The threat facing the global economy — including the Fed’s role in it — is expected to dominate the conversation next week as economists and government officials convene in Washington for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

In a speech at Georgetown University on Thursday, Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the I.M.F., offered a grim assessment of the world economy and the tightrope that central banks are walking.

“Not tightening enough would cause inflation to become de-anchored and entrenched — which would require future interest rates to be much higher and more sustained, causing massive harm on growth and massive harm on people,” Ms. Georgieva said. “On the other hand, tightening monetary policy too much and too fast — and doing so in a synchronized manner across countries — could push many economies into prolonged recession.”

Noting that inflation remains stubbornly high and broad-based, she added: “Central banks have to continue to respond.”

The World Bank warned last month that simultaneous interest-rate increases around the world could trigger a global recession next year, causing financial crises in developing economies. It urged central banks in advanced economies to be mindful of the cross-border “spillover effects.”

“To achieve low inflation rates, currency stability and faster growth, policymakers could shift their focus from reducing consumption to boosting production,” David Malpass, the World Bank president, said.

Trade and Development Report said.

So far, major central banks have shown little appetite for stopping their inflation-busting campaigns. The Fed, which has made five rate increases this year, has signaled that it plans to raise borrowing costs even higher. Most officials expect to increase rates by at least another 1.25 percentage points this year, taking the policy rate to a range of 4.25 to 4.5 percent from the current 3 to 3.25 percent.

Even economies that are facing a pronounced slowdown have been lifting borrowing costs. The European Central Bank raised rates three-quarters of a point last month, even though the continent is approaching a dark winter of slowing growth and crushing energy costs.

according to the World Bank. Food costs in particular have driven millions further into extreme poverty, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition. As the dollar surge makes a range of imports pricier for emerging markets, that situation could worsen, even as the possibility of financial upheaval increases.

“Low-income developing countries in particular face serious risks from food insecurity and debt distress,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, said during a news conference this week.

In Africa, officials have been urging the I.M.F. and Group of 20 nations to provide more emergency assistance and debt relief amid inflation and rising interest rates.

“This unprecedented shock further destabilizes the weakest economies and makes their need for liquidity even more pressing, to mitigate the effects of widespread inflation and to support the most vulnerable households and social strata, especially young people and women,” Macky Sall, chairman of the African Union, told leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

To be sure, central bankers in big developed economies like the United States are aware that they are barreling over other economies with their policies. And although they are focused on domestic goals, a severe weakening abroad could pave the way for less aggressive policy because of its implications for their own economic outlooks.

Waning demand from abroad could ease pressure on supply chains and reduce prices. If central bankers decide that such a chain reaction is likely to weigh on their own business activity and inflation, it may give them more room to slow their policy changes.

“The global tightening cycle is something that the Fed has to take into account,” said Megan Greene, global chief economist for the Kroll consulting firm. “They’re interested in what is going on in the rest of the world, inasmuch as it affects their ability to achieve their targets.”

his statement.

But many global economic officials — including those at the Fed — remain focused on very high inflation. Investors expect them to make another large rate increase when they meet on Nov. 1-2.

“We’re very attentive” to international spillovers to both emerging markets and advanced economies, Lisa D. Cook, a Fed governor, said during a question-and-answer session on Thursday. “But our mandate is domestic. So we’re very focused on inflation as it evolves in this country.”

Raghuram Rajan, a former head of India’s central bank and now an economist at the University of Chicago, has in the past pushed the Fed to take foreign conditions into account as it sets policy. He still thinks that measures like bond-buying should be pursued with an eye on global spillovers.

But amid high inflation, he said, central banks are required to pay attention to their own mandates to achieve price stability — even if that makes for a stronger dollar, weaker currencies and more pain abroad.

“The basic problem is that the world of monetary policy dances to the Fed’s tune,” Mr. Rajan said, later adding: “This is a problem with no easy solutions.”

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Live Updates: 37 Killed in Thailand After Gunman Attacks Child-Care Center

Mike Ives

Credit…Sakdipat Boonsom, via Reuters

The government day-care center where a gunman killed more than 30 people on Thursday, including more than 20 children, is in a poor region of Thailand where most children of preschool age attend such facilities.

The center, the Child Development Center Uthaisawan in the northeastern province of Nong Bua Lamphu, is one of nearly 20,000 early childhood development centers that are operated by local authorities across the country, according to Unicef, the United Nations children’s agency. The centers are free, and they serve about 860,000 children ages 3 to 5, Unicef said.

Nationwide, 84 percent of children in that age group attended one of the centers in 2012, up from 60 percent in 2005, according to a recent Unicef report. By 2019 the figure had crept up to 86 percent.

But attendance is not compulsory, and it varies by region. In the northeast in 2019, for example, the attendance rate was 92 percent. In Bangkok, the capital, it was 71 percent.

Napat Phisanbut, an early childhood development specialist at Unicef’s Thailand office, said that the high rate in the northeast may be linked to another statistic: The same area also has the highest rate of children living separately from their parents, many of whom migrate to work in cities.

“The children live with their grandparents,” she said. “So E.C.D. centers can help take care of these young children, and provide the appropriate development that they need.”

Kyungsun Kim, the Unicef representative for Thailand, condemned the attack in a statement on Thursday night.

“Early childhood development centers, schools and all learning spaces must be safe havens for young children to learn, play and grow during their most critical years,” she said.

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South Korea, U.S. fire missiles to protest ‘reckless’ North Korean test

SEOUL/UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5 (Reuters) – South Korea and the U.S. military conducted rare missile drills and an American supercarrier repositioned east of North Korea after Pyongyang flew a missile over Japan, one of the allies’ sharpest responses since 2017 to a North Korean weapon test.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that nuclear-armed North Korea risked further condemnation and isolation if it continued its “provocations.”

However, Russia’s deputy U.N. envoy told a U.N. Security Council meeting called by the United States that imposing sanctions on North Korea was a “dead end” that brought “zero result,” and China’s deputy U.N. ambassador said the council needed to play a constructive role “instead of relying solely on strong rhetoric or pressure.”

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North Korea test-fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) farther than ever before on Tuesday, sending it soaring over Japan for the first time in five years and prompting a warning for residents there to take cover.

Washington called the test “dangerous and reckless,” and the U.S. military and its allies have stepped up displays of force.

South Korean and American troops fired a volley of missiles into the sea in response, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday, and the allies earlier staged a bombing drill with fighter jets in the Yellow Sea.

The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, a U.S. Navy ship that made its first stop in South Korea last month for the first time in years, will also return to the sea between Korea and Japan with its strike group of other warships. The South Korean military called it a “highly unusual” move designed to show the allies’ resolve to respond to any threats from North Korea.

Speaking during a visit to Chile, Blinken said the United States, South Korea and Japan were working closely together “to demonstrate and strengthen our defensive and deterrent capabilities in light of the threat from North Korea.”

He reiterated a U.S. call for Pyongyang to return to dialogue, and added: “If they continue down this road, it will only increase the condemnation, increase the isolation, increase the steps that are taken in response to their actions.”

The U.N. Security Council met on Wednesday to discuss North Korea despite China and Russia telling council counterparts they were opposed to an open meeting of the 15-member body.

The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, accused China and Russia this week of emboldening North Korea by not properly enforcing sanctions.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in an address to the Security Council, said North Korea had “enjoyed blanket protection from two members of this council.”

In May, China and Russia vetoed a U.S.-led push to impose more U.N. sanctions on North Korea over its renewed ballistic missile launches, publicly splitting the Security Council for the first time since it started punishing Pyongyang with sanctions in 2006.

Kritenbrink also said a resumption of nuclear weapons testing by North Korea for the first time since 2017 was likely only awaiting a political decision.

South Korean officials said North Korea had completed preparations for a nuclear test and might use a smaller weapon meant for operational use or a big device with a higher yield than in previous tests.

SOUTH KOREAN MISSILE FAILURE

The South Korean military confirmed that one of its Hyunmoo-2C missiles failed shortly after launch and crashed during the exercise, but that no one was hurt.

Footage shared on social media by a nearby resident and verified by Reuters showed smoke and flames rising from the military base.

South Korea’s military said the fire was caused by burning rocket propellant, and although the missile carried a warhead, it did not explode. It apologised for worrying residents.

It is not rare for military hardware to fail, and North Korea has suffered several failed missile launches this year as well. However, the South Korean failure threatened to overshadow Seoul’s efforts to demonstrate military prowess in the face of North Korea’s increasing capabilities.

The Hyunmoo-2C is one of South Korea’s latest missiles and analysts say its capability as a precision “bunker buster” make it a key part of Seoul’s plans for striking the North in the event of a conflict.

In its initial announcement of the drill, South Korea’s military made no mention of the Hyunmoo-2C launch or its failure, but later media briefings were dominated by questions about the incident.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has made such displays of military force a cornerstone of his strategy for countering North Korea, had vowed that the overflight of Japan would bring a decisive response from his country, its allies and the international community.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned North Korea’s test in the “strongest terms,” and the European Union called it a “reckless and deliberately provocative action.” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the launch and said it was a violation of Security Council resolutions.

It was the first North Korean missile to follow a trajectory over Japan since 2017, and its estimated 4,600-km (2,850-mile) flight was the longest for a North Korean test, which are usually “lofted” into space to avoid flying over neighbouring countries.

Analysts and security officials said it may have been a variant of the Hwasong-12 IRBM, which North Korea unveiled in 2017 as part of what it said was a plan to strike U.S. military bases in Guam.

Neither North Korea’s government nor its state media have reported on the launch.

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Reporting by Joori Roh in Seoul, Humeyra Pamuk in Santiago, David Brunnstrom in Washington and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Chris Reese, Sandra Maler, Gerry Doyle and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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An Israel-Lebanon Border Deal Could Increase Natural Gas Supplies

Israel and Lebanon have been at war since 1948, but the countries are close to an agreement that could increase production of natural gas, helping energy-starved Europe.

Officials from the two countries have said they are close to resolving long-running disputes over their maritime borders, which would allow energy companies to extract more fossil fuels from offshore fields in the Mediterranean Sea.

The increased production won’t make up for the gas that Europe is no longer getting from Russia. But energy experts say an Israel-Lebanon agreement should give a vital push to efforts to produce more gas in that part of the world. Over the last four years, energy production in the eastern Mediterranean has been growing as Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Cyprus have worked together to take advantage of oil and gas buried under the sea.

“This is a very important step for the region to come into its own,” said Charif Souki, the Lebanese-American executive chairman of Tellurian, a liquefied natural gas company based in Houston. “Players are finally realizing that it’s better to cooperate than to continuously fight.”

The Israel-Lebanon negotiations will most directly affect the Karish field, which is set to produce gas for Israel’s domestic use. That fuel is expected to displace gas produced from other fields, which can then be exported. The new field is also expected to produce a small amount of oil.

Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil and gas company, and several smaller businesses are already producing gas from two larger fields off Israel’s coast. That fuel has increasingly replaced coal in the country’s power plants and factories. Israel now has so much gas that it has become a net exporter of energy, sending fuel to neighbors like Jordan and Egypt. Some of that gas has also found its way to Europe and other parts of the world from L.N.G. export terminals in Egypt.

The U.S. government, across several administrations, has encouraged the growth of the gas trade in the region by helping to negotiate deals between countries that have long had tense relations. The Ukraine crisis has accelerated efforts to explore and produce natural gas because of the soaring cost of the fuel in Europe, where countries are desperate to end their dependence on Russian gas.

Chevron and its Israeli partners are discussing the possibility of building a floating liquefied natural gas platform in the Leviathan gas field, Israel’s largest. The companies are expected to make a decision on the project in a few months.

But getting the gas out of the region will not be easy. Floating export terminals are vulnerable to terrorist attack. And, even if they could be adequately secured, the terminals will not be able to process as much gas as the larger coastal facilities used in major gas producers like the United States, Qatar and Australia. Building terminals on land can take several years, if not often longer, because of opposition from environmental and other groups.

“Energy infrastructure offshore is very volatile and vulnerable,” said Gal Luft, a former Israeli military officer who is the co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington. “You have to manage risk.”

Theoretically, transporting gas by pipelines would be easier than liquefying natural gas for export before converting it back into gas at its destination. But building long-distance pipelines is expensive and difficult. A long-running conflict between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece, for example, has made constructing a pipeline from Israel to southern Europe incredibly challenging, if not impossible.

Even an Israel-Lebanon border agreement faces risks. Hezbollah has threatened to attack the Karish field, and it sent unarmed drones over it in July; Israeli officials said they had shot down the ‌aircraft.

Still, Israeli and Lebanese officials have said in recent days that they are pressing on with the negotiations, with officials from the Biden administration acting as a go-between, and are close to a deal. The talks gathered momentum during the United Nations General Assembly last week.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon said on Thursday at the United Nations that he was confident about reaching an agreement with Israel. “Lebanon is well aware of the importance of the promising energy market in the eastern Mediterranean for the prosperity of all countries in the region,” he said, “but also to meet the needs of importing nations.”

U.S. and other Western oil companies have long shied away from Israel, in part because they do not want to alienate Arab countries. But, as relations between Israel and countries like Egypt, Jordan and, more recently, the United Arab Emirates have improved more companies have expressed interest in the eastern Mediterranean.

An agreement between Israel and Lebanon could accelerate that trend.

“I think it will appease many minds,” said Leslie Palti-Guzman, chief executive of Gas Vista, a consulting firm. “Companies that have been reluctant to invest could be more incentivized to develop additional projects.”

Gas fields in the Mediterranean are one of several new suppliers that Europe will need as it seeks a long-term replacement for Russian gas. Other suppliers include energy companies operating in the United States, Qatar, Africa, the Caspian Sea and the North Sea.

“There is no silver bullet,” said Paddy Blewer, spokesman for Energean, a London-based exploration company that hopes to begin producing gas in the Karish field. “The East Mediterranean is one of a series of marginal gains that Europe has to look at.”

Energean plans to begin production in the next few weeks, and has said it expects to produce up to 8 billion cubic meters of gas a year by 2025. If it is successful, the company could significantly add to Israel’s output. The country will produce roughly 22 billion cubic meters this year. Once an importer of almost all of its energy, Israel increased gas production by 22 percent in the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2021. It exported roughly 40 percent of its gas, earning the government royalties of $250 million.

The agreement between Israel and Lebanon will also open the way to drilling in Lebanese waters by a consortium led by Eni of Italy and TotalEnergies of France. Lebanese officials view natural gas as a critical financial tool in its attempts to revive the country’s depressed economy. The government has wanted to drill offshore since at least 2014, but disputes with Israel over the border have delayed exploration.

“It’s not for sure Lebanon will find gas,” said Chakib Khelil, a former president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. “But, if they do, Lebanon will get a big boost.”

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Taliban: Car Bomb Near Kabul Mosque Kills At Least 7 People

By Associated Press
September 23, 2022

While no one immediately claimed responsibility, ISIS has previously carried out similar attacks on mosques and worshippers.

A car bomb went off Friday as worshippers were leaving a Kabul mosque, killing at least seven people and wounding 41, including several children, a Taliban official said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, the latest in a steady stream of attacks since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan just over a year ago.

A column of black smoke rose into the sky and shots rang out several minutes after the explosion near the mosque, located in a high-profile diplomatic neighborhood of the Afghan capital.

A Taliban-appointed Interior Ministry spokesman, Abdul Nafi Takor, said the vehicle with explosives was parked by the roadside near the mosque and detonated as worshippers were coming out after Friday prayers. He added that an investigation was underway, with police at the site.

The Italian Emergency Hospital, one of Kabul’s clinics that treated the victims, said it received 14 casualties from the site, with four dead on arrival.

Khalid Zadran, a spokesman for the Kabul police chief, said worshippers were intentionally targeted as they were leaving the Wazir Akbar Khan Mosque.

“Targeting mosques and worshippers is an unforgivable crime, the nation should cooperate with the regime in eliminating criminals,” said Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

ISIS — a top rival of the Taliban since their takeover in Afghanistan just over a year ago — has previously targeted mosques and worshippers, and especially members of Afghanistan’s minority Shiites in attacks.

The United Nations mission in Kabul tweeted that the bombing was another “bitter reminder of ongoing insecurity and terrorist activity in Afghanistan.”

“Our thoughts are with the families of those killed, wishing speedy recovery to the injured,” added the mission, known as UNAMA.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Russia Begins Orchestrating Staged Voting in Occupied Territories

Credit…Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — Moscow began orchestrating referendums on joining Russia in areas it occupies in Ukraine on Friday, an effort widely seen as a sham that is expected to culminate in the annexation of an area larger than Portugal.

While the Kremlin has used referendums and annexation in the past to exert its will, the boldness of President Vladimir V. Putin’s gambit in Ukraine far exceeds anything it has tried before. Huge numbers of people have fled the areas that Russia controls, the process has been rushed and referendums are taking place against a backdrop of oppression — with U.N. experts citing evidence of war crimes in a forceful new statement.

The ballots being distributed had one question: Do you wish to secede from Ukraine and create an independent state that will enter the Russian Federation?

“We will be able to make our historic choice,” Kirill Stremousov, a leader of the Russian occupation administration in the southern region of Kherson, said in a statement.

He said the wording on the ballots — in both Ukrainian and Russian — was “in accordance with international law,” but even before the first vote, the referendum plans were met with international condemnation.

President Biden, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly this week, said that “if nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences,” then the global security order established to prevent the horrors of World War II from repeating will be imperiled.

Russian proxy officials in four regions — Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizka in the south — earlier this week announced plans to hold referendums over four days beginning on Friday. Russia controls nearly all of two of the four regions, Luhansk and Kherson, but only a fraction of the other two, Zaporizka and Donetsk.

Ukrainian officials have dismissed the voting as grotesque theater — staging polls in cities laid to waste by Russian forces and abandoned by most residents. President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Ukraine’s allies for their steadfast support and said “the farce” of “sham referenda” would do nothing to change his nation’s fight to drive Russia from Ukraine.

Ukrainian partisans, sometimes working with special operations forces, have blown up warehouses holding ballots and buildings where Russian proxy officials preparing for the vote held meetings..

An explosion rocked the Russian-controlled southern city of Melitopol on Friday morning before the vote got underway. Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor, warned residents to stay away from Russian military personnel and equipment.

To give the appearance of widespread participation, minors ages 13 to 17 have been encouraged to vote, the Security Services of Ukraine warned on Thursday.

And Ukrainian officials said that workers were being forced to vote under threat of losing their jobs.

The exiled mayor of the occupied city of Enerhodar, the satellite town of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the south, told residents to stay away from polling stations.

“Stay at home if possible and do not open the door to strangers,” he said in a message posted on Telegram.

Olha, who communicated with friends in Enerhodar on Thursday night and who, like others, did not want to use her full name out of concern for her safety, said preparations had been going on for weeks and that security had been tightened.

“Since yesterday, they do not allow men aged 18 to 35 to leave the city,” she said. “They want to conscript them to the Russian armed forces. And Ukrainians will have to fight against Ukrainians,” she said, stopping short as she broke into tears.

It was a concern expressed repeatedly by residents in occupied areas, as well as by Ukrainian officials: that one of the first consequences of annexation would be conscription of Ukrainians into the Russian military. That is already the case in parts of Luhansk and Donetsk occupied by Russia since 2014.

Andriy, 44, who has friends and relatives in Kherson, said he had spoken with friends who said it wasn’t possible to leave the city because of the referendum. “You know, those who are smart, they sit at home and don’t go anywhere,” he said.

Anna Lukinova and Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.

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Biden: Russia ‘Shamelessly Violated’ U.N. Charter In Ukraine

President Biden also highlighted consequences of the invasion for the world’s food supply, pledging $2.9 billion in global food security aid.

President Joe Biden declared at the United Nations on Wednesday that Russia has “shamelessly violated the core tenets” of the international body with its war in Ukraine as he summoned nations around the globe to stand firm in backing the Ukrainian resistance.

Delivering a forceful condemnation of Russia’s seven-month invasion, President Biden said reports of Russian abuses against civilians in Ukraine “should make your blood run cold.” And he said President Vladimir Putin’s new nuclear threats against Europe showed “reckless disregard” for Russia’s responsibilities as a signer of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

He criticized Russia for scheduling “sham referenda” this week in territory it has forcibly seized in Ukraine.

“A permanent member of the U..N Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the U.N. charter,” he told his U.N. audience.

President Biden called on all nations, whether democracies or autocracies, to speak out against Russia’s “brutal, needless war” and to bolster Ukraine’s effort to defend itself.

“We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period,” President Biden said.

He also highlighted consequences of the invasion for the world’s food supply, pledging $2.9 billion in global food security aid to address shortages caused by the war and the effects of climate change. President Biden praised a U.N.-brokered effort to create a corridor for Ukrainian grain to be exported by sea, and called on the agreement to be continued despite the ongoing conflict.

The president, during his time at the U.N. General Assembly, also planned to meet Wednesday with new British Prime Minister Liz Truss and press allies to meet an $18 billion target to replenish the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

But the heart of the president’s visit to the U.N. this year was his full-throated censure of Russia as its war nears the seven-month mark. One of Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassadors, Gennady Kuzmin, was sitting in Russia’s seat during President Biden’s speech.

The address came as Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine have announced plans to hold Kremllin-backed referendums in days ahead on becoming part of Russia and as Moscow is losing ground in the invasion. Russian President Putin on Wednesday announced a partial mobilization to call up 300,000 reservists and accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail.”

The White House said the global food security funding includes $2 billion in direct humanitarian assistance through the United States Agency for International Development. The balance of the money will go to global development projects meant to boost the efficiency and resilience of the global food supply.

“This new announcement of $2.9 billion will save lives through emergency interventions and invest in medium- to long-term food security assistance in order to protect the world’s most vulnerable populations from the escalating global food security crisis,” the White House said.

President Biden was confronting no shortage of difficult issues as leaders gather this year.

In addition to the Russian war in Ukraine, European fears that a recession could be just around the corner are heightened. Administration concerns grow by the day that time is running short to revive the Iran nuclear deal and over China’s saber-rattling on Taiwan.

When he addressed last year’s General Assembly, President Biden focused on broad themes of global partnership, urging world leaders to act with haste against the coronavirus, climate change and human rights abuses. And he offered assurances that his presidency marked a return of American leadership to international institutions following Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.

But one year later, global dynamics have dramatically changed.

His Wednesday address comes on the heels of Ukrainian forces retaking control of large stretches of territory near Kharkiv. But even as Ukrainian forces have racked up battlefield wins, much of Europe is feeling painful blowback from economic sanctions levied against Russia. A vast reduction in Russian oil and gas has led to a sharp jump in energy prices, skyrocketing inflation and growing risk of Europe slipping into a recession.

President Biden’s visit to the U.N. also comes as his administration’s efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal appears stalled.

The deal brokered by the Obama administration — and scrapped by Trump in 2018 — provided billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for Iran’s agreement to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to extensive international inspection.

“While the United States is prepared for a mutual return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, if Iran steps up to its obligations, the United States is clear: We will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” President Biden said.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said no breakthrough with Iran was expected during the General Assembly and that administration officials would be consulting with fellow signers of the 2015 agreement on the sidelines of this week’s meetings.

This year’s U.N. gathering is back to being a full-scale, in-person event after two years of curtailed activity due to the pandemic. In 2020, the in-person gathering was canceled and leaders instead delivered prerecorded speeches; last year was a mix of in-person and prerecorded speeches. Biden and first lady Jill Biden were set to host a leaders’ reception on Wednesday evening.

China’s President Xi Jinping opted not to attend this year’s U.N. gathering, but his country’s conduct and intentions will loom large.

Weeks after tensions flared across the Taiwan Strait as China objected to the high-profile visit to Taiwan of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Biden called for “peace and stability” and said the U.S. would “oppose unilateral changes in the status quo by either side.” That came days after President Biden repeated that the U.S. would militarily assist Taiwan if China sought to invade.

China’s government on Monday said President Biden’s statement in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that American forces would defend the self-ruled island was a violation of U.S. commitments on the matter, but it gave no indication of possible retaliation.

President Biden on Wednesday also declared that “fundamental freedoms are at risk in every part of our world,” citing last month’s U.N. human rights office report raising concerns about possible “crimes against humanity” in China’s western region against Uyghurs and other largely Muslim ethnic groups.

He also singled out for criticism the military junta in Myanmar, the Taliban controlling Afghanistan, and Iran, where he said the U.S. supports protests in Iran that sprang up in recent days after a 22-year-old woman died while being held by the morality police for violating the country’s Islamic dress code.

“Today we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran, who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights,” President Biden said. “The United States will always promote human rights and the values enshrined in the U.N. Charter in our own country and around the world.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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