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Qatar, its Gulf foes align on Hezbollah

WASHINGTON -- Qatar and its adversaries in the Persian Gulf have agreed to do something together: join the U.S. in placing terror sanctions on Iran's ally Hezbollah.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Wednesday that Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other nations in the region are imposing sanctions on Hezbollah's senior leadership. The sanctions are being coordinated by a U.S.-Gulf partnership called the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center.

The group was formed last May. Shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut off ties to Qatar and moved to isolate it economically. The spat has remained in a stalemate despite intermittent attempts by the U.S. to mediate or to hasten a resolution.

Most of the Hezbollah officials were already under heavy U.S. sanctions, so the actions will have limited practical implication in the United States. President Donald Trump's administration has been targeting Hezbollah, a Lebanese group, to increase pressure on its patron, Iran, after Trump's withdrawal last week from the Iran nuclear deal.

Drills meant to faze Taiwan, China says

BEIJING -- A Chinese government spokesman said Wednesday that the country's military exercises around Taiwan are intended as a direct threat to the self-governing island's government over moves Beijing sees as cementing its independence from the mainland.

The message conveyed by the recent drills is "very clear," An Fengshan, spokesman for the Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a biweekly news conference.

"It is a strong warning to Taiwan independence separatist forces and their activities. It demonstrates our determination and capabilities to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," An said.

China has the "firm will, full confidence and sufficient capabilities" to block moves toward Taiwan's formal independence, An said.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under control by force if necessary. A Japanese colony for 50 years, Taiwan was handed to China at the end of World War II but separated from the mainland in 1949 in a civil war.

4 swordsmen slain after officer killed

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesian police on Wednesday fatally shot four sword-wielding men who attacked a police headquarters in Sumatra, killing one officer, the latest in a spate of militant attacks across the Muslim-majority country.

National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said the men attacked officers after driving a minivan into Riau province's police headquarters.

He said a fifth man, who drove the vehicle, was arrested trying to escape. One officer, who was hit by the minivan, died and two were injured.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency.

Suicide bombings Sunday and Monday in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, killed 26 people, including 13 attackers. Two families carried out the attacks, using children as young as 7.

The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the Surabaya attacks.

Fearing spies, Iran bars services

TEHRAN, Iran -- Authorities will start blocking virtual private network services because of security concerns caused by U.S. support of the services, Iran's telecommunications minister was quoted as saying by Iranian newspapers Wednesday.

A report in the newspapers quotes Mohammad Javad Azeri Jahromi as saying some virtual services have links to foreign intelligence services and that the "budgets of some of them are provided by the U.S. government."

Jahromi did not elaborate but said many other virtual private networks are malware.

A virtual private network extends a private network across a public network, making it possible for users to send and receive data as if they were connected to the public network directly.

A Section on 05/17/2018

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