U.S.-backed Syrian force vows to take all Manbij from Islamic State

NEAR THE EUPHRATES RIVER, Syria U.S.-backed Syrian militias vowed on Thursday to drive Islamic State (IS) from the city of Manbij and surrounding areas in northern Syria and urged civilians there to stay away from militant positions that would be targeted in the campaign.The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, including the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, thrust into IS-held territory near the Turkish border this week. The attack is backed by U.S.-led air strikes and U.S. special forces on the ground."We confirm that this campaign will continue until the liberation of the last inch of the land of Manbij and its rural areas," said a joint statement in the name of the SDF and allied Manbij Military Council.The statement was read out on the banks of the Euphrates River by Manbij Military Council commander Adnan Abu Amjad."We urge our people in the city of Manbij to stay away from all centers and positions where the Daesh terrorists are present because they will be military targets for our forces. We call on them to take measures to ensure their safety," he said."We also call on our people in Manbij to offer support and help to our forces," said Abu Amjad. He said the Manbij military council represented all the area's ethnic groups, which he listed as Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Circassians.The statement said control would be handed to a civilian council after the town was freed. "Oh brave people of Manbij, our forces are coming to liberate you from the shackles of the Daesh terrorist torturers," it said.MAJOR OFFENSIVEThousands of U.S.-backed fighters have opened a major new front in Syria's war, launching an offensive to drive IS out of a swathe of northern Syria that it uses as a logistics base. The operation, which began on Tuesday after weeks of quiet preparations, aims to choke off the group's access to Syrian land along the Turkish border that the militants have long used to move foreign fighters back and forth to Europe.A Kurdish source, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters in Beirut, predicted the Syrian militias would reach Islamic State-held Manbij within days, after advancing to within 10 km (6 miles) of the town.It was too early to say how the battle for Manbij would go, the source said, but added that IS defenses on the west bank of the Euphrates River had collapsed at the start of the campaign.The council due to manage the city's civilian affairs was set up on May in the town of Sarrin, said Sheikh Farouk al-Mashi, head of the council. Sarrin was captured by the YPG from Islamic State last year. Speaking to Reuters from Syria, he said IS had launched a campaign of arrests and had tried to cut communications in Manbij in the run-up to the assault."The detentions are currently in Manbij city, but they told us five minutes ago they are also detaining people in the rural areas too," he said. Naser Haj Mansour, an adviser to the SDF general command, told Reuters that IS was still putting up a fight: "In general, the progress is at a good pace and performance, keeping in mind that Daesh still has the capability to fight."The SDF has launched two other offensives in the last week in nearby Raqqa province, which is where Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqa city is located. Raqqa city is not a target in the operations currently underway.One of the offensives in Raqqa province is targeting the town of Tabqa, which Mansour described as extremely important because it is a major IS arsenal. (Reporting by Rodi Said in Syria and Tom Perry in Beirut; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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G7 agrees need strong message on South China Sea; China says don't 'hype'

ISE-SHIMA, Japan Group of Seven (G7) leaders agreed on Thursday on the need to send a strong message on maritime claims in the western Pacific, where an increasingly assertive China is locked in territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations.The agreement prompted a sharp rejoinder from China, which is not in the G7 club but whose rise as a power has put it at the heart of some discussions at the advanced nations' summit in Ise-Shima, central Japan."Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe led discussion on the current situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Other G7 leaders said it is necessary for G7 to issue a clear signal," Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters after a session on foreign policy affairs.At a news conference late on Wednesday, Abe said Japan welcomed China's peaceful rise while repeating Tokyo's opposition to acts that try to change the status quo by force. He also urged respect for the rule of law. Both principles are expected to be mentioned in a statement after the summit. The United States is also increasingly concerned about China's action in the region.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted in Beijing that the South China Sea issue had "nothing to do" with the G7 or any of its members."China is resolutely opposed to individual countries hyping up the South China Sea for personal gain," she said.U.S. President Barack Obama called on China on Wednesday to resolve maritime disputes peacefully and he reiterated that the United States was simply concerned about freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.Obama on Thursday pointed to the risks from North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, saying the isolated state was "hell bent" on getting atomic weapons.But he said there had been improved responses from countries in the region like China that could reduce the risk of North Korea selling weapons or nuclear material. "It's something that we've put at the center of discussions and negotiations with China," Obama told reporters.Seko, speaking the first of two days of the summit in central Japan, said Abe told G7 counterparts that Pyongyang's development of nuclear technology and ballistic missiles poses a threat to international peace, including in Europe. "It is necessary to make North Korea realize that it would not be able have a bright future unless such issues as abduction, nuclear and missile development are resolved," Abe told the group, according to Seko.The G7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. GLOBAL HEALTH CHECKThe global economy topped the agenda earlier in the day, when G7 leaders voiced concern about emerging economies and Abe made a pointed comparison to the 2008 global financial crisis. Not all his G7 partners appeared to agree.The G7 leaders did agree on the need for flexible spending to spur world growth but the timing and amount depended on each country, Seko told reporters, adding that some countries saw no need for such spending. Britain and Germany have been resisting calls for fiscal stimulus."G7 leaders voiced the view that emerging economies are in a severe situation, although there were views that the current economic situation is not a crisis," Seko said.Abe presented data showing global commodities prices fell 55 percent from June 2014 to January 2016, the same margin as from July 2008 to February 2009, after the Lehman collapse. Lehman had been Wall Street's fourth-largest investment bank when it filed for Chapter 11 protection on Sept. 15, 2008, making its bankruptcy by far the biggest in U.S. history. Its failure triggered the global financial crisis.Abe hopes, some political insiders say, to use a G7 statement on the global economy as cover for a domestic fiscal package including the possible delay of a rise in the nation's sales tax to 10 percent from 8 percent planned for next April.Obama ripped into Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying the billionaire had rattled other G7 leaders and that his statements were aimed at getting headlines, not what was needed to keep America safe and the world on an even keel.Trump has been accused of racism, misogyny and bigotry for saying he would build a giant wall to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants, would temporarily ban Muslims from the United States and issued a series of comments considered demeaning to women.Summit pageantry began when Abe escorted G7 leaders to the Shinto religion's holiest site, the Ise Grand Shrine in central Japan, dedicated to sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, mythical ancestress of the emperor. On Wednesday night, Abe met Obama for talks dominated by the arrest of a U.S. military base civilian worker in connection with the killing of a young woman on Japan's Okinawa island, reluctant host to the bulk of the U.S. military in Japan. The attack dimmed Obama's hopes of keeping his Japan trip strictly focused on his visit on Friday to Hiroshima, site of the world's first atomic bombing, to highlight reconciliation between the two former World War Two enemies as well as his nuclear anti-proliferation agenda. (Reporting by Thomas Wilson and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Kylie MacLellan, Ami Miyazaki and Ben Blanchard; Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel, William Mallard; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Toyota suspends output at Texas truck plant due to storm damage

SAN ANTONIO Toyota Motor Corp temporarily halted production at its sprawling San Antonio pickup truck plant on Wednesday due to storm damage at the facility, which was hit by lashing rain and strong winds, a company spokesman said.Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Texas said the problems began when a major storm blew through the region earlier in the day, knocking out electrical power at the plant, according to spokesman Mario Lozoya. "Now that we have some power back in some areas, we are starting to see the real damage, and a lot of it is water related," Lozoya said.He says the first shift was told not to report, as managers went through the 2.2 million square foot (236,800 square meter) facility inspecting the damage. Production was halted and a decision will be made later on Wednesday on whether the second shift, which starts work at 6:30 p.m. CDT (2330 GMT), will be able to resume production. "Our concern is that there may be water in the electrical systems," Lozoya said. "We want to make sure those things are safe."The National Weather Service said the area south of San Antonio, where the plant is located, reported winds of about 80 miles per hour (130 kph) during the storm, which dumped drenching rain and hail across the San Antonio area. The Toyota plant, which opened about a decade ago, employs 2,600 people and builds the company's full-sized Tundra pickups and mid-sized Tacoma pickups.The trucks sold in Texas can come with a sticker reading “Born in Texas, Built by Texans.” (Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing at W Simon)

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May 10 Cathedral Energy Services Ltd* Qtrly diluted per share $0.27 * Cathedral energy services reports results for 2016 Q1 Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage: )))

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China scrambles fighters as U.S. sails warship near Chinese-claimed reef

BEIJING/HONG KONG China scrambled fighter jets on Tuesday as a U.S. navy ship sailed close to a disputed reef in the South China Sea, a patrol China denounced as an illegal threat to peace which only went to show its defense installations in the area were necessary.Guided missile destroyer the USS William P. Lawrence traveled within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-occupied Fiery Cross Reef, U.S. Defense Department spokesman, Bill Urban said. The so-called freedom of navigation operation was undertaken to "challenge excessive maritime claims" by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam which were seeking to restrict navigation rights in the South China Sea, Urban said."These excessive maritime claims are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention in that they purport to restrict the navigation rights that the United States and all states are entitled to exercise," Urban said in an emailed statement.China and the United States have traded accusations of militarizing the South China Sea as China undertakes large-scale land reclamations and construction on disputed features while the United States has increased its patrols and exercises.Facilities on Fiery Cross Reef include a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) runway which the United States worries China will use it to press its extensive territorial claims at the expense of weaker rivals.China's Defence Ministry said two fighter jets were scrambled and three warships shadowed the U.S. ship, telling it to leave.The U.S. patrol "again proves that China's construction of defensive facilities on the relevant reefs in the Nansha Islands is completely reasonable and totally necessary", it said, using China's name for the Spratly Islands where much of its reclamation work is taking place. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the U.S. ship illegally entered Chinese waters."This action by the U.S. side threatened China's sovereignty and security interests, endangered the staff and facilities on the reef, and damaged regional peace and stability," he told a daily news briefing.SENSITIVE AREA China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.The Pentagon last month called on China to reaffirm it has no plans to deploy military aircraft in the Spratly Islands after China used a military plane to evacuate sick workers from Fiery Cross."Fiery Cross is sensitive because it is presumed to be the future hub of Chinese military operations in the South China Sea, given its already extensive infrastructure, including its large and deep port and 3000-metre runway," said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore's ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute. "The timing is interesting, too. It is a show of U.S. determination ahead of President Obama's trip to Vietnam later this month." Speaking in Vietnam, Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said freedom of navigation operations were important for smaller nations."If the world's most powerful navy cannot sail where international law permits, then what happens to the ships of navy of smaller countries?," Russel told reporters before news of the operation was made public.China has reacted with anger to previous U.S. freedom of navigation operations, including the overflight of fighter planes near the disputed Scarborough Shoal last month, and when long-range U.S. bombers flew near Chinese facilities under construction on Cuarteron Reef in the Spratlys last November. U.S. naval officials believe China has plans to start reclamation and construction activities on Scarborough Shoal, which sits further north of the Spratlys within the Philippines claimed 200 nautical mile (370 km) exclusive economic zone. A tough-talking city mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, looks set to become president of the Philippines after an election on Monday. He has proposed multilateral talks on the South China Sea.A Chinese diplomat warned last week that criticism of China over the South China Sea would rebound like a coiled spring. (Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Paris and My Pham in Hanoi; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel)

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