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Monthly Archives: November 2015

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Obama’s first stop in Paris is saddest of destinations

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PARIS (AP) — At another time, it would have been a glorious tour of Paris by night. But for the saddest of destinations.

President Barack Obama landed in Paris just before midnight Sunday and his motorcade took on unexpected route along the Seine. He rode past the Eiffel Tower, the French Assembly building, the Bastille. Then, he arrived at the Bataclan.

The American president strode purposefully toward the shuttered French concert hall where terrorists wrought so much horror two weeks ago.

Obama, French President Francois Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo walked side by side to a makeshift memorial. Each added a single white rose to the collection of remembrances.

On a cool and clear night, the three bowed their heads for a long moment of silence, paying tribute to the 130 people who died in the worst attack on French soil in more than a half-century.

And then Obama was gone, ready to turn his focus to the climate change conference that brought him to France.

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Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac

Iraqi envoy: Paris attack marks new global war

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PARIS (AP) — The wave of suicide bombers and gunmen who terrorized Paris marked a new stage in the war against extremism that will leave no country in the world untouched, Iraq’s foreign minister said Sunday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Iraq has long known that Islamic State extremists posed a fundamental danger and the Nov. 13 attacks on innocent people enjoying a night out were a demonstration to the West of the Islamic State group’s determination to sow fear by killing as many people as possible. A total of 130 people died and hundreds were injured in the attacks on the Bataclan concert venue, bars and restaurants, and the national stadiums.

“The world took too long to react against Daesh and al-Qaida. In 2004, 11 years ago, I said terrorism had no religion, had no country, had no particular beliefs. And in 2012, I said that we were in a third world war. Now, you will see that no country can live in peace, quietly,” al-Jaafari said, using the Arabic acronym for the group, which he said has nothing to do with Islam.

Al-Jaafari spoke on the sidelines of international climate negotiations, which is bringing together more than 140 world leaders. He said the decision to attend the global conference was a sign of solidarity and trust in France’s ability to protect people at the highest level.

Now, he said, countries must take initiative against the group.

He confirmed that Iraq had warned France and other nations the evening of Nov. 12 of an impending attack, even if few details were available, and said Iraq’s intelligence services are redoubling their efforts.

“In Iraq, we are not only defending ourselves. We are defending your countries. We are defending everyone. Because those who are currently in Iraq can go home, can go back into their countries to commit terrorist acts,” he said.

All the attackers who have been firmly identified were French or Belgium, and many had joined Islamic State extremists in Syria or Iraq. This comes as little surprise to al-Jaafari, who said the group has become an international breeding ground for extremism.

“It’s the expression of a culture, these actions. This culture is not linked to a territory. The terrorists who belong to Daesh come from 100 countries. They are from the world’s greatest democracies,” he said. “What unites them is this hatred they share. They are ready to die. They are ready to kill themselves to take out the largest number of victims. They detest the entire world and, it must be said, most of the victims are Muslim.”

Al-Jaafari arrived in Paris after the winter sundown, and said he reveled in seeing the city lit at night.

“We cannot cover our heads when faced with this terror and let our communities, our cities, be terrorized, to be afraid. That is their goal, their objective. Yesterday, when I arrived at the airport to go to the hotel, I saw Paris with all its lights, joyful. And it was a pleasure to see Paris like that.”

Iran’s top leader calls Paris attacks ‘blind terrorism’

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s official news agency is quoting the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as calling the recent Paris attacks “blind terrorism.”

The comments, reported by the IRNA news agency Sunday, were Khamenei’s first reaction to the attacks, in which extremist jihadists killed 130 people and injured scores of others. The government had previously condemned the attacks immediately after they occurred.

Khamenei said “the bitter events brought about by blind terrorism in France” moved him to issue the statement. He said he has also been “disturbed” by bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinians and as well as violence by the Islamic State group in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Iran does not recognize Israel and supports anti-Israeli groups like Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.

EU slams Syria for gaps in chemical weapons declaration

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A European Union envoy criticized Syria on Monday for “gaps and contradictions” in its declarations about its chemical weapons arsenal to the global watchdog overseeing the destruction of the toxic armaments.

Jacek Bylica of Luxembourg said that the lack of clarity from Damascus, “make it impossible to have confidence that its chemical weapons program has been irreversibly dismantled.”

Bylica delivered the damning statement on behalf of the EU on the opening day of the annual meeting of member states of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.

Syria declared an arsenal of 1,300 tons of chemical weapons when it joined the OPCW in 2013 under pressure from the international community following a deadly chemical attack on a Damascus neighborhood.

More than 99 percent of those weapons have been destroyed, but questions remain about whether Syria declared all of its stockpiles.

The OPCW has a special team reviewing Syria’s declarations amid fears that chemical weapons could fall into the hands of insurgents fighting in the country’s civil war, including the Islamic State group.

Bylica said that during behind-closed-doors meetings this year member states were shown “alarming findings” of the declaration review team, saying that in five of the team’s reports on Syria, “more new questions arose than found satisfactory answers.” The reports remain confidential.

A recent report by a separate international fact-finding team in Syria revealed that a “non-state actor” used the blistering agent sulfur mustard, an outlawed chemical weapon, in an attack near the northern Syrian town of Aleppo in August, likely killing an infant.

The United Nations and OPCW have established a joint investigation team to apportion blame for such attacks. OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said Monday that the team is expected to issue its first report in February.

Leaders of warming Earth meet in Paris to cut emissions

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LE BOURGET, France (AP) — Addressing the twin threats of global warming and extremist violence, 151 world leaders kicked off two weeks of high-stakes climate talks outside Paris on Monday, saying that by striking an ambitious deal to cut emissions that are warming the planet they can show terrorists what countries can do when they stand together.

The meeting comes at a somber time for France, two weeks after militants linked to the Islamic State group killed 130 people around Paris. Fears of more attacks have prompted extra-high security and a crackdown on environmental protests — and threaten to eclipse longer-term concerns about rising seas and increasingly extreme weather linked to man-made global warming.

Dozens of leaders streaming into Paris, including President Barack Obama, paid their respects at sites linked to the attacks. Obama, in a late-night visit, placed a single flower outside the concert hall where dozens were killed, and bowed his head in silence.

Gathering for the talks near Le Bourget airfield, just north of the city, the leaders held a moment of silence for victims of recent attacks in France, Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia and Mali.

“We stand with Paris,” said U.N. climate change agency chief Christina Figueres. “The city of light, now more than ever, is a beacon of hope for the world.”

Addressing negotiators, she added: “The eyes of millions of people around the world are on you.”

The clock is ticking, not just because the world has warmed nearly 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the beginning of the industrial age, but because after world leaders leave Monday negotiators have limited time to strike a deal. Already, 181 nations have made pledges to combat man-made carbon dioxide pollution.

“We just have 11 short days before us,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said as he took over as president of the negotiations. “Success is not yet assured, but it is within our grasp… The eyes of the world are upon us and there are great hopes.”

Added the outgoing president, Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal: “We can show to the world that we can work together against climate change and against global terrorism.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande greeted heads of state and government from around the world as they arrived for the talks. The leaders were giving speeches about what their countries are doing to reduce emissions and slow climate change.

“Consider the needs of the youngest generation,” Britain’s Prince Charles said. “Because none of us should assume that for our today, they should give up tomorrow.”

Wide Paris-area highways usually packed with commuters were cordoned off to clear the way for all the VIPs. Riot police vans and plainclothes officers were stationed around the capital and by the national stadium, one of the targets of the Nov. 13 attacks that is near the climate conference venue.

The conference is aimed at the most far-reaching deal ever to tackle global warming. The last major agreement, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, required only rich countries to cut emissions, and the U.S. never signed on.

Among several sticking points is money — how much rich countries should invest to help poor countries cope with climate change, how much should be invested in renewable energy, and how much traditional oil and gas producers stand to lose if countries agree to forever reduce emissions.

With that in mind, at least 19 governments and 28 leading world investors were announcing billions of dollars in investments to research and develop clean energy technology, with the goal of making it cheaper.

Backers include Obama, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, billionaires George Soros and Saudi Prince Alaweed bin Talal, and Jack Ma of China’s Alibaba.

Under the initiative, 19 countries pledge to double their spending on low- or no-carbon energy over the next five years. They currently spend about $10 billion a year, about half of that from the U.S., Brian Deese, senior adviser to Obama on climate and energy issues, told reporters in Washington.

Gates, the “intellectual architect” of the effort, committed $1 billion of his own money, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.

“We’ll work to mobilize support to help the most vulnerable countries expand clean energy and adapt to the effects of climate change we can no longer avoid,” Obama wrote on his Facebook page.

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Sylvie Corbet, Karl Ritter and Nancy Benac in Le Bourget and Stacey Anderson in Washington contributed.

Business: Global stocks down ahead of US data, Fed speeches

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BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets were mostly lower Monday as investors looked ahead to this week’s public appearances by the U.S. Federal Reserve chief for signs of whether the central bank will raise interest rates this month.

KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, France’s CAC-40 retreated 0.3 percent to 4,913.61 and Germany’s DAX was off 0.2 percent at 11,293.76. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent to 6,331.32. Wall Street was set to add to Friday’s losses. Futures for the Standard & Poor’s 500 shed 0.3 percent to 17,743.00. Dow futures lost 0.3 percent to 17,742.00.

FED SPEECH: Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen is due to deliver a speech Wednesday and congressional testimony Thursday in which financial analysts expect her to affirm the view that the U.S. economy is improving enough that the Fed can raise interest rates. Rates at near zero since the 2008 global crisis have helped boost stock prices. Fed officials have indicated they are likely to approve a rate hike at their Dec. 15-16 meeting. Yellen has said further increases will be gradual. Investors are looking ahead to a flurry of U.S. data this week: housing sales on Monday, manufacturing on Tuesday, jobs on Wednesday and Thursday and trade on Friday.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “At this point the presumption is that tightening is about to begin, even if this week’s slew of important data are weaker than expected,” said Jim O’Sullivan of High Frequency Economics in a report. “Indeed, Fed Chair Yellen is not even waiting for this week’s employment report before giving what we expect will be the clearest signal to date that the start of tightening is imminent,” said O’Sullivan. “We expect she will emphasize cumulative improvement in the labor market, downplaying the importance of a single monthly reading.”

ASIA’S DAY: Seoul’s Kospi fell 1.8 percent to 1,991.97 after South Korea’s industrial production in October dropped unexpectedly from the previous month, led by weakness in chemicals, auto production and construction. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 retreated 0.7 percent to 19,747.47. The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.3 percent to 3,445.40, recovering a portion of Friday’s 5.5 percent plunge. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.7 percent to 5,166.50 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent to 21,996.42. India’s Sensex was little changed. Singapore and Bangkok advanced while Jakarta and Wellington declined.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude declined 10 cents to $41.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract plunged $1.33 on Friday to close at $41.71. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 25 cents to $44.61 per barrel in London. It fell 60 cents on Friday to $44.86.

CURRENCIES: The dollar gained to 122.93 yen from Friday’s 122.76. The euro edged down to $1.0586 from $1.0593.

 

Hamstrung by Congress, Obama tries to clinch climate pact

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has one hand tied behind his back as he heads to Paris on Sunday to try to negotiate a legacy-making climate change pact.

Congress can’t even agree whether global warming is real.

Scientists point to the global agreement as the last, best chance to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Obama has prodded other countries to make ambitious carbon-cutting pledges. He hopes the deal will become the framework to tackle climate change long into the future.

 But Republicans have tried to undermine Obama by sowing uncertainty about whether the U.S. will ever make good on its own contribution.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and others have warned other countries not to trust any deal from Obama. Meantime, their allies are working to nullify Obama’s emissions-cutting steps.

French President Francois Hollande met with environmental groups Saturday, pushing for an ambitious global deal to reduce man-made emissions blamed for global warming _ with emphasis on helping developing countries adapt to a changing world. Officials announced that nearly 1,000 individuals have been banned from entering France amid preparations for the conference and post-attack high security.

The talks in the Elysee Palace came as President Barack Obama, the leaders of China, Russia and more than 140 other countries prepare to converge on Paris to launch two weeks of high-stakes talks.

Leaders and climate negotiators from 196 countries meeting at the U.N. talks Nov. 30-Dec. 11 will try to hash out the broadest, most lasting deal to date to slow global warming.

Saturday’s meeting and the talks are taking place under extra-high security after Islamic extremists killed 130 people Nov. 13 in the deadliest attacks in France in decades.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Saturday that just under a thousand people thought to pose security risks have been banned from entering the country since tighter border controls were enforced earlier this month in the run-up to the COP21 climate talks and in the wake of France’s deadliest attacks in recent memory.

Later Saturday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is scheduled to symbolically hand over the “keys” to the climate conference to the U.N. climate change agency, which will oversee the two-week talks. Fabius and Hollande have traveled the world this year and used France’s diplomatic weight to try to rally international support for a tough and binding deal.

The last global climate treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, required only rich countries to reduce emissions and the U.S., the world’s biggest emitter, didn’t take part.

The talks are happening with France in a state of emergency and thousands of troops and police fanned out to ensure security after the Paris attacks.

A big march by environmental activists was canceled because of the security measures. Activists are still planning other small actions around France and other countries.

Mortar attack on UN base in north Mali kills 3, injures 20

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A mortar attack on a United Nations base in northern Mali’s Kidal early Saturday killed at least three people, including two U.N. peacekeepers and a contractor, said the mission spokesman.

The attack also injured 20 people, of which four are in serious condition, said Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Mali known as MINUSMA.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack in the country’s restless north but Islamic extremists are suspected. In 2013, the French pushed Islamic militants out of Mali’s northern cities and towns although jihadists continue to carry out attacks on U.N. peacekeepers.

“I want to reiterate that these attacks will not impede the determination of the United Nations to support the Malian people and the peace process,” said Mongi Hamdi, the head of the U.N. mission and the special representative for the secretary-general in Mali. “I express my solidarity and salute the brave men and women serving (the U.N. mission) throughout the country for their efforts to bringing lasting peace to Mali in these difficult conditions.”

Northern Mali has been unstable since it fell to Tuareg separatists and Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. Despite the presence of French troops and the U.N. force, the extremists have continued attacks in the north. Extremists have also extended attacks farther south this year, including an assault on a Bamako restaurant/nightclub popular with foreigners in March and a Nov. 20 attack on a luxury hotel in the capital.

Malian authorities said they’ve arrested two men over the attack at the Radisson Blu hotel that killed 20 people. There are competing claims of responsibility by extremist groups for that attack.

Suspect in custody after shooting at Planned Parenthood

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover under furniture and inside locked rooms. By the time the shooter surrendered, three people were killed — including a police officer — and nine others were wounded, authorities said.

For hours, police had no communication with the shooter other than intermittent gunfire from inside the Colorado Springs clinic. As the standoff progressed, officers inside the building herded people into one area and evacuated others.

Officers eventually moved in, shouted at the gunman and persuaded him to surrender, police said. About five hours after the attack started, authorities led away a man wearing a white T-shirt.

Police identified him as 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina. Jail booking records indicate Dear is due in court on Monday.

No other details about the suspect were immediately available, including whether he had any connection to Planned Parenthood.

“We don’t have any information on this individual’s mentality, or his ideas or ideology,” Colorado Springs police Lt. Catherine Buckley told reporters.

Planned Parenthood said all of its staff at the clinic was safe. The organization said it did not know the circumstances or motives behind the attack or whether the organization was the target.

The University of Colorado in Colorado Springs police department identified the officer killed as 44-year-old Garrett Swasey, a six-year veteran of the force. He was married and had a son and daughter, according to the website of his church, Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs.

There were no immediate details about the two civilians killed in the attack. Five officers and four others were hospitalized in good condition, police said.

“Certainly it could have been much, much worse if it were not for the heroism of our police officers to corner the person in the building,” Colorado Springs Fire Chief Chris Riley said.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene when the shooting first started just before noon.

Ozy Licano was in the two-story building’s parking lot when he saw someone crawling toward the clinic’s door. He tried to escape in his car when the gunman looked at him.

“He came out, and we looked each other in the eye, and he started aiming, and then he started shooting,” Licano said. “I saw two holes go right through my windshield as I was trying to quickly back up and he just kept shooting and I started bleeding.”

Licano drove away and took refuge at a nearby grocery store.

“He was aiming for my head,” he said of the gunman. “It’s just weird to stare in the face of someone like that. And he didn’t win.”

Inside, terrified patients and staff hid wherever they could find cover. Jennifer Motolinia ducked under a table and called her brother, Joan, to leave him final instructions for the care of her three children in case the gunman found her.

Joan Motolinia said he could hear gunshots in the background as his sister spoke. “She was telling me to take care of her babies because she could get killed,” he said.

For others, the first sign that something was wrong was when police officers appeared and ushered people to the building’s second floor. Planned Parenthood employee Cynthia Garcia told her mother, Tina Garcia, that the officers wouldn’t say why they were gathering everybody together — then she heard the gunshots.

Her daughter and the others were holed up there for hours while the standoff continued, Tina Garcia said.

Some people managed to escape the building and flee to a nearby bank. An armored vehicle was seen taking evacuees away from the clinic to ambulances waiting nearby.

With the immediate threat over, authorities swept the building and turned their attention to inspecting unspecified items the gunman left outside the building and carried inside in bags. They were concerned that he had planted improvised explosive devices meant to cause even more destruction. As of late Friday, police did not say what was found.

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Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt in Colorado Springs, Alina Hartounian in Phoenix and Colleen Slevin, Dan Elliott and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report. A law enforcement officer secures a perimeter near a deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. A gunman opened fire at the clinic on Friday, authorities said, wounding multiple people. (Daniel Owen/The Gazette via AP) MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

After Paris attacks, increased resolve for UN climate talks

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PARIS (AP) — Still gripped by shock and grief, Paris will play host to a long-awaited U.N. climate conference under tragic circumstances that none could have foreseen.

But delegates to the two-week talks starting Monday insist they won’t let the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people in the French capital distract them from the task at hand: crafting a landmark deal to fight global warming.

If anything, some say, the bloodshed could make countries more determined to reach a deal to address a problem that’s widely seen as a factor that contributes to conflict.

“There may be even more awareness of how important it is to address climate change, given the impact of climate change on the stability of countries,” said Dutch climate envoy Michel Rentenaar.

The French organizers say more than 140 leaders including presidents Barack Obama of the U.S., Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China have confirmed they’re attending the start of the conference.

The stepped-up security measures in Paris — a state of emergency throughout France has been extended for three months — mean that shuttling them around the city will be a major logistics challenge.

Citing security concerns, French authorities have stopped several events that were scheduled to take place outside the conference center, including a big march that environmentalists had planned for Sunday.

The negotiations themselves, however, are set to go ahead as planned amid tight security in the hermetically sealed conference center in Le Bourget, just north of Paris.

Seyni Nafo, the spokesman for the African Group of countries in the climate talks, said “the main variable” is whether French President Francois Hollande can find the time and energy to devote himself fully to the climate talks, given his focus on terrorism and security.

“Other than this I suspect the talks will remain mostly on course,” Nafo said.

A top French official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the issue publicly, said Hollande “remains totally committed to this event and we are now conciliating it with an extraordinarily busy schedule.”

Hollande notably maintained all his climate-related appointments last week, including a meeting with some African leaders on Tuesday and a speech to French farmers on Thursday.

This week, he was due to attend several climate-related events despite trips to Washington and Moscow: a France-Oceania summit on Thursday, a meeting with non-governmental groups following the climate negotiations on Saturday, and meetings with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President Xi on Sunday.

“What powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children,” Obama said on Tuesday, with Hollande at his side.

The goal of the Paris conference is for governments to adopt a deal that for the first time would require all countries to take action to fight climate change.

Countries on the front line, such as small island states that could vanish amid rising seas, were worried that the Paris attacks would become a distraction for Western countries in particular. However, they’ve been reassured by the number of leaders, including Obama, who quickly reaffirmed their plans to attend the U.N. conference, said Jeffrey Waheed, the Maldives’ deputy permanent secretary to the United Nations.

“The fact that this is on the forefront of everyone’s mind is a positive sign,” Waheed said. “World leaders are used to handling multiple issues. And this is an issue of peace and security in the long term.”

Researchers and military officials have long stressed the link between climate change and security. The Pentagon noted in a report last year that climate impacts could exacerbate challenges to stability such as infectious diseases and poverty.

Some researchers have even drawn a connection between climate change and the Syrian conflict, saying an extended drought led to social unrest that triggered an uprising against authoritarian President Bashar Assad. The ensuing civil war has forced millions of Syrians to flee the country and fueled the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the gun and bomb massacres in Paris.

With demonstrations in Paris banned, climate activists are planning over 2,000 events across 150 countries this weekend, demanding that negotiators pave the way for a transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy like wind and solar power.

A limited number of activists accredited to the conference will be urging negotiators in the hallways to look beyond their short-term national interests and come together for a common plan for the planet’s future.

“Since the climate summit will take place in an atmosphere of war,” said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid, “we hope world leaders will use it to show the world what peaceful global cooperation looks like to protect our shared humanity.”

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Ritter reported from Stockholm. AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report. President Barack Obama meets with President Francois Hollande of France in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. Hollande’s visit to Washington is part of a diplomatic offensive to get the international community to bolster the campaign against the Islamic State militants. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

French lawmakers vote to extend airstrikes against IS

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PARIS (AP) — French lawmakers voted Wednesday to continue airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State group that claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, while Germany’s chancellor said her country would do more in the international fight against the group.

Parliament’s upper house, the Senate, voted 325-0 with 21 abstentions to prolong France’s airstrikes in Syria beyond early January. The lower house had earlier voted 515-4 in favor.

French fighter jets joined the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State extremists in Iraq in 2014, and expanded their mission to IS targets in Syria in September. President Francois Hollande cited specific threats against French interests stemming from IS in Syria.

The vote came as Hollande and German Chanellor Angela Merkel discussed how to combat the group that has spread its violence beyond Syria to Europe and North Africa.

Merkel indicated her country would do more in the international fight against IS.

“We know that this attack wasn’t just intended for the people of Paris, but for our whole way of life,” she said after laying a single white rose at the Place de la Republique, the Paris square that has become the focal point of tributes for the victims.

Germany, Merkel said, wasn’t just saddened by the attacks, “it also feels challenged to do everything to prevent such events from happening again.”

Hollande said it would “be a very good signal in the fight against terrorism” if Germany could do more against IS in Syria and Iraq. Germany currently provides weapons and training for Kurds fighting against IS in Iraq.

“If the French president asks me to think about what more we can do, then it’s our task to think about that and we will act quickly,” Merkel said, adding that the Islamic State “can’t be convinced with words, it must be fought with military means.”

On the investigative front, France and Belgium continued a manhunt for two fugitive suspects believed to be directly linked to the Paris attacks.

In the Belgian capital, schools reopened despite the city remaining on the highest possible alert level. Authorities raised it on Saturday saying the threat of a further attack was serious and imminent.

Police armed with automatic weapons stood guard outside schools, while Brussels’ subway system partially reopened, bringing a sense of relative normalcy back to the city.

The heightened alert level had shut down shops, schools and the subway system in Brussels since Saturday. The Belgian government also ordered health and emergency services to take precautionary measures to ensure their services aren’t infiltrated by extremists.

“When ambulances arrive, we have to see from where they come, who is in it. Really as a precaution,” Health Minister Maggie De Block told VRT network.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said raids carried out Sunday night had been designed to foil an imminent attack in Brussels. Authorities detained 16 people, but released all but one of them the following day. No explosives or firearms were seized.

“There were indications that there would be attacks on Sunday evening and they did not materialize,” Jambon said, adding that otherwise “you don’t impose terror level 4,” the highest possible.

French and Belgian authorities have issued public appeals for help in tracking down two men believed to be directly linked to the Paris attacks.

Mohamed Abrini, who Belgian authorities have described as “armed and dangerous,” was seen with Salah Abdeslam, the other fugitive suspect, two days before the killings on a highway gas station en route to Paris.

Abdeslam, who French authorities have suggested could be linked to a discarded suicide vest found Monday in a southern Paris neighborhood, crossed into Belgium the day after the attacks. Although he was stopped and checked by French authorities, he was allowed to pass as his name had not yet become known.

One of Abdeslam’s brothers, Brahim, blew himself up outside a Paris cafe during the attacks. His other brother, Mohamed, appealed on French media on Wednesday for his fugitive sibling to surrender to police.

Speaking on RTL radio, Mohamed Abdeslam said he shares the pain of victims’ families and wishes he and his family could have done something to prevent the Nov. 13 bloodshed.

“Let him turn himself in for his parents, for justice, for the families of victims, so that we can find out what happened,” Mohamed Abdeslam said.

He said his brothers had shown no signs of radicalization. Mohamed Abdeslam said he saw them a few days before they left their Brussels suburb for Paris, but had no idea what they were plotting, and hasn’t heard from Salah since.

Emergency measures have also been taken in France.

U.N. climate talks open in Paris on Monday, with about 140 world leaders expected to attend, including President Barak Obama. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Wednesday that tight security would be imposed for the conference, with road traffic restrictions, border controls and additional police and troops deployed.

Cazeneuve said 120,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers were being deployed across France to ensure the country’s security.

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Frank Jordans in Berlin, Samuel Petrequin, Sylvie Corbet and Angela Charlton in Paris and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

Notorious warlord seeks comeback, leverage in Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — After more than 40 years at war, one of Afghanistan’s most notorious warlords, designated a “global terrorist” by the United States and blacklisted by the United Nations along with Osama bin Laden, wants to come out of the shadows.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, now in his late 60s, says he wants a “real and fair peace” but with conditions the Kabul government is unlikely to even contemplate, such as the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan and new elections in 2016.

The remarks reflect Hekmatyar’s attempt to assert influence and gain new leverage in Afghan politics, but what role — if any — the once feared warlord could play is unclear.

“Peace can be established and the fighting can end once the occupation is over, foreign forces leave and the people of the Afghan nation are given the right to choose their own destiny and establish their own choice of government and governance,” Hekmatyar said.

The comments were provided to The Associated Press this week after being videotaped in Hekmatyar’s hiding place, presumed to be somewhere in Pakistan, where he moved to after being ejected from Iran following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that removed the Taliban from power. His associates insist, however, that the warlord is in Afghanistan.

Hekmatyar has led an extreme life; his mujahedeen followers have been responsible for the deaths of thousands during the devastating Afghan civil war.

In his student days, he was known for throwing acid in the faces of women who did not cover up. He switched allegiances on the battlefields, fighting first the Soviets, for which he received millions in cash and weaponry from Washington, then the Taliban.

In politics, he espoused radical Islam, served twice as Afghan prime minister and saw Hezb-i-Islami, the party he founded in 1969, fracture and abandon him. The party’s military wing offered bin Laden shelter after the al-Qaida leader fled Sudan in 1996, according to the State Department.

But history has relegated Hekmatyar to the sidelines and political analyst Haroun Mir describes him today as a “spent force, frozen in time.”

“We cannot deny him the status as a prominent leader during the anti-Soviet war,” Mir said. Hekmatyar sees himself “as part of the dialogue, but he lives in a totally different world and does not see the realities on the ground.”

Earlier this year, Hekmatyar sent an envoy to Kabul to meet with senior Afghan officials and offer his services as an interlocutor, an associate of his told the AP.

According to the associate and one Afghan official, the envoy met with President Ashraf Ghani and, possibly, other senior leaders. The president’s office did not confirm the meetings had taken place. Both the associate and the official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the subject.

Hekmatyar talks of an “inter-Afghan dialogue” that pointedly excludes neighboring Pakistan, which has been key mediator and host for Taliban-Kabul peace talks.

“If America and the Kabul government want peace, then this is the only way,” Hekmatyar said while also ridiculing Ghani’s government and claiming the real “authority in Kabul is with the American ambassador and the NATO forces commander.”

“The defense ministry in Kabul is a mini-Pentagon and the presidential palace is a mini-White House,” he added, with sarcasm.

Since the withdrawal of international combat forces at the end of last year, there are about 13,000 foreign troops, roughly 10,000 of them American, in Afghanistan. The U.S. and NATO mandate is now to train and advise Afghan security forces.

The size of any following Hekmatyar could muster is difficult to gauge. The last known attack carried out by his militant group, Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, was in 2013, when at least 15 people, including six American soldiers, were killed in central Kabul.

Afghan security analyst Ali Mohammad Ali says Hekmatyar can no longer run a private army because “most of his people have joined the Taliban” or other militant groups, including the emerging Islamic State affiliate which has established a presence in Hekmatyar’s former strongholds in eastern provinces bordering Pakistan.

“The Afghan people and the Afghan government will never accept his proposals,” Ali said. “He has lost credibility.”

Hekmatyar is said to have offered himself as interlocutor to former President Hamid Karzai in 2008, but was deflected amid concerns over his extremist reputation and human rights abuses.

“I was, I am and I will be here in my country when foreign forces leave,” he said. “Then, with the grace of God, you will see me in Kabul.”

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FILE – In this March 8, 2007 file photo, Afghan rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is seen in this photo grab from a video received by Associated Press Television in Karachi, Pakistan. Seeking to gain new leverage, a notorious Afghan warlord who was designated a “global terrorist” by the United States and blacklisted by the United Nations along with Osama bin Laden, wants to come out of the shadows. In videotaped remarks to the AP, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar casts himself as an interlocutor who can help bring about peace but it’s hard to gauge what role, if any, the feared mujahedeen leader could play in Afghan politics. (AP Photo via AP video, File)

Business: Global shares mostly down, China slides on brokerage probe

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TOKYO (AP) — Global stocks were mostly lower in muted trading Friday, after Wall Street was closed for Thanksgiving, but China’s market fell sharply as investigations into the securities industry widened to include two top brokerages.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 slipped 0.5 percent to 4,921.22 and Germany’s DAX edged down 0.1 percent to 11,309.69. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.5 percent to 6,362.94. U.S. shares were also set to drift lower in an abbreviated trading session. S&P 500 futures dipped 0.1 percent to 2,085.40. Dow futures dropped 0.2 percent to 17,761.00.

CHINA PROBE: Two major Chinese brokerages announced they are under investigation for possible violation of securities market rules in the latest aftershock of this summer’s market plunge. A string of Chinese securities executives have been detained or questioned following a plunge in share prices that began in early June. The investigations were seen by many as an attempt by the ruling Communist Party to deflect blame for a market bubble that it engineered.

ASIA’S DAY: China’s Shanghai Composite was down 5.5 percent at 3,436.30 after earlier falling more than 6 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 retreated 0.3 percent to 19,883.94 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.1 percent at 2,028.99. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.9 percent to 22,068.32. Other regional markets were also lower, falling in Taiwan, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

RUSSIA-TURKEY: Markets have been wary about geopolitical tensions after Turkey downed a Russian plane that entered its territory from war torn Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his nation is ready to cooperate with the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, while criticizing the U.S., saying it should have prevented its coalition ally Turkey from making such a move.

THE QUOTE: “Russia has threatened to retaliate economically against Turkey in response to the shooting down of its warplane, but both sides appear keen not to escalate any military tensions despite a war of words,” said Chang Wei Liang of the Singapore Treasury Division of Mizuho Bank. “With Russia-Turkey economic ties being rather small in the context of the global economy, we think that risks of spillovers to the global recovery are rather small.”

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 90 cents to $42.14 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost 33 cents to $45.13 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 122.41 yen from 122.62 yen on Thursday. The euro rose to $1.0617 from $1.0607.

 

 

HEWLETT-PACKARD’S LAST REPORT REVEALS CHALLENGES AHEAD

Hewlett-Packard’s final earnings report as a technology conglomerate showed sales of its personal computers, printers, commercial software declined in the quarter ending Oct. 31. At the start of this month, HP split into two companies: one focused on PCs and printers, the other selling commercial tech products.

 

TOYOTA RECALLS VEHICLES IN JAPAN, EUROPE FOR AIRBAG DEFECT

Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling 1.6 million vehicles for defective air bags supplied by embattled Japanese manufacturer Takata Corp. The recall includes 22 models sold in Japan, including the Corolla and Vitz, manufactured from January 2004 through December 2005, as well as vehicles in Italy, Britain and Spain, although those numbers were still unclear.

 

CHEAP GAS INGNITES NATIONAL THANKSGIVING ROAD TRIP

Gasoline prices have plunged at least 11 cents over the past two weeks, making the trip over the river and through the woods so much cheaper this Thanksgiving. An estimated 46.9 million Americans are expected to take a car, plane, bus or train at least 50 miles from home over the long holiday weekend, according to the motoring organization AAA, marking an increase of more than 300,000 people compared with last year.

 

DATA WATCH: CONSUMER SPENDING, SENTIMENT REPORTS EXPECTED.

The Commerce Department releases its October report on consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Meanwhile, The University of Michigan issues its monthly index of consumer sentiment for November.

 

GLOBAL STOCKS MIXED, TRADING LIGHT AHEAD OF U.S. THANKSGIVING

European shares rose modestly Wednesday while Asian markets mostly fell as investors kept a wary eye on developments in the Middle East after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane. France gained 0.2 percent to 4,831.52, Germany’s DAX was up 0.1 percent at 10,945.75, Wall Street looked set for gains, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.4 percent to 19,847.58 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.4 percent to 22,498.00.

Official: Paris attacks organizer was planning more carnage

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PARIS (AP) — The man believed to have planned the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more had likely planned to carry out another suicide bombing days later in the French capital’s business district, the Paris prosecutor said Tuesday.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud and an accomplice are believed to have been planning to attack La Defense on Nov. 18 or 19, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

Abaaoud was among three people killed during a police raid on an apartment in a northern Paris suburb in the early hours of Nov. 18. His female cousin, Hasna Ait Boulahcen, died of asphyxia apparently from the explosive vest detonated by a third person, who hasn’t been identified, the prosecutor said. The explosion led to part of the apartment collapsing.

Molins said the unidentified third person is believed to have been the accomplice with whom Abaaoud would have carried out an attack on La Defense, the high-rise district that is headquarters to major companies on the western edge of Paris.

The prosecutor said he “can’t be, and doesn’t want to be more precise” on the details suggesting such an attack had been planned. Information obtained on Nov. 19 suggested “that the two attackers — Abaaoud and the man we found by his side in the apartment — were planning an attack consisting of blowing themselves up at La Defense either on Wednesday the 18th or Thursday the 19th,” Molins said.

The Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, claimed by the Islamic State group, targeted people enjoying a Friday night out at a packed concert hall, a restaurant terrace, a cafe and a friendly soccer match between France and Germany. In the hours after the killings, Abaaoud is believed to have returned to the sites of at least some of the attacks, including the Bataclan concert hall, even while special police forces were still there.

“The geolocalization of Abdelhamid Abaaoud’s alleged phone between 22:28 p.m. and 0:28 confirms a presence in the 12th, 11th, and 10th districts, and notably near the Bataclan concert hall,” Molins said. “This allows us to think that Abdelhamid Abaaoud returns to the crime scenes following the attacks on terraces of the cafes and restaurants of the 10th and 11th districts while (special police) were still taking action at the Bataclan.”

On Tuesday, a judge also handed down terrorism-related charges to Jawad Bendaoud, the only person so far in France known to be facing such charges directly linked to the Nov. 13 attacks. He was charged with criminal association and detention of incendiary or explosive substances linked to a terrorist enterprise.

Bendaoud acknowledged in a television interview giving shelter to two people from Belgium in his home in Saint-Denis but said he didn’t know who they were. The prosecutor differed and said his suspected links with the attackers were being investigated.

The attack has been traced to a network of people with ties to both France and Belgium, where Abaaoud was from. Belgian authorities charged a fifth suspect Tuesday with terror-related offenses relating to the Paris attack, while the federal prosecutor’s office issued an international arrest warrant for Mohamed Abrini, who is being tracked by both Belgian and French police. Abrini, who has been described as “armed and dangerous,” was seen with Salah Abdeslam — another top fugitive suspect in the attacks who crossed into Belgium the day after the killings — at a gasoline station in Ressons on the highway to Paris two days before the attacks. An international arrest warrant has also been issued for Abdeslam.

The Belgian capital has remained on the highest level of alert since the weekend for fear of a “serious and imminent threat,” with shops, schools and subways shut. Schools are expected to reopen Wednesday along with parts of the subway system, although the alert level will remain.

On the diplomatic front, French President Francis Hollande visited Washington for talks with President Barak Obama as part of a push for the international community to bolster the campaign against Islamic State extremists.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Obama said IS, which he described as a “barbaric terrorist group,” cannot be tolerated and must be destroyed.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told lawmakers on Tuesday that 124 people have been handed preliminary charges since a state of emergency was imposed hours after the attacks, following more than 1,230 searches in which 230 weapons were recovered. He didn’t specify what the charges were or if they were linked to the attacks.

Many questions remain unanswered as investigators try to piece together what happened in Paris on the night of Nov. 13 and who might still be at large.

A street cleaner in a Paris suburb found an explosive vest Monday near the place where Abdeslam’s cellphone was found, raising the possibility that he aborted his mission, either ditching a malfunctioning vest or fleeing in fear.

Authorities said the device, which didn’t have a detonator, was found in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge. A police official said the vest contained bolts and the same type of explosive used in the Paris attacks.

___

Raf Casert in Brussels, Elena Becatoros, Elaine Ganley and Lori Hinnant in Paris, and Julie Pace and Kathleen Hennessey in Washington also contributed to this report. A soldiers patrols at the Christmas market along the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. French authorities on Tuesday questioned a top suspect linked to attackers who terrorized Paris, while Belgium’s capital remained locked down under threat of a possible similar attack. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Under Iraqi town, IS militants built network of tunnels

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IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Under the Iraqi town of Sinjar, Islamic State group militants built a network of tunnels, complete with sleeping quarters, wired with electricity and fortified with sandbags. There, they had boxes of U.S.-made ammunition, medicines and copies of the Quran stashed on shelves.

The Associated Press obtained extensive video footage of the tunnels, which were uncovered by Kurdish forces that took the city in northwestern Iraq earlier this month after more than a year of IS rule.

“We found between 30 and 40 tunnels inside Sinjar,” said Shamo Eado, a commander from Sinjar from the Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga. “It was like a network inside the city.”

“Daesh dug these trenches in order to hide from airstrikes and have free movement underground as well as to store weapons and explosives,” Eado said using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “This was their military arsenal.”

The video, shot by a freelancer touring the town with Kurdish fighters, showed two tunnels running several hundred meters (yards), each starting and ending from houses, through holes knocked in walls or floors.

The narrow tunnels, carved in the rock apparently with jackhammers or other handheld equipment, are just tall enough for a man to stand in. Rows of sandbags line sections of the walls, electrical wires power fans and lights and metal braces reinforce the ceilings. One section of the tunnel resembled a bunker. Dusty copies of the Quran sit above piles of blankets and pillows. Prescription drugs — painkillers and antibiotics — lie scattered along the floor.

In another section of the tunnel, the footage shows stocks of ammunition, including American-made cartridges and bomb-making tools.

IS has been digging tunnels for protection and movement throughout the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, even before the U.S.-led coalition launched its campaign of airstrikes against the group more than a year ago. “This has been part of ISIS’ strategy from the very beginning,” said Lina Khatib a senior research associate at the Arab Reform initiative, a Paris-based think-tank. “ISIS has been well prepared for this kind of intervention.”

The Islamic State group took control of Sinjar in August 2014, killing and capturing thousands of the town’s mostly Yazidi residents. Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq with roots that date back to ancient Mesopotamia, are considered heretics by the hard-line Islamic State group. Hundreds of women are thought to still be in IS captivity, those who have escaped say many Yazidi women are forced to convert to Islam and marry IS fighters.

After pushing IS out of Sinjar, peshmerga officials and local residents have uncovered two mass graves in the area. One, not far from the city center is estimated to hold 78 elderly women’s bodies. The second grave uncovered about 9 miles (15 kilometers) west of Sinjar contained between 50 and 60 bodies of men, women and children.

Eado, the peshmerga commander, said that as Kurdish forces clear Sinjar of explosives, he expects to find more tunnels and evidence of atrocities.

“It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

___

Associated Press writers Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq, and Susannah George in Baghdad, Iraq, contributed to this report. In this image made from video taken on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, Kurdish security forces are seen in a tunnel complex under the city of Sinjar, northern Iraq that were used by Islamic State fighters to move undetected and avoid coalition airstrikes before the town was retaken from the militants. (AP Photo via AP video)

Militant attacks abroad a diplomatic quandary for China’s Xi

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BEIJING (AP) — The killings of Chinese citizens by Islamic militants in Syria and Mali place President Xi Jinping in a quandary: How can Beijing respond effectively without betraying its strict stance against intervention?

The dilemma underscores the tension between China’s desire to be seen as a leading global power and its desire to maintain its own independent foreign policy while shunning the U.S.-led Western liberal democratic political agenda.

How Xi will square that ideological circle and what concrete actions he’ll take in response could mark an inflection point in Chinese diplomacy. More likely, analysts say, he’ll stick to China’s long-established neutrality while possibly taking limited behind-the-scenes measures to help in the global campaign against Islamic extremists.

“For China, intervention would be a real game-changer,” said Australian National Security College expert Michael Clarke. “Frankly, I think Xi is in a very difficult position here.”

Regardless of what it chooses to do, China has increasingly found itself confronted by Islamic militant groups.

Three Chinese — all high-ranking executives with the state-owned China Railway Construction Corp.’s international group — were among the 19 victims of last week’s attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako. The al-Qaida-linked group known as Al-Mourabitoun — or The Sentinels — has claimed responsibility for the attack.

That followed the killing of 50-year-old Beijing native Fan Jinghui by Islamic State group extremists. Xi vowed to bring Fan’s killers to justice, but China has offered no details on how it plans to do so.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters Monday that China was working to “increase our emergency reaction and early warning capabilities” to confront threats against overseas personnel and assets.

Calls online from the Chinese public dismissing Beijing’s response and calling for action against militants have been suppressed by China’s Internet censors. With more Chinese than ever traveling abroad for work, study and travel, the government has been under growing pressure to identify threats and ensure their safety through its consulates and embassies.

Al-Qaida, and more recently IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, have also threatened China over what they call the oppression of the Muslim Turkic Uighur people native to the northwestern region of Xinjiang. China says it is fighting a separatist insurgency in Xinjiang, and has been eager to equate that fight with the international struggle against extremist groups including IS and al-Qaida. Some critics see little evidence of substantial links between China’s Muslim Uighur groups and groups such as IS.

Chinese forces, some equipped with flamethrowers, recently concluded a 56-day operation to kill or capture 30 suspects in a deadly attack on a Xinjiang coal mine. China blamed the attack on insurgents it says were directly led by an unidentified overseas group.

A top Xinjiang official, Xi Hairong, this week warned that the continuing influence of “pan-Islamism and pan-Turkism thoughts” placed Xinjiang in “an active period for violent and terrorist activities and an acute period in the battle against separatists.”

China says Uighur extremists have links to al-Qaida and that some have traveled to Syria to fight alongside IS, although Clarke and other outside observers question those claims.

And while China’s campaign against Uighur extremism has been relentless, it has shown no appetite to apply such tactics when threatened abroad.

Under Mao Zedong, China was a frontline combatant in global ideological battles, contributing to insurgencies in Africa and vying with both the Soviets and the West for influence in developing nations.

However, since the 1990s Beijing has remained on the sidelines in most major global security crises, often abstaining at the United Nations Security Council or following Russia’s lead in opposing actions such as the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Beijing felt especially burnt by its failure to oppose U.N. action in Libya that paved the way for NATO military action. When it came to Syria, Beijing was unmoving in its opposition to intervention, a stance it maintained even after Russia recently committed forces to defend the Syrian regime.

China’s objection to humanitarian interventions also has roots in fears of foreign interference in its own domestic affairs, particularly in Xinjiang and Tibet, where Beijing is largely seen as an occupying power. China is also hyper-vigilant about the introduction of Western concepts of democracy and civil rights into its own society and lashes out at all criticisms of the one-party state’s human rights abuses.

China has no particular affection for Bashar al-Assad, but doesn’t want to be seen as potentially supporting Washington’s position that he must give up power before IS can be defeated and the civil war ended, Clarke said. Uncertainty about how to rank the importance of its various foreign policy goals contributes to its inaction, he said.

George Washington University professor David Shambaugh described the self-imposed limits on China’s global political influence in his 2013 book “China Goes Global: The Partial Power.” Chinese diplomacy, Shambaugh wrote, is “hesitant, risk-averse, and narrowly self-interested.”

“China often makes known what it is against, but rarely what it is for,” the longtime China watcher wrote.

Such attitudes dictate that, despite pressure on the government to respond to recent incidents, Beijing is unlikely to do so “in a meaningful way,” said Phillip Potter, a foreign policy and international relations expert at the University of Virginia who studies Chinese security policy.

“I think we are much more likely to see some increase in behind-the-scenes cooperation, but certainly nothing that would rise to the level of the use of force against Islamic State,” Potter said.

The Communist Party’s heavy-handed control of the media and public discourse means it can tone down coverage of attacks on Chinese and limit domestic pressure to act, Potter said. Tight border controls and other measures also limit its reliance on outside powers to prevent radicalized Muslims from returning to carry out attacks like the ones in Paris this month, he said.

Still, Xi has expanded his global influence by pursuing a vigorous diplomatic agenda. To do nothing in the face of militant attacks abroad could be seen as a sign of weakness both at home and internationally.

Ultimately, Xi will likely opt for a low-key response, such as providing military aid to Iraq’s beleaguered government, Clarke said.

“If China remains aloof, questions will continue as to whether China is in fact ready to play a global role.”

_______

FILE – In this Monday, Sept. 28, 2015 file photo, China’s President Xi Jinping speaks at a leaders’ summit on peacekeeping at United Nations headquarters. The murders of Chinese citizens by Islamic militants in Syria and Mali place President Xi in a quandary: How can Beijing respond effectively without betraying its strict stance against intervention? The dilemma underscores the tension between China’s desire to be seen as a leading global power and its desire to remain independent whiling shunning the U.S.-led Western political agenda. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File)

Cheap gas fueling expanded Thanksgiving travel day

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — An expanded version of America’s annual Thanksgiving travel saga has begun with gas prices low and terrorism fears high.

An estimated 46.9 million Americans are expected to take a car, plane, bus or train at least 50 miles from home over the long holiday weekend, according to the motoring organization AAA. That would be an increase of more than 300,000 people over last year, and the most travelers since 2007.

Among the reasons given for the increase: an improving economy and the cheapest gasoline for this time of year since 2008.

On Tuesday, some travelers were gearing up for an early exit.

Fanni Farago, 26, of Tempe, Arizona, sat in the Albuquerque airport with her sister Flora Farago, 30, while waiting for their parents to arrive from Dallas. The family was planning on driving to the mountain resort of Red River, New Mexico to revive a family Thanksgiving tradition.

“My parents warned us about the travel warning so we decide to get started early,” Fanni Farago. “And since it’s so cheap to drive, we are going to rent a car to go up to Red River.”

Anyone trekking to a major airport should factor in 50 extra minutes on the road, according to the traffic date company INRIX — and that’s just getting to the airport, never mind getting through security.

Though there have been no changes to the nation’s terror alert status, the recent attacks in Paris, West Africa and elsewhere prompted the State Department to warn American travelers about the risks overseas.

On Tuesday, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, Peter Neffenger, boasted that the U.S. has the world’s best aviation security and assured the public that TSA is “taking every measure to protect the millions of air travelers in the coming weeks.”

At the Phoenix airport, Teri Robert said the notion of flying from Arizona to West Virginia to see family gave her pause, but in the end she decided she had to go.

“I’m not going to let the terror alerts and things stop me, because then they win,” she said.

Airfares have increased just 69 cents on average since last year, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies.

___

Brian Skoloff in Phoenix and Russell Contreras in Albuquerque contributed. A man and woman embrace on the departure level of Los Angeles International Airport amid Thanksgiving holiday traffic, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Russian pilot rescued by Syrian commando unit

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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A Russian military pilot whose plane was shot down by Turkey and crashed in Syria arrived on Wednesday at an air base in Latakia province after being rescued by a Syrian army commando unit, Syrian and Russian officials said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian news agencies that the man was rescued in a 12-hour operation which ended in the early hours on Wednesday and is now “safe and sound” at Russia’s air base in the government-controlled area in Syria.

Turkey shot down the Russian warplane on Tuesday, saying it ignored repeated warnings after crossing into its airspace from Syria. One of the two pilots was killed and captured by Syrian rebels who said they were searching for the other. The incident inflamed tensions between Turkey and Russia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of “significant consequences.”

A statement from the Syrian armed forces on Wednesday said a special unit carried out overnight a “qualitative” operation with the Russian forces and rescued one of the two pilots.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also confirmed a second pilot has been rescued.

In a statement carried by Syria’s official news agency SANA, the army said the Syrian and Russian forces penetrated into the areas where “terrorists” are entrenched at a depth of 4.5 kilometers and rescued the pilot. It said he is in “good health.”

Russia’s ambassador to France also said that the second pilot is in the hands of the Syrian army. Ambassador Alexander Orlov said on Europe-1 radio that one of the pilots was wounded, then killed on the ground by “jihadists.”

He said the other “managed to escape and be rescued by the Syrian army.” He didn’t elaborate.

Orlov accused Turkey of being an “accomplice” of Islamic State extremists and playing an ambiguous role in Syria’s civil war.

However he played down concerns of escalation of violence among the international players involved in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that his country does not wish to escalate tensions with Russia over the downing of the plane.

Speaking at an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Erdogan said that Turkey favors “peace, dialogue and diplomacy.”

Erdogan however defended his country’s move to shoot down the plane saying: “”no one should expect Turkey to stay silent to border violations or the violation of its rights.”

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday that it said ignored repeated warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria.

___

Associated Press writers Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report. This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV, shows smoke from a Russian warplane after crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. Turkey shot down the Russian warplane Tuesday, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings. Russia denied that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies. (Haberturk TV via AP) TURKEY OUT

Business: Asian shares lower on jitters over strife in Middle East

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TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Wednesday as investors kept a wary eye on developments in the Middle East after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.4 percent to 19,847.58 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.2 percent to 22,547.94. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 2,009.42 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent to 5,193.70. China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.9 percent to 3,647.93. Stock benchmarks also fell in Taiwan, Singapore and New Zealand while Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines rose.

TURKEY-RUSSIA: The downing by Turkey of a Russian fighter plane that Turkey said had violated its airspace and ignored warnings added further complexity to the crisis in Syria. Russia said Turkey had betrayed it and that jets had not violated Turkish airspace, as NATO worked to reduce tensions at an extraordinary meeting.

THE QUOTE: “An escalation in geopolitical risk is sending a chill through the markets. Traders are opting to sit on the side lines, especially ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday,” Stephen Innes, a senior foreign exchange trader for OANDA, said in a commentary.

WALL STREET: Shares were lower for most of the day after a business research group said U.S. consumer confidence had fallen in November. But the Dow Jones industrial average recovered lost ground to edge 0.1 percent higher, gaining 19.51 points to close Tuesday at 17,812.19. The Standard & Poor’s 500 added 2.55 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,089.14. The Nasdaq composite index inched up 0.33 points to 5,102.81.

ENERGY: The price of U.S. crude oil rose 5 cents to $42.93 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.12, or 2.7 percent, to $42.87 a barrel in New York on Tuesday, following a 3.4-percent jump on Monday. Brent crude also was up 5 cents, at $46.17 a barrel. It rose $1.29, or 2.9 percent, to $46.12 a barrel in London on Tuesday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 122.35 yen from 122.43 yen in the previous trading session. The euro rose to $1.0672 from $1.0654.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend – PhatzRadio

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(PhatzNewsRoom / PhatzRadio)   —-    It’s that time of year when the whole family gets together has one and enjoy good times, memories, and great food. We will not be updating on Thursday – but please listening to our radio station. Phatzradio – a steady amount of Classic and Smooth jazz will be play to offset some of those annoying family members.

Pray for those who have been less fortunate, in sickness, in pain. May this day bring peace in their lives and better their days. Also to all of our military men and women – our thanks!!!!

Paris attacks: Suspect quizzed, Brussels still in lockdown

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PARIS (AP) — French authorities on Tuesday questioned a top suspect linked to attackers who terrorized Paris, while Belgium’s capital remained locked down under threat of a possible similar attack.

Jawad Bendaoud, the only person in France facing potential terrorism charges linked to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks was handed over Tuesday morning to an anti-terrorism judge in Paris, according to a judicial official. Bendaoud was detained last week for providing lodging to the suspected mastermind of the attacks in an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

Police raided the apartment Nov. 18, and three people were killed — including suspected attacks orchestrator Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a female cousin and one other. Bendaoud acknowledged in a telephone interview giving shelter to two people from Belgium but said he didn’t know who they were or what they planned. Bendaoud, 29, told BFM television, “I didn’t know they were terrorists. I was asked to do a favor. I did a favor, sir.”

He must be either charged or released Tuesday.

Four people have been handed terrorism charges in Belgium since the Paris attacks, which have been traced to a network of people with ties to both France and Belgium.

Brussels remained at its highest alert level Tuesday, after Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel cited a “serious and imminent threat” to the city, which houses the headquarters of the European Union and NATO. Belgium’s crisis center said the alert level would only change if a significant breakthrough warranted it.

Increased security measures in the wake of the massacre in Paris have virtually shut down the Belgian capital, with the subway system, many shops and schools remaining shut. Michel said that despite the continued high-alert level, schools would reopen on Wednesday.

Many questions remain unanswered as investigators try to piece together what happened and who might still be at large.

Only one fugitive has been publicly named: Salah Abdeslam, who crossed into Belgium the morning after the attacks.

A street cleaner in a Paris suburb found an explosive vest Monday near the place where Abdeslam’s cellphone was found, raising the possibility that he aborted his mission, either ditching a malfunctioning vest or fleeing in fear.

Authorities said the device, which did not have a detonator, was in a pile of rubble in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge. A police official said the vest contained bolts and the same type of explosive used in the Nov. 13 attacks that claimed 130 lives and left hundreds wounded.

France’s security chiefs held a meeting Tuesday about protection for next year’s European soccer championships, being hosted in cities around France. Concerns are especially high because one of the targets of the Nov. 13 attacks was the country’s national stadium.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also held a meeting with French Muslim leaders, who have denounced the attacks and expressed concern about a backlash on France’s largely moderate, 5-million-strong Muslim community.

Also Tuesday, French police released a photo of a dog killed in the Saint-Denis apartment siege, a 7-year-old Belgian shepherd named Diesel. The National Police said Diesel, a SWAT team assault dog, was “killed by terrorists.”

___

Cheng reported from Brussels. Lori Hinnant in Paris and Raf Casert in Brussels also contributed to this report. A Belgian police officer guards the building of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. Brussels is keeping its terror alert at the highest level. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Violence flares as Kerry meets Netanyahu in Israel

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JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian motorist rammed his vehicle into a group of Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint on Tuesday, wounding three, Israel’s military said, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited for the first time in over a year, hoping to calm two months of deadly violence.

Kerry touched down amid a new rash of deadly attacks that have dampened any lingering hopes of renewed peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians during the Obama administration’s final year. Ahead of his trip, Kerry conceded he was coming without the ambitious agenda of past visits and was primarily focused on stemming the violence.

“There can be no peace when we have an onslaught of terror, not here, not anywhere else,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as he welcomed the chief American diplomat.

With Netanyahu nodding, Kerry said Israel had a right and obligation to defend itself and that “no people anywhere should live with daily violence, with attacks in the streets with knives, with scissors, with cars.” At the same time, he said he would speak with the Israeli leader about how “to push back against terrorism, to push back against senseless violence, and to find a way forward to restore calm and begin to provide opportunities.”

Kerry will travel to the West Bank for discussions with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later on Tuesday.

The current spate of violence erupted in mid-September over tensions surrounding a sensitive Jerusalem holy site and quickly spread across Israel and into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Nineteen Israelis have been killed, mostly in stabbings. Israeli fire has killed 89 Palestinians. Israel says 57 of these were attackers, while the rest died in clashes with security forces.

The past week has been the deadliest thus far.

A Palestinian fatally stabbed an Israeli soldier at a West Bank gas station Monday before being killed along with two other Palestinian attackers. Five people were killed in stabbing and shooting attacks on Nov. 19, including Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old from Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts.

Amid so much violence, Kerry said Monday he would be traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories without any “highfalutin, grandiose, hidden agenda.” Instead, he was seeking steps “that could calm things down a little bit so people aren’t living in absolute, daily terror.”

But the attacks renewed as quickly as Kerry landed.

At the West Bank checkpoint Tuesday, the Israeli military said a Palestinian motorist rammed a group of soldiers, lightly wounding three of them. It said the attacker was shot and wounded at the scene.

Kerry’s broader concerns haven’t changed, however, and he is likely to ask both sides to avoid provocative actions. For the Israelis, that means holding off on the construction of new settlements in lands the Palestinians seek for their future state. For the Palestinians, it means ending incitement to violence.

Kerry has visited Israel and the Palestinian territories only once since the collapse in April 2014 of a nine-month peace process he led. He traveled back three months later during a war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

In recent months, Kerry and other U.S. officials have suggested a renewed peace push might be possible. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton made unsuccessful attempts at brokering a two-state solution during their final months in office. But the rising death toll seems, for now, to have created an environment that makes a similar commitment by President Barack Obama unlikely.

Kerry told reporters traveling with him in the Middle East that the U.S. was prepared to re-engage in a serious peace effort, and said “we have ideas for how things could proceed.”

“But this street violence doesn’t provide any leader with a framework within which they can look their people in the eye and say, ‘There’s a reason to be sitting down and talking about this or that,’ ” he added. “People aren’t in the mood for concessions. They’re in the mood for being tough.”

Showing no signs of softening, Netanyahu told Kerry that Israel would fight “every hour” against those committing and inciting violence, linking his government’s efforts to the international campaign against the Islamic State group and other extremist forces.

“It’s not only our battle; it’s everyone’s battle,” he said. “It’s a battle of civilization against barbarism.”

Abbas, for his part, has provided no indication that he wants to restart direct peace talks with the Israelis anytime soon.

Israel says the recent violence stems from Palestinian incitement and incendiary videos on social media. The Palestinians say it is rooted in frustration over almost five decades of Israeli occupation and little hope for obtaining independence. Palestinians also accuse Israel of using excessive force, saying some attackers can be stopped without being killed.

_______

 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Hollande to press Obama on Russia cooperation in IS fight

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will stand in solidarity with French President Francois Hollande at the White House on Tuesday, 11 days after the Islamic State group launched a series of deadly attacks in Paris. But Hollande is likely to leave Washington without firm backing for his call to bring Russia into a new coalition to fight the extremists.

Hollande’s visit to Washington is part of a diplomatic offensive to get the international community to bolster the campaign against the Islamic State militants. The group is believed to have been behind the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, as well as separate attacks in Lebanon and Turkey and the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt.

As the Islamic State group expands its reach outside its bases in Syria and Iraq, Obama is facing increased pressure at home and abroad to ramp up U.S. efforts to destroy the militants. So far, Obama is resisting calls to either change or significantly ramp up his approach, and instead is focused on getting other countries to offer more counterintelligence, humanitarian and military assistance.

“The United States is certainly pulling more than our own weight,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “And we believe that there is more that can be done if countries are willing to contribute additional resources.”

The U.S. campaign has centered largely on launching airstrikes, while training and assisting security forces on the ground in Iraq. Efforts to train and equip moderate rebel groups in Syria have struggled, though Obama has authorized the deployment of 50 special operations forces to the country to jumpstart the program.

France has stepped up its airstrikes following the Paris attacks, relying in part on U.S. intelligence to hit targets in Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s stronghold in Syria. British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday he would seek parliamentary approval this week for Britain to begin airstrikes as well.

Hollande wants the U.S.-led coalition to start cooperating with Russia, which is also launching airstrikes in Syria. While Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is targeting the Islamic State militants, the U.S. contends Moscow is going after rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, a Kremlin ally.

Last week, Hollande called for the U.S. and Russia to set aside their policy divisions over Syria and “fight this terrorist army in a broad, single coalition.” But his office acknowledges that “coordination” sounds like a far more realistic goal.

“We are not talking about a command center. We are talking about coordination of methods and exchange of intelligence,” a French diplomat said on Monday. The diplomat wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the subject and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Earnest said the U.S. would “continue the conversation” with Putin but suggested Obama would make no promises to Hollande during Tuesday’s visit.

From Washington, Hollande will travel to Moscow for meetings with Putin.

Beyond their discussions on military cooperation, Obama and Hollande are expected to discuss diplomatic efforts to achieve a political transition in Syria. The U.S. and France support a transition that would lead to the departure of Assad, who has overseen a civil war in his country that created a vacuum for the Islamic State group to thrive.

While Russia is backing a new diplomatic effort in Syria, Moscow still refuses to support steps that explicitly call for removing Assad from power.

The quagmire in Syria has dragged on for nearly five years, and criticism of Obama’s strategy appears only to grow louder.

On Sunday, both Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Leon Panetta, Obama’s former defense secretary, said the U.S. effort wasn’t measuring up. Feinstein called for more aggressive action and additional special operations forces in Syria.

“I don’t think the approach is sufficient to the job,” Feinstein said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

___

Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report. French gendarmes officers patrol near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Monday Nov. 23, 2015. French President Francois Hollande will preside over a national ceremony on Nov. 27 honoring the at least 130 victims of the deadliest attacks on France in decades. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

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On Twitter follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Kathleen Hennessey at http://twitter.com/khennessey.

Russia confirms its jet shot down near Turkish border

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey shot down a Russian warplane Tuesday, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings. Russia denied that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies.

“We are looking into the circumstances of the crash of the Russian jet,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said. “The Ministry of Defense would like to stress that the plane was over the Syrian territory throughout the flight.”

Russia said the Su-24 was downed by artillery fire, but Turkey claimed that its F-16s fired on the Russian plane after it ignored several warnings. The ministry said the pilots parachuted but added that Moscow had no further contact with them.

Video footage of the incident showed a warplane on fire before crashing on a hill and two crew members apparently parachuting safely.

Turkey’s private Dogan news agency said two Russian helicopters, flying low over the Turkmen Bayirbucak region, searched for the two pilots.

A Turkish military statement said the plane entered Turkish airspace over the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province.

“On Nov. 24, 2015 at around 09.20 a.m, a plane whose nationality is not known violated the Turkish airspace despite several warnings (10 times within five minutes) in the area of Yayladagi, Hatary,” the military said before the plane’s nationality was confirmed.

“Two F-16 planes on aerial patrol duty in the area intervened against the plane in question in accordance with the rules of engagement at 09.24 a.m.”

It said the plane was warned 10 times within the space of 5 minutes.

On Friday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador demanding that Russia cease operations in Syria targeting Turkmen villages, saying the Russian actions did not “constitute a fight against terrorism” but the bombing of civilians. Ambassador Andrey Karlov was warned during the meeting that the Russian operations could lead to serious consequences, the ministry said.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive in the area that is controlled by several insurgent groups including al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, and the 2nd Coastal Division that consists of local Turkmen fighters.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the warplane crashed in the Turkmen Mountains region in the coastal province of Latakia.

The Turkmen Mountains region has been subjected to a government offensive in recent days under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

Three Russian journalists working in Latakia province suffered minor injuries when a missile landed near their car on Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. They were being treated in a military hospital.

Last month, Turkish jets shot down an unidentified drone that it said had violated Turkey’s airspace.

Turkey changed its rules of engagement a few years ago after Syria shot down a Turkish plane. According to the new rules, Turkey said it would consider all “elements” approaching from Syria an ennemy threat and would act accordingly.

Following earlier accusations of Russian intrusion into Turkish airspace, the U.S. European Command on Nov. 6 deployed six U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters from their base in Britain to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to help the NATO-member country secure its skies.

The European Command said the deployment was “in response to the government of Turkey’s request for support in securing the sovereignty of Turkish airspace.”

In October, NATO’s governing body, the North Atlantic Council, had warned Moscow it was courting “extreme danger” by sending planes into Turkish air space.

___

Vasilyeva reported from Moscow. Bassem Mroue in Beirut and John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels contributed. FILE In this Oct. 22, 2015 file photo, a Russian Su-24 takes off on a combat mission at Hemeimeem airbase in Syria. Turkey shot down a Russian warplane Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings. Russia denied that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies. (AP Photo/Vladimir Isachenkov, File)

Business: European stocks sink as instability fears vex investors

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HONG KONG (AP) — European stock markets opened sharply lower Tuesday as jitters about instability in the Middle East intensified while Asian stock markets dithered as slumping commodity prices weighed on shares of resource companies.

KEEPING SCORE: European stocks sank in early trading after a Russian warplane was shot down by Turkey. France’s CAC 40 lost 1.6 percent to 4,811.56 and Germany’s DAX slid 1.1 percent to 10,965.39. Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 1 percent to 6,244.43. U.S. stocks were poised to open lower. Dow futures were down 0.5 percent to 17,674.00 and broader S&P 500 futures fell 0.5 percent to 2,072.90.

INSTABILITY RISK: Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that it said had violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings, ratcheting up geopolitical tensions and sending investors scrambling out of stocks in search of safe havens. Russia denied the plane crossed Syria’s border into Turkey. Russia’s defense ministry says the pilots parachuted but there has been no contact with them.

COMMODITY CRUNCH: Raw materials such as copper and nickel have slid to multi-year lows on the subdued global economic outlook as well as the dollar’s strength on rising expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next month. That’s dragging down commodity producers such as Australian miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. Demand for commodities from international buyers is affected by the strength of the greenback because contracts are priced in dollars.

FED FOCUS: Most investors expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates from a record low at its mid-December meeting and markets are likely to trade within a narrow range unless signs emerge that the U.S. central bank will change course. That contrasts with monetary policy from other major central banks in Japan and Europe, which are expected to keep the stimulus taps open.

QUOTABLE: “There is no denying we are moving into the eye of the storm, with the market having merged into one giant consensus trade. That trade is of course long U.S. dollar, short commodities and U.S. Treasurys,” said market strategist Chris Weston of IG in Sydney. “There simply haven’t been any buyers and commodity futures have been easy to push lower.”

ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index recovered from early losses to finish 0.2 percent higher at 19,924.89 after reopening following a public holiday. South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.6 percent to 2,016.29. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.4 percent to 22,587.63 and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China fell 0.2 percent to 3,616.11. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 1 percent to 5,226.40. Benchmarks rose in Singapore and Indonesia but fell in Taiwan, India, Thailand and the Philippines.

ENERGY: The benchmark U.S. crude futures contract was up 71 cents to $42.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 15 cents, or 0.4 percent, to close at $41.75 in New York on Monday. Brent crude, which is used to set prices for international oils, rose 68 cents to $45.51 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 122.57 yen from 122.92 yen in the previous day’s trading. The euro rose to $1.0653 from $1.0636.

 

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