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US pledges $1 bn support package for Ukraine

The just-announced aid brings total US commitment of security assistance to Ukraine to nearly $9.8 billion since Biden took office, according to the Pentagon…reports Asian Lite News

The administration of US President Joe Biden has announced that the US will provide Ukraine with $1 billion worth of additional security assistance, the largest one-time weapons package since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

According to a statement by the Department of Defence, the package — the 18th tranche of presidential drawdown since August 2021 — included additional munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), 75,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery ammunition, 20 120 mm mortar systems and 20,000 rounds of 120 mm mortar ammunition, as well as munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), Xinhua news agency reported.

Washington will also deliver to Kiev 1,000 Javelins, hundreds of AT4 anti-armor systems, 50 armoured medical treatment vehicles, anti-personnel munitions, explosives, demolition munitions and demolition equipment, the statement said.

The just-announced aid brings total US commitment of security assistance to Ukraine to nearly $9.8 billion since Biden took office, according to the Pentagon.

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S.Korea, US to hold talks on Korean Peninsula

It would mark their second in-person meeting in their current capacities, following their first talks on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security forum in Singapore, in June…reports Asian Lite News

The defence chiefs of South Korea and the US will hold talks in Washington DC on Friday (July 29) to discuss security on the Korean Peninsula and deterrence against evolving North Korean threats.

South Korean Defence Minister Lee Jong-sup and his counterpart, Lloyd Austin, are scheduled to meet Friday, as the allies have been cranking up security coordination amid speculation Pyongyang could ratchet up tensions by conducting a nuclear test or other provocative acts, Yonhap news agency reported.

It would mark their second in-person meeting in their current capacities, following their first talks on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security forum in Singapore, in June.

“Through this meeting, (the two sides) plan to exchange their assessments about the security situation on the peninsula and have a wide-range of discussions on various alliance issues, including efforts to enhance the enforceability of extended deterrence,” the South Korean Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Amid growing North Korean nuclear and missile threats, Seoul has been striving to ensure and strengthen the enforceability of extended deterrence, America’s stated commitment to using a full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear options, to defend its Asian ally.

While in the US, Lee plans to attend Wednesday’s ceremony celebrating the completion of the Wall of Remembrance, a Korean War monument bearing the names of 36,634 US troops and 7,174 members of the Korean Augmentation to the US Army who died during the 1950-53 conflict.

Lee will also visit the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington to express his appreciation to war veterans and hold separate meetings with former US Forces Korea commanders and officials from major US think tanks.

ALSO READ-‘North Korea ready to conduct nuke test at any time’

Arab News

US seeks to cause tensions in Middle East by spreading Iranophobia

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman has dismissed the US President’s recent claims over Iran’s nuclear activity as a “failed policy of promoting Iranophobia,” which seeks to cause tensions and crises in the region…reports Asian Lite News

Joe Biden’s anti-Iran remarks, which were made during his Middle East visit, are “part of Washington’s policy of inciting sedition and fomenting tensions in the region,” Nasser Kanaani said on Sunday.

Citing the American dark record and history of hostility toward other countries, Kanaani added that the US invaded and occupied a number of regional countries and has sold numerous weapons, as well as constantly interfering in regional states’ internal affairs, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Iranian spokesman reaffirmed Iran’s strategic policy of seeking to use nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes within the framework of the international rules and regulations, saying Iran is committed to the continuation of the talks on the removal of the sanctions and revival of a 2015 nuclear deal.

ALSO READ:‘We will use force to prevent Iranian N-weapons’

He stressed Iran’s principled and constructive policy of welcoming dialogue with neighbours and regional initiatives, expressing hope that “regional governments are expected to take constructive steps in favour of collective security, peace, stability and development”.

The US pledged not to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon even at the cost of using “all elements of its national power,” affirming its commitment to work together with other partners “to confront Iran’s aggression and destabilising activities,” Biden said in a US-Israel joint declaration in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Arab News USA

Biden to see a stronger Iraq: Al-Kadhimi

US President Joe Biden will discover a stronger and more confident Iraq during his Middle East trip this week, according to Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, media reported…reports Asian Lite News

Writing for Foreign Policy magazine, the premier said that his country was now finding “Iraqi solutions” to “Iraq’s problems,” and that he would meet Biden as the leader of a more “resilient” Iraq, the Arab News reported.

In his article, Al-Kadhimi asked the US as well as international partners to recognise and support the progress Iraq was making in a post-war, post-Daesh era.

Meanwhile, Biden will meet with several regional leaders in the Kingdom on Saturday, including Al-Kadhimi, as part of his Middle East trip.

The Iraqi PM thanked the US for its assistance and support in moving the country away from “three decades of Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorial rule,” and toward a developing, multiparty and multiethnic democracy.

He praised the evolution of the Iraq-US relationship over the past two decades, which he said had moved from one based on security and the fight against terrorism, to a partnership revolving around societal and economical development in fields such as energy, climate, health, education and culture.

ALSO READ:Biden’s Saudi visit ‘pivotal’: Envoy

He also acknowledged that, following “political difficulties” arising from the latest elections in Iraq, more needed to be done to embed the democratic process in Iraqi public life, the Arab News reported.

However, Al-Kadhimi said that Iraqis had reason to be positive about their futures after the territorial defeat of Daesh, and that their country was “proactive regionally and internationally,” and “no longer a passive member of the international community,” the report added.

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At I2U2, US cites India’s importance in Quad

US President Joe Biden’ offers full-throated justification for elevating ties with India, reports Yashwant Raj…reports Asian Lite News

US President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday offered a full-throated justification for elevating ties with India, specially through multilateral platforms such as the newly launched I2U2 that the two countries form with Israel and the UAE, and the Quad with Japan and Australia, calling India the “most strategically consequential countries in the Indo-Pacific”.

India’s “longstanding” ties in West Asia and with Israel was cited as reason for the Biden administration involving India in the I2U2, which will hold its first-ever summit in a four-way virtual meeting later Wednesday with Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid joining from Israel, where the American leader is for the next few days on his first trip to the region.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters accompanying Biden on Wednesday that a “significant announcement” is expected to be made at the I2U2 summit on food security, which, he had said earlier, would be the focus of the first-ever summit of the new body.

Sullivan was more expansive about Biden administration’s approach on India in response to a specific question about India’s involvement in all of the President’s recent foreign policy initiatives such as I2U2 and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, which is designed to offer countries a sustainable alternative to China’s predatory Belt and Road Initiative, and the Quad, which has had multiple summit-level meetings since Biden took office.

“First, India plays a critical role in the Indo-Pacific. And it’s one of the largest, most significant, most strategically consequential countries in the Indo-Pacific, and so it should play a central role in our strategy, including through the Quad,” he said.

Citing India’s “longstanding” ties to the West Asia region (called the Middle East by the rest of the world) and “a relationship over the years” with Israel, Sullivan went on to say, “just as the United States can play a critical and central role in helping deepen Israel’s integration into the region, India has a role to play in that as well”.

Ties between India and Israel have improved rapidly with bipartisan support on body sides after the two countries established full diplomatic ties in 1980. India’s ties with the Gulf region countries go a long way back, but it has made rapid progress with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar in recent years.

The new Quad for the West Asia region is Biden’s attempt to broaden US policy from its decades-long narrow focus on terrorism and wars.

“Bringing together Israel, India, and the United Arab Emirates, especially around an issue where the four countries have unique capacities to bring to bear on agricultural technology, leading to greater food production, leading to an alleviation of the food security challenge — this is the kind of thing that really fulfills the President’s vision of a more integrated, more globally engaged Middle East across the board that isn’t just focused on issues that have been top of mind for American foreign policymakers over the last 20 years — terrorism and wars,” the US National Security adviser said.

“This is a different kind of approach, and it’s about expanding partnerships, expanding the geography rather than contracting or narrowing it.”

I2U2 can become “a feature of the broader region, just as the Quad has become a central pillar of the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States”, Sullivan said in conclusion.

Modi to attend summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join US President Joe Biden, Israeli PM Yair Lapid and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the first virtual summit of the four-nation grouping ‘I2U2’ on Thursday.

The leaders are expected to discuss joint economic projects to bolster economic cooperation under the framework of the coalition.

The global food and energy crisis arising out of the Ukraine conflict is likely to figure prominently in the talks.

“The leaders will discuss the possible joint projects within the framework of ‘I2U2’ as well as the other common areas of mutual interest to strengthen the economic partnership in trade and investment in our respective regions and beyond,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Tuesday.

The I2U2 grouping was conceptualised during the meeting of the foreign ministers of the four countries held on October 18 last year.

India’s bilateral strategic ties with each of the three countries are on an upswing in the last few years.

ALSO READ-Australia reaches out to Quad partners amid China’s growing dominance

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New US-Israel deal against nuclear Iran

The joint agreement between the United States and Israel against Iran’s nuclear program will be the highlight of President Biden’s visit to Israel, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

US President Joe Biden is planning to sign an agreement with Israeli government pledging that both countries will use “all elements of national power” to ensure that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon, media reported citing Israeli officials.

Biden’s first official visit to the Middle East is starting today with first stop at Tel Aviv, where he will meet with Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog, before flying to Saudi Arabia to meet King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The declaration of a joint stance against Iran’s nuclear program and regional aggression will be the centerpiece of Biden’s visit to Israel this week, the Arab News reported.

Iran is at the top of Israel’s agenda for meetings with US representatives at all levels, including Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s meeting with Biden, Arab News quoted an official as saying.

The official said Iran was “playing for time” in talks aimed at reviving the collapsed 2015 deal to curb its nuclear program. “As long as Iran believes time is on its side, it will not give in or make any concessions. Time has run out and it is crucial to exert pressure on Iran.”

The new joint declaration would be “a living testimony to the unique quality, depth and scope of the US-Israel relationship,” an Israeli diplomatic source said on Tuesday. “It expresses the warmth and profound commitment to the relationship on both sides, specifically to Israel’s security, prosperity and wellbeing.”

Earlier this week, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced that it started the extraction of 20-percent enriched uranium from the Fordow enrichment facility in central Iran.

On Saturday, “20-per cent enriched uranium was extracted from the new chain of centrifuges which were installed and fed with gas in Fordow two weeks ago,” Behrouz Kamalvandi told IRIB TV in an interview.

“Iran’s yesterday extraction of 20-per cent product from this chain was the final technical part of the previously-announced action, about which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been informed earlier and was recently verified,” he said.

The spokesman noted that the AEOI action was carried out in line with the implementation of its legal duties in launching and feeding uranium gas to 1,000 IR-6 centrifuges, according to the report.

This is the first time that the IR-6 centrifuges, Iran’s third-generation, and most advanced uranium enrichment facilities, are put to use.

Iran signed a nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with world powers in July 2015, agreeing to curb its nuclear program in return for the removal of sanctions on the country. Iran is obliged under the 2015 nuclear agreement to limit its uranium enrichment to 3.67 per cent purity.

ALSO READ:Palestine Prez meets Israeli Defence Minister

However, Iran started gradually reducing its commitments to the agreement one year after former U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally took his country out of the JCPOA in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Iran is already enriching to up to 60 per cent, well above the up to 20 per cent it produced before the 2015 deal.

Meanwhile, President Biden, before traveling to Jeddah, is expected to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, and visit Augusta Victoria, a Palestinian hospital in east Jerusalem, where he will announce that the US is restoring aid to Palestinian hospitals in the city, it was reported.

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UAE, US boost join hands in combating money laundering

The UAE delegation highlighted the most prominent developments in the UAE’s national agenda to combat money laundering and terrorist financing…reports Asian Lite News

A UAE delegation visited Washington, D.C. and met with officials from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, including representatives from the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

During the visit, officials discussed close cooperation between the UAE and US in the field of countering money laundering, terrorist financing, and WMD proliferation financing.

The UAE delegation highlighted the most prominent developments in the UAE’s national agenda to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as the country’s efforts to enhance the effectiveness of these controls in cooperation with international partners.

During the visit, members of the UAE delegation discussed other strategic initiatives, including efforts to mitigate risks associated with virtual assets, illegal wildlife trafficking, and refining the UAE’s proliferation financing risk assessment that the country commenced earlier this year.

ALSO READ:Special Stamp to Mark Indo-UAE Ties

The delegation highlighted UAE efforts in public private partnership and recent developments, which include progress on the legal framework for sharing information between the public and private sectors to enhance the effectiveness of the AML/CFT regime.

In this regard, Hamid Al Zaabi, Director-General of the Executive Office to Combat Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, said, “The United States of America is one of the UAE’s main strategic partners in combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing. This field, where crimes are complex and transcontinental in nature, requires a high level of global coordination and cooperation with international counterparts.”

Paul Ahern, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes (TFFC), said, “We welcomed the Executive Office of AML/CFT to Treasury to continue our ongoing collaboration and technical engagement.”

Arab News

US presence in Islamic world leads to insecurity, poverty Iran

Both Iran and Pakistan are suffering from the irreparable adverse impacts of “destructive” US interferences and presence in Afghanistan, the Iranian commander cited…reports Asian Lite News

A top Iranian commander has slammed the US military presence in the Islamic world for allegedly leading to “divisions among the nations, prolonged wars, destruction of houses, displacement of people, insecurity, poverty, and underdevelopment”.

Hossein Salami, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), made the remarks in a meeting with Pakistan’s Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Nadeem Raza in the Iranian capital Tehran, Xinhua news agency reported, citing Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

Both Iran and Pakistan are suffering from the irreparable adverse impacts of “destructive” US interferences and presence in Afghanistan, the Iranian commander cited.

Salami expressed satisfaction with the US retreat from the Islamic world, hoping that Islamic states would regain their independence through self-confidence.

ALSO READ:Iran FM: Iran welcomes reopening Embassies in Riyadh, Tehran

He also said that Iran sees Pakistan’s security as important as its own, calling for further enhancement of cooperation in different sectors, particularly in ensuring security along their common borders and fighting terrorism.

Raza, for his part, also blamed the US and Western plots for the divisions within the Islamic world, noting that the US withdrew from Afghanistan after 20 years without managing to establish security in that country.

He emphasised the necessity of intelligence and operational cooperation between Pakistan and Iran in protecting the security of the joint border.

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US, Israel, Arab nations deepen ties

Ahead of US President Joe Biden’s Middle East trip, the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, UAE and US, held the inaugural meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee in Manama, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

United Arab Emirates and United States along with partner countries – Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, and Morocco – held the inaugural meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee — a framework to advance a common vision for the region and enhance regional cooperation — in Manama, Bahrain.

“The Governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, represented by senior officials from their respective foreign ministries, held the inaugural meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee in Manama, Bahrain on June 27, 2022,” said the US State Department in its press release.

The meeting is of particular importance in light of US President Joe Biden’s expected visit to Israel and the Middle East and the American commitment to expanding the circle of peace, said the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Notably, US President Joe Biden will make his first trip to the Middle East region next month, visiting Israel, West Bank and Saudi Arabia from July 13-16.

“The Committee’s main objective is to further coordinate our collective efforts and advance a common vision for the region. In this context, we outlined a framework document for the Negev Forum, setting out the objectives of the Forum, and the working methods of its four-part structure: the Foreign Ministers’ Ministerial, the Presidency, the Steering Committee, and the Working Groups,” the US State Department added.

As per the US and the partner countries, this meeting demonstrated the strength of relations, shared commitment to cooperation, and the important opportunities unlocked by improved relations between Israel and its neighbours, showing what can be achieved by working together to overcome shared challenges.

The participants also affirmed that these relations can be harnessed to create momentum in Israeli-Palestinian relations, towards a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and as part of efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

The Steering Committee discussed the assignment of chairs for each of the six Working Groups launched by the Ministers at the Negev Summit. The Working Groups are to meet regularly throughout the year to advance initiatives that encourage regional integration, cooperation, and development for the benefit of the peoples of the region and across a variety of spheres, including initiatives that strengthen the Palestinian economy and improve the quality of life of Palestinians.

ALSO READ:Turkey, Israel start work to appoint ambassadors

The Working Group chairs are expected to regularly report progress to the Steering Committee. Working Group chairs, with the consensus of members, may invite non-member participants to participate in specific initiatives where their participation delivers a direct benefit to the initiative’s stated goal.

The Working Groups are Clean Energy, Education and Coexistence, Food and Water Security, Health, Regional Security and Tourism.

The Foreign Ministers’ Ministerial, which is expected to convene annually, is to be the principal governing body of the Forum. Israel continues to serve as Negev Forum President until the next Ministerial gathering.

The Steering Committee emphasized that deeper cooperation and improved understanding among our countries is fundamental to the success of the broader region. “We look forward to the next Negev Forum Ministerial meeting later this year, to be preceded by a further meeting of the Steering Committee to be held in Israel,” the release added. (inputs from ANI)

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Biden signs landmark gun reforms law

The bill, called “The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act”, follows national outrage and frustration felt after killings of 10 African Americans in Buffalo, New York and 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas just 10 days apart in recent weeks, reports Yashwant Raj

US President Joe Biden on Saturday signed into law a legislation that makes modest changes in the gun laws of the country but marks a significant step on reforms in decades.

“Nothing is going to fill that void in their hearts,” Biden said of survivors and relatives of gun violence victims. “But they lead the way so other families will not have the experience with pain and trauma that they have to live through.”

“Their message to us was to do something. How many times have you heard that? Just do something? For God’s sake, just do something. Well, today, we did,” he added.

The bill, called “The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act”, follows national outrage and frustration felt after killings of 10 African Americans in Buffalo, New York and 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas just 10 days apart in recent weeks.

Passed by the US Senate on Thursday and the House of Representatives on Friday, it expands background checks for prospective buyers between 18 and 21 � both the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters were 18, includes abusive dating partners in the list of those who could be prevented from buying guns, and, finally, it seeks to incentivise states to introduce red-flag laws that would allows law enforcement or relatives to prevent guns from falling in the hands of people who could harm either themselves or others.

The bill also seeks to pump in $15 billion into school safety and mental health care.

The bill was negotiated by 10 Republican and 10 Democratic Senators and passed both chambers of Congress with bipartisan voting, as many Republicans � but not all � joined their Democratic colleagues to beak a decades-long logjam that prevented reforms; the last successful effort was in 1994 when assault weapons were banned.

College student Jennifer Estrada takes part in a rally for gun control and anti-racism, in El Paso of Texas, the United States. (Xinhua_Wang Ying_IANS)

“This vote shows that Senators can and will come together to find common ground on lifesaving issues,” Sandy Hook Promise, an advocacy formed by the parents of the children killed in the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre of 2013, said in a statement after the Senate vote on Thursday. “It is not a choice between protecting our children and communities and preserving the Second Amendment. We can do both.”

“With this bipartisan package, we take the first steps to fight back on behalf of the American people, who desperately want new measures to keep communities safe in the high numbers in the polling,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the floor of the House on Friday. “To those who lacked the courage to join in this work, I say your political survival is insignificant compared to the survival of our children.”

Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the US Senate, had said: “This is the sweet spot… making America safer, especially for kids in school, without making our country one bit less free.”

He added: “I thought it was time to act, and if (Democrats) were willing to join with us and pass legislation that actually targeted the problem, which is school safety and mental health, why would we not want to do that?”

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