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Kazakhstan expands list of visa-free countries

Politics New Europe

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan has established a visa-free regime with 61 countries, the press service of the Migration Service Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan said on 22 July. The authorities of this Central Asian
'Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn + NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan has established a visa-free regime with 61 countries, the press service of the Migration Service Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan said on 22 July. The authorities of this Central Asian republic are trying to increase investment attractiveness and improve the business climate, the ministry said. “The visa-free regime for 45 countries was granted in one-way order for up to 30 days without the need to register with the migration service authorities,” the ministry said. Agreements have been concluded on a bilateral basis with 19 countries: Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia and Ukraine – up to 90 days. Azerbaijan, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Cuba, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Ecuador – up to 30 days; Hong Kong – up to 14 days. In accordance with the law “On Migration of the Population”, foreigners are required to issue registration within five days after entering Kazakhstan. Registration is done in several ways. One of them is registration is issued by the border service at the entrance to Kazakhstan for citizens of 56 economically developed and socially stable countries, as well as all foreigners register.'

Before heading to Oklahoma State, Isabella Fierro prepares for the U.S. Girls Junior

Golf Golfweek

With her ball lying about 100 yards from the hole at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in August 2018, Isabella Fierro pulled (..)
'With her ball lying about 100 yards from the hole at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in August 2018, Isabella Fierro pulled a gap wedge out of her bag and prepared for the approach shot. The ensuing swing, though, would put a damper on the event in Tennessee. “My hand kind of cracked,” Fierro recalled. “I told my caddie, ‘Hey, I can barely move my hand.’” Locked in a match play contest against Emilee Hoffman, a University of Texas golfer, Fierro opted to battle through pain. She lost the matchup, went home to Mexico and told Lorena Ochoa — former world No. 1 on the LPGA Tour and a mentor for the Oklahoma State commit — about the incident. Then came her second wrist surgery in two years. Then came a seven-month hiatus for the 18-year-old from competitive golf. Then came a drop in the rankings — from as high as No. 28 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings to No. 118. Then came her return. In April, she appeared at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, missing the cut but thankful to be back on the course at all after so long off one. So at this week’s U.S. Girls Junior, which begins Monday and goes until Saturday at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis., Fierro is grateful to be competing in her fourth tournament of 2019 and her final event before heading to Stillwater, Okla., to join Oklahoma State’s golf team. “It’s my last tournament my mom will go with me to, then I’m going to college. It is really special to me,” Fierro said. “I just want to take it day-by-day and shot-by-shot and see how it goes.” Fierro, one of a number of up-and-coming Mexican golfers, including Gaby Lopez , Maria Fassi or Cory Lopez, grew up like many of the rest. She watched Lorena Ochoa, the 27-time LPGA Tour champion, from a young age. She’s played alongside many of the top Mexican golfers for years as part of the national team, and seeing the success of her peers on the PGA and LPGA Tours is exciting, she said. “They’ve worked really hard on the program, they want to get better, and they’re doing it,” Fierro said. “It’s really cool that Mexico has a lot of young players coming up.” Ochoa, often an ambassador of sorts for Mexican golf, took an interest in Fierro, particularly after a breakout 2017. After Fierro won the Mexican Amateur Championship in Mexico City, she received a phone call from Ochoa offering congratulations. Fierro’s momentum continued when she won the South American Amateur in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by 10 strokes, and later topped the leaderboard at the North & South Women’s Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, N.C. With those wins, her relationship with Ochoa grew. “She’s really kind with me, and I ask her a lot of questions,” Fierro said. “I ask her a lot of things about the Tour, how’s the life over there and what she recommended I do for college.” Ultimately, the decision to attend Oklahoma State was Fierro’s. When she visited Stillwater a few years ago, she liked the small-town feel. She still visited other schools, but Oklahoma State kept pulling her back — how its coaches tracked all her tournaments, even those in Mexico; the support of a new coaching regime with Greg Robertson at the helm; and a belief that the women’s team can find similar success as the men’s squad have, most recently with Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland leading the Cowboys to a 2018 NCAA Championship and Wolff winning the 2019 individual NCAA championship. “Why the girls — why have they not won a national championship? I ask the coaches a lot,” Fierro said. “I want to help them to do that. I want to be a part of that.” As Fierro works back from her second wrist surgery, she doesn’t feel any more pain. Her swing is feeling more comfortable again — she won the Campeonato Nacional Infantil Juvenil in Mexico in May and finished eighth at the Toyota Junior World Cup in Japan last month. So at SentryWorld in Wisconsin for the U.S. Girls Junior, Fierro is tempering her expectations, still only playing in her fourth tournament in 2019. But in her last event before heading to Oklahoma State, Fierro hopes to put in a strong performance while following a path Ochoa paved. “My golf will get there,” Fierro said. “I just need to be patient.”'

El Salvador’s President Bukele Not Focused on ‘Free Money’ from the US

World News Voice of America

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and El Salvador’s President Bukele hail a “game-changer” in bilateral relations, based on fighting violent gangs and private investment
'El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele hailed a new chapter in his country’s relationship with the United States, thanking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for being the first top U.S. diplomat to visit his country in ten years. For his part, Secretary Pompeo praised Bukele’s shift towards the United States. “El Salvador with its new leadership has made a clear choice to fight corruption, promote justice and partner with the United States, and together both of our peoples will reap those benefits.” Pompeo also praised El Salvador for declaring it does not recognize what he termed “the corrupt Maduro regime” as the legitimate government of Venezuela. El Salvador’s Bukele spoke in English and it was clear that he has a warm rapport with Pompeo. “We talk about fighting the gangs together, we talk about interdicting narcotics together, we talk about reducing immigration together.  So I think this was a very, very important meeting.  I think that it’s a game-changer.” Asked about the U.S. freezing its foreign aid for El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to compel their leaders to stem the flow of migration to the U.S. southern border, Bukele had a strong response. “What do we want to do in El Salvador? Do we want to get more free money?  Do we want more blank checks?  No. We want to improve the conditions at home.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, listens to simultaneous translation as El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele speaks at the Presidential House in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, July 21, 2019. Bukele said it “sounds tacky” to have the top U.S. diplomat visiting and to ask him for free money.  Benjamin Gedan of the Wilson Center told VOA Bukele is much more pro-American than his predecessor, and is committed to a new approach to fighting violent gangs and drug traffickers with the U.S. “The new president [of El Salvador] from the very beginning was very enthusiastic about the idea of working closely with the United States on any number of issues and in fact was skeptical about the role of China in El Salvador which was a source of tension with his predecessor.” U.S. lawmakers from both major political parties are calling on the Trump administration to restore U.S. foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, saying it is counterproductive to punish countries fighting extreme poverty and violence, while at the same time calling on them to reduce the flow of migration.   Before heading to San Salvador, Pompeo met with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on an overnight stop in Mexico City.  Asked by VOA whether Mexico has done enough to meet the requirements of a 45-day U.S. deadline on imposing potential tariffs, Pompeo said there has been progress, but he would consult with President Donald Trump. “There are fewer apprehensions taking place today along our southern border, but we’ve got a long way to go yet.  There is still much more work to do.” In this handout photo released by the Mexican Government Press Office, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Mexican counterpart Marcelo Ebrard meet in Mexico City, Sunday morning, July 21, 2019. Mexico has deployed forces to its southern border to stem the flow of migration from Central America. But Benjamin Gedan of the Wilson Center said he is skeptical that Mexico has the resources to sustain this for a long time. “Rather than addressing the root causes of migration flows from northern Central America, there is this effort to harden the U.S. border, to encourage Mexico to harden its southern border and to have Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador take their own steps to really impede the flows of individuals north to the United States.” Before going to Mexico, Pompeo made a stop Saturday in Guayaquil, Ecuador to meet with President Lenin Moreno, the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to that country in nine years.  They also stressed common goals and improved relations between the two countries.  Moreno asked for more help from the U.S. and the international community to deal with the influx of refugees to his country from neighboring Venezuela, calling it a “social apocalypse.”  Pompeo discussed the ongoing crisis in Venezuela at every stop. Pompeo started his jam-packed Latin America trip Friday in Argentina.  He confirmed the U.S. has imposed financial sanctions against a Hezbollah militant group leader suspected of directing a deadly bombing in 1994 of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. “They were killed by members of a terrorist group, Hezbollah, and had help that day from Iran,” which provided “logistical support and funding through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Pompeo said at an event in Buenos Aires to rally support from Latin American leaders in the U.S. fight against Middle East militant groups. Standing at a memorial at the site of the car bombing, Pompeo lit a candle with AMIA President Ariel Eichbaum and said the worst terrorist attack in Argentina is a stark reminder of the danger to the Western Hemisphere from Hezbollah and other groups based on the other side of the world. “It was a moving reminder that our discussion today isn’t abstract; it’s not theoretical. The risk of terrorism is real for each and every one of us and each and every one of our citizens.”'

Pompeo To Meet with Ecuadorian President Moreno on Latest Leg of Latin American Trip

World News Voice of America

Visit has so far been dominated by growing threat of terrorism in Western Hemisphere
'U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to meet Saturday with Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in the capital of Quito as he continues his Latin American trip that has so far been dominated by the growing threat of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere. In Argentina Friday, Pompeo confirmed the U.S. imposed financial sanctions against a Hezbollah militant group leader suspected of directing a deadly bombing in 1994 of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.   “They were killed by members of a terrorist group, Hezbollah, and had help that day from Iran,” which provided “logistical support and funding through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Pompeo said at an event in Argentina marking the 25th anniversary of the attack.   U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signs a guest book during a memorial service marking the death of 85 people who died in a 1994 bombing blamed on Hezbollah, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, July 19, 2019. Pompeo announced two actions against Salman Raouf Salman, who he said was the on-the-ground coordinator for the deadly bombing, and \'remains a wanted man who continues to plot terrorism on behalf of Hezbollah.\' The State Department's Rewards for Justice program is offering up to $7 million for information leading to his arrest. The U.S. Treasury Department named Salman a specially designated global terrorist, \'which denies him access to the United States financial system.\'   Pompeo, who was joined by several ministers from Latin American nations on Friday for talks on counterterrorism, said “solidarity” between countries is the “antidote” to the threat of terror. Pompeo said his four-day Latin American trip was part of a \'concerted effort to re-engage with our partners in the hemisphere\' as terrorist groups \'continue to seek a lasting presence in our hemisphere.\'   Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Fauri said, “Argentina will not cease in its struggle to ensure that the Iranian citizens” who carried out the 1994 bombing are “brought to justice in Argentina.”   U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie, shakes hands during a press conference at an international counterterrorism conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, July 19, 2019. Earlier, standing at a memorial at the site of the car bombing, Pompeo lit a candle with Jewish center President Ariel Eichbaum and said the worst terrorist attack in Argentina is a stark reminder of the danger to the Western Hemisphere from Hezbollah and other Middle East-based extremist groups.   “It was a moving reminder that our discussion today isn’t abstract; it’s not theoretical. The risk of terrorism is real for each and every one of us, and each and every one of our citizens,\' Pompeo said.   On Monday, Argentina's Security Ministry officially designated the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group, which is supported by Iran, as a terrorist organization. The move gives the U.S. another ally in a global coalition to contain Iran's influence in the Middle East and beyond.   Pompeo's three-day Latin American visit also takes him to Ecuador, Mexico City and San Salvador, where he will seek cooperation on security issues, reinforce U.S. commitment to human rights and democracy, and expand economic opportunities for citizens, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said during a recent Washington press briefing.   Venezuela is also expected to be an important topic during Pompeo’s trip. On Friday, the U.S. State Department announced sanctions against four more officials in the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.   Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro takes part in a military graduation ceremony in Caracas, July 8, 2019. The United States and more than 50 other countries support opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's leader. Guaido contends President Maduro's re-election last year was invalid and wants early presidential elections. Maduro accuses the opposition of fomenting violence.   Migration will also be addressed when Pompeo meets with Latin American leaders. Some experts say the United States must address the root causes or “push factors” that are compelling people to flee their homes.   “You have to look at the lack of opportunity, the gang activity, the weak institutions in this region, in Central America if you are ever going to stop people from making what is a difficult and dangerous journey to the United States. These people don’t leave taking the decision lightly,\' said Benjamin Gedan of the Wilson Center.'

US Says It has Clear Evidence Navy Ship Downed Iranian Drone

Public Protection Voice of America

Iran denies any of its drones is missing, and says the U.S. might have shot down its own drone
'A U.S. official says \'we have very clear evidence\' the USS Boxer shot down an Iranian drone that threatened the U.S. Navy warship in the Strait of Hormuz.  \'We would anticipate there's video\' that will be released by the Defense Department, a senior administration official said early Friday.  President Donald Trump said Thursday the warship destroyed an Iranian drone that was threatening the ship and its crew. Iran is denying the allegations. \'We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,\' Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi posted on Twitter, adding he is \'worried\' the U.S. amphibious assault ship had shot down an American military drone \'by mistake.\' We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS by mistake! — Seyed Abbas Araghchi (@araghchi) July 19, 2019 \'The Iranians don't have a great history with the truth,\' responded a senior U.S. official to the assertion from Tehran. \'They have a 40-year history of provoking us.\'  Trump told reporters gathered for a White House event Thursday that the drone came within 900 meters of the USS Boxer and ignored \'multiple calls to stand down.\' \'The drone was immediately destroyed,\' he said. \'This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities, and interests.\' Iranian versions of the American RQ-170 drone which were used in a military exercise in the Gulf in Iran, involving dozens of drones, are seen on a runway, in this undated handout photo. The amphibious ship USS Boxer \'was in international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz. A fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew,\' according to a U.S. Defense Department statement.  Iranian offer U.S. officials are also dismissing an offer proposed by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to offer permanent scrutiny of his country's nuclear sites in exchange for permanent sanctions relief. \'The president has repeatedly said he is willing to have a conversation with Iranian leaders. If Iran wants to make a serious gesture, it should start by ending uranium enrichment immediately and having an actual decision maker attempt to negotiate a deal that includes a permanent end to Iran's malign nuclear ambitions, including its development of nuclear-capable missiles,\' a senior U.S. official told VOA.  On Friday, another official elaborated that the Trump administration wants \'to see those offers coming from someone who has decision-making power, which he does not.\'  The official also brushed off Zarif's gesture.  \'We've seen absolutely no evidence he has decision-making power,\' said the senior administration official, adding that any offers from Tehran need to come from either Supreme Leader Ali Khameini or Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.  FILE - An MH-60S Sea Hawk lands on the flight deck of USS Boxer in the Arabian Sea off Oman, July 16, 2019. In a briefing for reporters, a senior official emphasized that Trump desires to change Iran's behavior through diplomacy and economic pressure and \'he has no interest in an additional war in the Middle East\' but \'if they continue to take provocative acts that threaten our assets, our ships, commerce in the region, we'll respond.\'  Action against Hezbollah The United States on Friday also declared it is beginning to take increased action against Hezbollah, which one senior official characterizes as \'a global terrorist organization sponsored and paid for by Iran.\'  Asked by VOA whether Tehran dictates where and when Hezbollah will strike or if it is acting independently, the senior official replied: \'Both. It depends.\'  The Treasury Department is offering a $7 million reward for credible and actionable information leading to the apprehension of a senior Hezbollah operative, Salman Raouf Salman, for \'perpetrating and plotting terrorist attacks in the Western Hemisphere.\'  U.S. officials say Salman coordinated the 1994 attack on the largest Jewish community center in South America. The bombing of the building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, killed 85 people and injured hundreds of others.  \'We believe he is somewhere in the Middle East,\' a senior U.S. official replied when asked by VOA what information the government has on Salman's current location.  U.S. officials say Salman was the handler for Mohammed Hamdar, arrested in Peru in 2014 for planning a terrorist operation in that South American country.'