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No immediate threat to Ukrainian nuke plant, says IAEA

Ukraine’s energy operator Ernohoatom said there were 10 hits in the area, but that the situation at the plant remained under control with radioactivity no higher than usual…reports Asian Lite News

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that there is “no immediate threat” to safety at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant despite continued shelling, but the situation could however change “at any moment”.

While addressing the UN Security Council on Thursday, Grossi called on Moscow and Kiev to grant international experts access to the plant as quickly as possible, reports dpa news agency.

“I am personally ready to lead such a mission,” he said.

The US also called for an expert trip. “This visit cannot wait any longer,” US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Bonnie Jenkins told the council.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia pledged Moscow’s cooperation and said a visit should ideally take place before the end of August.

“We stand ready to provide all possible assistance to resolving organisational matters,” Nebenzia said.

After the meeting, he emphasised the fact that no country on the 15-member Council had blamed Russia for the attacks on the plant.

IAEA, Iran agree to replace surveillance cameras at n-site

Just hours before the session convened at Russia’s request, the Zaporizhzhya plant in southern Ukraine, the biggest in Europe and among the world’s largest, was attacked with heavy artillery and rocket launchers, according to a representative of the Russian occupying forces, Vladimir Rogov.

Rogov said firing had come from Ukrainian areas.

The information could not be independently verified.

Ukraine’s energy operator Ernohoatom said there were 10 hits in the area, but that the situation at the plant remained under control with radioactivity no higher than usual.

The plant located in the city of Enerhodar was shelled several times and partially damaged last weekend, but its critical infrastructure was said to be intact.

Ukraine accuses Russia of using the plant as a stronghold for attacks, while the pro-Russian separatists accuse Ukraine of shelling the plant to get the West to intervene.

Rogov rejected calls from the G7 to return the plant to Ukrainian control, saying “that would be like giving a hand grenade to a monkey”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meanwhile said Russia was holding the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant hostage and using it for blackmail, in comments via video link at the start of a Ukraine donor conference in Copenhagen.

Zaporizhzhya is the third largest nuclear power plant on Earth, he noted as he warned of the risk of a disaster bigger than Chernobyl in 1986.

ALSO READ: Moscow must return Ukraine nuke plant, says G7

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Europe

6k evacuated as wildfires reignite in France

The wildfires, which began in Landiras in July, reignited on Tuesday and spread to the neighbouring department of Landes during evening…reports Asian Lite News

Wildfires near Landiras, a city in France’s southwestern department of Gironde, have burnt 6,000 hectare of land and evacuated more than 6,000 people from their homes, French daily news channel BFMTV reported.

More than 1,000 firefighters and an aerial fire brigade have been mobilised to extinguish the flames. Local authorities said high winds, heat waves and a persisting drought are likely to aggravate the fires.

The wildfires, which began in Landiras in July, reignited on Tuesday and spread to the neighbouring department of Landes during evening.

In the city of Belin-Beliet, 16 homes were destroyed by the flames. No casualties were reported thanks to timely evacuation. The fires have also prompted evacuations in the cities of Hostens, Saint-Magne and Moustey, according to BFMTV.

Several roads have been closed, including the highway A63 linking the cities of Bordeaux and Bayonne, said local authorities, adding that heavy trucks are advised to bypass certain highways in the department.

The wildfires that broke out in Gironde in July were never extinguished and have burnt 20,600 hectare of land and evacuated at least 36,000 people, local authorities added.

In another development, wildfires that broke out on Friday in the mountains of Diois, in the southeastern Drome department, have burnt 280 hectare of land and are yet to be put out.

Meanwhile, wildfires raging in the departments of Lozere and Aveyron in southeastern France destroyed 700 hectare of land and evacuated more than 3,000 people in the cities of Mostuejouls and Riviere-sur-Tarn early Tuesday morning.

ALSO READ-Over 4,000 hectares of land destroyed in wildfires in Spain

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Europe India News

Argentine rear admiral appointed head of UN Kashmir observer group

His wide experience also includes stints as Argentina’s military attache in Russia, Marines Infantry commander and Education Department Chief of the Navy Warfare School…reports Asian Lite News

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed Argentine Rear Admiral Guillermo Pablo Rios as the head of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) which is charged with monitoring the shaky ceasefire in Kashmir.

The UN announced on Wednesday that Rios will take over from Major General Jose Eladio Alcain of Uruguay the leadership of the 111-member operation based in both the South Asian countries.

Rios was the Argentine Joint Staff’s General Director of Education, Training and Doctrine.

He has served in two peacekeeping operations, UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in the Middle East, and supervised UN demining operations in Angola.

His wide experience also includes stints as Argentina’s military attache in Russia, Marines Infantry commander and Education Department Chief of the Navy Warfare School.

The UNMOGIP began operations in 1949 to monitor the ceasefire in Kashmir following a Security Council resolution the previous year.

While India allows UNMOGIP to operate in the country in accordance with the Security Council mandate, it maintains that the operation is redundant because under the Shimla Agreement of 1972 between late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistan’s then-President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the Kashmir dispute is a bilateral issue with no role for third parties.

In 2014, India ordered the UNMOGIP out of the government building it was lent and it moved to a commercially leased facility.

The 111 personnel under Rios’s command include 43 military experts from ten countries and 68 civilians.

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India holds first round of talks with NATO

This was New Delhi’s first political dialogue with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels, and a fresh meeting is expected soon to address the concerning issues in India…reports Asian Lite News

Away from the public glare, India has opened dialogue channels with NATO and the first high level official meeting took as far back as on December 12, 2019.

This was New Delhi’s first political dialogue with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels, and a fresh meeting is expected soon to address the concerning issues in India.

According to the media reports, the first NATO meeting was attended by senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Defence, and it was learned that the goal was to keep the dialogue primarily political in nature and to avoid making any commitments on military or other bilateral cooperation. As a result, The Indian Express reported, the Indian delegation essentially attempted to assess cooperation on regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Given that the North Atlantic alliance has been engaging in bilateral dialogue with both China and Pakistan, India’s talks with NATO are significant says the Indian Express report. Given the importance of Beijing and Islamabad in New Delhi’s strategic imperatives, reaching out to NATO would add a critical dimension to India’s growing engagement with the US and Europe.

Until December 2019, NATO had nine rounds of talks with Beijing, with the Chinese Ambassador in Brussels and NATO’s Deputy Secretary General meeting quarterly. NATO has also been in political dialogue and military cooperation with Pakistan, having opened selective training for Pakistani officers and sending a military delegation to Pakistan for military staff talks in November 2019, it is learned to the media.

The Indian mission in Brussels finalised the first round of dialogue for December 12, 2019, after receiving a draught agenda from NATO. Media reports suggest that after the receipt of the draught agenda, an inter-ministerial meeting was called, and attended by representatives from the ministries of External Affairs and Defence, as well as the National Security Council Secretariat.

According to government sources quoted by Indian Express, engaging NATO in a political dialogue would provide New Delhi with an opportunity to bring about a balance in NATO’s perceptions of the situation in regions and issues of concern to India.

During its first round of conferences with NATO, New Delhi realised it had no common ground with the alliance on Russia and the Taliban. With NATO’s views on China mixed due to its members’ differing perspectives, India’s Quad membership is aimed at countering Beijing.

As mentioned in the report carried out by Indian Express, sources claim that if the alliance engages with China and Pakistan separately, it will have lopsided perspectives on regional and global security issues of concern to India.

The NATO delegation, led by Bettina Cadenbach, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, is said to be eager to continue engagement with India on mutually agreed-upon terms. According to the sources quoted by the media, India is relevant to international security because of its geostrategic position and unique perspectives on various issues and can be an important partner in informing the alliance about India’s own region and beyond.

The two sides are also said to have discussed a possible second round in New Delhi in 2020, which was postponed due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

According to sources, India may consider proposals emanating from NATO, if any, on bilateral cooperation in areas of interest to India, based on the progress made in the initial rounds. According to New Delhi’s assessment, there is convergence in both India’s and NATO’s perspectives on China, terrorism, and Afghanistan, including Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.

According to reports, the first dialogue revealed three critical issues on which India expected only limited common ground with NATO: From NATO’s perspective, it was Russia’s aggressive actions that remained the main threat to Euro-Atlantic security, and NATO had faced difficulties convening meetings of the NATO-Russia Council due to Russian refusal to place issues such as Ukraine and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on the agenda, a topic of conversation in the future, given a substantial common ground with NATO, according to the sources. ii) Given the divergence among NATO countries, its view on China was seen as mixed; while it did deliberate on China’s rise, the conclusion was that China presented both a challenge and an opportunity, and iii) in Afghanistan, NATO saw the Taliban as a political entity, which differed from India’s position.

This was almost two years before the Taliban announced an interim Afghan government in September 2021. However, given their substantial common ground with NATO, the Indian side saw maritime security as a key area of discussion in the future.

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UN, Italy team up to refurbish Beirut

The agreement, which is estimated to be worth 2.3 million euros ($2.37 million)…reports Asian Lite News

An Italian agency and the UN have signed a two-year agreement to repair the Mar Mikhael railway station in the Lebanese capital of Beirut and the housing units damaged by the 2020 blasts at the Beirut port.

The agreement, which is estimated to be worth 2.3 million euros ($2.37 million), was signed between the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) on Wednesday.

Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, Nicoletta Bombardiere, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Italian agency, said the project “will allow people in Beirut to re-discover the old train station of Mar Mikhael and its historical relevance”.

She added that Italy would remain committed to responding to Lebanese people’s basic needs, such as social housing, and restoring the cultural and social fabric of the neighbourhoods affected by the blasts, which killed more than 200 people and wounded more than 6,000 others on August 4, 2020, Xinhua news agency reported.

For her part, Taina Christiansen, Head of UN-Habitat Lebanon Country Programme, said the UN body would work with Italy to rehabilitate the Mar Mikhael train station and provide adequate housing for those who were affected by the blasts.

ALSO READ: Algeria, Italy agree to boost energy ties

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Moscow must return Ukraine nuke plant, says G7

The plant, which is near the southern city of Enerhodar and is Europe’s biggest, has been shelled several times and was partially damaged last weekend. However, the critical infrastructure is said to remain intact….reports Asian Lite News

The Foreign Ministers of the G7 economic powers urged Moscow to immediately return Ukraine’s embattled Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant to full Ukrainian control as fears of disaster grow.

“Ukrainian personnel responsible for the operation of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant must be able to carry out their duties without threats or pressure,” the statement issued on Wednesday said.

“It is Russia’s continued domination of the nuclear power plant that endangers the region.”

The plant, which is near the southern city of Enerhodar and is Europe’s biggest, has been shelled several times and was partially damaged last weekend. However, the critical infrastructure is said to remain intact.

Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the attacks. So far, the accusations cannot be independently verified, the dpa news agency reported.

On Russia’s initiative, the UN Security Council is to deal with the shelling on Thursday in New York. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, is to brief the Council.

The G7 Foreign Ministers stressed “the importance of allowing IAEA experts to be sent to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant to address nuclear safety and security concerns and measures”.

Moscow lashed out at the UN.

“The UN has unfortunately played a negative role in the case at hand,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian state radio station Sputnik.

Zakharova accused authorities at the UN of preventing an inspection by the IAEA.

“In the UN Secretariat, which deals with problems of nuclear energy, including the consequences of technical disasters and the problem in its broadest sense, they should understand that the world is walking on the precipice,” she said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry had already complained in a statement on Tuesday that a planned trip by IAEA representatives to the plant fell through at the last minute because of security concerns raised by the UN Secretariat.

The plant’s operator Enerhoatom said on Telegram on Wednesday that the site was operating “with the risk of violations of radiation and fire safety specifications”.

Elsewhere, at least seven civilians were killed in Russian shelling in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, justice officials said on Wednesday.

The general prosecutor’s office in Kiev said that high-rise buildings, single-family houses and shops in the city centre were hit. Seven residents were injured by bomb splinters.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military said it rendered a bridge near the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine unusable, after it was hit by missiles. The occupying forces, however, have not confirmed this information.

Russia largely conquered the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson on the lower reaches of the Dnipro river shortly after the invasion in February. Using long-range missile systems, the Ukrainian army is systematically trying to destroy the only three river crossings in the area to prevent the Russian army from resupplying on the right bank.

In Kiev, the Head of the Ukrainian presidential office said that the country needs the war with Russia to end before the start of winter.

Otherwise, there was a risk that Russia would destroy the heat and energy infrastructure, Andrii Yermak, according to an Interfax agency news agency report on Wednesday.

There was also fighting in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region. Not far from the Zaporizhzhya plant, at least 11 people were killed in missile attacks overnight, the local military said.

A day after explosions rocked Russia’s Saki air base on the annexed Crimean Peninsula on Tuesday, information was trickling in, Mykhailo Podoliak said.

At least 10 Russian aircraft were destroyed in the series of blasts, according to Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ihnat.

Officials in Moscow say a breach of fire safety rules was responsible.

But observers assume that bold attack, which took place far beyond the war’s front lines, was carried out by Ukrainians.

The leadership in Kiev has not directly claimed responsibility, although presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak tweeted: “This is just the beginning.”

It would be the first military attack on targets in Crimea since the Russian annexation in 2014.

Crimea’s Russian-appointed leader Sergei Aksyonov declared state of emergency in the local district, according to the Interfax news agency. At least 252 residents of the nearby seaside town of Novofedorivka will be relocated to emergency shelters, he added.

He said that criminal investigations into the explosions are ongoing and that two gas supply lines had been temporarily shut down.

ALSO READ: Hague warns people not to become desensitised on Ukraine

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Europe

Hague warns people not to become desensitised on Ukraine

British Conservative peer and former party leader William Hague of Richmond has warned of the “danger of getting desensitised” to Russia’s war in Ukraine…reports Asian Lite News

Amid the Tory leadership contest, the former Foreign Secretary described Russia’s actions as the “main thing happening and the threat to everybody’s security and economic prosperity”.

He told Times Radio: “Imagine if there hadn’t been a Ukraine war, that if suddenly terrorists had taken over one of the biggest nuclear power plants in Europe and were stacking explosives around it and starting to shell people from it — that would be the biggest news in the world, it would be what everybody in Europe would be talking about.

“We’re getting so used to “oh, there’s a war going on over there” that when that happens, the Russians are firing from around that plant, to put explosives and mines there, potentially, a potential nuclear catastrophe, in the view of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it’s not such big news any more, is it?”

“I mean, it is on the news, but it’s not dominating things, so this sort of getting desensitised to the war is a dangerous thing, because it is the main thing happening and the threat to everybody’s security and economic prosperity, in the end.”

Hague cautioned Europe against appeasement, warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will come back for more,” dpa news agency reported.

He added: “We won’t solve anything in our own domestic situation if we lose the will to support a country that is struggling for its own democracy, fighting for its own territory. There’s a danger here that some people might think (in) Britain or perhaps more so in Italy, Germany, France, that this problem can be bought off. Really, the point is it can’t be bought off because if you buy it off, Putin will come back for more, and we have learnt through history that this can be a terrible error, appeasing a dictator. So we do have to — I’m raising this argument because I think there is a danger of people forgetting the main thing that’s happening and the dangers that it presents over the coming months.”

According to UK Defence Intelligence, Russia’s actions have “likely undermined the security and safety” of operations at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

The Ministry of Defence earlier raised concerns regarding the Zaporizhzhia facility, which was taken over by Russian troops in March shortly after the February 24 invasion of Ukraine. UN Nuclear Chief Rafael Grossi last week said the power plant in the south-eastern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar is “completely out of control”.

In a phone call on Tuesday afternoon, Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed the importance of not allowing “western war fatigue” to disrupt efforts to support Ukraine.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “On Ukraine, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Macron both stressed the importance of the international community continuing to support the people of Ukraine in their struggle.

“They agreed that UK and French efforts to train and equip Ukrainian troops were making a significant difference in the war, and that western war fatigue cannot be allowed to set in. President Macron praised the Prime Minister’s leadership on Ukraine.”

ALSO READ-Hague Conference demands apology from Pakistan for 1971 war crimes

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Europe UK News

UK submits argument in Scottish independence poll case

It is understood that the UK government has asked for the court’s permission to publish the submission…reports Asian Lite News

The government has submitted its argument in a case that could allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for another independence referendum.

Scottish Advocate Dorothy Bain referred a prospective referendum bill to the Supreme Court last month to ascertain if it was within the powers of the Scottish Parliament, reports dpa news agency.

Oral arguments are due to be heard in the case in October, but the Advocate General for Scotland Lord Stewart submitted the case against the bill being within the legislative competence of Parliament at Holyrood on Tuesday.

It is understood that the UK government has asked for the court’s permission to publish the submission.

A spokeswoman for the UK government said: “People across Scotland want both their governments to be working together on the issues that matter to them and their families, not talking about another independence referendum.

“We have today submitted our written case to the Supreme Court, in accordance with its timetable.

“On the question of legislative competence, the UK government’s clear view remains that a bill legislating for a referendum on independence would be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.”

In its submission to the court, submitted last month, the Scottish government leaned heavily on any future referendum not being “self-executing”, meaning it would be purely advisory and only meant as a way to ascertain the views of the Scottish people.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has also made an attempt to intervene in the case, arguing that, as a public body, it would be “fair, just and reasonable” for it to make arguments to the court.

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Iran nuclear talks end as EU submits ‘final text’

The parties have been seeking to resolve differences over the lifting of sanctions on Iran in return for placing restrictions on the country’s nuclear programme once more…reports Asian Lite News

Talks in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal have ended with diplomats from the countries involved returning to their capitals with a provisional text for a new agreement that it is hoped will prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

“You have to say yes or no,” a senior European Union representative said in Vienna, adding that there was nothing left to negotiate and describing the text as a “very good compromise for all parties”, reports dpa news agency.

The countries involved, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US, are expected to respond “in very, very few weeks”, the diplomat said.

The parties have been seeking to resolve differences over the lifting of sanctions on Iran in return for placing restrictions on the country’s nuclear programme once more.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal, collapsed when the US withdrew unilaterally in 2018 under the presidency of Donald Trump.

Since then, Iran has proceeded with uranium enrichment leading to fears that it is close to producing a nuclear weapon.

Tehran has consistently argued that it only intends to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

During a visit to Israel, US President Joe Biden issued a joint statement with Prime Minister Yair Lapid repeating Washington’s commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

The US would use “all elements of its national power” to prevent this, the statement said.

ALSO READ: IRAN: N-Talks Resume

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Ukrainian nuke plant sparks safety concerns

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also warned of the danger of the current situation, saying that “any attack on a nuclear plant is a “suicidal thing”….reports Asian Lite News

As Russia again accused Ukraine of shelling the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, concerns grew for the safety of the complex which has witnessed repeated shelling in recent days.

An accident at the Ukrainian nuclear plant in Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya would be far worse than the Chernobyl or Fukushima disasters, dpa news agency quoted Yevheny Zymbalyuk, Kiev’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as saying in Vienna on Monday.

He warned of severe consequences not only for Ukraine, but all of Europe.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also warned of the danger of the current situation, saying that “any attack on a nuclear plant is a “suicidal thing”.

“What will happen in a radius of 40 or 50 km of the station, that is absolutely not comparable to Chernobyl or Fukushima,” Zymbalyuk added.

Analysts however say compared to the plants at Chernobyl and Fukushima, Zaporizhzhya is better protected thanks to a separate cooling circuit and a special protective layer, although it would probably be unable to withstand a targeted military attack.

Zymbalyuk again demanded monitors from the IAEA to be sent to Zaporizhzhya along with unarmed international military observers.

He said IAEA representatives should be on the ground by the end of the month.

The IAEA has long complained that it is waiting to access to the plant and said that any deployment would require the support of both Moscow and Kiev.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged the West to put pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as Moscow accuses Ukraine of shelling the nuclear plant.

“We expect that the countries that have absolute influence over the Ukrainian leadership will use this to prevent further shelling,” Peskov said.

He spoke of a “highly dangerous activity” with, in the worst case, catastrophic consequences for all of Europe.

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday said the US continues to “closely monitor the activity as the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration report that the radiation sensors are continuing to provide data, and thankfully we have seen no indications of increased or abnormal radiation levels”.

“And we continue to call on Russia to cease all military operations at or near Ukrainian nuclear facilities and return full control to Ukraine,” she added.

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