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US NSA OKs Trump to share info with Russia

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Donald Trump

Washington, May 17 : US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said on Tuesday that it was “wholly appropriate” for President Donald Trump to share classified information with Russian officials during their meeting in the Oval Office last week.

Trump decided to mention the information in the “context of the conversation” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, McMaster told reporters in the White House, calling it “wholly appropriate to that conversation” and “consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leader with whom he’s engaged”.

During those conversations, Trump disclosed the city from which the intelligence was derived, McMaster confirmed.

However, McMaster did not make clear if the information was highly classified as the Washington Post reported one day earlier.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he has “the absolute right” to share certain information with Russia.

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against the IS & terrorism,” he said in a pair of tweets on Tuesday.

But the president also did not specifically say whether he spilled highly classified information to Russian officials.

Trump reportedly relayed information from a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria when meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The related information-sharing arrangement was considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, according to the Post report.

In response, McMaster, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell all issued statements later on Monday, claiming such reports are wrong.

Powell said in a statement: “This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

“At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly,” said McMaster, who participated in the meeting.

The Post report said Trump appeared to be boasting of the “great intel” he receives when he described a looming terror threat, citing an official with knowledge of the exchange.

The information was provided by a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. The partner did not give the US permission to share the information with Russia, the Post said.

Following the meeting, the White House contacted the CIA and National Security Agency to contain the damage, according to the Post.

As US President Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that such disclosures broke the law. However, he is facing a deepening trust crisis as a new poll released Tuesday finds nearly half of US voters (48 per cent) said they would support Trump’s impeachment, while only 41 per cent would oppose such charges.

The White House is in a “downward spiral” and needs to do something to get “under control”, Republican Senator Bob Corker said following the Post report.

Trump’s approval ratings have been hovering in the high 30s and 40s. According to Gallup, Trump has the lowest approval of any new president since the surveys began in 1953.

Europe

Belgian court ends extradition case against Catalan leader Puigdemont

The judge had declared the case to be “without merit” during an in-camera hearing.

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Carles Puigdemont

A Belgian court formally closed extradition proceedings against deposed Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday.

Puigdemont and four of his deputies fled to Belgium in October to avoid charges of rebellion, sedition and misusing public money in relation to Catalonia’s independence bid. The Spanish Supreme Court withdrew the European arrest warrants last week.

The judge had declared the case to be “without merit” during an in-camera hearing, Paul Bekaert, Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer, told AFP.

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North Korea: Trump taking dangerous step to nuclear war by seeking naval blockade

Pyongyang also lashed out at the possible US move in a commentary on Sunday in the communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

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Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald

US President Donald Trump is taking an “extremely dangerous” and “big step” towards nuclear war by seeking a naval blockade, North Korea has stated, according to the official KCNA news agency.

Pyonyang also said it will take “merciless self-defensive” measures against any blockade, as it would consider such a move an “act of war.” The North Korean government also believes any blockade would be a “wanton violation” of its sovereignty and dignity, KCNA reported, citing a foreign ministry spokesman.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson previously mentioned the “right to interdict maritime traffic transporting goods” to and from the North, following Pyongyang’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on November 29.

Pyongyang also lashed out at the possible US move in a commentary on Sunday in the communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

Earlier on Thursday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin warned that North Korea now finds itself in a position where it “doesn’t see any other way for self-protection rather than developing weapons of mass destruction and missile technologies.” Having reiterated that Moscow in no way supports Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the Russian leader stressed that the Kremlin calls for steps by all sides towards a peaceful solution.

Both the US and North Korea “should stop fueling tensions,” Putin told international media at his annual press conference, adding that everyone should be “extremely cautious” about the situation on the Korean peninsula. “One launch from North Korea will be enough for catastrophic consequences,” the president warned.

The comments come just one day after State Department spokesperson Heath Nauert appeared to backtrack on statements made by Tillerson, in which the secretary of state said the US was “ready to have the first meeting” with Pyongyang “without preconditions.” Nauert said on Wednesday that North Korea would have to suspend its weapons tests before such talks could take place.

Earlier this month, Moscow said it was ready to help facilitate talks between Washington and Pyongyang, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stating that “North Korea wants to talk to the US about its own security assurances.”

Russia and China have proposed a so-called “double freeze” plan which would see the US suspend joint drills with South Korea in exchange for Pyongyang halting its missile and nuclear tests. However, that plan was swiftly rejected during the summer by the US, which asserted its right to conduct military exercises with its ally South Korea.

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India ready to work with new Nepal government

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Nepal election
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New Delhi, Dec 14: Welcoming the parliamentary and provincial election results in Nepal, India on Thursday said it was looking forward to working with the new government in Kathmandu.

“India has age-old unique time-tested ties of friendship with the country,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in his weekly media briefing here.

“We look forward to working with the next democratically elected government in Nepal to advance our close and multi-faceted partnership across all sectors and to support Nepal in its pursuit of peace, stability, economic prosperity for all round development,” he said.

Nepal’s CPN-UML emerged as the largest party in the Himalayan nation. The vote count for Parliament and provincial assembly elections in Nepal ended on Wednesday.

IANS

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