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Renewed activity at N. Korea nuclear reactor ‘deeply troubling’

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(Last Updated On: August 30, 2021)

North Korea appears to have restarted a nuclear reactor that is widely believed to have produced plutonium for nuclear weapons, the U.N. atomic watchdog said in an annual report, highlighting the isolated nation’s efforts to expand its arsenal.

The signs of operation at the 5-megawatt (MW) reactor, which is seen as capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, were the first to be spotted since late 2018, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its report dated Friday, Reuters reported.

“Since early July 2021, there have been indications, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the operation,” the IAEA report said of the reactor at Yongbyon, a nuclear complex at the heart of North Korea’s nuclear programme.

More plutonium could help North Korea make smaller nuclear weapons to fit on its ballistic missiles, said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

“The bottom line is North Korea wants to improve the number and quality of its nuclear weapons,” he added.

While intelligence on North Korean nuclear weapons is limited, making it impossible to know their number, Albright estimated the country had the capacity to produce material for four to six bombs a year, Reuters reported.

The IAEA has had no access to North Korea since Pyongyang expelled its inspectors in 2009. The country subsequently pressed ahead with its nuclear weapons programme and soon resumed nuclear testing. Its last nuclear test was in 2017.

The IAEA now monitors North Korea from afar, largely through satellite imagery.

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Hezbollah says it won’t be dragged into war after Beirut bloodshed

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(Last Updated On: October 17, 2021)

The deadly clashes that broke out in Beirut on Thursday amounted to a “massacre” and its perpetrators should be held to account, the pro-Iranian al-Mayadeen TV cited a Hezbollah representative in the Lebanese parliament as saying on Sunday.

“What the criminals … did is a massacre and it will have important ramifications,” MP Hassan Fadallah said, according to the Beirut-based channel.

“Those who incited, planned … and opened fire should be held to account all the way up to the top.”

On Friday the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah said it would not be dragged into civil war even as it stepped up accusations against the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party it says killed seven Shi’ites in Beirut’s bloodiest street violence in years.

The accusation, denied by the LF, underlines worsening sectarian tensions after Thursday’s violence which began as people were gathering for a protest called by Hezbollah against the judge investigating last year’s Beirut port blast.

The probe into the catastrophic blast appears in increasing doubt, fuelled by a bitter political dispute over the lead investigator’s attempts to question officials who include Hezbollah allies.

The violence, which erupted at a boundary between Christian and Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhoods, has added to concerns for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling with one of the world’s sharpest ever economic meltdowns.

The Lebanese Forces condemned the violence on Thursday which it blamed on Hezbollah “incitement” against Judge Tarek Bitar, the investigator.

The sound of gunfire could be heard across Beirut during funerals on Friday.

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Police arrest suspect for brutal murder at India’s mass farmer protest

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(Last Updated On: October 17, 2021)

Police investigating the killing of a Sikh man at the site of an ongoing farmers’ protest in New Delhi said on Saturday they had arrested a suspect from a Sikh warrior sect, after the mutilated body was found strung up on a police barricade.

Authorities in India are investigating the brutal murder of man at one of the locations used by the nationwide mass protests by farmers there, that have rocked the country since last year, Reuters reported.

The body of a 35-year-old man was reportedly found mutilated and strung up to a police barricade at the site in New Delhi. The victim was beaten to death by a group of men who had accused him of desecrating religious texts, sacred to Sikhs.

One of the man’s hands was cut off.

A member of a Sikh warrior sect has been taken into custody. Most of the farmers involved with the protests in New Delhi — thousands of them — come from Punjab, which is dominated by Sikhs, Reuters reported.

A group that represents farmers’ organizations has condemned the killing. The ongoing protests are over changes to the law which deregulates the agriculture sector, although the protesters say it leaves them vulnerable to big business.

The prime minister’s political party says the murder shows the protest leaders are losing control of their movement.

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Saudi foreign ministry says discussed Iran nuclear program with US Blinken

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(Last Updated On: October 15, 2021)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington and exchanged views on Iran’s nuclear program and international talks on the matter, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“Had a productive meeting today with my friend Secretary Blinken, during which we discussed a range of issues of common interest & concern to both our nations & ways to strengthen our strategic partnership & cooperation on multiple fronts,” Al Saud said in a twitter post on Friday.

Al Saud also met the US Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, and discussed intensifying joint efforts against “Iranian violations of international treaties related to the nuclear agreement,” the Saudi foreign ministry said.

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