Thursday, April 24, 2014
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief has censured the Bahraini government for discriminating against the country's Shia majority. On Thursday, the UN body criticized the Persian Gulf kingdom after it expelled the representative of prominent Shia religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. "Targeting the most senior and influential Shia religious figure in Bahrain may amount to intimidating and thus discriminating against the entire Shia Muslim community in the country because of its religious beliefs," Heiner Bielefeldt said in a statement. Bielefeldt added that the case of Sheikh Hussein al-Najati is a stark illustration of the broader mistreatment of Shia Muslims in Bahrain. "I understand that Mr. Najati has consistently refrained from engaging into politics, and has maintained his position and activities strictly in the realm of his religion," Bielefeldt stated, adding, "He is not known to have advocated violence or its use, or to have committed acts that would undermine national security or public order, nor has he been charged or sentenced for committing such acts." He also said the move appears to be a religiously-motivated discrimination and a gross violation of internationally-recognized human rights. "Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms," Bielefeldt added. Iran has also criticized the move after Manama decided to revoke Najati's citizenship. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian called the move provocative and wrong. Manama has launched a heavy-handed crackdown on anti-regime protesters since the uprising against the ruling Al Khalifa broke out across the kingdom in February 2011.
President reassures Tokyo that US would come to its aid, but warns against provoking ChinaUS President Barack Obama yesterday treaded a diplomatic fine line as he reassured Japan that the US would come to its defence over territorial disputes with China, while also calling on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to escalate tensions. In an overt display of unity and reassurance, Obama reiterated a message that Japan has been hoping to hear - that the two countries' mutual defence treaty would cover the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that China calls the Diaoyus and Japan the Senkakus - but he also called on Beijing and Tokyo to resolve any disputes peacefully. "And let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan's security is absolute, and Article 5 covers all territories under Japan's administration, including the Senkaku Islands," he said after a summit with Abe in Tokyo. While stressing America's neutral position on sovereignty claims, Obama said Tokyo had historically administered the islands and this should not be "subject to change unilaterally", referring to China's efforts to establish an administrative and military presence in the area. Until recent years, Washington had been reluctant to publicly clarify its position should a conflict break out between Beijing and Tokyo over the islands. But in a written interview with Japan's Yomiuri Shimbum published on Wednesday, Obama became the first serving US president to say that the islands were covered by the alliance treaty. Japanese media reported that the same statement was expected to be included in a joint declaration between the two leaders. The declaration was delayed as negotiators from both countries were still trying to narrow their differences over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. With tensions over the islands intensifying, the US has recently stepped up rhetorical support for Tokyo while criticising China for its "intimidation and coercion" in the disputed area. But Obama yesterday called on his Japanese counterpart to refrain from further provocation and seek dialogue with China. "I emphasised with Prime Minister Abe the importance of resolving this issue peacefully - not escalating the situation, keeping the rhetoric low, not taking provocative actions, and trying to determine how both Japan and China can work co-operatively together," Obama said. Obama is using his tour of Asia to reassure allies as bitter territorial disputes continue with an increasingly assertive China.
The PLA is fully capable of safeguarding China's Diaoyu Islands, says spokesmanUS President Barack Obama's promise of military cover for Japan's claim on the Diaoyu Islands faces the potential of backfiring, observers said. Obama stated in a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday that the US-Japan mutual security treaty covers China's Diaoyu Islands. "We do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally, and what is a consistent part of the alliance is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan." The forthright remarks from Obama are widely interpreted as a display of Washington's strong commitment to its Asian allies designed to dispel suspicion of weakening US clout in the region. Obama is on a four-nation tour that was postponed seven months ago because of the US government shutdown. He faced flak at the time for postponing the trip, both in the US and overseas, amid criticism that the US was preoccupied with domestic affairs at the expense of its international commitments. Responding to Obama's comments, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said that the Chinese army will continue military patrols in "relevant waters" in the East China Sea. The Chinese military is "fully capable of safeguarding the Diaoyu Islands, and it is unnecessary for other nations to go to extreme lengths to provide a so-called security guarantee," Yang said, adding that China will firmly safeguard territorial sovereignty in the face of provocation from Japan. Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said Obama's remarks may lead to unforeseen problems because the military commitment — directly naming specific islands — could "sabotage US strategic initiatives in the region" and undermine its strategic flexibility. "As a result, Tokyo is keeping Washington in check in this regard, and, honestly, the ruling Japanese cabinet is very unpredictable," Ruan said. Ruan noted that Obama's remarks about the islands "also harm the credibility of the US", because instead of taking an honest broker's viewpoint the US is firmly backing one side and this has the potential to cause problems. With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe beside him, Obama told reporters that he had not drawn any new "red line" over the islands, and he emphasized the need to resolve maritime disputes peacefully. "The treaty between the US and Japan preceded my birth, so, obviously, this isn't a red line that I'm drawing," Obama said. Li Haidong, a researcher of US studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said Obama's visit to Japan aimed to boost Japan's status as a "pillar" of Asia-Pacific security and as a key player in containing China. But, Li said, the two allies have different agendas. "The US seeks stability in the big picture of its relationship with China, yet Japan is not afraid of fanning the flames of a conflict with China," Li said. The US-Japan defense treaty requires Washington to come to Japan's defense if it is attacked. Experts said Washington believes that backing Tokyo will have long-term benefits. Lyu Yaodong, an expert on Japanese diplomacy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Obama is "determined to see tangible progress in his rebalancing strategy" during his Asian trip, and "to achieve this goal, satisfying demands from Japan regarding the islands is necessary". Abe told reporters on Thursday that "the Japan-US alliance is more robust than ever before." "The US pivot cannot succeed without strong support from important allies such as Japan," Lyu said. Ruan noted a shift in the US-Japan military relationship, and one example is that the US is "outsourcing" more defense duties to Japan. "Washington believes that its promise on the islands is a feasible way to strengthen its influence over Japan, and accordingly Washington wants Japan's self-defense forces to play a greater role, which is very dangerous," Ruan said. Yang, the Defense Ministry spokesman, also confirmed what Chinese Navy Commander Wu Shengli said on Wednesday about a worst-case scenario. Wu told reporters on the sidelines of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium that the possibility of a military conflict remains between China and Japan, and the priority is to "prevent the outbreak of a conflict". Yang also said the PLA will continue military patrols in waters near a tropical Japanese island close to Taiwan, days after Tokyo announced it would break ground on a new radar base in the area. The radar station on Yonaguni Island, just 150 km from the Diaoyu Islands, marks Japan's first military expansion at the western end of its island chain in more than 40 years. "We are paying close attention to Japan's military trends," he said. "China's military will continue to carry out battle readiness patrols, military drills and other
Secretary of State John Kerry says Russia is "stoking instability" in Ukraine, and the Obama administration will impose additional sanctions against Moscow if it does not keep promises made last week to help de-escalate the crisis. Kerry says the world has rightly judged that authorities in Kyiv are working in good faith to de-escalate the crisis, while Moscow "has put its faith in distraction, deception and destabilization."
http://voiceofrussia.com/Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called upon the US to make Ukrainian government stop the military operation in the southeast of Ukraine, the Ministry’s press service reports. “We hope that the US would take measures in order to prevent the escalation of the conflict in compliance of the Geneva communiqué of April 17. The US should force the current Ukrainian government to stop the military operation in the southeast of Ukraine and to withdraw Ukraine’s armed forces from the region. Nothing has been done to resolve this urgent issue. We hope that Washington realizes its responsibility for everything that is going on in Ukraine,” the press service says. Ukrainian forces have been carrying out a military operation in the southeast of Ukraine since April 15. The operation was initiated in order to suppress supporters of the federalization, who had been organizing rallies since March. Russia thinks that the decision of the illegitimate Ukrainian government to initiate a military operation is a very dangerous and thoughtless one. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_04_25/US-should-force-Ukraine-to-stop-military-operation-in-southeast-Russias-Foreign-Ministry-5374/
Russia has begun extensive military exercises near the Ukrainian border following the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine. “The order to use force against civilians has already been given, and if this military machine is not stopped, the amount of casualties will only grow,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said during an official meeting in Moscow. “War games by NATO in Poland and the Baltic states are also not helping the normalization of the situation. We are forced to react to the situation.”Shoigu said that the drills involve march and deployment maneuvers by forces in the southern and western military districts, and separate Air Force exercises. Shoigu said that 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 160 tanks, 230 armored carriers and at least 150 artillery pieces are involved in the operation against anti-Kiev activists. “National guard units and Right Sector extremists are fighting against the peaceful population, as well as a volunteer Donbass ‘anti-terrorist’ unit. Also security and internal forces transferred to Lugansk and Donetsk from other areas of the country are suppressing dissent,” he said. Shoigu added that Ukrainian sabotage units had been deployed near the Russian border.
In contrast, he said that the pro-Russian self-defense units number about 2,000 and have about 100 guns between them, which have mostly been taken from local police stations. "It's not an evenly matched confrontation," Shoigu said. The coup-imposed Ukrainian acting president, Aleksandr Turchinov, has demanded that Russia pull back its troops back from the Ukrainian border, calling the ongoing Russian military exercises “blackmail.” In a brief address, Turchinov claimed that “terrorists have crossed the border… taking hostages and killing the patriots of Ukraine.” He also called for the Russian government “to stop interfering into the internal affairs of our country.” The heaviest fighting on Thursday took place in Slavyansk, with the Ukrainian Interior Ministry reporting the deaths of at least five "terrorists." NATO has estimated that Russia has massed at least 40,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. Moscow has not denied that it has moved troops to the region, but said that its internal troop movements are its own prerogative.
NATO began military exercises in Poland on Wednesday, with more scheduled to take place in the Baltic states next week. So far, 150 US paratroopers have arrived in the country from their stationary base in Italy, with 450 more set to join them. Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, has also asked NATO to deploy 10,000 troops in his country. On Wednesday, the frigate USS Taylor became the latest US ship to enter the Black Sea on a rotating deployment. NATO has dispatched a separate rapid reaction force to the Baltic.
Sectarian killings rose by more than a fifth in Pakistan last year, a leading rights group said Thursday, warning of an alarming increase in violence against religious minorities. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said 687 people were killed in more than 200 sectarian attacks last year, a rise of 22 percent on 2012. The group warned that ongoing peace talks between the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the hardline militant Islamists of the Pakistani Taliban could make minorities even more vulnerable. Around 97 percent of Pakistan's 180 million population is Muslim, the vast majority Sunnis. Violence against Shiite Muslims, who make up around 20 percent, has been growing in recent years, much of it led by extremist sectarian groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The country's small Christian, Hindu and Ahmadi communities also suffer discrimination and occasional outbursts of violence. At the launch of the HRCP's annual report on Pakistan's rights situation, secretary general I A Rehman said minorities were facing increasing violence. "Minorities in Pakistan are increasingly feeling insecure since the present government came to power in June last year," he told reporters. Peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban could have "immense repercussions" on religious minorities, he warned. The Taliban, whose seven-year insurgency has claimed thousands of lives, want to impose strict sharia Islamic law across Pakistan. "It is a choice of the government if it wants to have negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban but these negotiations should not come at the cost of religious minorities and women," said Rehman. Nearly 200 Shiites were killed in the first seven weeks of 2013, most in two huge bombings in the southwestern city of Quetta, a flashpoint for sectarian violence. The rights group said that since the present government came to power the trend had shifted from large-scale attacks to individual killings targeting Shiite doctors, lawyers and intellectuals. The report also called 2013 "one of the darkest years" for Christians in Pakistan, with the deadliest ever attack on the community mounted in the northwestern city of Peshawar in September. Nearly 100 worshippers were killed when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at All Saints Church after a Sunday service.
Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the terror attack on police personnel in Karachi today which resulted into loss of several police officials including Shafiq Tanoli while injuring many others. Bilawal Bhutto said that the sacrifices being offered by the armed forces, security forces and the general public against the terrorism would not be wasted as the entire nation was united against the menace of terrorism. He said that the attack on the police personnel was an attack on the security of the country. PPP Patron further said that the terrorists were the open enemy of the country. He said that the terrorists should be brought to book and given exemplary punishment. He also sympathized with the grieving families and prayed Almighty to rest the departed souls in eternal peace.
Three American medical staff members died when an Afghan security official opened fire Thursday at an American-run Christian hospital in Kabul in the latest violence targeting foreigners in Afghanistan. The attack, which also wounded several people, took place about 9 a.m. as doctors and nurses were arriving at CURE, which is part of an international network of hospitals run by a Pennsylvania charity. The hospital largely focuses on providing medical care to needy children.In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said: “With great sadness we confirm that three Americans were killed in the attack on CURE Hospital. No other information will be released at this time.” Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said the gunman was an Afghan police officer, although other officials described him as a hospital guard. The gunman, who unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide after the shooting, has been arrested, Seddiqi said. The U.S. Embassy declined to identify the occupations of the three Americans who were killed. But a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry said one was a doctor who worked at the hospital and that the other two were medical staffers who were just visiting. All three were shot as they entered the hospital gate, the spokesman said. “We are trying to determine the cause of this attack,” said Abdul Zahir, Kabul’s police chief. The attack comes as foreigners in Afghanistan were facing heightened concern about their safety amid a wave of brazen violence. Over the past three months, as Afghanistan is in the midst of electing a new president, 20 foreigners have been killed in separate attacks targeting civilians. The attacks have occurred at a popular restaurant, an upscale hotel and other venues where foreigners congregate. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for much of the violence, including a March 20 assault on the Serena Hotel in Kabul that killed nine people, including two Canadians. The violence is accelerating the pace at which foreigners are fleeing Kabul, a city that until recently has provided relative security for aid workers, journalists and civilian contractors. With Thursday’s shooting, the dangers facing foreigners are heightened by what appear to be increasing random attacks by Afghan security officials. For years, the U.S.-led coalition has struggled to combat so-called “green-on-blue” attacks in which Afghan soldiers have turned their weapons on NATO troops who were training or supervising them. Now, however, civilians are also vulnerable to such attacks. Three weeks ago, an Afghan police officer shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is great) before shooting an Associated Press photographer and reporter who were sitting in a vehicle in Khost province in eastern Afghanistan. The photographer, Anja Niedringhaus, a German citizen, was killed. The reporter, Kathy Gannon, a Canadian, was seriously wounded. That attack occurred one month after Swedish journalist Nils Horner was shot and killed in a brazen midday attack in Kabul. Horner, who was based in Hong Kong and had just arrived in Kabul to cover the run-up to the April 5 Afghan elections, was shot by several men as he walked down a street near a heavily fortified diplomatic compound. Javid Kohestani, a retired Afghan army general and Kabul-based security analyst, said Taliban fighters and their sympathizers appear to be stepping up their attacks on civilians as military targets become harder to find due to the ongoing withdrawal of most remaining coalition forces. They want “to frighten foreigners and disrupt their reconstruction and development work,” Kohestani said. “Their initial targets now seem to be Americans and Europeans, but they may also target Muslim foreigners to show that security is getting worse.” CURE hospitals were founded in 1996 by Scott Harrison and his wife, Sally Harrison, to help children with disabilities. The motto of the organization, based in central Pennsylvania, is delivering “life-changing medical care and the good news of God’s love to children and families with treatable conditions.” It operates hospitals in Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Over the years, the organization has provided more than 150,000 life-saving surgeries, according to its Web site. The hospital in Kabul opened in 2005 and has a staff of 27 doctors and 64 nurses. It treats 37,000 patients annually. Though the motives of the gunman remain unknown, the incident marks the second time in less than a month that a Christian charity has come under attack in Kabul. In late March, the Taliban unsuccessfully tried to storm a heavily guarded guesthouse for employees of the Roots of Peace, a San Francisco-based organization that focuses on agricultural projects. That guesthouse was located next to a Christian charity and day-care center, which may have been the intended target of that attack. In January, three Americans died when Taliban fighters stormed a popular Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, killing a total of 21 people who were seated for dinner.
http://voiceofrussia.com/A special operation is under way in Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region, in the east of Ukraine. Five militiamen are said to have been killed, one police officer wounded and three checkpoints wiped out, according to the Ukraine's Interior Ministry. One task force soldier has been wounded, according to the report. The Donetsk region police department said earlier that the self-defence force had set up 8 checkpoints in Slavyansk. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_04_24/Kiev-resumes-special-operation-in-Slavyansk-5-activists-dead-one-policeman-injured-4020/
In Pakistan, abortion is illegal, and so is adultery - creating a situation where hundreds of children born out of wedlock are secretly killed each year. Their bodies are, literally, thrown out with the garbage.A child has just been born and nobody looks happy - not even his parents. His tiny body is still smeared in blood. The newborn cries incessantly, and so does the teenage mother. The baby weighs only 3,500 grams and is around the size of the palm of a large hand. And that's when the mother's trembling hands reach the child's frail neck. She closes her eyes and presses her thumb against the child's throat. She strangles him. A child who arrived in the "civilized world" some 45 minutes ago, must now leave it. The nurse puts the child's corpse in a plastic bag and takes it out of the clinic. Razia Zulfikar, a nurse working at a maternity home in the central Pakistani city of Gujranwala, says hundreds of illegitimate newborn babies are killed in the Islamic republic every day. "An eight-month pregnant girl came to us just a few days ago. We didn't want to admit her to our hospital. After repeated requests from her family, we finally agreed to treat her. But we told the family explicitly that we would not kill the child," Zulfikar told DW. "We gave the baby to the girl's family. Only she and her family know what they did to the newborn, and how they killed him," she added.
A rebellious act
Pakistan is a majority-Muslim nation with a population of over 180 million people. Pre-marital relations are strictly prohibited in the conservative country and are also frowned upon by society. There is probably no bigger taboo than having a child out of wedlock. According to Islamic laws, it is a punishable crime and the people committing fornication could be sentenced to death. At times, the relatives of the couple take the law in their hands and kill the adulterers. Most of the times, only the mother and the child are murdered. However, despite social taboos and harsh laws, many Pakistani men and women continue to engage in extramarital relationships and have sex before marriage. "We live in a modern world. Our girls and boys keep cellular phones and watch Western movies. They are rebellious and do whatever they like. The family only gets to know about an affair when the girl gets pregnant," Zulfikar said.
Crime and punishment
According to the Edhi Foundation, a Pakistani welfare organization, more than 1,100 newborns were murdered and dumped in garbage bins last year. The organization says it collected the figures only from the country's big cities, and the number could be much higher nationwide."A six-day-old child was burnt to death. We also found the corpses of babies who had been hanged, or who had been partly eaten by animals," Anwar Kazmi, a manager at the Edhi Foundation, told DW. "I can never forget one incident. A woman left a child in front of a mosque hoping that somebody would adopt him. But the cleric of the mosque ordered the people to stone the child to death. I saw the mutilated and torn body of the child myself," he recalled.
Cradles The Edhi Foundation runs a unique project called "Jhoola," which means "cradle" in Urdu. The organization encourages people to leave unwanted children in its cradles instead of murdering them. It does not ask for people's identities. One can put the baby in these cradles in the dark of the night. "I would like people who do not want their children to bring them to us and to not kill them. We have more than three hundred centers with cradles across the country. They don't need to be afraid of anything."
But people are scared and feel intimidated by both society and state authorities. Though abortions are illegal in Pakistan - for the most part - many attribute the growing number of infant deaths to abortions, which are only permitted if the mother's life is in danger - and that woman must be a married one. Under no circumstances can a fetus be aborted if a woman is unmarried. On the other hand, murdering an infant is a crime, but it seems to be the lesser evil.
indiatimes.comPakistan fighter jets on Thursday attacked Taliban hideouts in the lawless northwestern tribal belt and killed at least 12 suspected militants, officials said. It was the first time the military is known to have used air strikes on militants since the Pakistani Taliban announced a ceasefire on March 1 to help peace talks. The Taliban said last week it was ending the ceasefire, complaining of little progress in negotiations with the government. A series of militant attacks since then have killed seven people in the northwest. The airstrikes were staged in mountainous areas of the Khyber tribal district, where the Taliban and the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam are active. "At least 12 militants have been killed but the death toll may increase," a security official based in Peshawar told AFP on condition of anonymity. Lashkar-e-Islam, led by warlord Mangal Bagh, is feared for kidnappings and extortion in Khyber, one of seven lawless tribal districts along the Afghan border. Another security official said the strikes targeted militants involved in bomb attacks in the northwestern town of Charsadda and on a fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad which killed 24 people. Both officials said ground troops also used heavy weapons to pound militant targets. Independent verification of the death toll was not possible, as journalists are not allowed to enter the area. Pakistan began talks with the Taliban in February to try to end their seven-year insurgency, which has cost thousands of lives. Government and Taliban negotiators met in Islamabad on Tuesday to plan a fresh round of talks and to try to persuade the militants to begin another ceasefire, a Taliban negotiator said. Since the Taliban began their campaign of violence in 2007, more than 6,800 people have been killed in bomb and gun attacks around Pakistan, according to an AFP tally.
A journalist in Lahore rushed past security and threw a shoe at Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore on Thursday, but it missed. The journalist, Imdad Ali, working in private Sindhi television launched the projectile at the CM Punjab as he was a special guest at three-day South Asia Labour Conference. According to reports, before throwing the show, Ali raised slogans against expected restrictions on a news channel. A spokesman for Shahbaz Sharif did not immediately respond to comment. The reports, the security staff of the CM Punjab will investigate the journalist regarding the incident after the incident whether he did it himself or any other power behind the incident. It is the not the first incident of shoe-thrower in Pakistan as former military ruler Pervez Musharaf.
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNEA suicide blast in the Old Sabzi Mandi area of Karachi left four people including former SHO Shafiq Tanoli dead and 15 other people injured, Express News reported on Thursday. According to initials details, Tanoli’s house was the target of the blast. The former SHO has been targeted at least seven times before. One of Tanoli’s brothers, Rasheed, told the media that his uncle and cousin were among the deceased as well. Tanoli’s family members had born the brunt of his work in the past. Tanoli’s younger brother, Naveed, was killed the same day when Tanoli, the then SHO of Supermarket Police Station, had arrested the murderers of Geo News reporter Wali Khan Babar. Tanoli was the investigating officer for the murder case. The injured in today’s attack, who also include Tanoli’s family members, were taken to local hospitals for medical assistance. Rescue teams and the police have reached the site of the explosion and a shop was destroyed in the blast as well. Background The man, who was always determined to fight violence, joined the police force in 1989 when he was in his early twenties. He was also active during the army operation in the 1990s – a time when officers were scared to mention they were from the police force. Tanoli had also worked for the CID, and was involved in the arrest of Lyari’s Arshad Pappu, inviting the wrath of his followers. He had been attacked twice in Pak Colony, twice in Mauripur, once each in Liaquatabad, Sachal and Old Sabzi Mandi.
http://news.yahoo.com/Gulf Arab sheiks have long enjoyed close ties with Pakistan, but a Saudi prince's recent shooting spree, which culled more than 2,000 rare birds from preserves, has stirred outrage in the country, just as Saudi Arabia propped up its economy with a $1.5 billion loan.