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If Europe wants to halt migrant boat arrivals on its shores from Africa it must end the state of chaos in Libya, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou told Reuters Thursday, warning that the stability of neighboring countries was at stake.

Niger is a country of transit for migrants seeking to reach Europe by boat from Libya, and Issoufou is an ally of the West in its fight against Islamist insurgents based in Mali and Nigeria.

On Wednesday, Issoufou said in a statement before talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel that his administration wanted more European assistance for Niger in the fields of security and development.

“On Libya for example, I expressed my wish that the chancellor support us so that together we can quickly find a solution to get out of the crisis in Libya because as long as Libya remains in the current chaos, the stability and the security of the Sahel countries is at stake,” he said.

He praised his country’s efforts to fight smugglers who make fortunes from sending people on the perilous journey to Europe, saying that clandestine migration had dropped from 100,000 people a year in 2016 to 10,000 this year.

But he said the success could not last as long as Libya remained in chaos.

The nation splintered following the 2011 NATO-backed revolt that toppled Moammar Gadhafi, and since 2014 has been divided between competing political and military groups based in Tripoli and the east.

Southern Niger, which borders Nigeria, has been the target of frequent deadly raids by Islamist Boko Haram militants.

It also shares borders with Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, where al-Qaida-linked groups are active. Libya, home to Islamic State affiliates, lies on its northern border. 

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Russia says the latest U.S. sanctions imposed on Russian, Chinese, and Singaporean companies are “destructive” and “useless.”  

The U.S. penalized the three companies Wednesday, accusing them of helping North Korea avoid international sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday the new U.S. sanctions come when “joint international efforts” are needed toward a settlement in North Korea. Moscow said the sanctions could undermine denuclearization talks.

The U.S. has accused a Chinese trading company and its affiliate in Singapore of falsifying documents aimed at easing illegal shipments of alcohol and cigarettes into North Korea. The companies are said to have earned more than $1 billion.

A Russian company was also sanctioned for providing port services to North Korean-flagged ships engaged in illegal oil shipments.

The sanctions freeze any assets the companies may have in the United States and bars Americans from doing business with them.

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An organization made up of the judiciaries of European Union states said  Thursday that it planned to suspend Poland, contending that political interference had rendered its legal system no longer independent of the government.

The European Network of Councils for the Judiciary’s (ENCJ) announcement added to widespread criticism of the nationalist government’s changes to the courts since coming to power in late 2015.

The ENCJ’s board said the Polish National Judiciary Council (KRS), which appoints judges and represents Poland at the ENCJ, “is no longer an institution which is independent of the executive and … guarantees the final responsibility for the support of the judiciary in the independent delivery of


The ENCJ, which advises the EU’s executive on upholding the rule of law in the bloc, will convene its members September 17 to decide whether to suspend the KRS.

The EU has several legal cases open against Poland for its overhaul of the judiciary, but the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party says the changes are needed to clear out the legacy of communism and make the courts more effective.

The president of Poland’s Supreme Court, Malgorzata Gersdorf, has defied a new law that forces her into early retirement and has called on the European Union to defend her country’s judiciary from government interference.

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The U.S. continued to press Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to release detained American Pastor Andrew Brunson, after a Turkish court Wednesday rejected a second legal appeal to release him from house arrest. And Turkey is pushing back hard, sharply raising tariffs on a range of American goods in retaliation to the tariffs imposed last week by President Trump. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from the State Department on deteriorating relations with a U.S. NATO ally.

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Two U.S. F-22 stealth fighter jets squared off in simulated dogfights with two of Norway’s expanding fleet of F-35 aircraft Wednesday as part of an exercise aimed at strengthening the NATO alliance and increasing its deterrent power.

The two U.S. F-22s are among 13 in Europe for a series of short-term deployments in places such as Greece and Poland, with further training missions planned in undisclosed locations in coming days.

The Norwegian deployment lasted one day but will lay the groundwork for NATO allies as they work to integrate their stealth warfare capabilities, Colonel Leslie Hauck, chief of the fifth generation integration division at the U.S. Air Force’s headquarters in Europe, told reporters in Norway.

The deployment is part of U.S. efforts to reassure European allies after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

F-35s arriving in Europe

Growing numbers of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35s are arriving in Europe as the world’s most advanced warplane and most expensive weapons program matures following a raft of cost increases and technical challenges in its early years.

“Every training opportunity that we have betters our readiness for any potential adversary of the future,” Hauck said at the Orland air base, home to six of Norway’s expected 52 F-35s.

Hauck leads a new office at Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany, that is working to ensure a smooth transition for about 40 F-35s scheduled to be in Europe by year’s end. The first of which are set to arrive in 2021.

Next month, a group of senior officials from the United States and seven other F-35 operator countries — Norway, Denmark, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Britain and the Netherlands — will meet to compare notes on the new warplane, which was first used in combat by Israel in May.

Better battlefield overview

The United States has more than 150 of the aircraft, whose sensors pilots say give them the most extensive overview of a battlefield of any combat jet available.

Norwegian Air Force Major Morten Hanche, who piloted one of the Norwegian F-35s, said the mock fight with the F-22s was great practice, especially since the F-35s generally surprise and overpower other nonstealth aircraft.

He declined to name the winning aircraft, saying only: “The F-22 is a very formidable opponent.”

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The United States said Wednesday that Bosnia’s autonomous Serb-dominated region was attempting to deny history by revoking a report that concluded that Bosnian Serb forces killed about 8,000 Muslims in and around Srebrenica during the country’s 1992-95 war.

The U.S. State Department said adoption by the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic) government of the 2004 report on the Srebrenica genocide had been an important reconciliation step.

Reconciliation step reversed

“The August 14 session of the Republika Srpska National Assembly is a step in the wrong direction,” a State Department statement said.

“Attempts to reject or amend the report on Srebrenica are part of wider efforts to revise the facts of the past war, to deny history, and to politicize tragedy. It is in the interest of the citizens of Republika Srpska to reverse the trend of revering convicted war criminals as heroes, and to ensure their crimes continue to be publicly rejected.”

A vote Tuesday by lawmakers in Bosnia’s Serb Republic to revoke the 2004 report was initiated by the region’s nationalist President Milorad Dodik, and some analysts say it is the latest issue used by Serb ruling parties to mobilize voters around the nationalist agenda ahead of elections in October.

Dodik, an advocate of the Serb region’s secession from Bosnia, has always rejected rulings by two war crimes courts, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and The International Court of Justice, that the Srebrenica atrocity qualified as genocide.

Official says scope overblown

Though acknowledging a crime occurred, Dodik says the numbers of those killed had been exaggerated in the 2004 report and it should have included Serb victims.

The parliament concluded that a new independent international commission should be formed to determine the damages suffered by all peoples in the Srebrenica region.

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British counterterrorism police say they believe they know the identity of the man they arrested Tuesday after he crashed a car into a group of pedestrians and cyclists outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

Authorities have not publicly identified the man, saying only he is a 29-year-old British national who is originally from Sudan.

He is being held on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act as well as attempted murder.

Police said Wednesday the priority for investigators remains figuring out the motivation behind the incident that injured three people. Two of those hurt were taken to the hospital for treatment, but both have since been released.

Officers have completed searches at two sites in Birmingham and one in Nottingham, and another search was ongoing Wednesday at another address in Birmingham.

London Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu told reporters on Tuesday that based on what authorities knew about the suspect so far it did not appear that he was someone previously known to British counterterror or intelligence agencies.

Prime Minister Theresa May wrote in a post on Twitter, “My thoughts are with those injured in the incident in Westminster and my thanks to the emergency services for their immediate and courageous response.”

President Donald Trump also reacted to the incident on Twitter, saying: “Another terrorist attack in London… These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!”

Last year, a man drove a car into pedestrians on nearby Westminster Bridge, killing four people there before stabbing to death a police officer outside parliament. Police shot that attacker dead.

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The United Nations on Wednesday welcomed Malta’s agreement to allow a European rescue ship carrying 141 migrants to dock at one of its ports after the vessel became the latest to stuck in a disagreement among various nations about what to do with people rescued at sea.

The U.N.’s refugee agency further commended France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain for joining Malta in taking in the migrants once they reach shore.

But the agency’s chief Filippo Grandi said the situation never should have existed, calling it “dangerous and immoral” that rescue ships are left to sit at sea while governments do their best to take as little responsibility as possible.

“There is an urgent need to break away from the current run of impasses and ad-hoc boat-by-boat approaches on where to dock rescued passengers,” Grandi said. “Only with clearly identifiable ports of safety will shipmasters feel confident when responding to distress calls that they’ll be able to promptly disembark passengers, and won’t become objects of lengthy negotiations.”

After initially refusing to let the Aquarius dock, Malta changed its mind when five other European Union nations agreed to take in the migrants. Malta called it a “concrete example of European leadership and solidarity.” 

The migrants to be given refuge across the EU include 141 from the Aquarius, and 114 others Malta rescued in the Mediterranean Monday.

France, which has agreed to take in 60 of the migrants, is thanking Malta “for its humanitarian gesture.”

“Maybe European states have finally understood that this concerns our common border at the south of Europe, that this is a problem for the 28 member states, and that we can’t avoid responsibility,” said Frederic Penard of the European rescue group SOS Mediterranee, which operates the Aquarius with Doctors Without Borders.

On Friday, the Aquarius picked up the 141 migrants who were stuck in unstable wooden boats off the Libyan coast.

SOS Mediterranee said most of the migrants came from Somalia and Eritrea and had been held in inhumane conditions in Libya before heading out to sea. Many were suffering from malnutrition.

Thousands of people from sub-Saharan Africa and countries such as Syria and Afghanistan try crossing the Mediterranean every year to escape war, terrorism and poverty for a better life in the European Union.

Italy had been the most popular destination for the migrants because its islands are closest to the coast of North Africa.

But Italy is refusing to accept any more, saying it has done enough and that other EU members must pitch in. 

It also said cooperating with private rescue ships like the Aquarius plays into the hands of human traffickers who get large sums of money and abandon their passengers at sea.

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