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Britain suspends Syria aid scheme after funds ‘paid to extremists’

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LONDON — The British government has suspended a multi million-pound foreign aid project in Syria after an investigation by the BBC that revealed jihadist groups had co-opted some of the funds.

A BBC Panorama program set to air on Monday night shows how members of the British-funded Free Syrian Police (FSP) cooperated with unsanctioned courts accused of torture and executions.

The Foreign Office has been a major contributor to a $20 million project, Access to Justice and Community Security (AJACS), which supports community police work in Syria.

Following the revelations, the Foreign Office halted its contribution to the AJACS initiative. “We are aware of serious allegations connected to this program and have suspended it upon further investigation,” the Foreign Office said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Britain is one of six countries supporting the community-led police force set up after the Syrian uprising and stationed in regions held by opposition rebels.

Documents leaked to the BBC reveal that at one point 20 percent of the cash distributions made to police officers in Aleppo province were being diverted to a group associated with a known terrorist, Nour Al-Din Al-Zinki. He has been linked to a range of atrocities during the Syria conflict, including the beheading of a young prisoner in 2016.

As per leaked report, Adam Smith International (ASI), the British company responsible for managing the AJACS program, was aware that police officers in the program had collaborated with Al-Zinki’s unsanctioned courts “by writing up warrants, delivering notices, and turning criminals over to the court.”

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Two police officers receiving cash payments from the British-funded program were present when two women were stoned to death near Damascus in 2014, according to the leaked documents.

The AJACS program, established in 2014, was intended to support community policing in areas outside the Syrian regime’s control.

“These programs, also supported by international partners, are intended to make communities in Syria safer by providing basic civilian policing services,” said the Foreign Office.

Aside from alleged complicity with extra-judicial killings and torture, the BBC program shows how the AJACS program was allegedly mired by corruption and poor management. The BBC report said that ASI documents showed it was aware that fictitious policemen were on the program payroll.

According to the BBC investigation, extremists associated with Al-Qaeda had handpicked police officers to serve at AJACS-funded stations in Idlib province.

Adam Smith International insists that the BBC’s portrayal of the Syria program is “untrue or entirely misleading.”
The company, which receives millions pounds from British taxpayers to execute government-backed programs abroad, has landed in hot water before.

With AFP Inputs

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Britain, France and Germany propose new sanctions on Iran

Gorkha Post



BRUSSELS — Britain, France and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria’s war, according to a confidential document, in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran,according to a document seen by the Reuters news agency.

On March 16, Reuters reported the move would be aimed at satisfying demands made by US President Donald Trump and keeping him ‘committed’ to the 2015 nuclear pact that Tehran signed with world powers and from which Trump has threatened to withdraw.

All 28 members must agree to any such sanctions,according to EU rules.

The document, citing specifically Iran’s ballistic-missile tests and its role in supporting Syria’s government in the seven-year-old civil war against Western-backed rebels, said, “We will…be circulating in the coming days a list of persons and entities that we believe should be targeted in view of their publicly demonstrated roles”.

The proposal is part of an EU strategy to save the accord signed by world powers that curbs Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, namely by showing US.President Donald Trump that there are other ways to counter Iranian power abroad.

Trump delivered an ultimatum to the European signatories on Jan. 12. It said they must agree to ‘fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal’ which was sealed under his predecessor Barack Obama or he would refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran. US sanctions will resume unless Trump issues fresh ‘waivers’ to suspend them on May 12.

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The steps would go beyond what a U.S. State Department cable seen by Reuters last month outlined as a path to satisfy Trump: simply committing to improving the nuclear deal.

European Union foreign ministers will discuss the proposal at a closed-door meeting on Monday in Brussels, diplomats said.

Analysts say the nuclear agreement, touted at the time as a breakthrough reducing the risk of a devastating wider war in the Middle East, could collapse if Washington pulls out.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif struck a defiant note towards Washington on Friday.

“If the United States makes the mistake of pulling out of the JCPOA, it will definitely be a painful mistake for the Americans,” Iranian state television quoted Zarif as saying. The JCPOA is the formal name of the nuclear deal.

Zarif did not refer to the possibility of new EU sanctions.

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