Anadolu Agency's office attack skipped in US statement

By Servet Gunerigok

WASHINGTON (AA) – A fresh statement by the U.S. State Department made no mention of Israeli attack on a building that homed Anadolu Agency's office in Gaza Strip, while throwing its support behind Tel Aviv.

The U.S. "strongly condemns the ongoing barrage of rocket attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza upon innocent civilians and their communities across Israel," State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

However, the statement fell short of comments criticizing Israeli military for targeting a media building.

The attack came after Word Freedom Press Day, May 3.

"We call on those responsible for the violence to cease this aggression immediately. We stand with Israel and fully support its right to self defense against these abhorrent attacks," read the statement.

Israeli warplanes hit the building with at least five missiles after warning shots, Anadolu Agency’s correspondent in Jerusalem reported.

No injuries or death were reported.

The strikes occurred following reports that two Israeli soldiers had been injured by gunfire near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone on Friday.

At least four Palestinians were killed when Israeli warplanes struck Hamas positions in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

US to extend waivers tied to Iran's nuclear program

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. said Friday it would extend waivers granted to nations involved in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that allow them to take part in nonproliferation projects designed to make it harder for Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon.</p>  <p>The projects include reactor redesigns to prevent the creation of plutonium and infrastructure projects that will help ensure that some facilities are not used for uranium enrichment.</p>  <p>&quot;Iran must stop all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment, and we will not accept actions that support the continuation of such enrichment,&quot; the State Department said in a statement.</p>  <p>The extensions for the projects were granted for 90 days with the potential for them to be renewed.</p>  <p>The U.S. introduced the measures as a continuation of previous policies aimed at curbing Iran's ability to revive its nuclear weapons program.</p>  <p>Among those policies are an oversight of the country's civil nuclear program which the department said would constrain Iran's ability to shorten its &quot;breakout time&quot; in terms of getting a nuclear weapon.</p>  <p>The department introduced further restrictions including sanctions on the transfer of enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for natural uranium and warned that any assistance to expand Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant beyond the existing reactor unit could be subject to sanctions.</p>  <p>The U.S. also said it would no longer permit Iran to store heavy water, a byproduct of nuclear enrichment.</p>  <p>&quot;The Trump administration continues to hold the Iranian regime accountable for activities that threaten the region’s stability and harm the Iranian people,&quot; the State Department said in the statement. &quot;This includes denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon.&quot;</p>  <p>The moves taken by the State Department are the latest in a series of actions to assert economic pressure on Iran.</p>  <p>The Trump administration re-imposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November after the president pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between Tehran, Washington and five other countries.</p>  <p>Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced it would be ending sanctions waivers for those countries that were still buying Iranian oil.</p>  <p> 

US, Qatari FMs discuss countering Iran

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Wednesday with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and discussed ways to counter Iran's &quot;malign influence,&quot; according to the State Department.</p>  <p>The top diplomats also addressed other regional issues that covered Afghanistan, Libya and Sudan, spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.</p>  <p>&quot;The Secretary thanked the foreign minister for his continued efforts to build upon the robust U.S.-Qatar partnership, including follow-through on Qatar’s commitments to fair competition in civil aviation,&quot; she added. </p>  <p>The meeting came amid a continued push by the U.S. to ramp up pressure on Tehran in conjunction with Washington’s Sunni Arab Gulf allies and Israel. </p>  <p>The Trump administration earlier this week decided to stop granting waivers to seven countries and Taiwan to import Iranian oil -- the latest effort to scuttle a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers, including the U.S., brokered with Iran. 

US rips upholding of Reuters journalists' sentences

                 By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. on Wednesday strongly criticized the decision of Myanmar's Supreme Court to uphold the seven-year sentences of two Reuters journalists who reported on the extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims. </p>  <p>&quot;Burma’s Supreme Court decision yesterday to uphold the sentencing of Pulitzer-prize winning journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, despite serious irregularities in the case against them, sends a profoundly negative signal about freedom of expression and the protection of journalists in Burma,&quot; State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement, using the U.S. government's preferred name for Myanmar. </p>  <p>Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were each sentenced to seven years in prison last September under a colonial-era law for allegedly breaching the Official Secrets Act for investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men in Rakhine state. </p>  <p>&quot;The United States is deeply concerned by recent arrests of reporters, political activists, civil society members, and satirical performers in Burma,&quot; Ortagus added. &quot;We urge Burma to protect hard-earned freedoms, prevent further backsliding on recent democratic gains, and reunite these journalists with their families.&quot;</p>  <p>New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned Myanmar's government and military shortly after the ruling, saying both parties seem equally determined to extinguish any ability to question their misrule and rights violations when it comes to media freedom. </p>  <p>“These two journalists are just the most prominent victims of this pernicious campaign against freedom of expression that is rapidly spreading in all parts of the country,” said HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson. 

US offers $10M for information on Hezbollah finances

                 By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. on Monday offered up to $10 million for information on Lebanese Hezbollah's financial networks. </p>  <p>The State Department's announcement marks the first time the U.S. has offered rewards for information on Hezbollah's financial networks. </p>  <p>The agency estimated Hezbollah generates 1 billion dollars annually from Iran, its international business operations, donors and money laundering. </p>  <p>The U.S. is seeking information under its Rewards for Justice program that could be used to disrupt revenue streams and pointed to three key financiers as examples of the types of individuals it wants more details.</p>  <p>They include Adham Tabaja, a Lebanese real estate developer the State Department said is intimately tied to Hezbollah, Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, an alleged Hezbollah financier and Ali Youssef Charara, a telecoms businessman with interests in West Africa. </p>  <p>All three have been designated global terrorists by the U.S.</p>  <p>Hezbollah has been a designated terrorist organization in the U.S. since 1997. 

Trump condoles with Sri Lankan PM over Easter attacks

                 By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump expressed the America’s condolences Monday to Sri Lanka's premier following a series of bombings that targeted churches and hotels Easter Sunday in the South Asian island nation. </p>  <p>Trump &quot;pledged United States support to Sri Lanka in bringing the perpetrators to justice, and the leaders re-affirmed their commitment to the fight against global terrorism,&quot; during a telephone call with Ranil Wickremesinghe.</p>  <p>&quot;The near simultaneous attacks on Sri Lankan churches and hotels constitute one of the deadliest terrorist events since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States,&quot; White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement. &quot;Prime Minister Wickremesinghe expressed appreciation for the President’s concern and updated him on the progress of the investigation into the attacks.&quot;</p>  <p>At least 290 victims were killed, and more than 500 injured when massive targets rocked sites in and outside Colombo.</p>  <p>The bombings hit churches in Kochchikade, Negombo and Batticaloa cities, as well as the Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels.</p>  <p>U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed condolences to Wickremesinghe during a telephone call, offering the &quot;full support of the U.S. government in bringing the perpetrators to justice.&quot;</p>  <p>&quot;The United States grieves with the Sri Lankan people and stands with them in the fight to defeat terrorism and extremism,&quot; State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.</p>  <p>Thirty-nine foreign nationals, including two from Turkey, were killed in the attacks. 

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far.

US orders non-emergency personnel out of Sudan

            By Servet Gunerigok</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – The State Department on Thursday ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees in Sudan following the ouster of longtime President Omar al-Bashir. </p>  <p>In an updated travel advisory, the department said &quot;violent crime such as kidnapping, armed robbery, home invasion and carjacking is common&quot; and warned citizens not to travel to Sudan.  </p>  <p>&quot;Terrorist groups in Sudan may harm Westerners and Western interests through suicide operations, bombings, shootings and kidnappings,&quot; said the department.  </p>  <p>The Sudanese military earlier Thursday announced the removal of al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan since 1989, and the imposition of a two-year &quot;transitional phase&quot; following mass demonstrations calling for the president to step down.</p>  <p>Defense Minister Awad ibn Auf also announced in a televised statement the imposition of a one-month curfew -- to take effect Thursday evening -- along with a three-month nationwide state of emergency.</p>  <p>The emergency &quot;gives security forces greater arrest and incarceration powers&quot; and authority &quot;to detain and arrest anybody they deem to be undermining public order, including protestors or those suspected of supporting the protests,&quot; said the department. </p>  <p>&quot;U.S. government employees must obtain special authorization from the Sudanese government to travel outside of Khartoum,&quot; it added. </p>  <p>Ibn Auf further announced the suspension of Sudan’s 2005 Constitution and the dissolution of the Sudanese presidency, parliament and council of ministers.</p>  <p>He was sworn in Thursday as chairman of the new Military Transitional Council established to run the country’s affairs during the post-Bashir interim phase.</p>  <p>Kamal Abdul-Marouf Al-Mahi, chairman of the Joint Staff Command, was sworn in as deputy chairman.</p>  <p>Sudanese opposition parties and professional associations voiced &quot;total rejection&quot; of what they described as a &quot;military coup&quot;.</p>  <p>Al-Bashir came to power on the back of a 1989 military coup against the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi. 

US backs peaceful, democratic Sudan after Bashir ouster

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. said Thursday it supports strongly &quot;a peaceful and democratic Sudan&quot; after longtime President Omar al-Bashir was removed from power by the Sudanese military. </p>  <p>&quot;The United State continues to call on transitional authorities to exercise restraint, and to allow space for civilian participation within the government,&quot; State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters. </p>  <p>&quot;We commend the people of Sudan for the resiliency and their commitment to nonviolence as they express their legitimate demand for inclusive and representative government that respects and protects human rights,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>The Sudanese military earlier Thursday announced the removal of al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan since 1989, and the imposition of a two-year &quot;transitional phase&quot; following mass demonstrations calling for the president to step down.</p>  <p>Defense Minister Awad ibn Auf also announced in a televised statement the imposition of a one-month curfew -- to take effect Thursday evening -- along with a three-month nationwide state of emergency.</p>  <p>Ibn Auf further announced the suspension of Sudan’s 2005 Constitution and the dissolution of the Sudanese presidency, parliament and council of ministers.</p>  <p>A military council, he said, would be drawn up to run the country’s affairs during the post-Bashir interim phase.</p>  <p>Sudanese opposition parties and professional associations voiced &quot;total rejection&quot; of what they described as a &quot;military coup&quot;.</p>  <p>Al-Bashir came to power on the back of a 1989 military coup against the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.</p>  <p>In a subsequent statement, the Sudanese Professionals Association, which led recent protests against al-Bashir, urged members of the Sudanese military to be wary of attempts by the deep state to &quot;steal the revolution&quot;.</p>  <p>&quot;We call on all officers and soldiers of the Sudanese army… to stand with the people against attempts to steal the revolution by the regime’s old guard,&quot; the statement read.</p>  <p>The State Department emphasized it is the Sudanese people who should choose who leads them.</p>  <p>&quot;The Sudanese people have been clear that they are demanding a civilian-led transition. They should be able to do so sooner than two years from now,&quot; Palladino said.  

UPDATE 2 – US, Turkey hold constructive talks: Turkish FM

            ADDS STATE DEPARTMENT STATEMENT </p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. and Turkey held constructive talks Wednesday, during which they discussed challenges in their relations.</p>  <p>Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the State Department.</p>  <p>&quot;Had a constructive meeting w/@SecPompeo on challenges in our bilateral relations and issues on #Turkey-#US common agenda,&quot; Cavusoglu said on Twitter after the meeting.</p>  <p>The talks lasted 40 minutes, but neither the U.S. nor Turkey immediately released details.</p>  <p>The State Department released a statement later saying that Pompeo expressed support for ongoing negotiations regarding northeast Syria and warned of the &quot;potentially devastating consequences&quot; of Turkey's planned military operation in the region.</p>  <p>Pompeo also discussed his concerns regarding Turkey’s potential acquisition of Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system.</p>  <p>&quot;The potential economic opportunities between Turkey and the United States were also a focus of the discussion,&quot; said the statement. </p>  <p>Turkey's decision to procure the S-400 has led to significantly strained ties, and Washington earlier this week suspended delivery of parts and services necessary to Turkey's receipt of the F-35 stealth fighter jet. </p>  <p>U.S. officials have suggested Turkey buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the Russian S-400 system, arguing it is incompatible with NATO systems and exposes the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge, including covert efforts to obtain critical information on the jet, which could then be relayed to Russia.</p>  <p>In response to remarks that the S-400 missile system is incompatible with NATO military equipment, Cavusoglu said at a think tank gathering earlier Wednesday that the system would be for Turkey's own use.</p>  <p>&quot;It doesn’t have to be integrated into the NATO system, and this is not our aim. It is for our own use; this is a defense system,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>&quot;This system will not see any NATO system, including F-35s, as an enemy.&quot;</p>  <p>*Umar Farooq contributed to this story

UPDATE – US, Turkey hold constructive talks: Turkish FM

            CHANGES HEAD, DECK, LEDE, ADDS TWEET FROM CAVUSOGLU IN GRAF 3</p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. and Turkey held constructive talks Wednesday, during which they discussed challenges in their relations.</p>  <p>Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at the State Department.</p>  <p>&quot;Had a constructive meeting w/@SecPompeo on challenges in our bilateral relations and issues on #Turkey-#US common agenda,&quot; Cavusoglu said on Twitter after the meeting.</p>  <p>The talks lasted 40 minutes, but neither the U.S. nor Turkey immediately released details. </p>  <p>They were expected to focus on an ongoing row between Washington and Ankara regarding Turkey's decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 anti-air missile system, in addition to other topics. </p>  <p>Turkey's decision to procure the S-400 has led to significantly strained ties, and Washington earlier this week suspended delivery of parts and services necessary to Turkey's receipt of the F-35 stealth fighter jet. </p>  <p>U.S. officials have suggested Turkey buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the Russian S-400 system, arguing it is incompatible with NATO systems and exposes the F-35 to possible Russian subterfuge, including covert efforts to obtain critical information on the jet, which could then be relayed to Russia.</p>  <p>In response to remarks that the S-400 missile system is incompatible with NATO military equipment, Cavusoglu said at a think tank gathering earlier Wednesday that the system would be for Turkey's own use.</p>  <p>&quot;It doesn’t have to be integrated into the NATO system, and this is not our aim. It is for our own use; this is a defense system,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>&quot;This system will not see any NATO system, including F-35s, as an enemy.&quot;</p>  <p>*Umar Farooq contributed to this story