the age of 15.

The UN and over 20 aid groups warned the blockade – imposed on November 6 – could make things worse in the war-torn country. “The humanitarian situation in Yemen is extremely fragile and any disruption in the pipeline of critical supplies such as food, fuel and medicines has the potential to bring millions of people closer to starvation and death,” the organizations wrote last week.

RT Arabic spoke with two young brothers who have felt the severe impact of the ongoing civil war and the blockade. Forced to quit school, the children now rummage through trash bins looking for tin cans which can bring their family a little bit of money. “We are taking care of our family…we collect cans to buy food and pay the rent, and to feed all our family,” the older brother said.

However, the blockade will now be lifted. “The first step in this process will be taken within 24 hours and involves reopening all the ports in areas controlled by [Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which the coalition backs],” the Saudi mission at the UN said on Monday, as quoted by AP.

The ports referred to by the mission are located in Aden, Mocha and Mukalla. The mission says it has asked the UN to provide a team of experts to determine ways to prevent weapons from being smuggled in.

Yet, Abdu Ilahi al-Harazi from the Special Hospitals Union said that civilians should never be deprived of necessities simply because Riyadh is worried about weapons coming into the country. “Food and medicine are not weapons, they’re things that have nothing to do with weapons. They shouldn’t be manipulated,”he said.

The chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, Massoud Shadjareh, echoed that sentiment. “There is no logical reason that we couldn’t…take medicine and deal with the issue of cholera. There is no logical reason that we couldn’t…give food and support to those who are starving…the only thing that is holding us back is the fact that the Saudis and their allies, with the help and support of the United States and the West, are putting very effective…blockade which no food, no medicine gets through,” he said.

The Saudi-led coalition, which is backed by the US, launched an aerial campaign against Shiite Houthi rebels in March 2015, and later began a ground operation. The coalition is allied to Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia when the Houthis took power in Yemen. According to the latest UN figures, the conflict has so far led to the deaths of over 5,000 civilians. More than 8,500 people have been injured in the ongoing fighting.

Courtesy: RT