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Iran’s president is suggesting the Islamic Republic could hold a public referendum over the country’s nuclear program amid tensions with the United States.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported Hassan Rouhani made the comment late on Saturday.

Rouhani says he previously suggested a referendum to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2004, when he was a senior nuclear negotiator.

Such a referendum could provide political cover for the Iranian government if it chooses to increase its enrichment of uranium, prohibited under the 2015 deal with world powers.

President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal last year. In recent weeks, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have risen over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran.

Source: Fox News World

Iran’s president is suggesting the Islamic Republic could hold a public referendum over the country’s nuclear program amid tensions with the United States.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported Hassan Rouhani made the comment late on Saturday.

Rouhani says he previously suggested a referendum to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2004, when he was a senior nuclear negotiator.

Such a referendum could provide political cover for the Iranian government if it chooses to increase its enrichment of uranium, prohibited under the 2015 deal with world powers.

President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal last year. In recent weeks, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have risen over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran.

Source: Fox News World

After five months in office, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is battling an uncooperative Congress, street protests, a family corruption scandal and falling approval ratings.

The stumbling start for the far-right leader who rode a wave of dissatisfaction with Brazil’s political class to victory has led his backers to organize demonstrations in support of him in cities across the country on Sunday. But the vaguely worded calls, representing a mixed bag of demands and protests, are being questioned by some in Bolsonaro’s political party and in right-wing movements. Bolsonaro himself has said he will not participate.

The idea for demonstrations in favor of Bolsonaro gained steam after tens of thousands of people across Brazil last week protested budget cuts to public education imposed by his government.

Source: Fox News World

With a message of unity, former Argentine President Cristina Fernández and running mate Alberto Fernández kicked off their election campaign almost a week after the ex-leader stunned the country by saying she was running for vice president.

Many thought Cristina Fernández, who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015, would head any presidential ticket and the news that she would play the undercard to her and her late husband’s one-time Cabinet chief came as a surprise. The ex-president was seen as the main challenger to President Mauricio Macri.

“I felt obliged to do this,” Cristina Fernández said to thousands of supporters ia a poor area in western Buenos Aires.

Fernández’s decision to only run as vice president has put a more moderate challenger at the helm of the Unidad Ciudadana ticket.

Source: Fox News World

With a message of unity, former Argentine President Cristina Fernández and running mate Alberto Fernández kicked off their election campaign almost a week after the ex-leader stunned the country by saying she was running for vice president.

Many thought Cristina Fernández, who governed Argentina from 2007 to 2015, would head any presidential ticket and the news that she would play the undercard to her and her late husband’s one-time Cabinet chief came as a surprise. The ex-president was seen as the main challenger to President Mauricio Macri.

“I felt obliged to do this,” Cristina Fernández said to thousands of supporters ia a poor area in western Buenos Aires.

Fernández’s decision to only run as vice president has put a more moderate challenger at the helm of the Unidad Ciudadana ticket.

Source: Fox News World

In an apparent contradiction of his national security adviser, President Donald Trump on Sunday downplayed recent North Korean missile tests, tweeting from Tokyo that they’re not a concern for him — even though they are for Japan.

Trump also said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s attacks on one of his Democratic rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, had made him smile.

The remarks were the latest example of Trump’s willingness to publicly undermine senior advisers, flout Democratic norms and side with totalitarian leaders, even on the world stage. He did so this time during a four-day state visit to Japan where he’ll become the first leader to meet with the country’s new emperor.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump tweeted in one of a flurry of early morning messages that suggested he’d spent little time sleeping after the lengthy flight to Asia.

“Some” of his “people” appear to include national security adviser John Bolton, who told reporters at a briefing Saturday ahead of Trump’s arrival that a series of short-range missile tests by North Korea earlier this month were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“In terms of violating U.N. Security Council resolutions, there is no doubt about that,” said Bolton, responding to the May 4 and 9 tests that ended a pause in launches that began in late 2017. Trump ignored a shouted question Sunday about whether he agreed with Bolton’s assessment.

Trump and other administration officials have sought to downplay the significance of the tests, insisting they do not violate an agreement Trump reached with Kim for a moratorium on launches.

“The moratorium was focused, very focused, on intercontinental missile systems, the ones that threaten the United States,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a recent television interview. That raised alarm bells in Japan, where short-range missiles pose a serious threat because of the country’s proximity to North Korea.

Trump in his tweet said he had “confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me,” while at the same time embracing Kim’s recent attacks on Biden, whose name he misspelled.

Trump said he “smiled” when Kim “called Swampman Joe Bidan a low IQ individual, & worse.”

“Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?” Trump asked.

North Korea this week labeled Biden a “fool of low IQ” and an “imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being” after the U.S. presidential hopeful accused Trump of cozying up to “dictators and tyrants” like Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin during his campaign launch speech.

Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday, but a spokesman for his campaign, Andrew Bates said Wednesday that, “Given Vice President Biden’s record of standing up for American values and interests, it’s no surprise that North Korea would prefer that Donald Trump remain in the White House.”

The tweet came early Sunday before Trump left his hotel for a round of golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He’ll also be attending a sumo wrestling match and handing out a “President’s Cup” to the winner as part of a visit meant to showcase the close ties between the nations.

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Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News World

Mexico’s minister of the environment presented her resignation to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Saturday, the second Cabinet resignation in less than a week, after receiving criticism for an air flight.

In a letter on her Twitter account, Josefa González-Blanco said she resigned because she delayed the departure of a flight that had waited for her to start a working trip.

López Obrador, who took office Dec. 1, has promised a government without privileges or corruption.

“There is no justification,” the minister of the environment and natural resources said in the letter. “The true transformation of Mexico requires a total congruence with the values of equity and justice. No one should have privileges and one’s benefit, even if it is to fulfill one’s functions, should not be put above the welfare of the majority.”

The delay of the flight for more than half an hour had generated criticism from other passengers and the media.

González-Blanco’s resignation comes four days after that of Germán Martínez Cázares, head of the Mexican Social Security Institute, the country’s main public health system. In his resignation, Martínez Cázares lashed out at health spending cuts.

López Obrador himself has gotten rid of his presidential guard and travels on commercial flights. On Tuesday, he said that since he imposed a rule requiring public officials receive approval for international trips, he has received about 100 petitions and approved only 20.

Source: Fox News World

Organizers of the Lord Jesus of the Great Power Festival, which fuses Andean and Catholic cultures, have chosen the queen to head the annual event which will mobilize 74,000 dancers and more than 4,000 musicians in the Bolivian city of La Paz.

Wearing the red skirt, white-fringed shawl and hat of the “la morenada” dance, Steffany Arriaza Cabezas took first place among 73 participants in voting that concluded early Saturday. She will lead festivities on June 21.

Arriaza represented “Morenada X of the Great Power,” one of the most traditional fraternities in the festival with more than a thousand dancers. The morenada is a folk dance born in the Andes and inspired by the slave trade in the region during the colonial era. Its influence has extended to Peru, Chile and Argentina in recent decades.

Each participant enters the catwalk performing the dance she represents. The judges take into account the dress and choreography, and the contestants have to answer questions.

The first place winner receives a kitchen; the second place participant a refrigerator and the third place dancer a microwave oven. The queen will preside over the festival, said Marina Isabel Salazar, president of the Association of Folkloric Groups.

On June 21, the dancers will descend the steep streets of the highland city of La Paz from the Jesus of the Great Power Catholic church, where the festival was born 49 years ago. Over the years, the festival has become a cultural icon for the city.

Source: Fox News World

Norway says representatives of the Venezuelan government and opposition have decided to return to Oslo for a mediation effort aimed at resolving the political crisis in the South American country.

Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday that the country would facilitate discussions next week.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Soreide praised both sides for their efforts.

Representatives of Venezuela’s political factions traveled to Norway earlier this month for talks, but it was unclear if they would continue to engage with one another.

The initiative came amid tensions that exploded in street violence when the opposition called in vain for a military uprising on April 30.

Source: Fox News World

New evidence has emerged linking the embattled head of Colombia’s army to the alleged cover-up of civilian killings more than a decade ago.

The documents, provided to The Associated Press by a person familiar with an ongoing investigation into the extrajudicial killings, come as Gen. Nicacio Martínez Espinel faces mounting pressure to resign over orders he gave troops this year to step up attacks in what some fear could pave the way for a return of serious human rights violations.

Colombia’s military has been blamed for as many as 5,000 extrajudicial killings at the height of the country’s armed conflict in the mid-2000s as troops under pressure by top commanders inflated body counts, in some cases dressing up civilians as guerrillas in exchange for extra pay and other perks.

What became known as the “false positives” scandal has cast a dark shadow over the U.S.-backed military’s record of battleground victories. Fifteen years later not a single top commander has been held accountable for the slayings.

Human Rights Watch in February harshly criticized President Ivan Duque’s appointment of Martínez Espinel, noting that he was second-in-command of the 10th Brigade in northeast Colombia during years for which prosecutors have opened investigations into 23 illegal killings. The rights group revealed that then Col. Martínez Espinel certified payments to an informant who led to “excellent results” in a purported combat operation in which an indigenous civilian and 13-year-old girl were killed. A court later convicted two soldiers of abducting them from their home, murdering them and putting weapons on their bodies so they appeared to be rebels.

Martínez Espinel at the time of the report said he had “no idea” if he had made the payments. “God and my subalterns know how we’ve acted,” he said.

But new documents from Colombia’s prosecutor’s office show that Martínez Espinel in 2005 signed off on at least seven other questionable payments. The documents were provided to the AP by someone on the condition of anonymity because they fear retaliation.

Some of the rewards, which never exceeded $500, went to supposed informants whose names and IDs didn’t match. In two cases, judicial investigators found the real beneficiary was soldier Oscar Alfonso, who would go on to be sentenced to 40 years for his role in a third, unrelated civilian killing. One hidden recipient was a former paramilitary commander sentenced to 15 years for extortion.

In another inconsistency, on two occasions Martínez Espinel vouched for information leading to fighting that the same documents show took place days later. Such was the case for a payment made on May 17, 2005 to an unnamed informant and which bears Martínez Espinel’s signature. The payment refers to combat with purported guerrillas on May 20 — three days later — in which an unidentified “no name” male was reported killed possessing a grenade and pistol.

“A decade ago, soldiers across Colombia lured civilians to remote locations under false pretenses — such as with promises of work — killed them, placed weapons on their lifeless bodies, and then reported them as enemy combatants killed in action,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “One can’t help wonder if any of the cockades in their uniforms, or the promotions throughout ‘successful’ careers, corresponds to the murder of innocent civilians committed over a decade ago.”

Martínez Espinel in a statement said he faces no criminal or disciplinary investigations. He said it was up to judicial authorities to evaluate the value of the documents bearing his signature but that during his time at the 10th Brigade he had no involvement or responsibility in combat operations, instead performing a purely administrative role.

“I always have been and will be ready to answer any questions by authorities,” he said.

Vivanco said it’s no surprise Martínez isn’t under investigation given authorities’ willingness to turn a blind eye to the responsibility of top commanders in the killing spree. While Colombian courts have convicted hundreds of low-ranking soldiers for their roles in the “false positive” murders, not a single general and only a handful of coronels have so far been convicted. Under international law, commanders can be held responsible for crimes carried out by subordinates that they knew about or should have known about.

Now there are reports that Martínez Espinel as army chief is looking to reinstate the policies that critics say led to the executions.

The New York Times reported recently that Martínez Espinel commanded troops to double the number of leftist guerrillas and criminals they kill, capture or force to surrender in combat. The new guidelines, made in writing at the start of Martínez Espinel’s tenure as army chief in January, raised concerns among unnamed officers cited by the Times about the heightened risk of civilian causalities.

Opponents of Duque have called for Martínez Espinel to resign, pointing to a number of suspicious killings and cover-ups by soldiers this year coinciding with the new orders. But the conservative leader has so far stood by the commander even while attempting to contain the damage.

“Zero tolerance for those who dishonor the fatherland’s uniform by committing crimes,” Duque said hours after the Times report sent shockwaves through the armed forces, one of Colombia’s most-respected institutions.

Meanwhile, in response to the Times article the armed forces rolled back part of the controversial policy requiring field commanders to pledge in writing to double their operational results against criminal gangs and holdout rebels who have filled the void left by a 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

They left unchanged, however, orders instructing officers not to “demand perfection” from sources, saying attacks on military targets should be launched when there is a “60-70% credibility” about the veracity of information.

On Friday, Duque announced the creation of a blue-ribbon panel to evaluate all military protocols and manuals to make sure they are in accordance with the government’s commitment to respecting human rights and international humanitarian law.

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Follow Goodman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APjoshgoodman

Source: Fox News World


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