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Pope, at military cemetery, tells arms manufacturers: ‘Stop!’

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November 2, 2021

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) -Pope Francis, in a visit to a military cemetery on the day Catholics remember their dead, on Tuesday urged arms manufacturers to “stop”, because war “swallows up the children of the homeland”.

On All Souls Day, Francis said a Mass at the French military cemetery in Rome, with its rows of white crosses the burial place of about 1,900 French and Moroccan soldiers killed in World War Two.

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Francis, who visits a cemetery each year on the day of remembrance, laid white roses and stopped to pray at some of the tombs and mentioned that one read “Unknown, Died for France, 1944.”

“Not even a name. But in the heart of God there are all our names. This is the tragedy of war,” he said in an improvised sermon.

“I am sure that all of these who were called to defend the homeland and went with good will are with the Lord,” Francis said.

“But … do we fight enough so that there are no wars, so that there are no economies of countries that are strengthened by the weapons industry?” he said.

“These tombs are a message of peace. Stop brothers and sisters, stop. Stop, arms manufacturers, stop!” he said, calling those buried at the cemetery among the many “victims of war, which swallows up the children of the homeland”.

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Francis has made many calls for disarmament and has said that nuclear weapons should be banned because even their possession for deterrent reasons is “perverse” and indefensible.

When the location of the Mass was announced last month, an Italian group protested, saying the choice was an offence to victims of Moroccan soldiers, known as Goumiers, an auxiliary unit of the French military when France was still the colonial power.

They committed many random murders and raped many Italian women in the countryside between Naples and Rome as allied forces moved up the Italian peninsula.

One such incident was immortalized in the 1960 neo-realist film by Vittorio De Sica “Two Women,” starring Sophia Loren, which told the story of a woman and her daughter who were both raped by Moroccan soldiers south of Rome.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella, Editing by William Maclean and Giles Elgood)

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One of suspected killers of Saudi journalist Khashoggi arrested in France – RTL

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December 7, 2021

PARIS (Reuters) – One of the suspected killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was arrested at the Roissy airport near Paris on Tuesday as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh, French RTL radio reported.

RTL said the person arrested was a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia who is believed to have been involved in the killing of Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Writing by GV De Clercq, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Biden, Putin begin talks, RIA says, after U.S. warning of toughest sanctions yet if Russia invades Ukraine

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December 7, 2021

By Steve Holland and Andrew Osborn

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden began a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Russian state television said, after U.S. officials warned Moscow could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine.

The officials said the sanctions, which one source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack its southern neighbour.

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The Kremlin, which said before the meeting it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring such intentions and has said its troop posture is defensive.

But Moscow has voiced rising vexation over Western military aid to Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic that has tilted towards the West since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014, and what it calls creeping NATO expansion.

Moscow has likewise questioned Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.

“We’re looking for good, predictable relations with the United States. Russia has never intended to attack anyone, but we have our concerns and we have our red lines,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Calling for everyone to keep “a cool head”, Peskov said it was vital that Putin and Biden speak given what he called the extraordinary escalation of tensions in Europe.

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The Russian rouble weakened slightly on Tuesday, with some market analysts predicting the talks would de-escalate tensions and others saying that the U.S. sanctions threat eroded hopes of finding common ground.

Ahead of his first direct talks with Putin since July, Biden discussed the sanctions plan with European allies on Monday, seeking a strong joint stance in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

He spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

They called on Russia to defuse tensions and return to diplomacy and said their teams would stay in close touch, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a “coordinated and comprehensive approach”, the White House said.

Biden’s team has identified a set of economic penalties to impose should Russia launch an invasion, a senior Biden administration official said.

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A separate source familiar with the situation said targeting Putin’s inner circle has been discussed but no decision made. Sanctions against Russia’s biggest banks and curbing the conversion of roubles into dollars and other currencies were also being considered, another source said.

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington, Gleb Stolyarov, Dmitry Antonov, Alexander Marrow, Tom Balmforth and Katya Golubkova in Moscow, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Catherine Evans and Mark Heinrich)

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Britain reports 101 more cases of Omicron coronavirus variant

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December 7, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has found a further 101 confirmed cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the UK Health Security Agency said on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 437.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by William Schomberg)

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