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N. Korea resumes nuclear saber-rattling

PYONGYANG, North Korea, June 15 (UPI) -- North Korea resumed nuclear saber-rattling after proposed ministerial-level peace negotiations with South Korea failed to materialize, diplomats said.

The negotiations were a product of a working group's proposal but barely got out of the starting gate following a breakdown during delegation nominations, the International Business Times said.

North Korea, using a state-run newspaper, said the South's "reckless" military training with the United States would lead to all-out war on the peninsula.

"As long as the United States and South Korean puppets continue with nuclear threats and threats of war against us, we will ... strengthen nuclear deterrence through every possible means," the newspaper said.

The North had quieted its threats over the past few weeks amid the peace talks, after conducting a third nuclear test earlier this year despite harsh rhetoric from the West and the North's ally, China, not to do so.

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Lavrov: No-fly zone in Syria would be illegal

MOSCOW, June 15 (UPI) -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, saying he doubts Syria has used chemical weapons, warned Saturday that a no-fly zone would violate international law.

Lavrov spoke to reporters after a meeting with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino, RIA Novosti reported. President Obama said Friday the United States plans to provide arms to the Syrian rebels, arousing speculation he would also push for a Syrian no-fly zone.

"You don't have to be a great expert to realize that this will be a violation of international law. We hope our American colleagues will direct all their practical activity into implementing a joint U.S.-Russian initiative to convene a conference devoted to improving the situation in Syria," Lavrov said.

In a statement Friday, Lavrov suggested that U.S. military aid to the rebels would simply increase the level of violence in Syria. On Saturday, he said the government of President Bashar Assad might actually use chemical weapons.

"Right now the regime is not against the wall; the regime, as the opposition itself is saying, is seeing military success on the ground," he said. "Why would the regime use chemical weapons, especially in such small quantities? Just to expose itself? From a military point of view, it makes no sense."

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N. Korea accuses S. Korea of 'confrontation'



SEOUL, June 15 (UPI) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye has maintained the same "policy of confrontation" as her predecessor, North Korea said Saturday.

Rodong Sinmun, the largest newspaper in the north, made the charge on the 13th anniversary of a summit agreement for greater cooperation between the two Koreas, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported.

President Lee Myung-bak, who was in office from 2008 until Park took over earlier this year, had a harder position on North Korea, which effectively ended the agreement.

Also Saturday, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se held a meeting in Singapore with the country's mission chiefs in Southeast Asia to discuss aid to North Korean defectors. Some North Koreans use Laos and other southeast Asian countries as routes to South Korea, and nine young defectors were recently returned to North Korea after being arrested in Laos.

About 25,000 North Koreans have made their way to the south since the armistice that ended the Korean War. Most have done so by way of third countries instead of by crossing the heavily fortified border.

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Mubarak, 2 former ministers fight $77 million fine

CAIRO, June 15 (UPI) -- An Egyptian court has delayed the appeal of former President Hosni Mubarak, who is trying to avoid part of a $77 million fine.

Mubarak and two of his former ministers, Ahmed Nazif, who served as prime minister, and Habib El-Adly, the interior minister, were collectively fined $77 million for hurting the Egyptian economy, Ahram Online reported. The fine was imposed for an 18-day cut in Internet services during the 2011 demonstrations that led to Mubarak's ouster.

The Supreme Administrative Court scheduled a hearing on the appeal for July 1.

Mubarak won an appeal after being sentenced to life in prison for ordering the killing of protesters. He is currently being tried again.

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Egypt ups the ante on Nile dispute with Ethiopia

CAIRO, June 6 (UPI) -- Egypt's dispute with Ethiopia over the Nile River has gotten sharper with calls by political leaders for direct action to stop Addis Ababa from building a massive dam Cairo says will cut off water on which the Land of the Pharaohs depends for survival.

An independent panel of experts reported Sunday Ethiopia's $4.7 billion Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile will not significantly affect Egypt and neighboring Sudan.

But that does not seem to have pacified the Egyptians who under a 1929 colonial-era agreement get the lion's share of the Nile's flow of 85 billion cubic meters a year and refuses to surrender any of it.

The Ethiopians' massive hydroelectric dam, 20 percent built, would reportedly cut that by 18 billion cubic meters annually, which Cairo says is well below the minimum it needs for its 82 million people.

Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile May 29 to allow the main dam wall of the planned 6,000 megawatt hydroelectric project to be built.

That caused consternation and anger in Cairo about the long-term threat to irrigation and electricity supplies.

At a meeting Monday of Egyptian political leaders hosted by President Mohamed Morsi, several politicians, unaware the gathering was being televised live called for hostile action against Addis Ababa, including sabotage and attacks by local insurgents.

Younis Makhyoun, leader of an ultra-conservative Islamist party, urged the government to retaliate by supporting Ethiopian rebels, or as a last resort, "using the intelligence service to destroy the dam."

This is just the latest chapter in a long confrontation over the Nile between Cairo, backed by neighboring Sudan, and Ethiopia and several other upstream African states over sharing the Nile's waters.

Ethiopia is particularly proprietorial since the Blue Nile, a major tributary of the world's longest river, starts in the Ethiopian highlands.

In the Arab world, where conspiracy theorists thrive, many see the Ethiopian action as an African plot against the Arabs.

In February, Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, declared Riyadh takes a dim view of Ethiopia's ambitious dam-building on the Nile.

He accused Addis Ababa of seeking to harm Arabs, and ventured: "There are fingers messing with the water resources of Egypt and Sudan which are rooted in the mind and body of Ethiopia. They do not miss an opportunity to harm Arabs."

There has been no shortage of accusations of subterfuge and intrigue by both camps.

In November 2010, the late Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi boasted he would swiftly vanquish any attempts by Cairo to use military force.

"I'm not worried that the Egyptians will suddenly invade Ethiopia. Nobody who has tried that has lived to tell the story."

In August 2012, WiliLeaks quoted an alleged 2010 internal email from the U.S. global security consultancy Stratfor in which an unidentified "high-level Egyptian security/intel source in regular direct contact with" then President Hosni Mubarak and his late intelligence chief, Gen. Omar Suleiman, spelled out Cairo's military options.

"If it comes to a crisis," the source wrote, "we will send a jet to bomb the dam and come back in one day, simple as that.

"Or we can send out Special Forces to block/sabotage the dam. Look back at an operation Egypt did in the mid-late 1970s, I think 1976, when Ethiopia was trying to build a large dam.

"We blew up the equipment while it was traveling by sea to Ethiopia. A useful case study."

Another reported plan by Egypt was coordinating with southern neighbor Sudan, which would also be affected by the Ethiopian dam, to build a military base in its territory from which to bomb the Grand Renaissance and other Ethiopian dams.

The secret base, according to other sources, would be located at Kursi in the western Darfur region.

The dictatorial Meles is reported to have drawn up plans to attack Egypt's Soviet-built Aswan Dam on the Nile, believing a regional version of the Cold War's threat of mutual assured destruction would prevent open warfare.

In May, there were media reports the Ethiopian regime had released insurgent prisoners from the Benshangul People's Liberation Movement which operates out of Sudan, as part of a peace process aimed at protecting the Grand Renaissance Dam from attack.

The guerrillas had earlier threatened to attack the dam, which is near the Sudanese border.


Brazil grapples with indigenous land protests

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 6 (UPI) -- Brazil's simmering conflict with indigenous communities boiled over this week after rioting over long-standing claims the government's zeal for development has encroached on sacred ancestral land of native Indian tribes.

At least one person was killed in a related shooting.

The conflict is embarrassing for President Dilma Rousseff as her administration mounts a global public relations exercise to brush up the Latin American country's image before the FIFA World Cup next year and the 2016 Olympics.

The government is also anxious to avoid the indigenous people's protests becoming part of the ongoing agenda of issues pursued by Pope Francis or the Vatican in this largely Catholic country.

The government has faced criticism for its harsh treatment of inhabitants of 'favela' slums in Rio de Janeiro and other cities.

Analysts say the grievances of slum dwellers and indigenous communities risk becoming increasingly intertwined with organized crime activities, including a multibillion-dollar narcotics trade, alcohol-related crimes and people trafficking.

In indigenous communities poverty-related problems are heavily mixed with cultural and religious issues amid claims both property developers and government agencies have ignored those communities' pleas for ancestral land rights.

The indigenous grievances came to a head as activists from indigenous groups overran agricultural and other land. Farmers' representatives called for a tougher government response to protect their properties from indigenous campaigners.

Justice Minister Jose Cardozo launched a series of talks to try to placate indigenous representatives who want rights over land they claim as ancestral and sacred and a significant say in the building and operation of new hydroelectric dam projects.

Indigenous representatives say they are frustrated by the failure of previous ancestral land settlements, which collapsed due to lobbying of the federal and state governments by influential landowning Brazilians of non-indigenous -- mostly European -- ancestry.

The biggest ongoing dispute involves the Belo Monte dam complex on the Xingu River, which indigenous leaders say will devastate large tracts of their ancestral territories. The government says the Belo Monte project is essential to its master plan for staying ahead of a future surge in the nation's demand for electricity.

Reconciliation attempts involved the government transporting 144 Munduruku Indian leaders aboard air force planes to Brasilia for talks. It's not clear yet if the initiative was successful.

Guarani and Kaingang Indians rioted in the Rio Grande do Sul state and blocked roads, arguing previous agreements on their land rights had been obstructed by influential landowning lobbyists.

Officials say the government is keen to avoid a further deterioration.

"We must avoid radicalizing a situation that goes back a long way in Brazilian history. We're not going to put out the flames by throwing alcohol on the bonfire," Cardozo told reporters.

Critics say that congress is overpopulated with vested interests who do not want to give in to indigenous community leaders' demands. Neither do those vested interests want the government to stop building new dams and clearing forests for housing and industry.

Violence has flared frequently and caused at least one death in Mato Grosso do Sul and numerous injuries in other clashes. The death was reported after a shooting incident that indigenous Terena Indians blamed on powerful opponents. There were no immediate reports of arrests.

Brazil says its indigenous land policy is one of the most enlightened in the Western Hemisphere. While that may be so, critics say implementation has been slow. Farmers of European descent argue they cannot be displaced from lands they have inhabited and developed over more than 150 years.

Rousseff's senior aides continued talks with various indigenous representatives amid fears the next flashpoint could be around the Tapajaos River area in the Amazon Rainforest. Current plans call for the construction of a dozen dams on the river, a major tributary of the Amazon river.


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