Ghani visit: Extra Australian troops to Afghanistan a ‘sovereign decision’

Afghanistan’s president insists Australia’s military commitment to his country is a “sovereign decision”.

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Dr Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has been in Canberra for two days of official talks including meetings with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne.

Australia has 270 defence personnel deployed mostly in the capital Kabul where they provide support and security along with some mentoring recruits at the Afghan National Military Academy.

Earlier this year, the US Army General John Nicholson, who leads American and international forces in Afghanistan, called for thousands more troops to advise Afghan forces on the ground to beat the stalemate.

Dr Ghani clarified that General Nicholson had requested about 5200.

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Asked if Australia should provide more troops, Dr Ghani said: “These are sovereign decisions.”

“We always defer to national authorities in terms of the decision-making process,” he told ABC radio.

Australia’s main base in Afghanistan had been in Uruzgan province, before the withdrawal in 2013.

The Taliban have now overrun that area.

But Dr Ghani insisted “temporary setbacks” should not be seen as reversals.

“It is not trending in the wrong direction,” he told ABC TV.

He acknowledged the threat of Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan and said authorities were dealing with them relentlessly.

“Given what has happened in Iraq and Syria, the likelihood of them migrating or jumping like cancer cells elsewhere is significant,” Dr Ghani said.

During the president’s visit thousands of Hazara protesters rallied in Canberra against a 2011 deal between Australia and Afghanistan to send failed Afghan asylum seekers back to their homeland.

Dr Ghani said it had not been a subject of conversations during his meetings with Australian government ministers.

He argued thousands of refugees had returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan in recent years and the level of participation in public life by Hazaras was increasing.

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Asked if Afghanistan would take back failed asylum seekers detained on Manus Island or Nauru, he said due process was important to follow.

“An Afghan who has gone through the full legal process has a right to return. We never refuse if the host country wants to expel them, then the due process should be observed,” he said, adding that international human rights agreements need to be taken into account.

Dr Ghani earlier on Tuesday marvelled at Australian-designed gadgets that are protecting his country’s soldiers and police from improvised explosive device attacks.

In the past two years, Australia has supplied 150,000 Redwing contraptions to Afghanistan security personnel with a further 34,000 to be delivered later this year.

The devices, which jam radio signals that can set off IEDs, cover both individuals and vehicles and are made in Brisbane.

“It’s truly amazing,” Dr Ghani said.

“You’ve taken the request to save lives extremely seriously.”

WATCH: Thousands of Hazaras protest Afghan president

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Party watchdog examines Hanson books

The electoral watchdog is examining claims Pauline Hanson’s One Nation may have breached disclosure laws.

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Former Queensland One Nation treasurer Ian Nelson told the ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday he urged Senator Hanson and chief of staff James Ashby to declare the use of an aircraft, but was told not to worry about it.

Mr Nelson also alleged Mr Ashby had pressured him to conceal the fact that Bill McNee, a Victorian property developer, had donated $70,000 to the party.

A spokesman for the Australian Electoral Commission said the information was “being reviewed in the context of the disclosure provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act”.

It is understood One Nation was already being looked at as part of a regular program of compliance reviews by the AEC.

Special Minister of State Scott Ryan, who has spoken with AEC commissioner Tom Rogers, is expected to have further talks with the commissioner in coming days.

Labor senator Murray Watt says the AEC needs to check whether electoral laws have been broken, in terms of One Nation’s financial disclosure obligations.

Senator Hanson’s office declined to comment on Tuesday when contacted by AAP.

Mr Ashby, a registered pilot, told Sky News on Tuesday his company had bought the plane and its use for party purposes had been properly declared.

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts insisted Senator Hanson may pay for the fuel on her trips.

“The use of the plane is declared as a gift in kind, everything above board,” he told Sky News.

“The plane was there before Pauline became a candidate.”

Senator Roberts also denied claims Mr Ashby ran a “dictatorship” within the party.

“He is very direct, very honest but he’s also personable and engaging. He doesn’t get rude and nasty unless someone wants to do that to him,” he said.

“He’s not a Peta Credlin (former prime minister Tony Abbott’s chief of staff) at all, he listens extremely well… he’s one of the best people I’ve ever worked with.”

Calls to break down barriers as young migrants face institutionalised prejudice

Advocates on Tuesday made recommendations to the Inquiry into Migrant Settlement Outcomes, to combat what they said were dangerous misconceptions.

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Youth Action, one the many groups that made a submission to the inquiry, said migrants continued to face prejudice, despite figures that indicated they may be less likely to commit crime.

“There is this idea they are a criminal or have some connection to criminal behaviour or anti-social behaviour of any way, shape or form,” CEO Kate Acheson said.

“Actually white young males are more likely to be committing crime than that particular community, and we are not seeing the vilification happening across the cultures, just these communities and we need to stop that.”

Youth ambassador for the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW Apajok Biar also believed many South Sudanese migrants were being unfairly linked to issues like gang violence, and that many people in her community were considered guilty until proven innocent.

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“People, [what] they see in the media is just a small percentage of the South Sudanese community,” Ms Biar said.

“There are so many of us achieving such great things and we are really contributing to Australia as a whole and they should really consider that, not just profile us because of what one person has done.”

When Tamara Mirzada was just 13 when she moved to Australia as an Afghani refugee.

“When I was growing up, I wore the hijab in high school and I faced a lot of discrimination and being called a terrorist when I just came here,” she said.

It’s something Tamana said happened daily within the Muslim community formed part of a phenomenon migrant support groups want to stop.

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Research from the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW found that young people in NSW who spoke a language other than English were less likely to be involved in crime than their English speaking counterparts.

Victorian youth born overseas were also less than half as likely to be alleged offenders compared with other young people.

Arash Bordar came to Australia as an Iranian refugee in 2015 and, in the years since, he said he has encountered prejudice and felt excluded from society.

“Sometimes when you are on the train they check your ticket and you’re the only one, they don’t ask everyone,” he said.

“We want to build the country with everyone together. But when we face the problems and all the challenges we have, it makes us a bit depressed.”

One of the recommendations made to the federal government was that migrant youth be able to access support services earlier, from the age of 12, instead of 15.

Advocates including Ms Acheson said earlier intervention is crucial.

“When you don’t have that they feel displaced, they feel devalued … that’s not really good.

“Young people will look for identity wherever they can find it,” Ms Acheson said.

There is currently no national record of crimes connected to ethnicity – something advocates are pushing to change.

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Lewis spearheads Windies to T20 win

Opening batsman Evin Lewis smashed 12 sixes in an unbeaten century as the West Indies beat India by nine wickets in a one-off Twenty20 international in Jamaica on Sunday.

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Lewis upstaged hometown hero Chris Gayle by smashing 125 not out off 62 deliveries, a run rate of more than two per ball as he scored the third-highest total in a T20 international.

West Indies won with nine balls to spare, making 1-194 off 18.3 overs in reply to India’s 6-190 at Sabina Park in Kingston, Lewis clinching the victory in style by sweeping spinner Ravindra Jadeja over the boundary rope.

The 25-year-old Trinidadian became the third player to score two T20 international centuries, after Gayle and New Zealander Brendon McCullum.

Only Australians Aaron Finch (156) and Glenn Maxwell (145 not out) have recorded higher scores.

Gayle, in his first appearance for the Windies since they won the World Twenty20 15 months ago, compiled a relatively subdued 18 off 20 balls, while Marlon Samuels chipped in with 36 not out.

The West Indies might have become easy-beats in Test cricket, but they showed on Sunday how dangerous they can be in the shortest version of the sport, especially with the bat.

“Five games in a row, in the ODIs, I didn’t do well but I kept believing in my ability and today I came out trumps,” Lewis said, referring to his slim pickings in the one-day international series that preceded the one-off T20.

West Indies captain Carlos Brathwaite revealed he had offered his batsmen a sweetener.

“Yesterday we asked for the batters to go out and express themselves,” Brathwaite said.

“I gave them the captain’s incentive, whoever goes and gets a 50 gets half my match fee. We wanted to put smiles on the faces of the fans.”

India captain Virat Kohli scored 39 off 22 balls as his team wrapped up their short Caribbean tour on a sour note after they won the ODI series 3-1.

“West Indies have a good T20 team,” Kohli said. “They have carried on with the same team for a couple of years, and in experimental stage we’ve had ups and downs.”

Lions boss Gatland holds head high

Warren Gatland believes he might be the only coach who could have guided the British and Irish Lions to their Test series draw with New Zealand.

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The Lions boss admitted there were times he hated the 2017 tour of his homeland, where the local media turned criticism personal on a number of occasions.

Gatland had always expected a certain level of flak as a Kiwi leading the tourists, but not the invective that came his way as the Lions won the second Test 24-21 and then drew Saturday’s final clash 15-15 to seal a share of the spoils.

However, the Wales boss conceded he knew the risks associated with taking the Lions head coaching job for a second-straight tour, especially after claiming a series win in Australia in 2013.

“I thought it was a hiding to nothing,” said Gatland of opting to lead the Lions for a second tour in succession.

“It is one of those positions that you are offered and it’s very difficult to walk away from.

“Trying to win in New Zealand is the ultimate challenge.

“When I reflected on it I felt if I wasn’t offered the position it would have been fine. Once I was offered the job you can’t walk away from that sort of challenge, particularly someone like myself when you are competitive.

“I think if anyone else had been doing it, we might not have drawn the series.”

The New Zealand Herald mocked up Gatland as a clown in a front-page caricature that upset the Lions boss given its direct personal nature.

Gatland has stated throughout the tour, however, that the Lions received a fine welcome from the New Zealand people – and he even insisted he maintains a good relationship with All Blacks boss Steve Hansen.

Gatland firmly believes he was able to turn his understanding of the New Zealand psyche to the tourists’ advantage, and will now leave the Land of the Long White Cloud feeling vindicated by his performance as Lions boss.

The Lions have still only ever won one Test series in New Zealand, back in 1971. But their 2017 draw now ranks as their second-most successful return against the All Blacks.

Quiet as southern Syria ceasefire begins ahead of Geneva talks

A monitor said clashes and shelling had halted in the three southern provinces covered by the truce, Daraa, Quneitra, and Sweida, as it went into effect at noon local time.

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The ceasefire deal was announced Friday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and comes as Syrian government and opposition delegations are due to attend a new round of talks in Geneva from Monday.

“The main fronts in the three provinces between regime forces and opposition factions have seen a cessation of hostilities and shelling since this morning, with the exception of a few scattered shells fired on Daraa city before noon,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The monitor said the ceasefire was holding by early Sunday evening. In Washington, US President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday that he was pleased fighting had not resumed.

“Syrian ceasefire seems to be holding. Many lives can be saved. Came out of meeting. Good!” he tweeted.

The Syrian regime had announced its own unilateral ceasefire on Monday but fighting had continued on front lines in the three provinces.

The ceasefire deal comes after regime allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey agreed during talks in May in the Kazakh capital Astana to set up four “de-escalation” zones in Syria.

Syrian ceasefire seems to be holding. Many lives can be saved. Came out of meeting. Good!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017

Implementation of that deal has been delayed as the three sides try to agree who will monitor the zones, one of which is located in southern Syria.

Rebels concerned

There has been no official comment from Syria’s government on the announcement, and there was no mention of the ceasefire on state television’s noon news bulletin.

The Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime, quoted the head of Syria’s parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee suggesting the agreement was negotiated in consultation with Damascus.

“No details on the agreement were presented, but the Syrian state has background on it,” Boutros Marjana told the newspaper.

“The final word on adding southern Syria to the ‘de-escalation’ zones belongs to the Syrian state, and there is coordination with Russia on that,” he added.

Smoke rise from Syrian village as a result of fighting near the city of Quneitra, in the Golan HeightsAAP

On Friday, before the ceasefire deal was announced, a delegation of rebel factions that attended talks in Astana expressed opposition to any ceasefire for just one part of the country.

In a statement, the factions said they were concerned about “secret meetings and understandings between Russia, Jordan and America on a deal for the south of Syria, separate from the north.”

Such an agreement “would divide Syria, as well as the delegation and the opposition, in two.”

‘Suitable atmosphere for talks’

The United States has largely stepped back from involvement in the diplomatic process to resolve the Syrian conflict since President Donald Trump took office in January.

Trump said he had discussed the conflict with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in a series of tweets on Sunday, two days after they met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

“We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”

Earlier on Saturday, Trump’s national security adviser HR McMaster had described ceasefire zones as “a priority for the United States”.

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Washington’s involvement in the agreement has been interpreted as a sign it may be cautiously re-engaging with efforts to end the war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Jordan borders the southern area covered by the truce and is a key supporter of the main moderate rebel faction there.

Israel, which has occasionally launched what it describes as retaliatory fire against government positions in Quneitra province, said it would “welcome a genuine ceasefire in Syria”.

“But this ceasefire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

A UN official on Saturday said the deal created positive momentum ahead of the Geneva talks resuming.

“It helps create a suitable atmosphere for the talks, and we will see that on Monday,” said Ramzi Ezzedine Ramzi, deputy to UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.

Expectations for the seventh round of UN-sponsored talks remain low however, with little prospect of a major breakthrough.

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Respect earned at home, Gatland ponders third Lions tour

The 53-year-old now has a Lions coaching record rivalled only by the great Ian McGeechan after leading the tourists to a triumph in Australia four years ago and the stalemate with the All Blacks in an epic series over the last three weeks.

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The Lions lost the first test 30-15, won the second 24-21 and drew the third 15-15 to share the series.

After speaking at length of his pride at what the squad had achieved in rugby’s “ultimate challenge”, and how he thought they had earned respect in his homeland, the New Zealander was asked about his own future.

He reaffirmed that the 2019 World Cup would bring an end to his time in charge of Wales before being asked whether he might want to complete “the set” of Lions tours in 2021.

“There’s a possibility that there’s an opportunity there again, and it’s something that you might consider,” Gatland, looking a little bleary-eyed after a late night out celebrating the end of the tour, told reporters at the team hotel on Sunday.

“Obviously the South Africa thing’s a little bit easier in terms of the timeframes and stuff and travelling. But we’d hope we don’t let the next four years go before we start planning and putting things into place.

“Those discussions need to happen now, about just having some reasonable preparation time,” he added..

“I’m not being stupid, as a coach, I wouldn’t be asking for a month. I think just a week in the UK or Ireland beforehand and a week in South Africa before the first game is reasonable.

“And maybe not have a midweek game in the first week before the test so we can prepare properly. Hopefully the powers in the game will act to preserve something that is special.”

One thing Gatland would be unable to bring to bear in South Africa would be the knowledge of the local psyche he thought had been vital to the squad’s success against the world champions.

“I think if anybody else was doing it then we probably might not have drawn the series,” he said.

“I think you’ve got to reflect on that and say that’s a pretty good achievement in terms of playing the best team in the world in their own backyard and drawing the series, particularly having lost the first test,” he added.

“We all said how important it was to win that first test, so to win the second test and draw the third was a great achievement.”

“SIGN OF RESPECT”

Gatland said his ears had pricked up last week when he heard opposite number Steve Hansen talking about how “the sun would still come up” if New Zealand lost the third test.

“Those were comments you don’t hear very often coming out of the All Blacks camp,” he said.

“I think we’d earned that respect for them to make those sort of comments. The thing about the All Blacks is they never worried about the opposition, always about themselves, always picked a team for themselves.

“We felt that we’d forced them to play a bit differently, they’d picked a team to combat some of our strengths and they don’t normally do that. And I think that’s a sign of respect for what we’ve achieved as a team.”

It was an immensely tough tour, Gatland said, which he “hated” at times, especially when he was the subject of personal attacks from the local media which he found “hard to take”.

The experience the Lions players had accumulated in the heat of the battle on the 10-match tour, he thought, would hold them in good stead when they faced the All Blacks again in the colours of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

“You get belief and confidence from performances. The mind is pretty powerful in that regard,” he said.

“For a lot of those players that have now beaten the All Blacks, drawn with the All Blacks, they can start communicating how to do that as players.

“What’s great about some of these players is that they have now been on two Lions tours and they haven’t been beaten. That’s something pretty special and something they can hold onto.

“And for some of them, they can start thinking about South Africa in four year’s time.”

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Brazilian port where slaves arrived given UNESCO status

The Valongo wharf in Rio de Janeiro where slaves from Africa first arrived in Brazil has been added to the list of World Heritage sites, UNESCO announced on Sunday.

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The committee of the UN cultural body, meeting in Krakow, Poland, said Valongo was a reminder of the estimated 900,000 Africans who were brought there by slave traders starting in 1811.

The old stone wharf “is the most important physical trace of the arrival of African slaves on the American continent,” UNESCO said on its website.

For Valongo, the world heritage honour makes it a twin with Ile de Goree, a small island near Dakar harbour that was chosen in 1978 as the emblem of the departure points for slaves from west Africa on their way to the Americas.

Valongo deserved the recognition like Auschwitz and Hiroshima “to make us remember those parts of the history of humanity that must not be forgotten,” historian Katia Bogea, head of Brazil’s national heritage institute (IPHAN) told the UNESCO committee.

Today the Valongo site is not on the water, but well inland, following expansion of the original city. The remains were only discovered by accident in 2011 during massive works to refurbish the port area for the 2016 Olympics.

Historians had known that this was the area where the biggest slave trade in the Americas was centred, but few Brazilians were aware. Nearby, a couple discovered by chance that their house was sitting on a mass grave of what could be tens of thousands of slaves.

Valongo is where the slaves, often emaciated and sick after the voyage, were taken to be quarantined, sorted and sold.

“It’s a unique memorial, containing the last remaining vestiges of the slaves’ arrival,” anthropologist Milton Guran recently told AFP.

Guran also pointed to a far reaching consequence to UNESCO status: “It will oblige Brazil to recognize its African roots” and will also encourage educational tourism.

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‘Time’s up’: Australia urged to join nuclear weapons ban

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who attended the negotiations in New York, said it was “an incredibly powerful moment”.

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“It’s the large majority of the world states telling the nuclear weapons states that ‘time’s up’, that it’s time things changed,” he said.

More than 120 countries on Friday approved the first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons at a UN meeting in New York boycotted by all nuclear-armed nations.

Australia did not play any part in shaping the treaty.

Campaigners against nuclear weapons are urging the Australian government to stop clinging to the belief the country will be protected by the US having weapons of mass destruction.

Doing so sends the wrong signal to countries like North Korea at a time when the world is grappling with the possibility of the hermit nation developing nuclear weapons capable of hitting Australia or the United States, they say.

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The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) wants the Turnbull government to sign Australia up to a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons during the United Nations general assembly leaders week in September.

“There are people in Canberra and elsewhere who believe that Australia is protected by US nuclear weapons,” ICAN Asia-Pacific director Tim Wright said.

“If we’re saying nuclear weapons are essential for our security, then how can we say that North Korea shouldn’t rely on nuclear weapons also?

“It’s an incitement to proliferate.”

Senator Ludlam said defusing the situation is the best answer, and criticised G20 members for not using the summit to discuss the issue further.

“I think it could’ve been a great opportunity, but there is no doubt that it was an opportunity squandered.”

The treaty will be open for signatures as of September 20, and will come into force once 50 nations have ratified it.

Mr Wright believes it will be difficult for Australia to resist the clear international movement on the ban for too much longer, citing domestic support for the policy.

Within hours of negotiations concluding, a joint statement from the United States, Britain and France rejecting the treaty was issued.

They said the treaty “offers no solution” to either North Korea, nor to any other security challenges.

Senator Ludlam has described it as misguided.

“The logic in there is hideously flawed”, he said.

“We know we’ve got a steep hill to climb but the alternative is quite literally unthinkable.”

— With AAP

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Iraq declares victory in ‘liberated’ Mosul

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office said he was in “liberated” Mosul to congratulate “the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people on the achievement of the major victory,” three years after IS declared its self-styled caliphate from the city.

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The fighting did not seem to be completely over, with gunfire and explosions still audible in the city, but Abadi’s arrival had been expected for days as a signal of the formal end of the battle for Mosul.

The victory comes at an enormous cost: much of Iraq’s second city in ruins, thousands dead and wounded, and nearly a million people forced from their homes.

And enormous challenges lie ahead, not just in rebuilding Mosul but in tackling the continued presence elsewhere of IS, which remains a potent force.

Photographs released by his office showed Abadi dressed in a black military uniform and cap, shaking hands with police and army officers.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, holds a national flag upon his arrival in Mosul, Iraq.AAP

His office said Abadi held meetings with commanders in Mosul and issued a series of commands on “sustaining victories and eliminating the defeated remnants” of IS, as well as “establishing security and stability in the liberated city.”

Victory for all Iraqis’ 

Iraqi forces celebrated, waving flags and flashing victory signs, after Abadi arrived in the city.

“This victory is for all Iraqis, not just for us,” Mohanned Jassem, a member of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, told AFP at the police base where Abadi met commanders.

Jassem, who fought in most of the other main battles of the war against IS, said Mosul was the toughest.

“I took part in fighting in Ramadi and Tikrit and Salaheddin and Baiji and Al-Qayara… but the fighting here in (IS’s) stronghold was the most violent,” he said, an Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders.

IS swept across much of Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland in a lightning offensive in mid-2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” straddling Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

Imposing its strict interpretation of Islamic law, the group committed widespread atrocities and organised or inspired deadly attacks in Iraq, Syria and abroad.

رئيس مجلس الوزراء يتجول وسط المواطنين في الجانب الايسر من الموصل قادما له من الجانب الايمن عبر نهر دجلة ويصل الى مبنى محافظة نينوى. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/vT77rfz4aM

— PM Media Office (@IraqiPMO) July 9, 2017

A US-led coalition launched military operations against IS in Syria and Iraq in mid-2014, carrying out waves of air strikes against the jihadists and sending advisers to work with local ground forces.

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country is a key part of the coalition, was among the first world leaders to offer his congratulations.

“Mosul liberated from Daesh,” he tweeted, using an Arabic acronym for IS. “Homage from France to all those, with our troops, who contributed to this victory.”

IS has lost most of the territory it once controlled and after Mosul the coalition is aiming to oust the jihadists from their Syrian stronghold Raqa, which is under assault by US-backed Arab and Kurdish forces.

Iraqi forces launched their campaign to recapture Mosul in October, seizing its eastern side in January and launching the battle for its western part the next month.

But the fight grew tougher when Iraqi forces entered the densely populated Old City on the western bank of the Tigris River that divides the city.

In recent days, security forces have killed jihadists trying to escape their dwindling foothold in Mosul, as Iraqi units fought to retake the last two IS-held areas near the Tigris.

Earlier Sunday Iraq’s Joint Operations Command had said it killed “30 terrorists” trying to escape across the river.

Even in the final days of the battle, thousands of civilians remained trapped inside the Old City and those who fled arrived grief-stricken after losing relatives in jihadist sniper fire and bombardments.

The United Nations said this week that since October around 915,000 residents had fled Mosul, which had a population of two million three years ago.

Not yet ‘the death knell’ 

The recapture of Mosul will not mark the end of the threat posed by IS, which holds territory elsewhere in Iraq and is able to carry out frequent bombings in government-held areas.

In Iraq it holds towns including Tal Afar and Hawijah in the north, as well as a stretch of territory in western Anbar province.

It also continues to hold significant territory in Syria including Raqa, where the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are battling to oust the jihadist group after penetrating its fortified historic centre.

Analysts warned that while the loss of Mosul was a major blow to the jihadists it was not yet a fatal one.

“We should not view the recapture of Mosul as the death knell for IS,” said Patrick Martin, Iraq analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

“If security forces do not take steps to ensure that gains against IS are sustained for the long-term, then IS could theoretically resurge and recapture urban terrain,” he said.

Related’More to do’

The European Union on Sunday hailed the defeat of IS in Mosul as a “decisive step” in fighting terrorism but called on Iraqis to work together to improve their country.

“The recovery of Mosul from the hands of (IS) marks a decisive step in the campaign to eliminate terrorist control in parts of Iraq and to free its people,” the EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and its aid commissioner Christos Stylianides said in a joint statement.

But they urged Iraqis to pick up the pieces of their country, parts of which were easily overran by IS three years ago.

“It is now essential that a process of return and the re-establishment of trust between communities begins, and that all Iraqis are able to start building a shared future,” they said.

Britain’s Defence Minister Michael Fallon praised Iraq on Sunday for defeating IS in Mosul but warned that more has to be done to combat the jihadists.

0:00 Iraqi troops celebrate as Mosul battle nears end Share Iraqi troops celebrate as Mosul battle nears end

“I congratulate Prime Minister (Haider) Abadi, and the Iraqi forces who have been fighting on the ground with great bravery and care against a brutal opponent,” Fallon said in a statement.

But “there is still more to do” around the city and in the broader region, Fallon said.

“This barbaric group remains dug in west of the Euphrates and clearing operations in and around Mosul will be needed because of the threat from improvised explosive devices,” he added.

IS still controls swathes of western Iraq including much of the desert Anbar province and rival forces, which largely cooperated against the jihadists in Mosul, are expected to compete for a share of the spoils.

No contingency plan in place for Slater

Queensland captain Cameron Smith has all but confirmed Billy Slater will play in Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium.

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And the Maroons leader has given his strongest hint yet that he believed the veteran fullback would play on in 2018.

Smith said no contingency plan was in place for Slater after the 34-year-old pulled up well from rolling his ankle at training on their Gold Coast camp on Sunday.

The veteran of 41 Origins said Slater would be given until the last minute to prove his fitness for what may be his final game for Queensland and would not be required to take part in Tuesday’s captain’s run.

Off contract Melbourne No.1 Slater is yet to confirm whether he will play on in 2018 ahead of his 29th Origin.

“I would much rather prefer him being ready for Wednesday than him being forced into a captain’s run,” Smith said of Slater.

“But I saw him this morning and he is walking around. He said he had done a few hops on the ankle – I think he will be right to play.

“He put a scare through the camp yesterday but seeing how good it has pulled up he is confident of playing on Wednesday.”

Slater and Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk are expected to make an announcement on their Origin future after Queensland attempt to seal their 11th series win in 12 years.

“Hopefully we’ll find out after this series is done where Cooper’s at for next year, Bill’s a bit different,” Smith said.

“I think he’s very keen to play on it’s just whether he feels his body’s up to it.

Slater’s injury looked set to spark a back-line reshuffle that slotted five-eighth Cameron Munster to No.1 and fellow debutant Ben Hunt from the bench to pivot.

However, Smith said Queensland coach Kevin Walters was sticking with the Maroons playing as per program on Wednesday night.

Walters on Monday echoed Smith’s confidence about Slater.

“I think he got more of a scare than anything,” Walters told Sky Sports Radio on Monday of Slater’s incident.

“It was that ankle he injured against the Sharks about a month ago and just maybe tore a bit more scar tissue off there or something.

“If he’s in some sort of doubt, yeah, we’ll have to bring someone. But I think Bill’s going to be okay to be honest.”

Walters confirmed he’d given star NRL playmakers Munster and Michael Morgan permission to rotate between five-eighth and centre during game three.

“They’ve got a licence to do that if they feel that’s necessary. But we’re comfortable with Cameron (at five-eighth),” Walters said.

Trump says time to work ‘constructively’ with Russia

While ruling out easing sanctions so long as the two countries remain at odds over Syria and Ukraine, Trump said it was time for US-Russia relations to move forward, even though members of his own party said he should be mulling new punishments.

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Two days after his first face-to-face talks with his Russian counterpart, Trump said he had confronted Putin when they met in Germany over evidence from the intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled in the US elections.

Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017

“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election,” he said of Friday’s meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg. “He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..”

But after saying that he had called out Putin over the election, Trump said they could work together on some areas, including on Syria, where he said a ceasefire which began on Sunday would “save lives.”

I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017

“Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”

In a series of early-morning tweets on his return from Europe, Trump said he and Putin had talked about the idea of setting up what he called “an impenetrable cyber security unit” to prevent hacking in future elections.

‘Dumb idea’ 

But senior Republican senators, including former presidential candidate John McCain, poured scorn on the idea.

Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate’s armed services committee, said on NBC that the cyber idea was “not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.”

0:00 US Republican Senator Linsey Graham on Trump-Putin cyber unit Share US Republican Senator Linsey Graham on Trump-Putin cyber unit

Voice dripping with sarcasm, McCain told a CBS interviewer that he was “sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort, since he’s doing the hacking.”

The US and Russian sides have issued sharply conflicting accounts of Friday’s meeting, with Putin saying on Saturday that Trump had been “satisfied” by his denials of any Russian interference in the polls.

The US president has previously equivocated over whether Russia did try to tilt the outcome of last November’s election contest against Hillary Clinton in his favor, amid an investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign team actively colluded with Moscow.

So his public assessment that Russia did meddle has triggered calls to bring in more sanctions.

“So far they have not paid a single price for that,” McCain said.

Moscow has warned that a program of existing sanctions, which were mainly imposed over Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine, threatens their whole relationship.

Asked on Sunday whether new sanctions were in the pipeline, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told ABC television: “We have sanctions that are already on the table and we expect to enforce those sanctions.”

Mnuchin also insisted that Russia and the US could work together on cyber security.

‘Strategic alliance’ 

“What we want to make sure is that we coordinate with Russia, that we’re focused on cyber security together, that we make sure that they never interfere in any democratic elections,” he said.

“This is like any other strategic alliance, whether we’re doing military exercises with our allies or anything else. This is about having capabilities to make sure we both fight cyber (crime) together, which I think is a very significant accomplishment for President Trump.”

Syria has been a particular source of friction between the two countries, as Russia is a close ally of President Bashar al-Assad. 

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Moscow was furious when the Trump administration launched a cruise missile strike against Syrian forces in April, in retaliation for what Washington said was a chemical weapons attack by Assad’s regime against civilians.

While saying sanctions were not discussed at the meeting with Putin, Trump indicated that Moscow could not expect any relief “until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved.”

But while the brokering of a Syria ceasefire by the two countries — along with Jordan — means that one area of friction could be eased, the differences over Ukraine remain stark. 

Speaking on a visit to Ukraine, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Russia to take action to ease the bloody separatist conflict in the country’s east, which Kiev and the West believe is being fueled by Moscow.

“It is necessary for Russia to take the first step to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine,” Tillerson said as he made his first visit as Washington’s top diplomat to Kiev.

Schauffele British Open-bound after Greenbrier victory

He described the victory as life-changing after carding a closing 67 to finish at 14-under-par 266, edging fellow American Robert Streb by one stroke.

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Another American, Jamie Lovemark, and Colombian third round leader Sebastian Munoz finished two behind.

All four players qualified for the British Open at Royal Birkdale in two weeks.

Davis Love, 53, seeking to became the oldest winner on tour, faded with a 75 after starting the day four strokes off the pace.

For much of the back nine on Sunday it looked like nobody wanted to win, as the four contenders, with only one victory between them on tour, stumbled one after another, before Schauffele came through with two birdies in the final three holes for his maiden triumph.

Schauffele, 23, said his self-belief was boosted by a tie for fifth at the U.S. Open three weeks ago.

“The U.S. Open was a huge moment in my career,” he told reporters. “It kind of gave me the confidence and allowed me to play and win this week.”

Not that he did not have his nervous moments on Sunday in what was only his 23rd start on tour.

“I felt very nervous kind of late in the round. I tried to back to the basics, close my eyes and take some deep breaths.”

Schauffele comes from strong sporting stock. His father Stefan was a promising decathlete whose international dreams were dashed when he suffered a serious eye injury in a car crash.

Stefan subsequently moved to the United States and married a woman from Taiwan, the couple settling in southern California.

Schauffele acknowledged the role of his father in his development.

“He kind of put me on some plan of his and I would say we’re trending,” he said.

“It’s slowly sinking in. I had a couple minutes to myself in the locker room, but it’s just been an incredible feeling and it’s honestly just a dream come true.”

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris/Peter Rutherford)