Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 7th 2014 Contents A41
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LOS CABOS, Mexico: Heavy rains
brought by Hurricane Norbert
prompted hundreds of people to leave
their homes for higher ground as the
storm roared up the coast of Mexico's
Baja California peninsula yesterday.
Baja California Sur state Gov
Marcos Covarrubias urged people in
vulnerable areas to evacuate and said
travelers should stay off highways as
the storm passed by. He said most
government services would be closed
or restricted, and schools in Los
Cabos and La Paz were closed on
Friday. By yesterday morning, at least
2,000 people had been evacuated
from Los Cabos, La Paz and Comondu,
said the state government's civil
protection director Carlos Rincon.
Hurricane Norbert drenches Mexico
The presidents of Russia and Ukraine said yes-
terday that a ceasefire between Ukrainian gov-
ernment forces and pro-Russian separatists was
holding up fairly well and they discussed urgent
humanitarian aid for the shattered region.
Residents and combatants in eastern Ukraine
welcomed the respite in a five-month conflict that
has killed at least 2,600 people but said they did
not expect it to last.
"The two heads of state stated that overall the
ceasefire was being implemented ... (and) discussed
steps to achieve a permanent ceasefire," Ukraine's
Petro Poroshenko said.
The presidents also expressed support for the
full involvement of the Organisation for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a rights watch-
dog, in monitoring the ceasefire.
The Kremlin later put out a similar statement
on the talks.
Envoys of Ukraine, Russia, the separatist lead-
ership and the OSCE approved the ceasefire in
Minsk on Friday as part of a peace roadmap that
also includes an exchange of prisoners of war and
establishing a humanitarian corridor for refugees
Poroshenko agreed to the ceasefire after Ukraine
accused Russia of sending troops and arms onto
its territory in support of the separatists, who had
suffered big losses over the summer. Moscow
denies sending troops or arming the rebels.
In the days before the ceasefire, fighting had
been fierce in two hotspots---in rebel-held Donetsk,
the region's industrial hub, and also near the port
of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, where government
forces were trying to repel a major rebel offensive
backed---Kiev says---by Russian troops.
Poroshenko spent last Thursday and Friday at
a NATO summit in Wales at which US President
Barack Obama and other leaders urged Putin to
pull its forces out of Ukraine. NATO also approved
wide-ranging plans to boost its defenses in eastern
Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis.
The Ukraine conflict has revived talk of a new
Cold War as the West accuses Putin of deliberately
destabilising the former Soviet republic. Putin says
he is defending the interests of ethnic Russians
facing discrimination and oppression.
The European Union announced new economic
sanctions against Russia late on Friday over its
role in Ukraine but said they could be suspended
if Moscow withdraws its troops and observes the
conditions of the ceasefire.
Russia's foreign ministry responded angrily yes-
terday to the measures, pledging unspecified "reac-
tion" if they were implemented. Moscow responded
to a previous round of US and EU sanctions by
banning most Western food imports.
In eastern Ukraine, despite the ceasefire, few
expected the crisis to end anytime soon.
"This is no ceasefire but a theatre," said Donetsk
resident Ksenia. "This war will go on for five to
nine years. Slavs are killing Slavs, there can be
nothing worse than that." (Reuters)
Islamic State militants may have behead-
ed a captive Lebanese soldier, images pub-
lished on social media showed yesterday.
He would make the second Lebanese soldier
to be killed in captivity by the group since
it raided a Lebanese border town last month.
A caption posted with the images on a
Twitter account used to publish Islamic State
statements named the soldier as Abbas Medlij,
identifying him as a Shi'ite Muslim.
A Lebanese security source said Medlij
was one of 19 soldiers missing and believed
taken captive by Islamic State and other
Islamist insurgents who launched the incur-
sion into the border town of Arsal in August.
The source said the army was investigating
but could not confirm that he had been
Islamic State militants last week beheaded
another soldier taken captive in the same
incursion. After releasing a video showing
the execution of Ali al-Sayyed, a Sunni Mus-
lim, the group posted another video showing
nine other soldiers begging for their lives.
The militants want the release of Islamist
prisoners held at a Lebanese jail.
Some of the soldiers are being held by the
Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate that also
took part in the Arsal incursion. A number
of Lebanese policemen are also being held
by the militants.
The incursion marked the most serious
spillover to date of the Syrian civil war into
Lebanon and triggered five days of deadly
battles with the Lebanese army.
Islamic State has seized swathes of territory
in Iraq and Syria. The United States is assem-
bling an alliance to fight the group in neigh-
boring Iraq. US President Barack Obama
said on Friday key NATO allies stood ready
to join the United States in military action
to defeat the group in Iraq.
In the past two weeks, Islamic State
released two videos showing the beheadings
of American journalist James Foley and Amer-
ican-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff, saying
it was in retaliation for US airstrikes against
the group. (Reuters)
It took President Barack
Obama and his top aides a
week to explain that he does
in fact have a strategy for con-
fronting the Islamic State mil-
itancy. Now he has to prove
that he can make it work.
Obama has embarked on
building what is basically the
third major US-backed inter-
national coalition of the past 23
years to take on a challenge
emanating from Iraq. The other
two were constructed by former
presidents George HW Bush and
George W Bush against the late
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Obama's vision became clear-
er in the week since he drew
criticism for telling a White
House news conference that
"we don't have a strategy yet"
for taking on the militant
group's safe haven in Syria.
Clearly stung by the criticism,
Obama has been proceeding
with his usual caution in trying
to avoid a scenario in which air
strikes are launched but nothing
is done to address the political
challenges that have given rise
to Islamic State.
Obama, a reluctant warrior
adamantly set against repeating
what he considers the headlong
rush into war conducted by his
immediate predecessor, George
W Bush, is basing his coalition
on what a variety of countries
can bring to the table in dis-
mantling Islamic State and its
drive for a caliphate straddling
Iraq and Syria.
What US officials are unclear
on is whether Western allies and
Arab states will join the United
States in launching air strikes.
So far their emphasis has been
on plans to train, advise, assist
and equip Iraqi forces and mod-
erate Sunni rebels.
A central pillar of Obama's
strategy is to ensure Iraq's new
prime minister can form a unity
government soon, perhaps next
week, that shares power with
Sunnis so that they will be more
inclined to oppose Islamic State.
Obama would like Gulf Arab
states to consider military
action, but also to support Sunni
moderates in Iraq and Syria who
can challenge Islamic State for
supremacy. He also wants
Islamic State's sources of fund-
ing cut off.
And he wants NATO ally
Turkey to help prevent foreign
fighters who have sworn alle-
giance to Islamic State from
crossing through Turkey on their
way to their home countries,
where they might launch civilian
The next major milestone in
forming the coalition will come
later in September when Obama
convenes a security conference
on the fringes of the UN General
Assembly in New York.
"We must be able to have a
plan together by the time we
come to UNGA, we need to have
this coalesce," said Secretary of
State John Kerry. "We need a
clarity to the strategy, and a clar-
ity to what everybody is going
Kerry travels to Saudi Arabia
and Jordan next week for talks
with Gulf leaders to determine
whether they are prepared to
back up their anti-jihadist rhet-
oric with action.
Some may be able to partic-
ipate in military action as they
did in Libya and US officials are
trying to judge how each country
might be best placed to help, a
senior administration official said.
Obama was buoyed by a clear
unanimity from the alliance at a
NATO summit in Wales, feeling
it is proof that his deliberate
approach works. But the hard
part will be when the allies get
down to the specifics of who
"Our goal is to act with
urgency, but also to make sure
that we're doing it right," Obama
said on Friday.
Strategy against Islamic
State in hand, says Obama
Another Islamic State beheading?
Continues on Page A42
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