Monthly Archives: June 2016

Armenia ratifies agreement on joint air-defence system with Russia

YEREVAN: Armenia’s parliament on Thursday voted to ratify an Armenian-Russian agreement to create a joint air-defence system which opponents fear gives too much control to Moscow.

Armenian officials say the new system will enable the inclusion of the Russian Air Force’s full range of capabilities, including multifunction fighter jets, into joint regional air defence.

“It will allow us to have serious reconnaissance data, which will be in the common informational field and will prevent all violations by adversaries,” Armenian Defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan said on Wednesday.

“In this matter, we do not see any reliable partner other than Russia.”

The Armenia-Russian air-defence agreement was signed by the two countries in December 2015. Russia and Armenia have been jointly protecting Armenia’s airspace since the mid-1990s. Russian troops and warplanes are stationed on the territory of Armenia, once part of the Soviet Union.

The air-defence agreement does not apply to Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia is embroiled in a long-standing conflict with neighbouring Azerbaijan over the region.

A war between Azerbaijan and Armenian-backed separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh ended with a fragile truce in 1994, which for many years was marred by only sporadic violence. But the ceasefire was shattered in early April with the fiercest fighting in years, killing dozens of people on both sides.

Opposition MPs and other critics of the air-defence agreement say it undermines Armenian sovereignty – and point out that Russia sells arms to rival Azerbaijan as well as to Armenia.

(Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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Shastri in spat with Ganguly after India coaching snub

MUMBAI: Denied another stint as India’s head coach, Ravi Shastri has been embroiled in an ugly spat with former captain Sourav Ganguly, who was part of the panel which awarded the job to Anil Kumble last week.

The coach’s post was vacant since Shastri’s 18-month tenure as the team director ended with India’s semi-final exit at the World Twenty20 tournament on home soil earlier this year.

For the post, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) received 57 applications which were made available to an advisory panel that included ex-captains Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly and former batsman VVS Laxman.

The panel met the final contenders, including Shastri who spoke via skype, before Kumble, a contemporary of the ex-cricketers on the panel, landed the job despite his lack of coaching experience.

Shastri told the Indian media that Ganguly’s absence during his interview was disrespectful and he advised the former captain to be present at important meetings in the future.

Ganguly, one of the most successful Indian captains, said he had taken the BCCI’s approval to attend a meeting of his state cricket association, of which he is the president.

“I just feel that the comments are very personal and if Ravi Shastri feels that I am responsible for him not being the coach of India, he’s living in a fool’s world,” Ganguly told television reporters in Kolkata.

“It’s a committee and there are people in the committee who are of more repute than I am and there are other people involved also who were consulted and spoken about. So that’s disappointing.”

Ganguly said the panel had agreed his request to resume the interview after completing the association’s meeting.

“Once I came here to this meeting, I got a message from (BCCI secretary) Mr (Ajay) Shirke that the other two members are requesting if they could continue with Ravi, which I was fine with.

“I said ‘fine, I know I have been stuck with this and you please go ahead and do it’. That happens everywhere in the world and that’s the exact story.”

Ganguly said Shastri should also have made the effort to be present in person during his interview.

“Since he’s spoken about disrespect, and honestly I say this with anger, that he gave me a suggestion that in the future that I should be available for such meetings,” Ganguly said.

“I have an advice for him also. When the coach of India is selected, and it’s one of the most important jobs in cricket, he should be in front of the committee giving his presentation and not sit in Bangkok on holiday and make a presentation on camera, especially when someone, who is one of the greatest cricketers of India all time (Anil Kumble), spoke for two hours nearly.”

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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US says Russian ship raised false signal in incident

BERLIN: The United States on Wednesday accused Russia of deliberately displaying the wrong naval signals and interfering with a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea, in the latest salvo about a June incident that both countries blame on each other.

Captain Danny Hernandez, spokesman for U.S. European Command, said the Russian warship Neustrashimy (FF 777) conducted unsafe and unprofessional maritime manoeuvres, which could have led to miscalculation, injury or even death.

A number of Cold War-style incidents have occurred at sea and in the air in recent months, with the militaries of Russia and the United States accusing each other of dangerous actions in international waters and airspace.

“This most recent incident comes on the heels of other unsafe air and naval incidents on the part of the Russian military,” Hernandez said in a statement to Reuters.

He said such action had the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between the countries.

In April, the U.S. military said Russian SU-24 bombers simulated attack passes near the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea.

Russia and the United States blame each other for unsafe manoeuvres in the June 17 incident which occurred less than two weeks after officials from the two countries met in Moscow to discuss ways to avoid incidents at sea.

The Russian Defence Ministry said a U.S. destroyer approached dangerously close to a Russian ship, in what it said was a flagrant U.S. violation of rules to avoid at-sea collisions.

A U.S. official countered that the Russian ship carried out “unsafe and unprofessional” operations near two U.S. ships.

On Wednesday, Hernandez said the Russian ship raised the “ball-diamond-ball” signal on its mast when it was two nautical miles away from the USS Gravely, a U.S. destroyer operating in the Mediterranean with the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier.

That combination of simple geometric shapes is used to indicate that a ship’s ability to manoeuvre is restricted.

Russia identified its ship as the Russian Navy frigate Yaroslav Mudry.

Hernandez said the Russian ship manoeuvred to get closer to the Gravely, changing course and speed as the U.S. ship did, which he said showed it was not in fact restricted in its ability to manoeuvre, and was thus intentionally displaying a false international signal.

As a result, he said, the U.S. destroyer believed the Russian ship was intentionally trying to interfere with Harry S. Truman operations.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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Portugal's Gomes and Guerreiro back in training

REUTERS: Portugal have been boosted by the return of Andre Gomes and Raphael Guerreiro to training ahead of their Euro 2016 quarter-final against Poland.

The two players joined the main group in the morning session on Wednesday after sitting out two days of practice.

Defender Guerreiro and midfielder Gomes started Portugal’s 1-0 extra time triumph over Croatia in the last 16 but sustained minor muscular problems.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos is expected to have all his players available to face Poland on Thursday.

(Reporting by Agdriana Garcia, editing by Ed Osmond)

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US, S Korea, Japan hold first anti-N Korea missile drill

WASHINGTON: South Korea, Japan and the United States held an unprecedented trilateral missile defence exercise on Tuesday (Jun 28), aimed at countering the growing threat from nuclear-armed North Korea which denounced it as a “military provocation.”

The drill in waters off Hawaii came less than a week after North Korea flight-tested a powerful new medium-range ballistic missile that leader Kim Jong-un hailed as a strike threat to US military bases across the Pacific.

The trilateral exercise included a ballistic target tracking operation to test the Aegis anti-missile systems used by the United States and its two key Asian allies.

“While there were no missiles fired, all participants strengthened interoperability, communication channels, data collection, and capabilities assessments,” the US Pacific Command said in a statement.

The drill was significant for the participation of both South Korea and Japan, who are still emerging from an extended diplomatic freeze that had undermined US efforts to present a united front against Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.

As well as rehearsing responses to a North Korean missile attack, the drill “enhanced the already strong relationship of all three nations participating”, said Vice Admiral Nora Tyson, commander of the US Third Fleet.

North Korea’s foreign ministry condemned the drill as “another military provocation perpetrated by the US” and reiterated strategic willingness to carry out a “pre-emptive nuclear attack” if threatened.

The participation of all three countries revealed their “hegemonic scenario for disturbing regional peace and security”, a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.

The North has this year claimed a series of major technical breakthroughs in developing what it sees as the ultimate goal of its nuclear drive: an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

The recent test of a Musudan medium-range missile was seen by some weapons experts as a significant step towards an operational ICBM by 2020.

Tuesday’s drill also delivered a message of intent to China as Washington and Beijing continue to jostle for influence in Asia.

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter said last week the Musudan test underlined the need to strengthen missile defences to protect US troops stationed in South Korea and Japan.

Seoul and Washington are currently in talks over the deployment of the US military’s sophisticated Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) in South Korea – a move staunchly opposed by China and Russia.

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Bolivia, Ethiopia, Sweden win seats on UN Security Council

UNITED NATIONS: Bolivia, Ethiopia and Sweden on Tuesday (Jun 28) were elected to serve a two-year stint on the UN Security Council, with Kazakhstan vying with Thailand and the Netherlands facing off against Italy for two remaining spots.

Five non-permanent seats are up for grabs in the vote by the UN General Assembly, three of which were filled in a first round of secret ballot voting.

After the first round, Kazakhstan was ahead with 113 votes compared to 77 for Thailand, but the central Asian country fell short of the two-thirds majority required to win election to the seat reserved for Asia.

Among the world’s top aid donors, Sweden picked up 134 votes, scoring an outright win, while the Netherlands garnered 125 votes and Italy 113, falling short of the required majority.

The five new elected countries will take their place alongside the five permanent council members – Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States.

The other five non-permanent members are: Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay.

Ethiopia picked up 185 votes, running unopposed as the candidate from Africa.

With some 8,100 troops deployed in UN missions, Ethiopia is the largest contributor of UN peacekeepers and has been active in trying to mediate an end the war in South Sudan.

Bolivia, which had the backing of Latin American and Caribbean countries, won 183 votes.

On the eve of the vote, Human Rights Watch called on UN member-states to closely scrutinise the human rights record of Kazakhstan and Thailand.

Thailand’s military junta, which seized power in May 2014, has banned political activity and ramped up prosecutions under tough sedition and royal defamation laws.

Vying for a council seat for the first time since its 1991 independence from the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has been criticised for cracking down on journalists and political activists.

“Debate happens in UN corridors in New York in a way that is not allowed in Kazakhstan itself,” said Philippe Bolopion, a deputy director at HRW.

Italy has lobbied fiercely for a council seat, portraying itself as a crossroads country in the Mediterranean and touting its experience dealing with the refugee crisis.

Italy is also seen as a player in efforts to pull Libya out of chaos.

The Netherlands, home to the International Criminal Court and other world tribunals, has played up its commitment to international justice.

The vote for a seat at the top diplomatic table caps years of lobbying by contenders.

As the ballot got underway, delegates at the 193-nation General Assembly were handed gift bags with miniature tulips and wooden shoes from the Netherlands, Baci chocolates from Italy and a buddha figurine from Thailand.

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Hodgson denies reports of disharmony before Iceland blow

CHANTILLY, France: Outgoing England manager Roy Hodgson on Tuesday denied reports that his players questioned his selection decisions before the embarrassing 2-1 defeat by Iceland which sent the team out of Euro 2016.

At a news conference less than 24 hours after quitting, Hodgson was asked about reports of disharmony in the camp and claims that senior players queried the selection of striker Raheem Sterling against Iceland and the six team changes made before the final group game against Slovakia.

”There was no indication that they weren’t behind us, that they weren’t behind the game plans and trying hard to execute,”

said a visibly tense Hodgson before an Football Association (FA) official stepped in to point out that they had also been denied by England’s captain Wayne Rooney.

Rooney released a statement to the Press Association which said: “In response to recent media reports, I’d like to say that is completely untrue. On behalf of the players, we completely supported the England manager.”

The claims had been reported by British broadcaster Sky Sports who said they had come from unidentified sources inside the England camp.

Hodgson, whose selections and tactics were heavily criticised in the British media, said he was feeling ”fragile” after Monday’s defeat, which some critics said was the worst in English football history.

”I don’t really know what I’m doing here but I was told it’s important for me to appear as everyone is still smarting,” said Hodgson, who apologised to England supporters for the result.

”My emotions are obvious. I was really disappointed and I didn’t see the defeat coming. If you don’t turn up and play to your abilities, you can be beaten. I’m very fragile today as you can understand.”

But he predicted that England’s players would bounce back and show they could perform at an international tournament.

”I’m sure that these players will get better and better. One day I think we will do well and hopefully that can happen in 2018 (at the next World Cup).”

Hodgson was accompanied by Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn who said a review would now be conducted into why England were so ”brittle” at tournaments.

”When it comes to the business end of the tournament we’ve come up short for many years,” he said. “We’re not denying that our perennial problem is that England seem brittle at the business end of the season.”

Glenn said he would join FA’s technical director Dan Ashworth and David Gill, FA vice-chairman, in a search to find a new manager. He said they were looking for ”the best person for the job,” and did not rule out appointing a foreign manager.

”We are looking for the best person, not necessarily the best Englishman,” he said.

(Reporting by Neil Robinson. Editing by Adrian Warner.)

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Omega-3s cut fatal heart attack risk 10%: Study

WASHINGTON: Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines and anchovies, can reduce risk of a deadly heart attack by 10 per cent, a study out on Monday (Jun 27) said.

Researchers looked at blood and tissue omega-3 levels in participants of 19 studies across 16 countries, the report published in the US journal JAMA Internal Medicine said.

They found that while omega-3s “were associated with about a 10 per cent lower risk of fatal heart attacks,” the same reduction of risk did not hold true for nonfatal heart attacks.

That suggests “a more specific mechanism for benefits of omega-3s related to death,” the researchers said.

The new results “provide the most comprehensive picture to-date of how omega-3s may influence heart disease,” coauthor Liana Del Gobbo of the Stanford University School of Medicine added.

Both plant and seafood-based omega-3s were associated with the 10 per cent lower risk in fatal heart attacks.

Fish, the major source of omega-3s, are also rich in specific proteins, vitamin D, selenium, and other minerals and elements, the researchers said.

Plant-based omega-3s are prevalent in walnuts, flaxseed oil, canola oil and some other seeds and nuts and their oils.

The new study provides “an unprecedented opportunity to understand how blood biomarkers of many different fats and fatty acids relate to diverse health outcomes” as part of a global consortium, said senior author Dariush Mozaffarian of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

The researchers studied more than 45,630 participants. Of those, 7,973 people suffered first-time heart attacks, of whom 2,781 died.

“Across these diverse studies, findings were also consistent by age, sex, race, presence or absence of diabetes, and use of aspirin or cholesterol-lowering medications,” Del Gobbo said.

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Iceland stun England out as coach Hodgson quits

NICE, France: Iceland pulled off one of the biggest shocks in European Championship history when they stunned England 2-1 in their last-16 clash on Monday leading losing manager Roy Hodgson to resign.

Although the soccer pedigrees of the two sides could not be more different, Iceland looked the better team in just about every aspect of the game and fully deserved to extend their dream run on their first tournament appearance.

After falling behind to a fourth-minute Wayne Rooney penalty they levelled almost immediately through Ragnar Sigurdsson and struck again in the 18th with a shot by Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.

They then survived without great distress as England struggled to build any sustained pressure and barely tested goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson.

Iceland are the smallest country ever to appear in a major tournament and their reward is a quarter-final against hosts France in Paris on Sunday, with the prize for the winner being a semi-final against European heavyweights Germany or Italy.

England will be watching from home – again – after a defeat that extends their miserable run in the Euros where they have won one knockout match, on penalties at home to Spain in 1996.

SHORT LEAD

It all looked so different for England at the start when Raheem Sterling was hauled down by Halldorsson, allowing Rooney to smash them ahead from the penalty spot.

The lead lasted less than two minutes, though, as Iceland, who had talked up their long throws as a weapon, scored from just that source.

Aron Gunnarsson’s throw was flicked on by Kari Arnason to Ragnar Sigurdsson who was left completely unmarked to sweep home the equaliser.

If the England defending was bad for that goal it was disastrous for the second as Iceland were allowed all the time and space they wanted to neatly ping the ball between themselves on the edge of the box to set up Sigthorsson.

His low shot was crisp enough although well within range for Joe Hart but the England keeper got only half a glove on it and watched in horror as it dribbled over the line.

England looked shell-shocked and spent the rest of the half struggling to make any inroads, their front men and attacking midfielders static, and were booed off by their own fans.

The last time the sides met England won 6-1 in 2004 but this is a very different Iceland, who beat Netherlands home and away in qualifying for France and at the finals have held Portugal, were unlucky to concede a late own-goal equaliser to Hungary and then defeated Austria to finish second in their group.

FIRST TOURNAMENT

Anyone with no prior knowledge of the two teams’ history watching Monday’s game would have been hard-pressed to decide who were the former world champions and who were the tiny nation of 330,000 competing at their first major tournament.

England threw on midfielder Jack Wilshere for the second half and then striker Jamie Vardy but the team’s passing was poor and their movement sluggish. Roy Hodgson’s players struggled to create any sustained pressure.

At the other end, more slack marking saw Ragnar Sigurdsson force Hart into a smart save from an overhead kick.

By the end England were reduced to launching long punts into the box, which were comfortably repelled.

The final whistle produced extraordinary scenes as the entire Iceland squad and coaches sprinted to the corner of the pitch to celebrate with their fans.

England’s players sank to the turf in despair, with a deluge of jeers, boos and whistles, finally being encouraged to leave the pitch to a chant of “You’re not fit to wear the shirt.”

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Hungary committed to hold planned migrant quota referendum

BUDAPEST: Hungary will go ahead with a planned referendum on future European Union quotas for resettling migrants, a Hungarian government spokesman said on Monday.

“The government is determined, and has no reason not to hold (the vote),” spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told Reuters. “It has never been more relevant to ask what the people think.”

Kovacs said President Janos Ader will have to set a date for the referendum, which Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office has previously said could be held in September or October.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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