Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 25th 2015 Contents • Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, GERMANY---Pres-
ident Barack Obama will shorten his trip
to India and divert to Saudi Arabia, paying
respects after the death of King Abdullah
and meeting with the oil-rich nation s new
monarch, the White House said Saturday.
The scheduling shift, announced just
before Obama left Washington, underscores
the desert kingdom s pivotal role in US policy
in the Middle East, including the military
campaign against the Islamic State group.
Saudi Arabia s status as one of Washing-
ton s most important Arab allies has at times
appeared to trump US concerns about the
terrorist funding that flows from the king-
dom and about human rights abuses.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest
said Obama would meet on Tuesday with
King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and
other officials to "offer his condolences on
behalf of the American people."
The president called Salman from Air
Force One to express his sympathies on the
passing of his older brother. The White
House said the king welcomed the news
that Obama would be traveling to Riyadh.
Obama s pivot comes two weeks after the
White House faced criticism for not sending
a high-level representative to Paris for a
peace rally in the wake of terrorist attacks
in France. The White House later said it
was a mistake that someone with more
stature than the US ambassador to France
had not joined the dozens of world leaders
who marched arm in arm through the boule-
vards of Paris.
White House officials said Obama s stop
in Saudi Arabia was not influenced by the
Paris misstep, but it could keep similar crit-
icism at bay as other world leaders head to
Riyadh to offer condolences.
Obama s willingness to visit Saudi Arabia,
a country with ties to the terrorists behind
the September 11 attacks, could give critics
a fresh reason to question why the president
did not stand with Western allies in a sym-
bolic show of defiance against violent
The schedule change meant that Obama,
who was due to arrive in New Delhi on Sun-
day morning local time, would skip a visit
to the Taj Mahal, India s famed white marble
monument of love.
The rest of Obama s travel itinerary was
to remain intact, including meetings with
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a summit
with US and Indian business leaders, and
his participation in the annual Republic Day
festivities marking the enactment of India s
Modi, who took office in May, surprised
the White House by inviting Obama to
attend the parade as his guest, the first time
that honour has been bestowed on an Amer-
Given Obama s commitments in India,
the White House originally had said Vice
President Joe Biden would travel to Saudi
Arabia following the 90-year-old Abdullah s
death on Friday.
Officials said that as plans for Biden s
trip came together, they realised that the
window for the US delegation s visit coin-
cided with Obama s departure from India,
and they decided the president would make
the four-hour flight from New Delhi to
Riyadh. In keeping with Islamic tradition,
only Muslims attended Abdullah s funeral
Friday. Other Western leaders were making
plans to visit Saudi Arabia throughout the
Obama made an overnight visit to Saudi
Arabia last March and met with Abdullah
at his desert camp outside Riyadh. The king
was in frail health at the time and appeared
to be breathing with the help of an oxygen
Saudi Arabia has been a stalwart US part-
ner in the Middle East for decades. But
there have been signs of fissures during
Obama s tenure, with the Saudi royal family
growing frustrated with the White House s
cautious approach to the Syrian civil war
and skeptical of the president s diplomatic
overtures to rival Iran. The US has also
become less dependent on Saudi Arabia for
oil given production increases at home.
The fight against Islamic State extremists
in Iraq and Syria has brought about a more
typical alignment between Washington and
the Saudi government.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 25, 2015
KIEV, UKRAINE---Indiscriminate rocket fire
slammed into a market, schools, homes and
shops yesterday in Ukraine's southeastern city
of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people,
authorities said. The Ukrainian president called
the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the
US demanded that Russia stop supporting the
Ukrainian officials rushed to defend the
strategically important port on the Sea of
Azov, beefing up military positions with more
equipment and sending in more forces.
The separatists' top leader declared that an
offensive against Mariupol had begun---then
later toned down his threats as the scale of
the civilian casualties became clear.
President Petro Poroshenko held an
emergency meeting of his military officials and
cut short a trip to Saudi Arabia to coordinate
the government's response.
"The time has come to name their sponsors.
The help given to militants, weapons deliveries,
equipment and the training of manpower---is
this not aiding terrorism?" Poroshenko said in a
Russia insists it does not support the rebels,
but Western military officials say the sheer
number of heavy weapons under rebel control
belies that claim.
An AP reporter saw convoys of pristine
heavy weapons in rebel territory earlier this
The rocket attacks came a day after the
rebels rejected a peace deal and announced
they were going on a multi-prong offensive
against the government in Kiev to vastly
increase their territory. The rebel stance has
upended European attempts to mediate an
end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which
the UN says has killed nearly 5,100 people
Mariupol, a major city under government
control, lies between mainland Russia and the
Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula. Heavy
fighting in the region in the fall raised fears
that Russian-backed separatist forces would
try to capture city to establish a land link
between Russia and Crimea.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry said three
separate strikes from Grad multiple-rocket
launchers hit Mariupol and its surrounding
"The area that came under attack was
massive," Mariupol mayor Yuriy Khotlubei said.
"The shelling was carried out by militants.
This is very clearly Russian aggression that has
caused terrible losses for the residents of the
eastern part of our city."
The Donetsk regional government loyal to
Kiev said at least 30 people---including a 15-
year old girl and a five-year old boy---died in the
attacks. A Ukrainian military checkpoint near
the city was also hit and one serviceman was
killed, the Defense Ministry said.
The RIA Novosti news agency cited
Ukrainian rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko
as saying an offensive had begun on Mariupol.
He spoke as he laid a wreath Saturday where
at least eight civilians died when a bus stop
was shelled Thursday in Donetsk, the largest
rebel-held city in eastern Ukraine.
Zakharchenko swiftly backtracked, however.
He denied that his forces were responsible for
Saturday's carnage, saying it was caused by
Ukrainian error. He also said the Ukrainian
defenses positions around Mariupol would be
destroyed but the city itself would not be
Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian
city as rebels launch offensive
Indian men fold the US and Indian flags at a shop in Mumbai, India, yesterday. US President Barack Obama arrives in New Delhi today for
a three-day visit to talk with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to be the chief guest in India's Republic Day parade marked annually on
January 26. AP PHOTO
Obama to cut short India trip
to pay call on Saudi Arabia
Obama's pivot comes two weeks
after the White House faced
criticism for not sending a high-level
representative to Paris for a peace
rally in the wake of terrorist attacks
in France. The White House later
said it was a mistake that someone
with more stature than the US
ambassador to France had not joined
the dozens of world leaders who
marched arm in arm through the
boulevards of Paris.
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