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US vs Iran: Iranian flotilla approaches Caribbean – US does not rule out action

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Iran is supplying about 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and alkylate to Venezuela, according to both governments, sources and calculations made by TankerTrackers.com based on the vessels’ draft levels. The shipments have caused a diplomatic standoff between Iran and Venezuela and the United States, because both nations are under US sanctions.

We have continued to say that Iran and Venezuela – both two outliers in the international order – are clearly violating international sanctions on both nations with this transaction

Jonathan Hoffman

Washington is considering measures in response, according to a senior US official, who refused to elaborate on any options being weighed up.

The United States recently beefed up its naval presence in the Caribbean for what it said was an expanded anti-drug operation – although Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said on Thursday he was unaware of any specific operations related to the Iranian cargoes.

He told reporters: “We have continued to say that Iran and Venezuela – both two outliers in the international order – are clearly violating international sanctions on both nations with this transaction.

We have continued to say that Iran and Venezuela – both two outliers in the international order – are clearly violating international sanctions on both nations with this transaction

Jonathan Hoffman

Venezuela’s defence minister said its military will escort the Iranian tankers once they reach the nation’s exclusive economic zone.

Iran-flagged tanker Fortune, the first of the vessels, was approaching the Caribbean Sea on Friday.

It has been navigating with its satellite signal on since it passing through the Suez Canal earlier this month.

The other four vessels are following the same route across the Atlantic Ocean, data showed.

It will undoubtedly irk US President Trump, who earlier this month warned the US Navy would sink any Iranian vessels which came to close to US ships.

Relations between Iran and the US have worsened significantly since Mr Trump was elected President in 2016, and in 2018 he and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have traded blows in a war of words which culminated in Mr Trump issuing a direct threat of dire consequences in an all-capitals tweet.

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Venezuela desperately needs fuel for up to 1,800 gasoline stations which have been partially closed for weeks due to insufficient supply from state-run state-owned oil and gasoline company PDVSA’s refineries, which until March worked at about 10 percent of their joint capacity of 1.3 million barrels per day.

PDVSA’s gasoline output is now limited to a single facility, the Amuay refinery, but most fuel produced is low octane as most of the country’s alkylation units are out of service, according to company sources.

PDVSA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Venezuela was consuming 170,000 barrels per day of gasoline before coronavirus-related lockdown measures.

Fuel sales at stations declined to about 40,000 barrels per day due to rationing, according to analysts.

After more than a decade of mismanagement and lack of staff, combined with US sanctions that since 2019 have limited imports, Venezuela’s refineries are in poor condition.

Shipments of equipment in flights by Iran’s Mahar Air have arrived in Venezuela in recent weeks to start repair work.

The US Treasury Department this week blacklisted the Chinese firm that provided the refinery parts.

Beijing called the sanctions “illegal.”

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VE Day 1945 photos: What happened in 1945? UK erupts in celebration for Victory in Europe

VE Day – Victory in Europe day. A date many at the time could only hope for – and now, 75 years later, we’re still celebrating. Millions of people around the world rushed into the streets as the end of World War 2 was announced, in a jubilant celebration.

At 3pm, on May 8, 1945, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced on the radio that the war in Europe had come to an end, after Germany had surrendered the day before.

Spontaneous celebrations broke out across the country – and indeed the world.

The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, and her sister Princess Margaret were among them – joining a group of friends on the streets in London.

Flags were waved as people cheered and celebrated, with Brits hosting street parties.

READ MORE: VE Day 2020 LIVE: Britons mark 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe

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What is VE Day?

VE Day was the date the Allies celebrated the defeat of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945.

As Winston Churchill announced the end of the war in London, crowds filled the streets from Trafalgar Square up to Buckingham Palace.

Princess Margaret and Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II, joined the crowd for the celebrations.

In the United States, President Harry Truman dedicated the victory to his predecessor, Franklin D Roosevelt.

 

VE Day marks the official end of World War Two in Europe, but fighting continued until the war officially ended on September 2, 1945.

Some 75 million people died in World War II, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians.

Every year Britons mark this historic moment with a silence, held at 11am.

This year, however, the celebration ere due to be different – but thanks to lockdown, will be much more muted.

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The lockdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic means there will be no large scale street parties or parades.

Instead, people will celebrate privately in their homes – with Union Jack bunting and afternoon tea.

The BBC is airing a series of special programmes to mark the milestone, including a re-broadcast of Sir Winston Churchill’s speech.

Speaking from Downing Street, he said: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead”.

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will also lead a two-minute silence at 11am to honour servicemen and women during World War Two

And a pre-recorded message from the Queen will be broadcast on BBC One at 9pm – the exact moment her father, King George VI, gave a radio address 75 years ago.

Broadcast from bomb scarred Buckingham Palace, the King thanked the nation. He said: “Let us remember those who will not come back, their constancy and courage in battle, their sacrifice and endurance in the face of a merciless enemy: let us remember the men in all the services and the women in all the services who have laid down their lives.

“We have come to the end of our tribulation, and they are not with us at the moment of our rejoicing.

‘Then let us salute in proud gratitude the great host of the living who have brought us to victory.

“I cannot praise them to the measure of each one’s service, for in a total war the efforts of all rise to the same noble height and all are devoted to the common purpose. Armed or unarmed, men and women, you have fought, striven, and endured to your utmost.”

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World War 3: How border dispute threatens terrifying war between India and China

Meanwhile Frank O’Donnell, a Nonresident Fellow with the Stimson Center South Asia Program, said New Dehli was largely wasting its time by trying to beef up its nuclear deterrent, and would be better off spending the money on its conventional forces instead. Mr O’Donnell was referring to the Doklam crisis, a relatively little-known altercation between troops belonging the two countries in summer 2017. The dispute was triggered on June 16 after Chinese troops began extending an existing road into Doklam, a territory claimed by China and Bhutan, which is allied with India.

Two days later India sent 270 troops into Doklam to stop the Chinese troops from building the road.

A stand-off ensued and on August 28, both sides announced they had agreed to pull their troops back.

However, Mr O’Donnell said the incident highlighted tensions which have characterised relations between the neighbours for many years.

There is a continuing risk of a border clash similar to that of 2017

Frank O’Donnell

He added: “There is a continuing risk of a border clash similar to that of 2017.

“While there are channels of diplomacy, both sides in 2017 were unwilling to ‘lose face’ through properly utilising these channels toward early resolution.

“This creates a real risk of escalation should a similar border dispute erupt, although major war would still be unlikely.

“The US would likely attempt to diplomatically urge that both sides reduce tensions, and potentially quietly offer intelligence support to India regarding Chinese force locations.”

Mr O’Donnell has outlined his thoughts about India’s nuclear statergy in a new paper published by academic journal Taylor & Francis entitled India’s nuclear counter-revolution: nuclear learning and the future of deterrence.

In it, he voices scepticism about the approach currently adopted by President Narendra Modi and his regime.

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He explained: “I would not characterise it as a lack of convention or recklessness.

“However, we assess that New Delhi’s view of the requirements of Indian nuclear deterrence against China is more expansive, in arsenal size and reach of nuclear platforms, than is necessary to establish nuclear deterrence against China.

“We argue that this deterrence relationship is established by the alternative Indian force that we discuss in the report.

“We assess that, following small increases in the number of existing deployed platforms referenced in the report, and improvements to their mobility, India’s nuclear forces will generate sufficient nuclear deterrence against China.

“With a limited Indian defence budget, and the reality that conventional forces are ultimately more likely to be used than nuclear forces, its defence spending would be better spent on modernising conventional forces.”

In the short term Mr O’Donnell suggested the two countries were likely to focus on the ongoing battle against COVID-19, saying: “China and India are likely to cooperate on coronavirus data-sharing.”

However, he said: “This should be seen as a crisis separate to their longer-term geopolitical competition, to which they will return once this crisis passes.”

Mr O’Donnell also warned the fractious relationship between India and Pakistan, strategically aligned as it is with China, was another potential flashpoint.

He said: “There is the continuing risk of a Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack, or militant incursion, triggering an Indian military response and escalation spiral similar to what we saw in Feb-March 2019.

“China would be unlikely to be dragged in, beyond urging both sides to end hostilities, unless Indian forces struck Chinese forces, personnel, or installations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir or Pakistan.

“While this event would not necessarily automatically trigger Chinese military intervention, it would make it likelier than before.”

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Jair Bolsonaro coronavirus: Brazilian president tests positive days after meeting Trump

He is awaiting the results of a second test according to a report from major daily newspaper O Dia in Rio de Janeiro. Earlier this week, the Brazilian President met Donad Trump and attended a joint press conference with him in the Rose Garden of the White House, where he shook the hand of his US counterpart. The news comes just hours after his press secretary Fabio Wajngarten tested positive for COVID-19 – days after he also met Mr Trump.

The US President was believed to be in close physical proximity with both on Saturday night.

They attended the dinner hosted by Mr Trump Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

They were pictured close the US President as they spoke and smiled for the cameras

But on Thursday, Mr Trump played down any fears he may have contracted coronavirus, and said: “I’m not concerned.”.

Mr Bolsnaro has been battling to contain coronavirus in Brazil.

But he has previously played down the seriousness of the outbreak, claiming: “Other flus kill more than this.”

His son took to Twitter on Thursday to say his father “is not exhibiting any symptoms of the disease”.

This is a breaking story. More to follow.

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