Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Iran’s embassy in Lebanon condemns killing of journalists in Syria

Iran’s embassy in Lebanon has strongly condemned the recent killing of three journalists who worked with Lebanese al-Manar television by the Takfiri terrorists in Syria. Al-Manar TV station said on Monday that three members of its staff were killed after they came under attack from the foreign-backed militants in the Syrian town of Ma’loula. Al-Manar identified the men as correspondent Hamza al-Hajj Hassan, technician Halim Allaw and cameraman Mohammed Mantash. Several other crew members were wounded. The shooting came shortly after Syrian armed forces retook the full control of Ma’loula. Iran’s embassy in Beirut issued a statement in condemnation of the terrorist act. The embassy also expressed condolences to Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, the employees of the al-Manar network, the Lebanese Information Ministry, the families of the killed staff, and the Lebanese nation. According Reporters Without Borders (RSF), over 130 news providers were killed in Syria between March 2011 to December 2013. A Press TV correspondent is among the dead.


Newsline: North Korean diplomats accused of ivory, fake cigarette and pharmaceutical trade

North Korea has diversified its business model for earning hard currency, shifting from a reliance on manufacturing drugs and counterfeiting foreign bank notes to smuggling products from endangered species, fake pharmaceuticals and counterfeit cigarettes. The details of Pyongyang’s methods of earning the funds it needs to pay for its nuclear and missile programmes are spelled out in a study released on Tuesday by the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. The 115-page report says Pyongyang has been producing narcotics and smuggling them abroad through the diplomatic bag and printing high-quality forgeries of foreign currency since the mid-1970s, all part of the Kim regime’s “fundamental strategic objective” of self-preservation. The smuggling by North Korean diplomats of rhino horn and ivory also appears to be a more recent development, the report says, with a North Korean citizen arrested in 2012 in Mozambique as he attempted to smuggle 130 pieces of ivory, with an estimated value of $36,000, out of the country. Similar seizures in Kenya, Russia and France totaled more than 1.8 tons of ivory. North Korean officials were caught in 2004 smuggling 150,000 tablets of the sedative Clonazepam in Egypt, while embassy employees from Bulgaria were detained in Turkey carrying half a million tablets of the synthetic stimulant Captagon, with an estimated value of $7 million. North Korea has also been accused of manufacturing fake Viagra pills. The report claims that North Korean embassy officials have also engaged in smuggling gems over international borders, trafficking in DVDs. smuggling used cars and even selling pornography in Finland.


Newsline: US Embassy Says Malaysia Airlines Missing Flight Hasn’t Landed in Diego Garcia

An American official in Kuala Lumpur said that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is not in Diego Garcia, an island military base located in the Indian Ocean amid speculation that it landed there. An embassy spokesperson told the Star Online newspaper in Malaysia that the missing plane didn’t land on Diego Garcia, which has a runway. The plane, which went missing March 8, flew nowhere close to the Maldives or Diego Garcia, the official said. “There was no indication that MH370 flew anywhere near the Maldives or Diego Garcia. MH370 did not land in Diego Garcia. Under the coordinating efforts of Malaysia and Australia, the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet is working alongside 26 other nations to locate the aircraft based on areas identified by Malaysian and international experts,” the U.S. embassy spokesperson wrote in an e-mail, according to Star Online. Diego Garcia is located approximately 2,000 miles from Malaysia. Malaysian officials believe the plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles west of Perth, Australia. Over the past few weeks, conspiracy theory websites have claimed that the plane was on Diego Garcia. One website in particular claimed IBM engineer Philip Wood, who was believed to be on the missing plane, took a photo on Diego Garcia and uploaded it online. However, it was determined that the photo and message was actually put on 4chan.org, a popular website that’s spawned numerous Internet hoaxes in the past.


Newsline: Iran stands by UN envoy choice despite US visa denial

A senior Iranian official said that Tehran is not considering a replacement for Hamid Aboutalebi, its choice for ambassador to the United Nations, despite the U.S. denying him a visa, Iranian state TV reported. The United States has told Iran that it will not issue a visa to Aboutalebi because of his ties to the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the White House said. But Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told reporters in Tehran that Aboutalebi remained Iran’s choice and that it is following up on the issue through diplomatic channels, according to state broadcaster Press TV. Iranian lawmaker Hossein Naqavi Hosseini told state news agency IRNA that the United States was obliged to honor its responsibility to issue visas in its role as host for the United Nations headquarters in New York. The White House is still reviewing a bill passed in Congress this week prohibiting the ambassador from entering the United States. Aboutalebi was a member of the Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line, the group of militants that seized the embassy on November 4, 1979, holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. He is a veteran diplomat who has served as Iran’s ambassador to Australia, Belgium, Italy and the European Union. He has also held high-profile posts in the Iranian Foreign Ministry.


Newsline: Russian embassy may help solve case of mysterious 911 calls from injured man

Detroit police have reached out to the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., seeking information that could help solve the mystery behind 911 calls from a man who claimed to be a member of the Russian military and reported being kidnapped and stabbed. Police Cmdr. Elvin Barren said that he has reached out to the embassy and provided Russian officials with details, including the name and military rank provided by the caller. He said he hopes to hear back from the embassy. During a news conference today, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the number the man called from was a Russian phone number. He said a determination hasn’t been made regarding whether the call was a hoax.


Newsline: Venetian separatists ask Rome for their embassy back

For nearly 80 years, it has been seen as one of the most potent landmarks of Italy’s Fascist era. Set on one of Rome’s busiest squares, the Palazzo Venezia was the venue for Benito Mussolini’s most important speeches, including his declaration of the Italian empire in 1936, and Italy’s entry into World War Two in 1940. Now, though, the elegant 16th century block is the subject of an altogether different vision for Italy’s future. Far from being used to project Rome’s dominance across Italy and beyond, it has become the prize in a separatist campaign by the capital’s one-time rival, Venice. The campaign, which already claims two million supporters, demands that Venice separate from Italy and revive its centuries-long tradition as a free republic. It is growing in confidence thanks to long-standing discontent with Italy’s chaotic central government, despite initial ridicule from Rome’s political elite. Now, three weeks after the campaigners staged an unofficial “referendum” that they claim showed a majority of Venetians backing their case, its leaders have demanded that the Palazzo Venezia be handed to them as their unofficial “embassy” to Rome. And while their demand may appear somewhat cheeky, they point out that history is on their side. The building did indeed serve as Venice’s embassy to Rome between the 16th and 18th centuries, when The Most Serene Republic of Venice, as it was then known, was a powerful maritime power.


Newsline: UAE Embassy in London issues statement on hammer attack

The UAE Embassy in London has made a statement regarding the recent attack on Emirati citizens in London. The UAE Ambassador to the UK, Abdul Rehman Ghanem Al Mutaiwei, in a statement from the Embassy, said, “As part of the attention the wise leadership gives to nationals both in the UAE and overseas, the Embassy has promptly moved to provide all it takes to the family and its members who are in the British capital, to help them and provide a safe residence for them in London until the investigation into the case is over.” Meanwhile, the Court of First Instance in Hammersmith, London, in a summary trial, has ordered the detaining of the suspects in the case of the recent attack on the three UAE sisters in London, and referred them to trial before the criminal court next Thursday. The main suspect in the said case, Philip Spence, a British national, was charged by the court with attempted murder and theft (burglary), while the other suspects were charged with the possession of stolen properties with intent to sell them. A delegation from Abu Dhabi Police attended the summary trial on Saturday.


Newsline: U.S. Rejects Visa for Iran Diplomat Linked to Hostages

The U.S. won’t issue a visa for an Iranian diplomat linked to the group that took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, President Barack Obama’s spokesman said. “We have informed the United Nations and Iran that we will not issue a visa” to Hamid Aboutalebi, who was Iran’s choice for its next ambassador to the UN, White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “The selection was not viable.” Hamid Babaei, spokesman for the Iranian mission to the UN, in an e-mail called the U.S. decision “regrettable” and said it was “in contravention of international law, the obligation of the host country and the inherent right of sovereign member states to designate their representatives to the United Nations.” He didn’t elaborate on further steps Iran may take. The U.S. decision follows votes by the House and Senate to bar Aboutalebi from the U.S. The decision on the visa is up to the executive branch, and Carney declined to say whether Obama would sign the legislation. The bill doesn’t mention Aboutalebi by name. Instead, it urges denial of admission to the U.S. “to any representative to the United Nations who has engaged in espionage activities against the United States, poses a threat to United States national security interests, or has engaged in a terrorist activity against the United States.” Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium and Italy, has been tied to a student group that led the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The U.S. responded to the takeover by breaking diplomatic ties with Iran. While the U.S. is obliged to grant entry visas to representatives of member states under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement Act approved by Congress in 1947, the U.S. president can deny visas to individuals deemed to pose a security threat to the U.S.


Newsline: Turkey strongly condemns attack on its Somalia embassy

Turkey strongly condemned the attack on its embassy in Somali capital Mogadishu that injured three construction workers. The injured persons from Wednesday night’s attack by unidentified assailants were transported to Turkish capital Ankara by air ambulance Friday. Somali authorities have launched an investigation into the attack, during which rocket launchers were fired at the embassy, which is currently under construction. Turkey’s ambassador to Somalia Kani Torun said no organization has been linked to the attack. Another attack on a Turkish Embassy annex in Mogadishu in July last year killed one Turkish security guard and left several others injured.


Newsline: Former Kenyan embassy staff in Zimbabwe charged with theft

A former financial attaché at the Kenyan Embassy in Zimbabwe was charged with stealing over Sh6.6 million while on duty. Ms Margaret Ayumu Katunga faced 11 counts of stealing by a person employed in the Public Service contrary to section 280 of the penal code. The prosecutor informed Principal Magistrate Peter Ndwiga of the anti-corruption court that the accused between September 30, 2009, and September 20, 2012, being a person employed in the Public Service as the financial attache’ in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stole $50,550 the property of the said ministry which came into her possession by virtue of her employment. On a different count Ms Katunga was accused that on September 20, 2010, at the embassy in Harare she allegedly forged a letter dated September 20, 2010.



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