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Phuket Gazette World News: US-Iran relations; Rebels surprise Assad; Americans in Yemen warned to leave immediately; WikiLeaker Manning’s potential jail time reduced

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Phuket Gazette World News: US-Iran relations; Rebels surprise Assad; Americans in Yemen warned to leave immediately; WikiLeaker Manning’s potential jail time reduced | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Iran’s leader reaches out to U.S., vows to resolve nuclear row
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Iran’s incoming President Hassan Rouhani yesterday offered an olive branch to the United States in talks on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme, raising hopes of progress after years of stalemate.

Rouhani, seen in the West as a relatively moderate leader, told his first news conference since taking oath on Sunday that he was “seriously determined” to resolve the dispute and was ready to enter “serious and substantive” negotiations.

Hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue have risen with Rouhani’s victory over conservative rivals in June, when voters chose him to replace hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a cleric whose watchword is “moderation”.

Western countries and Israel have said in the past that they believed Iran was trying to achieve nuclear weapons capability, but Tehran says its programme is purely for peaceful needs.

Rouhani said Iran would not abandon its nuclear programme, which it would uphold “on the basis of international law”.

“We will not do away with the right of the nation,” the 64-year-old said.

“However, we are for negotiations and interaction. We are prepared, seriously and without wasting time, to enter negotiations which are serious and substantive with the other side.”

“If the other party is also prepared like we are, then I am confident that the concerns of both sides will be removed through negotiations within a period which will not be very long.”

Last talks deadlocked

His words were likely to reinforce a sense of cautious optimism in the West, despite the fact that negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme have long frustrated both sides.

The last high-level talks between Iran and world powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – were held in April and failed to break the deadlock.

Since Rouhani’s victory at the polls, the United States has said it would be a “willing partner” if Iran was serious about finding a peaceful solution to the issue.

The former nuclear negotiator dodged a question on whether he would like to meet President Barack Obama during a visit to the United Nations in New York.

“If we see there is no covert secret agenda and there are good intentions, who will be meeting and who will be negotiating, these will be sideline issues,” Rouhani said with a wry smile.

Hoping to seize on Rouhani’s appointment, Russia on Tuesday said fresh talks between Iran and world powers must not be delayed and should take place by mid-September. Rouhani has yet to name his nuclear negotiator.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking during a visit to Italy, said Russia “absolutely agreed” with Rouhani, and criticized moves to tighten sanctions against Iran, saying it was a time for dialogue, not ultimatums.

“Now it is critical to support the constructive approach of the Iranian leadership,” he said in comments carried on Russian news agencies.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin is due to meet Rouhani for the first time as president in September.

In a letter to the new leader yesterday, the European Union said Rouhani had “a strong mandate to engage in dialogue” and added that it hoped for a new round of talks “as soon as practicable.”

Keep checking our the Phuket Gazette’s World News section, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for the latest international news.

Syrian rebels strike Assad’s Alawite stronghold, seize airport
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Syrian Islamist rebels have killed around 200 people in a three-day offensive in the mountain stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect and driven hundreds of villagers to seek refuge on the Mediterranean coast, activists said on Tuesday.

Since launching the surprise assault at dawn on Sunday, the mainly Islamist rebel brigades led by two al Qaeda-linked groups have captured half a dozen villages on the northern edges of the Alawite mountain range, the activists say.

The rebel strike into Alawite territory and their capture of a military airport north of Aleppo mark two major gains for Assad’s foes after months of setbacks during which they lost ground around the capital Damascus and the central city of Homs.

Combined with a steady fightback in the southern province of Deraa, they highlight the challenge Assad faces in trying to restore his authority across Syria after two years of conflict that has killed 100,000 people and fragmented the country.

Assad controls much of southern and central Syria, while rebels hold northern areas near the Turkish border and along the Euphrates valley towards Iraq. The northeast corner is now an increasingly autonomous Kurdish region.

Rebels complain they are outgunned and lack foreign support, unlike the Iran- and Hezbollah-backed Syrian army. But they have support from regional Sunni powers and have equipped themselves with anti-tank weapons seized from the army.

Syrian state television said on Tuesday at least two Alawite villages seized by rebels since Sunday had been recaptured and named 10 “terrorists” – as the authorities call the rebel fighters in Syria – it said were killed in the fighting.

Overall, 60 rebels have been killed since the start of the operation, said Ammar Hassan, a local activist in Latakia. “Assad is sending huge reinforcement from Latakia, but liberation will continue,” he said.

Assad’s deployment of extra forces reflects the gravity of the challenge to his authority in a region that had remained firmly under his authority since the outbreak of Syria’s conflict, which started with peaceful protests in March 2011.

The conflict has turned into a civil war, deepening the Shi’ite-Sunni schism in Islam and raising tensions between Iran and the rest of the mainly Sunni Middle East.

Diplomats say the coastal area and its mountain villages could be the scene of an Alawite bloodbath if Islamist hardliners eventually gain the upper hand in the conflict.

“We killed 200 (of Assad’s men) on Sunday alone, and yesterday at least 40,” said a rebel fighter in the area.

“His people were kicked out to the city,” he said referring to the Mediterranean port of Latakia. “Only those who raised the white flag were exempt from killing.”

Ahmad Abdelqader, an activist with the Ahrar al-Jabal Brigade, one of the groups involved in the operation, put the death toll at 175, describing them as soldiers and militiamen who were manning roadblocks linking the mountain villages.

A prominent Alawite cleric, Muwaffaq Ghazal, was also seized by rebels from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, who were seeking an exchange for captured fighters, activists said.

Mohammad Moussa, a Free Syrian Army commander, said rebel forces were on the outskirts of the hilltop village of Aramo, which is 20 km (12 miles) from Qardaha – Assad’s hometown and burial place of his father, Hafez al-Assad, who ru

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported

The Thaiger

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported | The Thaiger
PHOTO: New cases reported over the weekend are concerning health offficials - BBC.com

Another 139 new cases of a flu-like disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus in China has shocked health officials. There’s also been a third confirmed death reported today. Worse, the outbreak has now spread beyond Wuhan in central China where the virus was first identified. There have been cases reported in Beijing, a province next door to Shanghai and Shenzhen in southern China.

Health authorities in Beijing have now confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus today, while Guangdong authorities in southern China reported one new case in Shenzhen as well. The Shenzhen case is the first confirmation that the virus has spread domestically beyond Wuhan.

The Wuhan Health Commission announced today that 136 new patients had been diagnosed over the weekend – 1 person died from the virus, 2 remain in critical condition, 33 are in serious condition. All three patients that have died are believed to have visited Wuhan in the last month or so.

The new cases have brought the total number of people diagnosed with the virus in China to 201. That’s a big jump over numbers reported over the weekend.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, say they are monitoring eight patient. All eight have been quarantined for treatment. In coastal Zhejiang province, bordering Shanghai, authorities have now reported five new suspected cases who have been confirmed to have visited Wuhan. Last week, three cases were detected outside China — two in Thailand and one in Japan. All cases have been linked to Wuhan. On Monday, South Korea also confirmed its first case of the virus.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market at the centre of the pneumonia outbreak in he city of tWuhan has been closed for disinfection since January 1.

Meanwhile, Thai officials are stepping up screening efforts with many flights flying in from Wuhan over the next few weeks for the Chinese New Year holidays. Health officials say they’re confident that their screening efforts will detect any infected passengers getting off flights at Thai airports.

SOURCE: CNN

Coronavirus spreads north and south in China - 139 new cases reported | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Bangkok Post

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year

The Thaiger

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Conversation

Chinese medical officials have now reported four more cases of the viral pneumonia strain caused by a new coronavirus. The discoveries are causing rising concern that the disease is not fully understand and could spread during the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays.

The new virus, originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan – the apparent epicentre of the outbreak – is believed to belong in the same class of coronaviruses that includes the deadly SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 800 people around the world in 2002/03. That outbreak also started in China.

At this stage all signs are that the virus isn’t as lethal as SARS, but there is still little known about the coronavirus’ origins and how it is transmitted. But it has been established at this stage that it is not spread human to human.

Both Thailand and Japan have confirmed new cases of the virus. In Thailand the patient was detected when arriving on a flight from Wuhan. And Japan’s health ministry reported that a man who had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan was hospitalised on January 10, four days after his return to Japan.

Both patients have fully recovered.

The new cases detected in China, and the cases detected overseas, are stoking global concerns as many of the 1.4 billion Chinese will head overseas during the Chinese New Year holidays that begin next week and run through to early February.

The Wuhan Health Commission reports that the the four new cases are now in stable condition. 45 cases have been reported in the city as of last Thursday. A second patient died on Wednesday this week. Nearly 50 people are now known to have been infected globally, but all of them either lived in Wuhan or have travelled to the city.

The London Imperial College’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis speculates that there are probably “substantially more cases” of the new coronavirus than currently declared by Wuhan authorities. Their modelling estimates that there would be 1,723 cases showing onset of related symptoms by the second week in January.

Meanwhile US authorities say they are now screening at three airports to detect passengers arriving via direct or connecting flights from Wuhan. And in Asia, authorities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand are stepping up monitoring of travellers from Wuhan at airports.

SOURCE: Reuters | Science Alert

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Thailand

Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released

Greeley Pulitzer

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Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Johan van Laarhoven walks free after serving six years of a 100 year sentence in Thai prison - The Chiang Rai Times

A Dutch citizen who was jailed for 100 years in Thailand, is now on his way home after years of campaigning for his release. His sentence was reduced to 75 years on appeal and later to 50 years by the Supreme court. Johan van Laarhoven, who ran several cannabis “coffee shops” in Holland, was jailed in Thailand for money laundering, along with his Thai wife, though the offences took place in The Netherlands.

Thai authorities began investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 after a letter from a Dutch public prosecutor’s office, informing them that he had earned his money selling marijuana and requesting their help. Last year, MPs called on the government to to extradite Van Laarhoven and his wife back to Netherlands. The Dutch justice minister even met with PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin to discuss the case.

Even though cannabis is legal in the Netherlands, Dutch officials bungled a tax query to Thai authorities regarding the sale of the Dutchman’s cannabis cafe chain. This led to a criminal investigation and his televised arrest in Thailand.

Thai authorities seized the Dutchman’s assets and he was sentenced to 100 years in prison. His young Thai wife, Mingkwan, was jailed for 13 years as an accomplice. The Netherlands has an extradition treaty with Thailand, but it can only be implemented after a case has been ruled “definitive.” Van Laarhoven’s sentence was upheld late last year, clearing the way for a diplomatic solution. It’s unclear whether his wife will be allowed to join him in the Netherlands.

Once back, Van Laarhoven will spend two years in a Dutch jail to complete his sentence, and also face criminal investigation for money laundering. The investigation will focus on tax fraud, membership in a criminal organisation and laundering €20m (675 million baht) according to a Dutch public prosecutor.

SOURCE: The Chiang Rai Times | Dutchnews.nl

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