U.K. celebrates Falklands mine cleanup
LONDON -- Britain's Foreign Office says the Falklands soon will be land-mine free -- almost 40 years after the 1982 conflict between the United Kingdom and Argentina in the South Atlantic islands.
A U.K.-funded mine clearing program that started in 2009 is set to end three years ahead of schedule. With the completion of the program, no anti-personnel mines will remain on British soil.
"Our commitment to ridding the world of fatal land mines does not end with our territories being mine free," said Wendy Morton, the U.K. minister responsible for the Falklands. "A further [$47.6 million] of U.K. funding will allow demining projects across the world to continue, protecting innocent civilian lives."
The funding will help Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Burma, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
People on the Falklands will detonate the final mine in a ceremony Saturday that will include cutting down fences to reopen access to beaches.
Poland ratifies military deal with U.S.
WARSAW, Poland -- Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed a deal that enhances U.S. military presence in the central European country, and said that it should be a symbol of a partnership that continues regardless of political developments.
Poland's right-wing leadership has had close ties with the administration of President Donald Trump, signing defense and energy deals.
Duda indicated Monday that he would like the partnership to continue under the expected new administration.
"I believe that our partnership is above political divisions," Duda said during the ratification ceremony at the Presidential Palace.
"We are waiting for the new U.S. president to take office," Duda said.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that he ratified raises the number of U.S. troops in Poland to some 5,500 and moves the U.S. Army V Corps overseas headquarters to Poland from Fort Knox, Ky. It strengthens the U.S. defense presence in central and eastern Europe at a time of increased Russian military activity.
EU won't attend Syria-refugee forum
BRUSSELS -- The European Union said Tuesday that it will not take part in an international conference this week on the return of refugees to Syria, insisting that the first priority should be to make it safe for people to go back to the conflict-ravaged country.
The two-day conference, organized by Russia and set to begin today, has been criticized by United Nations and U.S. officials. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that large parts of Syria are relatively peaceful and it's time for the millions of Syrians who fled to go home and help rebuild.
But EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said the conference is premature.
"The EU and its member states will not attend this conference," Borrell said in a statement. He said the 27-nation bloc believes "that the priority at present is real action to create conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their areas of origin."
Well over 1 million refugees, most of them Syrians fleeing the conflict there, entered the EU in 2015, and thousands continued to enter over the years.
Syria's nine-year war has killed about a half-million people, wounded more than 1 million and forced about 5.6 million to flee abroad as refugees, mostly to neighboring countries. Another 6 million of Syria's prewar population of 23 million are internally displaced.
A U.N.-facilitated political process has been stuck for months, and many Western countries blame Damascus for blocking progress. Many Syrians and Western countries see current conditions in Syria as not ripe for the mass return of refugees.
Innocent plea cites instability in killings
TORONTO -- A man who was accused of using a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto pleaded innocent Tuesday and his lawyer said he will argue he is not criminally responsible because of his state of mind at the time.
Alek Minassian faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder in the April 23, 2018, attack that drew attention to an online world of sexual loneliness, rage and misogyny.
Minassian told police he belonged to an online community of sexually frustrated men, some of whom have plotted attacks against people who have sex.
Minassian, 28, is accused of driving a rental van into crowds of pedestrians in a busy north Toronto neighborhood. Eight women and two men ranging in age from 22 to 94 died.
"I am entering a plea of not criminally responsible for all of the counts," Minassian said ona Zoom call while sitting on a chair in a small holding room. The court opted for a trial on Zoom videoconference because of the pandemic.
His lawyer, Boris Bytensky, said he will argue that his client was not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.
The judge has said the case will turn on Minassian's state of mind at the time.
-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports