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Yemen’s warring sides have agreed to free thousands of prisoners at the start of peace talks to end the country’s devastating conflict.

The meeting is set to last a week in the picturesque town of Rimbo – 35 miles north of Stockholm – with UN sources saying they are hoping for “confidence-building measures” rather than a breakthrough.

The prison exchange, to be overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross, was seen as an encouraging start to the talks. The Red Cross said about 5,000 people would be freed.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the war – though observers believe the number could be much higher – and Save the Children estimates 85,000 children under five may have starved to death.

Martin Griffiths (L) shook hands with Yemeni delegates as the talks prepared to start
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Martin Griffiths (L) shook hands with Yemeni delegates as the meeting began
The talks are at being held at Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo,  north of Stockholm
Image:
The talks are at being held at Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo, north of Stockholm

The UN has called it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and that 14 million people are in danger of famine because of an aid blockade.

The UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said that even just getting the warring sides to the table was an important milestone.

“During the coming days we will have a critical opportunity to give momentum to the peace process,” he said as the rival delegations arrived in Sweden.

However, he cautioned that the talks were “consultations” and “not yet beginning the process of negotiations”.

Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, welcomed the two sides as they sat in the same room at Rimbo’s Johannesberg Castle and urged them to find “compromise and courage”.

“Now it is up to you, the Yemini parties,” she said. “You have the command of your future.”



Martin Griffiths








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November: Failure in Yemen would be ‘quite appalling’ – Griffiths

Ahead of the talks, a top Houthi official threatened to stop UN planes using the capital’s airport unless the negotiations allowed for its full reopening.

Yemeni government officials hit back by demanding rebels disarm and pull out of the Red Sea port city of Hodeida.

The foreign ministry tweeted a demand that the “coupist militias withdraw fully from the western coast and hand the area over to the legitimate government”.

The Saudi-led coalition – which backs the government – has been laying siege to Hodeida for months, with civilians caught in the crossfire.

The coalition intervened in 2015 to restore a government ousted by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

Pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida
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Pro-government forces have been trying to take control of Hodeida

Pressure to end the war has intensified amid dire humanitarian warnings and the Jamal Khashoggi murder, which has focussed attention on Saudi government actions.

A Yemeni government source told Reuters they wanted maps of where rebels have planted landmines.

Sources on both sides said they would demand a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

Mr Griffiths said he believes the talks can “bring good news for Hodeida and for the people of Yemen”.



Countless children are dying from lack of food and healthcare in Yemen








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Special report: Yemen’s children are starving

“We have been working to reach a negotiated agreement to spare both the city and port the threat of destruction, and guarantee the full operation of the port,” he wrote in The New York Times.

The coalition also allowed the Houthis to evacuate 50 wounded rebels for treatment in Oman.

Saudi Arabia and the coalition it leads first intervened in Yemen in 2015, with the aim of restoring its internationally-recognised government that had been ousted from the capital of Sana’a the year before.

They are widely seen as having got involved because of the rebels’ ties to regional rival Iran.

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Google deals Huawei major blow by cutting Android licence | Science & Tech News

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Google has dealt a major blow to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei by blocking the firm from using critical apps and services like Gmail and YouTube on its range of smartphones, according to reports.

Just like other major smartphone makers including Samsung and LG, Huawei relies on the Google-developed Android operating system to power its mobile devices.

But, amid a US crackdown on Chinese technology companies due to ongoing security concerns, Reuters and The Verge report that Google has suspended business with Huawei and in doing so hugely undermined its lineup of handsets, which are among the most critically-acclaimed and best-selling on the market.

Huawei has become one of the world's leading smartphone manufacturers
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Huawei has become one of the world’s leading smartphone manufacturers

Existing products will no longer receive Android updates, which bring new features and security improvements, and future releases will lose access to the vital Google Play Store, through which users download new apps.

Huawei will instead be restricted to using a public version of the operating system called Android Open Source Project, which does not include standard Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Photos and YouTube.

Google headquarters office at Mountain View in California
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Google says there are 2.5 billion active Android devices worldwide

Although Huawei smartphones are banned from the US, enormous sales figures in China and impressive growth in parts of Europe has seen the company overtake iPhone maker Apple in terms of market share.

The Verge reported earlier this month that Huawei was now only behind Samsung when it comes to global smartphone sales, with 59.1 million shipments in the first quarter of 2019.

Google is developing its services as more people use them on mobile
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Future Huawei phones will no longer have access to YouTube

But the intervention from Google could cripple hopes of further expansion.

While a custom Huawei-built operating system would cause little issue in its home market, where most Google apps are banned anyway, it would likely be rejected by Western customers.

Google apps and services are a critical part of Android devices, and Huawei owners in Europe and the UK may now be forced to seek alternatives to what the Chinese company has to offer.









US diplomat’s fears over UK using Huawei

Huawei has not commented on the reports, but has continued to insist that its products pose no security threat.

Last week, its UK executive vice president Jeremy Thompson told Sky News it is willing to go the “extra mile” to reassure countries its technology is safe.

His comments came after Prime Minister Theresa May came in for criticism over a National Security Council decision to back the use of Huawei technology in “non-core” 5G network infrastructure in the UK.

That was despite a warning from the National Cyber Security Centre and the US government that the company could not be trusted.

Donald Trump
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Donald Trump has targeted the telecommunications giant in a round of sanctions

Donald Trump has declared a “national emergency” over the perceived threat posed by Chinese companies and imposed severe sanctions on Huawei, with US companies barred from using telecommunications equipment made by firms deemed to pose a national security risk.

The US commerce department has also added Huawei and 70 affiliated companies to a blacklist banning it from acquiring components and technology from US firms without government approval.

Google has not responded directly to the reports, but said it was “complying with the order” issued by the US president and was “reviewing the implications”.

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New law could ban Britons from visiting terror hotspots in parts of northern Syria | UK News

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Hard-hitting new security powers that would ban British citizens from designated terrorist hotspots are set to be introduced across large parts of northern Syria.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed he is asking officials to draw up an urgent case for introducing the new ban around Idlib province in northwestern Syria and others areas in the northeast of the country.

The move comes amid an upsurge in violence around Idlib in particular, where Russian-backed Syrian government forces have launched an offensive against rebel fighters.

A picture taken on May 10, 2019 shows a building destroyed by reported shelling by government forces on the town of Khan Sheikhun in the southern countryside of the rebel-held Idlib province
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Idlib province is repeatedly targeted by the Russian-backed Syrian government

On Friday, the United Nations warned of a “humanitarian crisis” and urged the Syrian and Russian governments to give assurances that the bombing of hospitals and schools would stop.

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, which became law earlier this year, created a new power allowing the home secretary to ban British nationals from travelling to – or remaining in – specific designated areas.

Mr Javid said: “I’ve asked my officials to work closely with the police and intelligence agencies to urgently review the case for exercising this power in relation to Syria, with a particular focus on Idlib and the northeast.

“So anyone who is in these areas without a legitimate reason should be on notice.”

In order to use the power, the home secretary would need to be satisfied that it is necessary to restrict UK nationals and residents from a specific area and his recommendation would need to be ratified by parliament.

An individual found to have entered or remained in a designated area could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The new law was introduced to counter the problem of hundreds of foreign fighters heading off to overseas trouble spots, with little fear of prosecution.

Officials estimate more than 900 British citizens travelled out to take part in the conflict in Syria.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid giving a speech about violent crime at the Oval Space in London
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Home Secretary Sajid Javid will give a speech on the potential bans on Monday

Around 400 have since returned, but difficulties in securing any evidence of wrongdoing in an area of lawlessness has meant less than 10% of those who have returned have been prosecuted.

Under the new law, prosecutors will only have to prove a person has been in a designated area without good reason.

There will be exemptions to the travel ban, allowing the likes of legitimate aid workers, journalists, or those attending a family funeral, to enter such areas.









Syrian government fire mortars in Idlib

Mr Javid will give more details of how he expects the new law to operate during a speech in central London on Monday morning, where he will also reassure his audience of extremism experts and security officials that, whatever Britain’s future relating to the EU is, the UK will continue to be a powerful international partner in dealing with security threats.

He is expected to say: “From terrorism, to crime, to hostile state activity, we are facing international problems, and they require an international response.

“As these threats become more global we all rely on an international system of defence, policing, security and intelligence. A safety net based upon cooperation, and unity.

“More than any other country on Earth, the UK has a coherent, connected approach to intelligence and security and when threats appear, the world still turns to the UK for leadership, support, and action.”

Despite the large scale dismantling of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, security officials warn the UK terror threat will continue to be very significant for the foreseeable future.

The recent bombings in Sri Lanka, which have been linked to IS, and the reappearance of the group’s leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, have shown that the fragmentation of the terror network has not weakened its determination to launch attacks around the globe.

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House explosion kills one person and injures two others in Indiana | US News

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One person has died and two more have been injured after a house exploded in Indiana.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the explosion in Jeffersonville.

Several homes nearby are uninhabitable
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Several homes nearby are uninhabitable

Lieutenant Isaac Parker from Jeffersonville Police said the explosion happened just before 5am Sunday.

Five to six homes nearby have been left uninhabitable after the blast.

One person was killed in the explosion
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One person was killed in the explosion

Lt Parker said two people had serious injuries and were in hospital.

It’s not clear if any of the victims were in the house when it exploded.

Damaged vehicles next to the debris of the home explosion
Image:
Damaged vehicles next to the debris of the home explosion

Fire chief Eric Hedrick said the home was mostly destroyed.

Adam Keeney, who lives nearby, told WHAS-TV that he felt a “big boom” in his chest after the explosion and that it knocked the gutters off his house.

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