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UK says Palestinians in Gaza facing imminent risk of famine

Woodward stressed the vital importance of UNRWA’s role in aid delivery within Gaza and called upon Israel to grant unhindered access to UNRWA and other humanitarian agencies operating in the region…reports Asian Lite News

UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward underscored the urgent need for action as Palestinians in Gaza confront a dire humanitarian crisis, including an imminent risk of famine.

In a recent session at the UN Security Council, Woodward emphasised UNRWA’s crucial role in providing essential services to Palestinian refugees, particularly in Gaza where the humanitarian situation is dire.

Woodward stressed the vital importance of UNRWA’s role in aid delivery within Gaza and called upon Israel to grant unhindered access to UNRWA and other humanitarian agencies operating in the region.

Recognising UNRWA as the primary provider of humanitarian relief in Gaza, Woodward emphasised the need for increased aid flows and urged Israel to facilitate the UN’s minimum operating requirements to ensure the safety of humanitarian operations.

She also acknowledged UNRWA’s broader role in providing crucial health, education, and humanitarian services across the region, supporting millions of Palestinians in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. She emphasised the importance of this support for regional stability, particularly in the current critical juncture.

Woodward addressed allegations of UNRWA staff involvement in attacks on Israel, expressing the UK’s deep concern. She noted ongoing investigations by the UN Office for Internal Oversight Services into these allegations and underscored the importance of robust management reform within UNRWA, including enhanced independent oversight and detection systems.

She also highlighted the upcoming independent review led by former French foreign minister Colonna, focusing on UNRWA’s neutrality, processes, and systems. She emphasized that the UK will review its funding position based on the findings and recommendations of this review.

The ambassador also paid tribute to the 178 UNRWA staff tragically killed in Gaza, offering condolences to their families and honouring their dedicated service.

No famine in Gaza, says Netanyahu

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday met at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

During the meetings, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would maintain its right to self-defence.

The Prime Minister thanked the British Foreign Secretary and the German Foreign Minister for their unequivocal support and for their countries’ unprecedented standing up in defense of the State of Israel against Iran’s attack.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also briefed them on the scope of the humanitarian assistance and the continued fighting in Gaza.

Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the claims of international organisations regarding famine in Gaza and said that Israel was going above and beyond in the humanitarian sphere. (ANI/TPS)

ALSO READ-Cameron urges G7 to step up support for Ukraine

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Whistleblower alleges UN cover-up of special favours for China

The evidence also includes a submission from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)…reports Asian Lite News

In a significant revelation, former Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) employee Emma Reilly has levelled serious accusations against the United Nations, alleging a disturbing nexus between the OHCHR and the Chinese government.

The UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee has published written evidence received as part of its inquiry into international relations in the multilateral system.

Reilly, acting as a whistleblower, claimed that the OHCHR has been providing “dangerous ‘favours'” are “being rendered by OHCHR to the Chinese government” and “these favours fall into a broader effort of the Chinese government to instrumentalise the UN to serve its national interests”. Her evidence alleges a “UN cover-up of special favours for the China,” informed UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in a press release.

Reilly alleged that “during the two-year negotiation of the Sustainable Development Goals” that “Beijing paid bribes to the two successive Presidents of the General Assembly who ultimately oversaw the process and had significant influence over the final texts put to the Assembly”. Her evidence alleges that the China “imposes a secret conditionality across UN agencies that the monies so provided may not be spent in states with diplomatic relations with Taiwan”.

Her written evidence includes allegations that “the Chief of the Human Rights Council Branch in OHCHR, a French national, was secretly providing the China with advance information on which human rights activists planned to attend the Human Rights Council”. It alleges that “UN officials at all levels deliberately lied to member states, including the UK delegation, who enquired about the UN policy of handing names – including of UK citizens and residents – to the PRC without their knowledge or consent,” the release added.

Her evidence alleges that “in cases where the China was provided with names of NGO delegates in advance by the UN Secretariat, the delegates have reported that family members were visited by Chinese police, forced to phone them to tell them to stop their advocacy, arbitrarily arrested, placed under house arrest for the period of the meeting, disappeared, sentenced to long prison terms without cause, tortured, or, as regards Uyghurs, put in concentration camps”.

She alleges that “in some cases, their family members died in detention. In at least one case, a person named on the China’s list, who attended only a side event, later returned to China and died in detention”. She alleges that “in at least one case, the Chinese government issued an Interpol red notice against an NGO delegate,” it also said.

Reilly alleges that “self-censorship extends to the Secretary-General… [who] stated that any resolution of my case would be ‘difficult,’ expressly due to the fact the favours I reported were accorded to the PRC.”

The evidence includes allegations that “reports of both the WHO and [United Nations Environment Programme] UNEP on the origins of covid were edited to reduce references to the possibility of a laboratory leak”.

The evidence also includes a submission from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The FCDO’s evidence says that China is working to “shape the multilateral system to align more with a state-centric, authoritarian world view,” the release said.

On Russia, the FCDO says that Russia “plays a mostly disruptive role across the multilateral system”. Discussing the engagement of isolated countries with the multilateral system, the FCDO says that “Iran uses its position within the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to disrupt and push back against complying with its legal obligations, and often runs in multilateral elections”.

Organisations such as the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, China Strategic Risks Institute, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, Hong Kong Watch, the Foreign Policy Centre and the Council on Geostrategy have submitted evidence, as well as individual experts and academics, such as Bill Browder.

At 14:00 today (April 16) the Foreign Affairs Committee held its first evidence session in this inquiry, hearing from whistleblower Reilly and other expert witnesses, including Lord Malloch-Brown.

The Committee’s inquiry into international relations in the multilateral system looks at how a broad range of countries are using multilateral organisations, be that through engaging and influencing, working around them or obstruction.

It follows on from the Committee’s report “In the room: the UK’s role in multilateral diplomacy” which concluded that autocratic states were attempting to aggressively co-opt strategically important multilateral organisations and to fundamentally redefine their founding principles, according to the release (ANI)

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Tory MP suspended over alleged misuse of funds

The amount eventually escalated to £6,500, sourced from the personal savings of Menzies’ office manager, reimbursed from campaign donations…reports Asian Lite News

The Conservative Party finds itself embroiled in controversy as one of its Members of Parliament, Mark Menzies, faces suspension over allegations of mishandling campaign funds. Menzies, who represents the Fylde constituency in Lancashire, has been accused of soliciting funds from his former campaign manager under dubious circumstances.

The Times reports that Menzies claimed to have been detained overnight in a flat by unidentified individuals whom he referred to as “bad people,” prompting his urgent plea for financial assistance.

As a result of these allegations, Menzies has been stripped of the party whip pending the outcome of an investigation into the matter. However, he vehemently denies the accusations, stating to the Times that he strongly disputes them and maintains his innocence.

According to the newspaper’s account, Menzies contacted his former campaign manager in December, requesting £5,000 to resolve the purported life-threatening situation he found himself in. The amount eventually escalated to £6,500, sourced from the personal savings of Menzies’ office manager, reimbursed from campaign donations.

Reports suggest that Menzies justified his actions by expressing fear of potential consequences if he refused to comply with the demand for funds. Although he offered to repay the money, he claims to have been dissuaded from doing so by local Conservative Party officials who controlled the account from which the funds were withdrawn.

This incident is not an isolated one, as the Times reveals a pattern of similar requests made by Menzies in the past, including one four years prior, where he sought £3,000 from campaign funds to cover medical expenses, with no repayment made thereafter.

Despite Menzies’ assertions of innocence, the allegations have triggered an internal investigation by the Conservative Party. The party has remained tight-lipped about the details of the probe, maintaining the confidentiality of the process. Menzies, for his part, has refrained from further comment on the matter, citing the ongoing investigation.

ALSO READ-Labour commits to Tory childcare expansion plan

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Cameron urges G7 to step up support for Ukraine

The G7 has collectively sanctioned close to $300 billion of Russian assets. Without sanctions, it is estimated that Russia would have over $400 billion to finance its war, enough to fund the invasion for another 4 years…reports Asian Lite News

Foreign Secretary David Cameron is travelling will urge his G7 counterparts to keep up the pressure on Putin as he continues to wage his illegal war with Ukraine, UK Foreign Office said in a statement.

During the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Italy, Cameron will reiterate to the G7 the UK’s commitment to Israel’s security and discuss with his counterparts how to de-escalate regional tensions. 

“The Foreign Secretary will make clear that partners in Europe and the G7 must spend more, produce more and deliver more to ensure that Ukraine can secure the victory that it deserves. He will call on G7 partners to work together to agree a clear and ambitious way forward to use sanctioned Russian assets to support Ukraine,” read the statement. “This builds on messaging delivered at the NATO Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Brussels earlier this month.”

The G7 has collectively sanctioned close to $300 billion of Russian assets. Without sanctions, it is estimated that Russia would have over $400 billion to finance its war, enough to fund the invasion for another 4 years. 

“Ukraine has our unequivocal support until it is victorious and achieves a just peace,” Cameron said. “It is vital that we agree a way forward to use sanctioned Russian assets to support Ukraine and ensure Russia pays for the destruction it has wreaked.”

The Foreign Secretary will continue to call for the G7 to pilot more ambitious efforts to undermine Russia’s defence industrial complex, including by pushing third countries to counter attempts to circumvent sanctions. He will urge partners to be prepared to act against those who help Russia to supply its war machine. 

Meanwhile, responding to Iran’s failed and dangerous attack on Israel over the weekend, Cameron and his counterparts continue to call for restraint, ask those involved to consider the devastating consequences of an escalation in the conflict.

Cameron will also campaign for coordinated sanctions against Iran, ensuring the G7 shows a united front against Iran’s malign activity in the region. Meetings will also cover a range of other priorities around the world, including a more assertive China, reform of financial systems and irregular migration, according to Foreign Office.

ALSO READ-Cameron urges Israel not to retaliate against Iran

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EU to slap new sanctions on Iran

The European Union agreed to take further restrictive measures against Iran, notably in relation to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles…reports Asian Lite News

European Union leaders agreed late on Wednesday on new sanctions targeting Iran for the direct attack on Israel.

The EU has decided “to put in place sanctions against Iran”, European Council President Charles Michel told reporters in the early hours of Thursday morning after the first day of a two-day summit.

“The idea is to target the companies that are needed for the drones, for the missiles,” he said. Further details are to be finalized, he added.

“The European Union will take further restrictive measures against Iran, notably in relation to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles,” the EU leaders’ statement said.

The EU summit on Wednesday and Thursday was originally meant to focus on the bloc’s economy and its competitiveness. But rising tensions in the Middle East pushed the economic discussion into the second day’s agenda.

EU leaders appealed for calm as Israel weighed a response to the drone and missile attack from Iran on Saturday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Israel not to retaliate against Iran with a “massive attack of its own” on his arrival.

Scholz called on Israel to now use the successful defence against Iran’s missile and drone attack “to strengthen its own position in the entire region.” On this basis, “a corresponding military response would certainly not be appropriate,” he said.

Iran said the drone and missile attacks were retaliation for the killing of high-ranking Iranian officers in a missile strike on Iran’s embassy in Syria at the start of the month.

Sanctions may be imposed through a regime set up after Iran began supporting the Russian war on Ukraine by supplying Moscow with drones.

These sanctions banned the export of components used for the construction and production of unmanned aerial vehicles to Iran, and may be expanded to make it harder for Iran to produce missiles.

Calls from Israel to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite unit of the Iranian armed forces, as a terrorist organization are more difficult to meet.

The IRGC would first have to be prosecuted by a national authority for terrorist activities under EU law to prompt this sanction. Scholz said however a recent court ruling in the EU, concerning the activities of the IRGC, is being examined by EU officials.

This could open the way to a terrorist designation for the IRGC, Scholz said. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his country would support sanctions on the IRGC.

As well as the Middle East, EU leaders also discussed Ukraine’s need for air defence weapons with the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who joined the meeting by video call.

In his address to EU leaders, Zelensky called for greater support against Russian air assaults.

He drew a comparison between the support Israel received where US, French, and British jets helped shoot down Iranian drones and missiles and the help, or lack thereof, that Ukraine receives against Russian bombardment.

“Here in Ukraine, in our part of Europe, unfortunately, we do not have the level of defence that we all saw in the Middle East a few days ago,” he said. “Our Ukrainian sky and the sky of our neighbours deserve the same security,” he added.

The EU leaders’ statement “underlines the need to urgently provide air defence to Ukraine and to speed up and intensify the delivery of all the necessary military assistance, including artillery ammunition and missiles”.

Germany has already delivered two Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine and will deliver one more, Scholz said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands and Denmark are working together to provide F16 fighter jets.

“We know that we have to do more than we have been doing so far to support Ukraine now. This applies in particular to all the air defence capabilities that are required,” Scholz said.

ALSO READ-EU Rattles Iran

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Campaigning ends for Phase 1

The last day of the campaigning for the first phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections which will take place on April 19 witnessed intense electioneering by the top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday…reports Asian Lite News

Campaigning for 102 parliamentary constituencies distributed across 21 states and Union territories, where voting will be held in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 19, concluded on Wednesday.

In the first phase, polling will be held in Arunachal Pradesh (2 seats), Assam (5), Bihar (4), Chhattisgarh (1), Madhya Pradesh (6), Maharashtra (5), Manipur (2), Meghalaya (2), Mizoram (1), Nagaland (1), Rajasthan (12), Sikkim (1), Tamil Nadu (39), Tripura (1), Uttar Pradesh (8), Uttarakhand (5), West Bengal (3), Andaman and Nicobar (1), Jammu and Kashmir (1), Lakshadweep (1) and Puducherry (1).

Campaigning for the first phase of polling on April 19 in Uttar Pradesh concluded Wednesday evening, with candidates closing up their campaigns for eight parliamentary seats.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, both members of the opposition’s INDIA bloc, held rallies in Saharanpur and Moradabad on the final day of the campaign.

The seats going to the polls in the first phase on Friday are Saharanpur, Bijnor, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Nagina, Moradabad, Rampur, and Pilibhit.

Likewise, campaigning drew to a close in Uttarakhand at 5 pm this evening, Chief Electoral Officer B VRC Purushottam said.

Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami participated in a roadshow in Haldwani on the last day of the election campaign, earlier on Wednesday.

After winning all five seats in Uttarakhand in the 2014 and 2019 general elections, the BJP is attempting to retain them for a third term.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP’s campaign, built around the development plank, in Madhya Pradesh for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections that ended on Wednesday.

With the first phase scheduled for April 19, the fate of 88 candidates contesting six seats in the MP will be sealed by voters.

In Maharashtra, campaigning for Lok Sabha elections came to an end in five constituencies of the Vidarbha region on Wednesday evening.

Polling will be held in the constituencies of Nagpur, Ramtek, Bhandara-Gondia, Chandrapur and Gadchiroli in the first phase on April 19.

The campaigning in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur parliamentary constituency ended on Wednesday evening. It is witnessing its first major electoral battle since the abrogation of Article 370.

The polling is slated for the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat in the first phase on April 19 and will decide the fate of 12 contestants.

Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Commissioner Saloni Rai said, “On April 17 at 6 pm, we suspended all election-related campaigning, and political parties have been directed to not hold campaigning, roadshows, or canvassing other than door-to-door campaigning.”

“Section 144 is also imposed. Flying squad and static surveillance teams have been deployed. Our main objective is a free and fair and inducement-free election,” said Rai.

Meanwhile, campaigning for three Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal – Cooch Behar (SC), Jalpaiguri (SC) and Alipurduars (ST) — going to polls in the first phase on April 19 came to an end at 6 PM on Wednesday.

Altogether 14 candidates, including sitting MP and Union minister Nisith Pramanik, are contesting the parliamentary elections from Cooch Behar.

Verbal exchanges between main rivals Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress over issues such as corruption, poverty, and pre-poll promises dominated the campaigning for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections in Chhattisgarh, which concluded on Wednesday evening.

Naxal-affected Bastar is the only seat among the 11 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state that will vote in the first phase on April 19, an exercise that will take place in the shadow of the major counter-insurgency operation in Kanker district on April 16.

In Mizoram, the campaigning for the lone Lok Sabha seat ended on Wednesday with political parties making last ditch efforts to sweep the voters.

Campaigning for the April 19 simultaneous polls in Arunachal Pradesh came to an end on Wednesday evening, setting the stage to elect two Lok Sabha MPs and 50 lawmakers for the state assembly.

The BJP has already opened its account by securing 10 seats in the assembly in Arunachal.

Campaigning for five Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam, which are due to go for polling on April 19, including the high-profile constituency of Dibrugarh, ended on Wednesday.

The Lok Sabha poll campaigning for 2024, for the first phase of elections, ended at 5 pm on the five Lok Sabha seats in Assam, including the high-profile seat of Dibrugarh, where Union Minister and former Chief Minister of Assam are contesting.

The voting for the Lok Sabha election in the first phase is to be held across 21 states in 102 seats, including five seats in Upper Assam.

The campaign for the Tripura West Lok Sabha constituency and the Ramnagar Assembly constituency by-poll also ended at 5 pm on Wednesday.

All preparations, including security arrangements, have been made for the polling to be held on April 19, an election department official said.

Rallies, public meetings and roadshows marked the two-week-long high-decibel campaign. (ANI)

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Austin lauds India ties, calls jet engine deal revolutionary

The landmark jet engine deal was revealed in June of last year, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic official state visit to the US….reports Asian Lite News

Lauding the partnership with India, the United States Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, has said that the deal between the two nations to produce jet weapons in collaboration is revolutionary.

Underscoring that India and the US are also co-producing an armoured vehicle, Austin said that such joint ventures will provide great capabilities.

The landmark jet engine deal was revealed in June of last year, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic official state visit to the US. To produce fighter jet engines for the Indian Air Force, General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics signed a memorandum of understanding.

Austin’s remarks came as he testified before the Senate panel on the 2025 budget on Wednesday (local time).

“We have a great relationship with India. We recently have enabled India to produce jet weapons in India. That is kind of revolutionary. That will provide great capabilities to them. We are also co-producing an armoured vehicle. All of these things when you add them up, are probably more than what we have seen in half of that region in a very long time,” Austin told lawmakers.

He stated that all of this “promotes interoperability.”

“They all promote helping increase our ability to respond to a number of different things. Again, these are meaningful things that most of us are not aware of. We have made tremendous progress, and we will continue to do so,” he added.

Earlier in 2023, US General Electric (US GE) announced that it had inked an agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the government’s aerospace and defence manufacturing firm, to jointly manufacture engines in India to power fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.

Moreover, the Biden Administration notified the US Congress in February this year, of its intent to sell nearly 4 billion dollars worth of arms, comprising mainly of the MQ 9 B Drones armed with Hellfire missiles.

The Defence Security Cooperation Agency, which is an agency within the US Department of Defence, said in a press release that the sale helps strengthen the US-Indian strategic relationship.

It added that New Delhi continues to be an “important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.”ment includes the potential joint production of GE Aerospace’s F414 engines in India.

Support UN reforms: US on Musk’s India remark

The US has offered support for reforms to United Nations institutions, including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

When asked about Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s statement regarding India’s lack of a permanent seat at the UNSC, Vedant Patel said, “The President has spoken about this before in his remarks to the UN General Assembly, and the Secretary has alluded to this as well. We certainly support reforms to the UN institution, including the Security Council, to make it reflective of the 21st-century world that we live in. I don’t have any specifics to offer on what those steps are, but certainly, we recognise that there is a need for reform, but I will leave it at that for now.”

In January, Elon Musk called India not having a permanent seat in the UNSC as ‘absurd.’ He said that nations with excess power don’t want to relinquish it.

In a post on X, Musk said, “At some point, there needs to be a revision of the UN bodies. Problem is that those with excess power don’t want to give it up. India not having a permanent seat on the Security Council, despite being the most populous country on Earth, is absurd. Africa collectively should also have a permanent seat imo.”

India has long sought a permanent seat on the Security Council to better represent the interests of the developing world. The nation’s quest has gained momentum with support from the international community.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is composed of 15 member states, including five permanent members with veto power and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms.

The five permanent members of the UNSC include China, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and the United States. The non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are elected for 2-year terms by the UNGA.

Ahead of the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in its election manifesto titled ‘Sankalp Patra’, vowed to pursue permanent membership for the country in the United Nations Security Council.

In its manifesto released on April 14, the BJP stated, “We are committed to seeking permanent membership in the UN Security Council to elevate Bharat’s position in global decision-making.”

Earlier in January, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar stressed growing global support for India’s permanent membership at the United Nations Security Council and said that sometimes things are not given generously, and one has to seize them.

“With each passing year, the feeling in the world is that India should be there, and I can feel that support…The world does not give things easily and generously; sometimes you have to take them,” the EAM said while responding to a question about a permanent seat for India at the UNSC. He made the remarks at ‘Manthan’: Townhall meeting in Maharashtra’s Nagpur. (ANI)

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Afghanistan: 15.8M People in Food Insecurity Crisis

According to the 2023 Global Hunger Index, Afghanistan ranked 114th among 125 countries with sufficient data to calculate the index scores…reports Asian Lite News

An estimated 15.8 million people in war-ravaged Afghanistan will experience crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity in 2024, said a United Nations (UN) report released on Thursday.

According to the 2023 UN Afghanistan Annual Results Report, the majority of Afghanistan’s population is unable to procure basic needs such as healthcare, food, livelihood and housing, Xinhua news agency reported.

“As 2023 began, families across Afghanistan continued to struggle to feed their children. Nine out of 10 people were not consuming an adequate amount of food, the cost of which absorbed an overwhelming 89 per cent of household incomes,” it said.

According to the 2023 Global Hunger Index, Afghanistan ranked 114th among 125 countries with sufficient data to calculate the index scores.

War-torn Afghanistan with a population of about 40 million has been facing poverty and economic hardships since the withdrawal of US-led forces in August 2021.

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Biden backs Johnson’s bill for Israel & Ukraine

Biden urged the passage of the bill this week….reports Asian Lite News

US President Joe Biden has offered support to US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson’s proposal for three separate bills providing US aid to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific, The Hill reported.

Biden also urged the passage of the bill this week.

In a statement, Biden said, “The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow. I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed,” The Hill reported.

Biden said that he strongly supports this package to offer critical support to Israel as well as Ukraine, provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza and bolster security in the Indo-Pacific.

In the statement, he stated, “I strongly support this package to get critical support to Israel and Ukraine, provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Israel is facing unprecedented attacks from Iran, and Ukraine is facing continued bombardment from Russia that has intensified dramatically in the last month.”

The US President’s support for the bills gave a green signal to Democratic lawmakers to join Republicans in voting in favour of the foreign aid bills. On Wednesday, Mike Johnson unveiled the text for three bills that would combine military assistance to Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific with humanitarian aid for Gaza and other global hot spots.

The three bills are part of his plan for moving foreign aid through the House, a process that has been delayed for months amid other pressing priorities and stalled this week as his initial proposal faced criticism from the right flank. However, Mike Johnson vowed to move forward with his proposal, rejecting the outrage from his right flank.

In a text message to GOP lawmakers on Wednesday morning, Johnson said that he also plans to unveil text for a fourth bill that includes other national security priorities, according to The Hill report. That proposal will include a ban on TikTok, a provision to help pay for aid by using seized Russian assets, sanctions and other steps to combat Russia, China and Iran.

Johnson noted that these four measures will move under one procedural rule that will allow for an amendment process. However, in Johnson’s initial plan, the outline of which he unveiled on Monday, the US House Speaker said he would move a border security measure separate from the foreign aid bills, a move meant to appease conservatives who were up in arms that the priority was at first excluded.

That legislation will include “core components” from H.R. 2, the border security bill House Republicans approved in 2023. Johnson said he is eyeing a Saturday evening vote on the foreign aid legislation, The Hill reported.

In a text message sent to lawmakers before the legislation was made public, Mike Johnson wrote, “By posting text of these bills as soon as they are completed, we will ensure time for a robust amendment process. We expect the vote on final passage of these bills to be on Saturday evening. Thank you all for your feedback and support. I value every member of this conference and look forward to continuing our work together.”

In his remarks in a press gaggle on Tuesday, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that the Biden administration will look at the Speaker’s proposal before deciding whether to support the bills or not.

On being asked whether the Biden administration will support four bills which are being suggested by US House Speaker Mike Johnson, Kirby said, “We’re going to wait and pass judgement after we’ve had a chance to take a look closer at the Speaker’s proposal. The important thing is that our allies, like Ukraine and Israel, who are under the gun, literally, under the gun, get the security assistance they need as quickly as possible. So, we want them to move this week.” (ANI)

ALSO READ: Biden renews Ukraine aid plea as Czech PM visits

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New York Capitol hit by cyberattack, budget deal delayed

With regard to the state budget, which was due at the end of March, legislators are already 17 days behind schedule….reports Asian Lite News

The computer infrastructure of the New York State Legislature appeared to be the target of an alleged cyberattack overnight on Tuesday, delaying the already weeks-overdue state budget negotiations, reported The Hill.

New York Governor Kathy Hocul stated that the cyberattack took place in the early hours of Wednesday, prompting a quick response from cybersecurity officials.

However, as of now, the exact reason behind the attack is unknown.

The hardest hit, according to Gothamist, a New York City-centric blog website operated by New York Public Radio, was the legislature’s bill drafting office, which is in charge of deciding on the state budget’s final wording.

With regard to the state budget, which was due at the end of March, legislators are already 17 days behind schedule. The bill drafting office is responding to the attack by using a computer file system that was replaced more than 20 years ago, which dates back to 1994, The Hill reported.

“Our understanding right now is that it will take a little bit longer to deal with the legislative side of it because a lot of data is included in the computers,” Hochul said of the budget process in a WNYC radio appearance with Brian Lehrer on Wednesday, according to The Hill.

Hochul announced on Monday that negotiations on a USD 237 billion budget proposal had been agreed upon by parliamentarians and that this week’s proceedings were anticipated to proceed.

According to The Hill, the members of Congress are concerned about the growing prevalence of cyberattacks and the possible hazards they pose to businesses and governments, which has centred attention on Washington in recent months.

A particular warning for state water and wastewater systems was issued by the Biden administration last month, alerting people to the possibility that attacks could be launched against vital infrastructure. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Biden renews Ukraine aid plea as Czech PM visits