Foreign "Militants" in Syria Pose Threat to EU, Allies

The growing number of young Europeans joining Al Qaeda-linked "militants" in Syria poses a potential threat to the EU and its allies, France and Belgium have warned.

“The phenomenon is particularly worrying,” French Interior Minister Manuel Valls alongside his Belgian counterpart Joelle Milquet said on Thursday.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 youths have gone to Syria, they told a joint press conference, Al-Alam reported.

Earlier this year, a report by King’s College London estimated that 600 Europeans might have joined "rebel forces" in Syria since early 2011.

 “For Belgians, it is between 100 and 150,” Milquet said.

 “For the French, it is slightly more than 400, of which 184 are currently in Syria,” Valls said, adding that 14 had died, 80 had come back and 100 wanted to leave.

Now the situation has changed, he said; “Most of those going say they want to fight in groups linked to Al Qaeda.”

For the moment, there appears to be no immediate threat, but that does not mean, “We can drop our guard because the extremist groups have grown stronger and our nationals are becoming dangerous,” he said.

Both France and Belgium are working together on the problem and have held meetings with Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Denmark to coordinate a response.


Russian FM Due in Iran Next Week

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov plans to visit Iran in the coming days to discuss international and regional developments and ways to expand all-out ties between Moscow and Tehran, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman announced, according to FNA.

“A visit to Iran by Russian foreign minister has been set for December 10-11,” the spokesman told reporters.

During his trip to Tehran, Lavrov will meet with senior Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani.

Iran’s new Ambassador to Moscow Mehdi Sanayee underlined Iran’s resolve to expand all-out relations with Russia.

Sanayee, who has recently been assigned to the ambassadorial job, said Tehran attaches special importance to its bilateral ties with Moscow, and “expansion of relations with Russia is among the priorities of the government of President Rouhani."

The Iranian ambassador described Russia as an influential country on the scene of international politics, and said, “Fortunately the political will of the Iranian and Russian officials has been precisely oriented towards consolidation and expansion of bilateral ties.”

Upon his arrival in Moscow, Sanayee met the officials of the Russian foreign ministry, diplomats and officials of the Iranian organizations active in Russia.

Iran and Russia have vast cooperation in different fields, especially in political and economic spheres.

The two also enjoy special position on the international scene and have long held constant consultations on key regional and global issues.


Bogdanov, British ambassador discuss situation in Syria

MOSCOW_ Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also presidential special envoy for the Middle East, met British Ambassador in Moscow Tim Barrow on Friday to discuss the situation in Syria,according to ITAR TASS.

The meeting was held on the initiative of the British ambassador, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.

 “Mikhail Bogdanov and Tim Barrow exchanged views on political and diplomatic means of the crisis in Syria and the Geneva II Peace Conference due to be convened on January 22, 2014,” the report says.


Nelson Mandela death: South Africa and world mourn

Mr Mandela went on to become one of the world's most respected statesmen.

A service of national mourning is expected to be held at a 95,000-seater stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Monday. His body will then lie in state for three days in the capital, Pretoria, before being taken for a state funeral in the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where he grew up,according to BBC.

"God was so good to us in South Africa by giving us Nelson Mandela to be our president at a crucial moment in our history," said long-time ally Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

South African papers pay tribute to Mandela

At a service in Cape Town on Friday, he said Mr Mandela had "taught a divided nation to come together".

Mr Mandela had been suffering from a lung illness for a long time.

He had been receiving treatment at home since September, when he was discharged from hospital.

As soon as the news broke, small crowds began to gather in Soweto's Vilakazi Street, where Mr Mandela lived in the 1940s and 1950s.

They chanted apartheid-era songs, including one with the lyrics: "We have not seen Mandela in the place where he is, in the place where he is kept."

By daybreak, dozens more had gathered.

"We are celebrating his life and all that he did for us," said one of the mourners, Terry Mokoena.

Crowds also gathered outside Mr Mandela's current home, in Johannesburg's northern suburb of Houghton, where he died.

Across the world, leaders, celebrities and members of the public have been paying tribute.

Queen Elizabeth II said she was "deeply saddened" to learn of Mr Mandela's death.

"He worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today," a statement issued by Buckingham Palace said.

What was apartheid? A 90-second look back at decades of injustice

South Africans are mourning Nelson Mandela through songs of struggle and church hymns. One of the songs is "Nelson Mandela ha hona ea tshwanang le yena" which in Sotho means there is no-one like Nelson Mandela. This song and many others like it encapsulate the deep sense of loss here and the realisation that his passing marks the end of an era.

Even South Africans who had never met him had made a special place for him in their hearts. They will remember him as the father of the nation, who brought an end to apartheid and delivered the nation from the brink of civil war.

Children carrying posters slowly march up and down Vilakazi street, where Mr Mandela's Soweto home is. Others are standing outside his old house, now turned into a museum.

There is an air of heaviness here - none of the loud hooting of minibus taxis that usually make up the energy of this busy street, no cars speeding down blaring loud music. Instead those not part of the mournful singing speak in hushed tones. Elderly women with walking sticks are part of the group that has come to send off the nation's icon.

"He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home," said US President Barack Obama.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called him "a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration".

Flags are flying at half-mast on government buildings in Washington DC, Paris and across South Africa. The European Union and world football body Fifa have also ordered their flags to be lowered.

The parliament in Pretoria is expected to hold a special joint session to reflect on Mr Mandela's life and legacy.

Books of condolence have been opened at public buildings in South Africa and at the country's embassies throughout the world.

Next Monday is expected to be the start of South Africa's official mourning, with a service in Soweto's FNB stadium.

Mr Mandela's body will lie in state for three days at the Union buildings in Pretoria. His funeral is likely to be held on Saturday in Qunu, the village in Eastern Cape where he was born.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Johannesburg says South Africa will never have seen a state funeral like it, with leaders, dignitaries and other admirers of the former president expected from all over the world.

It will be a huge logistical challenge, especially given the remoteness of Qunu, our correspondent adds.

"Our nation has lost its greatest son," Mr Zuma said.

"Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss."

Mr Mandela won admiration around the world when he preached reconciliation after being freed from almost three decades of imprisonment.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with FW de Klerk, South Africa's last white president.


Extremist opposition groups in Syria abduct OSCE member-states journalists, says

Moscow favors the amendment of the mandate of the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, the Voice of Russia correspondent Ksenya Melnikova reports. "The new realities of the media environment dictate the need to update the mandate of the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, which was adopted back in 1997," Lavrov said at an OSCE ministerial session in Kiev on Thursday.

"Russia has made a specific proposal on its amendment and asks for its consideration," he said.

"The provision of security of journalists performing their professional duties and improvement of the relevant legal basis call for special attention," he said.

"We are primarily concerned about multiple instances of violation of the rights of journalists working abroad, especially mass abductions of journalists, including citizens of many OSCE member-states, by extremist opposition groups in Syria," Lavrov said.

OSCE should find comprehensive solution to human trafficking problem - Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to pay greater attention to the fight against trafficking in humans, the Voice of Russia correspondent reports.

"We support the need for the OSCE to pay stronger attention to a shameful phenomenon such as human trafficking. We call on [this organization] to apply a comprehensive solution to this problem, including the trade in human organs and tissues," Lavrov said at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Kiev on Thursday.

"Trafficking in humans is particularly outrageous," he said. "Recently, the operations of online adoption exchanges were exposed that helped illegally transfer adopted children to other families, which frequently led to instances of sexual abuse," Lavrov said.

"Is there anyone who may think that such criminal methods of Internet use are permissible?" Lavrov said.


Russia to give to Syria necessary equipment for chemical disarmament mission - Churkin

Russia will give to Syria necessary equipment for certain measures in the framework of elimination of the chemical weapons, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin told Russian reporters on Wednesday.

He said it would solve the problem of lacking material means for the chemical disarmament mission in Syria ,according to Voice of Russia,  .

"We shall provide certain assistance to Syria by giving necessary equipment for certain measures in the framework of elimination of the chemical weapons," the diplomat said.


N.H. khider

Lavrov, Kerry discuss preparations for Geneva-2, Syria chemical disarmament

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry met on the sidelines of a Russia-NATO Council meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss preparations for the Geneva-2 international conference on Syria and the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told reporters.

"The sides exchanged opinions on international issues and lauded progress at the talks with Iran resulting in concrete and mutually acceptable agreements in the interests of nonproliferation and global security," the source said, according to Voice of Russia, TASS.

 Lavrov and Kerry discussed the situation around Syria, including Geneva-2 preparations and the course of Syria’s chemical disarmament.

A number of "burning aspects of bilateral relations" were also touched upon, the source said.


Rasmussen: Russia-NATO partnership key security element in Euro-Atlantic region

BRUSSELS_ The Russia-NATO partnership remains a key element of security in the Euro-Atlantic region, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday, opening a ministerial of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) in which Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is taking part, according to ITAR TASS.

 “We have made considerable progress in our co-operation on Afghanistan and in combating terrorism,” he stressed. According to him, the ministers of 29 NRC member countries are to consider a wide range of issues, including co-operation in the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in interaction with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

We have also launched a new project — trust fund for obsolete munitions disposal. This work will be started in Kaliningrad,” Rasmussen said.

He noted that the relations with the “partner states” would be considered at the NRC meeting on Wednesday among other issues. He did not mention the missile defense problem on which Russia and NATO have not reached compromise so far.