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UK could play leading role in coalition to protect Gulf shipping | World News

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Britain, the US and other allies will meet on Wednesday in Bahrain to discuss plans to build an international coalition to protect shipping in the Gulf, Sky News has learnt.

The UK is considering playing a leading role in any maritime protection force that is ultimately agreed upon, according to two Whitehall sources.

No final decision has yet been made.

An oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz: File pic

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An oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz

The meeting between military representatives in Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is located alongside a Royal Navy base, is a follow-on from a gathering at the US Central Command military headquarters in Tampa, Florida last Thursday.

Military officers from more than two dozen nations attended that conference.

It is not thought specific commitments have yet been agreed in terms of the shape and size of any maritime coalition, how it will be commanded and which countries will be taking part.

The US has been seeking to build a US-led coalition to provide escorts to international ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz for weeks amid escalating tensions with Iran.

European countries, however, have been reluctant to sign up to such a mission because they oppose US policy on Iran.

President Donald Trump last year pulled the US out of a nuclear deal between Iran and other world powers, re-imposing sanctions on the regime in a policy known as “maximum pressure”.

Britain, France and Germany – the European signatories to the nuclear accord – have been concerned about joining any US-led mission in the Gulf that could be seen as being part of this maximum pressure campaign.

Jeremy Hunt, the previous foreign secretary, in one of his last acts in office, announced last week a plan for a European-led maritime protection force but details about such a mission have remained sketchy.

A UH-1Y Venom helicopter with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during its transit through Strait of Hormuz in Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea

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The US also has a presence in the Strait of Hormuz

It is widely understood that any force must have significant US input to be credible, because the US military has the most capability and assets in the region.

Britain, with its uniquely close military and intelligence-sharing relationship with the US and its alignment with European thinking on the Iran nuclear deal, could be a unifying force between the US and Europe if it takes on a leading role – even the lead role – in this maritime protection plan, according to defence experts.

The Royal Navy is already protecting British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz from the threat of an Iranian attack.

British shipping has been under particular threat from Iran after the Royal Marines helped to detain an Iranian super tanker off the coast of Gibraltar at the start of the month.

The UK accuses the Grace 1 tanker of carrying oil bound for Syria in breach of EU sanctions.



Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have seized a foreign tanker in the Gulf. File pic
Timeline of UK-Iran tanker tensions

Iran has denied the charge, accused Britain of an act of piracy and threatened to retaliate by targeting British flagged tankers in the Gulf.

On 19 July, Iranian forces boarded the UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz. That ship is still detained at an Iranian port.

The threat of further seizures prompted the government to task the Royal Navy with accompanying tankers and other UK-flagged ships along this vital waterway.

HMS Montrose, a Type 23 frigate, and HMS Duncan, a Type 45 destroyer, are in the region carrying out this task.

No final decisions on the shape, size and command of the international maritime protection mission are expected at the Bahrain meeting tomorrow.

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  1. Wasiu Adewale

    July 30, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    They real deserve it

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23 hurt as Russian passenger jet hits flock of birds and makes emergency landing | World News

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A passenger jet has made an emergency landing in a field in Moscow after colliding with a flock of birds, injuring at least 23 people, Russian officials said.

The Ural Airlines A321, carrying 226 passengers and a crew of seven, hit the gulls as it took off from the capital’s Zhukovsky international airport en route for Simferopol in Crimea.

The birds got into both of the plane’s engines and caused a malfunction, the airline said.

The pilot then made an emergency landing in a cornfield about half a mile from the airport.

Emergency landing

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The plane made an emergency landing in a field near Moscow’s Zhukovsky international airport

Elena Mikheyeva, a spokeswoman for Russia’s civil aviation authority, said the engines were turned off when it made the emergency landing and also had its landing gear up.

State media has called the landing the “miracle over Ramensk” – in reference to the district where the plane came down.

There have also been comparisons with US Airways Flight 1549 which landed on the Hudson River in 2009 after striking a flock of geese.

Twenty-three people, including five children, were taken to hospital after the Moscow incident, Russian health authorities said.

Those injured were “considered to be in serious or fair condition”, it said.

Ural Airlines praised the crew for their professionalism over the evacuation.

Emergency landing

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State media has called the landing the ‘miracle over Ramensk’ – in reference to the district where the aircraft came down

The company said the captain is a highly experienced pilot who had flown for over 3,000 hours.

It added the plane was significantly damaged and would not fly again.

An official investigation is under way.

Footage from the scene showed the flight commander directing passengers to walk away from the jet across the cornfield.

Collisions between birds and planes are common in aviation, and while a single bird is rarely dangerous, multiple bird strikes, or hitting large birds such as Canada Geese, can and has caused serious accidents.

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China ‘will not sit on its hands’ over Hong Kong protests – Beijing’s UK ambassador | World News

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The Chinese government will “not sit on its hands” over the protests in Hong Kong, Beijing’s UK ambassador has said, adding it has “solutions”.

It came as new pictures emerged showing the build up of armed forces in the city of Shenzhen, just across the border with Hong Long.

The ambassador, Liu Xiaoming, told a news conference in London that if the situation deteriorates in the region, which is Chinese territory but operates under a different system to the rest of China, it would act to “quell unrest”.

It came after months of anti-China protests which in the last few days have led to the airport, one of the busiest in the world, being closed.

Chinese soldiers walk in formation on the grounds of the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre in Shenzhen

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Chinese soldiers walk in formation on the grounds of the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre in Shenzhen

Mr Xiaoming told reporters: “If the situation deteriorates into uncontrollable unrest, the central government will not sit by and watch, we have enough power to quell the unrest.

“We have enough solutions and enough power within the limits of basic law to quell any unrest swiftly. Their moves are severe and violent offences, and already shows signs of terrorism.

“The central government of China will never allow a few violent offenders to drag Hong Kong down a dangerous road, down a dangerous abyss.”

Pictures released by agencies showed dozens of trucks and armoured personnel carriers and hundreds of troops massing outside the Shenzhen Bay stadium in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong in China’s southern Guangdong province.

The stadium is just across a bridge that is one of the main access roads between the mainland and Hong Kong.

Mr Liu also turned his attention to Britain, saying some politicians in the UK still regard Hong Kong as part of the British Empire.

He said: “Good relations between the UK and China have to be based on no UK interference by the UK in China’s internal affairs.”

A look across Shenzhen's Deep Bay towards Hong Kong on the far right

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A look across Shenzhen’s Deep Bay towards Hong Kong on the far right

Pro-Beijing Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam had warned earlier that the region was in a “state of… chaos” and could enter “the abyss”.

Sky News reported on Tuesday as protesters brought departures at the international airport to a halt, amid violent skuffles with two people they accused of supporting Beijing.

Mass protests have been taking place across the territory since June, originally against a bill which would have allowed people to be extradited to the mainland.

Chinese military personnel gather inside Shenzhen Bay stadium in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong

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Chinese military personnel gather inside Shenzhen Bay stadium in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong

Some have involved hundreds of thousands of people and many have ended in clashes between the protesters and police.

Mr Liu added that they were extremists masquerading as democracy protesters who were dragging Hong Kong “down a dangerous road”.

“We hope this will end in an orderly way,” he said. “In the meantime we are fully prepared for the worst.”

Earlier, US president Donald Trump suggested trade talks with China could wait until tensions in Hong Kong have eased.

He tweeted: “Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!”

Praising Chinese President Xi Jinping, calling him a “great leader”, he added: “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”

Mr Liu appeared to respond by saying: “Foreign forces must stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, stop conniving in violent offences – they should not misjudge the situation and go down the wrong path otherwise they will lift the stone only to drop it on their own feet.

“Evidence shows the situation would not have deteriorated so much had it not been for the interference and incitement of foreign forces.

“Hong Kong is part of China. No foreign country should interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.”

More follows…

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North Korea Launched Cyberattacks Against Nigeria To Raise Money For Weapons Of Mass Destruction -Report

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UN experts say they are investigating at least 35 instances in 17 countries of North Koreans using cyberattacks to illegally raise money for weapons of mass destruction programs, and they are calling for sanctions against ships providing gasoline and diesel to the country.

Last week, The Associated Press quoted a summary of a report from the experts which said that North Korea illegally acquired as much as $2 billion from its increasingly sophisticated cyber activities against financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges.

The lengthier version of the report, recently seen by the AP, revealed that neighbouring South Korea was hardest-hit, the victim of 10 North Korean cyberattacks, followed by India with three attacks, and Bangladesh and Chile with two each.

Thirteen countries suffered one attack — Costa Rica, Gambia, Guatemala, Kuwait, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Vietnam, it said.

The experts said they were investigating the reported attacks as attempted violations of UN sanctions, which the panel monitors.

The report cited three main ways that North Korean cyber hackers operate.

One is attacks through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or SWIFT system used to transfer money between banks, “with bank employee computers and infrastructure accessed to send fraudulent messages and destroy evidence”.

The other two are, theft of cryptocurrency “through attacks on both exchanges and users”, and “mining of cryptocurrency as a source of funds for a professional branch of the military”.

Experts stressed that implementing these increasingly sophisticated attacks “is low risk and high yield”, often requiring just a laptop computer and access to the internet.

The report to the Security Council gave details on some of the North Korean cyberattacks as well as the country’s successful efforts to evade sanctions on coal exports in addition to imports of refined petroleum products and luxury items including Mercedes Benz S-600 cars.

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