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RUSSIA'S LAVROV: IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL CANNOT SURVIVE IF US PULLS OUT

UNITED NATIONS - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday the Iran nuclear deal cannot survive if the United States pulls out the agreement.

US President Donald Trump said a week ago that if the "disastrous flaws" of the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program were not fixed within 120 days then Washington would withdraw.

"This agreement cannot be implemented if one of the participants unilaterally steps out of it. It will fall apart, there will be no deal then," Lavrov told reporters at the United Nations in New York. 


INDIA TEST-FIRES MISSILE AMID PERCEIVED THREATS FROM CHINA, PAKISTAN
NEW DELHI - India tested its longest-range intercontinental missile on Thursday, the defense ministry said, part of efforts to build a nuclear deterrent against neighboring Pakistan and China.

The 5,000-km range (3,107-mile) Agni missile was tested from an island in India's eastern coast in the Bay of Bengal, the ministry said on its official Twitter account.

It said the launch was "a major boost to the defense capabilities" of India.

The Agni-V is an advanced version of the indigenously built Agni, or Fire, series, part of a program that started in the 1980s. It has been tested previously before.

New Delhi says it faces a twin threat from both bitter foe Pakistan, which is developing a nuclear and missile program of its own, as well as China. A long-running dispute over the Himalayan border with China has flared in recent years.

ABBAS: JERUSALEM AT THE GATE OF PEACE & WAR, TRUMP MUST CHOOSE
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday used fiery rhetoric to slam US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“[Jerusalem] is the gate of peace and war and Trump must choose,” Abbas said a conference at Al-Azhar University in Cairo.


SOUTH AFRICAN ACTIVIST: ISRAEL'S BDS BLACKLIST WILL HARM PEACE PROCESS
A decision to stop anti-Israeli organizations and individuals from entering Israel will do more harm than good to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and will hamper dialogue between the two sides, Africans for Peace head coordinator Klaas Mokgomole says.

“Most of the people who are involved in the whole Israel- Palestine debate lack firsthand experience,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “Now, when you prevent people from visiting the land that can expose them to the truth, you are actually creating more confusion, as they will not be able to get clarity on a number of issues. In fact, the Israeli government will be helping the BDS groups and other anti-Israeli organizations to fulfill their goal. Anti-Israeli groups have been preaching hatred and asking people not to go to Israel. Now the Israeli government will be promoting and condoning this gospel, which anti-Israel groups preach.”

ABBAS: PEACE EFFORTS CAN ONLY RESUME UNDER INTERNATIONAL MEDIATION
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday he would only accept a broad, internationally-backed panel to broker any peace talks with Israel, but did not rule out a US role in such a panel.

The Palestinians are seething at US President Donald Trump's recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and Abbas told a meeting of senior Palestinian officials in a speech that the move had disqualified the United States as a peacemaker.

Israel says it would welcome the United States as a mediator but a US bid to revive negotiations, led by Trump's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has so far shown no progress. Talks have been frozen since 2014.

Trump has said that achieving an agreement would be the "deal of the century" but Abbas was scathing on Sunday, saying: "The deal of the century is actually the slap of the century, and we will return it."

"We do not accept the United States as a mediator between us and Israel," Abbas said. "Let it be an international committee formed at an international conference comprising four or five (countries or parties). But the United States alone? No."

Palestinian leader rebukes Trump: 'Shame on you'
Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian leader says President Donald Trump should be ashamed of himself for his handling of Mideast peace efforts.

In a fiery speech to the Palestinian Central Council, a decision-making body, on Sunday, President Mahmoud Abbas criticized Trump and his policies toward the Palestinians, including his recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Abbas said "shame on you" for Trump's claim that the Palestinians refuse to negotiate. He says the Palestinians remain committed to negotiations, but are ready to reject what they fear will be an unfair proposal from the White House.

The rhetoric reflects the strained relations between the Palestinians and the Trump administration. The Palestinians view his Jerusalem declaration as having destroyed his credibility as a Mideast peace broker.

UNRWA WARNS AGAINST 'CATASTROPHIC' OUTCOME IF US ENDS PALESTINIAN AID
BEIRUT - Losing significant funding from its largest donor, the United States, could be "catastrophic" for Palestinians, said a UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees.

Last week, President Donald Trump said the United States may withhold future aid payments to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) over what he called the Palestinians' unwillingness to talk peace with Israel.

A State Department official later said that no decision had been made on payment.

The United States is the largest donor to the agency, with a pledge of nearly $370 million as of 2016, according to UNRWA's website.

The UN agency, founded in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, provides educational and health services in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

"The human impact of losing significant funding could be catastrophic in the real lives of real people whom the UN is mandated to protect," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a statement.

"Palestine refugees are among some of the most vulnerable people in the Middle East. Our health services offer a life line, quite literally, to vulnerable women and children, the sick and the elderly," he said.

On Tuesday the Swedish ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, said he was concerned that a withdrawal of funding for UNRWA "would be very negative both in terms of humanitarian needs of over 5 million people but also of course it would be destabilizing for the region." Gunness said there was much at stake for the Palestinians.

"Even the most modest shock in a fragile society can have an inordinate impact and the consequences could be profound, widespread, dramatic and unpredictable," he said.

Relations between the Palestinians and Washington soured last month after Trump announced the US would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, generating outrage across the Arab world and concern among Washington's Western allies.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

US State Department spokesman Steve Goldstein told in a briefing in Washington on Thursday that US funding for UNRWA was still under consideration and that no decision had yet been made.

NETANYAHU TO MEET TRUMP, PUTIN IN COMING WEEKS
Israeli and United States officials are currently working on a date for a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump when Netanyahu travels to Washington in early March to attend AIPAC's annual policy conference, an Israel diplomatic official said Thursday.

Netanyahu made reference to the upcoming meeting during a Thursday speech at the Globes Business Conference in Jerusalem, saying he will meet Trump in Washington in March, “if not before then.” This would be their first meeting since September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

ARAB LEAGUE TO HOLD MEETING ON JERUSALEM NEXT MONTH
CAIRO - The Arab League will meet on February 1 to discuss how to counter U.S. President Donald Trump's move last month to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Egypt's state news agency MENA said on Wednesday.

Six Arab foreign ministers who met in Amman last week said Arab states would embark on a diplomatic drive to persuade the United Nations to recognise a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

Arab foreign ministers said in an emergency meeting held following Trump's decision on December 6 that the move would spur violence throughout the region. They described Trump's announcement as a "dangerous violation of international law" which had no legal impact.

In recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy, imperilling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike .

The status of Jerusalem - home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions - is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.


U.S. WELCOMES MEETING BETWEEN NORTH, SOUTH KOREA ON OLYMPICS SECURITY
WASHINGTON - The US State Department welcomed Tuesday's meeting between North and South Korean officials aimed at ensuring a safe Winter Olympics, and said it would work with Seoul to ensure North Korea's participation does not violate UN sanctions.

"The United States remains in close consultations with ROK (South Korean) officials, who will ensure North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics does not violate the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council over North Korea’s unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

SYRIAN ARMY BREAKS SIEGE OF ARMY BASE NEAR DAMASCUS
BEIRUT - Syria's army has broken the siege of an army base encircled by opposition forces on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, state-run al-Ikhbariya TV reported on Sunday.

Last Sunday, rebels, mainly belonging to the Islamist Ahrar al Sham faction, widened their control of parts of the Military Vehicles Administration base in the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta.

The army, backed by Russian jets, launched an offensive to break the siege and liberate at least 200 troops who were believed to be trapped within its sprawling, heavily defended grounds

N.KOREA ACCEPTS TALKS OFFER FROM S.KOREA, MEETING TO BE HELD JAN. 9
SEOUL - North and South Korea will hold official talks on January 9, South Korea's unification ministry said on Friday, after Pyongyang sent a statement accepting Seoul's offer for talks next week.

The agenda will include the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as well as other issues of mutual interest, ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a regular briefing.

RUSSIA SAYS US CALL FOR UN EMERGENCY SESSIONS ON IRAN "HARMFUL AND DESTRUCTIVE"
MOSCOW - Russia considers a US proposal for an extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the turmoil in Iran as "harmful and destructive," RIA news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Thursday.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said earlier this week the United States was seeking emergency sessions on Iran at the United Nations in New York and at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Anti-government protests have swept Iranian cities and towns over the past week and 21 people have been killed in the unrest.

US EYEING POSSIBLE SANCTIONS ON IRANIANS OVER PROTEST CRACKDOWN
WASHINGTON - The United States aims to collect "actionable information" that could allow it to pursue sanctions against Iranian individuals and organizations involved in a crackdown on protesters, a senior Trump administration official said on Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was the Trump administration's intention to collect such information "and to feed that into our sanctions designation machinery."
  
MACRON ASKS ROUHANI TO SHOW RESTRAINT, POSTPONES FOREIGN MINISTER'S VISIT
PARIS - French President Emmanuel Macron urged his Iranian counterpart in a phone call on Tuesday to show restraint in dealing with protests, Macron’s office said in a statement.

The statement said Macron had expressed his concern to President Hassan Rouhani over the number of casualties in the six-day-old protests, and told him that freedom of speech and protest must be respected.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s planned trip to Tehran later this week was also postponed to a future date, the French presidency said.

Iranian media said Rouhani had asked France to act against Mujahideen exiles working against the Iranian establishment from Paris.

TRUMP, REPUBLICAN ALLIES ENDORSE IRANIAN PROTESTERS
WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers offered implicit support on Sunday to tens of thousands of Iranians protesting against the Islamic Republic's unelected clerical elite and Iranian foreign policy in the Middle East.

"Big protests in Iran," Trump said in a tweet from his private club in Palm Beach, Florida. "The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism.

"Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!"

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement: "The Iranian government is being tested by its own citizens. We pray that freedom and human rights will carry the day."

The protests, which initially focused on economic hardships but now include anti-government messages, appeared to resume for a fourth day on Sunday despite Tehran's warnings of a crackdown and restrictions on messaging apps used by the demonstrators.

The protests are the biggest since unrest in 2009 that followed the disputed re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


TURKEY SAYS WILL GET TWO MISSILE BATTERIES FROM RUSSIA IN 2020
ANKARA - Turkey will buy two S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries from Russia under an accord signed on Friday, with the first delivery planned for the first quarter of 2020, the Undersecretary for Defense Industries (SSM) said on Friday.

In a statement, the SSM said Turkish personnel would manage the systems, rather than Russian advisors, and added the accord included clauses on cooperation for technological gains and joint development.

REPORT: US AND ISRAEL FORMULATE A PLAN TO STOP IRAN – TOGETHER
Top US and Israeli national security officials reached an agreement two weeks ago in Washington on a joint work plan to counter Iranian activity in the Middle East, Channel 10 reported on Thursday.

The document marks the beginning of a new cooperative effort against Iran, a senior US official told The Jerusalem Post.

The document, characterized by a US National Security Council representative as an informal “framework,” follows on President Donald Trump’s speech in October outlining a new American policy approach to the Islamic Republic, where he announced that he would not recertify the Iranian nuclear deal.

“It’s more precise to say that it is a framework document, and not a done and dusted plan,” the US official told the Post. “It is a framework for future cooperation. It is not the end result of a process, it’s more of a beginning.”


NETANYAHU WARNS IRAN, HAMAS OF 'TREMENDOUS FIREPOWER' OF ISRAELI AIR FORCE
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and Hamas against acting against the Jewish State, which has the strongest Air Force in the region, with the ability to reach targets at all distances.

“The Air Force is as its peak today,with the best tools, technologies, planes and pilots in the world. With defensive and offensive capabilities and tremendous firepower, the Air Force has the ability to reach short distances and faraway destinations as required,” Netanyahu said at an Israel Air Force Flight Academy graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Base outside of Beersheba.


Russia and Iran Seek to Circumvent US Sanctions With Integrated Banking Systems
NEW YORK – Iran’s central bank is increasingly relying on help from Moscow to circumvent sanctions from the United States, according to Tehran’s state-run news agency.

The media outlet, Press TV, reported on Tuesday that top Iranian banking officials are finalizing an agreement with their Russian counterparts that would integrate their two nations’ bank card systems – “a strategy both hope would make them immune to the financial sanctions of the United States in the future,” the organization reported.


ABBAS CHRISTMAS MESSAGE INVOKES JESUS IN FIGHT AGAINST US-BACKED 'INJUSTICE'
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a message to Christians worldwide on Friday, held up Jesus as an inspiration to Palestinians fighting the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The December 6 recognition rewarded "illegal" Israeli settlement expansion and constitutes an "insult" to people all over the world, Abbas wrote in his annual Christmas message that was published in Ramallah by the official Wafa news agency.

Abbas issued the message hours after he declared, following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, that the US has disqualified itself as a mediator for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In the Christmas message Abbas went a step further, saying the Palestinians are inspired by Jesus to refuse the "injustice" of US-backed policies.

Hamas Leaders Call For A "DAY OF BLOOD" In The West Bank
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar called on Thursday for a "day of blood" in the West Bank, following the UN General Assembly vote on a resolution slamming US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The statement appeared to be an escalation of sorts because up until now Hamas had called for "days of rage," which so far have manifested in widespread protests and riots across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.


TRUMP THREATENS TO CUT AID TO UN MEMBERS OVER JERUSALEM VOTE
WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that vote in favor of a draft United Nations resolution against his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care," Trump told reporters at the White House.

The 193-member UN General Assembly will hold a rare emergency special session on Thursday at the request of Arab and Muslim countries on the controversial US decision.


CANADA, US ANNOUNCE JAN MEETING TO KEEP PRESSURE ON NORTH KOREA
OTTAWA - Canada and the United States said on Tuesday they will co-host a meeting of foreign ministers in Vancouver in January to demonstrate international solidarity against North Korea's continued nuclear and missile tests.

Following a meeting with Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the pressure campaign on North Korea would not abate until the country agreed to give up its nuclear ambitions.


PALESTINIANS TO CALL FOR EMERGENCY MEETING OF UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
RAMALLAH - The Palestinian Foreign Minister said on Monday the Palestinians will call for an emergency meeting of the U.N. General Assembly after the US vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of its declaration that Jerusalem is Israel's capital.

President Donald Trump reversed decades of US policy on Dec. 6 and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike.

"We are moving within 48 hours ... to call for an emergency meeting of the General Assembly," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters in Ramallah. He said the international community would "consider the decision by president Trump as null and void."

 
ERDOGAN SAYS TURKEY WILL OPEN EMBASSY IN EAST JERUSALEM
ISTANBUL - Turkey will open an embassy in East Jerusalem, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, days after leading calls at a summit of Muslim leaders for the world to recognize it as the capital of Palestine.

"God willing, the day is close when officially, with God's permission, we will open our embassy there," Erdogan said in a speech, maintaining his fierce criticism of the United States' decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.


ERDOGAN SAYS TURKEY SEEKING TO ANNUL TRUMP DECISION ON JERUSALEM AT UN
ANKARA - Turkey is launching an initiative at the United Nations to annul a decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

Erdogan was speaking two days after a Muslim leaders meeting in Istanbul condemned US President Donald Trump's decision, calling on the world to respond by recognizing east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

"We will work for the annulment of this unjust decision firstly at the UN Security Council, and if a veto comes from there, the General Assembly," Erdogan told crowds gathered in the central Anatolian city of Konya via teleconference.

The United States is a permanent Security Council member with veto powers, meaning any move to overturn Washington's decision at the council would certainly be blocked.

Jerusalem, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, is home to Islam's third holiest site and has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in an action not recognized internationally.

Trump's decision broke with decades of US policy and international consensus that the city's status must be left to Israeli-Palestinian talks, leading to harsh criticisms from Muslim countries and Israel's closest European allies, who have also rejected the move.

US PEACE PLAN NOT FINALIZED, BUT EFFORTS 'SERIOUS,' SAYS SAUDI'S JUBEIR
PARIS - The US administration is serious about getting a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, but its proposed plan is still being put together, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said.

US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and eventually move the US Embassy in Israel there has angered the Palestinians, who question Washington's role as a sponsor of Middle East peace.

Trump's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is leading efforts to restart negotiations, though his bid has shown little public progress so far.

"We believe the Trump administration is serious about bringing peace between Israelis and Arabs," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir, a former ambassador to the United States, told France 24 television late on Wednesday.

"They were working on ideas and were consulting with all parties, including Saudi Arabia, and they are incorporating the views represented to them by everybody. They have said they would need a little bit of time to put it together to present it."


OIC DRAFT DECLARATION: J'LEM MOVE MARKS US WITHDRAWAL FROM PEACE PROCESS
ISTANBUL - A draft declaration prepared for a summit of Muslim leaders on Wednesday said they considered Washington's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as a sign of US withdrawal from its role as a sponsor of Middle East peace.

The draft declaration seen by Reuters also declared "East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, and invite(s) all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital."

PENCE PRESS SECRETARY: PALESTINIANS 'WALKING AWAY FROM OPPORTUNITY'
Press Secretary for US Vice President Mike Pence Alyssa Farah stated the Palestinians' refusal to meet with Pence is "walking away from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region."

"The administration remains undeterred in its efforts to achieve peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and our peace team remains hard at work to put together a plan."

The statement comes just a few days after a senior official in the Palestinian Fatah party said that "Pence is unwelcome in Palestine."

The December 6 announcement by US President Trump, which officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and , has sparked major protests across the region.


EGYPT'S SISI INVITES ABBAS TO CAIRO TO DISCUSS TRUMP'S JERUSALEM MOVE
CAIRO - Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Cairo on Monday to discuss US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a presidential statement said on Sunday.

The statement said Sisi wanted to discuss "ways to deal with the crisis in a manner that preserves the rights of the Palestinian people and their national sanctities and their legitimate right to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital."


UN MIDDLE EAST ENVOY WARNS RISK OF VIOLENT ESCALATION

UNITED NATIONS - United Nations Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned on Friday that there was a risk of violent escalation in response to US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"There is a serious risk today that we may see a chain of unilateral actions, which can only push us further away from achieving our shared goal of peace," Mladenov told the UN Security Council.

The Security Council meeting was requested by Britain, France, Sweden, Bolivia, Uruguay, Italy, Senegal and Egypt.

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated, scores were hurt and at least one killed in clashes with Israeli troops on a "day of rage" on Friday against the US decision.

FATAH OFFICIAL SAYS US VICE PRESIDENT PENCE "UNWELCOME IN PALESTINE"
GAZA - A senior Palestinian official in President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah party said on Thursday that US Vice President Mike Pence, due to visit the region later this month, "is unwelcome in Palestine".

"In the name of Fatah I say that we will not welcome Trump's deputy in the Palestinian Territories. He asked to meet (Abbas) on the 19th of this month in Bethlehem, such a meeting will not take place," Jibril Rajoub said.

Aides for Abbas were not immediately available for comment.

ABBAS: JERUSALEM IS ETERNAL PALESTINIAN CAPITAL, DISMISSES US PEACE ROLE
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that Jerusalem was the "eternal capital of the State of Palestine" in response to US President Donald Trump's announcement that he was recognizing the city as Israel's capital.

In a pre-recorded speech played on Palestine TV, Abbas rejected Trump's announcement which included a decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, a move he said was "tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator."

TRUMP CALLS ABBAS ON THE EVE OF POTENTIAL EMBASSY MOVE ANNOUNCEMENTUnited States President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a day before the American president is expected to publicly recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, AFP reported.

JERUSALEM MAYOR URGES TRUMP TO 'BRING THE EMBASSY HOME'
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Monday in Washington addressed the possibility of the Trump administration officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital this week and relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

"I turn to you President Trump, on behalf of the city of Jerusalem, the beating heart and soul of the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years," Barkat said, standing in front of the White House. "I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your commitment and intention to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."

Barkat called possible recognition a "historic step" that would "send a clear message" to the world that the United States stands with Israel and the Jewish people.

"In Jerusalem, we don't cave in to pressure and we don't let threats or violence stop us from doing what is right," Barkat continued.

He concluded his short statement by urging President Trump to do the "right thing" by moving the US embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Barkat was in Washington to participate in events and meetings with US senior government officials and Jewish leaders.

ARAB STATES WILL LIKELY CAVE IF US DECLARES JERUSALEM ISRAEL'S CAPITAL
If the Palestinians are counting on a strong response from Arab states if the Trump administration recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, they are likely to be disappointed.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh Malki called Sunday for an emergency meeting of the Arab League amid US media reports that Trump is planning to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital Wednesday. Malki said the meeting would tackle "necessary steps regarding this irresponsible American measure."

But the bitter reality for the Palestinians is that key Arab countries—Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Jordan with its Palestinian majority and role as custodian of Jerusalem holy sites- are simply too dependent on US goodwill to get into a real row with the Trump administration. This is a case where each of their national interests trumps Arab solidarity.


US OFFICIALS CONFIRM TRUMP WEIGHING RECOGNIZING JERUSALEM AS ISRAEL'S CAPITAL
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump is considering recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a move that could upend decades of American policy and ratchet up Middle East tensions, but is expected to again delay his campaign promise to move the US embassy there, US officials confirmed Thursday.

TRUMP'S GULF POLICIES IMPULSIVE AND DANGEROUS -IRANIAN MINISTER
ROME - US President Donald Trump's policies in the Gulf are dangerous and misguided, Iran's foreign minister said on Thursday, adding that pressure from Washington had only succeeded in strengthening Tehran's resolve.

Speaking at a conference in Rome, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Trump's policies were "extremely dangerous, impulsive, not grounded in reality."

He added: "The United States pressure has in fact created more solidarity inside Iran.

N.KOREA: ICBM TEST USED NEW LAUNCH VEHICLE, SHOWED SUCCESSFUL WARHEAD RE-ENTRY
SEOUL - North Korea said a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) it test-fired on Wednesday was launched from a newly developed vehicle and that the its warhead could withstand the pressure of re-entering the earth's atmosphere.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally guided the missile test and said the new launcher was "impeccable", state media said. He described the new vehicle as a "breakthrough".

Observers and analysts have cast doubt on North Korea's ability to master the technology needed to design a warhead capable of withstanding the enormous pressure of re-entry into the earth's atmosphere and suggested the isolated country may still be years away from developing a credible delivery vehicle for a nuclear weapon.

But Wednesday's launch re-confirmed "the safety of a warhead in the atmospheric re-entry environment," state media said, without elaborating.

US Experts Thinks N.Korea Could Launch Missile Within Days
WASHINGTON - US government experts think North Korea could conduct a new missile test within days, in what would be its first launch since it fired a missile over Japan in mid-September, two authoritative US government sources said on Tuesday.

One of the US sources, who did not want to be identified, said the United States had evidence that Japanese reports about the monitoring of signals suggesting North Korea was preparing a new missile test were accurate.

Both sources said US government experts believed a new test could occur "within days"

A Japanese government source said earlier on Tuesday that Japan had detected radio signals suggesting North Korea may be preparing another ballistic missile launch, although such signals were not unusual and satellite images did not show fresh activity.

Other US intelligence officials have noted North Korea has previously sent deliberately misleading signs of preparations for missile and nuclear tests, in part to mask real preparations, and in part to test US and allied intelligence on its activities.

After firing missiles at a rate of about two or three a month since April, North Korean missile launches paused in September, after it fired a missile that passed over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island on September 15.

HAMAS OFFICIAL: WEAPONS USED TO FIGHT ISRAEL WILL BE SENT TO WEST BANK
Weapons used by Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip to fight Israel will be transferred to the West Bank, Hamas deputy chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya said on Monday.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other armed Palestinian groups are thought to possess very few weapons in the West Bank.

“These weapons will be moved to the West Bank to battle the occupation... We want to fight the occupation in the West Bank. It is our right to resist the occupation until it ends,” Hayya told a press conference in Gaza on Monday, without elaborating on how such a plan would be fulfilled.

TURKEY'S ERDOGAN SAYS CRITICAL DECISIONS ON SYRIA WILL BE MADE TODAY
SOCHI, Russia - Critical decisions will be taken for a solution to the Syrian crisis at a summit between Turkey, Russia and Iran on Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said.

Speaking alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the southern Russian city of Sochi, Erdogan said it was vital for all parties to contribute to a political solution in the crisis that is acceptable for the Syrian people.

HUNGARY SAYS IT IS FACING "FRONTAL ASSAULT" FROM US FINANCIER SOROS
BUDAPEST - Hungary is facing a frontal assault from US. financier George Soros who is attacking the country via his non-government organizations and European Union bureaucrats, a top ruling party politician said on Monday.

Fidesz Vice Chairman Gergely Gulyas said Soros' claims that the Hungarian government lied in its campaign against him were "not substantial," adding the billionaire and the European Union pushed the same pro-migrant agenda.

He rejected charges by Soros that the government's campaign stoked anti-Muslim sentiment and employed anti-Semitic tropes.

IDF FIRES ON SYRIAN TARGETS NEAR GOLAN HEIGHTS
The IDF fired upon Syrian army positions near the Israeli border in the Golan Heights on Sunday, the IDF spokesperson's office reported.

Syrian forces had been working to fortify a military outpost in the buffer zone, in violation of ceasefire agreements, and an IDF tank fired deterring shots in response.

US URGES AFRICAN NATIONS TO PRESS N. KOREA OVER NUCLEAR PROGRAM
WASHINGTON, Nov 17 - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged African leaders on Friday to take further actions to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs, including downgrading diplomatic ties and expelling North Korean laborers.

"All nations must act to implement U.N. sanctions in full," Tillerson told a trade and security gathering with African ministers. "Further, I urge you to take additional measures to pressure the DPRK by downgrading your diplomatic relationships with the regime, severing economic ties, expelling all DPRK laborers and reducing North Korea's presence in your country."

The US State Department said on Thursday that Sudan had committed to severing trade and military ties with North Korea.

SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS MESSAGE TO IRAN IS: 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH'
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's foreign minister told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that the kingdom was reacting to what he called the "aggressive" behavior of its arch-rival Iran in Lebanon and Yemen.

"Any way you look at it, they (the Iranians) are the ones who are acting in an aggressive manner. We are reacting to that aggression and saying enough is enough," Adel Jubeir said.

Jubeir also said that Lebanon's Hezbollah, which he called a subsidiary of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, must disarm and become a political party for that country to stabilize.

SOUTH KOREA RATTLED BY RARE 5.4-MAGNITUDE QUAKE
SEOUL - A rare earthquake of magnitude 5.4 rattled South Korea on Wednesday, its second most powerful quake on record, shaking buildings but causing no major damage or injuries.

The quake struck about 9 km (5 miles) north of the southeastern port city of Pohang, the Korea Meteorological Administration said in a news briefing.

Tremors were felt across the country but operations at nuclear reactors were not affected, the state-run nuclear operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co said in a statement.

South Korea has relatively little seismic activity, compared with Japan to the east.

Its strongest quake on record was magnitude 5.8 in September last year.


LEBANON SAYS SAUDI SANCTIONS WOULD DESTABILIZE THE REGION
PARIS - Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Tuesday said Saad al Hariri's freedom would only be proven once he returned from Saudi Arabia, and that any Saudi sanctions would destabilize the wider region.

Hariri announced his shock resignation as Lebanon's prime minister in a broadcast from Riyadh 10 days ago.

"Any (Saudi) measures would not only be targeting Lebanon and its stability, this would be a punishment for the region because any instability in the Lebanon would cause instability in the region," Bassil said during a visit to Paris.

"The first to be touched would be Syrians in Lebanon," added Bassil, who was speaking in English.


NETANYAHU SIGNALS ISRAEL WILL ACT WITH FREE HAND IN SYRIA
JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he has told the United States and Russia that Israel will continue to take action across the Syrian frontier according to its security needs, even as the two powers try to build up a ceasefire.

"We are controlling our borders, we are protecting our country and we will continue to do so," Netanyahu said in public remarks to members of his Likud party in parliament.

"I have also informed our friends, firstly in Washington and also our friends in Moscow, that Israel will act in Syria, including in southern Syria, according to our understanding and according to our security needs."

FORMER INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS SAY TRUMP IS BEING MANIPULATED BY PUTIN
Two former top US intelligence officials said on Sunday they fear President Donald Trump is being manipulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, after Trump said he believed Putin was sincere in denying Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Former CIA Director John Brennan and ex-National Intelligence Director James Clapper both said Trump was mishandling Moscow ties even as a special counsel investigates possible collusion between Trump's campaign team and Russia.

"I think Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, either intimidated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do, or what might come out as a result of these investigations... It's either naiveté, ignorance or fear in terms of what Mr. Trump is doing vis-à-vis the Russians," Brennan said in an appearance with Clapper on CNN's "State of the Union."

Clapper added that foreign leaders who roll out the red carpet for Trump are able to manipulate Trump.

"I do think both the Chinese and the Russians think they can play him," Clapper said.

MINISTER TO JPOST: PARTS OF CABINET ‘CAN’T LIVE’ WITH TRUMP'S TWO-STATES DEMAND
Many ministers will vote against an American peace push based on a two-state solution, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis warned ahead of his trip to the US next week.

Akunis said he expects US President Donald Trump’s administration to present a diplomatic plan for Israel and the Palestinians in the coming months, and is concerned that it will push for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“With all of my appreciation for the Trump administration, which I don’t hide,” Akunis said, “I can’t live with a document that talks about two states, and I will vote against it. I have a clear ideological stance… Many ministers agree.”


ABBAS DISCUSSES US PEACE EFFORTS, RECONCILIATION WITH SAUDI CROWN PRINCE
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman on Wednesday about American peace efforts and reconciliation, the official PA news website Wafa reported.

The visiting Abbas’s meeting with the prince came a day after he met with Saudi King Salman.

“[The PA president] informed the Saudi crown prince of the Palestinian issue’s latest developments and American efforts to advance the peace process, and described for him developments related to Palestinian reconciliation,” the Wafa report said.

Since US President Donald Trump assumed office in January, American officials have met with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders on dozens of occasions in an attempt to revive peace talks.

In mid-October, Egypt brokered a deal between Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s governing authority in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007 when it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the territory.

US CALLS FOR UN ACTION AGAINST IRAN OVER YEMEN MISSILE
UNITED NATIONS - The United States accused Iran on Tuesday of supplying Yemen's Houthi rebels with a missile that was fired into Saudi Arabia in July and called for the United Nations to hold Tehran accountable for violating two UN Security Council resolutions.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said information released by Saudi Arabia showed the missile fired in July was an Iranian Qiam, which she described as "a type of weapon that had not been present in Yemen before the conflict."

Saudi-led forces, which back the internationally-recognized Yemen government, have been targeting the Iran-allied Houthis in a war which has killed more than 10,000 people and triggered a humanitarian disaster in one of the region's poorest countries.

Haley said that by providing weapons to the Houthis, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp‎s had violated two UN resolutions on Yemen and Iran. She said a missile shot down over Saudi Arabia on Saturday "may also be of Iranian origin."

"We encourage the United Nations and international partners to take necessary action to hold the Iranian regime accountable for these violations," Haley said.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince said Iran's supply of rockets to militias in Yemen is an act of "direct military aggression" that could be an act of war, state media reported on Tuesday, remarks reflecting sharply heightened strains between Riyadh and Tehran.

SAUDI-LED FORCES CLOSE AIR, SEA AND LAND ACCESS TO YEMEN
A Saudi-led military coalition will temporarily close all air, land and sea ports to Yemen to stem the flow of arms to Houthi rebels from Iran, it said in a statement on Monday carried by the state news agency SPA.

The move, which follows the interception of a missile fired towards Riyadh on Saturday, is likely to further worsen Yemen's humanitarian crisis, which has pushed some seven million to the brink of famine and left more than half a million infected with cholera, according to the United Nations.

"The Coalition Forces Command decided to temporarily close all Yemeni air, sea and land ports," the statement on SPA said, adding that aid workers and humanitarian supplies would continue to be able to access and exit Yemen.

The United Nations and international aid organizations have repeatedly criticized the coalition in the past for blocking aid access, especially to the north, which is held by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels battling the Saudi-led coalition.

BOMB THREATS FORCE EVACUATION OF MOSCOW'S BOLSHOI THEATER, HOTELS
MOSCOW - Bomb threats forced thousands of people to evacuate Moscow's Bolshoi theater, Metropol hotel, GUM department store on the Red Square and other public places on Sunday, local media reported.

A spate of anonymous phone calls have caused disruption at shopping centers, train stations and public buildings across Russia in the past two months. The calls have so far proved to be false alarms and there have been no claims of responsibility.

RIA news agency, citing a source in the police, reported that as many as 5,000 people were evacuated from GUM and Metropol hotel. TASS and RIA, also quoting police sources, said the Bolshoi theater was also evacuated.

A Reuters witness said police had cordoned off premises of Bolshoi and GUM.

TASS said the evacuation was announced from Bolshoi before a performance was due to start at 1600 GMT.

Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the FSB security service said last month the authorities knew the identities of those responsible, saying they four Russian citizens based abroad with "accomplices" inside Russia.

TRUMP’S TEAM THINKING ‘OUT OF THE BOX’ ON ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE
US President Donald Trump’s team is taking a fresh approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that could offer some hope of progress after two-decades of stagnant attempts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, at an event at at Chatham House in London.

“They [Trump’s team] are trying to think out of the box. They did a quick and intensive study and they will eventually come out with something,” Netanyahu told the leading think tank's chair Robin Niblett, who sat within him on a small stage and held a conversation about regional issues.

TRUMP TO PRESS FOR END TO N. KOREA NUCLEAR PROGRAM ON ASIA TRIP
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump will use his trip to Asia to emphasize that North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons is a "dead end" and to urge countries with influence over Pyongyang to pressure it to denuclearize, the White House said on Thursday.

"The president recognizes that we're running out of time (to deal with North Korea) and will ask all nations to do more," national security adviser H.R. McMaster told a briefing. He said Trump would urge countries with the most influence over Pyongyang to "convince its leaders that the pursuit of nuclear weapons is a dead end and it is past time to denuclearize."

NEW YORK CELEBRATES HALLOWEEN IN THE FACE OF TRAGIC ATTACK
NEW YORK - A nine-year-old girl with heavy black makeup around her eyes held up a pumpkin-shaped bucket full of candy. "Trick or treat?" she asked.

Shayli Farber was in lower Manhattan, celebrating Halloween just three hours after the vehicular attack which killed eight people and wounded 12, in what the police are calling a terrorist attack. Shayli went out with her father Rob and her little brother Shane to trick-or-treat in the tradition of Halloween. This year, many of the pedestrians near the crime scene were policemen, firefighters or journalists, but the family still managed to collect quite a few sweets.

A few hours earlier, a man drove a truck down the bike lane between Shayli's school and the family's house. "I was outside the school when it happened, I saw and heard all the police cars arrive, but only at home, where Mom turned on the news on television, I realized what had happened." said Shayli. "Now, after staying at home for a while, we decided to go outside. But I'm troubled by my conversations with my friends. They actually saw the man who ran with the guns, they saw the shooting; my friend spoke on television."

ONE SUSPECT IN CUSTODY IN NEW YORK CITY SHOOTING
NEW YORK - New York City police were investigating reports of gunfire and a vehicle striking people in lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, and one person has been taken into custody, police officials said.

Police were unable to confirm if there were any injuries, but local media reported at least five, including possible fatalities. The incident took place near the West Side Highway and Chambers Street, police said.

An eyewitness told ABC Channel 7 that he saw a white pick-up truck drive south down the bike path alongside the West Side Highway at full speed and hit several people. The witness, a man identified by the name "Eugene," said bodies were lying outside Stuyvesant High School, one of the city's elite public schools.

He also reported hearing about nine or 10 shots, but was not sure where they came from.

The West Side Highway runs on the western edge of Manhattan, alongside the Hudson River.


ABBAS: ANY MINISTER IN FUTURE UNITY GOV’T MUST RECOGNIZE ISRAEL
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not appoint Hamas officials to a potential Palestinian unity government, if they did not recognize the State of Israel, according to former members of Knesset who met with the Palestinian leader on Sunday.

Some 12 former lawmakers, who belong to the Peace Parliament Forum, traveled to the Mukata, the PA president’s headquarters in Ramallah, to meet with Abbas. The lawmakers included former Labor party chairman Amram Mitzna, ex-Labor legislator Colette Avital, former Minister of Internal Affairs Ophir Pines-Paz and other past parliamentarians and ministers.

The PA president’s comments on a potential unity government came after his party, Fatah, and Hamas signed an Egyptian-brokered deal to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s rule in the Gaza Strip.

AS MATTIS PEERS INTO NORTH KOREA, HE GETS WARNING ON ARTILLERY
Demilitarized Zone,  South Korea - As US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis peered into North Korea from a lookout post on Friday, he was given a blunt reminder by his South Korean counterpart of the vast amount of North Korean artillery within range of Seoul.

Above the faint sound of North Korean propaganda music being blasted from across the border, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo suggested that US and South Korean missile defenses simply could not stop all of them.

"Defending against this many LRAs (long-range artillery) is infeasible in my opinion," Song told Mattis, citing a need for strategies to "offensively neutralize" the artillery in the event of a conflict.

Mattis replied: "Understood."

The brief exchange at the inter-Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) - where US.President Donald Trump may visit in coming days - spoke volumes about the risks of any miscalculation as tension soars over Pyongyang's rapidly advancing nuclear weapon and missile programs.

KREMLIN: POSSIBLE NEW US SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA CAUSE FOR CONCERN
MOSCOW - Possible new US sanctions against Russia are a cause for concern and a reflection of Washington's unfriendly and even hostile attitude towards Moscow, the Kremlin said on Friday.

The US State Department said on Thursday it had belatedly begun informing Congress and others about groups associated with the Russian intelligence and defense sectors as required under a 2017 law tightening sanctions on Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in a conference call with reporters, also said that a Twitter ban on adverts from Russian media was motivated by deep prejudice against Russia which he said set a worrying precedent for treatment of the Russian media.

UN NUCLEAR CHIEF TO VISIT IRAN THIS WEEKEND
The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog will visit Iran on Sunday for talks with senior officials there, as opposition from the United States threatens to undermine an international accord to curtail Iran's nuclear program.

Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will discuss Iran's implementation of the 2015 agreement, the IAEA said on Wednesday.

The visit comes during a dispute between Washington and Tehran over US President Donald Trump's decision this month not to certify Iranian compliance with the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

POLICE SHUT DOWN PA CONFERENCE ON E. JERUSALEM LAND SALES TO JEWS
Israeli authorities on Wednesday shut down a planned conference by the Palestinian Authority in East Jerusalem that aimed to urge Arabs to cease selling real-estate in the city to Jews.

Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan ordered police to close down the planned event because it violates a clause in the 1994 interim agreement between Israel and the PA forbidding the Palestinians from organizing public events in Israeli territory.

"Palestinian Authority actions against Jewish residence in East Jerusalem is part of a plan to damage our sovereignty in Jerusalem and lay threat to Arabs who sell land to Jews," said Erdan. "I w ill continue to take aggressive action to to thwart any Palestinian attempts to extend their rule to Jerusalem."

IRAQI FORCES SAY ABOUT TO LAUNCH FINAL OFFENSIVE ON IS NEAR SYRIA BORDER
BAGHDAD- Iraqi forces are about to launch an offensive to recapture the last patch of Iraq's territory still in the hands of the Islamic State militant group, a military statement said on Wednesday.

"Your security forces are now coming to liberate you," said leaflets dropped by the Iraqi air force on the western border region of al-Qaim and Rawa, according to a statement from the Joint Operations Command in Baghdad.

SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS BACKS TRUMP'S STANCE ON IRAN
LONDON - Saudi Arabia supports US President Donald Trump's stance on Iran after he decided not to certify that Tehran is complying with a nuclear accord, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump broke ranks with other major powers this month by refusing to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the deal, even though international inspectors say it is.

Jubeir said the nuclear deal had shortcomings, and that he agreed with Trump's assessment that Iran was working to destabilize the region and was funding militant organizations.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, a US ally, has been at loggerheads with Iran, a Shi'ite Muslim country, for decades, and the countries have fought a long-running proxy war in the Middle East.

"(Iran's behavior) is not acceptable, and there will be consequences to the Iranians. This is what President Trump has said, and we are very supportive of that," Jubeir said at a conference in London.

Following Trump's decision, US Congress has until mid-December to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.

Jubeir said that new sanctions on Iran would be welcome, and that a delay could mean that by the time sanctions had impact, Iran could have already developed "a dozen" nuclear bombs.

"The international community needs to support those (sanctions) in order to send a very strong message to Iran that your behavior, your nefarious activities, have consequences," Jubeir said.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and denies it has aimed to build an atomic bomb.

HAMAS 'BEGGING IRAN' FOR HELP, US ENVOY SAYS
WASHINGTON — Hamas is "begging Iran" for help in its armed resistance against Israel, a senior Trump administration official said on Monday, addressing the visit of several Hamas leaders to Tehran over the weekend.

Their visit comes amid talk of Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, which have split rule over the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, respectively, for nearly a decade.

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Fatah is committed to a peaceful, political path forward in its fight for Palestinian statehood. Hamas– considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the US and other Western powers– believes that violence is the right path forward in its efforts to "destroy Israel" and claim Palestine their own.

"Hamas, which has only brought ruin and misery to Palestinians, now begs Iran for help and again vows to destroy Israel," wrote Jason Greenblatt, the US' special representative for international negotiations, on Twitter. "Palestinians deserve so much better than this. We must find a better path forward toward peace and prosperity."
NORTH KOREA SAYS TO CONTINUE NUCLEAR TESTS
MOSCOW - A North Korean diplomat said on Friday that Pyongyang intended to continue its nuclear testing program in the interests of self-defense and accused US President Donald Trump of playing "nuclear football," the RIA news agency reported.

The diplomat, who RIA named as a member of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's US Studies Department called Nam Hyok-Tsen, was cited as telling a non-proliferation conference in Moscow:

"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is constantly being convinced that developing nuclear weapons is the right choice. And we are strengthening our intention to conduct tests in order to offset the nuclear threat from the US"

RIA also quoted him as telling the same event that Trump had "thousands" of nuclear weapons at his disposal and that the US leader was playing "nuclear football."

HAMAS ACCUSES AMERICA OF 'BLACKMAIL' AFTER US BACKS ISRAEL ON PALESTINIAN UNITY DEALHamas on Thursday accused the US of “blackmail” and “blatant intervention in Palestinian affairs” after a statement from US Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt demanded Hamas commit to his understanding of the Quartet principles if it would like to participate in the governance of a future Palestinian state.

“Hamas rejects the attempts at blackmail and American bias in favor of Israeli positions… which represent a blatant intervention in internal Palestinian affairs and aim to obstruct reconciliation,” Hamas said in an official statement on its website.

FROM DAMASCUS, IRAN VOWS TO CONFRONT ISRAEL
BEIRUT, Oct 18 - Iran's military chief discussed ways to deepen cooperation with the Syrian military during a visit to Damascus on Wednesday, pledging to fight Israel and Sunni insurgents, Syrian state media said.

"We are in Damascus to assert and coordinate and cooperate to confront our common enemies, the Zionists and terrorists," Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri said, referring to Israel and Sunni militants including Islamic State. "We drew up the broad lines for this cooperation."

US NOT RULING OUT EVENTUAL DIRECT TALKS WITH NORTH KOREA
TOKYO, Oct 17 - The United States is not ruling out the eventual possibility of direct talks with North Korea, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said on Tuesday.

"We eventually don't rule out the possibility of direct talks," Sullivan said after a briefing with his Japanese counterpart, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Shinsuke Sugiyama.

Sullivan will travel to South Korea after Japan. The visit comes ahead of an expected trip to the region by President Donald Trump next month and as tension in the region grows amid concern over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests.

NETANYAHU ON SYRIA: 'ANYONE WHO TRIES TO HARM US WILL BE HIT'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the attack in Syria on Monday afternoon, hours after it was announced by the IDF.

“Our policy is clear,” he said in a statement. “Anyone who tries to harm us will be hit. Today they tried to hit our planes, which is unacceptable to us.”

Netanyahu said the IAF acted with “precision and speed” and “destroyed what needed to be destroyed. We will continue to act as is needed to protect Israel’s security.”

TILLERSON: US DIPLOMACY WITH N. KOREA TO CONTINUE UNTIL 'FIRST BOMB DROPS'
WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that President Donald Trump had instructed him to continue diplomatic efforts to calm rising tensions with North Korea, saying "those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops."

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Tillerson downplayed messages that President Trump had previously posted on Twitter suggesting Tillerson was wasting his time trying to negotiate with "Little Rocket Man," a derogatory nickname Trump has coined for North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump "has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts," Tillerson said.

IRAN SAYS WILL RESPOND STRONGLY TO ANY ACTION AGAINST ITS MILITARY FORCES
ANKARA, Oct 13 - Iran vowed on Friday to retaliate against any action targeting its armed forces and accused the United States of violating the spirit of a 2015 nuclear deal reached between Tehran and six major powers.

President Donald Trump is expected later on Friday to take a major step against the nuclear deal, laying out a more aggressive approach to Iranian activities in the Middle East that risks upsetting US ties with European allies.

"Iran will strongly respond to any action against its military forces, including the Revolutionary Guards Corps," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state TV.

He added that Iran would continue to expand its defensive power, including its ballistic missile program.

ISRAELI OFFICIAL: PALESTINIAN UNITY AGREEMENT MUST ABIDE BY INTERNATIONAL TERMS
JERUSALEM, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Any Palestinian reconciliation deal must abide by international agreements and terms set by the Middle East Quartet - including the recognition of Israel and Hamas giving up its arms, an Israeli government official said on Thursday.

"Israel will examine developments in the field and act accordingly," the government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

TRUMP REPORTEDLY SOUGHT DRAMATIC INCREASE IN US NUCLEAR ARSENAL
US President Donald Trump wanted to dramatically increase the country's nuclear arsenal, he said in a meeting with his national security advisers in July, NBC News reported on Wednesday, citing three officials who were present in the room.

Trump's reported comments come as tensions remained high with North Korea and as Trump is expected to make an announcement on whether to decertify the international deal surrounding Iran's nuclear program.

The president spoke on July after he was shown a chart indicating the stockpile of US nuclear weapons had slid from a high of 32,000 in the 1960s. Trump said he wanted to have that same number now, NBC reported.

The United States currently has about 4,000 nuclear warheads earmarked for use in its military stockpile, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

In a post on Twitter on Wednesday, the president said, "Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a 'tenfold' increase in our US nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!"

Trump said in an interview with Reuters in February that he wanted to ensure that the US nuclear arsenal was at the “top of the pack.”

US ARMY MUST BE READY ON NORTH KOREA, MATTIS SAYS
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday told the US Army to be ready with military options on North Korea, but emphasized that efforts to deal with Pyongyang were being led diplomatically

"There is one thing the US Army can do and that is you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our President can employ if needed," Mattis said in a speech at an annual US Army conference.

"We currently are in a diplomatically led effort and how many times have you seen the UN Security Council vote unanimously, now twice in a row, to impose stronger sanctions on North Korea," Mattis said.

UK PM MAY AND ISRAEL'S NETANYAHU: NEED TO BE "CLEAR-EYED" ON IRAN THREAT
Britain and Israel agree on the need to be "clear-eyed" about the threat Iran poses to the Middle East, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday following a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"They agreed that the international community needed to be clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and the wider Middle East, and that the international community should continue working together to push back against Iran's destabilizing regional activity," the spokesman said in a statement.

TRUMP SAYS HE WANTS TO GIVE PEACE A CHANCE BEFORE US EMBASSY MOVE TO JERUSALEM
WASHINGTON, Oct 7 - President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast on Saturday that he wanted to give a shot at achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians before moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In June Trump signed a temporary order to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv, despite a campaign promise he made to move it to Jerusalem.

In an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on the TBN program "Huckabee," Trump noted his administration was working on a plan for peace between the two sides.

"I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem," he said.

"If we can make peace between the Palestinians and Israel, I think it'll lead to ultimately peace in the Middle East, which has to happen," he said.

Asked if there was a time frame for the embassy move, Trump said: "We're going to make a decision in the not too distant future."

TRUMP: 'ONLY ONE THING WILL WORK' WITH NORTH KOREA
WASHINGTON, Oct 7 - US President Donald Trump on Saturday said "only one thing will work" in dealing with North Korea after previous administrations had talked to Pyongyang without results.

"Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid," Trump said in a tweet. ."..Hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!"

Trump did not make clear to what he was referring. The president has previously said the United States would destroy North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies.
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LAVROV: PUTIN, SAUDI KING AGREE ON NEED TO FIGHT TERROR
MOSCOW - Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa and agreed on the need to fight terrorism, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

King Salman, the first ever Saudi monarch to visit Russia, and Putin underlined the need for a peaceful solution to the conflicts in the region, Lavrov told a joint news briefing with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir after the two leaders met.

The Saudi king gave a positive assessment of the Astana process on settling the Syria conflict, Lavrov said, adding that Russia supports Saudi Arabia's steps to unite Syria's opposition so they can take part in the peace talks.

STATE DEPARTMENT TO GIVE TRUMP 'SEVERAL OPTIONS' ON IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
WASHINGTON - The US State Department will give President Donald Trump several options regarding the Iran nuclear deal ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline to certify whether Tehran is complying with the pact, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday.

"We'll have a recommendation for the president. We're going to give him a couple of options of how to move forward to advance the important policy towards Iran," Tillerson told reporters at the State Department.

TRUMP SAYS PUERTO RICO'S DEBT WILL HAVE TO BE WIPED OUT
US President Donald Trump said Tuesday while on a trip to Puerto Rico to observe hurricane recovery efforts that the island's massive debt will have to be wiped out.

"They owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street and we're going to have to wipe that out. You're going to say goodbye to that, I don't know if it's Goldman Sachs but whoever it is you can wave goodbye to that," Trump said in an interview with Fox News.

Puerto Rico, which earlier this year filed the biggest bankruptcy in US municipal history, is struggling to regain economic stability in the face of a $72 billion debt load and near-insolvent public health and pension systems.

RUSSIA THREATENS RETALIATION OVER US 'BREAK-IN' AT SAN FRANCISCO CONSULATE
The Russian Foreign Ministry said US officials had broken into residences at Russia's consulate in San Francisco, and threatened retaliation over what it called an illegal act.

Russian staff had left the consulate last month, after Washington ordered Moscow to vacate some of its diplomatic properties, part of a series of tit-for-tat actions during a thorny phase in bilateral relations.

Since then, US officials had occupied administrative parts of the compound but on Monday they entered residential areas that the departing staff had locked, the ministry said in a statement late on Monday.

"Despite our warnings, the U.S. authorities did not listen to reason and did not give up their illegal intentions," it said. "We reserve the right to respond. The principle of reciprocity has always been and remains the cornerstone of diplomacy."

Footage aired repeatedly on Russian state television showed what the broadcaster said were US officials breaking locks that had sealed off parts of the compound and entering the buildings.

The "intruders" had taken over the whole premises including the consul general's residence, the ministry said.

"Therefore, we understand that Americans, breaking into our diplomatic buildings, have de facto agreed that their missions in Russia may be treated likewise."

ISIS CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR LAS VEGAS SHOOTING
Islamic State announced Monday afternoon that they were behind the lethal carnage in Las Vegas that claimed the lives of 50 people and injured hundreds, despite the fact that police have identified the shooter already as a 64-year-old local resident named Stephen Paddock who, according to initial reports, is not directly affiliated to any terror group.

The investigation into the America's deadliest shooting is ongoing and police have said that the death toll is expected to rise.

Trump tells top U.S. diplomat: don't waste time talking to North Korea
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he told the top U.S. diplomat not to waste his time trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man," Trump wrote on Twitter, using his sarcastic nickname for Kim.

Trump's comment came the day after Tillerson disclosed that the United States was directly communicating with North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs but that Pyongyang had shown no interest in dialog.

"Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!" Trump said.

Tillerson said during a trip to China on Saturday that the United States was probing North Korea to see whether it is interested in dialog and that it had multiple direct channels of communication with Pyongyang.

This was the first time the Trump administration acknowledged it was in direct communication with Pyongyang.

The disclosure came as Tillerson expressed hope for reducing tensions with North Korea, which is fast advancing toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

"We are probing, so stay tuned," Tillerson told a small group of reporters during a trip to China. "We ask: 'Would you like to talk?'" He said the United States had "a couple of, three channels open to Pyongyang."

Trump has vacillated between direct personal attacks on the North Korean leader and a willingness to negotiate. After announcing new U.S. sanctions last month on North Korea, he also acknowledged diplomacy was still possible, asking: "Why not?"

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Paul Simao and Lisa Von Ahn)

HEZBOLLAH'S NASRALLAH TELLS FOLLOWERS THAT ISRAEL PUSHING REGION TO WAR
BEIRUT - Lebanon's Hezbollah said on Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government was pushing the region to war in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

In a speech to followers, the leader of the Iran-backed group, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said the Israeli government did not have "a correct assessment of where this war will lead if they ignite it," and did not know how it would end.

He was speaking on the occasion of Ashura, when Shi'ites commemorate the slaying of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson, the Imam Hussein, at Kerbala in 680.

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HAMAS TO AGREE TO A PRISONERS EXCHANGE DEAL WITH ISRAEL

The Ma'an News Agency reported that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar claimed that Hamas accepted the Egyptian offer of an Israeli-Hamas prison swap and that now "the ball is in Israel's court".

Ma'an further claimed that the Hamas leader hinted that the questions surrounding the offer were partly why Col. (res.) Lior Lotan resigned the his position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s envoy for captives and missing persons in August.

TOP COMMANDER: IRANIAN MISSILES HAVE 'PINPOINT ACCURACY'
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps missiles have been manufactured with "pinpoint accuracy," Iranian Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said in a live broadcast on Wednesday night, Tasnim news reported.

Such accuracy would be used "whenever necessary," Jafari said, citing the missile attack the IRGC launched against Syria in June. The attack, which comprised of six high-precision missiles launched at ISIS positions, was reportedly launched in retaliation for terrorist activity in Iran claimed by ISIS.

INTERPOL VOTES TO ADMIT STATE OF PALESTINE AS A NEW MEMBER STATE 


The members of International Police Organization (Interpol) voted on Wednesday to admit the State of Palestine as a member state at its annual General Assembly meeting in Beijing.

The vote was carried out by secret ballot, something that in international forums traditionally plays to Israel's disadvantage.

76% of member states voted in favor.

NORTH KOREA MOVING AIRPLANES, BOOSTING DEFENSE AFTER US BOMBER FLIGHT

North Korea has been moving airplanes and boosting defenses on its east coast after the United States dispatched B-1B bombers to the Korean peninsula over the weekend, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday, citing the country's spy agency.

The United States seemed to have disclosed the flight route of the bombers intentionally because North Korea seemed to be unaware, the report said.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service was unable to confirm the report immediately.

North Korea's foreign minister said on Monday that US President Donald Trump had declared war on North Korea and that Pyongyang reserved the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down US bombers even if they are not in its air space.

NORTH KOREA SAYS ROCKETS TO US ‘INEVITABLE’ AFTER TRUMP DUBS KIM ‘ROCKET MAN’

UNITED NATIONS - North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the United Nations on Saturday that US President Donald Trump had made “our rockets' visit to the entire US mainland inevitable” by calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "rocket man."

“Through such a prolonged and arduous struggle, now we are finally only a few steps away from the final gate of completion of the state nuclear force,” Ri told the annual gathering of world leaders for the United Nations General Assembly.

“It is only a forlorn hope to consider any chance that the DPRK (North Korea) would be shaken an inch or change its stance due to the harsher sanctions by the hostile forces,” he said.

US TAKES NORTH KOREA THREAT OF H-BOMB TEST SERIOUSLY, TRUMP OFFICIAL SAYS

WASHINGTON - It would be a "game-changer" if North Korea conducts a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific and the United States is taking the threat seriously, but it does not give "too much credence" to Pyongyang taking such action, a senior US official said on Friday.

“There’s a certain amount of bluster that’s taken for granted when you’re dealing with North Korea," the Trump administration official told Reuters. The official added, however, that "we have to some extent take it seriously.”

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were questions whether North Korea had the capabilities to conduct such a test but declined to specify how the United States would respond. "It would be a game-changer in some sense," the official said. "But I don’t think we should give too much credence to it at the moment.”

Source for all posts.... jpost.com