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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Car Bomb Strikes French Embassy in Libya

A car bomb exploded near the French Embassy in Libya early on Tuesday, wounding two French military guards and a Libyan teenager in what French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called “an attack that targets not only France but all countries that fight against terrorist groups”. French President François Hollande said France expected the Libyan government to “shed light on this unacceptable act so that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice”. The bomb marks the first major attack on diplomats in Libya since the one that killed the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi last year. Libyan Interior Minister Ashour Shuail told reporters that he could not say if the attacks had any links to the previous attack on the US diplomatic mission, but that the government would put more guards on patrol near diplomatic compounds in the coming days. “The problem is not the security of the embassies, but the security of the whole nation”, he said.

Israel Accuses Syria of Using Chemical Weapons

The chief of the research division of Israel’s army intelligence branch, Brigadier General Itai Brun, said on Tuesday that government forces under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have used chemical weapons against civilians in Syria’s civil war. “To the best of our professional understanding, the regime used lethal chemical weapons against gunmen in a series of incidents in recent months, including the relatively more famous events of the 19th of March”, said Brun, referring to incidents in Aleppo and Damascus where chemical agents were reported to have been used. Brun described the weapon as a “sarin-type” chemical. Another Israeli military official said the weapons were used because the Syrian regime wanted to test the reaction of the international community. “It wasn’t operational, it was a test”, said the same official. This follow letters written to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by representatives from the UK and France. The letters informed the UN that there was evidence Syria had used chemical weapons on more than one occasion since December.

UK Would Jeopardise Its Prestige by Leaving the EU

The German Minister of Defense has told the Guardian that the UK’s standing as a military power with global influence will be put at risk if the country decides to leave the European Union. Thomas de Maizière said that “this is not mentioned by David Cameron in our discussions, but for us especially, it is important. If Great Britain leaves the EU, it would be a great disappointment to us. It would weaken Nato, it would weaken the British influence within Nato. I think from a military point of view the disadvantages for Great Britain would be bigger than the advantages”. He said he was aware that he was potentially entering what should be a domestic debate, but that it was too important an issue to stand aside. “We in Germany would lose a strong partner for a pro-Atlantic co-operation with America and a pragmatic British way to deal with security issues”, he added.

Japan Warns China of Action Over Disputed Islands

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has warned China that Japan would respond with force if it attempts to land on the disputed Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China, saying it would be “natural to force them to leave”. Japan also protested the intrusion of eight Chinese vessels into territorial waters near the islands, which could become potentially lucrative maritime gas fields. Meanwhile, China protested the presence of Japanese ships with activists near the islands. “Regarding the Japanese right-wing activists’ illegal entry into the waters of the Diaoyu islands that is causing trouble, the Chinese foreign ministry has lodged stern representations with Japan, and has strongly protested”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. The two countries have been at odds since last September, when Japan bought the set of disputed islands in the East China Sea from a private Japanese owner, sparking fears of a conflict between the two nations.

British Chancellor Warns of Currency Risks for Independent Scotland

British Chancellor George Osborne has warned that there is no guarantee that an independent Scotland could be able reach a currency deal to keep the pound, saying that independence could “represent a very deep dive indeed into uncharted waters”. He also said that, should Scotland decide to become independent from the UK, it would have to accept “significant policy constraints” if it was granted the ability to keep the pound as its currency. Adding that such an agreement would be difficult, Osborne said that a separate Scotland would be left with three distinct options, namely keeping the pound unilaterally, creating a new Scottish currency or joining the euro. “The rest of the UK, as the larger economy, would be much more exposed to the risk of an independent Scotland running into fiscal and financial difficulties”, said the chancellor. The Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney, accused Osborne of being “very arrogant” and setting out “the pre-referendum stance, the shock tactics and scaremongering that goes on daily”. A referendum on Scottish independence will be held in September 2014.

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