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Smoke rises from the Bond Fire as evacuation orders are issued for nearby residents in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, California. REUTERS/Mike Blake…

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Smoke rises from the Bond Fire as evacuation orders are issued for nearby residents in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, California. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Smoke rises from the Bond Fire as evacuation orders are issued for nearby residents in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, California. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Smoke rises from the Bond Fire as evacuation orders are issued for nearby residents in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, California. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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Rohingyas that will be shifted to Bhasan Char island are seen onboard a bus in Chattogram, Bangladesh. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain  

Rohingyas that will be shifted to Bhasan Char island are seen onboard a bus in Chattogram, Bangladesh. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Reuters / Friday, December 04, 2020

Rohingyas that will be shifted to Bhasan Char island are seen onboard a bus in Chattogram, Bangladesh. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

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A health care worker collects a swab sample from a man during a rapid antigen test for army members and volunteers before the start of a mass test of Vienna's population in Austria.   REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger  

A health care worker collects a swab sample from a man during a rapid antigen test for army members and volunteers before the start of a mass test of Vienna’s population in Austria. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

A health care worker collects a swab sample from a man during a rapid antigen test for army members and volunteers before the start of a mass test of Vienna’s population in Austria. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

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A diver wearing Santa Claus costume swims in a large fish tank during an underwater performance at Sunshine Aquarium in Tokyo, Japan. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

A diver wearing Santa Claus costume swims in a large fish tank during an underwater performance at Sunshine Aquarium in Tokyo, Japan. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Reuters / Friday, December 04, 2020

A diver wearing Santa Claus costume swims in a large fish tank during an underwater performance at Sunshine Aquarium in Tokyo, Japan. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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Asylum-seeker Ibrahim looks at the Sacre Coeur Cathedral from his room at the Hotel Avenir Montmartre in Paris, France. The hotel, deserted by tourists due to COVID-19 travel bans opened its 42 rooms to the city's homeless for 12 months with the help of French charity association Emmaus Solidarite.   REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Asylum-seeker Ibrahim looks at the Sacre Coeur Cathedral from his room at the Hotel Avenir Montmartre in Paris, France. The hotel, deserted by tourists due to COVID-19 travel bans opened its 42 rooms to the city’s homeless for 12 months with the help…more

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

Asylum-seeker Ibrahim looks at the Sacre Coeur Cathedral from his room at the Hotel Avenir Montmartre in Paris, France. The hotel, deserted by tourists due to COVID-19 travel bans opened its 42 rooms to the city’s homeless for 12 months with the help of French charity association Emmaus Solidarite. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

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Soldiers at the U.S. Army Air Assault School conduct training while adhering to coronavirus recommendations, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Soldiers at the U.S. Army Air Assault School conduct training while adhering to coronavirus recommendations, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Reuters / Friday, December 04, 2020

Soldiers at the U.S. Army Air Assault School conduct training while adhering to coronavirus recommendations, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

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Gas cans are seen placed at a sport field at the low income neighborhood of Filas de Mariche in Caracas, Venezuela. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero  

Gas cans are seen placed at a sport field at the low income neighborhood of Filas de Mariche in Caracas, Venezuela. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

Reuters / Friday, December 04, 2020

Gas cans are seen placed at a sport field at the low income neighborhood of Filas de Mariche in Caracas, Venezuela. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

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Bethan and Ophelia Hobbs, mother and daughter, pose for a picture as they view the Glow Wild at Kew Botanical Gardnes in Wakehurst, southern Britain.  REUTERS/Matthew Childs

Bethan and Ophelia Hobbs, mother and daughter, pose for a picture as they view the Glow Wild at Kew Botanical Gardnes in Wakehurst, southern Britain. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

Reuters / Friday, December 04, 2020

Bethan and Ophelia Hobbs, mother and daughter, pose for a picture as they view the Glow Wild at Kew Botanical Gardnes in Wakehurst, southern Britain. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

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People sit along a street decorated with flags and a picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Damascus, Syria. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

People sit along a street decorated with flags and a picture of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Damascus, Syria. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

People sit along a street decorated with flags and a picture of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Damascus, Syria. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

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A group of Nihangs (Sikh warriors) arrive to take part in a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui    

A group of Nihangs (Sikh warriors) arrive to take part in a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

A group of Nihangs (Sikh warriors) arrive to take part in a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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Panchito Vicente, 2, is reflected in plexiglass as he visits Santa Claus, Ray Hamlett, 74, at the Citadel Outlet mall, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus continues, in Commerce, California. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson  

Panchito Vicente, 2, is reflected in plexiglass as he visits Santa Claus, Ray Hamlett, 74, at the Citadel Outlet mall, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus continues, in Commerce, California. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Reuters / Friday, December 04, 2020

Panchito Vicente, 2, is reflected in plexiglass as he visits Santa Claus, Ray Hamlett, 74, at the Citadel Outlet mall, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus continues, in Commerce, California. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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An Ethiopian girl stands at the window of a temporary shelter, at the Village 8 refugees transit camp, which houses Ethiopian refugees fleeing the fighting in the Tigray region, near the Sudan-Ethiopia border, Sudan. REUTERS/Baz Ratner  

An Ethiopian girl stands at the window of a temporary shelter, at the Village 8 refugees transit camp, which houses Ethiopian refugees fleeing the fighting in the Tigray region, near the Sudan-Ethiopia border, Sudan. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

An Ethiopian girl stands at the window of a temporary shelter, at the Village 8 refugees transit camp, which houses Ethiopian refugees fleeing the fighting in the Tigray region, near the Sudan-Ethiopia border, Sudan. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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A postbox is seen in Queen's View after snowfall near Pitlochry, Scotland. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne  

A postbox is seen in Queen’s View after snowfall near Pitlochry, Scotland. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

A postbox is seen in Queen’s View after snowfall near Pitlochry, Scotland. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

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Buddhist monk Wilatha holds a rescued Burmese python at his monastery that has turned into a snake sanctuary on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin    

Buddhist monk Wilatha holds a rescued Burmese python at his monastery that has turned into a snake sanctuary on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin

Reuters / Friday, December 04, 2020

Buddhist monk Wilatha holds a rescued Burmese python at his monastery that has turned into a snake sanctuary on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin

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Filipinos wearing masks and face shields for protection walk along a street market in Manila, Philippines. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Filipinos wearing masks and face shields for protection walk along a street market in Manila, Philippines. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

Filipinos wearing masks and face shields for protection walk along a street market in Manila, Philippines. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

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The Christmas tree is lit at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York City.  REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz    

The Christmas tree is lit at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York City. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

The Christmas tree is lit at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York City. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

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Rohingyas are seen onboard a ship as they are moving to Bhasan Char island in Chattogram, Bangladesh. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain  

Rohingyas are seen onboard a ship as they are moving to Bhasan Char island in Chattogram, Bangladesh. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Reuters / Friday, December 04, 2020

Rohingyas are seen onboard a ship as they are moving to Bhasan Char island in Chattogram, Bangladesh. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

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A person gives a swab sample during a mass coronavirus testing to allow students home for Christmas, at the Sports Hall of Keele University, in Keele, Staffordshire, Britain. REUTERS/Carl Recine

A person gives a swab sample during a mass coronavirus testing to allow students home for Christmas, at the Sports Hall of Keele University, in Keele, Staffordshire, Britain. REUTERS/Carl Recine

Reuters / Wednesday, December 02, 2020

A person gives a swab sample during a mass coronavirus testing to allow students home for Christmas, at the Sports Hall of Keele University, in Keele, Staffordshire, Britain. REUTERS/Carl Recine

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Carlos, a 22-months old boy, reaches for a plate with a tortilla with salt and a cooked tomato, at his home, in La Palmilla, Guatemala. REUTERS/Josue Decavele

Carlos, a 22-months old boy, reaches for a plate with a tortilla with salt and a cooked tomato, at his home, in La Palmilla, Guatemala. REUTERS/Josue Decavele

Reuters / Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Carlos, a 22-months old boy, reaches for a plate with a tortilla with salt and a cooked tomato, at his home, in La Palmilla, Guatemala. REUTERS/Josue Decavele

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Ultra Orthodox Jews react during a mass funeral for Rabbi Aharon David Hadash, the spiritual leader of Jerusalem's Mir Yeshiva, one of the largest Jewish seminaries in Israel, in Jerusalem. REUTERS/Ammar Awad  

Ultra Orthodox Jews react during a mass funeral for Rabbi Aharon David Hadash, the spiritual leader of Jerusalem’s Mir Yeshiva, one of the largest Jewish seminaries in Israel, in Jerusalem. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

Ultra Orthodox Jews react during a mass funeral for Rabbi Aharon David Hadash, the spiritual leader of Jerusalem’s Mir Yeshiva, one of the largest Jewish seminaries in Israel, in Jerusalem. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

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A mother prays for children’s success in the college entrance examinations at a Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea.    REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji  

A mother prays for children’s success in the college entrance examinations at a Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Reuters / Wednesday, December 02, 2020

A mother prays for children’s success in the college entrance examinations at a Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Warna Di, a 32-year-old a player from Garuda Indonesia Amputee Football (Garuda INAF) lies on the turf during the international disability day in Jakarta, Indonesia. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana    

Warna Di, a 32-year-old a player from Garuda Indonesia Amputee Football (Garuda INAF) lies on the turf during the international disability day in Jakarta, Indonesia. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

Warna Di, a 32-year-old a player from Garuda Indonesia Amputee Football (Garuda INAF) lies on the turf during the international disability day in Jakarta, Indonesia. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

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EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, wearing a protective mask, arrives for Brexit talks in London, Britain. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls  

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, wearing a protective mask, arrives for Brexit talks in London, Britain. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Reuters / Thursday, December 03, 2020

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, wearing a protective mask, arrives for Brexit talks in London, Britain. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

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People view the London skyline at dawn ahead of the sunrise as the second lockdown in England ends, in London, Britain. REUTERS/Toby Melville  

People view the London skyline at dawn ahead of the sunrise as the second lockdown in England ends, in London, Britain. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Reuters / Wednesday, December 02, 2020

People view the London skyline at dawn ahead of the sunrise as the second lockdown in England ends, in London, Britain. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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India this week

Friday, December 04, 2020

The grim toll from coronavirus

Friday, December 04, 2020

Indian farmers protest farm laws

Friday, December 04, 2020

Dreaming of a COVID Christmas

Friday, December 04, 2020

Bangladesh ships Rohingya refugees to remote island despite outcry

Friday, December 04, 2020

Pictures of the year: Royals

Friday, December 04, 2020

Pictures of the year: Fashion

Friday, December 04, 2020

Top Photos of the Day

Friday, December 04, 2020

Myanmar monk offers temple sanctuary for threatened snakes

Friday, December 04, 2020

A health care worker collects a swab sample from a man during a rapid antigen test for army members and volunteers before the start of a mass test of Vienna’s population in Austria. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Source: https://in.reuters.com/news/picture/top-photos-of-the-day-idUSRTX8DW1B

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Reuters

Biden set to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11

President Joe Biden plans to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, 20 years to the day after the al Qaeda attacks that triggered America’s longest war, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden plans to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, 20 years to the day after the al Qaeda attacks that triggered America’s longest war, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

The disclosure of the plan came on the same day that the U.S. intelligence community released a gloomy outlook for Afghanistan, forecasting “low” chances of a peace deal this year and warning that its government would struggle to hold the Taliban insurgency at bay if the U.S.-led coalition withdraws support.

Biden’s decision would miss a May 1 deadline for withdrawal agreed to with the Taliban by his predecessor Donald Trump. The insurgents had threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops if that deadline was missed. But Biden would still be setting a near-term withdrawal date, potentially allaying Taliban concerns.

The Democratic president will publicly announce his decision on Wednesday, the White House said. A senior Biden administration official said the pullout would begin before May 1 and could be complete well before the Sept. 11 deadline. Significantly, it will not would be subject to further conditions, including security or human rights.

“The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe in staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in a briefing with reporters.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to discuss the decision with NATO allies in Brussels on Wednesday, sources said.

Biden’s decision suggests he has concluded that the U.S. military presence will no longer be decisive in achieving a lasting peace in Afghanistan, a core Pentagon assumption that has long underpinned American troop deployments there.

“There is no military solution to the problems plaguing Afghanistan, and we will focus our efforts on supporting the ongoing peace process,” the senior administration official said.

The U.S. intelligence report, which was sent to Congress, stated: “Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory.”

It remains unclear how Biden’s move would impact a planned 10-day summit starting April 24 about Afghanistan in Istanbul that is due to include the United Nations and Qatar.

The Taliban said they would not take part in any summits that would make decisions about Afghanistan until all foreign forces had left the country.

The May 1 deadline had already started to appear less and less likely in recent weeks, given the lack of preparations on the ground to ensure it could be done safely and responsibly. U.S. officials have also blamed the Taliban for failing to live up to commitments to reduce violence and some have warned about persistent Taliban links to al Qaeda.

It was those ties that triggered U.S. military intervention in 2001 following al Qaeda’s Sept. 11 attacks, when hijackers slammed airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, killing almost 3,000 people. The Biden administration has said al Qaeda does not pose a threat to the U.S. homeland now.

‘ABANDON THE FIGHT’

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell accused Biden of planning to “turn tail and abandon the fight in Afghanistan.” It was Trump, a Republican, who had agreed to the May 1 withdrawal.

“Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake,” McConnell said, adding that effective counter-terrorism operations require presence and partners on the ground.

There currently are about 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of more than 100,000 in 2011. About 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in the course of the Afghan conflict and many thousands more wounded.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about jobs and the economy at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Officials in Afghanistan are bracing for the withdrawal.

“We will have to survive the impact of it and it should not be considered as Taliban’s victory or takeover,” said a senior Afghan government source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Although successive U.S. presidents sought to extricate themselves from Afghanistan, those hopes were confounded by concerns about Afghan security forces, endemic corruption in Afghanistan and the resiliency of a Taliban insurgency that enjoyed safe haven across the border in Pakistan.

Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the United States could cut off financial assistance to Afghanistan “if there is backsliding on civil society, the rights that women have achieved.” Under previous Taliban rule, the rights of women and girls were curtailed.

Democratic Senator Jack Reed, chairman of Senate Armed Services, called it a very difficult decision for Biden.

“There is no easy answer,” Reed said.

Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Steve Holland, Trevor Hunnicutt, Patricia Zengerle and Jonathan Landay in Washington, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar and Hamid Shalizi in Kabul, Editing by Will Dunham

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-afghanistan-withdrawal-int-idUSKBN2C02JI

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Myanmar security forces with rifle grenades kill over 80 protesters – monitoring group

Myanmar security forces fired rifle grenades at protesters in a town near Yangon on Friday, killing more than 80 people, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group and a domestic news outlet said.

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(Reuters) – Myanmar security forces fired rifle grenades at protesters in a town near Yangon on Friday, killing more than 80 people, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group and a domestic news outlet said.

Details of the death toll in the town of Bago, 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Yangon, were not initially available because security forces piled up bodies in the Zeyar Muni pagoda compound and cordoned off the area, according to witnesses and domestic media outlets.

The AAPP and Myanmar Now news outlet said on Saturday that 82 people were killed during the protest against the Feb. 1 military coup in the country. Firing started before dawn on Friday and continued into the afternoon, Myanmar Now said.

“It is like genocide,” the news outlet quoted a protest organiser called Ye Htut as saying. “They are shooting at every shadow.”

Many residents of the town have fled, according to accounts on social media.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s military junta could not be reached on Saturday.

AAPP, which has maintained a daily tally of protesters killed and arrested by security forces, has previously said 618 people have died since the coup.

That figure is disputed by the military, which says it staged the coup because a November election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was rigged. The election commission has dismissed the assertion.

Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told a news conference on Friday in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the military had recorded 248 civilian deaths and 16 police deaths, and said no automatic weapons had been used by security forces.

An alliance of ethnic armies in Myanmar that has opposed the junta’s crackdown attacked a police station in the east on Saturday and at least 10 policemen were killed, domestic media said.

The police station at Naungmon in Shan state was attacked early in the morning by fighters from an alliance that includes the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the media reported.

Shan News said at least 10 policemen were killed, while the Shwe Phee Myay news outlet put the death toll at 14.

Myanmar’s military rulers said on Friday that protests against its rule were dwindling because people wanted peace, and that it would hold elections within two years.

Ousted Myanmar lawmakers urged the United Nations Security Council on Friday to take action against the military.

“Our people are ready to pay any cost to get back their rights and freedom,” said Zin Mar Aung, who has been appointed acting foreign minister for a group of ousted lawmakers. She urged Council members to apply both direct and indirect pressure on the junta.

“Myanmar stands at the brink of state failure, of state collapse,” Richard Horsey, a senior adviser on Myanmar with the International Crisis Group, told the informal U.N. meeting, the first public discussion of Myanmar by council members.

Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Pravin Char

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-politics-idUSKBN2BX0D5

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Reuters

Factbox: Russian central bank considers digital rouble in 2023

(Refiles to remove superfluous word in headline; no change in text.)

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(Refiles to remove superfluous word in headline; no change in text.)

FILE PHOTO: A Russian flag flies over Russian Central Bank headquarters in Moscow, Russia December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

(Reuters) – The Russian central bank is considering limiting future transactions with a digital rouble to smooth the impact of its implementation, planned for 2023, Deputy Governor Alexei Zabotkin said on Thursday.

Russia is working on introducing the digital rouble on top of existing cash and non-cash roubles, to facilitate payments for individuals and businesses and make the use of its currency more global in the face of Western sanctions.

“The emission of the cryptorouble will be akin to cash emission,” Zabotkin said.

“It will be feasible to introduce limits on the transactions from non-cash form into the digital rouble,” Zabotkin said, adding that the central bank will stand ready to compensate for possible liquidity shortages when introducing the digital rouble.

Russia is joining other central banks across the world that are stepping up efforts to develop digital currencies to modernise financial systems, speed up payments and counter a potential threat from other cryptocurrencies.

Below are the key aspects that are known about Russia’s digital rouble project:

* The central bank first floated the idea of the digital rouble in October, citing the need to make payments more convenient;

* The digital rouble will be issued by the central bank and will not substitute for cash in circulation or accounts in banks;

* The first test-drive stage is planned for 2022 and will include transactions with banks. Other operations, such as tax payments and budget settlements, will be tested later;

* Russia is leaning towards a two-tier system for its digital rouble, with banks opening digital wallets with the central bank and serving as intermediaries for customers and companies;

* Russian banks expressed concern about the digital rouble, pointing at cyber risks, possible liquidity shortages and damage to their profits;

* Russia gave cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, legal status in 2020. But it banned them from being used as a means of payment, stressing that only currencies issued by central banks can be used for that;

* Russia eyes the digital rouble introduction at times when major central banks including the U.S. Federal Reserve have teamed up with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to explore central bank digital currencies.

Reporting by Anna Rzhevkina and Elena Fabrichnaya; editing by Andrey Ostroukh, Larry King

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-cenbank-rouble-factbox/factbox-russian-central-bank-considers-digital-rouble-in-2023-idUSKBN2BV2AH?il=0

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