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The Latest: Somalia says al-Shabab is defeated militarily

Associated Press Associated Press 25/09/2016
Somalia's Foreign Minister Abdusalam Hadliyeh Omer addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki) © The Associated Press Somalia's Foreign Minister Abdusalam Hadliyeh Omer addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

UNITED NATIONS — The latest on the high-level U.N. General Assembly meetings (all times local):

11 p.m.

Somalia's Foreign Minister Abdisalam Omer says that as a result of successful joint operations by the Somali military and the African Union's peacekeeping force "we have militarily defeated the evil that is al-Shabab."

He said the al-Shabab extremist group controls less than 10 percent of the country and many of its leaders have been killed or have defected in recent months.

Omer told the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting on Saturday that al-Shabab has responded by turning to "asymmetric warfare tactics to conduct terror attacks against soft targets in Somalia and increasingly in neighboring countries."

He said the government is trying "to enhance security cooperation" to prevent new attacks.

Al-Shabab is fighting to impose a strict version of Islam in Somalia, which is trying to recover from decades of violence.

Omer said the extremist group "is truly shunned by the Somali people" and its desperate suicide attacks are the best evidence of its "diminished capabilities."


10 p.m.

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates is accusing Iran of playing "the greatest role in causing tension and instability" in the Middle East.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan pointed to Iran's "expansionist regional policies, flagrant violations of the principles of sovereignty and constant interference in the internal affairs of its neighboring countries."

He told the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting on Saturday that regional countries hoped last year's nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers would change Tehran's "hostile approach," but those hopes were "quickly thwarted."

"Iran wasted no time in continuing its efforts to undermine the security of the region, through aggressive rhetoric, blatant interference, producing and arming militias, (and) developing its ballistic missile program," Al Nahyan said.

Iran has been backing Syrian President Bashar Assad and Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the UAE minister said its interference in Iraq's internal affairs "has exacerbated ... division among its people."


9 p.m.

Sudan's foreign minister is accusing the International Criminal Court of being politicized and hampering peace.

Ibrahim Ghandour told the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting Saturday that African states are therefore calling "for elaboration of a plan to collectively withdraw from the ICC."

The world's permanent war crimes tribunal has focused significant attention on Africa including issuing arrest warrants for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide stemming from alleged atrocities in the Darfur region.

Ghandour reiterated Sudan's call for the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur to withdraw, saying "thanks to the government, Darfur has become a safe region where peace and security have prevailed."

A rebellion in Darfur against Sudan's government has killed 300,000 people since 2003, the U.N. estimates.


8 p.m.

Key parties trying to restore peace to Central African Republic are urging the new government to take "concrete actions" to rapidly advance national reconciliation so that over 850,000 people who fled the violence can return home.

A communique issued Saturday a day after the ministerial meeting with Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera urged the government to start talks with rebel groups to enable the launch of a national program to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate combatants "without further delay."

Thousands have been killed and displaced in sectarian violence since March 2013. Despite peaceful elections earlier this year, there are fears the country is again teetering on the edge.

Friday's ministerial meeting included the United States, France, African Union, European Union, World Bank, U.N. Peacebuilding Commission and the Central African regional group.

The participants highlighted "the critical role" that a donor conference in Brussels on Nov. 17 will play to secure resources for the recovery and stabilization of the country.


7:10 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has handed Congo's top diplomat a letter to pass on to President Joseph Kabila with his views on the country's political situation, including the electoral process.

A spokesman says Ban met with Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda on Saturday and encouraged the country's leaders to hold an "inclusive political dialogue and peaceful resolution of differences on issues related to elections."

Congo's electoral commission has said that November's scheduled presidential vote won't be possible, and a court has determined that President Joseph Kabila can stay in power until another election is organized.

Tshibanda, addressing the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting on Friday, said elections will be held after "technical issues" are resolved.


6:45 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has met with Bahrain's top diplomat and talked about the importance of making progress on human rights.

His spokesman said Ban met Saturday with Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, minister for foreign affairs for the Sunni-led government.

Bahrain has faced years of low-level unrest following its crushing of a 2011 Arab Spring-inspired uprising led by the country's Shiite majority and the country has come under scrutiny for alleged human rights violations.

In July, European Union lawmakers condemned Bahrain's crackdown on rights defenders and political opponents and called for the release of jailed campaigners. In a non-binding resolution, the lawmakers urged Bahrain's government to "ensure the security and safety of all citizens irrespective of their political views, affiliation or confession."

Ban also discussed social and economic development, U.N. development goals and climate change.


4:10 p.m.

Philippines Secretary for Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay says the rule of law governs his country's efforts to crack down on illegal drugs, which he says have slowed the country's development.

More than 3,000 suspected drug dealers and users have been killed since July and more than 600,000 others have surrendered for fear of being killed in President Rodrigo Duterte's crackdown. Duterte has said he won't stop the campaign despite growing alarm.

Yasay, addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday during its annual ministerial meeting, said the Duterte government is determined to eradicate the distribution, sale and use of illegal drugs because they threaten the country's "peace and order which, in turn, impedes our sustainable development goals."


2:45 p.m.

Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh is calling on all parties involved with territorial ownership issues in the South China Sea to exercise self-restraint and solve disputes by peaceful means.

The issue of ownership of territories in the South China Sea has become a heated topic in recent years. China claims virtually the entire sea as its own, citing historical reasons. That has pitted it against Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier this month at a meeting with leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations that an international arbitration ruling on July 12 against China was binding and "helped to clarify maritime rights in the region."

Pham, addressing the United Nations General Assembly during its annual ministerial meeting on Saturday, said parties should abide by international law, including the U.N.'s Convention on the Law of the Sea, and respect diplomatic and legal processes.


1 p.m.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci says he expects a meeting Sunday with his Greek Cypriot counterpart and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to provide a road map for reunification of the ethnically split Mediterranean island.

Cyprus was split into a breakaway Turkish-speaking north and an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup aimed at unifying the island nation with Greece.

Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades have said they have made progress on many issues, including on how to share power in a possible federation. But more work needs to be done.

"Hopefully tomorrow's meeting ... will indicate the way which will carry us to the long-awaited final conclusion," Akinci told reporters at the United Nations on Saturday.

Ban will not act as an arbitrator but will address concerns if discussions appear to favor one side over the other.


12 p.m.

Syria's foreign minister says his country's belief in military victory is greater now because the army "is making great strides in its war against terrorism" with support from Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters.

Walid al-Moallem told the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting on Saturday that Syria is more determined than ever to eliminate "terrorism" from the country.

He said the President Bashar Assad's government remains committed to political negotiations under U.N. auspices but stressed that any solution must follow two parallel tracks: intensified counter-terrorism efforts and an intra-Syrian dialogue that allows Syrians to determine their future.

He called the "moderate armed opposition" supported by Western and Arab nations "terrorists" who have committed crimes against Syrians "that are no less barbaric" than those of the extremist Islamic State group and al-Qaida.

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