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Hundreds of people in Pakistan have held a protest rally against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
On Friday, the demonstrators took to the streets in Karachi, Pakistan's largest and most populous city, to condemn the dire situation of desperate Rohingya Muslims in the Southeast Asian country, where the army is accused of carrying out a brutal crackdown on the community.
The protesters carried signs and banners reading “Save our rights,” “Rohingya Muslims need attention,” and “Stop killing us for being Muslims,” while shouting slogans against the Myanmar government and demanding an immediate end to the violence against the Muslim community.
Myanmar’s northwestern state of Rakhine, home to a large number of Rohingya Muslims, has also been the scene of communal violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists since 2012. Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands have been forced from homes and live in squalid camps in dire conditions in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The minority has been particularly under a military lockdown since an alleged attack on the country’s border guards on October 9, which left nine police officers dead. The government accused the Rohingya of being behind the assault. There have been reports of rape, murder, and arson against the Muslim population in the state.
Myanmar's government denies full citizenship to the 1.1 million-strong population, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. However, many believe the Rohingya are a community of ancient lineage in Myanmar.
According to the UN, the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
The bloody crackdown on the Muslims by the military has now prompted an international outcry and poses the biggest challenge to Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi since her National League for Democracy party won the country's first democratic elections in a generation last year.
On Thursday, the world body called on Suu Kyi to take action to end the brutal military crackdown on Rohingyas in Rakhine, urging her to reassure civilians they will be protected by the government, amid allegations that soldiers have raped Rohingya Muslim women, burnt houses and killed civilians.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) attends an intensive drill of KPA artillery units on December 2, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
North Korea has become capable of launching nuclear weapons, a US military official says, noting that the secretive regime does not seem to have acquired the technology to control the weapon after it is launched.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Friday that Pyongyang had the ability to mount a nuclear warhead on a series of its Ballistic missiles, but probably lacked the know-how to deliver a re-entry vehicle onto the designated target.
According to the official, North Korean researchers were trying to overcome a series of limitations in this regard, including the weapon’s ability to get back to the Earth’s atmosphere without burning up.
He said the threat from North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is so serious that the Pentagon has been continuously revising its contingency plans for a possible attack.
“It is the threat that keeps me awake at night, primarily because we don’t know what the dear leader in North Korea really is after,” he said.
“Truthfully, they have the capability, right now, to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon. They’re just not sure about re-entry and that’s why they continue to test their systems,” the official added.
In March, Admiral William Gortney, the then head of US Northern Command, said that the North had learned how to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a long-range missile.
After a successful launch of a submarine-launched missile in August, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un declared his country a nuclear power fully equipped “with nuclear attack capability.”
According to the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, North Korea’s successful launches of two Musudan mid-range ballistic missiles provide Pyongyang with the technology to develop intercontinental missiles by 2020.
The missiles have a theoretical range of between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometers, making them capable of reaching any part of South Korea, Japan and the US territory of Guam in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.
North Korea, which is under harsh UN sanctions over its nuclear tests and missiles launches, says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.

Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari
Syria has denounced a United Nations General Assembly resolution that calls for an "immediate" cessation of combat against militants in the Arab country.
Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari adopted the highly critical stance on Friday after the world body voted 122 to 13 in favor of the Canadian-drafted resolution that demands a halt to the government's fight against Takfiri terrorists, humanitarian aid access throughout the country, and an end to all sieges, including in Aleppo, which government forces are poised to fully liberate after making significant gains in recent days.
Iran, Russia, and China were among those who voted against the resolution.
Ja’afari criticized the Canadian delegation and its partners for violating the sovereignty of Syria by calling for holding the session without consulting the Syria delegation, adding that the non-binding resolution was politicized and violated the UN Charter.
“Before calling for holding this meeting and submitting the draft resolution, the Canadian delegation and its partners should have listened to the harrowing accounts about the crimes of terrorist organizations that were told by tens of thousands of our people who were saved by the Syrian army and its allies in Aleppo during the past few days,” Ja’afari added.
He further said that the measure would not dissuade the Syrian government and its allies from continuing to combat terrorism, vowing to  take control of the whole northwestern city very soon.
“I would like to reassure the states that sponsor terrorism in Aleppo that the Syrian army has up to this point liberated 93% of the areas that terrorists used to control in Aleppo city, and their bloody games is taking its last breaths,” Ja’afari added.
Syrian pro-government forces walk past the rubble in Aleppo's Jdayde neighborhood, on December 9, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Addressing the “sponsors” of terrorism, the Syrian envoy also said that “their bloody terrorist game in Syria and in Aleppo is over.”
Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, has been a frontline battleground since 2012, when foreign-backed terrorists captured the city's eastern part.
‘One-sided’ resolution disregards crisis root causes: Iran
Iran’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Gholam Hossein Dehqani also denounced the resolution as "one-sided", saying the international community must first address the root causes of the Syrian crisis.
The resolution is a “one-sided document and divorced from the reality on the ground in Syria,  the Iranian ambassador said.
Dehqani reiterated that certain foreign countries are responsible for the current situation in the Middle Eastern country by sponsoring the terrorists. He also said that since the beginning of the nearly six-year-old crisis, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been delivering humanitarian aid to desperate Syrian people through its Red Crescent Society, and will continue to do so in future.  
The resolution asks the UN secretary general to report on its implementation in 45 days and present recommendations "on ways and means to protect civilians."
Russia and Syria oppose lengthy pauses in the Aleppo battle, arguing that Takfiri militants may take advantage of the situation and rebuild their strength. Moscow also insists that all militants operating in eastern Aleppo must leave the area as part of any truce deal, saying those who refuse to do so would be regarded as terrorists. 
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin also censured the West for its sanctions against Syria, saying, "You are slowly asphyxiating the population you ardently claim to care about."
Moscow is engaged in an aerial campaign against Takfiri terrorists in Syria since September 2015, at the official request of the Syrian government.
The foreign-backed conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people since 2011, according to an estimate by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson (Photo by AFP)
The UK “is back” in the Persian Gulf region and will remain committed to the security of its Arab allies there in the foreseeable future, says British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson.
Speaking at the annual Manama Dialogue security forum in the Bahraini capital on Friday, Johnson said London was looking to strengthen old relationships in the wake of a shock referendum vote in June to leave the European Union (EU).
“This is about building on and intensifying old friendships,” Johnson said. “Britain has been part of your story for the last 200 years, and we will be with you for the centuries to come.”
Pledging to spend 3 billion pounds on security ties with the Arab allies over the next decade, Johnson said the UK would “still be able to stick up for our friends and partners in the (Persian) Gulf,” long after leaving the EU.
“Your security is our security,” the minister told the leaders of the Persian Gulf Arab states.
Johnson tried to stick to the points made by UK Prime Minister Theresa May during her trip to the tiny Persian Gulf country earlier this week.
British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) attends a (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) summit, in the Bahraini capital of Manama, December 7, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Addressing the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) on Wednesday, May said London and its allies in the region had agreed to form a "strategic partnership" and foster military and other ties.
“As part of the renewed relationship that I want to forge with you, the United Kingdom will make a more permanent and more enduring commitment to the long-term security of the [Persian] Gulf,” she told leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
Johnson was due in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, where he was expected to discuss the Riyadh regime’s ongoing war against Yemen with Saudi officials.
At a conference in Rome last week, he accused the oil-rich kingdom of engaging in “proxy wars.”
Acknowledging the pain Yemeni people were going through due to a months-long Saudi military campaign, Johnson said “force only” was not the solution to the unprovoked war.
May did not like that view and after returning from the Persian Gulf visit said that Johnson’s stance only reflected his “personal position.“

This AFP file photo taken on February 24, 2011 shows a Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) sign outside offices in central London.
Leading international banks based in Britain are planning to shift some operations from London to Paris following the Brexit vote, in order to maintain access to the European Union financial markets, France's senior financial regulator says.
Benoît de Juvigny, the secretary general of the French stock market regulator, AMF, said major banks have conducted research aimed at moving their operations to the French capital.
"Large international banks... have already undertaken real due diligence and we have received a lot of practical questions regarding the way they are going to be managed from our perspective, with their relationship with the French regulators," Benoit de Juvigny, secretary general at the AMF, told BBC television on Wednesday.
“In some cases I would say we are still at the level of inquiries or informal inquires by consultants, by lawyers and so on,” de Juvigny said.
European financial centers said to be competing with London to host the banks include Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Luxembourg and Frankfurt.
Banks are concerned that the UK’s exit from the EU may result in leaving Europe’s single market that would make it difficult for them to sell their services throughout the continent.
EU "passporting" rights currently allow financial products approved by a single regulator in a member state to be sold in the entire EU, but firms registered in the UK risk losing this right when Britain leaves the bloc.
The loss of these rights could be devastating to the City of London as nearly 5,500 firms registered in the UK use passporting rights to operate in other countries. “The result of this is that the City as a whole will be diminished,” said Anastasia Nesvetailova, economics professor at City University London.
Britain’s economy will grow more slowly over the next few years than was forecast as a result of the country’s vote to leave the EU, UK finance minister Philip Hammond said last month during an annual fall statement to Parliament.
The UK workforce faces the worst period for wages in at least 70 years because a Brexit will significantly lower real income and living standards, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Russia says around 8,500 civilians have been evacuated from the militant-held eastern side of Aleppo via humanitarian corridors, amid ongoing clean-up operations in the northwestern Syrian city.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the there were 2,934 children among those evacuated from the occupied parts of Aleppo over the past 24 hours.
The ministry said the Russian military’s sappers and bomb disposal experts were active clearing the areas freed from militant control of mines and unexploded devices.
So far, the experts had cleared some 60,000 square meters (37 square miles), and restored the central water pumping station, two power plants, two schools and two mosques in the city.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syrian forces had paused active military operations in eastern Aleppo amid a large effort to secure the exit of civilians from violence-hit areas.
“Combat operations by the Syrian Army in eastern Aleppo have been suspended because the largest operation of evacuation of civilians from East Aleppo is being carried out – a column of about 8,000 people, it’s a tremendous operation,” he said.
The Syrian military, which is in control of the western part of the city, has been fighting to wrest back its militant-held east. So far it has reclaimed some 85 percent of the eastern part.
Damascus has called on the militants holed up in Aleppo’s east to lay down arms and surrender. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has ordered for those militants choosing to stop fighting to be granted amnesty.
The recent army gains have flown in the face of the unstinting financial and military support, which many foreign states have been providing to the militants since 2011 to secure the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian troops look out from the citadel of the northern city of Aleppo, December 7, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Russian aircraft have been lending support to the Syrian military’s counterterrorism operations since last September, but have withheld fire likewise from time to time due to humanitarian concerns.
Moscow currently maintains a permanent airbase at the Hmeymim facility in the Syrian port city of Latakia, about 86 kilometers north of Tartus. The outpost was established on the back of an August 2015 Russo-Syrian agreement.
On Wednesday, it was reported that the Russian government was about to finalize an agreement on the country’s establishment of a permanent naval base in Syria, too.
Amid the Syrian military’s advancements on the ground and the prospect of further Russian involvement in the anti-terror push, some Western states, including France, have called for the implementation of a ceasefire in Aleppo, citing a need for secure corridors for the transfer of humanitarian aid to the city.
However, Russia and Syria are against lengthy ceasefires in Aleppo, arguing that such pauses would enable the Takfiri militants operating there to regain strength.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi (photo by AFP)
The United Nations has called on Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to take action to end a brutal military crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority in the country’s northern Rakhine state.
In a statement, the UN’s special adviser on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, appealed directly to Suu Kyi to intervene and halt the atrocities.
“The adoption of a generally defensive rather than proactive approach to providing security to the local population has caused frustration locally and disappointment internationally,” the statement read.
Nambiar said Suu Kyi had to visit Rakhine in person and restore confidence in the Muslim population there.
Indian Muslims hold posters and shout slogans against Myanmar’s government during a protest rally in Kolkata, India, December 7, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate who has been lionized in Western media as Myanmar’s “democracy icon,” has failed to take any meaningful action to stop the crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine.
The northern state has been under a military siege since October over a raid on a police post that was blamed on the Rohingya. There have been reports of rape, murder, and arson against the Muslim population in the state. Over 20,000 Rohingyas have also been forced to leave for neighboring Bangladesh, where they are also kept at dilapidated refugee camps.
Suu Kyi, however, has described the crisis in Rakhine as “under control” and demanded that the international community stop stoking the “fires of resentment.”
The bloody crackdown on the Muslims by the military has now prompted an international outcry and poses the biggest challenge to Suu Kyi since her National League for Democracy party won Myanmar’s first democratic elections in a generation last year.
Bangladeshi activists from Islamic organizations march toward Myanmar’s embassy to protest against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, in Dhaka, December 6, 2016.  (Photo by AFP)
On Sunday, Malaysia has accused Myanmar’s army of “genocide” against the Rohingya. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak taunted Suu Kyi in an address before a crowd of about 5,000 protesters in Kuala Lumpur.
“What’s the use of Aung San Suu Kyi having a Nobel prize?” he said. “The world cannot sit and watch genocide taking place.”
Before the current escalation in violence, over 120,000 Rohingya Muslims had already been trapped in squalid displacement camps dating back to the last major outbreak of violence by Buddhists in Rakhine in 2012.


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