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Monday, December 16, 2013

UN Launches Biggest Ever Appeal for Syria

The UN launched a record appeal on Monday for US$6.5bn for Syria and its neighbours. The funds would be used to help 16 million people in the coming year, a great many of whom were displaced by the Syrian civil war. The organisation said that the refugee crisis in Syria and neighbouring countries had “exceeded all previous benchmarks”. “This is the largest amount we have ever had to request at the start of the year”, said UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos. The UN appeal came as the International Rescue Committee issued a report saying that four in every five Syrians now worry about food running out, with the UN’s World Food Programme estimating that almost half of the country’s population of 22 million had unreliable food sources.

NSA Considered Snowden Amnesty

The US National Security Agency considered offering whistleblower Edward Snowden amnesty in exchange for the cessation of any further intelligence disclosures. “My personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about. I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part”, said Richard Ledgett, head of an NSA task force on unauthorised disclosures, during an interview with the 60 Minutes news programme. The idea was quickly rebuffed by the White House. Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges here in the United States. He should be returned to the U.S. as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process and protections”, she said.

Firefight at Lebanon-Israel Border

Two Lebanese soldiers have been shot dead by the Israeli Defense Forces after what the Israeli military described as “suspicious movement”. “After the incident, we reached the area to conduct searches as part of the investigation, and saw two suspects on the other side of the border. We shot at them, and saw we hit at least one. We think they were Lebanese soldiers involved in the shooting of the soldier”, said IDF spokesman Major Arye Shalicar, referring to an earlier incident where a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier earlier in the day. The cross-border violence is the most serious incident between the two countries since 2010. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Lebanon and Israel to exercise restraint and prevent an escalation.

Migrant Cap Plan ‘Illegal’, Says Clegg

UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has criticised the Home Office for creating “illegal and undeliverable” plans to impose a limit on the number of EU citizens that could enter the UK in order to work, a sharp criticism of Home Secretary Theresa May. “My advice to the Home Office is to spend less time leaking policies that are illegal and undeliverable and spend more time delivering on the policies that we have agreed as a coalition government, notably the reinstatement of exit checks”, said Clegg during his monthly press conference. “Beyond that I would just state the obvious. If we pulled up the drawbridge now and said to German lawyers or Finnish engineers or Dutch accountants they can’t come to work it would be a disaster for our economy. We are an open economy. The City of London would grind to a halt overnight”, he completed.

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