World News Brief, Friday May 31

Syria received Russian arms, says Assad; Japan's Nikkei takes another plunge; Burma reaches cease-fire accord with ethnic Kachin rebels; Ghana's president warns of regional instability due to Islamist threat; France must cut spending, says EU

Top of the Agenda: Assad Says Syria Received Russian Arms

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad told a Lebanese newspaper that he has received the first shipment of an air defense system from Russia (Reuters), days before an EU embargo on the country expires. Russia had announced earlier this week that it would deliver the missile system to the Syrian government over Western objections, saying the move would stabilize regional balance. Assad also noted in the interview that Syria and the Lebanese group Hezbollah (BBC) were cooperating, with Hezbollah fighters deployed along the Lebanese-Syrian borders. Meanwhile, the Syrian National Coalition, meeting in Istanbul, set preconditions on entering international peace talks (al-Jazeera) in Geneva next month.


"In the current Syrian crisis, what protected Lebanon for more than two years from being drawn into the crisis was an understanding among key external actors. Yet the growing conflict over Syria among these actors has changed the givens; hence, Lebanon is slipping rapidly into the Syrian quagmire," writes Nassif Hitti for Al-Monitor.

"Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has explained his party's involvement in Syria by saying that it is an ad hoc effort by fighters from areas bordering the conflict zone to protect Shia villages within Syria. But the information coming to light about the dead belie that claim: Hezbollah's slain fighters come from a diverse set of locations within Lebanon, from towns in the central Beqaa to southern Lebanese towns on the Israel-Lebanon border," writes Phillip Smyth for Foreign Policy.

"Recent discussions over lifting the EU arms embargo may be seen to be going against the spirit of the US/Russian peace plan. Why would you support a peace proposal while suggesting you may soon start arming one of the sides in the conflict?" writes James Bays for al-Jazeera.



Japan's Nikkei Takes Another Plunge

Japan's benchmark Nikkei index dropped 5.2 percent (CNNMoney) Thursday as concerns mount over the long-term viability of the country's ambitious economic turnaround plan.

This CFR Backgrounder delves into Abenomics and its three-pronged approach to jolting the Japanese economy out of decades of stagnation.

BURMA: The Burma government reached a seven-point cease-fire accord with ethnic Kachin rebels (BBC). Among other things, the deal includes working toward an end to the violence and the redeployment of forces on both sides. Negotiations over the political status of Kachin would come later.


Ghana's president warns of regional instability due to Islamist threat

France must cut spending, says EU


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