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U.N. aviation body to probe Belarus plane grounding, first report due by June 25

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The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed on Thursday to investigate the forced grounding of a Ryanair passenger plane in Minsk, an incident that prompted international outrage.

ICAO’s 36-nation governing council acted after the United States and several allies demanded an investigation into the incident, which British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called “a grave violation of international law.”

ICAO would produce an interim report by June 25, said Irish Transport Minister Eamon Ryan. ICAO said in a statement after the meeting that its council had expressed its “strong concern” about the incident.

The probe will be a fact-finding investigation designed mainly to determine whether international aviation rules were breached. ICAO has little scope to punish member states other than by suspending voting rights.

Belarus on Sunday scrambled a fighter and used a false bomb alert to divert the Irish airliner to Minsk and detain a dissident Belarusian journalist. The plane, traveling from Athens to Vilnius, was almost in Lithuanian air space when ordered to land.

“These unacceptable actions were an attack on European aviation security and put in danger the lives of the passengers and crew as they traveled between two EU capitals,” said Ryan.

Minsk, now facing calls for sanctions, rejected charges it acted illegally and accused the West of using the episode to wage “hybrid war” against it.

The council urged ICAO members to cooperate with the probe.

“They could not just close their eyes,” one person familiar with the meeting said, adding safety had been a key topic.

Two sources familiar with the meeting said Russia and China had both declined to support an investigation.

Russia, which has accused the West of hypocrisy, told delegates that what happened in Minsk was not an isolated incident and recalled reports that Washington had caused a jet thought to be carrying fugitive Edward Snowden to land in Austria in 2013, the sources said.

China argued for more time before taking action, one added.

Russian and Chinese diplomats did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Montreal-based ICAO wields clout through its safety and security standards, which are approved by its 192 member states.

“We wish to remind those who demanded we take punitive action against that country that our agency was never assigned that type of role or capability,” ICAO tweeted on Wednesday.

Belarus told the meeting the airliner had not been forced down by authorities and that the pilot could have landed in Lithuania, said a source familiar with what happened. The source requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.

Under the Chicago Convention, each country has sovereignty over its own air space, but the treaty prohibits any use of civil aviation that may endanger safety.

A separate 1971 Montreal treaty to which Belarus is also a party outlaws the seizure of aircraft or knowingly communicating false information in a way that endangers aircraft safety.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Conor Humphries in DublinAdditional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris, Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Allison Lampert in Montreal, Tracy Rucinski in Chicago and Jamie Freed in Sydney;Editing by Pravin Char, Matthew Lewis and Gerry Doyle)

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Teamsters votes to fund and support Amazon workers

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The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union in the United States and Canada, said on Thursday it has voted to formalize a resolution to support and fund employees of Amazon.com Inc in their unionization efforts.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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Citigroup names new sales head for Treasury and Trade Solutions unit

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Citigroup Inc has named Steve Elms as the new sales head for the bank’s Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) unit effective immediately, according to an internal memo shared by a company spokesperson.

Elms, who will oversee the management of the global sales teams, has been involved with the bank’s TTS division for over 10 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

TTS is a division of the bank’s Institutional Clients group. The segment offers cash management and trade services and finance to multinational corporations, financial institutions and public sector organizations around the world.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru and David Henry in New York; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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Indigenous group finds 751 unmarked graves at former residential school in Saskatchewan

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An indigenous group in Canada’s Saskatchewan province on Thursday said it had found the unmarked graves of 751 people at a now-defunct Catholic residential school, just weeks after a similar discovery rocked the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “terribly saddened” by the new discovery at Marieval Indian Residential School about 87 miles (140 km) from the provincial capital Regina.

He told indigenous people that “the hurt and the trauma that you feel is Canada’s responsibility to bear.”

It is not clear how many of the remains detected belong to children, Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme told reporters.

He said the church that ran the school removed the headstones.

“We didn’t remove the headstones. Removing headstones is a crime in this country. We are treating this like a crime scene,” he said.

The residential school system, which operated between 1831 and 1996, removed about 150,000 indigenous children from their families and brought them to Christian residential schools run on behalf of the federal government.

“Canada will be known as a nation who tried to exterminate the First Nations. Now we have evidence,” said Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

“This is just the beginning.”

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which published a report that found the country’s residential school system amounted to cultural genocide, has said a cemetery was left on the Marieval site after the school building was demolished.

Cowessess First Nation has been in touch with the local Catholic archdiocese and Delorme said he is optimistic they will provide records allowing them to identify the remains.

“We have full faith that the Roman Catholic Church will release our records. They haven’t told us ‘No.’ We just don’t have them yet.”

The Cowessess First Nation began a ground-penetrating radar search on June 2, after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia outraged the country.

The Kamloops discovery reopened old wounds in Canada about the lack of information and accountability around the residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families and subjected them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse.

Pope Francis said in early June that he was pained by the Kamloops revelation and called for respect for the rights and cultures of native peoples. But he stopped short of the direct apology some Canadians had demanded.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto and Moira Warburton in VancouverEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)

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