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WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS (News Wires) - The United States withdrew from a “hypocritical and self-serving” United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday over what it called chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform, a move activists warned would make advancing human rights globally even more difficult.

Standing with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley slammed Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for thwarting US efforts to reform the council. She also criticised countries which shared US values and encouraged Washington to remain, but “were unwilling to seriously challenge the status quo.”

Washington’s withdrawal is the latest US rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

It also comes as the United States faces intense criticism for detaining children separated from their immigrant parents at the US-Mexico border. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Monday called on Washington to halt its “unconscionable” policy.

“Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights,” said Haley, citing Venezuela, China, Cuba and Democratic Republic of Congo. She did not mention Saudi Arabia, which rights groups pushed to be suspended in 2016 over killings of civilians in the Yemen war.

Among reforms the United States had pushed for was to make it easier to kick out member states with egregious rights records. Currently a two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member UN General Assembly is needed to suspend a member state.

Haley also said the “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the US decision.

The United States has long shielded its ally Israel at the United Nations. In citing what it says is bias against Israel, the administration of President Donald Trump could further fuel Palestinian arguments that Washington cannot be a neutral mediator as it prepares to roll out a Middle East peace plan. Washington also relocated its embassy to Jerusalem after recognising it as the capital of Israel, reversing decades of US policy.

The United States is half-way through a three-year term on the 47-member Geneva-based body and the Trump administration had long threatened to quit if it was not overhauled.

Rights groups have criticised the Trump administration for not making human rights a priority in its foreign policy. Critics say this sends a message that the administration turns a blind eye to human rights abuses in some parts of the world.

“Given the state of human rights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back,” Zeid said after Haley announced the US withdrawal.


BEIRUT, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Syria said on Tuesday it rejected the presence of Turkish and US forces around the northern town of Manbij, a day after soldiers of the two countries began patrolling the area.

Turkish and US troops Monday began independent patrols along the line separating Turkish-controlled areas of northern Syria from the town of Manbij, which is controlled by a local militia affiliated to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia.

"Syria expresses its strong condemnation and absolute rejection of the incursion of Turkish and American forces in the vicinity of Manbij, which comes in the context of continued Turkish and American aggression," state news agency SANA said, quoting a foreign ministry statement.

The statement also said the Syrian army is determined to "liberate all of Syria's territory".

 

 

WARSAW, Poland, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Poland's prime minister says Tuesday that he sees a "middleman" role for his government in mending ties between President Donald Trump's administration and the European Union - despite Poland's tense relations with the bloc.

Mateusz Morawiecki spoke in Berlin Tuesday following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that featured European and global security as well as trans-Atlantic ties that have been strained by Trump's protectionist policies.

Morawiecki said that Poland "would like to serve as coordinator, a middleman between the US and Europe, in the best sense" and help ease the tension.

He said that Poland and Germany can be allies in "stopping the trade war spiral, the mutual aversion," with the US, which is Europe's main security partner.

Poland is among Europe's closest allies of the Trump administration.

 

BEIJING, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un began a two-day visit to Beijing on Tuesday in what analysts believe is a trip to brief his sole major ally on his unprecedented summit with US President Donald Trump and seek consensus on negotiations with Washington.

The outing comes as China has sought to strengthen its role as a mediator between the US and North Korea, where Beijing claims compelling security and economic interests.

The North's leader, who is believed to have landed in the Chinese capital Tuesday morning, was expected to head to the Great Hall of the People to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, though no official agenda was released.

Dozens of security vans, police cars and armoured vehicles lined streets around Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse - where Kim had stayed in his previous visit.

A motorcade accompanying a black limousine was seen leaving the compound late Tuesday afternoon as police cleared the way.

The visit comes as the United States, which relies on China to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang, stands on the brink of a potential trade war with Beijing, adding an extra layer of uncertainty and a possible pressure point to be exploited by North Korea's powerful ally.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported that Kim would be in Beijing through Wednesday.

"We hope this visit will help deepen the China-DPRK relations and strengthen our strategic communication on major issues to promote regional peace and stability," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

The visit is the North Korean autocrat's third to China since March, when he made his inaugural foreign trip as leader.

Previous trips had been kept secret until Kim returned home. It was not clear why Chinese state media broke with the precedent.

In addition to discussing last week's summit, Kim is expected to ask China for help in easing economic sanctions, in return for his pledge to denuclearise, according to Wang Dong, an international relations expert at Peking University.

"The Chinese and North Korean leaders are carrying out consultations on how to jointly move the Korean nuclear issue forward."

Following the historic US-North Korea summit in Singapore a week ago, China suggested the UN Security Council could consider easing the economic restrictions on its Cold War-era ally.

China may not have been at the table for the historic summit in Singapore but it retains strong influence behind the scenes, Dong said. The visit shows that China is "key" to the talks, Wang said.

"It reflects that China is indispensible to the entire Korean nuclear issue."

BEIJING, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - China should appropriately cut banks' reserve requirement ratios (RRR) to help ease their burdens, the central bank said in a working paper on Tuesday, fanning expectations of an imminent policy move to support the economy as US trade threats grow.

Fears of a full-blown trade war have added to concerns about the outlook for the world's second-largest economy, following weaker-than-expected growth data for May as a three-year regulatory crackdown starts to weigh on business activity.

The People's Bank of China surprised markets earlier in the day by lending 200 billion yuan ($31 billion) to financial institutions via its medium-term lending facility (MLF), highlighting concerns over liquidity and the potential economic drag on trade.

The injection of funds came just hours after US President Donald Trump escalated the tit-for-tat trade scrap with Beijing by threatening to impose a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

China's clampdown on off-balance sheet financing activities have put pressure on banks, and authorities have moved to curb a debt build-up at local governments and companies, the PBOC said in the working paper published on its website.

"China should appropriately reduce its reserve requirements to ease burdens on financial institutions and smooth the interest rate transmission mechanism," it said.

"While financial market risks have been effectively released, banks' capital adequacy and reserves face obvious constraints," it added.

However, as China is still a developing country, it is still necessary to keep the RRR at relatively high levels, it said.

The PBOC in April unexpectedly cut reserve requirement ratios (RRR) for most banks by 100 basis points (bps), in a move that was earlier and more aggressive than expected, highlighting concerns over liquidity conditions and the potential impact of punitive U.S. trade measures.

Many analysts had expected further RRR cuts in coming months as China's economic growth starts to cool under pressure from rising borrowing costs and a regulatory crackdown on riskier lending practices, which have sparked a small but growing number of credit defaults.

Among other recent support measures, authorities have raised lending quotas for state-owned banks, the China Daily reported last week, citing unnamed sources.

Economists at Nomura say there is a good chance of another 100 bps RRR cut this month or next, and also predict the central bank will provide more direct funding to the market via various channels. But they believe the PBOC will "most likely" keep policy rates unchanged.

Last week, the PBOC decided not to follow a rate rise by the US Federal Reserve with even a symbolic increase in short-term rates - a break from its recent practice - signalling that some policy fine-tuning is in the offing, analysts told Reuters.

LONDON, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Iran has no plans to extend the range of its missiles since their 2,000-km (1,240-mile) reach is enough to protect the country, the Revolutionary Guards commander said on Tuesday, amid mounting US pressure over Tehran's missile programme.

Iran's government again ruled out negotiations with US President Donald Trump over Tehran's military capabilities and regional influence, saying that such talks would be against the values of the Islamic Republic.

Trump withdrew the United States last month from the 2015 accord between Iran and world powers that curbed Tehran's nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

He said the deal was deeply flawed as it had not curbed Iran's ballistic missile programme or reined in its support for proxies in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and said Washington would reimpose tough sanctions on Tehran.

"We have the scientific ability to increase our missile range but it is not our current policy since most of the enemies' strategic targets are already within this 2,000-km range. This range is enough to protect the Islamic Republic...," Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency on Tuesday.

 

 

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