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International Students (F1) in USA (Stay or leave USA)? ICE/SEVP news l Options? Study in USA l



usainternationalstudent #icenews #studyinusa International Students Stay or leave USA l Options l ICE news l Study in USA l Just a quick update about today’s …

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Jordan’s Former Crown Prince Placed Under House Arrest


JERUSALEM (AP) — Jordan’s allies on Sunday rallied around King Abdullah II after his half-brother unleashed unprecedented public criticism of how the country is run, complaining of corruption and lack of free expression.

The swift show of support, even as Abdullah placed Prince Hamzah under house arrest, underscored Jordan’s strategic importance as an island of relative stability in the turbulent region. While the harsh criticism from a popular member of the ruling family could lend support to growing complaints about the kingdom’s poor governance, the king’s tough reaction also illustrated the limits to which he will accept public dissent.

Labib Kamhawi, a Jordanian analyst, said Hamzah had crossed a red line by indicating he might be an alternative to the long-ruling king.

“This is something the king does not accept or tolerate,” he said. “This is why we are now witnessing what has happened. This file is now more or less closed.”

Prince Hamza Bin Al-Hussein, right, and Prince Hashem Bin Al-Hussein, left, brothers King Abdullah II of Jordan, attend the o



Prince Hamza Bin Al-Hussein, right, and Prince Hashem Bin Al-Hussein, left, brothers King Abdullah II of Jordan, attend the opening of the parliament in Amman, Jordan. Prince Hamza, the half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, said he has been placed under house arrest. in a videotaped statement late Saturday, April 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Mohammad abu Ghosh, File)

Early on Sunday, Hamzah’s mother, Queen Noor, expressed sympathy for “innocent victims.”

“Praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander. God bless and keep them safe,” she tweeted.

In his video, Hamzah said he was visited early Saturday by the kingdom’s military chief and told he could not go out, communicate with people or meet with them. He said his phone and internet service were cut and his satellite internet, used to record the message, was being cut off as well.

He said he was told he was being punished for taking part in meetings in which the king had been criticized, though he said he was not accused of joining in the criticism.

Hamzah then lashed out at the “ruling system” without mentioning the king by name, saying it had decided “that its personal interests, that its financial interests, that its corruption is more important than the lives and dignity and futures of the 10 million people that live here.”

“I’m not part of any conspiracy or nefarious organization or foreign-backed group, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out,” he said. “There are members of this family who still love this country, who care for (its people) and will put them above all else.”

“Apparently, that is a crime worthy of isolation, threats and now being cut off,” he added.

Hamzah is a former crown prince who was stripped of that title by Abdullah in 2004, five years after becoming king following the death of their father, the late King Hussein.

Hamzah is a popular figure in Jordan, widely seen as pious and modest. It is extremely rare for senior members of the ruling family to clash so publicly.

Adding to the kingdom’s embarrassment, his claims contradicted statements by the military chief, Gen. Yousef Huneiti, denying that Hamzah was detained or under house arrest.

The general told the official Petra news agency that Hamzah had been merely asked to “stop some movements and activities that are being used to target Jordan’s security and stability,” and that an investigation was ongoing.

Whatever damage the crisis might have inside Jordan, however, appeared to have little immediate effect on outside support for Abdullah.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”

The U.S. considers Jordan a major ally, granting it access to military equipment and assistance. U.S. special forces and other troops routinely train with the Jordanians. The kingdom hosts some 3,000 American troops.

Pro-U.S. Gulf Arab countries, which have many Jordanians working across public sector jobs, also immediately issued statements backing the king and his government.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency said the kingdom’s royal court supported King Abdullah’s efforts “to maintain security and stability and defuse every attempt to influence them.”

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates similarly issued statements supporting Abdullah.

Abdullah and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, are believed to have had a sometimes tense relationship over Saudi gestures toward Israel in recent years. However, Saudi social media lit up overnight with images of the Saudi crown prince and King Abdullah, apparently in a sign of support.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called Jordan a “strategic ally” and dismissed the turmoil as an “internal Jordanian matter.”

Stability in Jordan and the status of the king have long been matters of concern throughout the region, particularly during the Trump administration, which gave unprecedented support to Israel and sought to isolate the Palestinians, including by slashing funding for Palestinian refugees.

That placed Jordan, which serves as the custodian of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and is home to a large Palestinian population in a delicate position.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. The countries maintain close security ties, but relations have otherwise been tense in recent years, largely due to differences linked to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

In early 2018, as then-President Donald Trump was threatening to cut aid to countries that did not support U.S. policies, the administration boosted assistance to Jordan by more than $1 billion over five years.

With Hamzah remaining under house arrest Sunday, it was unclear how long the standoff could continue without threatening Abdullah’s international standing.

Adam Coogle, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa for Human Rights Watch, said there has been a slow but steady slide in personal freedoms in Jordan in recent years.

“There’s no question that there’s been a real degradation in the space for critical political conversation and in terms of basic freedoms,” he said. “We’ve reached a real low point.”

Coogle cited the rise of the Islamic State group and the threat it posed to the Jordanian regime and the warming of ties between Israel and Gulf Arab countries during the Trump era, often at Jordan’s expense. He also pointed to the decline in Jordan’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment has skyrocketed to some 25%, while the country has been saddled with an influx of some 1 million Syrian refugees.

Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said the the past year has created “pockets of resentment and frustration.”

But he did not think there is a credible threat to Abdullah’s rule and it is unlikely to lead to a popular uprising.

“I doubt that this could be more than talk of disgruntled people, important as they are,” he said.

AP correspondents Jon Gambrell in Dubai, Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed reporting.



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Harriet Tubman Stamp: How It’s Made



How It’s Made: Harriet Tubman Stamp

These stamps are made the old fashioned way from real molded rubber. Special thanks to Casey Rubber Stamps, a pint-sized stamp shop in Manhattan’s East Village offering custom-stamp production, for their willingness to take on the peculiar challenges of this project.

Disappointed by the news that the Trump administration was walking back the plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, I created this stamp to convert Jacksons into Tubmans myself.

A full explanation of the legality of currency stamping can be found here:
https://blog.adafruit.com/2017/10/15/hey-steven-mnuchin-making-harriet-tubman-20s-seems-totally-ok-ustreasury-stevenmnuchin1/
and here:

Yes, It’s Legal!

How to use the stamp: https://vimeo.com/250692555

More information and history at https://tubmanstamp.com/

Pre-made stamps are available for purchase through Etsy: http://tubmanstamp.etsy.com

Custom handles (rubber stamp not included) are also available to order through Shapeways:
Classic handle – shpws.me/QKTB
Slim handle – shpws.me/QKTA
Minimalist handle – shpws.me/QKTC

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Pope Francis Holds Historic, Symbolic Meeting With Iraq’s Top Shiite Cleric



Abdul-Zahra

PLAINS OF UR, Iraq (AP) — Pope Francis and Iraq’s top Shiite cleric delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence Saturday, urging Muslims in the war-weary Arab nation to embrace Iraq’s long-beleaguered Christian minority during an historic meeting in the holy city of Najaf.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraq’s Christians, and that Christians should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history.

Al-Sistani, 90, is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam and his rare but powerful political interventions have helped shape present-day Iraq. He is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and his opinions on religious and other matters are sought by Shiites worldwide.

The historic meeting in al-Sistani’s humble home was months in the making, with every detail painstakingly discussed and negotiated between the ayatollah’s office and the Vatican.

Early Saturday, the 84-year-old pontiff, traveling in a bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz, pulled up along Najaf’s narrow and column-lined Rasool Street, which culminates at the golden-domed Imam Ali Shrine, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam. He then walked the few meters (yards) to al-Sistani’s modest home, which the cleric has rented for decades.

A group of Iraqis wearing traditional clothes welcomed him outside. As a masked Francis entered the doorway, a few white doves were released in a sign of peace. He emerged just under an hour later, still limping from an apparent flare-up of sciatica nerve pain that makes walking difficult.

The “very positive” meeting lasted a total of 40 minutes, said a religious official in Najaf, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.

The official said al-Sistani, who normally remains seated for visitors, stood to greet Francis at the door of his room — a rare honor. Al-Sistani and Francis sat close to one another, without masks. Al-Sistani, who rarely appears in public — even on television — wore black robes and a black turban, in simple contrast to Francis’ all-white cassock.

The official said there was some concern about the fact that the pope had met with so many people the day before. Francis has received the coronavirus vaccine but al-Sistani has not. The aging ayatollah, who underwent surgery for a fractured thigh bone last year, looked tired.

The pope removed his shoes before entering al-Sistani’s room and was served tea and a plastic bottle of water. Al-Sistani spoke for most of the meeting. Francis paused before leaving al-Sistani’s room to have a last look, the official said.

The pope arrived later in the ancient city of Ur for an interfaith meeting in the traditional birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” Francis said. “Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.”

Religious leaders stood to greet him. While Francis wore a mask, few of the leaders on the tented stage did. The meeting was held in the shadow of Ur’s magnificent ziggurat, the 6,000-year-old archaeological complex near the modern city of Nasiriyah.

The Vatican said Iraqi Jews were invited to the event but did not attend, without providing further details. Iraq’s ancient Jewish community was decimated in the 20th century by violence and mass emigration fueled by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only a handful remain.

The Vatican said the historic visit to al-Sistani was a chance for Francis to emphasize the need for collaboration and friendship between different religious communities.

In a statement issued by his office after the meeting, al-Sistani affirmed that Christians should “live like all Iraqis, in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.” He pointed out the “role that the religious authority plays in protecting them, and others who have also suffered injustice and harm in the events of past years.”

Al-Sistani wished Francis and the followers of the Catholic Church happiness, and thanked him for taking the trouble to visit him in Najaf, the statement said.

For Iraq’s dwindling Christian minority, a show of solidarity from al-Sistani could help secure their place in Iraq after years of displacement — and, they hope, ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community.

Iraqis cheered the meeting of two respected faith leaders.

”We welcome the pope’s visit to Iraq and especially to the holy city of Najaf and his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani,” said Najaf resident Haidar Al-Ilyawi. “It is an historic visit and hope it will be good for Iraq and the Iraqi people.”

Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday and met with senior government officials on the first-ever papal visit to the country. It is also his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and his meeting Saturday marked the first time a pope had met a grand ayatollah.

On the few occasions where he has made his opinion known, the notoriously reclusive al-Sistani has shifted the course of Iraq’s modern history.

In the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion he repeatedly preached calm and restraint as the Shiite majority came under attack by al-Qaida and other Sunni extremists. The country was nevertheless plunged into years of sectarian violence.

His 2014 fatwa, or religious edict, calling on able-bodied men to join the security forces in fighting the Islamic State group swelled the ranks of Shiite militias, many closely tied to Iran. In 2019, as anti-government demonstrations gripped the country, his sermon lead to the resignation of then-prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

Iraqis have welcomed the visit and the international attention it has given the country as it struggles to recover from decades of war and unrest. Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group in 2017 but still sees sporadic attacks.

It has also seen recent rocket attacks by Iran-backed militias against U.S. military and diplomatic facilities, followed by U.S. airstrikes on militia targets in Iraq and neighboring Syria. The violence is linked to the standoff between the U.S. and Iran following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord and its imposition of crippling sanctions on Iran. President Joe Biden has said he wants to revive the deal.

Francis’ visit to Najaf and nearby Ur traverses provinces that have seen recent instability. In Nasiriyah, where the Plains of Ur is located, protest violence left at least five dead last month. Most were killed when Iraqi security forces used live ammunition to disperse crowds.

Protest violence was also seen in Najaf last year, but abated as the mass anti-government movement that engulfed Iraq gradually petered out.

Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad. Associated Press journalists Anmar Khalil in Najaf, Iraq, and Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed.



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Rockets Hit Airbase In Iraq Hosting U.S. Troops, 2 Days Before Pope Visit


BAGHDAD (AP) — At least 10 rockets targeted a military base in western Iraq that hosts U.S.-led coalition troops on Wednesday, the coalition and the Iraqi military said. It was not immediately known if there were any casualties.

The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province at 7:20 a.m., spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said.

Later, the Iraqi military released a statement saying the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the missiles. An Iraqi military official said they had been found in the al-Baghdadi area of Anbar, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to brief media.

It was the first attack since the U.S. struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week that killed one militiaman, stoking fears of a possible repeat of a series of tit-for-tat attacks that escalated last year, culminating in the U.S.-directed drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani outside the Baghdad airport.

Wednesday’s attack targeted the same base where Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January last year in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Dozens of U.S. service members were injured, suffering concussions in that strike.

A picture taken on Jan. 13, 2020, during a press tour organized by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islami



A picture taken on Jan. 13, 2020, during a press tour organized by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows a view inside Ain al-Asad military airbase housing U.S. and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar.

Denmark, which also has troops at the base, condemned the attack, saying that coalition forces at Ain al-Asad are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government, helping to bring stability and security to the country.

“Despicable attacks against Ain al-Asad base in #Iraq are completely unacceptable,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted. The Danish armed forces said two Danes, who were in the camp at the time of the attack, are unharmed.

Wednesday’s attack comes two days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq in a much-anticipated trip that will include Baghdad, southern Iraq and the northern city of Irbil.

Last week’s U.S. strike along the border had been in response to a spate of rocket attacks that targeted the American presence, including one that killed a coalition contractor from the Philippines outside the Irbil airport.

After that attack, the Pentagon said the strike was a “proportionate military response” taken after consulting coalition partners.

Marotto said the Iraqi security forces were leading an investigation into the attack on Ain al-Asad.

U.S. troops in Iraq significantly decreased their presence in the country last year under the Trump administration. The forces withdrew from several Iraqi based across the country to consolidate chiefly in Ain al-Asad and Baghad.

Frequent rocket attacks targeting the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy, during President Donald Trump’s time in office frustrated the administration, leading to threats of embassy closure and escalatory strikes.

Associated Press writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.



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U.S. Carries Out Airstrike Against Iranian-Backed Militia Target In Syria, Officials Say



contractor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike in Syria against a structure belonging to what it said were Iran-backed militia, two officials told Reuters, an apparent response to rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq.

While the strike could be the first retaliatory moves by the United States following last week’s attacks, the move appeared to be limited in scope, potentially lowering the risk of escalation.

Also a decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq would give the Iraqi government some breathing room as it carries out its own investigation of a Feb. 15 attack that wounded Americans.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the strike was approved by President Joe Biden. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One official said the strike was in response to the recent rocket attacks in Iraq.

It was not immediately clear what damage was caused and if there were any casualties from the U.S. strike.

Retaliatory U.S. military strikes have occurred a number of times in the past few years.

The rocket attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq were carried out as Washington and Tehran are looking for a way to return to the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

In the Feb. 15 attack, rockets hit the U.S. military base housed at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdish-run region killing one non-American contractor and injuring a number of American contractors and a U.S. service member. Another salvo struck a base hosting U.S. forces north of Baghdad days later hurting at least one contractor.

Rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone on Monday which houses the U.S. embassy and other diplomatic missions.

Earlier this week, the Kataib Hezbollah group, one of the main Iran-aligned Iraqi militia group, denied any role in recent rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq.

Some Western and Iraqi officials say the attacks, often claimed by little-known groups, are being carried out by militants with links to Kataib Hezbollah as a way for Iranian allies to harass U.S. forces without being held accountable.

Since late 2019, the United States carried out high-profile strikes against the Kataib Hezbollah militia group in Iraq and Syria in response to sometimes deadly rocket attacks against U.S.-led forces.

Under the Trump administration, the escalator back-and-forth stoked tensions, culminating in the U.S. killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani and a retaliatory Iranian ballistic missile attack against U.S. forces in Iraq last year.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)



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World Leaders Applaud America’s Formal Return To Paris Climate Agreement



America

The United States is back in the Paris climate accord, just 107 days after it left.

While Friday’s return is heavily symbolic, world leaders say they expect America to prove its seriousness after four years of being pretty much absent. They are especially anticipating an announcement from the U.S. in coming months on its goal for cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2030.

The U.S. return to the Paris agreement became official Friday, almost a month after President Joe Biden told the United Nations that America wants back in. “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.”

Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office reversing the pullout ordered by his predecessor, President Donald Trump. The Trump administration had announced its withdrawal from the Paris accord in 2019 but it didn’t become effective until Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election, because of provisions in the agreement.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that the official American re-entry “is itself very important,” as is Biden’s announcement that the U.S. will return to providing climate aid to poorer nations, as promised in 2009.

“It’s the political message that’s being sent,” said Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations climate chief. She was one of the leading forces in hammering out the 2015 mostly voluntary agreement where nations set their own goals to reduce greenhouse gases.

One fear was that other nations would follow America in abandoning the climate fight, but none did, Figueres said. She said the real issue was four years of climate inaction by the Trump administration. American cities, states and businesses still worked to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide, but without the federal government.

“From a political symbolism perspective, whether it’s 100 days or four years, it’s basically the same thing,” Figueres said. “It’s not about how many days. It’s the political symbolism that the largest economy refuses to see the opportunity of addressing climate change.”

“We’ve lost too much time,” Figueres said.

United Nations Environment Programme Director Inger Andersen said America has to prove its leadership to the rest of the world, but she said she has no doubt it will when it submits its required emissions cutting targets. The Biden administration promises to announce them before an Earth Day summit in April.

“We hope they will translate into a very meaningful reduction of emissions and they will be an example for other countries to follow,” Guterres said. Already more than 120 nations, including No. 1 emitter China, have promised to have net zero carbon emissions around midcentury.

University of Maryland environment professor Nate Hultman, who worked on the Obama administration’s official Paris goal, said he expects a 2030 target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions between 40% and 50% from the 2005 baseline levels.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy panel, has criticized Biden for rejoining Paris, tweeting: “Returning to the Paris climate agreement will raise Americans’ energy costs and won’t solve climate change. The Biden administration will set unworkable targets for the United States while China and Russia can continue with business as usual.″

A longtime international goal, included in the Paris accord with an even more stringent target, is to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. The world has already warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since that time.

The U.S. rejoining the Paris accord and coming up with an ambitious target for emissions cuts would make limiting warming “to well below 2 degrees — not just to 2 degrees but below 2 degrees — a lot more likely,” said climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, energy and climate director for the Breakthrough Institute.



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U.S. Extends Sole Remaining Nuclear Arms Treaty With Russia


The United States joined Russia on Wednesday in extending the two countries’ last remaining treaty limiting their stockpiles of nuclear weapons, two days before the pact was set to expire.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement the U.S. would use the five years of the New START treaty’s renewal to pursue limits on all of Russia’s nuclear weapons. That’s after the Trump administration pulled out of two other such deals, as part of a broad withdrawal from international accords.

The countries last week announced plans to extend the agreement, even as the Biden administration has stepped up criticism of Russia over the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, its involvement in a massive hack of U.S. agencies and other issues.

“Especially during times of tension, verifiable limits on Russia’s intercontinental-range nuclear weapons are vitally important. Extending the New START Treaty makes the United States, U.S. allies and partners, and the world safer,” Blinken said. “An unconstrained nuclear competition would endanger us all.”

The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits the number of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons.

In this file photo taken from a video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, on Dec. 9, 2020, a rocket launch



In this file photo taken from a video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, on Dec. 9, 2020, a rocket launches from missile system as part of a ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile test launched from the Plesetsk facility in northwestern Russia. 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the extension, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “It’s a first step of reinvigorating … the nuclear arms control regime.”

The outgoing Trump administration made a late bid to extend the treaty, but Russia rejected its conditions.

The treaty was due to expire Friday. Both houses of the Russian parliament voted unanimously last month for the extension, and President Vladimir Putin signed the bill.

That was after President Joe Biden and Putin talked and agreed on the extension, part of a quick round of diplomacy by the less than month-old U.S. administration to keep the treaty going. The extension doesn’t require formal congressional approval in the United States.

The Biden administration will also work on control measures for China’s smaller but growing arsenal of nuclear warheads, Blinken said.

Edie Lederer in New York contributed.





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USA DECEMBER VACCINE GOAL – 31 DECEMBER 2020 – USA TODAY NEWS



WITH ONLY A COUPLE DAYS left in December, the Trump administration looks likely to fall short of its goal to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of the …

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Biden Administration Announces Restoration Of Relations With Palestinians



Arab League

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday it was restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees, a reversal of the Trump administration’s cutoff and a key element of its new support for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills made the announcement of Biden’s approach to a high-level virtual Security Council meeting, saying the new U.S. administration believes this “remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state while upholding the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a state of their own and to live with dignity and security.”

President Donald Trump’s administration provided unprecedented support to Israel, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, slashing financial assistance for the Palestinians and reversing course on the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians.

Israel captured east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 war. The international community considers both areas to be occupied territory, and the Palestinians seek them as parts of a future independent state. Israel has built a far-flung network of settlements that house nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem since their capture in 1967.

The peace plan unveiled by Trump a year ago envisions a disjointed Palestinian state that turns over key parts of the West Bank to Israel, siding with Israel on key contentious issues including borders and the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements. It was vehemently rejected by the Palestinians.

Mills made clear the Biden administration’s more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Under the new administration, the policy of the United States will be to support a mutually agreed two-state solution, one in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” he said.

Mills said peace can’t be imposed on either side and stressed that progress and an ultimate solution require the participation and agreement of Israelis and Palestinians.

“In order to advance these objectives, the Biden administration will restore credible U.S. engagement with Palestinians as well as Israelis,” he said.

“This will involve renewing U.S. relations with the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people,” Mills said.

“President Biden has been clear that he intends to restore U.S. assistance programs that support economic development programs and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, and to take steps to reopen diplomatic relations that were closed by the last U.S. administration,.” Mills said.

Trump cut off funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency known as UNRWA, which was established to aid the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948. It provides education, health care, food and other assistance to some 5.5 million refugees and their descendants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The U.S. was UNRWA’s major donor and the loss of funds has created a financial crisis for the agency.

The Trump administration closed the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington in September 2018, effectively shutting down the Palestinians’ diplomatic mission to the United States.

Mills said the United States hopes to start working to slowly build confidence on both sides to create an environment to reach a two-state solution.

To pursue this goal, Mills said, “the United States will urge Israel’s government and the Palestinians to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult, such as annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, and providing compensation for individuals in prison for acts of terrorism.”

Israel has accused the Palestinians of inciting violence and has vehemently objected to the Palestinian Authority paying families of those imprisoned for attacking or killing Israelis.

Mills stressed that “the U.S. will maintain its steadfast support for Israel” ― opposing one-sided resolutions and other actions in international bodies that unfairly single out Israel and promoting Israel’s standing and participation at the U.N. and other international organizations.

The Biden administration welcomes the recent normalization of relations between Israel and a number of Arab nations and will urge other countries to establish ties, Mills said.

“Yet, we recognize that Arab-Israeli normalization is not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace,” he said.

Mills stressed that the fraught state of Israeli-Palestinian politics, and the fact that trust between the two sides “is at a nadir,” don’t relieve U.N. member nations “of the responsibility of trying to preserve the viability of a two-state solution.”

Before Mills spoke, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki sharply criticized the Trump administration for using “the United States’ might and influence to support Israel’s unlawful efforts to entrench its occupation and control” and reiterated Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ hopes “for the resumption of relations and positive engagement.”

“Now is the time to heal and repair the damage left by the previous U.S. administration,” he said. “We look forward to the reversal of the unlawful and hostile measures undertaken by the Trump administration and to working together for peace.”

Malki called for revival of the Quartet of Mideast mediators ― the U.S., U.N., European Union and Russia ― and reiterated Abbas’ call for an international peace conference “that can signal a turning point in this conflict.” He also expressed hope that “the U.S. will play an important role in multilateral efforts for peace in the Middle East.”

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is convinced that the Quartet, working closely with both sides and Arab states, “can play a very, very effective role.”

In support of Abbas’ call for an international conference, Lavrov proposed holding a ministerial meeting this spring or summer with the Quartet and Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as well as Saudi Arabia to analyze the current situation and assist “in launching a dialogue” between Israeli’s and Palestinians.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said “Palestinians suffered from unprecedented pressure from the former U.S. administration” and said the organization’s 22 members look forward to Biden correcting Trump’s actions and working with international and regional parties to relaunch “a serious peace process.”

But Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan told the council that instead of focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it should focus on Iran, which “does not try to hide its intention of destroying the world’s only Jewish state.”

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he suggested that the council discuss what he called “the real obstacles to peace: Palestinian incitement and culture of hate.”

Israel remains willing to make peace “when there is a willing partner,” Erdan said, accusing Abbas of inciting violence, and saying he should come to the negotiating table “without making outrageous demands and not call for another pointless international conference … (which) is just a distraction.”





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